Former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Wigley says party ‘cannot tolerate’ anti-semitism

Dafydd Wigley. Picture by Plaid Cymru.

Former Plaid leader Dafydd Wigley has sent a message to his party on anti-Semitism, saying that the party “cannot tolerate” it.

Liz Saville Roberts MP, the party’s leader in the House of Commons, has been tasked with conducting a review into anti-semitism.

As part of the push to tackle the issue, Plaid Cymru election candidates are now to undergo training on combating anti-Semitism.

Dafydd Wigley said: “I cannot comment in detail, but it’s absolutely clear that Plaid Cymru cannot tolerate anti-Semitism or any other form or racism.

“Liz Saville Roberts is a first-class MP and I have no doubt she will come to the right conclusions.”

Dafydd Wigley’s comments were reported by veteran political journalist Martin Shipton, in the Western Mail.

The review comes after some Plaid Cymru members and the Board of Deputies of British Jews expressed concerns about party activist Sahar Al-Faifi, who is a candidate on the South Wales Central list for the Senedd election.

Ms Al-Faifi admitted in November of last year that posts she published had “crossed the boundary of criticism of Israel into anti-Semitism”.

However, she subsequently posted another tweet in June linking police violence in the United States with Israel that was criticised by Plaid Cymru Welsh Parliament Candidate for Cardiff Central, Wiliam Rees.

Senior vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Sheila Gewolb, called for Ms Al-Faifi to be kicked out of the permanently following the tweet that she later deleted.

 

‘Blame’

At the time the review was announced Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price told BBC Wales: “I think this is a watershed moment, and I think no part of society is immune from it.

“The Welsh Labour Party is not immune from it, Plaid Cymru is not immune from it.

“I’ve met with the Board of Deputies of British Jews and it’s absolutely certain that we are seeing a rising tide of anti-Semitism, it’s endemic.”

He added: “I can’t involve myself for the very good reasons set out in the EHRC report in individual disciplinary cases, but it is my responsibility to ensure our culture, our structures, our processes, do actually fulfil a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism and any other form of religious prejudice.”

In a letter to Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price following Al-Faifi’s tweet, Sheila Gewolb wrote: “Some US police officers have received anti-terror training in Israel, as they have from many different countries – law enforcement agencies across the world co-operate with each other.

“There is not now, nor has there ever been, any evidence to suggest that Israel instructed US police officers in the techniques they have used against African Americans or that any of the officers involved in such attacks received Israeli training.

“The attempt to blame Israel for terrible situations in other countries is regarded by many in the Jewish community as antisemitic, stemming as it does from a long and ignominious history of blaming Jews for any and all misfortunes.”

She added: “We would urge you, as the leader of Plaid Cymru, to show that you are serious about antisemitism and Ms Al-Faifi in particular by permanently excluding her from the Party. She has had too many chances already and it is clear that she will not change. By allowing her to again get away with it, Plaid Cymru would be sending a very negative message to the UK’s Jewish community.”

Caerphilly Senedd Member Hefin David said that Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price needed to “take action” in the case of Sahar Al-Faifi.

“To connect Israel with George Floyd’s murder and the wider Black Lives Matter movement requires a leap of imagination that most people would not make,” he said.

“Therein lies the anti-Semitism and it is extraordinary that this needs to be explained. This ignorance is being tackled by the Labour Party.

“Plaid Cymru and Adam Price need to take action within their party.”

‘Reconsider’

Ms Al-Faifi was suspended from Plaid Cymru after a number of social media posts of hers from 2014 were condemned as antisemitic.

However, she was later reinstated, and that made her eligible to be chosen as a candidate for the Senedd election.

After the tweets emerged, she said: “Several years ago I made a handful of social media posts that I regret deeply as they crossed the boundary of criticism of Israel into anti-Semitism.

“I deleted the tweets more than five years ago and issued an apology to Jewish organisations and others.

“I have also undertaken anti-Semitism training, both formally through the Board of Deputies and informally with Jewish colleagues in order to ensure I never repeat the same mistakes.”

In March senior members of the Jewish community in Wales urged Plaid Cymru to reconsider their decision to readmit Sahar Al-Faifi.

They issued a statement referring to the Twitter posts for which she was suspended, which said: “[Her] posts included references to ‘The Children of Israel’ (a biblical description of Jews) causing corruption in the world, conspiracy theories about rich Jews supporting wars, criticism of Sajid Javid for attending a synagogue and support for Hamas (a proscribed terrorist organisation that calls for the death of Jews – a crime in this country). Ms Al-Faifi eventually agreed to delete or modify the posts and apologised for any offence caused.

“Subsequently, Ms Al-Faifi attended anti-semitism training in Cardiff. Some posts were deleted and the posts about Hamas and rich Jews were amended to show support for a ‘political process’. Unfortunately, Ms Al-Faifi still called for a ‘mighty victory’ for Hamas, which we asked to be clarified further to show that her support was away from the path of violence.

“This was not done [at the time]. In light of Ms Al-Faifi’s comments and her unrepentant attitude to the whole affair and investigation, we call upon Plaid Cymru to reconsider their decision.”

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