A Welsh Assembly member who questioned “how much of it is in their heads” when asked about synagogue security has been suspended indefinitely.
Labour’s Cardiff Central representative Jenny Rathbone was told she will now face the party’s National Executive Committee after the comments, recorded last year, were leaked to the Jewish Chronicle last week.
Rathbone, who has also said the Israeli government is waging “a relentless campaign against Jeremy Corbyn,” apologised and referred herself for equalities training after she provoked fury for suggesting Jews had a “siege mentality”.
At a public event, she was asked about tight security at Cardiff United Synagogue, saying: “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”.
Chief Whip Julie James relayed the news of her suspension this week, after Cardiff’s Rabbi Michael Rose described Rathbone’s comments as “extremely offensive”.
Joe Goldberg, National Executive Member of the Jewish Labour Movement welcomed the move, saying: “Following our correspondence to the First Minister and Julie James AM, the Welsh Assembly’s Chief Whip, JLM are very grateful for decisive action of Welsh Labour AM whips and group on the indefinite suspension of Jenny Rathbone for her grotesque and hurtful comments about Jews bringing attacks on themselves. This shows that unequivocal and decisive action is possible.”
Board of Deputies’ president Marie van der Zyl was among those angered at Rathbone’s insinuation that security measures “are somehow part of the Jewish community’s collective paranoia,” adding that Labour should be “ashamed”.
Mark Gardner, Director of Communications at the Community Security Trust (CST), which helps secure synagogues in the UK, said: “These remarks about antisemitism, security and the Israel-Palestine conflict show, yet again, the need for politicians to not only use correct language, but also to better understand sensitive matters. It is, however, her later remarks on Twitter about Israel, Jeremy Corbyn and the media that I personally find to be more troubling, because they may indicate a more deep-seated conspiracy mentality.”
Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Simon Johnson said the enhanced security was “not down to a perceived risk but a real one,” adding: “Antisemitism is not the fault of the Jewish community. To paint it as such is perverse.”
In her apology, Rathbone also acknowledged: “It is also not acceptable to suggest that the Jewish community are responsible for the actions of the Israeli Government.”