British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned on Saturday that the country could see a rise in anti-Semitic attacks as a result of the fighting in Gaza.
“Of course it’s a concern and we have already seen certainly an upturn in anti-Semitic rhetoric,” he said.
Hammond, speaking to the Sunday Telegraph in his first interview since being promoted to top diplomat last month, said that anger was growing in Britain over Israel’s actions in Gaza.
“The British public has a strong sense that the situation of the civilian population in Gaza is intolerable and must be addressed — and we agree with them,” he said. “What has struck me most looking at my own constituency in-box as well as the thousands of emails that I’m receiving from the general public here is that it isn’t just the Muslim community that’s reacting to this. It’s a broad swathe of British public opinion that feels deeply disturbed by what it is seeing on its television screens coming out of Gaza.”
Fighting in Gaza was also the backdrop for some harsh parliamentary sniping in London Saturday night, as Labour leader Ed Miliband accused Prime Minister David Cameron of “inexplicable silence” over the Israeli campaign in the Strip, which Jerusalem says was initiated to counter ongoing rocket fire and cross-border tunnels used to launch attacks on Israeli soil.
“The prime minister is wrong not to have opposed Israel’s incursion into Gaza. And his silence on the killing of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians caused by Israel’s military action will be inexplicable to people,” the Guardian quoted him as saying. “I am a supporter of Israel and I believe in Israel’s right to self-defense. But its military actions in the past two weeks have been wrong and unjustifiable.”
Miliband, who is Jewish, also praised Cameron for castigating Hamas, but said he should be playing a leading role in peace efforts.
A spokesperson for Cameron shot back that Miliband was “playing politics” with the war.
Cameron has expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself, but added that the “heavy” civilian death toll is of “grave concern” to many in the international community. “The figures are very disturbing,” he said.
“Those criticizing Israel’s response must ask themselves how they would expect their own government to react if hundreds of rockets were raining down on British cities today,” he said on July 21.