Posts Tagged ‘Plocha Zabludowicz’

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

March 11, 2018

Presented by the Conservative journo Peter Oborne, this is a very hard-hitting and extensive investigation into the malign influence and tactics of the Israel lobby. It covers not just the soft corruption of political lobbying – the various donations in money and paid trips to Israel given to Tory and Labour politicos, but also the co-ordinated smear campaign against anyone who dares to speak out in favour of the Israeli state’s victims. It’s a smear campaign that has seen very respected members of the Jewish community, including senior rabbis, and BBC journos like the late Orla Guerin, Jeremy Bowen and even Jonathan Dimbleby accused of anti-Semitism. The result has been that the Beeb was pressured not to put out an appeal for the victims of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, and there was complaints about its coverage of those murdered by Israel’s allies in the Christian Fascists of the Lebanese Phalange in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. And there has been constant pressure by these same bullying thugs on the Groaniad under its former editor, Alan Rusbridger. Who really does look like Harry Potter. Much of this pressure and screaming abuse seems to have come from America. The organisations are carefully structured, so that they keep the total number of donations secret, and their donors hide behind anonymity. When investigated they repeat the same, smooth words about just trying to keep the argument open by presenting Israel’s case, or mutter platitudes about supporting a two-state solution. All the while doing their level best to make sure that their voice is the only the British public hear, and rabidly pursuing business deals on stolen Palestinian land.

I’m afraid I may have misheard some of the names in the programme, and so misspelled them, but they should be roughly accurate.

The documentary begins with the Israeli invasion of Gaza and the Conservative Friends of Israel. Despite the horrendous carnage and destruction wrought, David Cameron in a speech made no mention of this, but instead praised the Israelis and his pledged his lasting support to them if he became Prime Minister. It was this that prompted Oborne to launch his own investigation into the Israel lobby. He makes the point that they have influence on both sides of Parliament, as shown by an exchange between a Conservative MP, who was a member of Conservative Friends of Israel, who asked a question about Israel’s continuing safety. This was answered by a Labour MP, who was a member of the Labour Friends of Israel. Oborne then interviews Michael Ancram, former Tory Shadow Foreign Secretary from 2003-5, about the Israel Lobby’s influence. as well as Sir Richard Dalton, the former British ambassador to Iran from 2003-6. Dalton states clearly that the Israel Lobby does exist, and is important in defining the debate about Israel and the Palestinians. The Conservative Friends of Israel is highly influential, and boasts that it includes 80 per cent of all Tory MPs. Its chair, Richard Huntingdon, received £20,000 last year (2008) in donations, and gave £34,000 to the Conservatives. And the director of the No. 10 club, that exclusive Tory fundraising outfit in which, for a mere £50,000, you can meet David Cameron or have lunch with William Hague, is also included. The Tory Friends of Israel also arrange paid trips to Israel for MPs. So far there have been more of these than equivalent trips to America and Europe combined. Oborne states that in fairness, he has to say that he went on one of these, and there was no pressure to report favourably about Israel. But two MPs, who went on one of these trips, then received afterwards £25,000 in donations. This prompts Oborne to ask Ancram if this explains the soft line taken by the Tories about Israeli influence, and why the Tories don’t like to talk about it.

The documentary then moves on to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, during which 1,000 Lebanese civilians were killed, and $3.6 billion’s worth of damage inflicted. Michael Howard gave William Hague £25,000 in donations. Hague then made the mistake of making a speech criticising the Israeli response to Lebanese attacks as disproportionate. As a result, Lord Kalms, a CFI donor and head of the Dixons electronics chain, was outraged, and threatened to withhold further funding. Which he did, and Hague never received a penny more. The Israel lobby attacks even the mildest criticism of Israel. The director of the CFI, Stuart Pollak, had a meeting with David Cameron after the speech. Then, at his lunch with the CFI, Cameron didn’t mention the Lebanese invasion at all.

The programme then moves on to the organisation’s income, as revealed by the Parliamentary Accounts Register. For comparison, the pro-Arab lobby revealed that they had been given £43,000 in donations. How many had the CFI been given? No-one knows. They didn’t register any. They’re structured as a group of individuals, and are not incorporated, so they don’t have declare any under the rules. In 2008 the CFI gave the Tories £2 million, but this is not the whole story. One Tory MP said that after a chance meeting with Stuart Pollak, he received two donations from businessmen he had never met, and who did not live in his constituency. The CFI gave £30,000 to Cameron’s team. And in 2005 Cameron met Plocha Zabludowicz, who gave the future Tory PM £15,000 and a further £35,000 to Tory Central Office. The total figure for the donations given by the CFI is £10 million, more than the other lobbies.

Then there’s the incident of the UN vote over a motion censuring both Hamas and Israel for the carnage in Gaza. The CFI rang Hague up to condemn the resolution and demand that he criticise it. Which he duly did.

But the Israel Lobby only became really powerful in Britain under Maggie’s favourite Labour pet, Tony Blair. Jon Mandelsohn, a prominent pro-Israel lobbyist, stated that ‘Zionism is pervasive in New Labour’ and ‘It is axiomatic that Blair will come to Labour Friends of Israel meetings’. There are more Labour MPs in Labour Friends of Israel than their opponents across the benches in the Tory Friends of Israel. The documentary describes how Blair met the rock entrepreneur, Lord Levy, at the Israeli embassy, who then raised £15 million for the Labour party before the row over ‘cash for questions’. When Blair became PM in 1997, he gave Levy a life peerage. Levy, however, was unpaid and never a formal servant of the British state, so that the deals he made as Blair’s special envoy to the Middle East between Israel and the Arab nations could be kept secret. The programme interviews Prof. Avi Shlaim of Oxford University’s Middle East department, who states that he considers Levy has damaged Britain’s reputation in the Middle East.

The documentary then moves back to CFI lobbyists at the Tory party conference. Their purpose there is to make sure Cameron’s policies are in line with Israel’s This means that Michael Kaminski, the Polish leader, who heads a small, far right nationalist party, is lionised by the Tories, despite his record of making anti-Semitic remarks and his refusal to apologise for the suffering of Jewish Poles during the Second World War. Stuart Pollak was most keen not to have Cameron’s speech to the CFI at the Tory conference covered. He is shown waving the camera crew away. The CFI totally support Kaminski. They also plead that they’re totally transparent through the distinction between their donations as a group, and those of individual businesspeople.

Continued in Part Two.

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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.