Alan Duncan MP opposes antisemitism and “a very powerful financial lobby”

October 14th, 2014 by Mark Gardner

In the space of under 24hrs, Alan Duncan MP (Conservative, Rutland & Melton) said that antisemitism “should be crushed in all its forms”: and that American politics is “dominated” by a “very powerful financial lobby”.

Duncan does not specify who is, or is not, actually in this lobby, but for many it will echo the hoary old Jewish conspiracy. The lobby remarks came in a BBC Radio Four ‘World at One’ interview (here, at 40min 12sec) on the subject of the previous day’s vote by backbench MPs to overwhelmingly recognise Palestinian statehood.

Duncan said the vote was needed in part because:

…we all know that the United States is in hock to a very powerful financial lobby which dominates its politics…

This went unchallenged by the interviewer, Martha Kearney.

The night before (and following the backbench vote), Duncan had given a speech to the influential Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on Israeli settlements. His opposition to antisemitism was fiercely put:

I deplore anti-Semitism.  It should be crushed in all its forms and we should never seek to diminish its significance or downplay its impact on the Jewish community, particularly in the light of the worrying increase in anti-Semitism that we have seen recently across Europe.

…it is wrong to correlate Israel with all Jews: so is it also wrong to conflate all Jews with Israel. 263,000 Jews are British.  Jewish people don’t just play an important part in British life: they are crucial to it. All should value the UK’s Jewish community and its deep contribution to the fabric of Britain. As such they should, and do, play a full part in or politics.

Read the speech in full and you will see that Duncan went on to oppose “the Israeli lobby”, whilst trying to distinguish it from British Jews whose support for political parties (and Israel) he welcomed. In brief summary:

But our politics has rules…funding should not come from another country or from citizens of another country, or be unduly in hock to another country.  This rule seems to apply to every country except when it comes from Israel. Jewish voters in the UK should be welcomed as supporters of, and donors to, their favoured political party.

…the support of any British Jew for any political party can hinge on whatever they want

…We need British Jews for the Conservative, Labour, or other UK parties; not the Israeli lobby for any party. The time has come to make sure above any doubt that the funding of any party in the UK is clearly decoupled from the influence of the Israeli state.

This RUSI speech illuminates his comments the following day to the BBC, but they are objectionable in their own right. They resonate with the Jews / money / hidden power / alien purpose motifs of old antisemitic conspiracy theory: only now directed at Israel or pro-Israelis, rather than Jews.

For some, this shift in language from Jews to Israel is sufficient to cast off the antisemitic label, rendering everything kosher, modern and correct. Nevertheless, when Alan Duncan MP tells BBC Radio 4 that “we all know” about America being “very much in hock to a very powerful financial lobby which dominates its politics” – and fails to specify what that lobby actually is – we are left wondering exactly what he is talking about.

Worse still, we are also left wondering what lobby his audience believes that he is talking about. Is it the antisemitic Jewish lobby: or the non-antisemitic pro-Israeli lobby that unfortunately bears such a striking resemblance to the pre 1945 version?

Finally, as evidence of confusion between Israeli lobbies and Jewish ones, what better than the unfortunate intervention of Alan Duncan’s colleague Andrew Bridgen MP (Conservative, NW Leics), who said in the backbenchers’ Palestine debate:

…given that the political system of the world’s superpower and our great ally the United States is very susceptible to well-funded powerful lobbying groups and the power of the Jewish lobby in America, it falls to this country and to this House to be the good but critical friend that Israel needs.

Remorseless rubbish about the pro-Israel lobby

July 21st, 2011 by Mark Gardner

Sometimes, the little things in maintream public discourse reveal how bad things have become regarding received wisdom about Jewish issues amongst the chattering classes.

One such detail appears in an article by Gerard Gilbert in today’s Independent newspaper concerning a forthcoming BBC programme about the controversy that surrounded Monty Python’s Life of Brian film upon its 1979 release.

