U.K. Labour Politician Faces Disciplinary Charges After Questioning Jewish Community’s Need for Security

Jenny Rathbone, a lawmaker in the regional National Assembly for Wales, said last year about the Jewish community's need for security: 'How much of it is for real and how much of it is in their own heads is really hard for an outsider to judge'

Screenshot of Jenny Rathbone's Twitter profile, November 14, 2018.
Twitter

A British Labour politician who suggested that the threat facing Jewish communities in the U.K. may be “in their own heads” now faces disciplinary action over her remarks.

Jenny Rathbone, a lawmaker in the regional National Assembly for Wales who is supportive of party leader Jeremy Corbyn, made the statement last year, The Jewish Chronicle reported Tuesday after obtaining a recording of a Q&A discussion in which Rathbone was asked whether she agreed with Jewish community leaders’ demand for more security at synagogues.

On Wednesday, Jenny Rathbone apologized for her remarks and said: "I accept that comments I made last year were insensitive and have laid me open to accusations of intolerance."

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The Labour National Assembly Party said Wednesday her "totally unacceptable" remarks had been passed to Labour's General Secretary for investigation, the Jewish Chornicle reported.

“How much of it is for real and how much of it is in their own heads is really hard for an outsider to judge — but I think siege mentalities are also part of this,” she said in the recording from 2017, referencing the risk facing Jews.

In the Q&A, she also said that the Israeli government's actions where behind growing hostility towards British Jews.

imon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, an umbrella group, told the Chronicle: “The security infrastructure of our community has been built over a number of years to ensure our safety. It is not down to a perceived risk but a very real one.”

A spokesperson for the Community Security Trust, or CST, the security unit of British Jewry, said: “Jenny Rathbone’s dismissal of the need for security at synagogues suggests a remarkable ignorance and lack of empathy.”

On Tuesday, Rathbone suggested that her remarks calling for U.K. Jews to protest the actions of the Israel government had been “taken out of context.” Commenting on her remarks about “siege mentalities” within the Jewish community, she said “It is a sad reflection of risks, real or perceived,” the Chronicle reported.

Mainstream Jewish groups in the United Kingdom, as well as former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks, have called Corbyn, a far-left politician who has argued for a blanket boycott of Israel and had called Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends,” an anti-Semite. They and others have accused Corbyn of emboldening anti-Jewish rhetoric within Labour. Corbyn has rejected the claims and vowed to purge Labour of racist speech.

Earlier this year, a recording uncovered from 2013 had Corbyn claiming that Britain-born “Zionists” don’t understand irony. In 2015, he laid a wreath on a monument for perpetrators of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics by Palestinian terrorists.

The same year, Corbyn also defended a mural depicting hook-nosed men playing monopoly on the backs of dark-skinned people.

These and other scandals unleashed an unprecedented wave of street protests by British Jews against what used to be their political home.