If Clegg were British foreign minister…

May 05, 2010

* This dispatch concerns tomorrow’s British general election, the most unpredictable in the UK in decades. In the military, media, political and economic spheres, Britain remains an important world power and the outcome could affect the situation in the Middle East.

* Below: List of candidates recommended by the Muslim Brotherhood.

* Israel’s deputy ambassador: “No foreign diplomat in Britain should have to go through what I went through.” Where are the denunciations in Britain?



1. Britain, still a country of global importance
2. If Clegg were foreign minister
3. “We must stop arming Israel”
4. Clegg’s imaginary malnutrition
5. Meanwhile, silence about Iran
6. Lib Dems supporting Tzipi Livni’s arrest
7. Khaled Meshaal is “very likeable”
8. “Convicted Arab billionaire fraudster threw fundraiser for Clegg”
9. A few friends
10. List of candidates recommended by the Muslim Brotherhood
11. University protestors try to beat up Israel’s deputy ambassador
12. “What is going on at British taxpayer-funded universities is shocking”


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

Britain’s general election, to be held tomorrow, is expected to be the tightest in decades. There is a real possibility that British voters will usher in the most divided parliament in generations, potentially ending the two-party dominance that has defined modern Britain.

Despite its decline, Britain remains a significant world power, with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, a nuclear arsenal and a still relatively robust economy. London is one of the world’s leading cities, with a large number of senior financiers working there, and bright foreign students from around the world (the leaders of tomorrow) studying there.

The Britain media – including the BBC, The Economist and Financial Times – retains global influence, despite the regular litany of mistakes and prejudices contained within it.



Many British people subscribe to this email list (and according to my site monitor, thousands more Britons regularly read this website) and quite a number have asked me about the British party leaders’ views on Israel.

Both the ruling Labour Party, under incumbent Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and the main opposition Conservative Party under the leadership of David Cameron, have, according to many observers, been among the most hostile to Israel in recent years among major political parties in the Western world.

This is certainly the case when you compare their leaders’ pronouncements on, for example, the Goldstone report, or the 2006 Hizbullah conflict, or 2009 Hamas conflict, to those of leading politicians in other democratic countries, such as Canada or Italy or Germany or the Netherlands or Poland or the Czech Republic, who were far more sympathetic to Israel’s situation. (Cameron has even gone out of his way to criticize Israel during this election campaign. For example, in his election interview with The Financial Times, when asked about the most pressing matter in world affairs, he made a point of criticizing Israeli housing in Jerusalem. Nevertheless most ordinary Conservative MPs are considerably more understanding of the threats facing Israel than Labour ones.)

However, both Brown and Cameron look like virtual Zionists compared to Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who has made a strong showing in the campaign and according to the polls, could emerge as a key player in a coalition government after the election, and could quite possibly be appointed foreign secretary (foreign minister) given the electoral math.



Nick Clegg has not only failed to withdraw the party whip from his former party spokeswoman Baroness Tonge, whose most recent outrageous accusation against Jews (as outlined on this email list in January) was to say that Israeli doctors had gone to Haiti in January following the devastating earthquake not to save lives, but to steal Haitians’ organs, a classic anti-Semitic blood libel of the kind that gave rise to centuries of pogroms and the Holocaust. But Clegg himself has on many occasions shown a willingness to vilify Israel.

For example he wrote a piece for The Guardian in January 2009 entitled “We Must Stop Arming Israel,” in effect calling for the EU to isolate and even sanction Israel. (Britain barely arms Israel in any case.)



In December 2009, Clegg was the lead signatory of a group of British MPs in a letter to The Guardian’s Sunday sister paper The Observer, in which they made sensational claims about Israel “imprisoning” millions of Palestinians.

Also in December 2009, Nick Clegg penned another piece for The Guardian entitled “Lift the Gaza Blockade: The Suffering is Shocking,” which in parts reads like an anti-Israeli propaganda tirade of the kind a Hamas spokesperson might be invited to make on the BBC World Service.

