LONDON (Jan. 22)
Prime Minister John Major has asked the British Zionist Federation to intercede with the Israeli government to prevent the deportation of 12 Palestinian activists.
The request was rejected by the federation’s director, Dr. George Garai, who called it “unprecedented.”
Major’s letter was disclosed after the U.N. Security Council, currently chaired by Britain, voted unanimously on Jan. 6 to condemn Israel’s order to expel the Palestinians.
The deportation orders were issued by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens on Jan. 2, after a series of murders of Jewish settlers in the administered territories by Arab gunmen. The orders are being appealed to the High Court of Justice.
The prime minister began his letter by thanking the Zionist Federation for congratulating his government for its efforts to bring about the repeal last month of the U.N. General Assembly’s 1975 resolution branding Zionism as racism.
Britain always considered the resolution “odious,” and its repeal restores the standing of the General Assembly, the prime minister wrote.
He continued: “I cannot write without mentioning our strong opposition to the Israeli government’s decision to expel 12 Palestinians from the occupied territories,” which he said is, “of course, contrary to international law.”
Major said he hoped that “prominent Jewish organizations in this country will take advantage of their contacts with the Israeli government to emphasize that actions of this kind do nothing to promote Israel’s international image or the peace process.”
In his reply, Garai said that “whilst it is true that we are in close contact with the Israeli government, our policy is that in the area of national security, where for instance the question of expulsions belongs, it is Israel’s democratically elected government that takes the decisions on behalf of its citizens.”
The British Zionist leader took issue with Major over the Security Council resolution, which he called one-sided. By condemning Israel, it “harmed the standing of the United Nations because of its lack of balance,” Garai wrote.
Garai told the Jewish Chronicle later that in his 15 years as director of the Zionist Federation he had never received such a letter from a prime minister.
An almost identical letter was sent to the Conservative Friends of Israel by Douglas Hogg, minister of the Foreign Office.