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An MP and an editor who hope we can’t tell Zionism and Jewishness apart


Up to speed. On Dec 1st we posted the attack by the Jewish Chronicle on Labour MP Paul Flynn. Mr Flynn had raised the activities of Liam Fox and Adam Werritty at the Public Administration Select Commitee, and their meetings with British Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould. He questioned whether a Zionist (as Mr Gould has been widely reported as being,  might have a conflict of loyalties if the UK and Israel were in disagreement.  Story and transcript

Denis MacShane, MP for Rotherham, who has been active in attacking antisemitism in the past, asked for a debate on antisemitism on the grounds that an MP had said Mr Gould should not be British ambassador ‘because he is Jewish’. (He claims he was told this by Martin Bright; he does not appear to have read a transcript of the committee hearing, published by Paul Flynn a week earlier, 24.11.12).

As  Mr Flynn had said no such thing, and as  Mr Bright and Mr MacShane are old enough and sophisticated enough to know the difference between Jewishness and Zionism, various voters took issue with Mr. MacShane.   The correspondence is published 3rd. (There is, of course, a range of Zionist positions from the secular progressive, through Jewish and Christian religious ideas of destiny  - all of which may be supportive of two states – to a hardline, racist Israeli nationalism. We assume the references here are to the last.)

‘Dual loyalty’ row MP is forced to say sorry

By Martin Bright, Jewish Chronicle
08.12.11

The Labour MP who questioned the loyalty of the UK’s first Jewish ambassador to Israel has apologised for his remarks. At the same time, the Green Party issued an apology on behalf of its deputy leader in Wales for similar comments she made.

In a letter to the JC on Wednesday, Paul Flynn, MP for Newport West, accepted that his “clumsily expressed remarks” had caused anger and upset.

“I greatly regret the interpretation that has been placed on them and I fully understand why offence was given,” he said. “Some of the interpretations of these words were exaggerated suggesting malign intent that was never present or intended.”

Mr Flynn had told the Public Administration Select Committee of his concerns that Matthew Gould, who took up the post last year, “has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist”.

Challenged by the JC to explain his remarks, Mr Flynn claimed that previous ambassadors to Israel had not been Jewish “to avoid the accusation that they have gone native”. His comment that Britain needed “someone with roots in the UK [who] can’t be accused of having Jewish loyalty” caused outrage across the political spectrum.

The veteran MP initially stood by his remarks, last week describing the idea that his remark could in any way be seen as antisemitic as “ludicrous”.

But on Monday afternoon he was called in to see Opposition Chief Whip Rosie Winterton, who told him that his comments would not be tolerated within the Labour Party. The JC understands Ed Milband’s office also intervened to put pressure on Mr Flynn.

A Labour source said: “The Chief Whip has spoken to Paul Flynn. He has recognised that his remarks were unacceptable. He has withdrawn them and apologised.”

The comments had originally been challenged by Mr Flynn’s fellow committee member Robert Halfon, the MP for Harlow. He said he now recognised that Mr Halfon’s criticism was fair.

“Other greatly respected friends have urged me to withdraw the remarks and apologise. This I am happy to do.

“There is no reason that anyone of any race or religion should be debarred from public office. That has always been my opinion. The comments were made in a heated exchange in a select committee discussion on probable warmongering. Other information [I have] received contradicts criticism I quoted on the conduct of our ambassador. I regret any offence caused.”

Mr Flynn said his original intervention had been motivated by a desire to alert people to the danger of being drawn into a war in Iran. Media speculation had suggested that Dr Fox, Mr Werritty and Mr Gould had discussed military intervention in Iran.

Mr Halfon said: “Paul Flynn is a decent man and I think his apology shows this. I hope it stops this kind of talk, not just from him, but others on the left in future.”

Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel, said: “LFI is pleased that Paul Flynn rightly apologised for the remarks. We made clear from the start that what he said was completely unacceptable.”