The author asks if the BBC would dare make such a programme about religions other than Christianity. He mentions the Rushdie fatwa, the Danish Muhammad cartoons, the (Sikh) Behtzi controversy and then:

Or how about, for that matter, the remorseless attacks on journalists and academics in any way critical of Israel?

Israel – not a religion, but a state. Nevertheless, in this context, about religious intolerance and ensuing “attacks”, it fits Gerard Gilbert’s mindset and that of his publishers at the Independent.

I am unaware that the Chief Rabbi (of Britain, Israel, or anywhere else for that matter) has issued a death sentence against the Guardian, the Independent, the University and College Union, or any other “journalists and academics in any way critical of Israel“. 

I am unaware of pro-Israel lobby groups having incited deadly riots against BBC offices around the world. I am unaware of British anti-Israel academics being burnt and bombed when they venture abroad.

I am unaware of rioting by Jews in Golders Green, or Tottenham, or Salford, or Gateshead, in response to British media and academic criticism of Israel.

I am, however, keenly aware that it is the received wisdom of many people in the chattering classes to spout exactly the same rubbish as expressed in this Independent article:

Remorseless attacks on journalists and academics in any way critical of Israel.

Is this an innocent anti-Israel myth with nothing to do with antisemitic stereotypes? Or, does it unthinkingly employ such stereotypes in a manner unintended (and perhaps unknown) by 99% of its proponents, including Gilbert and the Independent? How are the “remorseless attacks” organised? Once started, how would they ever stop? And all this if you are “in any way critical of Israel”. (Never again will I dare mention Israelis’ hatred of queues, love of car horns, or the lack of decent hot salt beef in downtown Ra’anana.) 

Vengeful, omnipotent Jews – or merely vengeful, omnipotent Israelis (or perhaps pro-Israelis, Zionists, and their hirelings)?

You decide: and if you know of such “remorseless attacks” on all who are “in any way critical of Israel“, then please contact the Independent and the BBC and ask them to urgently report the details of this disgraceful assault upon our freedom of press and inquiry.

Why is this lobby different?

March 29th, 2010 by Mark Gardner

 Tonight marks the beginning of Pesach (Passover), when Jewish families come together in Seder ceremonies to recall the Exodus from Egypt.

 For most, the highlight of the Seder ceremony is the reading of the Four Questions, when the youngest participant asks their elders,

 Ma nishtana ha layla ha zeh? (Which means, ‘Why is this night different from all other nights?’ )

The adults’ response to the question then sets the scene for the rest of the evening, as they explain the significance of the Exodus and the importance of memory.

In some Jewish households, families see fit to consciously change and adapt the Seder ceremony to spark discussion and awareness of issues such as racism, freedom, religion, ethnicity and belonging: all of which are evoked by the Exodus tale.

Last week, three politicians were quoted as having made remarks that are likely to cause concern amongst anybody who knows the role that Jewish power motifs have played in the long and painful history of antisemitism.

Former London mayor, Ken Livingstone, on Jnet Radio, discussing what he believes the Jewish community thinks of him:

It was a real hatchet job by the Board of Deputies and the Evening Standard who had a common interest in getting rid of me.

…A chunk of the Jewish community thinks I’m antisemitic. A chunk of the Jewish committees have always been sympathetic to me and then there are people that waver.

…If you have got a position which is controversial around the issue of Israel and Palestine then you will get it in the neck inevitably.

Battersea MP, Martin Linton (Labour), speaking on 23 March in Parliament to a Friends of Al Aqsa meeting, reported on Richard Millett’s blog  

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.

Gorton MP, Gerald Kaufman MP (Labour), speaking at the same meeting in Parliament as Martin Linton, also reported on Richard Millett’s blog 

Just as Lord Ashcroft owns one part of the Conservative Party, right-wing Jewish millionaires own the other part.

To these politicians, this Pesach we would ask not four questions, but only one

 Why is this lobby different from all other lobbies?

