Anger after anti-Israel activist addresses UK Holocaust memorial event

Labor MP regrets appearing alongside writer who called Israel a racist, genocidal and Nazi regime

January 28, 2019 13:48
3 minute read.
Anger after anti-Israel activist addresses UK Holocaust memorial event

Leader of Britain's Respect party, George Galloway (L), and party candidate Yvonne Ridley (R) convas during a by-election in the Leicester South constituency in central England, July 15, 2004. (photo credit: DARREN STAPLES/REUTERS)

An anti-Israel activist who appeared at a memorial event in the UK over the weekend marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day has drawn the ire of Israeli supporters.

On Friday, Yvonne Ridley was one of the speakers at an event ahead of International Holocaust Memorial Day at the University College Union at Newcastle College. In just the past few months, Ridley – a writer and commentator – wrote that the pro-Israel lobby “weaponizes antisemitism” and that Israel is a “racist regime” which carries out a “genocidal ethnic cleansing of Palestine.” In the past, she has called Israel a “disgusting little watchdog of America that is festering in the Middle East,” and wrote that Israel is “on the path of reviving the policies of Adolf Hitler.”

Nevertheless, Ridley – who also once worked for Iranian state Press TV – was invited to speak at the event alongside Labour MP Liz Twist and several other speakers. A flier for the event posted online shows that none of the five speakers at the event, titled “Torn From Home,” appear to have a connection to the Jewish community. The flier also featured the logo from the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, which later disavowed and condemned the event.

After the event, Twist admitted it was a mistake to appear alongside Ridley.

“I can understand the anger in the UK Jewish community,” Twist told the British Jewish News. “It is absolutely right that Holocaust Memorial Day must be a day on which we learn from this genocide and work together to create a better future -- and not a time to whitewash or distort those terrible events. It was clearly a mistake on my part to take part in an event at which Yvonne Ridley was speaking, given her views, and I deeply regret that and the distress it has caused the Jewish community.”

Many others also spoke out against the inclusion of Ridley.

“Absolutely shameful and a gross insult to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust as well as the UK Jewish community,” wrote Simon Plosker, the managing editor of Honest Reporting, on Twitter. “Let’s also remember @yvonneridley was employed by Iranian @Presstvuk that published Holocaust denial on its website.”

Gabe Milne, the president of the Sheffield Jewish Society, tweeted that, “Yvonne Ridley is an antisemite... It’s disgusting that she has been allowed to speak at a Holocaust Memorial Day event.”

Gary Spedding, a pro-Palestinian activist who was denied entry to Israel earlier this month, also slammed Ridley’s appearance.

“Presence & platforming of Yvonne Ridley at a Holocaust Memorial event at @NCLCollege is outrageous,” he tweeted. “@nclcollUCU should be ashamed to have invited her at all. Completely inappropriate for her to deliver a speech and speak to students who wouldn’t be aware of her shameful past.”

In response to complaints on Twitter, Ridley wrote that “Calling me an anti-Semite is defamatory.” She threatened to sue several users, blocked others, said she never denied the Holocaust and called one critic a “toxic little worm.”

A spokeswoman for Newcastle College told The Jerusalem Post that “Newcastle College is firmly against bigotry of any kind.  This event was organized by UCU representatives, independently of the College.”

The Newcastle College University College Union (UCU) has not responded to a request for comment as of press time.

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