After issuing his apology, Mr Flynn then told the JC that he would be making an entry on his blog with the headline: “How I became Hitler”.

Meanwhile, the Green Party apologised for remarks about Jewish diplomats in Israel made by Pippa Bartolotti, deputy leader of the Greens in Wales.

As one of Mr Flynn’s constituents, it was Ms Bartolotti who first brought the allegations about the British ambassador to Mr Flynn’s attention.

Last July she was arrested as part of the “flytilla” protests in Israel. Ms Bartolotti told the JC last week: “I questioned the wisdom of having a Jewish Zionist ambassador in Israel and stated that their loyalty was a matter for the FCO to investigate.” She added: “The vice -consul was called Levi. From the university of life I have learned that Jews often have a conflict of interest in matters relating to Palestine.”

A statement issued by the Green Party on Wednesday stated: “Pippa Bartolotti has apologised for any offence which her comments may have inadvertently caused. Needless to say, the Green Party does not condone antisemitism in any form, and we regret if any other impression were given on this occasion.”


Holding MPs to account

Questions on Business Statement by Sir George Young, House of Commons
1 Dec 2011

Mr Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): Can we have a debate on anti-Semitism, because yesterday an hon. Member of this House said in front of a House Committee that Mr Matthew Gould, our distinguished ambassador to Israel, should not serve as such because he is Jewish? In such a debate we could make it absolutely clear that we do not have a religious bar in our diplomatic service and that we do not say that Jews cannot serve in Israel or that Catholics cannot serve in Catholic countries or the Holy See, so that we may eradicate anti-Semitism once and for all from public discourse in our country?

Sir George Young: I agree with the right hon. Gentleman and applaud the work that he did in the last Parliament on the subject. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is an equal opportunity employer. It is inconceivable that it would apply any sort of prejudice of the type to which he refers in deciding who should be our ambassador in any part of the world.


Elizabeth Morley to Denis MacShane, 2 December

Dear Mr MacShane,
I am researching incidences of anti-Semitism in Parliament and would be very grateful if you could tell me who was the offending MP in the instance you referred to in the House on 1st December.

If you are not able to name the MP, please could you at least tell me in which committee session the offence took place, so I can listen to it on Hansard video. I have searched but cannot find this information. I am sorry to bother you at what must be a busy time but I don’t know who else I could ask.

Thank you very much in advance.
Yours sincerely, Elizabeth Morley

Denis MacShane to Elizabeth Morley, 3 December

I have sent your email to the reporter who quoted Mr Flynn. He is one of the most senior and respected reporters in Westminster.
DM

EM to Sir George Young, Leader of the House, 3. December

Subject: Business of the House 1st Dec 2011
Dear Sir George,

As a student of Hansard written records, I am dismayed that the two pieces of false information contained in Mr MacShane’s question have not yet been corrected:

1. We now know that the event referred to did not occur “yesterday” (i.e. 30th November) but in the 23rd November PASC hearing.

2. I went through the Hansard transcript several times and I cannot find the word “Jewish” in it. Mr. MacShane’s email to me dated 12.03, 3rd December, divulges that what he actually meant was not the PASC session at all but something entirely different. Quote: “I have today checked with the reporter, Martin Bright, who has a note of Flynn referring to Gould being Jewish after he was asked about his remarks at the Pub Admin C’ttee.” (I will forward the email to you as evidence.)

Your reply to Mr MacShane implies that you took his question at face value. But, as we now know, he was presenting to you a falsehood and an inaccuracy. The fact is that Mr Flynn made no reference whatever in the PASC to Mr Matthew Gould’s faith. This is what Mr Flynn said: “the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist”.

I will not insult you by reminding you that Jew and Zionist are not one and the same. But it would seem that Mr MacShane does not know that one can be a Jew and yet not a Zionist and that one doesn’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.

