MPAC, the General Election and British Jews

With the gun for the general election having been fired British Jews are expecting open season on them and on Israel.

Even before the announcement of the May 6th election, which is expected to be close and could result in a hung Parliament with the highly anti-Israel Liberal Democrats holding the balance of power between Labour and the Conservatives, the attacks have been vicious. Recent accusations of Jewish political financing and Israel pulling the strings behind the electoral scenes have been hitting the headlines.

Martin Linton, a Labour MP, recently gave a talk in Parliament to the Friends of Al Aqsa and spoke of Israel’s “long tentacles” that fund British election campaigns and which try to buy a Conservative victory. Linton said that he failed to appreciate the Nazi symbolism of the Jewish octopus controlling the world with its tentacles and he apologised but he stands by his thesis of Israelis and pro-Israelis trying to buy a Conservative win.

At the same meeting Gerald Kaufman, a Jewish Labour MP, spoke of Lord Ashcroft owning part of the Conservative Party and right-wing Jewish millionaires owning the other part.

These are, of course, unfounded and defamatory accusations that paint many British Jews as being Fifth Columnists dedicated to another country only, Israel.

Then there is the election literature that has been doing the rounds. The Liberal Democrats are expert at manipulating the religious and ethnic sympathies of the voting public. They have already called for a ban on the sale of arms to Israel. Woe betide Israel if a hung Parliament results in Nick Clegg as Foreign Secretary as a quid pro quo for the Liberal Democrats supporting either Gordon Brown or David Cameron if neither wins a majority on May 6th.

In London there are two neighbouring constituencies where the policy of Liberal Democrats towards Israel depends wholly on the ethnic and religious make-up of the voters. In Holborn and St. Pancras, with its disproportionately high Bangladeshi community, the leaflets of the Liberal Democrat candidate scream “Stop Arming Israel”.

But in Hampstead and Kilburn, where the voters are disproportionately Jewish, the leaflets are pro-Israel with pictures of the Liberal Democrat candidate’s recent visit to Israel and there is even Hebrew writing included. Mezuzahs are very useful in determining whether to push said leaflet through a door or not.

MPAC: “Get out the Muslim vote II”

There is also the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which is sure to have a big say in some constituencies on who gets elected or not. A page on the MPAC website asks “is your MP a Zionist?” and then goes on to list those MPs and candidates that it deems to be so. You don’t have to be Jewish. The only qualification seems to be that you are affiliated to a Friends of Israel group of one of the three main political parties.

The current list contains 36 names. In 2005 Lorna Fitzsimons, now head of British Israel Communications and Research Centre, lost her seat as a Labour MP partly because of MPAC. The 2006 Report of the All Parliamentary Committee into anti-Semitism found that MPAC, in order to help unseat Fitzsimons, distributed leaflets stating “she had done nothing to help the Palestinians because she was a Jewish member of the Labour Friends of Israel”. Lorna Fitzsimons is not Jewish.

The media will play its role. The Independent has committed anti-Israel writers like Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Johan Hari and Robert Fisk and the Guardian’s Comment is Free section is replete with anti-Israel polemic. A recent Guardian editorial on the Dubai passports affair and Israel’s building in east Jerusalem spoke of Israel as “an arrogant nation that has overeached itself”. This seems to be an implicit attack not on Israel specifically but on Jews generally.

But with four weeks to go until election day we can expect Jewish and Muslim sensitivities to be manipulated to the full in order to propel a political candidate into Parliament, or to reduce their chances.

So who will you be voting for and why?

16 responses to “MPAC, the General Election and British Jews

  1. It was an implicit attack not on Israel specifically but on Jews generally.

    In what way is this an “attack on Jews generally”? Talk about equating criticism of Israel with antisemitism…

    But with four weeks to go until election day we can expect Jewish and Muslim sensitivities to be manipulated to the full in order to propel a political candidate into Parliament, or to reduce their chances.

    Don’t over-estimate the influence of the I/P conflict on the elections. I’m a pro-Palestinian activist and in my extended circle of friends and family (about 50 people) I count exactly three that care or know about I/P. This isn’t a hot button issue yet…

  2. richardmillett

    Good point but I can’t explain it better than Colin Shindler who wrote in response to the editorial:

    “The mark of an arrogant nation that has overreached itself” sounds more like an irritated imperial satrap of a bygone era than a reasoned Guardian editorial about the Mossad (24 March). Why nation and not government? Everybody? Does this include the Israeli peace camp, as well as those Israelis who held doctored British passports? Since many Israeli Arabs consider themselves to be members of the Palestinian nation, does this arrogance really only apply to Israeli Jews? What about those British Jews who define their Jewishness by their ethnicity? Would this attribution of collective responsibility have been applied to any other national group? Exuding patriotic indignation and resorting to spitting imagery about Jews per se aligns the Guardian with reactionaries.

