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.