MP needs police protection after threats from anti-Israel activists

A Conservative MP who backs the two-state solution was forced to remove details of his constituency surgeries and contact information from his website after being bombarded with abusive messages and death threats from anti-Israel activists.

Henley MP John Howell expressed his gratitude for the messages of support he has been sent after the issue was highlighted by the Zionist Federation.

Mr Howell, who won Boris Johnson's former seat in a 2008 by-election, was offered police protection after being targeted by activists. He became the subject of a hate campaign after an email conversation with Harry Fear, a prominent pro-Palestinian campaigner, was posted on his blog and on Facebook.

Mr Fear sent Mr Howell an email on March 10, the week during which violence erupted between Israel and Gaza, accompanied by a photograph from 2009 asking what the MP was doing "to see that Israel halts the military actions that are taking place in defiance of international law and basic human decency".

Mr Fear said of the photograph of an exploding building: "Only a few hours ago, Israel felt it necessary to inflict this destruction and death on the [Gaza] Strip."

In response, Mr Howell asked Mr Fear what his position was on the 100 rockets that had landed in Israel that weekend.

The comment was circulated online by Mr Fear, who posted it along with the MP ' s contact information and an appeal for people to write to Mr Howell "civilly, expressing discontent".

Included in the 30 "worrying" emails Mr Howell was then sent was one saying that he deserved to die, and another that said: "You will suffer the consequences of this corruption and callousness." He was also attacked as a "corrupt, smug-looking English twerp" and a "fiend of England".

Mr Howell, who expressed concern for his wife, son and his staff, said: "Athough I do not want to appear to be a drama queen, you have to take seriously a threat when it says, 'I would like to see you dead".

After being alerted to what had happened, the ZF suggested that its members offer solidarity with the MP. Mr Howell said he had received more than 100 emails of support. "I am eternally grateful for all the kind messages I have received," he said. "Receiving them has been a humbling experience and I have found the e mails both highly moving and touching."

According to the Henley Standard, Parliament's Serjeant at Arms told Mr Howell that 80 MPs were currently facing extreme threats on various issues.

Mr Fear said his stated position on the Middle East was that "in order to have peace we need a secure and universally recognised Israel alongside a sovereign and viable Palestinian state".

Mr Fear said the response that his post got was not his intention and that he would not wish death threats on anyone. He added: "We must assume he knows the basic facts. No Israelis were killed - there was no need for balance."

Last updated: 12:20pm, March 29 2012