Former People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann has said the “straightforward anti-Semitism” shown in the video is an example of the “level of anti-Semitism in Ireland which is hardly ever acknowledged”.
Mr McCann, who is standing for election in the Moor ward of Derry City and Strabane District Council, is a vocal proponent of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against the state of Israel.
In an interview with the News Letter after the footage of anti-Semitic remarks being made by patrons of a bar in Londonderry, he acknowledged that criticism of the state of Israel can be used to “cover up” anti-Semitism.
He said it is important to “make explicit” that criticisms of the state of Israel are not aimed at the Jewish people.
Asked for his views on the video, Mr McCann said: “It’s straightforward anti-Semitism, as blunt as we’ve ever heard it. These are things that we know are talked about in whispers, but these people are saying it openly. That’s very disturbing indeed.”
He added: “One of the things this illustrates is that there is a level of anti-Semitism in Ireland which is hardly ever acknowledged.
“Historically, there’s been more anti-Semitism in Ireland and in Britain than we’ve ever admitted.
“That anti-Semitism can be covered up by reference to the behaviour and policies of the rulers of the Israeli state, or the Israeli state itself.
“That conflation of Israel and ‘the Jews’ is very common and it’s very common in Northern Ireland.
“There are people – I’d be one of them and there are Jewish people among them – who are totally opposed to what the Israeli state and the Israeli defence forces are doing.
“But we must always be careful, any time we are speaking, to draw attention to the fact that we are not aiming these criticisms at the Jewish people.
“I would always be careful when criticising the Israeli state to make it explicit that we are not attacking the Jewish people – and to make the point that we stand up for the Jewish people in relation to anti-Semitism. This is more important than ever.”
He added: “These people (in the video) must be told to wise up.”
Foyle MLA Gary Middleton described the comments shown in the video as “hate speech” and said it was damaging to the reputation of Londonderry.
“Obviously this isn’t the message we want to send out to our Jewish community or any community for that matter,” he said. “This type of language, this bigotry and hatred is unacceptable. It really is shocking.
“It doesn’t help the reputation of our city. It is hate speech and it shouldn’t be tolerated.”
He continued: “This shows that a lot of people either don’t know what they mean when they say ‘solidarity with Palestine’ or that it’s simply down to anti-Semitism and hatred.”
Another Foyle MLA, the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, said: “These comments are totally unacceptable; both the language and sentiment is not reflective of the people of Derry.
“I know the views expressed in the video will be widely and rightly rejected by the people of Derry.”
DUP leader Arlene Foster in a tweet, described the comments as “disgusting”.
She added: “The small Jewish community in Northern Ireland will always have my support and that of all right-thinking people.”
North Belfast DUP MLA William Humphrey, a member of the NI Friends of Israel and the DUP Friends of Israel, said: “I think the video is appalling and the views expressed are sick, depressing and vile.”
“I don’t believe that those appearing in the video are at all reflective or representative of Northern Ireland society.
“I work closely with our small, but hugely influential Jewish community. Indeed, I have been in touch with some of my Jewish friends, to reassure them that they are a hugely valued and respected part of our community and that they continue to have my personal support and that of my party. I call on all politicians, across the political spectrum, to condemn the views expressed in the video.”
A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: “There is no place for racism, sectarianism, anti-Semitism or discrimination of any kind in our society.”