Comments made by the former British ambassador to Libya, Sir Oliver Miles, have been called “unacceptable” and “antisemitic” after he criticised the appointment of two leading Jews to the Iraq inquiry.
Sir Oliver drew attention to the appointment of Holocaust historian and Winston Churchill biographer Sir Martin Gilbert, and the war historian and “Blair doctrine” architect Sir Lawrence Freedman, who advocated humanitarian intervention in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
The two men have been made privy counsellors in order to sit on the inquiry committee, which opened this week.
Sir Oliver wrote in the Independent on Sunday that he was concerned that two out of five of the Iraq War inquiry committee members were Jewish, and questioned the balance of the committee.
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, said: “The public may have many questions about the inquiry, but to question the credentials of two of the members because of their Jewishness is unacceptable.
“Sir Oliver makes some breathtaking assumptions about the personal views of Lawrence Freedman and Martin Gilbert and then further assumes that these views affect their judgement and impartiality.”
Mark Gardner, of the Community Security Trust, said: “These comments are ugly enough in their own right, but they also risk giving the impression that Jews are not welcome to participate in politics and society.
“Coming so soon after the Dispatches programme, we have to ask if a very worrying antisemitic trend is now emerging from the many years of so called anti-Zionism.”