(JTA) — Much of the British public is “deeply disturbed” by the impact of Israel’s operation in Gaza, the new foreign secretary of England said, and the response could be more widespread anti-Semitic attacks.
“Of course it’s a concern,” Philip Hammond told the Sunday Telegraph, speaking of the hate crimes on Jewish communities in Britain, “and we have already seen certainly an upturn in anti-Semitic rhetoric.”
Anti-Semitic incidents have doubled since Israel began its operation in Gaza nearly a month ago, according to the Community Security Trust, the security apparatus for the British Jewish community.
Hammond, who assumed his post less than a month ago, said the British government shares the “widespread public horror” of a “wide swath” of the British public at the suffering of the people of Gaza.
“The British public has a strong sense that the situation of the civilian population in Gaza is simply intolerable and must be addressed – and we agree with them,” he told the Independent. “There must be a humanitarian cease-fire that is without conditions. We have to get the killing to stop.”
Shortly after assuming his position, Hammond traveled to the Middle East in an attempt to help broker a Gaza cease-fire.
British Labor Party leader Ed Miliband, who is Jewish, on Saturday night criticized Prime Minister David Cameron of the Conservative Party for not opposing Israel’s Gaza operation.
“The prime minister is wrong not to have opposed Israel’s incursion into Gaza. And his silence on the killing of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians caused by Israel’s military action will be inexplicable to people,” Miliband said, according to the Guardian.
“I am a supporter of Israel and I believe in Israel’s right to self-defense. But its military actions in the past two weeks have been wrong and unjustifiable.”
Meanwhile, British lawmakers and their supporters called on the government to determine whether U.K.-manufactured weapons or components have been used by the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza during the current operation.
The Independent reported that documents obtained by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) under Britain’s Freedom of Information Act showed that nearly $71 million in military-related exports to Israel have been approved since 2010.
According to the documents, among the manufacturers given permission to make sales to Israel are two British companies that supply components for the Hermes drone — the “backbone” of targeting and reconnaissance missions, the Israeli Air Force says — and one company that supplies components for Israel’s Merkava tanks.
In a statement to the Independent, a government spokesman said, “We are currently reviewing all existing export licenses to Israel. All applications for export licenses are assessed on a case-by-case basis against strict criteria. We will not issue a license if there is a clear risk that the equipment might be used for internal repression, or if there is a clear risk that it would provoke or prolong conflict.”