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UK: Conservative MP calls on government to expel far-right Israeli politician

Bezalel Smotrich's arrival in the UK has sparked a chorus of condemnation from politicians as well as Muslim and Jewish groups
Bezalel Smotrich
Israeli far-right lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionist party, gestures with placards during a special session to vote on a new government at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on 13 June 2021 (AFP)

The former head of the UK parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee has called on the government to expel far-right Israeli MP Bezalel Smotrich from the country.

In a letter addressed to the home secretary on behalf of the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians, Crispin Blunt called for Smotrich, who arrived in the UK on Wednesday, to have his entry clearance revoked, saying his presence was "non-conducive to the public good".

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Blunt cited new immigration rules introduced in December 2020 which "tightened" the process for assessing applications, the guidance suggesting someone could be denied entry "based on their character, conduct, or associations because they pose a threat to UK society".

"In the event that he intends to enter, or has entered the UK, we ask you to directly prevent his entry, or revoke his entry clearance on the basis that his presence is non-conducive to the public good," read Blunt's letter.

A number of groups, including Muslim and Jewish organisations, have condemned Smotrich's visit, with the Board of Deputies calling for the Jewish community in Britain to "show him the door".

Na'amod, a British Jewish organisation that campaigns against the occupation of Palestinian land, said Smotrich was a "far-right racist and virulent homophobe" whose views had no place in Britain.

"The Board of Deputies have already made it clear that Smotrich is not welcome in our community," the group told Middle East Eye.

"Their statement reflects the increasing influence of British Jewish groups like Na’amod who are not willing to turn a blind eye to racism and oppression when it comes to Israel."

'Hateful extremism'

Smotrich, who belongs to the controversial Religious Zionist Party, is a political ally of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was key to elevating Smotrich’s party to the Israeli parliament as part of a political bloc to strengthen the right in Israel.

Smotrich is infamous for holding racist, homophobic and ultra-nationalist views and is a staunch supporter of building illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands.

In 2015 he told Palestinian MPs in the Knesset that David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founder, "didn't finish the job and didn't throw you out in 1948". He has been reportedly arrested and questioned over a plot to blow up cars on an Israeli highway in protest at Israel's 2005 pull-out of troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip.

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A former domestic intelligence official called him a "Jewish terrorist" - but the MP retorted that Jews couldn’t be terrorists.

In addition, he has described himself as a "proud homophobe" and has organised protests against Pride marches.

A Home Office spokesperson said they did not routinely comment on individual cases and didn't say if they were considering expelling Smotrich, but told MEE that "hateful extremism has no place in our society".

"We are working closely with law enforcement, local communities and our international partners to tackle groups and individuals who sow division and hatred," they said.

Israeli MPs have been banned from entering the UK before.

In 2008, far-right Likud MP Moshe Feiglin was denied entry on the basis that his presence in the UK could "lead to inter-community violence".

MEE also contacted the opposition Labour Party for comment, but received no reply by time of publication.

However, the Jewish Labour Movement - an affiliated pressure group - called for Smotrich to be expelled in a tweet.

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