Note – Due to Pesach, blogging will be very light on this site over the next week. CST Blog wishes all its readers a Chag Sameach

Financial Times letter: end Jewish myths and save America from its Jewish lobby

December 14th, 2009 by Mark Gardner

On 4th December, the Guardian published an immediate and complete apology for a letter that had appeared upon its letters page the previous day. CST covered the story, here and here. (The letter, upon close scrutiny, advocated Holocaust Denial. A ‘Google’ search of the author showed that whilst he was not well known, he did have ’previous’ in this regard.)

One week later, on 10th December, the Financial Times published a letter that also required some scrutiny to determine its own troubling meaning. In this instance, its author, Joseph Cari, is – or was – a major player upon the Washington political scene. Indeed, Cari’s letter carried his name and the description, “Past Chairman, Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.” The rest of Cari’s CV is also impressive, and his own website describes him as “frequently appearing in the Financial Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, & Beirut Daily Star”

Nevertheless, Cari’s letter clearly shows that he has  worrying views about Jews, Jewish power, and Israel’s Jewish identity. He is welcome to his opinion, but it is very disconcerting that the Financial Times should see fit to publish him. It now remains to be seen if the FT will match the Guardian’s behaviour by apologising for having published the letter.

Cari’s letter was prompted by FT’s publication of an article by Tony Judt on Shlomo Sand’s book “The Invention of the Jewish People”. Judt’s praise for the book is on the front and back of its dustcover, but it has been criticised elsewhere, including here by CST where we said

…There are many ways, often subtle, in which anti-Israel or anti-Zionist debate can have an anti-Jewish impact. However, a new anti-Zionist book by Tel Aviv Professor of History, Shlomo Sand, remoulds the paradigm: with notions of Jewish peoplehood now under attack in the service of anti-Zionism.

The sense of common lineage, kinship, and peoplehood that Jews around the world share and hold is a fundamental part of their identity…To deny this aspect of Jewish identity – perhaps more accurately to demand that for political reasons it be rejected – is surely to deny or reject something that is essential to our perception of Jewishness itself.

There is of course nothing wrong with genuine historical inquiry about Jews or any other facet of history. But that is neither the core purpose, nor the core impact of Sand’s book. It can be summed up very simply as:

No Real Jews = No Need For a Really Jewish State.

Sand’s book is explicitly about Jews and ideas of Jewishness. Persons commenting upon the book will likely comment about Jews. If they agree with the book, they will likely attack Jews, and Jewish notions of identity, tradition and heritage. They will not employ ambiguous terms such as “Zionist” or “pro-Israel lobby”.

So, the Financial Times, having decided to cover Sand’s book, should have been on guard against exactly the kind of letter that they published from Joseph Cari the following day.   

Below, is the letter in its entirety, with my comments on what each sentence actually means:

Washington supports an ideology based on ethnic purity

…Sir, Tony Judt’s column regarding Israel and its ethnic myth outlines a rational analysis of why Israel should have a one-state solution to the conflict over its right to exist (December 8).

– meaning Israel should surrender its Jewish status and become “one state”.

(One presumes that no other country should similarly cease to exist on the basis that its past is mythologised).    

I find it ironic that the US, a country founded on the principal of religious freedom, financially and militarily supports a movement whose ideology is based on the exact opposite: religious and ethnic purity.

– meaning that the American Dream is the moral opposite of the political notion of Jewish statehood, and/or the religious notion of a Jewish return to Zion.

(One presmues that Cari is here expressing the mythologised notion of the American Dream, rather than that physically experienced within recorded history by Native Americans, Americans of African origin etc).  

Is it not self-evident that this reach for religious and ethnic purity was the exact reason the Jewish population suffered terribly throughout history?

– meaning that the supposed non-assimilation of “the Jewish population” is to blame for antisemitism throughout history, and/or that Jews have suffered from antisemitism throughout history because of exactly the traits that they now display.

(Neither interpretation portrays “the Jewish population” positively. The first blames Jews for antisemitism. The second says Jews are now behaving as  their persecutors have done).

Does the Jewish population not understand the hypocrisy and disconnect to this mythical view of Israel?

– again the repeat of the catch-all phrase “the Jewish population”, here in the context of attacking Jews for refusing to acknowledge the supposed biblical and historical foundation myths of modern Israel.

