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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 12:21 GMT
UK MP calls Israel 'pariah'
Israeli soldiers on patrol.
Events in Israel made Gerald Kaufman speak out
Israel has turned into a "pariah state" under prime minister Ariel Sharon and his ways of dealing with terrorism are "unacceptable", Jewish senior Labour MP Gerald Kaufman has claimed.

The former minister said he was saddened by the way the image of Israel had changed from "beacon" status to being portrayed by photographs of its soldiers "smirking over the corpse of a Palestinian they had just killed".

Mr Kaufman, MP for Manchester Gorton, accused former Labour prime minister Shimon Peres, now Israel's foreign minister, of "humiliating" himself by being involved in Sharon's government.

"What the Israeli Labour Party, with its fine traditions, is doing associating with this right-wing thug, I cannot begin to imagine."

What is going on in that country is something that no decent person can condone

Labour MP Gerald Kaufman

Mr Kaufman said a whole series of events had made him to vent his fury, including "the photograph a few weeks ago of one Israeli soldier photographing two others smirking over the corpse of a Palestinian they had just killed".

"This is not what Israel is all about and I am sad about it because Israel was founded in idealism.

"Obviously idealism has got to face up to reality - but the attitude of this Israeli Government in dealing what is undoubtedly horrible terrorism is not only unacceptable in humanitarian terms, but is also seriously unsuccessful in dealing with the terrorism," he told the BBC's Today programme.

"Four times as many Israelis have been killed by terrorists since Sharon became prime minister."

Mr Kaufman - who has written a book about Israel, called To Build the Promised Land - said it used to be a "beacon of how you build a country".

Gerald Kaufman MP
Gerald Kaufman: "Israel was founded in idealism"
"Today, I am very sorry to say, it is turning itself into a pariah state with very few countries in the world willing to be its friend."

Mr Kaufman disagreed with the Britain's chief rabbi, Dr Jonathon Sachs, who reportedly said criticism of the Israeli Government could be anti-Semitic.

"It is quite easy to excuse attacks on the Israelis, or rather to explain them away, by saying this is anti-Semitism," Mr Kaufman said.

"I am the last person in the world to be anti-Semitic.

"In my time I have faced anti-Semitism, but I am pro-Israel.

"I am obviously pro-Jew - but what is going on in that country is something that no decent person can condone in terms of the policy of the government.

"I fear I have not had any contacts with the Israeli Government for quite some time.

"The people in government with whom I could talk like Shimon Peres, a great seeker after peace, a great Labour prime minister, have humiliated themselves by involving themselves in this government," Mr Kaufman concluded.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat
"The damage inflicted on us limits what we can do"
See also:

12 Mar 02 | Middle East
Annan appeal brings mixed response
12 Mar 02 | Middle East
In pictures: Israel goes in hard
12 Mar 02 | Middle East
Six Israelis killed in gun attack
12 Mar 02 | Middle East
Controversy over 'execution' pictures
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