LONDON — The fighting in Gaza claimed an unexpected casualty among the British political elite Tuesday when Sayeeda Warsi, the first Muslim to serve in the British Cabinet, resigned, saying the government’s “approach and language” in the crisis had been “morally indefensible.”
The broadside took aim at Prime Minister David Cameron’s refusal to join a chorus of British critics who have labeled Israel’s bombardment of Gaza disproportionate and an outrage. Her decision widened fissures within the coalition government and between the government and leading British Muslims, reflecting the emotional impact of the Gaza conflict, which has been relayed in graphic images on television and social media.
The resignation “reflects the unease and anxiety in Parliament and in the country about the U.K. government’s present position” on the conflict, said Sir Menzies Campbell, a former leader of the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in the governing coalition.
George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer who is close to Cameron, called her action “disappointing and frankly unnecessary.”
Shuja Shafi, the head of the Muslim Council of Britain, the biggest Muslim umbrella grouping, said Warsi had taken a “principled stand” and had “spoken on behalf of humanity.”
Warsi, 43, a lawyer and the daughter of an immigrant textile worker from Pakistan, had been a member of Cameron’s Cabinet since 2010 and had been seen as a political bridge to the country’s Muslim minority.
In her resignation letter, Warsi said, “My view has been that our policy in relation to the Middle East peace process generally but more recently our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long-term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.”
Cameron, who has been accused by the opposition Labour Party of being too cautious on the Gaza crisis, was on vacation when news of the resignation broke. In a letter to Warsi released by his office, he said he regretted her departure and realized “that this must not have been an easy decision for you to make.”
“I understand your strength of feeling on the current crisis in the Middle East — the situation in Gaza is intolerable,” Cameron said.