Clegg wrote in The Guardian of “a living nightmare for one and a half million Palestinians squeezed into one of the most overcrowded and wretched stretches of land on the planet” and of “sickness, mortality rates, and malnutrition increasing in Gaza.”

This is of course, complete nonsense. To see photos of life in Gaza from the week before Clegg wrote his article, please scroll down to the second half of the page here.

Given Clegg’s penchant for writing such pieces in The Guardian and The Observer, it is not surprising that both papers last weekend publically endorsed Clegg for prime minister and urged their readers to vote for his party tomorrow.

Clegg has also called for the UK to be weaned off what he termed its “slavish” special relationship with the United States.



While Clegg has continued to subject Israel to what amounts to a public whipping, he has (as British commentator Nile Gardiner pointed out in a Daily Telegraph piece titled “Nick Clegg’s Israel-bashing is sickening”) “remained remarkably silent in the media about Iranian backing for terrorist groups, Tehran’s calls to wipe Israel off the map, and the massive levels of hatred directed at Israel from within the United Nations, not least the UN’s Human Rights Council.”

“I don’t recall any op-eds by Clegg warning against Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or calling for an end to the persecution of Israel by Islamist states. Nor has he written pieces in support of the democracy protestors in Iran, many of whom have been brutally beaten, raped, and in some cases murdered by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime,” wrote Gardiner.

“As a former EU bureaucrat, Clegg brings with him to Westminster the sneering condescension towards Israel which is so pervasive in Brussels and Strasbourg. It is a destructive approach that undermines a close British ally while encouraging Israel’s enemies,” continued Gardiner in The Daily Telegraph.



Writing in the Israeli paper Ha’aretz, Dan Kosky, says:

“Although Clegg’s popularity and public recognition have soared over the past few weeks, he is not the only barometer of his party’s position. In December 2009, an overwhelming 51 of the 63 Liberal Democrat MPs, including Foreign Affairs spokesman Ed Davey, sponsored a motion in the House of Commons that pledged to ‘oppose any legislation to restrict the power of UK courts’ over universal jurisdiction.

“This came in direct opposition to Labor and Conservative support to amend the absurd loophole in the law that had allowed pro-Palestinian plaintiffs to successfully apply to a British court last year for a warrant for Tzipi Livni’s arrest. One can only assume that the prospect of Livni being taken into custody is perfectly palatable to the majority of Liberal Democrat MPs.”



As outlined from 2002 on this email list, Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Jenny Tonge made a succession of anti-Semitic remarks before Clegg became leader of the party in 2007.

British commentator Chas Newkey-Burden writes:

“Since then Mr. Clegg has promised that he would discipline Tonge if she repeated such behavior ‘on my watch’. In 2008 Tonge ranted at the IslamExpo about ‘the Jewish lobby’ and asked: ‘How can we stop anti-Semitism if they [Israel] keep treating the Palestinians like this?’ Last year she met Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and described him as ‘shrewd, plausible and actually very likeable’. She also had a meeting with Ramadan Shalah, head of Islamic Jihad.

“So has Mr. Clegg kept true to his ‘not on my watch’ promise? No. He refuses to deal with Tonge and erupted when questioned about this by The Jewish Chronicle’s Martin Bright. Clegg’s angry, defensive tone in that interview is familiar. Last year I saw him speak at an event organised by Jewish News. It was mostly a gentle, friendly evening but in the rare moments when Mr. Clegg was properly grilled on his and his party’s shameful record on Israel, he was visibly uncomfortable and furious. Like many Liberal Democrats he wants to have it both ways: he wants to victimise and demonise Israel, but then pretend that he’s a friend of Israel too.

“… If Nick Clegg doesn’t even have the balls or the will to deal with anti-Semitism and support for terrorism within his own party, why on earth should we believe he is in any way ready to be a leader of the country?”



A controversial Iraqi-British billionaire who funds one of the UK’s most strongly anti-Zionist websites organized a banquet in honor of Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, and a fundraiser for Susan Kramer, the party’s candidate in the high-profile seat of Richmond Park, reports The Jewish Chronicle.

