Former British foreign secretary Jack Straw said on Monday that there was “no
justification” in describing comments he had made in the House of Commons, which
criticized AIPAC and Israeli foreign policy, as anti-Semitic.
a sharp response from the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, which
said his comments “echo some of the oldest and ugliest prejudices about ‘Jewish
power’ and go far beyond mere criticism of Israel.”
“[The comments] would
be unacceptable in any context, but for a sitting Member of Parliament to do so
in the House of Commons is especially troubling, given that his status will give
credence and respectability to beliefs that would otherwise be dismissed as
bigoted nonsense,” federation chairman Paul Charney said in a statement to The
Straw’s comments at a panel hosted at the House of
Commons last week were originally reported by former MK Einat Wilf, another
panelist. She announced in a Facebook post and in subsequent interviews that
Straw had said that AIPAC’s political clout and “unlimited” funding were prime
obstructions to the peace process. She also said Straw claimed that Germany has
an “obsession” with defending Israel.
In his statement to the Post on
Monday, Straw did not deny making those comments.
But he strongly pushed
back against claims that his criticism was anti-Semitic.
“I am not
remotely anti-Semitic,” he said.
“Quite the reverse. I have all my life
strongly supported the State of Israel and its right to live in peace and
Straw reiterated his concerns about Israeli policy, making
First, Israeli settlement building on “Palestinian land …
amounted to ‘theft’ of Palestinians’ land,” he stated.
argued that Germany historically has stood in the way of stronger European Union
action against settlement building: “One of the difficulties in gaining EU
agreement for this has, in the past, been the attitude of Germany, who for
understandable reasons have been reluctant to be out of line with the government
That said, I think I noted that the EU’s attitude had changed,
and there are now restrictions imposed by the EU on goods from the
Finally, Straw said that political funding rules in the
United States allow lobbying organizations in the US, such as AIPAC, to exercise
a large amount of influence in support of, or against, political
Straw did not say that AIPAC has “unlimited” funding or that
Germany had an “obsession” with Israel – as Wilf had claimed – and he did not
directly link AIPAC to obstruction of Middle East peace.
But neither did
he deny making those comments last week.
Wilf said on Sunday that Straw’s
remarks reflected the new anti-Semitism in Europe.
Straw was excoriated
on Jewish websites for his comments, dubbed by some as an “anti- Semitic rant.”
Straw dismissed those concerns.
“None of this is anti-Semitic,” he
“There are plenty of people in Israel who take a similar view to me
– not least (as I do) because they believe that the current approach of the
government of Israel will weaken the position of the State of Israel in the
medium- and long-term.”