Belfast Telegraph

Foster says anti-Semitism has no place in Northern Ireland following library attack

Staff at Belfast's Linen Hall library were recently threatened

DUP leader Arlene Foster has called for the leaders of Northern Ireland's political parties to unite in opposition to anti-Semitism.

She said the party leaders needed to demonstrate clear opposition to anti-Semitism locally.

Her comments come as questions have been raised about anti-Semitism within the Labour Party and the need to tackle such attitudes within political life.

This month staff at Belfast's Linen Hall Library received a number of threatening phone calls following an event planned to mark the birth of Belfast-born former Israeli President Chaim Herzog.

It was organised by the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, and attended by the Ambassador of Israel Mark Regev amongst others.

The event, planned for March 13,  sparked fury on social media, and even an online petition titled: "No more war criminals or apologists for genocide in the Linen Hall library".

A blue plaque marking Chaim Herzog's birthplace in north Belfast's Cliftonpark Avenue was removed in 2014 following vandalism.

In August 2016 a gang of youths smashed headstones in Belfast City Cemetery's Jewish plot in what police described as a hate crime.

"The debate on anti-Semitism is not remote from Northern Ireland. Too often there have been incidents here where intolerance or hatred of the Jewish community has been in evidence," Mrs Foster said.

"The worst example of this was the desecration of Jewish graves in the City Cemetary in Belfast. However, attacks on the blue plaque commemorating the birthplace of Chaim Herzog which eventually forced its removal, graffiti and attacks on the Synagogue in Belfast all speak to an increase in anti-Semitic sentiments on display within Northern Ireland.

"Most recently the Linen Hall Library was subjected to vile abuse for simply hosting an event marking the centenary of Chaim Herzog's birth. The disgraceful anti-Semitic abuse directed at the Library should be condemned by everyone."

Mrs Foster said recent incident provided an opportunity to send a clear message that anti-Semitism would not be tolerated.

"Just as there is a focus on this issue nationally, all parties locally must demonstrate that anti-Semitism has no place here in Northern Ireland. That demonstration should be both through words and actions," the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said.

"When there are examples of clear anti-Semitism however we do not always see parties stepping forward to offer clear and unequivocal condemnation. Unfortunately, there are occasions where attempts to hide behind “criticism of Israel” allows hated to be expressed towards the Jewish community in a way that no other racism would be tolerated.

"The current focus on this issue can provide an opportunity to take a clear and united stance on this from all sections of our society."

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