Hamas leader's invitation to address MPs provokes fury

Foreign Office warns video link to Parliament will boost Islamic extremists

The former Labour minister Clare Short has been embroiled in a row after inviting senior Hamas leader Khaled Meshal to address MPs in Parliament.

Ms Short faced strong criticism from both the British and Israeli governments for her part in organising tonight's question-and-answer session between Mr Meshal and a backbench committee of MPs.

Mr Meshal, the head of Hamas's political bureau, is based in Damascus and is considered by many to be the No 1 decision maker in the Islamic fundamentalist organisation. He was the target of a bungled Israeli assassination attempt in Jordan in 1997.

He is set to speak to the committee via a video link. The session was arranged when Ms Short and a group of MPs met the senior Palestinian hardliner during a visit to the Syrian capital.

British and French parliamentarians have held meetings with Hamas representatives in the Middle East, but the European Union adheres to the rules of the international Quartet for Middle East peace – which groups the US, the EU, Russia and the UN – and does not speak to the Palestinian faction on the grounds that it remains committed to the destruction of Israel.

A Foreign Office spokesman said last night: "We do not believe in talking to Hamas as things stand, as we do not think that anything positive would result from it. Indeed it will undermine the position of those Palestinians who are working towards a peaceful solution to the crisis. It is, however, up to individual MPs to make decisions about the organisation and people like Mr Meshal."

Ms Short, who resigned as Tony Blair's secretary for international development in 2003 over the war in Iraq, has voiced support for boycotting Israel and compared Israel's actions in the occupied territories to those of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The Israeli government claimed yesterday that the invitation to Mr Meshal could provide legitimacy to Hamas. "We are talking about the head of a terrorist movement. This is absurd," said Yigal Palmor, a foreign ministry spokesman. "It is clear that a person who would never get a visa to enter Britain should not be addressing MPs."

Mr Palmor added that Ms Short "is well known for her anti-Israel positions". Of the other MPs who are said to have played a part in organising the session, he said: "They are the usual suspects. They are crossing line after line and now they've crossed another one. But I don't think the British public at large find it logical to have this well-known terrorist promoting his views in Parliament."

Israeli media reports said the country's embassy in London tried unsuccessfully to get the link-up cancelled through the intervention of pro-Israel MPs.

Hamas, which espouses Islamic rule in all of historic Palestine but has also conditionally backed the idea of a long-term ceasefire with Israel, won Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. The British Government and much of the international community have set three conditions for dealing with it, none of which have been met thus far: renouncing violence, recognising Israel and accepting previous agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel. Hamas forcibly seized control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah in June 2007. It withstood a devastating Israeli military onslaught in January this year which Israel said was prompted by rocket fire by the group.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone