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Political parties condemn ‘racist and anti-Semitic’ comments targeting Marlene Hassan Nahon

Eyleen Gomez

The Gibraltar Government on Thursday condemned what it described as “racist and anti-Semitic” comments levelled at Marlene Hassan Nahon on social media, adding it would refer the matter to the Royal Gibraltar Police.

No.6 Convent Place intervened after Mrs Hassan Nahon issued a statement denouncing an “orchestrated campaign” targeting her father, former Chief Minister Sir Joshua Hassan, and herself by extension.

The GSD also expressed solidarity with the Leader of Together Gibraltar, describing racist and anti-Semitic language as “unacceptable and repugnant.”

Mrs Hassan Nahon, who earlier this week called for cross-party political unity in the face of the Brexit challenge, said her message and her father’s legacy had been manipulated to fire up nationalist sentiment.

Some of those reactions, particularly on social media, had crossed the boundaries of legitimate and lawful political debate, Mrs Hassan Nahon said.

“Being the daughter of Sir Joshua Hassan, I know very well how difficult it is to make decisions and calibrate all options for the greater good,” she said in a personal statement late Wednesday.

“My father was a pragmatic and astute leader who managed to achieve self-governance for a small and powerless territory and neutralise the threat of fascist Spain, navigating the waters between these two powers with diplomacy and intelligence.”

“He also had to face demagogues stirring nationalist sentiments, and people who tried to exploit the historic challenges faced by the people of Gibraltar for their own political interests.”

“I write this note to stand up for his good name, in light of the orchestrated campaign we are witnessing on social media these days.”

“These attempts at assassinating the characters of other past Chief Ministers - I have also seen Sir Peter Caruana being defamed in these forums - of our history is nothing but vile propaganda, to delegitimise the state builders of Gibraltar by plain haters or misguided political activists.”

“Of particular concern in the latest barrage of abuse is the age-old anti-Semitic trope of dual loyalty with Israel that has been lobbed at me for being Jewish.”

“This is a new and dangerous phenomenon in Gibraltar politics and I urge the Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition to condemn this discourse immediately.”

SMALL MINORITY

On Thursday, both the Gibraltar Government and the GSD rallied round the Leader of Together Gibraltar to condemn the attacks on her.

No.6 Convent Place referred to “untruths” on social media claiming Mrs Hassan Nahon held dual nationality with Israel – she does not – adding that this had fuelled suggestions she should “somehow not be trusted.”

“These allegations clearly seek to bring people’s estimation of Ms Hassan Nahon down by reason of her religion,” No.6 said.

The Chief Minister, as the Leader of the House, will refer the comments to the Royal Gibraltar Police for investigation as aggravated racism, No.6 said.

Mr Picardo will also address the Parliament on Friday in respect of these comments.

“Challenging and robust political debate about ideas and policies is what makes our nation such a rich, diverse and respectful democracy,” Mr Picardo said.

“For that reason, we must all decry and denounce those of a small minority who fail themselves and all of us by making racist and anti-Semitic statements about a Member of our Parliament based on her religion.”

“This is in addition to insults also apparently made about her relating to her ethnicity and which she has rightly countered in correspondences and which I am also reviewing.”

“My Government and I disagree with Marlene on many things and agree on many others – but our debate is about our differing policies and ideas on how we each think we can improve Gibraltar for all Gibraltarians and residents of Gibraltar.”

“We have had to read similar comments recently insulting the Minister for Transport, Business and the Port arising from his ethnicity.”

“For some to make racist and anti-Semitic remarks as part of supposed political debate is just anathema, alien, to the Gibraltar I know and love.”

“People who say these things do so because they have lost the argument and can only attack a person's religion or ethnicity when they have no arguments of substance left.”

“Gibraltar is let down by such people who do not have the first understanding of democracy, respect and debate.”

“I will be saying more about this in Parliament tomorrow, when I will call for solidarity of all members with Ms Hassan Nahon in respect of these grave racist and anti-Semitic insults.”

“As Leader of the House, I will also be referring these comments - and those making them - to the Commissioner of Police."

Last night, a spokesman for the Royal Gibraltar Police said the matter was already under investigation.

“We can confirm that an investigation has been initiated,” the spokesman told the Chronicle.

“We are unable to make any further comment at this stage whilst the matter is investigated.”

GSD SOLIDARITY

The Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi, said he had reached out to Mrs Hassan Nahon on Wednesday night after she issued her statement to enquire about the comments and express his party’s solidarity.

He said Mrs Hassan Nahon had shared details of a comment that had been made about her on social media.

The GSD said it had seen no other comments but noted from both her and the Government’s statements that there may be others.

“There is no place for racism, discrimination, anti-Semitism, prejudice or intolerance in Gibraltar,” Mr Azopardi said.

“As a community all citizens need to strive to ensure healthy political disagreements on any issue are kept within the bounds of respectful, measured, lawful and fair comment.”

“Anything that crosses those lines into racial, religious or any other forms of intolerance is unacceptable and repugnant.”

“I reached out to Marlene in support. Any anti-Semitic or racist comments are wholly wrong and have no place in our Gibraltar. She has our solidarity in that regard.”

See Mrs Hassan Nahon’s full statement https://www.chronicle.gi/redundant-expressions-of-outrage/