    Professor Colin Shindler

    Soas, University of London

  3. Richard, this really is soooo feeble: only some Jews are capable of taking offence at it. There are far, far, far less truthful and far, far, far more offensive things written and said about the British nation that never invoke anything near such a reaction, let alone a reaction at all. Criticising Israel will always be to the critic’s peril because some Zionist or some Jew somewhere will read an insult to the Jewish People in it. Those that way inclined should simply grow up and shed those insecurities. That’s if they’re not effectively trying to railroad the debate of course…

    Terms like ‘nation’ and ‘nation’s state are also used interchangeably and sometimes sloppily. I only see some Jews and Zionists complain about that.

  4. richardmillett

    Oh come on, Gert, the obvious word to use was “government”. An incredibly well-educated Guardian editor does not avoid using the word “government” by mistake.

  5. Richard:

    Why waste your time debating the notorious and obnoxious Gert?

    The Israel-only bashers, a case study: Bridlington Gert
    March 26, 2010 · 37 Comments

    Small correction in order re: Martin Linton, I believe — the organization he addressed is Labour Friends of Palestine (of which Linton is chair), not Al Aqsa

  6. richardmillett

    It was Friends of Al Aqsa, Lynne. I was there.

  7. Richard:

    We use sloppy abbreviations all the time: ‘the US’ instead of the ‘US government’, ‘the English’ instead of ‘the British’ or the ‘British government’, ‘carbon’ instead of ‘carbon dioxide’, ‘lithium’ instead of ‘lithium carbonate’. The real meaning can be gleaned from the context.

    Only in the case of the Zionist Entity is such enormous precision required or else… (accusations/insinuations of antisemitism follow).

    By you reasoning many Jews must be delicate ‘touch-me-nots’. My own experience is that Jews are as robust as anyone else.

    This argument of yours and Shindler must be the laughing stock of most people, Jews included…

  8. And I note that you are now effectively accusing the editor in question of malicious intent, i.e. antisemitism.

  9. modernityblog


    Even if Gert has the power to understand what you’re getting at, you know he wouldn’t admit it.

    He has limited finesse with the English language, on a par with an Ant’s ability to throw bowling balls around…

    He simply can’t understand how the term “nation” includes the people and how that is different from the “government”, of who’s policies it would be legitimate to criticise, but when you get on to criticising a people as a totality then that’s a different kettle of fish.

  10. richardmillett

    Gert, myself and others are simply questioning the “sloppy abbreviation” of a highly educated person who wrote that editorial. Is that not a reasonable subject for debate? You do make a lot of personal accusations, don’t you. But you are right, I do not know the state of someone’s mind. I doubt it was an anti-Semitic attack but the sloppiness lays the Guardian open to questions.

  11. Richard,

    Well, fine. We’re having that debate now. I contend you are reading far too much into this. I contend also that I don’t see you make similar objections in other circumstances.

    I’ve used the term ‘Israel’ and ‘Iraelis’ many times in our discussions when in reality it would have been more accurate/prudent to use more specific terms. I didn’t see you object because I believe it’s understood from the context what precisely I mean. Where it was not you were free to seek clarification.

    By “an arrogant nation that has overeached itself” is not meant the Jewish people. Of course, with Zionism doing its hardest and darnest to conflate the State of Israel and the Jews as a people (nation) you will want to argue otherwise. Many Jews don’t want Zionism or the Jewish State to speak for them. But in your eyes they aren’t ‘real Jews’. How comfortably win-win for you…

    Hint: its precisely because the State of Israel often behaves arrogantly that not all Jews want it to speak in their names.

  12. Martin Rosen

    Whatever is (is not relevant), & I believe that as a Jew this is, it should be brought to the notice of the community.
    Anti-Israel; Anti-Semitic Violence (which I have been a victim many times) & Anti-Zionisism in politics should be exposed.
    Martin Rosen.
    Conservative Pary Candidate
    Harpurhey Ward
    Manchester City Council

  13. richardmillett

    Hi Martin
    I wish you could tell me about the anti-Semitic violence sometime. This kind of thing is totally denied by the anti-Israel polemicists or they just blame it on Israel for defining itself, horror-of-horror, as “Jewish”. Really the very best of luck for May 6th council elections.

  14. Martin Rosen

    just get in touch:
    & I will be very happy to let you know!!!!


  15. Martin Rosen

    Thanks for the best wishes!!!!