Terror claim on grave attacks

A member of the public inspects his father's grave after hearing of the attack
A member of the public inspects his father's grave after hearing of the attack

An international Jewish human rights group has warned that attacks such as the desecration of Jewish graves in Belfast “can lead on to an eventual pogrom” and that those responsible are “associates to terror”.

A gang of youths armed with hammers and blocks - reportedly urged on by a larger mob - smashed 13 Jewish gravestones in the West Belfast cemetery last Friday.

Dr Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations, which is based in Los Angeles, has written to Secretary of State James Brokenshire to say that the intent that begins in a graveyard can lead on to “an eventual pogrom”.

In the letter, he wrote that Belfast “is now the scene of a vicious anti-Semitic assault, not on live Jews but, reportedly, by a mob in a paroxysm of hate targeting their deceased families. Jewish history has learned that the intent that begins with a cemetery desecration can lead on to an eventual pogrom”.

The letter noted: “Apparently the attack was premeditated, as eight youths came armed with hammers and blocks, accompanied by a crowd of racist supporters.”

He continued that Jihadi atrocities are now accompanied by, what UNESCO describes as, “cultural cleansing” of non-Islamic holy sites. “Thus, cemetery desecrators are likewise associates to terror, whether neo-Nazi, extreme left or Islamist.”

Dr Samuels suggested that the “anti-Semitic outburst” is a test case for Ulster in the aftermath of the Troubles, and he offered supporting documentaries to assist in having the desecration widely discussed in classrooms and the media.

North Belfast DUP MLA William Humphrey said: “The attack on the graves was not just perpetrated by those holding the hammers, but a number of people have indicated that there was a crowd of supporters who also gathered to witness the attack.”

He added that Lord Mayor Brian Kingston visited the cemetery earlier this week to inspect the damage and was subjected to anti-Semitic abuse from drinking youths, while two months ago a war memorial to Jewish soldiers was attacked on Northumbria Street.