This posting has 6 items:
Fundraisers Of Liam Fox’s Friend Revealed
The wealthy private backers who funded Liam Fox’s close friend included a private intelligence company and an investor who lobbies on behalf of Israel, it has been claimed.
It had been reported by the BBC that Adam Werritty had been able to join the defence secretary on several foreign trips thanks to people who believed he could be relied upon to “champion support for Eurosceptic, pro-American and pro-Israeli policies” in Fox’s presence.
Now the Times has said that the backers included G3 Good Governance Group, a strategic advisory company, and venture capitalist Jon Moulton.
Another backer is said to be Poju Zabludowicz, the chairman of the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM) — an organisation that lobbies the government on behalf of Israel.
BICOM describes itself as “providing resources to individuals and organisations in Britain who share BICOM’s agenda to promote a better understanding of Israel”.
According to the paper the backers contributed towards the £147,000 paid into the bank account of a not-for-profit company that Werritty owned.
The Daily Telegraph meanwhile has reported that Fox failed to declare that he and Werritty attended a £318 per-person meal in Washington DC with defence industry representatives.
Earlier this week the Ministry of Defence released a list detailing the 18 occasions on which Fox and Werrity met overseas. The event in the Mandarin Oriental hotel was not included.
And the Daily Mail has said Fox also had close links with John Falk, an American consultant who made his money advising firms how to win military and security contracts.
According to the paper, Falk, who is said to have links to controversial US defence firm Blackwater, described himself as an “adviser to Dr Liam Fox MP” while Fox was shadow defence secretary.
A spokesperson for Fox told the Daily Mail: “John Falk has never been an adviser to Liam Fox MP”.
The allegation could be damaging as it suggests a defence industry lobbyist was passing himself off as an adviser to Fox.
Today’s revelations will only serve add to the pressure on Fox who has struggled to explain why his close friend presented himself as his adviser even though he held no official government role.
Fox does officially employ three special advisers who are permitted to undertake political activities, unlike civil servants. Many have questioned why he did not simply appoint Werritty to one of those positions if he valued his advice.
Before these latest allegations shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy has said Labour was concerned that Fox had bypassed official procedures available for appointing political advisers and the transparency that comes with that.
“The continuous allegation and speculation is damaging for the character of this government and for a defence secretary who has important public duties,” he said.
“Our concerns centre on financial propriety, breaches of the Ministerial Code, apparent avoidance of the civil service and a potential conflict between public and private interests.”
David Cameron has said he is waiting on an official report from the cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell into Fox’s conduct before he makes any decision on his defence secretary’s future.
Speaking on the BBC’s Question Time on Thursday, his cabinet colleague Andrew Lansley said people should wait for the results of Sir Gus’ inquiry before jumping to conclusions.
I work with Liam, I’ve known Liam for a long time, I think he’s been an excellent defence secretary,” he said.
Labour MPs are gunning for Liam Fox after Charity Commission closes his neo-con outfit
The Mole, the firstpost
LABOUR MPs are planning to go Fox hunting when the Commons returns next week after the party conference season (which was so dull this year, especially after Cameron’s content-free speech, that MPs were left wondering why they bother).
The chasing pack of Labour MPs is led by Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary, and some old Labour hounds, such as John Mann and Kevan Jones, who have a nose for sniffing out Tory funding stories.
They smell blood after The Guardian reported yesterday that Atlantic Bridge, a pro-Atlanticist propaganda organisation set up by Fox with Lady Thatcher as its patron, was dissolved as a charity on September 31 in the light of a critical report from the Charities Commission.
Its advisory board has included George Osborne, William Hague and Michael Gove, all members of Cameron’s government, while the PM’s communications chief, Gabby Bertin, has been a researcher for Fox on the project.
The advisers could not have been more right-wing or impressive. In 2007, according to the website Powerbase, they included: Lord Tebbit, Patrick Minford, Lord Astor of Hever, Clark S Judge of the White House Writers Group, Eleanor Laing MP, John Whittingdale MP, and Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute.
The objectives of Atlantic Bridge were to vestablish, and then develop rapidly, a strong, well-positioned, network of like-minded conservatives in politics, business, journalism and academe on both sides of the Atlantic; and to develop new and relevant policy ideas, building on the common thinking which underpins the natural trans-Atlantic alliance between the UK and the USA”.
In short, a neo-con set-up that would consummate the marriage of ideas between Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
The focus point of the group would be “an ongoing series of bi-annual speaker dinners to be held in London and cities across the United States”.
Lady Thatcher, who made a point of attending Fox’s 50th birthday party a few days ago despite recent illness, was its star. In a speech to the organisation on 14 May 2003. she called on the Atlantic Bridge to become a bulwark against the Left.
“This Atlantic Bridge must connect the brightest minds, the soundest ideas, and the boldest young leaders of the future,” she declared. “It should serve at once as a memorial to our heritage, as an investment in our prospects, and as a bulwark against the good – and not so good – people on the Left, who always turn out to have such very bad ideas.”
