Rowan Laxton of FO held for Israel tirade

LAST UPDATED AT 11:40 ON Mon 9 Feb 2009

A senior diplomat at the Foreign Office, Rowan Laxton, has been arrested for inciting religious hatred after allegedly launching into a public foul-mouthed anti-Semitic tirade. Laxton, 47, who is head of the South Asia Group and who draws an FO salary of £70,000, was watching TV reports of the recent Israeli attack on Gaza as he worked out at the London Business School gym in Regent's Park.

According to a report in the Daily Mail on Monday, the Oxford-educated official stunned staff and those around him working out, allegedly shouting from his exercise bike: "Fucking Israelis, fucking Jews". It is alleged he also said Israeli soldiers should be "wiped off the face of the earth". The Daily Mail said Laxton continued with the tirade even after he was approached by other gym users.

Mark Gardner, deputy director of the Community Security Trust which monitors anti-Semitism, said: "There were an unprecedented number of anti-Semitic incidents during the Gaza conflict. This alleged case is particularly shocking, given the position held by the civil servant in question."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "It is too early to comment in detail on a matter that is currently the subject of police enquiries. But we take extremely seriously any allegation of inappropriate conduct on the part of our staff and continue to follow developments closely."

Laxton joined the diplomatic service in 1993 and rose swiftly; he ran the British High Comission in Pakistan for three years and went on to become deputy ambassador to Afghanistan. He took up his current role in 2008.

The Daily Mail reports that Laxton denied that his comments were anti-Semitic, but avoided addressing whether they were anti-Israel. He has been bailed by police until a court appearance at the end of March.

Not only is Laxton’s boss David Miliband Jewish, but the timing could not be worse: Britain is hosting an international summit next week on combating anti-Semitism, with politicians coming from 35 countries. · 

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