Graffiti at Synagogue Sparks Fears of Far-right Resurgence in Scottish City

Leaders of Scotland’s Jewish community are concerned after far-right graffiti appeared on a synagogue in northeast Scotland.

The concerns were voiced after swastikas, skinhead symbols, obscenities about Jews and other far-right graffiti were painted on the only synagogue in Dundee late Saturday night.

Paul Spicker, who teaches at the University of Dundee, has taken responsibility for the synagogue since the recent death of a local businessman who had been a leader of Dundee’s Jewish community for many years.

He said the incident was “clearly anti-Semitic,” but also described it as “very minor.”

He and his children personally repainted the synagogue on Tuesday.

Anti-fascist campaigners say the incident is worrying because there is a history of extremist activity in Dundee, a city of about 145,000.

“There has always been a small core of neo-Nazis in Dundee. In the 1970s and 1980s, trouble was quite frequent,” said Tony Robson of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight.

He said an aggressive monitoring campaign had suppressed the problem.

The latest graffiti incident could be a case of “a couple of the local neo-Nazis crawling back out,” he added.

Local officials condemned the attack and police said they were actively searching for leads, but the local member of Parliament, Ernie Ross, took a different approach to the incident.

While saying that he “appreciated that the local community felt concern,” Ross said he needed more information before making a definite statement.

“If the local Jewish community feels it was an anti-Semitic attack, I will condemn it,” he said.

He added that the vandalism could be the work of “youngsters on school holiday. The wall is painted white, unfortunately, so it’s an attraction” for graffiti.

Scottish Jewish leaders see possible connections between the graffiti and recent alleged comments by Ross.

The legislator was reported to have suggested that the recent screening on television of a drama about the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi leaders following World War II was designed to elicit sympathy for Israel during the ongoing Middle East crisis.

“When you have a local legislator prepared to resurrect anti-Semitic stereotypes, you shouldn’t be surprised at this kind of thing,” said one leader who preferred not to be identified.

Ross flatly denied making a link between the TV program and Jewish influence in the media, which was reported in the Scottish Sun newspaper in late May.

“Those comments were not made in the way they were reported,” he said.

Ephraim Borowski, of the Scottish Jewish Representative Council, said the attack could be linked to a series of race riots in Britain in the past month or ongoing violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

“It may be significant that this comes at a time of other intercommunal strife and threats from abroad,” he said.

British Jews have not been affected by the racial disturbances in industrial northern England, which have largely involved Muslims of Asian origin and the police.

But Jewish security officials have issued warnings in the wake of a threatening video issued last month by Saudi terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Borowski said he hoped the Dundee attack “turns out to be an isolated incident, since Scotland has for many years been free of this type of activity.”

Spicker, the university lecturer who cares for the synagogue, said it was important that the building be kept in good working order.

“It is the only synagogue for 50 miles,” he said. “This is a small and fairly isolated community. If the synagogue is not maintained, there’s nothing for miles. And things like this don’t help.”

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