Palestinian faction Hamas is a “kind of Nazi organisation” for launching attacks on Israelis, a Conservative former minister has said.
Sir Edward Leigh told the Commons he had “nothing but contempt” for Hamas, as he drew comparisons between the group and those responsible for the mass persecution and killing of Jews under Adolf Hitler’s leadership.
The Gainsborough MP also noted his views on Israel had changed over time after witnessing “appalling humiliation heaped” on Palestinians.
He insisted despite the belief that MPs were naive and indulging in gestures for backing Palestinian statehood, they should be naive in expressing their hopes for a better world.
Speaking as a “friend of Israel”, Sir Edward called on Israel to open its heart and to relax controls on people entering and leaving Gaza, stop building settlements and recognise they are part of a common humanity.
Backing a motion to recognise Palestine, he told a backbench business debate: “We’re going to be told when we vote tonight that we’re being naive and we’re indulging in gestures but sometimes I think you have to be naive in expressing your hopes for a better world and you have to be prepared to make gestures even if our power is very limited.
“I suppose if you are an Israeli living near Gaza you will think we are naive when missiles are raining down on you from Hamas and I have nothing but contempt for Hamas, which I view as a kind of Nazi organisation, and I have nothing but respect and support for the state of Israel and I think all of us are very philo-Semitic.
“We understand the horrors that the Jewish people have undergone and their desire for security and peace.”
But Sir Edward said his strong support of Israel started to be changed when he talked to former Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban, who said a settlement was required with the Palestinians to recognise their right to self-determination.
He said: “My other Damascus moment in a way was standing at the Bethlehem checkpoint and I think just seeing the appalling humiliation heaped on Palestinian people and talking to a nurse at a hospital I was visiting as part of a charity I was running.
“She lived in Bethlehem, just a few miles from Jerusalem, really a short walk, but never able to go without enormous difficulties to that city. She was living in Bethlehem which of all places should be a beacon of hope.
“I know we will accused of making a gesture today and I can understand where the Government is, but I think the Government should listen to the voice of this House that virtually everybody who has spoken – not just leftists waving placards in Trafalgar Square but virtually every Conservative MP – has said the time is now to recognise the justice of the Palestinian’s case.”