UK gov't official in anti-Semitism storm

Foreign Office's South Asia Group chief arrested after allegedly launching tirade at gym over Gaza op.

rowan laxton 248.88 (photo credit: )
rowan laxton 248.88
(photo credit: )
A top UK Foreign Office official has been arrested on suspicion of an anti-Semitic outburst at a gym, the Daily Mail reported Monday. Rowan Laxton, who is head of the South Asia Group at the Foreign Office, was watching TV reports of the IDF offensive in Gaza while on an exercise bike at a gym when he was allegedly heard shouting, "F***ing Israelis, f***ing Jews," and saying that IDF soldiers should be wiped off the face of the earth, the British newspaper reported. His tirade reportedly continued even after he was approached by other exercisers at the London Business School's gym in Regent's Park. After a police complaint was filed, Laxton was arrested on suspicion of inciting religious hatred through threatening words and behavior. He was bailed until late March, the paper said. Laxton has worked extensively in the Middle East and has been deputy ambassador to Afghanistan. "I was in the gym around 9 p.m., and I heard this guy shouting something about 'f***ing Israelis,'" the paper quoted one witness as saying. "This bald guy was cycling away on his machine in the middle of the exercise room. When another guy approached him he shouted, 'f***ing Jews, f***ing Israelis,'" he continued. "The gym was pretty full, and everyone looked totally shocked. That sort of racist language is totally unacceptable. The gym staff called security, and I think the guy was asked to leave." The Mail quoted Mark Gardner, deputy director of the Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitism, as saying that "we must not allow an overseas conflict to cause racism here in Britain, and especially not among civil servants." He added, "We hope that the appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken forthwith, as they would be if these comments had been made against any other section of society." The paper quoted a Foreign Office spokesman as saying it was "too early to comment in detail on a matter that is currently the subject of police inquiries. But we take extremely seriously any allegation of inappropriate conduct on the part of our staff and continue to follow developments closely." When contacted by the British newspaper, Laxton denied his remarks were anti-Semitic, but declined comment when asked if they were anti-Israeli.