Earlier this year, the Charity Commission said the activities of the Atlantic Bridge “have not furthered any of its charitable purposes in any way” and stated that its “current activities must cease immediately”. Fox and Lord Astor resigned as trustees in May and its remaining trustees wound it up last week.
There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing, but Labour MPs are focusing on Fox’s relationship with Adam Werritty, a close friend of Fox – he was his best man at his wedding – who was its sole employee.
Werritty, who once shared a flat with Fox, was a member of the executive board and went to meetings at the MoD. Although he had no formal government role, Werrity is said to have called himself Fox’s official adviser, carrying a business card which stated as much.
Fox was chased by Michael Crick, the Channel 4 News political reporter, at the Tory Party conference yesterday but refused to discuss his links with Werrity or Atlantic Bridge.
Kevan Jones said: “We need to know who funded this organisation and exactly what Liam Fox and Adam Werritty’s roles were. David Cameron has talked about transparency and openness but that is being undermined by Liam Fox.”
Chaim “Poju” Zabludowicz (born 6 April 1953), owner of the Liechtenstein-registered Tamares investment group, is a Finnish Jewish businessman based in London. The Sunday Times Rich List 2009 of the wealthiest people in the United Kingdom ranked him 18th, with an estimated fortune of £1,500 million. He is chairman of BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, an organization which lobbies the UK government on behalf of Israel. In 2008-2009 he is reported to have given the pressure group £800,000, totalling more than $1.8 million in three years.
According to a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, Zabludowicz is a member of the Jewish Leadership Council, and has contributed to David Cameron’s election campaign fund. According to the Rich List, Zabludowicz owns 40% of downtown Las Vegas, including six casinos. He has since sold one of those casinos and two are non-operational, leaving him with three relatively small casinos.
His father Shlomo built the family business around Soltam, an Israeli defence contractor. Most of the defence interests were offloaded as the family diversified into property and hotels. Zabludowicz has further business interests in the Middle East, and is part owner of a shopping mall in a West Bank settlement. Zabludowicz was born in Helsinki and raised in Tampere, where he attended Svenska Samskolan i Tammerfors, the Swedish-speaking school in the city. He later studied economics and social sciences at Tel Aviv University. He is married to British-born Anita Zabludowicz. He speaks fluent Finnish, Swedish, English, German, Hebrew and Yiddish. He and his wife exhibit their private art collection at 176, a gallery in a former 19th-century Methodist chapel in Chalk Farm, north London. Plans to build an art museum in downtown Las Vegas have been put on hold. One sculpture in the collection, a miniature statue of Jesus with an erection, surrounded by 50 other sculptures also with erections, has been considered “grotesquely offensive” by some Christians, one of whom has said she will bring a private prosecution against the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, which has exhibited the statue. Mr and Mrs Zabludowicz appear in Art Review’s Power 100 lists for 2006, 2007 and 2008, which assess those most powerful in the art world. They were guests at Madonna’s 51st birthday celebrations. They have four children.
DON’T accuse Britain’s Tories of being anti-immigrant. Their papers may stir up hysteria about “foreign criminals” and asylum seekers “flooding in”, but they’ll welcome anybody if their money is right. Especially if they give lots of money to the Right. After the row over Labour’s hidden donations, the Sunday Times, normally campaigning for David Cameron’s Tories, has balanced the picture a bit by revealing one of the Tories’ biggest donors is a Finnish billionaire whose fortune was built up with Israel’s arms industry, and who owns almost half of Las Vegas.
A balance of sorts it is. David Abrahams, the North East property developer who used go-betweens to give money to Labour politicians is a pillar of the Labour Friends of Israel.
Poju Zabludowicz, whom the Sunday Times reveals has donated £70,000 to the Conservative party over the past three years, is also one of the financial supporters of the Conservative Friends of Israel, which has also given money to the party. He is chairman of the Britain-Israel Communications and Research group, BICOM, which works directly with the Israeli embassy. Ex-Labour MP Lorna Fitzsimmons became its chief executive officer when Danny Schenk was promoted ambassador to France.
It was in September 2000 after the second intifada erupted that the Israeli ambassador in London called businessmen supporters of Israel to an urgent meeting. “That evening a group of them raised an initial £250,000 fund for pro-Israel lobbying and public relations. First to wave his chequebook was Poju Zabludowicz, a little-known name at the time but now an emerging figure who recently entered the Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated £2 billion, and who owns 40 per cent of downtown Las Vegas.”
Mind you, Zabludowicz is a bit of an internationalist. His father, Shlomo, described as an Auschwitz survivor who went to Finland, is credited with developing Israel’s heavy arms industry from seeking self-sufficiency to becoming a major exporter. He died in 1994. Since then, like France’s Le Creusot, Poju has diversified into saucepans.
Now Zabludowicz, 55, lives in London but is counted as “non-domiciled” for tax purposes. He heads the Tamares Group, which has its headquarters in Liechtenstein and has an international property portfolio, which includes hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, and property in New York and Washington, as well as a business park in Haifa.
But Poju is still one of the big guns of Israel’s lobby in Britain and Europe. As the Jewish Chronicle reported in July 2006 it was planning a major revamped PR campaign aimed particularly at opinion-formers and leaders. “We must also now focus on educating Britain’s leaders about the importance of the shared values between both countries. We hope that our plans will set an agenda for the entire pro-Israel community,” said Bicom chairman, Poju Zabludowicz.
“According to Electoral Commission records, Tamares provided £15,000 for Cameron’s leadership campaign in 2005 and has donated £55,000 to Conservative funds in 2006 and 2007.
Zabludowicz has also provided funds for the Conservative Friends of Israel, which in turn has donated nearly £30,000 to the Tory party.
“Cameron already enjoys the backing of another foreign businessman, Mahmoud Khayami, a French citizen who has given £830,000 in the past year. Both Zabludowicz and Khayami are registered to vote in European Union elections and are entitled to make donations to the Conservative party”.
Just to add to our point about the internationalism of the arms industry: Soltam’s M-66 mortar was based on a Finnish design, but then mounted on a Sherman tank chassis. A later Merkava gun was mounted on the British Centurions which Israel was able to build under licence. But it was Soltam’s co-operation with the South African arms industry which gave rise to the GHN-45 reported in use by Israel in the Bekaa valley during the 1982 Lebanon war. Ironically, the further development of South African heavy weapons which the Israeli industry had assisted is thought to have led to the “supergun” which Saddam Hussein’s Iraq tried to build with help from British technicians.
By Jeremy Havardi, Jewish Chronicle
Today’s conference in London, entitled ‘We Believe in Israel,’ was a rousing affair. There were plenty of expert speakers, including Natan Sharansky, Ron Prosor and Colonel Richard Kemp, and a truly inspiring display of solidarity with the Jewish state. The buzz that such events create can never be underestimated.
It all kicked off with a speech by Liam Fox, a man who in previous years has never shied away from demonstrating his solidly pro Israel credentials. Today was a matter for some disappointment, however. True, he made some impressive remarks about how he supported Israel’s right to exist and to defend herself. He spoke of the threats from other countries, including Iran, and how Israel was a proud democracy in a region stuffed full of autocracies. But his pro Israel position was badly undermined by some of his other comments.
He described the Israeli settlements as ‘illegal’ and an ‘obstacle to peace.’ The condemnation of settlements as illegal is naturally contentious and can be disputed by pointing to some technical points of international law. But no, for Dr. Fox the issue was settled (pardon the pun). But if settlements are such an obstacle to peace, then Netanyahu’s 10 month freeze should have brought Mahmoud Abbas racing to the negotiating table only last year. It did not. So why did Dr. Fox not acknowledge this?
Dr. Fox then talked at another point of how he believed in a two state solution based on the 1967 borders. The 1967 borders? That goes beyond what even UN Resolution 242 says (which talks of giving up territories, not ‘the’ territories.) Were Israel to revert to these territorial limits, her security would be emasculated at once, inviting the very next stage of a bloody conflict in the region. He also spoke of how Jerusalem had to be the capital of two countries, not one, a position directly at odds with that of the Israeli government.
When Liam Fox mentioned the unity government of Fatah and Hamas, he declared that any such government would have to be judged by its ‘actions’ and not merely its words. But what actions can he reasonably expect from a Hamas dominated government? Can he expect it to become more moderate than the Abbas dominated PA which has consistently spurned opportunities for peace, incited hatred against Jews and spoken of the right of return as non negotiable? This is a risible reflection of the current government’s analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Nonetheless, this was a dark moment in an otherwise exciting conference.
By Jessica Elgot, Jewish Chronicle
Israel’s former deputy prime minister – Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky – and Britain’s Defence Secretary Liam Fox will be among the key presenters at the UK’s largest-ever Israel advocacy conference next weekend.
Bicom’s We Believe in Israel conference, months in the planning, will track the arc of Anglo-Jewish ties with the Jewish state over a massive 58 separate workshops covering almost every aspect of affiliation with Israel.
Organisers have taken into account the doubts and concerns of British Jews in their sometimes troubled relationship with Israel. But delegates from across the UK will be able to ask hard questions in a series of challenging sessions.
Former Israeli peace negotiator Tal Becker, once Kadima leader Tzipi Livni’s chief political adviser, will be on hand, as will the associate editor of the Sun newspaper, Trevor Kavanagh, and Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British troops in Afghanistan. Both Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor, and his counterpart, Ambassador Matthew Gould, will be present, as will Matthew Doyle, political director to Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair.
From the threats from Iran to supporting Israel on campus, from combating criticism with comedy to the elegant art of letter-writing to make a political point, the workshops and educators hope to offer something for everyone. Under the microscope will be the British perception of Israel, the media’s portrayal and “a Luddite’s guide” to Twitter and blogging.
The conference, for which the JC is the official media sponsor, is backed by organisations across the political, cultural and religious spectrum.
But four groups, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the Jewish Socialists’ Group, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, and Jewdas have called the event “illegitimate.”
Diana Neslen, a spokesperson for JFJFP, said: ” If people really want to help Israel, they must speak out against its government’s policies and withdraw their support until the occupation ends.” Bicom declined to comment.