Posts Tagged ‘Lorna Fitzsimons’

Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ Documentary from 2009: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby – Part

March 11, 2018

The documentary then moves on to January, 2009 and the invasion of Gaza, and allegations of Human Rights abuses by Israeli forces were still circulating months later. But Oborne points out that you wouldn’t know it from the contents of the News of the World and the Mirror. Both these rags ran stories instead about the threat to Israel from the surrounding Arab nations. The hacks behind these pieces had been given free trips to Israel by BICOM, one of the wealthiest lobby groups in Britain. Oborne then goes on to interview David Newman in his office in Jerusalem. Newman worked alongside BICOM in disseminating Israeli propaganda in British universities. Newman states that there is indeed a debate within Israel about the status of the settlements in Palestinian territory. Groups like BICOM close down this debate abroad, and instead demand absolute for Israel.

Plocha Zabludowicz, the head of BICOM, is the 18th richest person in Britain. And he is very definitely not part of traditional British Anglo-Jewish society, but came up through the Jewish Leadership Council, who are described as the lords of the big Jewish donors. Oborne then interviews the head of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, Rabbi Emeritus David Goldberg, and asks if he knows him. Goldberg states that his name doesn’t ring a bell. Zabludowicz is actually of Polish ancestry. He is a Finnish citizen with a house in north London. His father made a fortune peddling Israeli arms, as did Zabludowicz himself before moving into property and casinos. His company is registered in Lichtenstein. He is, in short, ‘a rank outsider’. He was also one of the guests at Madonna’s birthday party in Italy.

Zabludowicz generously bankrolls BICOM, to whom he gave £800,000, who wrote a clause into their accounts recognising his generosity. He had given them £1.3 million in the previous three years, and has business interests in the Middle East. These cast doubt on the possibility of reaching a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Oborne then goes on to discuss the case of one of the illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine, whose supermarket is owned by Zabludowicz. Newman states this indicates the direction in which BICOM is moving. Rabbi Goldberg states that it shows that Zabludowicz calculates that the settlement won’t be returning to the Palestinians, even under the most generous peace deal. As for Zabludowicz himself, he declined to meet the Dispatches team, but instead released a statement claiming that he was a major supporter of the creation of a separate Palestinian state, and that he understood that concessions would need to be made. Oborne was, however, successful in talking to Lorna Fitzsimons, BICOM’s chief executive. She claimed that BICOM was very open, that their donors do not influence policy. When asked about Zabludowicz, she claimed he was different from anyone else and she didn’t know about his business connections. All the organisation was doing was to make journos and people aware of the different strands of the debate on Israel.

Oborne moves on to the other groups involved in the Israel lobby – the Jewish Leadership Council, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Zionist Federation, and states that some members of these groups are very aggressive towards the TV and press. He then interviews Alan Rusbridger about his experiences of dealing with them. Rusbridger states that some TV editors warned him to stay away from them and the whole subject of Israel and the Palestinians. The Guardian was attacked for criticising Israel in a way that no other country does. There was a special meeting at the Israeli embassy between the ambassador, Zabludowicz, Grunewald of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the property magnate Gerald Reuben. They were unhappy about a Groaniad article comparing the Israeli’s occupation of Palestine with apartheid South Africa. So Grunewald and his mate, Roman Leidel, decided to pay Rusbridger a visit. Grunewald is a lawyer, claimed that the article was fomenting anti-Semitism, and would encourage people to attack Jews on the street, a risible accusation which Rusbridger denied. This was followed by complaints to the Press Complaints Commission about the article by the pro-Israel American group, CAMERA, or Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, which specialising in attacking journos critical of Israel. The Press Complaints Commission duly investigated the article, and found that only one fact was wrong. When asked about this, Rabbi Goldberg states that Israel is indeed an apartheid state. There are two road systems, one for use by Israelis and one for the Palestinians. There are two legal systems in operation. The Israelis are governed by Israeli law, while the Palestinians are governed by military law. When asked what will happen to him when his comments are broadcast, the good rabbi simply laughs and says that he’ll be attacked once against as being an ant-Semitic, self-hating Jew.

Many other Jews are also critical of Israel. Oborne goes on to talk to Tony Lerman, formerly of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, and now a Groaniad journo. Lerman states that the Israel lobby don’t take into account the diversity of Jewish views on Israel. This is confirmed by Avi Shlaim, who says that there is a split in the Jewish community over Israel. The community’s leaders are largely pro-Israel with a narrow rightwing agenda that is not typical of Jewish Brits. And libelling Israel’s critics as ‘anti-Semitic’ is now common policy.

