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Former Arkansas Governor, and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has been branded “grossly irresponsible” for his criticism of the Iran nuclear deal, after he said it marched Israelis “to the door of the oven”.

The crass Holocaust reference by the former Arkansas governor, an evangelical Christian and Fox News presenter, drew swift condemnation from Jewish groups across the world, as Jewish Democrats demanded an apology.

In a statement, the National Jewish Democratic Council “denounced” Huckabee “in the strongest possible terms,” in a stinging rebuke.

“Far, far too often, we have had to denounce politicians for invoking the Holocaust in inappropriate and offensive ways, but these comments may be the most inexcusable we’ve encountered in recent memory,” said the NJDC.

“To state that President Obama is leading Israelis ‘to the door of the oven’ is not only disgustingly offensive, it shows utter, callous disregard for the millions of lives lost in the Shoah and to the pain still felt by their descendants today.”

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz added that Huckabee’s comment was “grossly irresponsible” and said he should apologise.

Huckabee, a right-wing populist, is one of 16 Republican presidential contenders, many of whom have been clamouring for the most repudiating sound-bite criticising a deal struck between six world powers and Iran earlier this month.

In an interview, he said President Obama’s foreign policy was “the most feckless in American history,” adding: “He’s so naive he would trust the Iranians and he would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meanwhile defended the deal to the Republican-controlled Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, saying: “If the U.S. were to walk away from our partners after laboriously negotiating with them, we’re on our own. Our partners will not walk away with us. Instead they will walk away from the tough multi-lateral sanctions regime they helped put in place. And we will have squandered the best chance we had to solve this problem through peaceful means.”

In the UK, anti-Zionist Jews from Neturei Karta faced off against pro-Israel supporters outside Downing Street, as the latter delivered a letter to the prime minister admonishing him over the Iran deal. After asking David Cameron to be “a lion among sheep,” activists from Campaign for Truth (C4T) exchanged angry words with the religious group, members of which waved Iranian and Palestinian flags.