Opinions on Israel - Palestinian conflict should not lead to unacceptable remarks from elected representatives.
The holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel claimed, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor never the tormented.”
It is survivors like him who inspire me to speak out against hatred, intolerance, and prejudice.
For the past four years I have worked with the Holocaust Educational Trust, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, those within the Belfast Jewish Community and young ambassadors across the UK to stamp out anti-Semitism in society.
We continue to say never again, and to educate on the power of words. And we hear time and time again promises from political parties to call out racism, hatred, and anti-Semitism.
However recently in Belfast City Council it seemed to me that some of these promises have not reached the ears of some local Belfast councillors.
On Tuesday June 1 the council debated the issues around the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel, and passed a motion to ask the Irish and UK governments to expel Israeli ambassadors.
Before the vote was taken councillors heard from an anti-Zionist Jewish activist and a Palestinian nurse living in Belfast, but I note not from a member of the Belfast Jewish community.
During the debate unpleasant remarks were made by councillors at the meeting which was allowed to proceed with no apology or retraction of words.
Councillor Seanna Walsh from Sinn Fein stated of Israel, “... It’s almost like a Nazi mentality of ‘Untermenschen’ where people are less than human, and when you create that type of mentality, we all know what happened in the 1930s and the 1940s ...”
Indeed, we should know that. The clear undertone to Councillor Walsh’s remarks was a comparison between Israeli Jews to the Nazi murderers who killed millions of Jews.
Yet whilst some councillors asked Councillor Walsh to apologise for the specific words he used, he refused to do so.
When working on projects across Northern Ireland SF representatives always claimed anti-Semitism has no place in our society. So why are such appalling comparisons between Jews and Nazis in a council meeting greeted without questioning?
It should be possible to criticise Israel without making the accusation that Jews are Nazis or worse than Nazis. The Nazis murdered six million Jews, 1.5 million of whom were children. Analogies with the Arab Israel conflict are more than just totally inaccurate, they are deeply insulting.
As a young person who always works to stamp out all hatred and racism it is deeply hurtful not just to the Belfast Jewish community but to others in society hearing comments like this from elected representatives. Our elected representatives need to work with one another to tackle all racism all forms of hate and intolerance not those which suits their political agendas.
Molly Liggett, Belfast BT9
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