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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones