The chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee has hit back after he was condemned for sharing a stage with Ismail Patel, who has been accused of supporting an Israeli sheikh found guilty of blood libel.
Crispin Blunt, the MP for Reigate and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, attended a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa (FoA), based in Leicester.
However, the MP told the Jewish News: “Whilst I was unaware of this controversy before the meeting, and a basic google search didn’t reveal it at the time, chairing a meeting does not amount to endorsing the panellist’s views, not least when they are set to present different viewpoints in a debate. Additionally I prefer an approach that engages with controversial speakers and provides an opportunity for accountability.”
“There would have to be very serious reasons to disengage from dialogue, and guilt by association at one remove with a ridiculous and discredited thesis does not cut it.”
He spoke alongside Hannah Stoddart, director of advocacy and communications at War Child, and Ismail Patel, chair of FoA, who has caused concern with his support for Sheikh Raed Salah, who runs the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel.
Salah is a veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights, and in a 2007 speech, was accused of stoking violent by means of racist incitement, and for invoking a blood libel against European Jews. He was at first acquitted by a Jerusalem judge, but this was overturned on appeal, and he was subsequently imprisoned.
Mark Gardner, communications director at Community Security Trust (CST), said: “This meeting is somewhat ironic and surprising, given Ismail Patel’s support for the infamous Raed Salah.” Jewish Lib Dem peer Lord Monroe Palmer also criticised Blunt for attending.