Unless I am very much mistaken, Mr Gould’s speeches and activities to date have shown him to be in tune with the current Israeli government, whose actions are making the two-state solution which Britain advocates less and less viable. Mr Flynn’s reference to Matt Gould’s Zionism is therefore relevant and important and it should not be permitted to be abused by Mr MacShane in this way. Mr MacShane is guilty not only of misleading the House but also of slander.

I would welcome your comments, Sir Young, and would like to know what can be done to at least amend the Hansard record. If the mistakes are not corrected, damage will be done to the reputation of Parliament and certainly of Hansard.

Thank you very much for your time.
I am copying in PASC Chairman Mr. Bernard Jenkin for his information.

Yours sincerely,
Elizabeth Morley

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Elizabeth Morley to Bernard Jenkin, Chairman Public Administration Select Committee, 4 December

Subject: Did Mr Paul Flynn make an anti-Semitic remark in your committee?
Dear Mr Jenkin,

Today I addressed an email to Sir George Young in the matter of the allegation that an anti-Semitic remark was made in your committee. You were copied into that email.

I have also forwarded for your information Mr Denis MacShane’s email asserting that his allegation was based on a “note” by a journalist.

I have read the Hansard transcript of the PASC hearing. Since Mr MacShane’s allegation, I have also watched the video of the session. I can find no evidence for any anti-Semitism either in the transcript or the video. On the couple of occasions when you urged Mr Flynn to cut short his questioning, I did not sense that it was for fear he might be on the verge of making an anti-Semitic remark. And I am confident that if anyone had actually made such a remark you would have called them to order immediately. Am I right? Can you confirm that as chairman of a select committee you see it as your duty to stamp heavily on any expressions of religious or racial prejudice?

Thank you very much for your time.
Yours sincerely, Elizabeth Morley
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From: Bernard Jenkin MP
Sent: Monday, 12 December 2011, 9:26
Subject: RE: Mr Paul Flynn MP

Dear Elizabeth Morley

Thank you for your e-mail about the proceedings in the Public Administration Select Committee on 23 November. The transcript of evidence to which you refer speaks for itself. ‘Erskine May’ states that select committee chairs have ‘few formal powers’, but considerable influence over proceedings in Committee. You can be confident that should I, or any other member of the Committee, judge the questioning of a witness by a Member to be offensive or not relevant to the subject under discussion, I would take the appropriate action using the powers available to me from the Chair.

Yours sincerely

Bernard Jenkin MP (Harwich and North Essex)

Chairman, PASC (Public Administration Select Committee)
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From Denis MacShane to Elizabeth Morley 3 December

Subject: RE: Please can you help me with information?
I have today checked with the reporter, Martin Bright, who has a note of Flynn referring to Gould being Jewish after he was asked about his remarks at the Pub Admin C’ttee. Sorry but we do not define diplomats by their faith. I am pro-European and that should not exclude me from a job. Others may be pro-American, pro-Irish or whatever – they are entitled to their views just as Jews may call themselves Zionist to support the existence of the state of Israel. It does not mean condoning the wrong things Israel does. But to say someone who is Jewish cannot serve as an ambassador is like saying someone who is Catholic cannot be Ambassador to the Holy See or to a catholic country. Unacceptable.

DM
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From EM to DM, 3 December

Subject: Re: Please can you help me with information?

Dear Mr MacShane,

Please can you explain what on earth is going on? In your Point of Order on 1st December you said that a (by you un-named) MP had said in a (by you un-specified) committee “yesterday” (i.e. 30th November) that Matt Gould should not serve as Ambassador to Tel Aviv “because he is Jewish”. After wasting hours of my valuable time trying to track down the mystery MP and committee, you now divulge that it was Paul Flynn at the Pub. Admin. Select Committee. That was on the 23rd November! And Paul Flynn said no such thing there. Have you even read the transcript? He referred to Gould being a Zionist, not a Jew. As I explain in my letter to the press … that has nothing to do with anyone’s religion and I would expect an MP to know the difference by now!

