By JONNY PAUL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT IN LONDON
A British diplomat has criticized the appointment of two leading Jewish academics to the UK's Iraq Inquiry panel, stating it may upset the balance of the inquiry.
Sir Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Libya, told The Independent newspaper this week that the appointment of Sir Martin Gilbert, the renowned Holocaust historian and Winston Churchill biographer, and Sir Lawrence Freedman, professor of war studies and vice-principal of King's College London, would be seen as "ammunition" that could be used to call the inquiry a "whitewash."
Miles said the two academics were Jewish and that Gilbert was an active Zionist. He also said they were both strong supporters of former prime minister Tony Blair and the Iraq war.
"Such facts are not usually mentioned in the mainstream British and American media, but the Jewish Chronicle and the Israeli media have no such inhibitions, and the Arabic media both in London and in the region are usually not far behind," he told the newspaper.
"It is a pity that, if and when the inquiry is accused of a whitewash, such handy ammunition will be available," he added. "Membership should not only be balanced; it should be seen to be balanced."
The former ambassador also said that having two historians in a panel of five "seems a lot" and also questioned the Jewish academics' credentials.
"In December 2004 Sir Martin, while pointing out that the 'war on terror' was not a third world war, wrote that Bush and Blair 'may well, with the passage of time and the opening of the archives, join the ranks of Roosevelt and Churchill' - an eccentric opinion that would seem to rule him out as a member of the committee. Sir Lawrence is the reputed architect of the 'Blair doctrine' of humanitarian intervention, which was invoked in Kosovo and Afghanistan as well as Iraq," Miles said.
A spokesman for the inquiry told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that it was "not an issue" and therefore declined to comment.
The investigation, which began on Tuesday, was launched by the UK government and is expected to last months, with its findings likely to be published in the summer of 2010. The inquiry will look at the whole period from 2001 to 2009 to identify what lessons can be learned from the Iraq conflict.
var cont = `Sign up for The Jerusalem Post Premium Plus for just $5
Upgrade your reading experience with an ad-free environment and exclusive content