Tory peer defends visit to 'extremists' conference amid fury from MPs
A top Conservative peer has defended his decision to attend a controversial conference allegedly attended by anti-Israel extremists after fury from MPs.
Lord Sheikh - who founded the Conservative Muslim Forum - said he had only attended the morning session of the 2014 get-together in Tunisia as he was “very tired”.
He also noted that his best friend at school was Jewish and that he has “connections with Jewish families”.
Two Tory MPs submitted a formal party complaint after Lord Sheikh admitted he was at the 'International Conference on Monitoring the Palestinian Political and Legal Situation in the Light of Israeli Aggression'.
According to reports, the conference included a speech by senior Hamas figure Oussama Hamdan, who said violence was “magnificent” and claimed “Jews drank Christian blood”.
Ex-Tunisian foreign minister Othman Jerandi meanwhile told delegates: “ISIS and Israel are the same thing.”
But Lord Sheikh said in a statement last night: “The meeting was held in the context of the Arab Spring which affected the whole of the Middle East and North Africa.
“I arrived in the early hours and attended the conference which started at about 9:30 am. I only attended the morning session as I left the conference to rest as I was very tired.”
He added: “I have a very good connection with the Jewish Peers and in fact I worked with Lord Palmer when the practice of Shechita and Halal meat was raised.
“We saw the relevant minister together and I spoke on this subject in the House of Lords. I have also looked at issues with the Jewish community relating to post-mortems and circumcision.
“At school, my best friend was a Jewish boy and I have connections with Jewish families.”
It was the same conference attended by Jeremy Corbyn - after which the Labour leader joined a delegation for the now-infamous wreath-laying ceremony at a Palestinian “martyrs” graveyard.
Tory chair Brandon Lewis earlier this week wrote an article blasting Mr Corbyn for his attendance at the conference.
Tory MPs Zac Goldsmith and Robert Halfon have submitted a formal complaint to Conservative HQ, arguing failure to act on Lord Sheikh would be an act of “hypocrisy and double standards”.
Mr Goldsmith said on Twitter: “If this man is not immediately expelled from the Conservative Party, the Party hierarchy’s complaints about Corbyn will look entirely cynical.”