Linton apologises for ' Israel's tentacles' speech

One of the Labour Party’s most prominent pro-Palestinian
campaigners has apologised for comments he made in Parliament last month
warning voters of the “long tentacles of Israel” seeking to influence the
forthcoming UK election.

Martin Linton, Labour MP for Battersea, founded Labour
Friends of Palestine and serves as its chair. He said he was sorry for any
offence caused, but was not aware of the anti-Semitic precedents of the image
of a Jewish octopus.

As the JC reported this week, Mr Linton, speaking in the
House of Commons on March 23 at a meeting held by Friends of Al-Aqsa to discuss
Israeli house demolitions,  said: “There are long tentacles of Israel in this
country who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British
political system for their own ends.”

He added: “You must consider over the next few weeks, when
you make decisions about how you vote and how you advise constituents to vote,
you must make them aware of the attempt by Israelis and by pro-Israelis to
influence the election.”

Danny Stone, director of the all-Party Parliamentary Group
Against Anti-Semitism said: “It is shameful to see Maembers of Parliament using
classic conspiracy theory language. Both the Labour Party and the Conservative
Party have previously indicated to us their intentions to crack down on any and
all racist language or behaviour  -- I hope we will see swift action
taken.”

The Labour Party has yet to say what measures, if any, will
be taken to discipline Mr Linton, but a spokesman distanced the party from the
remarks: “These alleged comments are not the view of the Labour Party,” he
said.

The image of Jewish financial tentacles has a long and
shameful history. One cover of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion portrayed
octopus tentacles interwoven with the Star of David. A notorious cartoon of an
octopus straddling the globe was also used in the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer in
the 1930s. It can also be used in British anti-Semitic portrayals of the
Rothschild banking family in the 19th century.

When the comments first came to light in the blog of Jewish
freelance journalist Richard Millett and in the Jewish Chronicle, Mr Linton
initially said he did not recognise the “tentacles” remarks as his own.

He now says he was unaware of the possible anti-Semitic
associations of his “tentacles” comments. But he said stood by his warnings
about the influence of the pro-Israel lobby on British politics.

In a statement to the JC Mr Linton said: “I’m sorry if a
word I used caused unintended offence because of connotations of which I was
unaware, but completely understand and sympathise with. On the substantial
issue I was echoing the findings of a recent Channel 4 programme on political
donations and lobbying, which has recently been cleared of bias by the
broadcasting regulator Ofcom. 

“I set up Labour Friends of Palestine after visiting the
West Bank and seeing that there is a highly effective lobby for Israel but no
equivalent lobby for Palestinians in the Labour Party.  I hope one day
Channel 4 will have cause to do a programme on the effectiveness of our lobby.

“I hope the JC will now get back to discussing the issue of
the meeting on March 23rd which was the eviction of Palestinian communities
from what is and always has been and always should be the shared capital city of
Israelis and
Palestinians.

Last updated: 2:53pm, April 13 2010