Middle East Eye / February 9, 2022
BoD calls on British Jews to show far-right MP Bezalel Smotrich ‘the door’, despite many of his views matching those of Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely.
The Board of Deputies (BoD), a highly influential advocacy group, has told a far-right Israeli MP he is not welcome in the UK, and urged British Jews to “show him the door”.
Bezalel Smotrich, who belongs to the controversial Religious Zionist Party, is a political ally of Benjamin Netanyahu, the longtime Israeli prime minister ousted from power in June after a decade in power.
He is currently on a tour of the UK and France drumming up support against the Israeli government’s plans to reform conversion to Judaism, citing assimilation concerns.
Tweeting in Hebrew, the BoD said: “We reject his abominable views and the hatred ideology of Bezalel Smotrich and call on all members of the British Jewish community to show him the door.”
“Get back on the plane Bezalel and be remembered as a disgrace forever,” it added, tagging several prominent Israeli media outlets and journalists in a subsequent tweet.
In reply, Smotrich tweeted: “British Jews: I love you. All of you.”
Netanyahu was key to elevating Smotrich’s party to Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, urging ultranationalist fringe factions to unite under the Religious Zionist banner to shore up the right-wing vote.
The Religious Zionist leader is a notorious racist, homophobe and Jewish ultra-nationalist. He is a staunch supporter of building illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands.
In 2015 he told Palestinian MPs in the Knesset that David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founder, “didn’t finish the job and didn’t throw you out in 1948”.
He was also reportedly arrested and questioned over a plot to blow up cars on an Israeli highway in protest at Israel’s 2005 pull-out of troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip. A former domestic intelligence official called him a “Jewish terrorist”. The MP, however, claims Jews can’t be terrorists.
Smotrich, meanwhile, has also claimed his wife refused to give birth next to a Palestinian woman citing “mental gaps” between Jews and Arabs.
Describing himself as a “proud homophobe”, he organised a “parade of beasts” to counter Gay Pride, marching donkeys and goats through the streets of Jerusalem.
The Board of Deputies’ intervention is both rare and remarkable in its harsh language. The group claims to represent all British Jewish communities, though has been accused of sidelining left-wing Jewish voices, particularly those supportive of the Palestinian cause.
Though Smotrich’s views are controversial, he is nonetheless an ally of Netanyahu, who remains a powerful political force in Israel and worldwide.
His views are also comparable to some of those espoused by Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely.
At a Board of Deputies event in 2020, she described the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war – known as the Nakba or “catastrophe” in Arabic – as a “very popular Arab lie”.
On Tuesday, Hotovely gave a speech as the Cambridge Union, which was disrupted by scores of pro-Palestinian protesters.