Peter Jenkins, Britain’s former representative on the International Atomic Energy Agency, has told the debating union at Warwick University that a just war is not a Jewish notion.
In a video released this week, the retired Foreign Office diplomat, speaking in a recent debate on nuclear proliferation in Iran, said: “Israelis don’t practise an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, they practise ten eyes for an eye and ten teeth for a tooth.
“The idea that a just war requires the use of force to be proportionate seems to be a Christian notion and not a Jewish notion.”
The remark prompted opposition speaker Jonathan Sacerdoti, director of the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy, to call out “shame”.
He later told the audience: “I suggest that the speech that we heard first, laced with its subtle attempts at antisemitism, masked behind polite diplomatic chatter is exactly the problem in this debate… this is not a Jewish issue, this is not an Israel issue, this is a worldwide issue.”
Later, Mr Sacerdoti added: “It is incredible to think that a man unashamed to express such a view in public, once had such a senior position on behalf of the UK.
“This particular view, that Jews do not adhere to the concept of ‘just war’ implies that Jews are by nature bloodthirsty and unjust. I believe any such generalisation about the nature of Jews is racist.”
The Community Security Trust also moved to condemn Mr Jenkins’ remarks. A spokesman said: “It is disgusting that students should be exposed to such divisive rubbish. Peter Jenkins appears to be as ignorant of the history of Christian war-making as he is of Jewish values.”
The president of Warwick Debating Society, Richard Hopps, said the society did not support remarks of an antisemitic or racist nature.
He said: “We have spoken to the speaker in question, and he assures us that his remarks were not intended to appear as antisemitic in any way — and we hope that this wasn’t his intention.”
Peter Jenkins this week released a statement which said: “My comments have been severely misinterpreted and I had no intention of offending anyone.”