Wales politics

I do not hate Jews, says Labour AM Jenny Rathbone

Jenny Rathbone Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jenny Rathbone said there is no evidence that she hates Jews

A Labour AM who was accused of anti-Semitism has told a podcast there is no evidence she hates Jews.

Jenny Rathbone told WalesOnline she had made "inappropriate remarks".

The AM was given a warning by Labour for saying security fears of Jewish people at a synagogue could be "in their own heads" at a meeting in 2017.

In the interview the Cardiff Central AM said she understood why Jewish people "are very sensitive to any comments... deemed to be hostile to them".

Ms Rathbone has previously said she was "profoundly sorry" for the 2017 remarks and for the offence caused.

Labour decided not to expel Ms Rathbone, who had been suspended from the Labour assembly group for six weeks.

The decision prompted criticism the process had lacked consideration for the Jewish community.

Ms Rathbone said: "I certainly contest any insinuation that I hate Jews, there's no evidence in my mind of that.

"And when occasionally when people write to me in that vein I say, no no, I have never said that."

"But I did make some inappropriate remarks. In particular I said Jewish people needed to be working harder for peace in the Middle East.

"That is completely wrong, and I accept that, and you know, we all need to work for peace in the Middle East. That was a thoroughly inappropriate remark."

She added that it is "very hard to know... why this has now become such a hotly contested area.

"I think, probably there has always been a lot of anti-Semitism within our culture across Europe."

'Brittle society'

She said her great aunt "was very very involved in trying to rescue people who were threatened by Hitler".

Ms Rathbone added: "I understand why Jewish people with the history, the fairly recent history, of the appallingness of the Holocaust are very sensitive to any comments that people make that might be deemed to be hostile to them. And we live in a very brittle society at the moment.

"We live in a real existential crisis as a result of Brexit, which means different things to do different people."

The podcast was published before a row broke out in Labour over Chris Williamson, the Derby North MP who claimed Labour had "given too much ground" in the face of criticism over anti-Semitism.

Mr Williamson said he deeply regretted the remarks.

He has now been suspended from the party, following calls from senior Labour AMs including Nia Griffith, a Labour shadow defence secretary and a Llanelli MP.

Alun Davies, Blaenau Gwent AM, said: "This will be a test of the seriousness with which [UK Labour] deal with anti-Semitism and bullying."

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