Cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz warned that Britain’s relationship with Israel was eroding and said the decision of British physicist Stephen Hawking and other academics to boycott Israel was a form of anti-Semitism.
Steinitz, the intelligence and strategic affairs minister, told the Daily Telegraph Thursday that there were growing “animosities” and “incitement” in the UK toward Israel.
“We are concerned about the relations, about what we see as some animosities, some incitement in Britain, in the media, made by NGOs against Israel.,” Steinitz said.
Asked if Britain was still a friend of Israel, Steinitz said it was “difficult to say,” though he did tout intelligence cooperation between the countries.
His comments came a day before British Foreign Secretary William Hague was scheduled to visit Jerusalem.
Though Steinitz expressed hope that Hague’s visit would help repair ties, he said that the trend of singling out Israel for condemnation, which he described as disguised anti-Semitism, extended to the British Foreign Office.
But, he added, “Not every kind of criticism is anti-Semitism. I didn’t say that any criticism of Israel was anti-Semitic or unfair even.”
Hague’s visit, timed to coincide with US counterpart John Kerry’s arrival, is meant to help jump-start peace talks with the Palestinians. Steinitz said the near-universal contention that settlements are an obstacle to peace was “fundamentally wrong.”
Lashing out at astrophyiscist Hawking, who earlier this month announced he would be boycotting an Israeli conference, Steinitz said the world-renowned professor was exhibiting a double standard.
“The fact that Israel is treated differently, the fact that some people can say so easily, let’s do something against Israel, let’s boycott Israel, let’s boycott Israeli products, this is some kind of disguised anti-Semitism,” he said. “In past times people said that they are against the Jews. Now, especially after the Holocaust, nobody says that they are against the Jews, but people are against the Jewish state.”