Former UK minister accuses pro-Israel lobby of 'disgusting interference'

Ex-UK minister Alan Duncan accuses pro-Israel lobby of 'disgusting interference'
3 min read
10 April, 2021
Duncan wrote in his memoir 'In The Thick of It: The private diaries of a minister' that the Conservative Friends of Israel has pushed Britain to adopt pro-Israel policies.
Duncan accused Conservative Friends of Israel of pushing Britain to adopt pro-Israel policies [Getty]
Former UK Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan has accused pro-Israel lobbyists of "the most disgusting interference" in British politics, and of "negatively influencing" the country's foreign policy in the Middle East.

Duncan, a former Conservative MP and government minister until 2019, wrote in his recently published memoir 'In The Thick of It: The private diaries of a minister' that the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) has pushed Britain to adopt pro-Israel policies.

Founded in 1974, CFI is a parliamentary group that supports the ruling Conservative Party and advocates support for Israel. In 2014, it claimed 80% of Conservative MPs were CFI members. 

Speaking to journalist Michael Crick about his book for the MailPlus Website, Duncan added that the group has injected a "Netanyahu-type view of Israeli politics into our foreign policy", referring to Israel's prime minister.

He claimed that the group applied pressure on Theresa May's government to prevent him from becoming minister for the Middle East and North Africa at the foreign office.

In his book, Duncan said that his new role was agreed until then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that CFI "are going ballistic", and claimed he was blocked due to his support for Palestinian rights.

In one diary entry, Duncan is critical of Conservative MPs' fawning over Netanyahu during his visit to Britain. He was "ashamed" of the British government, accusing officials of allowing Netanyahu to "peddle pro-settlement propaganda".

Duncan described to Crick the culture of fear created by CFI.

"A lot of things do not happen in foreign policy or in government for fear of offending them because that's the way it's put to them by the CFI," he said.

"It's a sort of buried scandal that has to stop… they will interfere at a high level in British politics in the interests of Israel on the back of donor power in the UK," he added.

Ultimately, the influence of the pro-Israel lobby group came at the expense of the Palestinians, he said.

In 2017, an undercover Al Jazeera documentary revealed a senior official at the Israeli Embassy in London discussing a potential plot to "take down" government ministers.

Duncan, fellow Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were named as targets.

Read also: Trump advisor says Israel lobby 'pushes US into wars'

Obama and the pro-Israel lobby in US

Similarly, former US President Barack Obama disclosed in his memoir "A Promised Land", which was released in December, how the American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC] pressured his administration to pursue policies in Israel's favour.

Obama described his frustrations with Israeli pressure on his administration, as well as the difficulties that any US politician faces seeking to pursue an even-handed Middle East policy.

"By the time I took office," Obama wrote, in a section reflecting on the troubled US history of mediating the Israel-Palestine conflict, "most congressional Republicans had abandoned any pretense of caring about what happened to the Palestinians".

At the heart of the problem, as Obama said, stood a nexus of pro-Israel lobbying groups and activists in D.C. that exerted pressure on his presidency at every turn, despite the fact that he considered himself "fiercely protective" of Israel and had provided it with strong economic, political, and military support.

Obama didn't seem to think that he was the only one facing this predicament.

"Members of both parties worried about crossing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful bipartisan lobbying organization dedicated to ensuring unwavering US support for Israel," he admitted.

AIPAC also maintained a forceful insistence that "there should be 'no daylight' between the U.S. and Israeli governments, even when Israel took actions that were contrary to U.S. policy", Obama wrote.

The consequences for crossing AIPAC and other pro-Israel organisations could be dire for any US politician.

Obama noted candidly: "Those who criticized Israeli policy too loudly risked being tagged as 'anti-Israel' (and possibly anti-Semitic) and confronted with a well-funded opponent in the next election."

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