Ten years ago Tam Dalyell, the ‘Father of the House’ (the most senior member of the House of Commons in the British Parliament), sparked a huge row by accusing the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, of “being unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers.”
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Dalyell named Lord Levy (Blair’s personal envoy on the Middle East), Peter Mandelson (whose father was Jewish), and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary (who has Jewish ancestry), as three of the leading figures who had influenced Blair’s policies on the Middle East.
He told The Telegraph: “If it is a question of launching an assault on Syria or Iran…. then one has to be candid.” Blair, he said, was also indirectly influenced by Jewish people in the Bush administration, including Richard Perle, a Pentagon adviser, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary, and Ari Fleischer, the President’s press secretary.
Dalyell’s remarks were sad and unfounded, said Lord Janner, chairman of the Holocaust Education Trust. “Tony Blair is his own man. He will follow advice if he considers it correct and not otherwise. He has been a good friend of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.”
Dalyell was misguided, said Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, a spokesman for Britain’s Reform Synagogues. “Concerning Iraq it was crystal clear that Tony Blair was not swayed by popularity or anyone else but by his own deep convictions. It is also obvious that the majority of President Bush’s circle are Christian Evangelicals rather than Jews.”
Ned Temko, the American-born editor of the Jewish Chronicle, said: “I just think these sort of comments are offensive and are a profound misunderstanding of the way foreign policy is made in the United States or here.”
Dalyell also told The Scotsman on Sunday: “Blair and Straw have become far too close to these people and Lord Levy, who is an unaccountable ambassador in the Middle East, is part of this group. They are acting on an extremely Zionist, Likud-nik agenda. In particular I am concerned that some of them are pushing for an attack on Syria, for reasons of Israeli security. ”
MP Louise Ellman, a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Committee Against Anti-Semitism, said: “This absurd proposition implies a Jewish plot in high places…”
Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a senior member of Scotland’s Jewish community, was rudely dismissive: “We all know that Tam gets bees in his bonnet and eight times out of 10 they are nuts but the other two are brilliant. This is, I’m afraid, one of the nutty ones.”
Next day the Guardian reported that Dalyell could face an investigation for inciting racial hatred. Eric Moonman, president of the Zionist Federation, was seeking advice on whether there was a case for referral. “I believe there is,” he said.
Today it is obvious that old Tam was neither nutty nor misguided. He joined the dots and saw the danger, as did many others.
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