Source: Redress Information & Analysis
Britain inquiry into the Iraq war has been dealt a severe blow by a pro-Israel activist on the inquiry committee who has given an interview to a Jewish settlers’ radio accusing his critics of “anti-Semitism”.
The Iraq Inquiry, led by former civil servant John Chilcot, was set up by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in June 2009 in order to “identify lessons that can be learned from the Iraq conflict”. It began its deliberations in November.
On 22 November 2009, as the inquiry, was preparing to convene, a former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote an article in the Independent on Sunday newspaper expressing concern at the fact that two out of the five members of the inquiry’s committee, Martin Gilbert and Lawrence Freedman, were “strong supporters of Tony Blair and/or the Iraq war”. He also pointed out that both Gilbert and Freedman were Jewish, and that “Gilbert at least has a record of active support for Zionism”.
Writing in the Independent newspaper a week later, Richard Ingrams wondered whether the Zionists' links to the Iraq invasion would be brushed aside. Referring to Oliver Miles’s article and to an extraordinary attack on Miles by The Times, in which the paper described his comments as “disgraceful”, Ingrams said:
The ambassador's comments and the attention paid to them by The Times may be helpful in the long run, if only by drawing attention to the Israeli dimension in the Anglo-US invasion of Iraq in 2003, a dimension that hitherto has scarcely been mentioned. Yet it is a fact that the campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein was initiated, well before 9/11, by a group of influential American neo-cons, notably Perle, Feith and Wolfowitz (once described by Time magazine as "the godfather of the Iraq war") nearly all of whom were ardent Zionists, in many cases more concerned with preserving the security of Israel than that of the US.
Given that undeniable fact, the pro-Israeli bias of Sir Martin Gilbert and Sir Lawrence Freedman, both of them supporters of the 2003 invasion, is a perfectly respectable point to raise. It is equally legitimate to ask if at any point the panel will investigate or even refer to the US neo-cons and their links to Israel. Call me snide if you like, but I very much doubt they will.
On 28 January 2010, BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme reported that Martin Gilbert, whom it described as a “proud practising Jew and Zionist”, had expressed “deep unease” at the previous November’s articles by Miles Oliver and Richard Ingrams.
The radio broadcast extracts from an interview given by Gilbert to an internet radio station run by Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank in which he described Oliver’s and Ingrams’s articles as “really unpleasant”. He referred to people who questioned the wisdom of including pro-Israel activists in an inquiry whose purpose was to investigate an Israeli-instigated war as “these anti-Semites”. And he said that “more leading figures” should “speak out against” what he described as the “crude anti-Israel feelings” in Britain.
|Listen to BBC correspondent Tim Franks's report on the allegations of "anti-Semitism" made by Israel's voice on the Iraq Inquiry panel, Martin Gilbert|
In the interview with the settlers’ radio station, Martin Gilbert appeared to be aware of the logic behind concerns regarding the role of Israel lobbyists and agents of influence in the Anglo-US invasion of Iraq in 2003. As an eminent scholar, he should therefore understand why the British public should be worried that an active supporter of Israel on the Iraq Inquiry might not be impartial or rigorous in scrutinizing the conduct of those who launched the aggression against Iraq at the behest of pro-Israel activists like himself. Instead, he chose to divert attention with the smokescreen of “anti-Semitism”.
This subterfuge casts serious doubt about the integrity of the Iraq Inquiry. It means that if Israel lobbyists played a part in pushing Britain to join the US aggression against Iraq, this would probably be overlooked by the Israeli activists on the inquiry, who make up 40 per cent of the panel.
It also means that the Iraq Inquiry has not only been severely compromised, but was in fact doomed before it even started.