Monday, February 09, 2009

British Official Arrested After Anti-Semitic Tirade (Updated)

Must be something about that London fog. Remember in December 2001:
An international spat has developed over disparaging comments about Israel allegedly made by the French ambassador to London at a private dinner party.

During a conversation about the Middle East crisis with the owner of the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Conrad Black, ambassador Daniel Bernard is reported to have spoken about "that sh___ty little country Israel".
Bernard later said his comments were distorted--but refused to apologize.

Now a high ranking British official in the Foreign Office is getting exercised over Israel:
A high-ranking diplomat at the Foreign Office has been arrested after allegations that he launched a foul-mouthed anti-Semitic tirade.

Middle East expert Rowan Laxton, 47, was watching TV reports of the Israeli attack on Gaza as he used an exercise bike in a gym.

Stunned staff and gym members allegedly heard him shout: 'F**king Israelis, f**king Jews'. It is alleged he also said Israeli soldiers should be 'wiped off the face of the earth'.

His rant reportedly continued even after he was approached by other gym users.

After a complaint was made to police, Mr Laxton was arrested for inciting religious hatred through threatening words and behaviour and bailed until late next month.

The maximum penalty for inciting religious hatred is a seven-year prison term or a fine or both.

Mr Laxton, who is still working normally, is head of the South Asia Group at the Foreign Office, on a salary of around £70,000.
Laxton is married to a Muslim woman.

Abe Greenwald argues why Laxton should be let free:
One of the drawbacks of true diplomatic multilateralism is that you’re only as good as your weakest ally. England is our strongest ally. From the hateful lunacy emanating out of Tehran to the blunt indifference of the Kremlin to the recreational anti-Semitism of withering Britain, we’re getting a good look at the ugly face behind the placid mask of diplomacy. I, for one, think they should let Laxton free. If this is the class of “ally” we’re going to be dealing with for the next four years, I’d rather such people not be afraid to declare their true convictions. The sooner the game is up, the sooner we can return to being serious about peace, diplomacy, America, and the Middle East.
I have a better idea: let Laxton do community service.
In Sderot.

UPDATE: The Israeli Ambassador to Great Britain, Ron Prosor, responds: no biggie.
He said: "The treadmill of diplomacy between our countries continues to run smoothly. The abusive tirade of this one individual should not be seen as a reflection of the health and fitness of our relations.

"From the nature of our work with the British Foreign Office, we understand that the unacceptable outburst expressed by a British diplomat does not reflect the official policy of the United Kingdom and we have been informed that an internal investigation is currently taking place.

"If the investigation concludes that the incident actually occurred, appropriate action will be taken [by the Foreign Office]."
Prosor apparently thinks things in Great Britain are going well for the Jews. Maybe he hasn't heard...
Mr Prosor's sanguine response appears to be at odds with that of the Jewish community in Britain. Mark Gardner, deputy director of the Community Security Trust which monitors anti-Semitism, said: "There were an unprecedented number of anti-Semitic incidents during the Gaza conflict.

"This alleged case is particularly shocking, given the position held by the civil servant in question. We must not allow an overseas conflict to cause racism here in Britain and especially not among civil servants.

"The Jewish community will be rightly appalled to hear of these allegations against such a senior figure."
[Hat tip:Memeorandum]

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