British diplomat arrested over ‘anti-Semitic’ rant

Allegations that a senior British diplomat launched into an anti-Semitic rant in a London gym while watching TV footage from Gaza will not upset the “treadmill of diplomacy”, the Israeli Ambassador to London said today.

In a curiously tongue-in-cheek response to a case that has provoked concern within the Jewish community in Britain, Ron Prosor added that the tirade did not reflect “the health and fitness of our relations”.

The diplomat, 47-year-old Rowan Laxton, allegedly shouted “f***ing Israelis, f***ing Jews” while watching television reports of the Israeli attack on Gaza last month.

He is also alleged to have said that Israeli soldiers should be “wiped off the face of the Earth” during the rant at the London Business School gym near Regents Park on January 27. The tirade reportedly continued even after other gym users asked him to stop.

After a complaint from a member of the public, Mr Laxton was arrested for inciting religious hatred – which can carry a seven-year prison term – and bailed to reappear at a central London police station at the end of March.

In the meantime, he continues to work as usual as head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s South Asian group, in charge of UK diplomatic policy in the region. In that job he would be expected directly to brief the Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who is himself Jewish.

The FCO refused to comment on the case while police inquiries are continuing, but Mr Prosor released a statement to The Times this afternoon in which he made it clear that Israel would let the Foreign Office deal with the problem as it saw fit.

He said: “The treadmill of diplomacy between our countries continues to run smoothly. The abusive tirade of this one individual should not be seen as a reflection of the health and fitness of our relations.

“From the nature of our work with the British Foreign Office, we understand that the unacceptable outburst expressed by a British diplomat does not reflect the official policy of the United Kingdom and we have been informed that an internal investigation is currently taking place.

“If the investigation concludes that the incident actually occurred, appropriate action will be taken [by the Foreign Office].”

Mr Prosor’s sanguine response appears to be at odds with that of the Jewish community in Britain. Mark Gardner, deputy director of the Community Security Trust which monitors anti-Semitism, said: “There were an unprecedented number of anti-Semitic incidents during the Gaza conflict.

“This alleged case is particularly shocking, given the position held by the civil servant in question. We must not allow an overseas conflict to cause racism here in Britain and especially not among civil servants.

“The Jewish community will be rightly appalled to hear of these allegations against such a senior figure.”