LONDON – A British judge who acquitted a group of anti- Israel activists charged with smashing up an arms factory near Brighton last year has been reprimanded for comments in which he compared Israel to the Nazis.

The Office for Judicial Complaints – the office that supports the lord chancellor and the lord chief justice in their responsibility over judicial complaints and discipline – launched an investigation in July following comments Judge George Bathurst- Norman made summing up the trial of the activists who had caused damage of around £180,000 ($275,000).

The judge compared Israel’s conduct during Operation Cast Lead to the Nazi regime and commended the activists’ leader, saying he should be awarded the George Medal – an honor normally awarded for acts of civilian bravery.

He also used language such as “war crimes,” “colonialization” and “ethnic cleansing” to describe Israel.

“It may be as you went through what I can only describe as horrific scenes, scenes of devastation to civilian population, scenes which one would rather have hoped to have disappeared with the Nazi regimes of the last war, you may have felt anger and been absolutely appalled by them, but you must put that emotion aside,” Bathurst-Norman told the jury.

Last week the OJC said that Bathurst-Norman’s comments were an expression of the judge’s personal views.

“An investigation found that a number of these observations did not arise directly from the evidence at trial and could be seen as an expression of the judge’s personal views on a political question. This was an error. The lord chancellor and lord chief justice considered the conclusions of the investigation and Bathurst-Norman was formally reprimanded.”

The activists, from an extremist group called “Smash EDO,” claimed they had been legally justified in breaking into and sabotaging the factory of EDO MBM Technology near Brighton, Sussex, during Operation Cast Lead in January 2009.

Using the “lawful excuse” defense – committing an offense to prevent what they said was a more serious crime – the activists claimed EDO was “complicit in war crimes.”

The protesters threw computers and file cabinets out of windows and smashed machinery with hammers, believing that their actions would “slow down” the manufacture of components allegedly being sold to Israel. The seven even admitted to breaking in and causing the damage but were acquitted when the jury found them not guilty of conspiring to cause criminal damage, despite videotaped interviews in which they outlined their intention to cause criminal damage and “smash up” the factory.

Meanwhile, a genealogical website has claimed that Bathurst-Norman was actually born in Tel Aviv.

The website, thePeerage.com, was set up by a New Zealand man to look at the genealogy of European royal families and the British peerage and says that the judge was born “on 15 January 1939 at Tel Aviv, Israel.”

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