Northern Ireland's Leaders Urged to Deal with Neo-Nazi, Anti-Semitic Incidents

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Wiesenthal Centre to Northern Ireland First Minister and Deputy First Minister: "Nip Seeds of Beirut in the Bud – They Have No Place in Belfast"

Belfast, 13 July 2009

In letters to Northern Ireland First Minister, Peter Robinson, and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr Shimon Samuels, reported on his discussions in Belfast with human rights and community leaders – a visit coinciding with the annual Orange Loyalist bonfires and marches.

Samuels noted that "the prevailing climate added context to my discussions, which focussed on:
- the recent survey that marked heightened xenophobia in Northern Ireland
- the police report of 990 racist (targeting minorities) and 1,595 sectarian (between Catholics and Protestants) incidents in 2008
- last month's pogrom against Roma, resulting in 115 fleeing home to Romania, which is, reportedly, snowballing departures among Hungarians and Lithuanians also
- continuing violence against Poles since extremist provocations at a Northern Ireland/ Polish football match
- offences against Asians, and expressions of antisemitism and homophobia
- your own 9 July Hate Crime Report on assaults against the disabled."

He pointed to last week's letter "sent to Muslim, Indian and Polish community leaders, which was unambiguous: 'Get out of our Queen's country before our bonfire night and parade day... Keep Northern Ireland white', signed UYM (Ulster Young Militants), stamped with the neo-Nazi deathshead symbol of 'Combat 18' (18 represents the first and eighth letter of the alphabet, i.e. AH for Adolf Hitler). He added that "sources claim that the figures cited were only the tip of the iceberg, as half the victims refuse to go to the police station. Moreover, as the perpetrators are recidivist, attacks are never one-off."

Samuels stressed that "little attention had been paid to the swastika daubings, in the aftermath of the Gaza war, of the architecturally acclaimed synagogue, the pride of a greatly diminished Jewish community that originated in the 18th century. Import of the Middle East conflict via Republican pro-PLO sympathizers, on the one hand, and alleged BNP influences in Loyalist youth circles on the other, could threaten further antisemitic expression."

Addressing the Deputy First Minister, who is appointed from the Catholic community, the letter raised a related factor; "the murals on the Falls Road side of the separation wall between Catholics and Protestants include Picasso's 'Guernica', decorated with falling bombs – one featuring a swastika for 'Guernica 1937', over a second marked with a Star of David for 'Gaza 2009'. These conflate the two symbols of Holocaust perpetrator and victim. Alongside is a child with a poster
stating: 'Zionist New Year Message to the World. Happy War, Christmas is Over.'
These incitements to Jew-hatred stand in violation of the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) 2004 Definitions of Antisemitism – to which the United Kingdom (and thereby Northern Ireland) is a State party."

In passing, Samuels suggested a paradox in that the Belfast wall, "which is was vaunted as a vital precaution against sectarian violence, on the Republican side carries attacks on Israel's barrier against terrorism."

The Centre urged both Ministers "to convince the leadership of [their] respective communities to remove these offensive murals and to desist from the inflammatory use of swastikas and Stars of David."

Samuels expressed concern that "the violent climate of the sectarian 'Troubles' seems to have left a legacy of all-purpose hate, targeting any form of difference."

He continued, "Northern Ireland's youth must be educated to reject the then role-models of paramilitaries and martyrdom.
Almost a decade ago, following the Good Friday Agreement, our Centre's Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles received a Northern Ireland delegation of Protestant and Catholic leaders, who hoped to build a Museum of Civic Dignity on the border with the Republic. Unfortunately, that proposal was stillborn.
The Wiesenthal Centre has since developed its 'Tools for Tolerance' – a programme that may assist your Government towards multicultural tolerance-building and eventual reconciliation."

The Centre commended the Government's Commission on the regulation of firearms for "its ruling, last month, to prohibit jubilant shooting of live ammunition at this year's bonfires – a scene more resonant of Beirut than of the Good Friday Agreement."

“Ministers, that great diplomatic achievement was viewed as a model for other conflicts – including the challenges of the Middle East. Though still not totally implemented, do not allow the spirit of Good Friday to degenerate into the hatefests witnessed over the past weeks. The seeds of Beirut must be nipped in the bud – they have no place in Belfast,"
concluded Samuels.

Photos attached:
1 – Catholic side of Belfast separation wall, Falls Road, "Zionist New Year Message" 2 – Catholic side of Belfast separation wall, Falls Road, "Guernica = Gaza"
3 – Shimon Samuels with Patrick Yu, Executive Director, NICEM (Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities) 4 – Burning the Irish flag
5 – Samuels (on the left) with Loyalist leaders; on the right: Nelson McCausland, Northern Ireland Minister of Culture

For further information, please contact Shimon Samuels at +33.609.77.01.58.