Mea culpa from Conservative MEP

By Jessica Elgot, December 15, 2011

British MEP Sir Robert Atkins has apologised for suggesting pressure should be put on Jews in the diaspora over the treatment of Palestinians.

Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman met the Conservative MEP on Friday to demand an apology. On his personal blog, Sir Robert had written: "Pressure must be exerted on Israel and her diaspora to realise that what they are doing in Palestine generally, and Gaza specifically, is not only illegal under international law but is also inhumane.

"It is reminiscent of the treatment experienced by Jews in Europe during parts of the last century."

The MEP visited Gaza last month with UNWRA.

On his return, he alleged that death by torture was acceptable in Israeli courts, and described Hamas MPs as "much more far-sighted than Fatah which, in Gaza, is in a minority."

A Board of Deputies spokesman said: "Mr Wineman made clear that any suggestion that diaspora Jewry bears responsibility for the actions of the Israeli government, and any comparison between the situation in the Middle East and the experiences of the Jewish people in Europe during the last century, was offensive."

After the meeting, Sir Robert said he apologised unreservedly for the remarks. "I withdraw any imputation that Jews outside Israel have any responsibility for the actions of the Israeli government.

"That is not my intention nor is it the truth. I repudiate also any suggestion of an analogy between the treatment of the Palestinians and the extreme antisemitism of the last century".

His statement has been removed from the blog.

Last updated: 2:09pm, December 15 2011