Jewish Groups Call for Expulsion of Far-Right Israeli MK Visiting Britain
A group of Jewish and Israel-focused organizations asked the United Kingdom’s home secretary on Thursday to expel a far-right Israeli Knesset member who was visiting the country.
In a letter to Priti Patel, the 15 organizations claimed that MK Bezalel Smotrich “holds and promotes extremist and racist views,” including “a desire to forcibly remove Arab citizens of Israel.” He has also derided LGBT individuals and non-Orthodox Jews, according to the letter.
Smotrich is a follower of the late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, the signatories wrote, and was once “arrested and detained by Israel’s security forces for attempting to commit acts of terror inside Israel” in opposition to the 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Calling the parliamentarian “a dangerous individual whose views have no place in the UK,” the letter asked Patel to immediately deport him “on the grounds that he should have been denied entry in the first place due to the dangerous hate he promotes and fosters.” Smotrich’s “presence here threatens relations between Jewish and other minority communities,” it added.
Among the letter’s signatories are the Jewish Labour Movement, the New Israel Fund, the Movement for Reform Judaism, and the Jewish Council for Racial Equality.
A day earlier, the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD) posted a Hebrew tweet saying it “rejects Bezalel Smotrich’s abominable views and ideology that incites hatred and calls on all the members of the British Jewish community to show him the door.”
“Get back on the plane, Bezalel, and be remembered as a disgrace forever,” the tweet said.
Smotrich, who on Thursday began the French leg of his tour, responded in an interview with Israel’s Reshet Bet radio station, calling the BOD a “small group” that is seeking to silence him. “There are internal political issues [here],” he said, “old groups that were taken over by the progressive left.”
“I would happily meet with them,” he added.
Israeli news site Walla reported that the attacks on Smotrich caused a firestorm on the Israeli right, with the Likud party calling it a rejection of “a large public of lovers of Israel and the Land of Israel.”
“It is clear that this organization would not relate this way to post-Zionist MKs from the left who reject the existence of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people. Disgrace,” the party added.
Member of Knesset Itamar Ben Gvir of the Otzma Yeshudit faction — which is allied with Smotrich’s Religious Zionist party — accused the BOD of “adhering to leftist Reform [Judaism]” and having “forgotten what it is to be Jews.”
The BOD, he said, “does not represent the majority of Jews in Britain.”
More moderate criticism came from Minister of Communications Yoaz Hendel, who said, “It isn’t appropriate to receive a member of the Israeli Knesset, who comes to meet with different Jewish communities, in this way. Even when there are disagreements, there is a way to express them.”