Foreign Office man's 'racist' rant

By Jessica Elgot, September 17, 2009
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Rowan Laxton

Rowan Laxton

A senior Foreign Office civil servant claimed that Israel should be “blown off the face of the earth” while watching a TV report on the Gaza conflict, a court has heard.

A man claimed he heard Rowan Laxton, 48, the head of the Foreign Office’s South Asia desk, shouting at a TV report while he was working out on an exercise bike in the London Business School gym.

Gideon Falter, who is Jewish, told Westminster Magistrates’ Court he heard Mr Laxton shouting: “f****** Israelis, f****** Jews” at the television screen which was showing a report about a dead Palestinian farmer.

Mr Falter then apparently confronted Mr Laxton about his outburst and was told: “It’s f****** despicable what they’re doing in Gaza. It’s not racist. If I had my way, the international community would be sent in and if the Israelis got in the way, they would be blown off the face of the f****** earth.”

I am embarrassed. I offended somebody, I embarrassed the Foreign Office. I’ve caused anxiety to friends and family.

Mr Laxton, who has been suspended from his £70,000-a-year job at the Foreign Office, denies inciting religious hatred and causing alarm, harassment or distress.

He said in court: “I am embarrassed. I offended somebody, I embarrassed the Foreign Office. I’ve caused anxiety to friends and family.“

He added: “I regret very much the way this case came out in the media and the suggestion that I am antisemitic or racist in any way. I am not.”

Several friends of Mr Laxton, including one whose father had been a Holocaust victim, gave character evidence for him, and said he was not antisemitic.

Mr Laxton’s barrister Julian Knowles said Mr Laxton had no reason to know anyone could hear him shouting as he thought he was alone in the gym.

The case has now been adjourned until September 24.

Last updated: 10:00am, September 17 2009