British Jews praise Liberal action against 'racist' member

Chris Davies, MEP for Northwest England, was forced to resign his leadership post.

chris davies 88 (photo credit: )
chris davies 88
(photo credit: )
Jewish leaders in Britain have applauded the move by the Liberal Democratic party to discipline the leader of its European Parliamentary delegation after it was revealed he had sent a number of e-mails to a Jewish constituent attacking her pro-Israel views as "racist filth" and arguing that the "Jewish lobby" held "too great a say" over Britain's Middle East foreign policy. Chris Davies, MEP for Northwest England, was forced to resign his leadership post as head of the 12-member Liberal Democratic group to the European Parliament by party leader Sir Menzies Campbell on May 4 after London's Jewish News printed an e-mail exchange between Davies and a Jewish constituent. "I discussed this matter with [Davies] today, when we agreed that the proper course for him now is to resign as leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs," said Campbell in a statement released by the party's Central Office. "What he said was unacceptable and he recognizes that unreservedly," Campbell noted. The controversy began on April 18 after Davies, a supporter of EU aid for Hamas, attacked what he called Israel's "racist policies of apartheid" towards the Palestinians. Davies, who had traveled to Ramallah on April 11 as part of an EU delegation to meet Hamas leader Aziz Dueck, stated he had also "visited Auschwitz last year, and it is very difficult to understand why those whose history is one of such terrible oppression appear not to care that they have themselves become oppressors," Davies said. A constituent, identified by Davies as "Ms. Segal," e-mailed the MEP on April 21 disputing his analogy. Davies responded to her critique on April 23 saying her objection, "Sounds like racism to me. I hope you enjoying wallowing in your own filth." Segal objected to this characterization, writing to Davies, "Resorting to insults is not the language to use with a member of the public who fundamentally disagrees with your point of view." Davies defended the substance of his remarks, and stated that he merely intended "to speak out against this oppression at every opportunity, and I shall denounce the influence of the Jewish lobby that seems to have far too great a say over the political decision-making process in many countries." Segal forwarded the e-mail exchange to the Jewish News, which asked the Liberal Democratic leader for Europe to explain his remarks. The paper also brought the exchange to the notice of the party's Central Office, asking if Davies' views were representative of the party. The Central Office quickly distanced themselves from Davies's remarks and stated on May 3 that Campbell would speak to the MEP "at the earliest opportunity about these unacceptable comments." On May 5, Davies released a statement announcing his resignation from the party's leadership, but said he would retain his MEP seat. "I've paid the price for pressing the 'send' button when I was not only angry but blazing mad" Davies said. He explained that the trip to Ramallah had left him "with such a sense of despair about the Israeli government's policies towards the Palestinians that I have been blinded to the need for civilized debate with those who make not unreasonable arguments." "In my anger I did not pay due regard to its actual content and I apologize for the language and tone of my response, which was unacceptable and without justification," he stated. The chief executive officer of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jon Benjamin told The Jerusalem Post that by his apology, Davies has "recognized his tenuous grasp of the semantics he used in his responses." Davies had shown "a dismissive contempt which does nothing to suggest that he has any understanding of the sensibilities of his electorate, the complexities of politics in the Middle East or his responsibilities as an elected member of the European Parliament," Benjamin said. Charles Golding, editor-in-chief of the Jewish News, said: "Chris Davies had ample time to apologise to our reader for his patently anti-Semitic comment. Despite promising the Jewish News that he would do so, and that he would also say sorry for his initial abusive e-mail, he did neither. We should be able to expect more from our elected representatives in the European Parliament." Jeremy Last contributed to this report.