(JTA) — A British Labour politician supportive of party leader Jeremy Corbyn apologized for questioning the need for bolstered security for Jewish communities, saying some of the threat may be “in their own heads.”
Jenny Rathbone, a lawmaker in the regional National Assembly for Wales, made the statement last year, The Jewish Chronicle reported Wednesday after obtaining a recording of a Q&A discussion in which Rathbone was asked whether she agreed with Jewish community leaders’ demand for more security at synagogues. She also seemed to suggest that anti-Semitic attacks are Israel’s fault and that British Jews should promote peace there.
“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,” she said, referencing the risk facing Jews.
Rathbone has said she is “deeply sorry” for the remarks, BBC reported.
Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, an umbrella group, told the Chronicle: “The security infrastructure of our community has been built over a number of years to ensure our safety. It is not down to a perceived risk but a very real one.”
A spokesperson for the Community Security Trust, or CST, the security unit of British Jewry, said: “Jenny Rathbone’s dismissal of the need for security at synagogues suggests a remarkable ignorance and lack of empathy.”
On Tuesday, Rathbone suggested that her remarks calling for U.K. Jews to protest the actions of the Israel government had been “taken out of context.” Commenting on her remarks about “siege mentalities” within the Jewish community, she said “It is a sad reflection of risks, real or perceived,” the Chronicle reported.
In the Q&A, she linked an increase in hate crimes against Jews to “the failure to come to a peace settlement around Palestine and Israel,” she put it.
“I think that the Israeli government’s behavior in occupying Palestinian lands… and generally behaving like a conqueror is not conducive to peace. And I think that’s what drives people to be hostile to the Jewish community in this country. And I think the Jewish community has a responsibility to try and promote peace in the Middle East.”
Mainstream Jewish groups in the United Kingdom, as well as former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks, have called Corbyn, a far-left politician who has argued for a blanket boycott of Israel and had called Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends,” an anti-Semite. They and others have accused Corbyn of emboldening anti-Jewish rhetoric within Labour. Corbyn has rejected the claims and vowed to purge Labour of racist speech.
Earlier this year, a recording uncovered from 2013 had Corbyn claiming that Britain-born “Zionists” don’t understand irony. In 2015, he laid a wreath on a monument for perpetrators of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics by Palestinian terrorists.
The same year, Corbyn also defended a mural depicting hook-nosed men playing monopoly on the backs of dark-skinned people.
These and other scandals unleashed an unprecedented wave of street protests by British Jews against what used to be their political home.