Jewish groups have reacted angrily to comments made by Sir Alan Duncan, the former Tory minister, who described settlement building in the Occupied West Bank as an “ever-deepening stain on the face of the globe”.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews said that part of Sir Alan’s argument – that US thinking on the issue of settlements as being dominated by “a very powerful financial lobby” – was anti-semitic.
The Board’s vice-president, Jonathan Arkush, said: “Former International Development minister Alan Duncan’s speech served to display his well-known hostility to Israel. It made not a single mention of Palestinian terrorism and incitement to violence and hate. By ignoring the facts behind a complex dispute, he is breathtakingly one-sided."
He added: “If this was not bad enough, Sir Alan made the extraordinary demand that anyone who ‘endorses settlements’ (whatever that may mean) cannot be considered ‘fit to stand for election, remain a member of a mainstream political party, or sit in a Parliament.’ We invite Sir Alan to reconsider the implications of those words.
“From that unsustainable foundation built on intolerance and ignorance, Alan Duncan attacked the British Jewish community for defending Israel. He characterises defending Israel as equivalent to accusing people of wanting Israel’s destruction or being anti-semitic. This is a blatantly false allegation against the leadership bodies of the British Jewish community. It is a poisonous slur which should be retracted immediately.”
Under international law, settlements in the West Bank, and in annexed East Jerusalem, are considered illegal. In a speech on the Middle East conflict at London’s Royal United Services Institute this week, Sir Alan also said the situation in Hebron equated to apartheid.
Sir Alan declined to comment today.
His comments followed a vote on Monday when MPs backed the recognition of a Palestinian state.
The Israeli government has increased settlement activity this year. Last month, the biggest single project for 30 years was announced. Palestinians and international observers say that the 1,000 acre bloc, Etzion, and other settlements, threaten the possibility of a contiguous future Palestinian state.
Jewish groups fear that anti-semitism is on the rise. The Jewish Chronicle has reported that Jews living in Britain are buying property in Israel.