Wales politics

Jewish remarks by Labour AM Jenny Rathbone 'offensive'

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Media captionThe recording of Jenny Rathbone's comments, obtained by the Jewish Chronicle

A Cardiff rabbi has said comments by a Labour member of the Welsh Assembly about his synagogue and Jewish people were "extremely offensive".

Jenny Rathbone was recorded suggesting the security fears of Jews at Cardiff United Synagogue could be "in their own heads".

Rabbi Michoel Rose told BBC Wales she has apologised to him in person.

Ms Rathbone has said she is deeply sorry, but the Labour group is considering disciplinary action.

In the recording, obtained by the Jewish Chronicle, the Cardiff Central AM was asked about increased security measures at the synagogue.

She had said: "The fact that the Jewish synagogue in Cyncoed is, is become one of these, you know, fortress is really uncomfortable.

"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 it."

Ms Rathbone also said hostile behaviour towards Jews is driven by the behaviour of the Israeli government, and that British Jews had a "responsibility" to promote peace in the Middle East.

Rabbi Rose told BBC Wales Live the comments did not consider "the reality of what the Jewish community in this country is facing", saying police and ministers had warned them of "the need for bolstered security".

"The comments that seemed to imply that the Jewish community in this country was to blame for violence and hatred in this country was extremely offensive," he added.

He said Ms Rathbone was "very apologetic for what she'd said" when they met on Wednesday evening.

"She realised that what she'd said caused offence and was wrong and shouldn't have been said and potentially could have been perceived as being anti-Semitic and that she shouldn't have said it that way."

The comments have been referred to the UK Labour Party's general secretary for investigation, while the Labour group in the assembly is considering disciplinary action against her.

'Apologise for upset'

In a statement on Wednesday Ms Rathbone said: "I accept that comments I made last year were insensitive and have laid me open to accusations of intolerance.

"I've always appreciated the good relationship I've had with my local Jewish community and I apologise for any upset that my remarks may have caused to individual constituents and the wider Jewish community.

"With levels of anti-Semitism on the rise in many western countries, and following the devastating attack on Pittsburgh synagogue, no one can or should downplay the fears and concerns that many Jewish people are experiencing.

"I had no intention of doing so and I am deeply sorry that I did.

"It is also not acceptable to suggest that the Jewish community are responsible for the actions of the Israeli government."

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