Wales politics

'Offensive' Jewish remarks AM Jenny Rathbone re-admitted to party group

Jenny Rathbone

A Labour AM accused of anti-Semitism has been allowed back into the party's group in the assembly while an investigation continues.

Jenny Rathbone was suspended after suggesting the security fears of Jewish people at a Cardiff synagogue could be "in their own heads".

BBC Wales understands the decision to re-admit her was taken last year despite objections from some party AMs.

Ms Rathbone had previously apologised for the comments.

UK Labour said her comments were still under investigation.

In a recording, obtained by the Jewish Chronicle, of a meeting in her constituency in 2017 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."

Cardiff Rabbi Michael Rose said at the time the comments were "extremely offensive".

BBC Wales understands that the decision was taken by former Labour chief chip Julie James after Mark Drakeford was elected as Welsh Labour leader, but before he appointed his cabinet.

One Labour AM said there had been a "quite a long discussion about it" at a group meeting before Christmas. "It's not good," the AM said.

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

Ms Rathbone's suspension came after an earlier private meeting of Labour AMs in November. BBC Wales has also been told that two AMs Julie Morgan and Jane Hutt had spoken against the suspension - both have since been appointed to the Welsh Government.

An assembly Labour group spokesman said on Wednesday: "Jenny Rathbone was readmitted to the group at the start of the spring term following a seven week suspension. A complaint has been referred to the UK Labour Party."

The Welsh Conservative's Mohammad Asghar said: "This decision raises so many questions about the Labour Party's attitude towards the Jewish citizens of our country.

"This only goes to demonstrate that Labour do not care about the Jewish community, the hate aimed at them, and their security concerns."

In a statement issued last year Ms Rathbone said: "I accept that comments I made [in 2017] 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."

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