Nadhmi Auchi was convicted of fraud in the giant French Elf-Aquitaine oil company trial in 2003 and given a suspended sentence.

Auchi’s Middle East Online site promotes material by well-known anti-Zionistic extremists such as musician Gilad Atzmon and Jeff Gates, who runs the anti-Israel “Criminal State” blog.

Auchi also helped fund the first of George Galloway’s “Viva Palestina” convoys to Gaza.

The former Lib Dem leader Lord Steel is a longstanding director of Auchi’s Luxembourg-registered company General Mediterranean Holdings.



It should also be noted that an active, albeit small, Friends of Israel faction exists within the party and that the Liberal Democrats are fielding a small number of Israel-friendly candidates in tomorrow’s election, but collectively the Liberal Democrats remain one of the most hostile mainstream parties to Israel in Europe.

As Winston Pickett, another British writer who (like Dan Kosky and Chas Newkey-Burden) subscribes to this email list, points out, “It didn’t help the party’s reputation in pro-Israel circles when William Wallace, a deputy Liberal Democratic leader in the House of Lords, offered a politically tone-deaf address when he met with the Board of Deputies of British Jews on April 18 [2010]. Wallace defended Tonge’s ‘over-emotional approach,’ called Israel’s Likud government ‘very intolerant of all criticism’ and said Israel’s blockade of Gaza constituted ‘collective punishment.’ Several members of the Board of Deputies walked out of the meeting in protest.”


A reader writes: “I think a party’s attitude to Israel is also a measure of its honesty and ability to reason.”



Here is the list of British Muslim Initiative recommended candidates tomorrow.


Among other activities, according to their website, the British Muslim Initiative co-organizes “The Annual Al-Quds Day March to reflect on the oppression of millions world-wide through the symbolism of Palestine.”

Speakers include anti-Zionist and pro-Hamas extremists such as Dr. Azzam Tamimi, Dr. Daud Abdullah, George Galloway, Majid Nawaz, Massoud Shadjareh and Yvonne Ridley.

According to press reports, the BMI’s president is Mohammed Sawalha, a former military commander of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

Those who care about true liberal values may wish to vote against these candidates. (The exception from the BMI list is Margaret Hodge, whose chief opponent in her constituency of Barking is Nick Griffin, the leader of the extreme right-wing British National Party. In this case I recommend voting for Hodge, the Labour Party candidate.)



Israel’s deputy ambassador to Britain was last week forced to seek refuge in a security office after protesters attempted to attack her following a lecture at Manchester University’s politics society.

Talya Lador-Fresher said she feared she would be physically assaulted when a mob of demonstrators climbed onto her car and attempted to smash the windscreen.

“I don’t think they wanted to kill me but I genuinely believed they wanted to physically hurt me. If I had not had the police and security team I would have been beaten up,” she said.

Security guards then locked her in their nearby office for her own safety. She was later picked up by embassy security staff. She added: “No foreign diplomat in Britain should have to go through what I went through.”



Israel’s ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor said: “What is going on at British taxpayer-funded universities is shocking. Extremism is not just running through these places of education, it is galloping. My ears are ready and waiting to hear the strongest condemnation of this behavior both from the heads of campus and the local authorities.”

“This is a lawlessness whose damaging effects are already being felt in the short term, and whose effects in the long term may be irreversible,” Prosor (who like Lador-Fresher is a subscriber to this email list) said.

Israeli diplomats have been verbally attacked by student protestors in other countries, including Michael Oren in the United States. But there are few instances in the West when students have used violence and yet so few denunciations have then been forthcoming in the British media. Such is the atmosphere in the UK.

If a diplomat from any other country had been assaulted this way by students at a leading British university I think it would have received more press coverage in the UK.

Can you imagine the reaction in the UK media if Israeli students had ever attacked the British or any other ambassador who was invited as a guest at their university?

Several terrorists have already admitted to becoming indoctrinated while studying at British universities, the most recent prominent example being the Christmas day Detroit airplane underwear bomber.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.