Anyway, what has the Pub Admin C’ttee session got to do with Martin Bright’s smear against Paul Flynn? You say he “has a note on Paul Flynn referring to Gould being Jewish”. Tell us what is this “note” and who wrote it. Why do you abuse the House by conflating that “note” with what happened in the Committee? Had Paul Flynn really made an anti-Semitic remark in the committee, don’t you think Chairman Bernard Jenkin would have reprimanded him there and then?

Is it any wonder the electorate loses respect for MPs and the workings of our parliament if this is how you carry on?

Elizabeth Morley
_________________________________________________________________________
Denis MacShane to Elizabeth Morley 3 December
Subject:RE: Please can you help me with information?
Splitting hairs is not my speciality.This is typical of many emails I received

_________________________________________________________________________

From EM to DM, 06 December
Subject: Splitting hairs

Dear Denis,

I am one of those who say that Matt Gould should not be our man in Israel. Not because of his religion, but because he has declared himself a Zionist. It isn’t splitting hairs at all. A Zionist wants all of historical Palestine to be the Jewish state. That is not the avowed British policy, is it? Criticising Matt Gould’s appointment is not an anti-semitic attack on him. It is a criticism of the confused message coming from the FCO. Britain overtly pursues the two state policy but appoints someone who sympathises with the Zionist project. Can you not see that?

Kind regards, Elizabeth
_______________________________________________
From EM to DM, 6 December

Re: Splitting hairs
Dear Denis,

I will look for such a statement and if I find it I will send it to you. It’s a bit late now, so I will try it tomorrow. I do recall, however, an article in the Jewish Chronicle at the time of Matt’s appointment? “Israel,” it said, “is in for a shock – of the best kind.” http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/37963/interview-matthew-gould-ambassador-israel

I understood that to be a reference to his religion and its relevance to his role. To me it meant that Israel could expect more from him because he was Jewish. Now, because it was the JC that said it, it was not antisemitic. But if I say it (even though I am Jewish myself – not religious, I emphasise, but born of Jewish parents) because I am an anti-Zionist I could be accused of being anti-semitic. It’s all very horrid.

Obviously there are shades of Zionists. I only learned yesterday that JfJfP has members who call themselves Zionists even though they stand up for Palestinian human rights. By definition they are not what I understand by Zionist. In the context of the Palestine-Israel trauma (I refuse to call it conflict because it is so one-sided), I see a Zionist as someone who puts Israel’s interests first, second, third and fourth and the interests of the Palestinians nowhere. Now, if you put Israel’s interests first to the point of 999 recurring, then that will end up with the occupation of the remaining 18per cent of historical Palestine – which is what is happening before our very eyes. And if I read the letter of British foreign policy, the two interests are meant to be balanced. I would like the British ambassador to Tel Aviv to say so.

More to follow tomorrow if I find anything.

Best wishes, Elizabeth

But I would like to remind you of my original gripe against your question in the House on 1st December: I got cross because you sent me on a wild-goose chase looking through all the videos for committees on the 30th November (“yesterday”) for evidence of “because he is Jewish”). You have still not acknowledged that you misled everyone for a time – shouldn’t you apologise to the House for your carelessness?

________________________________

From DM to EM 6 December

RE: Splitting hairs
Sorry to split hairs but can you send me a statement by MG in which he says in terms he is a Zionist. My view of Zionism is that it was a 19th century expression of nationalism – similar to many others. After all no one challenges the right of an Australian to be pro-Australian despite the fact no white man lived there before 200 years ago. I am pro-Irish, Pro-Polish. Many of my constituents feel passionately about Kashmir. Neither that nor my religion should be any bar to government service. Mr Flynn referred to MG as “Jewish” – that is the problem. I accept that there are self-proclaimed Zionists whose language and demands goes beyond the 1967 borders of Israel. But Zionism – the desire of the Jews to have a homeland and their own nation as so many others have is not an ignoble cause. The question that puzzles me is why after 1958 when Palestinians largely occupied and controlled the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and much other territory they were not permitted to set up their own state then. Israel had no say nor did Britain.
Denis
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From EM to DM, 6 December