One example of this use of libel is a New York blogger, ‘Hawkeye’, who hunts through the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ column, claiming it is full of anti-Semitic bias. Rusbridger states that this is dangerous and disreputable. ‘Hawkeye’ attacked Lerman in particular as a nasty anti-Semite. Lerman states that this tactic has been adopted because it’s a useful defence of Israel. Rabbi Goldberg concedes that some people might be seriously anti-Semitic, others are just voicing genuine opinions, which should be respected. Michael Ancram, even, was accused of being anti-Semitic, which he said he takes with a pinch of salt.

But this leads into the whole question of whether the BBC has been corrupted by the influence of the Israel lobby. On record, BBC journos and spokespeople claim that the Corporation’s reporting of Israel is unbiased. Off-record, the stories different. News staff state that there is always pressure from top management for a pro-Israel slant. Oborne then interview Charlie Brebitt, an accountant at the LSE, who was formerly of Channel 4, who confirms that there is a very strong and active Israel lobby, and a sizable body of sympathy with Israel. The BBC has no choice but to respond. Honest Reporting, another pro-Israel media attack dog, and the other parts of the Israel lobby take advantage of this, alleging that there is an institutional bias at the Corporation against Israel.

In 2003 during the Iraq invasion the Beeb broadcast a hard-hitting documentary investigating Israel’s secret nuclear weapon’s programme, entitled ‘Israel’s Secret Weapon’ on the 16th March. The Israeli Press Office issued a statement comparing this to the worst of Nazi propaganda, and imposed restrictions on BBC staff in Israel. When Ariel Sharon, the Israeli leader, visited Downing Street, the only journos banned from covering the meeting were the Beeb. Honest Reporting UK complained that the programme was part of a campaign to vilify Israel. One member of the group, Nathan Sharansky, complained that the late Orla Guerin, here shown with two eyes, was anti-Semitic, and that she shared the goals of Palestinian terror groups.

Continued in Part 3.

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The Anti-Semitism Accusations, Blair and the Israel Lobby

May 7, 2016

I’ve blogged a number of articles last week pointing out that the accusations of anti-Semitism in the Labour have precious little to do with any genuine anti-Semitism, but are simply part of a strategy by the Blairites to hang on to power within Labour, and the Israel lobby to deflect criticism of the state’s appalling treatment of the Palestinians.

I’ve posted up a number of pieces from the parapolitics magazine, Lobster, about the connections between the Zionist lobby and New Labour. And in the case of Blair his circle of MPs and activists, the connection was very close indeed. For example, in the article ‘Yo, Blair!’, in Lobster 52 for Winter 2006/7, editor Robin Ramsay noted that Lord Levy’s fundraising activities amongst the Jewish community was aided by a member of the Israeli embassy.

Even when the police investigation into Lord Levy’s fundraising activities for the Labour Party overlapped with the Israeli assault on Lebanon, to my knowledge none of the major British media, looking at Blair’s support for the Israelis, thought it relevant to mention that his successful capture of the Labour Party owed much to the money provided by Lord Levy, money which came, we are told, from British Jews, and that this arrangement, which enabled Blair to be financially independent of the Labour Party’s resources – and thus to all intents and purposes beyond their control – was facilitated by Gideon Meir, then with the Israeli embassy in London. (P. 16).

Ramsay also ran another piece on ‘New Labour and Israel’ in ‘New Labour Notes’ in Lobster 44, Winter 2002, 16-17. He wrote

In Lobster 43, p. 9, I referred to Tony Blair’s membership of the Labour Friends of Israel. That body was the subject of ‘Byers plots a comeback with pro-Israel pressure group’ by the Times’ political editor, David Cracknell, which included the following:

‘Stephen Byers is bidding to make an early political comeback just two months after quitting the government. The former transport secretary is the front runner to take over the chairmanship of the influential Labour Friends of Israel pressure group. the body is one of the most prestigious groupings in the party and is seen as a stepping stone to ministerial ranks for Labour MPs. Several recent incumbents have been backbenchers who have gone on to be appointed to government….Tony Blair consults members of the Friends of Israel over Middle East policy and Byers would have the opportunity to regain access to Downing Street on a vital area of policy without attracting unwelcome headlines.’