(It is worth considering what impact this would have on the continuation of the Jewish way of life around the world; and as to whether or not all other nations around the world – including the USA – should also address their own foundation myths.)

The American Jewish lobby retains its power in American foreign policy by perpetuating this myth.

– self explanatory: the American Jewish lobby is very powerful in American foreign policy. This Jewish power is reliant upon the lobby’s ability to keep everybody believing the Jewish myths. 

A one-state solution would totally diminish this power.

Joseph Cari Jr,
New York, NY, US
Past Chairman,
Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars

– Remove Israel’s Jewishness and you solve the problem of American Jewish power.

This is not the first time that Cari has gone down this road. His website carries an article from the Beirut Daily Star, describing a speech he gave at the Lebanese American University in Beirut in March 2009. It includes this:

He also has a theory that the powerful Jewish lobby in the US doesn’t want to see an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The Jewish community in the States wants to perpetuate the conflict because that way they are more powerful,” he says, after pointing out that despite making up only 4 percent of the population, Jews make 60 percent of the donations to US politicians. “They keep the conflict going because they are an institutional power,” he says.

He points to how donations are split between the parties.

“The Jewish community is strategic,” he says. “There is support for both sides to ensure they have a seat at the table.” And he warns that if another conflict in the region did erupt, it would be Obama’s “worst nightmare,” because it would distract him from America’s economic woes. “It would force him to spend time on an issue that he doesn’t have time to spend time on right now.”

So, there we have it then. Jews use their money to perpetuate war and further their power. It is not the first time that we have heard such nonsense: but if it is time to stop the myth-making, then perhaps Mr Cari wouldn’t mind  if we could start with this one first.

Shallow polemic on pro-Israel lobby

November 18th, 2009 by Mark Gardner

David Cesarani, research professor in history at Royal Holloway, University of London, and noted expert on Holocaust and antisemitism related issues, has written a very interesting article about Channel 4’s Dispatches investigation of Britain’s pro-Israel lobby. (The programme attracted 660,000 viewers, 2.6% of the audience share: an average total for Dispatches, suggesting it did not spark any great interest beyond the usual circles for such material). 

Cesarani’s article originally appeared on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website. It is reproduced in full, below, but can also be read in its original Comment is Free setting, here. It is followed by a typical chain of comments from Comment is Free readers. These show a full range of very strong opinion for and against the programme, although the most extreme and obviously racist comments have been removed by the website moderators,

Cesarani’s article is as follows:

Peter Oborne’s investigation into Britain’s pro-Israel lobby shows one side of a complicated picture. It will do more harm than good

In his Dispatches programme on the pro-Israel lobby, and the accompanying online pamphlet authored with James Jones, Peter Oborne sets out to expose a secretive lobby of rich and powerful Jews who use money and strong-arm tactics to skew British foreign policy in favour of Israel, intimidate MPs, and stifle media criticism of Zionism. Sadly, the result is more heat than light, a controversy that will confuse issues rather than explain anything.

It may have worse consequences. Oborne rightly rejects the argument that criticism of Israel is a form of antisemitism and reiterates the received wisdom that the accusation of antisemitism is used to muzzle Israel’s critics. Yet within minutes of the programme finishing, the comments page of the C4 website carried crude anti-Jewish invective.

Oborne showed beyond doubt that there are well-resourced pro-Israel advocacy groups operating in the UK. Like other campaigning organisations they mobilise financial support for political allies and cultivate friends in parliament. Both the Conservative Friends of Israel and the Labour Friends of Israel wine and dine MPs at party conferences and fly them in batches to Israel for PR tours. But this is standard operating procedure for lobbying.

Indeed, Oborne repeatedly states that: “The pro-Israel lobby does nothing wrong, or illegal.” So what is Oborne’s beef about the pro-Israel activists? First, he complains that they operate semi-covertly. Although he disavows any imputation of a conspiracy, that is what his charge amounts to. The pro-Israel lobby “needs to be far more open about how it is funded and what it does”. But the same can be said about Michael Ashcroft, Rupert Murdoch, the arms industry, the Saudi Arabians, and the list can go on.