Re: Splitting hairs
Dear Denis,

I will look for such a statement and if I find it I will send it to you. It’s a bit late now, so I will try it tomorrow. I do recall, however, an article in the Jewish Chronicle at the time of Matt’s appointment? “Israel,” it said, “is in for a shock – of the best kind.” http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/37963/interview-matthew-gould-ambassador-israel

I understood that to be a reference to his religion and its relevance to his role. To me it meant that Israel could expect more from him because he was Jewish. Now, because it was the JC that said it, it was not antisemitic. But if I say it (even though I am Jewish myself – not religious, I emphasise, but born of Jewish parents) because I am an anti-Zionist I could be accused of being anti-semitic. It’s all very horrid.

Obviously there are shades of Zionists. I only learned yesterday that JfJfP has members who call themselves Zionists even though they stand up for Palestinian human rights. By definition they are not what I understand by Zionist. In the context of the Palestine-Israel trauma (I refuse to call it conflict because it is so one-sided), I see a Zionist as someone who puts Israel’s interests first, second, third and fourth and the interests of the Palestinians nowhere. Now, if you put Israel’s interests first to the point of 999 recurring, then that will end up with the occupation of the remaining 18per cent of historical Palestine – which is what is happening before our very eyes. And if I read the letter of British foreign policy, the two interests are meant to be balanced. I would like the British ambassador to Tel Aviv to say so.

More to follow tomorrow if I find anything.

Best wishes, Elizabeth
_____________________________________________________
From EM to DM 9 December

Subject: Splitting hairs
Dear Denis,

I had a very busy day, so sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. I had a private email from JfJfP which might be informative. I have not had time to seek the writer’s permission to forward the email in full, so I just give you this extract:

“So he is indeed a strong Zionist and in my humble opinion should not be the Ambassador to Israel as the conflict between his views and his position could be almost impossible to bridge.”

I wonder if you have considered apologising to the House for giving incorrect information as to the date of the committee and the actual words spoken. I know you are covered by parliamentary immunity but that’s nothing to be proud of.

Best wishes, Elizabeth
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From DM to EM, 10 December
Subject: RE: Splitting hairs

I see Paul Flynn has made a handsome apology so I think the matter is now closed.

DM
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From EM to DM, 10 December

Dear Denis,

Paul’s apology may have been handsome, but your conduct certainly has not been. You have lost any claim to my respect, at any rate. However, I would like to ask you this: had the remark that Gould “proclaimed himself to be a Zionist” been made in any other connection than the Fox-Werrity-Gould/Iran affair, would Martin Bright and you have made such a fuss? Would you still have called for that debate on anti-Semitism?

I am sure you are very pleased with yourself. I regret that you have repeatedly refused to respond to my suggestion that you apologise for having misrepresented to the House on December 1st what it was that Paul Flynn actually said at the PASC hearing on November 23rd.

Regards – but not particularly kind, Elizabeth
________________________________________________________
From: Pippa Bartolotti to Denis MacShane, 10 December

Subject: Zionism
Dear Mr Macshane,

With reference to your recent comments misrepresenting Paul Flynn, I put forward the following information for your perusal:

“You cannot do this job without being a passionate Zionist,” Mr Gould said on a visit to the Jewish Telegraph’s Manchester office.http://www.jewishtelegraph.com/prof_67.html

Wikipedia – In 1975, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution that designated Zionism as “a form of racism and racial discrimination”. The resolution was repealed in 1991. Within the context of the Arab–Israeli conflict, Zionism is viewed by critics as a system that fosters apartheid and racism Christian Zionists believe that the “ingathering” of Jews in Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Jesus

Paul has attempted to ruffle their insanely rich and self serving feathers, and about time too. He could do with a bit of support if we are to avoid more unjust wars

Yours sincerely, Pippa Bartolotti
______________________________________________________________

From Eric R. Willoughby to Denis MacShane, 5 December

[Re Business Questions, 1 December)

Dear Mr. McShane,

Like many people outside your constituency, I have been following with great interest, the events since your question in the House of Commons, on December 1st. I reprint the official report of that question, below.

