(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON – Former UK government minister and previous Conservative party chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, started a social media storm after she tweeted a message that clearly implied equivalence between the Har Nof terrorists and Jews protesting over Temple Mount.
The controversial politician, who – until her resignation in protest at Government policy, which she complained was far too tolerant of Israel’s actions against Hamas rocket attacks during the recent Gaza war – had been the highest ranked Muslim in British politics with a seat at the cabinet table.
But her outburst, shortly after the terrorist atrocity, led to a sharp rebuke from her successor as Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps, who tweeted that Warsi only spoke for herself and not for their party.
In her initial message Warsi wrote “Israeli extremists storm Al Aksa & intimidate worshipers, Palestinian extremists storm synagogue & kill 4 worshipers #Tragic #peacenotwar.”
So angered by her tweet, leading communal activists and former CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council, Jeremy Newmark, immediately responded expressing his shock at what he termed her “warped tweet” by challenging her as to whether she had intended to draw a parallel between Jewish protesters at Al Aksa and the two terrorists responsible for the Har Nof attack – and in effect was seeking to attempt to justify terrorism.
Warsi replied to Newmark demanding to know if he was suggesting “there is NO link between the murders in the synagogue & the weeks of intimidation and attacks.”
She added: “Both David Cameron & Ed Miliband say a Palestinian life is equal to an Israeli life so let’s ALL condemn the killing on BOTH sides.”
Condemnation of her tweets swiftly followed from the Zionist Federation, to which Warsi – who had also served in government as the faith and communities minister – directly responded writing: “ZionistFed both Palestinian & Israeli lives have been lost in recent weeks at the hands of extremists, Condemn both #Peace not #Hypocrisy.”
A number of other Jewish community leaders and organizations joined the condemnation.
Board of Deputies vice-president Alex Brummer said: “Baroness Warsi’s response to the dastardly and cowardly attack on Jews at prayer in the sanctuary of a synagogue in Jerusalem is totally unacceptable.
“As a former cabinet official and member of the House of Lords she has a responsibility to condemn the attack without any qualifications. Her failure to do so is disgraceful and can only encourage extremists in diabolical behavior that runs totally counter to that expected of a civilized society.”
Newmark’s successor as Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Simon Johnson said: “It is irresponsible of her to suggest any equivalence between any actions on Temple Mount, and the entering of a place of worship to murder innocent people engaged in the act of prayer. Such comments do her discredit and we call on her to withdraw [them].”
Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard made clear his view, “The timeline of Sayeeda Warsi after the synagogue murders is jaw dropping. To think she was once a minister in the FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office].”
Meanwhile a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London said: “Warsi’s unfortunate remarks, equating Jews visiting a holy site with terrorists murdering praying worshipers, are morally reprehensible and shameful.”
Warsi, who was sacked by Prime Minister David Cameron as party chairwoman two years ago rarely disclosed in public her strong antipathy towards Israel but after her resignation she complained about what she said was the UK’s “morally indefensible” position on the conflict in Gaza, accusing the coalition government of failing to act as an “honest broker” in the Middle East and used the opportunity to call for an immediate arms embargo against Israel.
But the strongest condemnation came from her successor as Conservative party chairman Shapps who tweeted “To be clear Sayeeda Warsi speaks for herself, not the party. Our prayers are with those murdered. No Justification for terrorism.”
In what has been described as an attempt to defend her original tweet on the subject Warsi issued a further comment but could not resist the opportunity of a parting shot at Shapps accusing him of “hypocrisy.” She replied pointing out that both Palestinian and Israeli lives have been lost in recent weeks “at the hands of extremists” before adding, “There can never be justification for the killing of innocent civilians Israeli or Palestinian.
#justiceforall not #Hypocrisy.”
Shapps she said later, was “only willing to criticize Palestinian terror while refusing to vote in favor of a Palestinian State and give young Palestinians hope and dignity.”