More to the point, the evidence he amasses comes mostly from publicly disclosed sources, such as the register of MPs’ interests. Political donations have to be made public, too, and these lists provide much of his ammunition. Like many who claim to expose the secretive behaviour of lobbyists, it turns out that much of what they do is already open to scrutiny. With manipulative skill Oborne builds up the frisson of exposing a conspiracy while using publicly available information as evidence and, the ultimate chutzpah, at the same time as declaring that the lobby is doing nothing wrong.

A second strand to his thesis is that pro-Israel campaigners target the media and crush any criticism of Israel. But anyone who remembers the coverage of Israel’s assault on Gaza or the battering of Lebanon in 2006 may wonder what more the media could have done to show the appalling effects of Israeli military tactics.

Oborne charges that British policy in the Middle East is being influenced by foreigners with interests inimical to those of Britain and the peace process in general. Specifically, he focuses on Poju Zabludowicz, a Finnish-Jewish ex arms dealer and tycoon who bankrolls the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (Bicom).

Oborne asks two experts, Professor David Newman and Rabbi David Goldberg, if they have ever heard of Zabludowicz and when they draw a blank he paints the billionaire Finn as some kind of Trilby figure – a man of mystery and power.

Perhaps he asked the wrong people. Zabludowicz is regularly in the Sunday Times Rich List, is often mentioned in the Jewish Chronicle, and was even listed as the second most powerful man in the British Jewish community in the JC’s annual round up of the great and the good. Newman and Goldberg need to get better informed. More pertinently for an investigative journalist, so does Oborne.

However, the real problem with Zabludowicz lies with his investments in Israel. As well as financing an Israel advocacy outfit and donating generously to the Tories, he owns a share in a shopping mall in Ma’ale Adumim, a town built on occupied territory in the West Bank. This, Oborne intones, means that a man with a stake in obstructing the peace process has an undue influence on British politics.

But how do Poju’s real-estate deals compare with UK investments in the Middle East oil industry or arms sales to the Gulf states? What impact do they have on the determination of UK foreign policy? As so often in programmes of this type, there is no context and no perspective.

Finally, Oborne and Jones dispute whether British and Israeli foreign policy interests should go in step. They suggest that the amity is false and based on the money power of the hidden lobby or the result of kowtowing to America, which is pretty much the same thing in their world. Oborne never pauses to explore whether Israeli friendship might be a strategic asset at a time when the UK and Israel face the same threats in the Middle East. Throughout this masquerade Oborne presents just one side of a complicated picture. This is nowhere more so than in the depiction of the pro-Israel lobby as a controlling force in British Jewish life. In fact, the Jews in this country are bitterly divided over Israel. Nor do they agree about Britain’s foreign policy. Every point of view is vented, none is suppressed.

Why then are British Jews, who tend to be dovish regarding Israel, so alarmed about attacks on Israel and supposed revelations about Jewish lobbies? Just look at the comments that followed transmission of Oborne’s documentary and you can see why.

At 21.34 Stuart Downie posted his congratulations to the brave programme makers who showed that “the UK parliament has, like the USA senate and congress, become Israel’s occupied territory”. It showed that British MPs “buckle under pressure from people whose first loyalty is not to the UK but to the State of Israel”. So in a few lines this posting accused Jews of dual-loyalty and echoed the name ZOG – Zionist Occupied Government – that the far right in the US uses to designate Washington.

A few comments further on and Detta asked, “why does Israel have such power? Why do most of the world seem afraid of upsetting them?” Nazir, posting at 12.11, chimed in that it is “time to reclaim British policy from those working for a foreign country”.

We have thus left the reality in which Israel is internationally isolated and regularly pounded by the UN, and in which sincere men and women support Israel because they think it is an embattled democracy that shares many of the values held dear in Britain, as well as facing many of the same foes. Guided by Oborne and Jones we are drifting into the world of fantasy and phobia.