In ‘Tony Blair, New Labour Trumpet Boy!’, Diane Langford of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, added the following information on LFI.

* The Director of Labour Friends of Israel is David Mencer, former research assistant and electoral agent for Gwyneth Dunwoody, ‘life president’ of LFI.

*The parliamentary register of Members’ interests shows that recent visitors who have had flights and accommodation paid by Labour Friends of Israel include Ivor Caplin, Paul Clark, Oona King, Ashok Kumar, Ivan Lewis, Anne McGuir, Rosemary McKenna, Margaret Moran, former LFI Chair Jim Murphy, Sandra Osborne, Gareth Thomas, Frank Roy, Joan Ryan, Angela Smith, Graham Stringer, Rudi Vis, David Watts, Gillian Merron, Peter Pike, Lorna Fitzsimons, Louise Ellman, Caroline Flint, Linda Perham, Douglas Alexander, Fabian Hamilton, Anthony Colman, LFI former Chair Stephen Twigg, LFI Vice Chair Mike Gapes, and Dan Norris.

Ivan Lewis, in the list above, was PPS to secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Stephen Byers MP.

* Since 1997 57 Labour MPs have visited Israel, mostly with the Labour Friends of Israel.

* The have been 14 official trade missions to Israel from the UK since 1997. The BRITECH agreement signed by Trade Secretary Stephen Byers means there is now a £15.5 million joint fund to encourage co-operation between British and Israeli hi-tech industries in research and development for their own benefit.

In the even the puff for Byers in the Times came to naught. the new chair of Labour Friends of Israel is the MP James Purple.

Further information on the Labour Friends of Israel appeared in the article ‘Terrorism, Anti-Semitism and Dissent’ by Tom Easton in Lobster 47 for Summer 2005, pp. 3-8.

Gwyneth Dunwoody’s researcher and election agent for some time was David Mencer, a former member of the Israel armed forces, and now secretary of the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). Stephen Byers, one of the few remaining defenders of the New labour Project, is a senior figure in LFI whose parliamentary chairman is now James Purnell. the latter was elected to Parliament in 2001 after working at No. 10.

Purnell, Stephen Twigg, Lorna Fitzsimmons, Jim Murphy and Sion Simon (a columnist for Conrad Black’s Daily Telegraph before becoming an MP in 2001) were all members of the New Labour ‘Praetorian guard’. Before becoming MPs they all cut their teeth in student politics with the help of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS). Numerically small – its website said it had 5,000 members in 2001 – it can afford 10 full-time workers. It played an important role in the 1990s in working with the National Association of Labour Students (later Labour Students) in keeping Israel off the campaigning agenda of the National Union of Students (NUS).

Of an older generation of student politicians is Mike Gapes, who came to work for the Labour Party after the NUS as a foreign policy researcher. He was part of the small team around Neil Kinnock who shifted the party away from its critical stance of the US and unilateralism. Elected to Parliament in 1992 he is now vice-chairman of Labour Friends of Israel. He wears another hat, that of chairman of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), a tax-funded operation similar to the NED in the States. Earlier this year Gapes chaired a WFD gathering at which Neocon NED chief Carl Gershman was a speaker.

This is just scratching the surface of the old Atlanticist networks with a newer Israel dimension, but it is sufficient to suggest that much of it in Britain centres around New Labour. And just as Avnery describes the pride the Israel lobby takes in its power over the US political process, so we have a parallel here around Tony Blair.

We not only can piece together the evidence; we can hear the words of one of Blair’s main links to the business community John Mendelsohn. this is what Mendelsohn told Jews Week (www.jewsweek.com) on September 8, 2002.

‘Blair has attacked the anti-Israelism that had existed in the Labour Party. Old Labour was cowboys-and-Indians politics, picking underdogs. The milieu has changed. Zionism is pervasive in New Labour. It is automatic that Blair will come to Friends of Israel meetings.

In a signed 2001 election advertisement in The Jewish Chronicle, Blair said:

‘Since 1997 a record 57 Labour MPs have visited Israel, mostly with Labour Friends of Israel, swelling the numbers of MPs willing to ensure balance on the Middle East in the House of Commons. More labour MPs have visited Israel than from any other party.’

How many of those Labour MPs voted against the invasion of Iraq? This is now important to the future of British politics. (p.8)

Elsewhere in the article Easton notes that the journos promoting the Iraq war worked for Murdoch, Black and Richard Desmond, who were all very strong supporters of Israel. (p. 6)