Galloway: Only friends of Israel given Middle East minister role

George Galloway has accused the minister for the Middle East of being in his post because of his past involvement with Conservative Friends of Israel in an attack on Britain's history in the region.

"If someone is not a known and celebrated supporter of the country that supplanted Palestine and drove the Palestinians out of their country into the four corners of the earth, they will have no chance of becoming the Minister for the Middle East," said Mr Galloway, during a parliamentary session on relations with the Arab world.

The Bradford MP, who last week stormed out of a university debate because his opponent was an Israeli citizen, said that "nothing personal" was intended in his attack on Alistair Burt.

But he stated: "The least of his qualifications was the most important in his being made a Minister at the Foreign Office: he was previously a luminary-indeed, a leader-of the Conservative Friends of Israel.

"That is an indispensible condition in Britain; in the 25 years I have spent in the House, and I suspect for much longer than that."

The Respect leader said that this spoke "volumes about the absolute unwillingness on the part of the British state… to face up to their responsibility to the Palestinian people. The entire tragedy of the Palestinian people was authored in this building."

"That is the original sin of Britain-all the blood that has flowed under the bridge since that declaration was made, and the fact that we do not recognise our special responsibility to the Palestinian people," he said. "On the contrary, one has to be a friend of Israel to be the Minister for the Middle East. That is central to our problems and our credibility in the Middle East."

Mr Galloway also used his speech to complain about how "Iran… is subject to endless sanction and threat, while Israel has the red carpet endlessly rolled out before it."

Mr Burt said that while he had been a friend of Israel throughout his parliamentary career, "it does not preclude being a friend of others in the region as well".

He added that his connections with Israel enabled him "to speak toughly to the Israeli g overnment. It was I who called in the ambassador recently over settlements." The minister also pointed that one of his recent predecessors, Ben Bradshaw, "was no particular noted friend of Israel and was able to do the job as effectively as I am trying to do".

Last updated: 12:06pm, February 28 2013