UK ex-minister's criticism of Gaza war draws 'antisemitism' accusations from pro-Israel newspaper

UK ex-minister's criticism of Gaza war draws 'antisemitism' accusations from pro-Israel newspaper
Former UK defence secretary Ben Wallace has been accused of 'antisemitism' by The Jewish Chronicle after criticising Israel's indiscriminate war on Gaza.
3 min read
20 December, 2023
Wallace was accused by the Jewish Chronicle of 'stoking antisemitism' after criticising Israel's war on Gaza, which has killed nearly 20,000 people [GETTY]

A senior British politician has found himself caught up in a war of words with a retired British army officer and the editor of Jewish Chronicle after he criticised Israel’s mass killing of civilians in Gaza.

Conservative MP and former defence secretary Ben Wallace called out the Israeli government for its "killing rage" in Gaza, saying that its current war path is at risk of radicalising Muslims around the world, in an article for The Daily Telegraph.

Israel has targeted hospitals, schools, residential buildings, and places of worship in its brutal war on the Gaza Strip, killing nearly 20,000 Palestinians in ten weeks.

However, soon after making his comments, Wallace found himself attacked by the London-based Jewish Chronicle newspaper.

In response to his piece, the Jewish Chronicle published a strongly worded opinion article by former British army officer and right-wing commentator Richard Kemp. Kemp is a vocal supporter of the Israeli government, who has spent time with Israeli troops in Gaza and heads the Israeli army-funded UK Friends of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers.

Wallace’s article titled ‘Netanyahu’s tactics are weakening Israel’ outlined his support for what he described as Israel’s "right to defend itself" - in keeping with the British government’s stance – but labelled its military campaign as ‘crude and indiscriminate’.

“What I am saying is Israel needs to stop this crude and indiscriminate method of attack. And it needs to combat Hamas differently,” he wrote.

He compared the issue to Britain’s campaign against the IRA in Northern Ireland and reiterated backing for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“The Israeli ambassador defiantly states there can be no two-state solution. She is wrong. There must be. It has been the answer ever since the creation of modern-day Israel,” he said in reference to recent comments by Israel's ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely.

“Going after Hamas is legitimate; obliterating vast swathes of Gaza is not. Using proportionate force is legal, but collective punishment and forced movement of civilians is not,” Wallace said.

However, Kemp attacked Wallace in a rebuttal piece for the Telegraph, which has taken a pro-Israel stance, in which he said Israel’s tactics are the only way "to crush Hamas".

In a separate article for the Jewish Chronicle he accused the MP’s article was at risk of ‘stoking antisemitic hate’. Throughout the war on Gaza Israel and its supporters have regularly accused critics of Israel's indiscriminate tactics of "antisemitism".


“He supports the eradication of Hamas but says Israel is doing it all wrong. He doesn’t explain in any detail how they should do it differently,” Kemp said.

The exchange spilled over to X where Wallace challenged the Jewish Chronicle’s editor  Jake Wallis Simons to give him the the right of reply.

In response, Wallis Simons said: “I don’t think so. But feel free to make your points here on Twitter” to which Wallace replied: “What could you be frightened of? And why is it antisemitic to criticise the strategy of the IDF?”

Wallace, whose article signalled the most outspoken criticism of the Israeli military yet from any senior British politician, served as the UK’s defence secretary for four years until stepping down earlier this year.