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Storm over Jack Straw ‘hate’ remarks

Jack Straw (Photo: AP)
Jack Straw (Photo: AP)

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub has said comments made by former British foreign secretary Jack Straw follow a “very troubling tradition” of familiar tropes about “sinister Jewish power”.

The ambassador was speaking after a row over Mr Straw’s remarks in a Parliamentary debate on diplomacy in the Middle East.

The former Labour minister dismissed claims that his comments had been “antisemitic”, following earlier criticism from ex-Knesset member Einat Wilf.

She had appeared alongside Mr Straw on a panel in Westminster last week.

Following the Round Table Global Diplomatic Forum event, Ms Wilf posted a message on Facebook claiming she “nearly fell off my rickety British chair” while listening to Mr Straw.

He had spoken about Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, Germany’s support for Israel within the EU, and the work of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac).

Ms Wilf claimed: “He said ‘unlimited’ funds available to Jewish organisations and Aipac in the US are used to control and divert American policy in the region and that Germany’s ‘obsession’ with defending Israel were the problem.

“I guess he neglected to mention Jewish control of the media.”

Her comments were picked up by Israeli newspapers, which interpreted Mr Straw’s remarks as an “antisemitic diatribe”. One British website said he had “peddled [a] ‘Jewish control’ trope”.

Mr Taub said Mr Straw’s comments “fall in a very troubling tradition of attributing support for Israel to a sinister exercise of Jewish power.

“Particularly striking is the refusal to consider that support for Israel may arise, not as a result of pressure from some mysterious cabal, but simply from the recognition that, within the current turmoil in the Middle East, Israel remains an island of stability, irrevocably committed to democracy, free speech and the rule of law. “

Mr Straw had earlier hit back at Ms Wilf, denying that he had “embarked on an antisemitic rant”. He said there was “no justification whatsoever” for the claims made in Israel.

“I am not remotely antisemitic. Quite the reverse. I have all my life strongly supported the state of Israel, and its right to live in peace and security,” said Mr Straw.

The former Labour minister, who announced on Friday that he would be retiring as Blackburn MP at the 2015 general election, offered an explanation for his comments.

He said one of his concerns related to the “theft of Palestinians’ land” as a result of Israeli settlement building.

Mr Straw said he believed one of the difficulties in getting the EU to agree on taking a tougher stance towards Israeli activities in the West Bank was “the attitude of Germany, who for understandable reasons have been reluctant to be out of line with the government of Israel”.

He added: “I spoke of the problems which faced President Obama from Aipac and the ‘Israeli lobby’ more generally. I pointed out that Prime Minister Netanyahu was a player in domestic US politics, on the Republican side, and that under US political funding rules, huge sums were spent by Aipac in support of some elected politicians and against others.”

Mr Straw concluded: “None of this is ‘antisemitic’. There are plenty of people in Israel who take a similar view to me — not least because they believe that the current approach of the government of Israel will weaken Israel’s position.”

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