‘Get back on the plane’: Board condemns London visit of far-right Israeli leader

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‘Get back on the plane’: Board condemns London visit of far-right Israeli leader

UK Jewish groups distance themselves from Bezalel Smotrich after he said he was visiting to meet rabbis and community leaders

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

Bezalel Smotrich filmed himself in a car travelling 'between meetings' in North London on Wednesday night (Photo: Facebook)
Bezalel Smotrich filmed himself in a car travelling 'between meetings' in North London on Wednesday night (Photo: Facebook)

UK Jewish communal groups have distanced themselves from the visit of extremist Israeli politician Bezalel Smotrich, who announced his arrival in London earlier on Wednesday.

Smotrich, who leads the hard-right Religious Zionism Party in the Knesset, tweeted he was in Britain “for a series of meetings with rabbis, community leaders, and Jewish organisations”.

He held meetings with members of organisations including Mizrachi UK and Bnei Akiva.

But in a strongly worded rebuttal the Board of Deputies told him he was not welcome, adding: “Get back on the plane, Bezalel, and be remembered as a disgrace forever.”

The Board tweet said the far-right leader’s views “provokes hatred” and called on British Jews to “show him the door”.

The Jewish Leadership Council said in a statement: “We were not asked to meet Mr Smotrich but if we were, we would have declined.

“He has made clear through his divisive rhetoric and actions that he does not uphold the values of tolerance and equality which we pride ourselves on as a community.”


The Zionist Federation added that Smotrich’s “far-right politics of hatred and division, whether the targets be the LGBTQ+ Community, Reform Jews or Arab-Israelis, have no place in this country nor in our community.”

Yachad, which campaigns for a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, said Smotrich “openly calls for ethnic cleansing” and “should not be made welcome by any individual or organisation in the Jewish community”.

The anti-occupation group Na’amod added: “The Board’s condemnation of Smotrich must be backed up by action against those groups who bring our community into disrepute by meeting with him.”

The Israeli diaspora minister Nachman Shai, a member of the left-wing Labour Party, said Smotrich had been rejected by the UK Jewish community and should return home.

Bnei Akiva confirmed to Jewish News that two Bnei Akiva members did meet Smotrich, but that they did so “in an individual capacity without the knowledge of the movement, which was not informed of the meeting ahead of time.”

It added: “Bnei Akiva UK remains a politically non-partisan movement committed to educating our members towards tolerance and understanding in accordance with the ideals of Religious Zionism and Torah Va’Avodah.”

Smotrich is an Israeli ultranationalist who has opposed selling property to Arabs and spoken out against mixed marriages and LGBT rights.

He has also made remarks describing progressive streams of Judaism as a “fake religion”.

He is currently an ally of Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister, although he has formed electoral alliances in the past with Naftali Bennett, the current premier.

He did not respond directly to the opposition to visit but tweeted later on Wednesday evening: “The entire UK Jewish community, I love you all!”

In a statement to Jewish News, Mizrachi UK said: “This week Mizrachi UK was invited to a meeting with Bezalel Smotrich. We saw the meeting as an opportunity to share details of our work with a Religious Zionist Member of Knesset and former Government Minister.

“We want to make it clear that the meeting should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any of Mr Smotrich’s previous statements. As a religious Zionist organisation, we reject prejudice of any kind.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Hateful extremism has no place in our society.

“We are working closely with law enforcement, local communities and our international partners to tackle groups and individuals who sow division and hatred.”

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