Cheadle: Election 2010
A Liberal Democrat MP has been criticised by Jewish constituents for courting Muslim voters by means of an anti-Israel letter which he sent to constituents who had Asian-sounding names.
Mark Hunter (right), who holds the seat in Cheadle, south Manchester, was confronted over the issue on Saturday in front of 300 Yeshurun Synagogue congregants, at hustings as part of the shul's Yom Ha'atzmaut Shabbaton. In the letter Mr Hunter had called for "an end to the blood-letting in Gaza", the end of UK arms sales to Israel, and an EU trading agreement boycott.
Written in February last year, one of the letters was sent to Raya Amir, the Israeli-born assistant head of North Cheshire Jewish Primary School.
Ms Amir said : "He was mistaking me for a Muslim and writing to me all the things that a Muslim might like to hear, but it arrived at the wrong address. His researchers just fished my name out. I didn't want his views on my doorstep."
At the Shabbaton Mr Hunter, with his Labour and Conservative opponents, Martin Miller and Ben Jeffreys, took questions on Israel and antisemitism. The MP restated his belief that Israel's action in Gaza was disproportionate.
Afterwards, Mr Hunter said there was a deliberate attempt "by Conservative supporters to make mischief over this letter. The letter was largely sent to groups of people who had sent letters to me on the biggest issue in my postbag since I've been an MP. I've put my name to condemnation of Palestinian rocket attacks and demands for Corporal Shalit's release. I'm not biased about the Israeli situation."