Zac Goldsmith

Zac Goldsmith

Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith has said criticism of Israel is often used “as cover for an ancient form of hatred” as he opened up about facing anti-Semitic slurs online.

The Richmond Park MP told Jewish News of his experiences of being targeted on Twitter during the Gaza conflict but expanded on those comments in an address to Conservative Friends of Israel’s annual lunch on Monday.

He said: “I was brought up to identify very strongly as Jewish. Despite my name, I can’t actually claim to be all that Jewish except on Twitter. If you type in my name you’ll find I’m at the very heart of the Jewish conspiracy. I have control over the press which will make my mayoral campaign easy. I’ve completely infiltrated the royal family.

“It’s a reminder of a rising wave of anti-Semitism which is sweeping cross Europe. There’s no denying it, there’s no ignoring it.”

He warned “that there are circumstances today where critique of Israel has simply become cover for an ancient form of hatred”. Goldsmith also urged a “more robust approach to incitement” on social media, but insisted further legislation wasn’t the correct route.

Reflecting on his first visit to Israel a couple of years ago, the mayoral hopeful said: “I always felt the story of Israel was largely a romantic one but having been there I feel in love with the place, not just the idea.” It was, he said, “one of the most dynamic and extraordinary countries”.

He also recalled stumbling on what he presumed was a women’s night at a hotel in the country, only to discover it was actually transvestite night. “Where else in the middle east would kind of event possibly take place,” he said.