MP questions ambassador to Israel’s allegiance

Paul Flynn: Past British envoys were not Jews, so as "to avoid the accusation that they have gone native."

Matthew Gould (photo credit: REUTERS)
Matthew Gould
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A British parliamentarian has questioned the allegiance of Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould, suggesting he has divided loyalties after he had “proclaimed himself to be a Zionist.”
Labor MP Paul Flynn was questioning a witness at a parliamentary inquiry last week investigating the role of Adam Werritty, a friend of the former defense minister Liam Fox, who resigned in October after it was discovered that he had accompanied him on official business.
On Thursday, Flynn told the Jewish Chronicle that previous British ambassadors had not been Jewish so as “to avoid the accusation that they have gone native.”
He suggested that the role should be filled by “someone with roots in the UK who can’t be accused of having Jewish loyalty.
“In the past there hasn’t been a Jewish ambassador to Israel, and I think that is a good decision, to avoid the accusation that they have gone native.”
During the questioning of the head of the civil service, Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell, Flynn asked about meetings between Werritty and Gould. A newspaper story earlier this year had suggested that the ambassador discussed with Fox and Werritty a potential military strike on Iran, and that the Mossad had been part of the conversation.
“I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories, but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran, in the service [Gould was deputy head of mission in Tehran from 2003 to 2005],” the MP for Newport West in Wales told the inquiry.
Flynn said that issue had been raised after two of his constituents took part in the “flytilla” campaign in July – in which anti-Israel activists flew to Ben-Gurion Airport from a number of European cities to demonstrate against Israel – and had been held in prison in Israel and as British citizens had met Gould.
“When they were briefly imprisoned in Israel, they met the ambassador and they strongly believed that he was serving the interest of the Israeli government, and not the interests of two British citizens,” he said.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Flynn said he had “merely passed on their viewpoint without prejudice,” and that he did not necessarily share their opinion.
He said also he asked the question as he wanted transparency as he believed that Fox and Werritty were in the payroll of “neo-cons” and was suspicious after a recent request to disclose the details of the meeting, under the Official Secrets Act, was turned down.
“My fear is that the neo-cons are planning to bomb Iran, and I am opposed to Britain’s involvement and in recent years, the role of the neocons has been getting involved in wars that were avoidable” Flynn said.
He also said he has huge empathy towards the Jewish people and that he considers himself “a friend of Israel” and “keenly interested in the country” he has visited numerous times, including a family holiday in 2005.
Flynn’s remarks have been widely condemned.
“Paul Flynn should take some time to consider his comments, which could easily be misconstrued; there is absolutely no reason why our ambassador to Israel should not be Jewish,” Middle East and North Africa Minister Alistair Burt said. “Any allegations about Matthew Gould’s conduct are utterly unsubstantiated. He is a firstclass ambassador.”
Shadow Foreign Minister Douglas Alexander said: “The faith of any British diplomat is irrelevant to their capability to their job. To make suggestions otherwise is wrong and offensive.
“On a personal note I know from my time in government Matthew Gould embodies all that is good in British diplomacy.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews said it was “deeply disturbing to suggest that certain parts of public service are out of bounds for British Jews, and a slur on the professionalism of a British ambassador who is widely recognized for effectively representing Britain’s interests.”
Flynn said the same question of divided loyalty would apply to anyone with a “foreign” family background, including former Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane, whose father was Polish.
“Imagine Denis MacShane as ambassador to Poland? Heaven forbid,” Flynn told the Jewish Chronicle.