UK: Minister says ‘wall is a land grab’– and is censored by Israel lobby
The Jewish Chronicle reported last week that a video made by Alan Duncan, UK minister for international development, infuriated the Israeli lobby so much that it was withdrawn from the ministry’s website.
In the video Duncan said that, “The wall is a land grab. It hasn’t just gone along the lines of the proper Israel boundary. It’s taken in open land which actually belongs to Palestine”. He added: “Israeli settlers can build what they want and then immediately get the infrastructure so that takes the water deliberately away from Palestinians here.”
Horrified that a government minister could say such things, the lobby went into action. The Board of Deputies of British Jews wrote to Duncan to demand the withdrawal of the video, copying in his boss, Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, and Foreign Secretary William Hague. Board president Vivian Wineman commented: “Mr Duncan’s apparent disregard for Israel’s legitimate security concerns is of great concern.”
The episode seems to have caused a row between Duncan’s department (DFID) and the Foreign Office. According to the Jewish Chronicle, “Civil servants at the FO made it clear that they did not believe Mr Duncan had struck the right diplomatic tone with the language he had used. However, they did not refer the matter to ministers when DfID and Mr Duncan defied the advice.”
But the FO has now prevailed. Duncan has been brought to heel and the video withdrawn. By way of explanation a spokesperson said, “The video was aimed at highlighting DfID’s work to alleviate poverty in the OPTs [Occupied Palestinian Territories], as well as some of the key challenges facing the Palestinian people. Unfortunately, some elements were misinterpreted and Mr Duncan has asked for it to be taken down”.
It is not clear whether Duncan believes his views were misinterpreted. But one thing is definitely clear – whilst the Israeli lobby in the UK is not visible as its US counterpart, it is still very effective.