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(Jeff Haynes / Agence France Presse)

Former UK foreign minister hits back at Israeli “anti-Semitism” smear

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Jack Straw.

(Wikipedia)

Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said today there was “no justification whatever” for Israeli reports he had made anti-Semitic comments last week.

Several Israeli news sources reported the claims of former Knesset member Einat Wilf on her Facebook page that Straw had talked of “ ‘unlimited’ funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee] in the US.”

Her claim made it into Israeli paper Haaretz yesterday, spun with the headline: “Ex-UK FM: Jewish money biggest obstacle to Mideast peace.”

In a statement emailed to The Electronic Intifada by a spokesperson, Straw said:

There have been reports that [Wilf] claimed I had embarked upon an “anti-Semitic rant,” I note that she did not use that term in her Facebook posting, although she is reported as saying that my remarks, “reflect prejudice of the worst kind.”

In any event there is no justification whatever for such claims, arising from my remarks at this seminar, or on any other occasion.

I am not remotely anti-Semitic. Quite the reverse. I have all my life strongly supported the State of Israel, and its right to live in peace and security.

Straw’s statement

In the statement, Straw said that at the meeting on Tuesday he had “pointed out that Prime Minister Netanyahu was a player in domestic US politics, on the Republican side, and that under US political funding rules (or their absence) huge sums were spent by AIPAC in support of some elected politicians (or candidates), and against others.”

Straw contrasted this with “the rules in the UK, where spending is tightly controlled” saying that he talked about AIPAC in his memoir, which “quoted from the critical study … by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.”

He also had condemned illegal Israeli settlements: “I said that this amounted to ‘theft’ of Palestinians’ land … the EU needed to take a tougher stand on this (and on the related issue of goods exported from the Occupied Territories by Israelis).”

Straw also addressed Germany’ position on settlements:

one of the difficulties in gaining EU agreement for this [tougher stand] has, in the past, been the attitude of Germany, who for understandable reasons have been reluctant to be out of line with the government of Israel. That said, I think I noted that the EU’s attitude had changed, and there are now restrictions imposed by the EU on goods from the settlements.

Straw’s statement concludes:

None of this is “anti-Semitic.” There are plenty of people in Israel who take a similar view to me – not least (as I do) because they believe that the current approach of the government of Israel will weaken the position of the state of Israel in the medium and long-term.

Einat Wilf

The comments in question were made in a meeting room in the British Parliament on 22 October, at a roundtable organized by the Global Diplomatic Forum which Straw and Wilf both addressed. The Palestinian Authority’s ambassador in London Manuel Hassassian also shared the platform.

A spokesperson for the Forum told me today that Parliamentary rules meant that no video or audio recording of the event was taken. She said that the Froum would publish its usual report on the event by Wednesday (although it would not be a verbatim transcript).

Einat Wilf is a former member of parliament for Israel’s Labor party, and for its right-wing “Independence” faction (split from Labor by suspected war criminal Ehud Barak until it failed to contest the last elections).

She is also on the board of NGO Monitor, a propaganda group well-known for its anti-Palestinian advocacy.

Since leaving the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) Wilf has focused on Israeli propaganda efforts overseas. While she was still an MK she told The Jerusalem Post that she saw such efforts as a “battle”:

the arena is no longer the Sinai Desert or international terrorism, but has moved to international forums: courts and the new media … we have not gone sufficiently on the offense in terms of agenda … we don’t come up with our own initiatives.

Was this accusation Wilf’s idea of such a PR “initiative”?

She backed up her Facebook accusation against Straw on her website and in comments to Ynetnews.com yesterday. In the same article, she also made an anti-Palestinian comment:

We’re used to hearing groundless accusations from Palestinian envoys but I thought British diplomats, including former ones, were still capable of a measure of rational thought.

Out of the Haartez, Ynet, The Times of Israel and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (whose initial report some of the others drew on), none appear to have bothered to approach Straw for comment.

Weak EU

Straw’s fairly timid comments against Israeli settlements fits a growing pattern of European Union political figures making incredibly mild comments against limited aspects of Israel’s occupation policies and still being jumped on by Israeli propagandists like Wilf.

It is no surprise that Wilf does not like it when the the very real influence of AIPAC is raised in public fora. According to Haaretz, Wilf has worked very closely with AIPAC in the past, specifically as part of her campaign against the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

Jack Straw was the UK’s foreign secretary under former prime minister and suspected war criminal Tony Blair, including during the infamous illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. That claimed the lives of over a million people in the invasion and associated civil war.

The consequences of that war are still being felt by Iraqis on an almost daily basis. A new deadly wave of sectarian bombings killed 55 Iraqis this weekend.

After a long and successful career in the Labor party, Straw recently announced that he would step down as a member of Parliament at the next election.

Comments

Jack Straw has made some positive statements on the P/I issue -he was condemned by the Jewish establishment years ago when he actually referred to the OPTs as 'Palestine'! Recently he stood up to Mark Regev on BBC Radio 4 when discussing Iran, and very strongly accused Israel of trying to sidestep its own huge nuclear capabilities, and not signing the NNPT. It is clear that the Israel lobby will leave no statement criticising Israel unchallenged, with exaggerated claims of 'anti-semitism' and threats of legal action using the Mossad-backed Shurat Ha-Din lawyers group. Straw's one diplomatic outrage was to release General Pinochet who had been arrested in London under universal jurisdiction, allowing him to be returned to Chile on grounds of ill-health. Once off the plane, Pinochet briskly got out of his wheelchair and walked off to meet his cheering followers. Straw will never live that down.

Whilst I was delighted to read of Jack's comments I did wonder to myself why he came out with this at such a late hour of his career. For example, AIPAC has been up to its tricks for very many years and going back to when Jack was in the foreign office, and yet he had little to say at the time. Could it be that since announcing to quit parliament he has become that much braver? Or, as some would say, he is de-mob happy !