Level of anti-Semitism across island of Ireland is ‘frightening’ says journalist Tuvia Tenenbom

A still image taken from the video, showing Tuvia Tenenbom in the pub in Londonderry.
A still image taken from the video, showing Tuvia Tenenbom in the pub in Londonderry.

A Jewish film-maker who recorded extreme anti-Semitic remarks in a Londonderry pub says the anti-Semitism he experienced on the island of Ireland was “frightening”.

Tuvia Tenenbom said he found anti-Semitism among up to 80% of the people he met on a month-long tour of the Republic and Northern Ireland; the attitude was similar to that in modern day Germany – but without any intellectual arguments, he claimed.

People who expressed anti-Israel views did not realise this is the only conflict in the world they are familiar with

Tuvia Tenenbom

Mr Tenenbom, who grew up in Israel and lives mainly in New York, is writing a travelogue of the British Isles.

He made headlines yesterday after publishing a video of himself asking patrons in a Londonderry bar why there were so many Palestinian flags in the area.

One of them answered: “Because we hate the f***ing Jews.” Another replied: “The Israelis are scum. Killing children, killing weans.”

A man wearing a high-visibility vest stated: “The only thing Hitler did wrong was he didn’t kill enough f***ing Jews.”

He added: “They’re the scourge of the world, the scourge of the Earth.”

Speaking to the News Letter later, Mr Tenenbom said: “Travelling in the two parts of Ireland, the south and the north, I found so much anti-Semitism ... it is all over, it is frightening ... I have never encountered it before.”

He added: “If you have a German anti-Semite he will argue about it, about the war and so on. But in the two parts of Ireland it is like a fact of life; the sun will shine today, the moon will shine at night – and Jews are the devil.

“There is no argument, it is just considered a fact of life.”

In Dublin he heard “so many people telling me about the horrible people called Jews”; the incident in Londonderry was not isolated but representative of his wider findings, he claimed.

He experienced it from “hundreds” of people on the island, from “most of them, 70 to 80%, when you talk about these issues”.

This applied to both west and east Belfast, Catholics, Protestants, loyalists and republicans. “It is all over.”

“People who expressed anti-Israel views did not realise this is the only conflict in the world they are familiar with.”

He added: “If you are critical of Israel and Turkey and China of course this is not anti-Semitism. But if you are ok with all the other countries in the world except Israel, that is what I call anti-Semitism.”

The island of Ireland is the opposite of America where there is “a strong element in society that is pro-Jewish”.

“But here it is totally different, it is more comparable to Germany where there is still a problem with anti-Semitism.”

Belfast Jewish Community chairman Michael Black said the video was “not very nice”. He added: “It is not typical of Northern Ireland though. There are obviously a few people that hold these vile views, which are obviously born out of ignorance. But the Jewish community have always been very well treated here.”

Similarly, Stephen Jaffe of the NI Friends of Israel said the Jewish community “enjoys the friendship and respect of the vast majority of people in NI”.

But he added: “Phrases like ‘Hitler didn’t kill enough of them’ is tantamount to a call for genocide. Political leaders should reflect on how extremist comments relating to the Arab-Israel conflict can impact directly on the safety of local Jewish and Muslim communities.”

Paula Tabakin, an Israeli living in Belfast, said she was particularly worried by how quickly the people in the video resorted to “the worst kind of anti-Semitism”.

She added: “It makes me think that in some settings this type or rhetoric is not unusual.” Criticism of Israel is “healthy” in the interests of peace, she said, but these comments were “a hate crime and should be condemned at the highest possible level”.

Gary Spedding, an Israel-Palestine consultant, said there was “no question whatsoever that this is a case of grotesque anti-Semitism”. The individuals filmed “must be investigated by the PSNI as there is a clear case to be made against them for breaking the law”, he added.

PSNI Chief Inspector Gerard McLaughlin said: “Police have received a complaint in relation to a video on a social media site. Inquiries are ongoing into this incident.”

Martin Quigley of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign said its constitution opposes all racism. “The video was outrageous and I condemn it unequivocally,” he added.