Despite their proclaimed efforts to avoid such an outcome their shallow and irresponsible polemic will do more damage than good. It will only reinforce the very fears that cause British Jews to rally behind Israel, right or wrong.

Dispatches and the “pro-Israel lobby”: update

November 14th, 2009 by CST

On Thursday we expressed our concern at the language used by Channel 4 to promote their forthcoming episode of Dispatches, Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby, which we believe will look at CST amongst other organisations. Our fear was that by emphasising the supposed hidden power and influence of the “pro-Israel lobby” over politicians and the media, and promising to expose “the wealthy individuals who help bankroll the lobbying”, Dispatches was unwittingly playing up to antisemitic stereotypes.

Since then, the latest comments posted on the Dispatches website further underline the reason for our fears:

Good. We want our country back. The agents of a foreign power embedded at all levels of our government and politics need flushing out. They are a menace to our foreign policy, security and reputation abroad. I hope this programme isn’t ‘pulled’ at the last minute due to overwhelming pressure from the usual suspect. If it does what it should do, some very big names are going to be shamed, and not before time.

This is remarkable. We have tried for years to have this shadowy support mechanism for Israel exposed. Please do not allow this programme to be pulled. Please do a proper expose of all aspects. It isn’t just the media and MPs this monster controls, it also has a mechanism to attack any individuals who oppose Israel, in any way.

Let’s see the hand of global Zionism at work. Please do keep and show ALL the information and don’t fall for the old accusations of racism when doing programmes like this, to marr any unpleasant truths that may be found.

It is disgraceful that C4 is intending to expose the pro-Israel lobby.Surely it is a signatory to the “National Press & TV Zionist Agreement”, which stipulates in paragraph one: “Thou shalt not print nor broadcast any reference to the undemocratic control by the agents of Israel over the House of Commons &/or the House of Lords.”

Each one of these comments is from a different  poster, but there is a very obvious common theme: foreign agents hidden within the corridors of power; a monster controlling MPs, the media and both houses of Parliament; and that old favourite, “global Zionism”.

Dispatches, the “pro-Israel lobby” and CST

November 12th, 2009 by CST

On Monday night, Channel 4’s Dispatches will broadcast a one-hour documentary, called Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby and fronted by Daily Mail journalist Peter Oborne. The Dispatches website promises:

Dispatches investigates one of the most powerful and influential political lobbies in Britain, which is working in support of the interests of the State of Israel.

Despite wielding great influence among the highest realms of British politics and media, little is known about the individuals and groups which collectively are known as the pro-Israel lobby.

Political commentator Peter Oborne sets out to establish who they are, how they are funded, how they work and what influence they have, from the key groups to the wealthy individuals who help bankroll the lobbying.

He investigates how accountable, transparent and open to scrutiny the lobby is, particularly in regard to its funding and financial support of MPs.

The pro-Israel lobby aims to shape the debate about Britain’s relationship with Israel and future foreign policies relating to it.

Oborne examines how the lobby operates from within parliament and the tactics it employs behind the scenes when engaging with print and broadcast media.

We do not know what will be in the programme, which has been made by Hardcash Productions of Undercover Mosque fame, but we do know that CST is one of the organisations that have been under investigation by Dispatches. We only know this because last week, Dispatches wrote to CST’s Chairman Gerald Ronson, to inform him that they “will be looking at a number of groups and leading individuals who collectively make up the pro-Israel lobby including the Community Security Trust” and to ask for an interview.

We found this letter very odd, for two reasons. Firstly, because CST’s function is to combat antisemitism and racism in Britain, not to lobby for Israel. We provide security to British Jews, record antisemitic hate crime data and analyse the activities of antisemitic extremist political movements, but we are not a “pro-Israel lobby” organisation. CST does get drawn into public debates about Israel, but we try hard to limit our involvement to explaining where there might be antisemitic impacts or resonances at the extreme ends of that debate. This does not make us a “pro-Israel lobby” organisation; any more than our work exposing and combating Holocaust Denial makes us a ‘Holocaust education’ organisation.

