Northern Ireland

Chaim Herzog son saddened that Belfast plaque removed

An Ulster History Circle blue plaque was erected on the property at Cliftonpark Avenue in 1998.
Image caption An Ulster History Circle blue plaque was erected on the property at Cliftonpark Avenue in 1998.

A former Israeli president's son has said he is saddened a plaque marking his father's north Belfast birthplace has been removed due to attacks.

An Ulster History Circle blue plaque was erected to Chaim Herzog on a property at Cliftonpark Avenue in 1998.

It had been taken down out of concern for staff and residents living in adjoining premises.

Anti-Israeli graffiti was daubed on the building, objects thrown, and an attempt made to remove the plaque.

Mr Herzog's son Isaac is the leader of the opposition in the Israeli parliament.

"This is quite sad for me and my family," he said.

"The history of my family has been intertwined with the history of Irish independence and the story of Belfast itself, which is a city with huge history and which I admire and adore.

"I get text message, pictures, emails from America, from Europe and of course from Israel from people who have seen this plaque and indeed are quite impressed by it."

Chaim Herzog was born in Belfast in 1918 but his family eventually emigrated to Palestine.

He held a number of positions in the newly created state of Israel in 1948, including ambassador to the United Nations and president between 1983-1993.

DUP councillor Brian Kingston said some youths had recently been stopped in the process of trying to remove the plaque with a crowbar.

Image caption Brian Kingston has condemned those who forced the removal of the plaque

"Out of concern for staff and for residents living in neighbouring houses, the community group and the Ulster History Circle have decided that it was best to remove the plaque for the foreseeable future, and it was removed at the end of last week," he said.

"This is a shocking indication of the level of tension and anti-Semitism which currently exists in parts of Belfast.

"It is disgraceful that this item of Belfast history has being repeatedly targeted due to its connection with Israel. This should serve as a wake-up call for the public to the dangerous level of intolerance and the anti-Israeli mentality which some are encouraging."

'Incredible intolerance'

Bill Manwaring of the Ulster Unionist Party also condemned those who forced the removal of the plaque.

"If those that forced its removal are not trying to rewrite history, then they are demonstrating their ignorance of it," he said.

"Those that have been engaged in this have demonstrated incredible intolerance. Belfast has a shared history and we are meant to be building a shared society. These actions demonstrate the opposite.

"Given the attack on the synagogue last month and now this, it shows that some people's hearts and minds remain full of hatred."

The attacks on the Chaim Herzog plaque were also condemned by Sinn Féin councillor JJ Magee.

"I think it's wrong. I think the people who are doing this should stop doing it," he said.

Last month windows were smashed at a synagogue, also in north Belfast.

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