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British lawyers threaten Home Office with legal action over Smotrich visit

London-based Palestinian advocacy organisation says authorities' failure to refuse entry to Israeli MP 'amount to an unlawful failure to follow adopted policy'
Smotrich during a visit to the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem last May (AFP)

A London-based Palestinian legal centre has called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to refuse the re-entry of a far-right Israeli MP, known for his racist and homophobic views, into the UK and challenged her to explain why he was let into the country earlier this month.

In a letter sent to Patel's office on Thursday, lawyers acting on behalf of the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) said the Home Office's ongoing failure to refuse entry to Bezalel Smotrich "amount to an unlawful failure to follow adopted policy".

Earlier this month, British MP Crispin Blunt, the former head of the UK parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee and director of the ICJP, urged Patel on behalf of the centre to revoke Smotrich's entry clearance because his presence was "non-conducive to the public good".

But the Home Office's response did not confirm whether Smotrich would be refused entry or be removed from the UK, said London-based law firm Bindmans, who is representing the ICJP.  

Instead, according to Bindmans, the Home Office said: "Hateful extremism has no place in our society", and that it was "working closely with law enforcement, local communities and our international partners to tackle groups and individuals who sow division and hatred".

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The Home Office gave Middle East Eye the same response when it asked for comment on Bindmans latest action late on Thursday.

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In a 10 February tweet, Smotrich said he plans to return to the UK in the future despite the backlash to his visit.

The lawyers have given the Home Office until 2 March to respond before they say they plan to issue judicial review proceedings.

Smotrich, leader of Israel’s controversial Religious Zionist Party, caused an uproar when he arrived in the UK earlier this month on a tour to drum up support against Israeli government plans to ease the process of conversion to Judaism.

The Board of Deputies (BoD), a highly influential Jewish advocacy group, said he was not welcome in the UK, and urged British Jews to “show him the door”.

Among his controversial views, the MP, an ally of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has reportedly advocated a shoot-to-kill policy for Israeli military that have to deal with Palestinian children throwing stones. 

He is also a staunch supporter of building illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands. In 2015, he told Palestinian MPs in parliament, or the Knesset, that Israel’s founder David Ben-Gurion “didn’t finish the job and didn’t throw you out in 1948”, referring to the forced displacement of more than 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland by Zionist militia to make way for the founding of Israel.

The Israeli embassy in London has not replied to MEE's request for comment.

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