Secondly, this letter, received just two weeks ago, was the first we knew about Monday’s programme. There was no attempt any earlier by Dispatches to work with CST to understand how and why we do our work. This behaviour is bizarre, given that CST has a press office that works with the media every day, including, in the past, journalists from Dispatches. This alone raises a concern that the programme may be based on a set of hostile preconceptions about CST and our work, rather than the fair-minded, objective documentary that its makers promise.

Allegations of political power and influence wielded in support of Israel have to be made very carefully. It is a perfectly legitimate area for journalistic investigation, but it is also a minefield of antisemitic discourse through which responsible journalists must tread warily. The past is littered with failures to navigate this difficult terrain without lapsing into gross antisemitic parodies. The New Statesman cover of January 2002 is the best-known British example of this in recent years:


We do not know what Monday’s programme will contain, or the language or imagery that it will use to make its points. However, the promotional wording on the Dispatches website contains some alarm bells:

 …one of the most powerful and influential political lobbies…

… wielding great influence…

… little is known about the individuals and groups which collectively are known as the pro-Israel lobby…

… the wealthy individuals who help bankroll the lobbying…

… the tactics it employs behind the scenes…

This is worrying, because while we would not expect Dispatches or Hardcash Productions to make an antisemitic programme, all the standard tropes of antisemitic conspiracy theory are present in this website text: inordinate power and influence, large amounts of money, manipulation of politicians and media, and all done in secret. Even the way that “the pro-Israel lobby” is referred to as a single actor, moving and acting as one, suggests a sophisticated conspiracy, in which different organisations and individuals are in fact simply arms of the same single machine. It may simply be that these aspects need to be emphasised to make the programme ‘sexy’, and to attract viewers. The problem is that it attracts viewers of the sort that Dispatches and Hardcash Productions would normally run a mile from. From the comments that people have posted on the Dispatches website even before transmission, it is clear that the idea of a group of ‘Zionists’ influencing British politics to support a foreign power has resonated very strongly with some people. Comments such as:

… The Zionist Lobby counts many British politicians in its ranks where they function as a fifth column in support of Israel’s illegal actions. The powerful impact of the Zionist Lobby on British politics is more damaging to our country than that of the ghastly BNP…

… I hope the programme would expose how lobbyists for Israel trample over the UK democratic process. I expect Oborne to expose the destructive role of the Labour Friends of Israel in British politics, but I hope he won’t stop there…

 … Thanks Channel 4 for having the courage to look into this subject that most other media dare not touch. We need to know how British politics is being shaped by this powerful yet secretive lobby group to serve the interests of Israel. I look forward to watching it…

 Lets expose the zionist lobby group for what they really represent, not the interests of the majority human being but the interests of a select few who seem to think they know best how to run most foreign policies and destroy any new soverign (sic) middle eastern states from rise! I hope that much is exposed and this program opens the mind of the peeps who are not aware!

Predictably, the programme has also attracted attention from some better known purveyors of this sort of conspiracy theory. Martin Webster, formerly a leading figure in the National Front, has promoted the programme on one far right internet message board; Lee Barnes, the legal office of the BNP, will be watching; meanwhile the anti-Zionist Redress website is advertising Dispatches alongside a link to a list titled Who’s who of Israel’s agents of Influence in Britain.

This should not be too much of a surprise. The allegation that Jews, or Zionists, conspire to secretly control politicians through their financial clout has always played a central role in the propaganda of openly antisemitic organisations. Look at this 1960s leaflet from Britain’s National Socialist Movement, for example, in which the three political parties bow down before the Jew, with his whip in the shape of a pound sign:


CST has no issue with criticism of Israel; nor is it our function to rebut it, which we have explained to the programme makers. Whatever Dispatches intends to say about Israel and the people and organisations who promote it is up to them, and it is for other organisations to address that particular argument. But we do hope that the journalists at Dispatches, like all people involved in public debate about Israel and Zionism, understand the potential for antisemitic discourse to seep into the debate, and take care to avoid it.

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