Jack Straw to ‘Post’: ‘I am not remotely anti-Semitic’

UK Zionist federation says former foreign secretary’s remarks "go far beyond criticism of Israel."

Britain's former foreign minister Jack Straw 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Britain's former foreign minister Jack Straw 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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.
Straw faced 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 Jerusalem Post.
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 security.”
Straw reiterated his concerns about Israeli policy, making three points.
First, Israeli settlement building on “Palestinian land … amounted to ‘theft’ of Palestinians’ land,” he stated.
Second, Straw 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 of Israel.
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 settlements.”
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 candidates.
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 said.
“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.”