I am extremely concerned on two points, as I feel that you may have misled the House, and need to return and apologise to the Speaker. I am only concerned with the accuracy of what has been presented to the House.

1) In the first line, you use the word “yesterday” ie November 30th, in connection with a comment before a House Committee concerning Ambassador Gould. The only recent reference I can find, to Mr. Gould, in a House Committee, was on the 23rd, when Sir Gus McDonnell appeared before the Public Administration Committee.

So was this an error on your part? If so, do you think you should apologise to the House, and correct the mistake, if only so the correct date is recorded in Hansard, for future reference?

2) In the third line, you use the phrase “because he is Jewish” in the context of a quotation from that committee hearing.
From the verbatim report of that meeting, there was only one phrase used, that approximates to this wording, and that is when Mr. Paul Flynn MP said of Ambassador Gould (from the official annotation):

the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist (my italics)

I cannot see where the word “Jewish” appears anywhere in this transcript, and I am sure you would not wish to be confusing those who proclaim themselves to be Zionists, with Jewish people. Apart from the himnuz Israeli sect, more Zionists world-wide, are followers of the Christian faith, than Jews. You probably know that the largest Christian community in Ireland, after the two obvious ones, is the Church of Zion.

So, once again, was this a mistake, a misquote, or an erroneous conflation of two ideas? If so, will you apologise for misleading the House and the Speaker on this question, not least so that the Hansard record is corrected, and that the House of Commons record accords with the verbatim annotation of the Committee? It will be confusing otherwise.

Related matters

There is a crucial difference between a Zionist and a Jew. A Zionist has chosen to adopt that status; a Jew is born thus, and has no choice. There is nothing racist – or racial – about being a Zionist. Your comparison with Catholicism is therefore disingenuous. Some Catholics are born, some are converts, and many people born as Catholics reject the doctrines. You can only choose to be a Zionist, regardless of birthright.

You also use the term “anti-semitic”, which again is incorrect. Not just because of the Jewish imperative, but because “semitic ” peoples are primarily Arabs. I take the liberty of providing the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on “semite”.

Semite, Person speaking one of a group of related languages, presumably derived from a common language, Semitic (see Semitic languages). The term came to include Arabs, Akkadians, Canaanites, some Ethiopians, and Aramaean tribes including Hebrews. Semitic tribes migrated from the Arabian Peninsula, beginning c. 2500 bc, to the Mediterranean coast, Mesopotamia, and the Nile delta. In Phoenicia, they became seafarers. In Mesopotamia, they blended with the civilization of Sumer. The Hebrews settled at last with other Semites in Palestine.

So “anti-semitic” would appear to mean “anti-Palestinian”, rather than anti-Jewish, given the last phrase of that item.

Finally, it is unfortunate for you, that by straining so vigorously to uphold political correctness, you have actually caused insult and offence to the overwhelming proportion of Jewish people.

The majority of Jews are rightly proud of their birthright and heritage, but will have nothing to do with Zionism. Here are just some of the organisations that espouse this:

http://www.jewsagainstzionism.com/

http://www.jewsnotzionists.org/

http://www.nkusa.org/AboutUs/Zionism/opposition.cfm

http://www.usislam.org/jews_against_zionism__occupation.htm

http://www.nimn.org/

http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/about

I therefore look forward to your early restorative contribution in Parliament, with apologies to the House and to Paul Flynn, and I hope Mr. Speaker and the Labour Chief Whip will then regard the matter as closed.

Yours etc., Eric R. Willoughby

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