Sunday, January 13, 2013

Inside Britain's Israel Lobby

What came to be known as “Christian Zionism” emerged in England in the early 19th century when Restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land and futuristic interpretation of apocalyptic texts merged. In 1839 the evangelical Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury called Westminster Parliament to support creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. During the 1840s Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston supported a “Jewish entity” allied to the Ottoman Empire as a counterweight to Egypt.
British Journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes that perhaps the “first lobbyist on behalf of the land of Israel” was Theodor Herzl who, after publishing his book The Jewish State in 1896, and organizing the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in 1897, met in person British Cabinet ministers and other European officials. Russian Zionist Chaim Weizmann began the process of convincing Arthur James Balfour, a British Lord, that Palestine should be the Jewish national home and the “British Zionist movement began actively lobbying the British government.” The British Palestine Committee in Manchester also “lobbied for the mandate and Jewish rights in Palestine.”
Some groups like the influential Board of Deputies of British Jews and Anglo-Jewish Association were the “institutional stronghold of the anti-Zionist camp” and formed a lobby committee to oppose the efforts of Weizmann and his allies. In 1917 Weizmann and a small group of Zionists "in a brilliant exercise of sustained persuasion, lobbying, and influence" persuaded the British government to create the “Balfour Declaration” which supported "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." (Weizmann later became the first President of the State of Israel.) However, leaders of Board of Deputies of British Jews and of the Anglo-Jewish Association (who at the time were non-Zionist) considered the Balfour Declaration a “veritable calamity” that would stamp "the Jews as strangers in their native lands."
According to the author Ritchie Ovendale, Britain, which held the British Mandate of Palestine ratified by the League of Nations after World War I, abandoned its Zionist sympathies "which had been secured by the Zionist lobby” because of fears of coming war with Nazi Germany. In 1939 Britain limited Jewish immigration to Palestine, thereby becoming to Zionists "the principal enemy." In 1942 Zionists shifted their focus to influencing the United States through use of the "Zionist vote."
Criticisms Of The Lobby
In a September 2001 column in The Observer about the September 11 attacks in the United States, Richard Ingrams noted “the reluctance throughout the media to contemplate the Israeli factor” and, commenting on Britain, cited “pressure from the Israeli lobby in this country that many, even normally outspoken journalists, are reluctant even to refer to such matters.” He also noted their reluctance to address issues he had mentioned in past columns related to Lord Levy, the Labour Party and to the “close business links with Israel” of press magnates Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black. Earlier in August, Times journalist, Sam Kiley, resigned from the newspaper as he claimed his work was severely censored by senior executives due to the Zionist sympathies of Rupert Murdoch.
In 2002 journalist John Pilger’s documentary “Palestine is Still the Issue” was shown on ITV. The Board of Deputies of British Jews, Conservative Friends of Israel and the Israeli Embassy expressed “outrage” and, according to Pilger, demanded a "pro-Israel" film. Pilger states the BBC would not have “dared to incur the wrath of one of the most influential lobbies in this country” by showing the film, citing comments written by Tim Llewellyn, the BBC's longtime Middle East correspondent, that the BBC continues to “duck” the issue. Pilger stated this was "one example of pressure exerted on British journalists from Zionists and the Israeli embassy."
In a December 2007 column, after the 2007 Labour party donation scandal (“Donorgate”) broke, Assaf Uni of Haaretz wrote that there was concern in the Jewish community about “conspiracy theories regarding a ‘Jewish plot’ in the United Kingdom, and the role of the pro-Israel lobby there.” In late 2007 it was revealed that David Abrahams, who was deputy chair of Labour Friends of Israel until 2002, had made secret and illegal donations through junior employees of 600,000 pounds sterling (approximately $1.2 million) to the Labour Party. Abrahams, “a Jewish millionaire,” admitted in The Jewish Chronicle that he concealed his activity because "I didn't want Jewish money and the Labour Party being put together." The Telegraph ran a photograph of Abrahams with Israeli former ambassador to Britain, Zvi Heifetz, and “insinuated that Israel was the source of the illegal campaign contributions.” According to an article in Haaretz, several in the media have maintained there was a connection between money donated by Zionist Jews and the pro-Israel policy of British prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told The Forward "Clearly there is a potential for it to turn against us."
Writing about the scandal, journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown asked in The Independent about the roles of the Labour and Conservative Friends of Israel groups, given that former Labour Friends leader David Abrahams involvement. She questioned the role in Labour victories of John Mendelsohn, noting that Mendelsohn is “a passionate Zionist and infamous lobbyist, described by the Jewish Chronicle as ‘one of the best-connected power brokers’.” She stated her assumption that Labour Friends of Israel plays a part in shaping British foreign policies in the Middle East. She also questioned the donations and “back-room influence” of Labour Friends of India and Muslim Friends of Labour.
In 2009 British investigative journalist Peter Oborne produced a documentary for Channel 4 Dispatches programme exposing the influence of the Israel Lobby within British politics and alongside James Jones wrote a pamphlet investigating which groups make up the pro-Israel lobby, how they operate, and how they exert influence.
The former Liberal Democrat Member of ParliamentBaroness Jenny Tonge said in 2006: "The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they've probably got a grip on our party."
Tonge said that Walt and Mearsheimer's article "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" that appeared in the March 23, 2006 issue of The London Review of Books provided extensive research supporting her assertion that the "'Israel lobby' had a disproportionate voice in Anglo-American foreign policy."
Info via: "Wikipedia"

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