Sir Alan Duncan’s 2016-2020 diaries (entitled In The Thick of It) are published on Thursday. Here I examine first the extracts in the Mail last week and the interview with Iain Dale on LBC on Thursday night. Then the book itself.
The diaries are venemous about Israel and its supporters in the UK. They incite hate against Jews and cross the line into antisemitism in several places.
1: Extracts in the Mail and the LBC Interview
On the basis of the extracts published in the Mail last week and of his interview with Iain Dale on LBC on Thursday night, Duncan’s diary entries regarding Israel and Jews are toxic. If you have the Global Radio App you can hear the interview, it starts at 16m 43s before the end of the programme. Dale does nothing to challenge the toxicity – in fact he even amplified it in a tweet after the broadcast. It’s remarkable: Israel is certainly the most (almost certainly the only) gay-friendly country in the Middle East and arguably in the world – yet here were two gays, one demonising Israel and the other egging him on.
Here is what Duncan said on LBC about Israel (it’s not word-for-word but if you listen, you will see that it accurately reflects what he said):
I don’t agree with the people who say Israel should not exist.
I am a full supporter of Israel and the the nation state of Israel. Likewise I absolutely condemn all antisemitism and deplore it. But the Israelis are doing some very bad things to their neighbours. The effect of creating Israel … but it did not create at the same time Palestine alongside. So ever since 1948 they have been a populous area of land who have not been allowed to call themselves a country. But in international law that land – which some call Palestine – does not belong to Israel. But they’ve built settlements and they’ve occupied it. And then there are horrible actions where olive trees get cut down, houses demolished and the IDF defends Israelis – rather than Palestinians – in this land which is not actually Israel.
A lot of Israelis think that it IS Israel, they say it’s disputed, they call it Greater Israel.
But in my view justice for Palestinians is a massively important issue for which Britain with its historical legacy has a significant role to be responsible and to be an influence. But whereas our policy is to have a Two State Solution, we do nothing to condemn the deplorable activity which is going on in the West Bank in denying Palestinians their rights and driving them off their land and subjugating them and making them face violence. A lot of Israelis and Jewish people say yeah, what about all the terrorist activity in Gaza and all that? I deplore all that but the fact is that a democratic state is doing undemocratic things.
A democratic state should behave as a democracy with all its values and it is behaving against international law in the land around it. It’s taking someone else’s land. So I make a stand in favour of Palestinian justice and I am permanently in the sights of Conservative Friends of Israel. It is run by people who are pushing a very Likud/Netanyahu view – even though they might pretend otherwise – and they use very nasty tactics with people in Parliament always doing questions they have been provided with but they also – by deploying what they say is their donor base – I think exercise improper influence at the centre of government. What they tried to do with me – and succeeded – was to stop me being Minister for the Middle East when I was in the process of being appointed and nobody knew – it hadn’t been announced – so they strayed (?) into Number Ten to find out who might get it and then manoeuvred to stop me getting it by saying essentially – I’m sure – “well you know there will be consequences if you let this man be Minister for the Middle East !“
I think that’s a scandal. I think it’s politically corrupt. I think it’s wrong.
I’m totally in favour of the Jewish Community of the UK being involved in politics and supporting the party they wish. But I think that should be decoupled from the promotion of a policy of a third country.
Dale asks if Duncan believes that the influence exerted “by these groups” is as powerful now as it then was?
It’s powerful. It’s wrong and I think it’s wholly improper. And they were caught redhanded in the Al Jazeera documentary you mentioned. Al Jazeera were investigating the Labour Party to get a story about antisemitism and then suddenly they hit upon the fact that one of the employees of the Israeli Embassy was going around trying to galvanise opinion to undermine me and certain others in British politics which is utterly scandalous. Why didn’t we make a stand on that? How dare they do that in this country!
Dale asks about Duncan’s conversation with Mark Regev who was “apologising but not apologising”.
Yes exactly. I said ‘Oh what for?’ At that stage [laughing] it hadn’t been broadcast. He didn’t know what I knew and I didn’t know what he knew but I now know blooming well that he knew everything (laughs)
I will address Duncan’s lies about Israel only briefly because (i) they are not the main story and (ii) they are the same lies which I have fisked many times:
1) I don’t agree with the people who say Israel should not exist.
Gee that’s wonderful! Welcome to the Zionist Federation! How about Belgium? Canada?
2) The effect of creating Israel … but it did not create at the same time Palestine alongside.
The Arabs in 1948 could have had their own State (see UN Resolution 181 on Partition, 1947) but they chose to attack the Jews instead.
3) So ever since 1948 they have been a populous area of land who have not been allowed to call themselves a country.
That’s because (i) they have refused four offers including (at Camp David, see Dennis Ross’s book “The Missing Peace”) 91 percent of Judea/Samaria in contiguous territory plus an additional 1 percent in land swaps (ii) they refuse to recognise Israel’s right to exist (iii) they refuse to renounce terror. See also the Bar Ilan speech of Binyamin Netanyahu which said a 2SS was government policy.
4) But in international law that land – which some call Palestine – does not belong to Israel.
Judea/Samaria was annexed by Jordan in the 1948 War of Independence and parts of it were taken back by Israel when an Arab attack in 1967 was anticipated and resisted. After the War Israel offered to withdraw but the offer was met with three No’s: No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel (Khartoum Declaration, 29 August). Judea/Samaria is ‘disputed territory’.
5) A lot of Israelis think that it IS Israel, they say it’s disputed, they call it Greater Israel.
Yes it is ‘disputed’ but no, ‘a lot of Israelis’ DO NOT ‘call it Greater Israel’. Polling suggests that 40%-50% support the establishment of a Palestinian State and 7% ‘don’t know’ but that is in the context of the current situation – with no recognition of the world’s only Jewish-character State and no renouncing of violence. The Palestinian Authority even pays the salaries of Palestinians who murder Israelis – not just soldiers, any Israeli. The proportion of Israelis wanting to keep Judea/Samaria come what may is probably around 5% (no polls) but it’s entirely hypothetical because the Palestinian Authority, headed by the 85 year old Mahmoud Abbas, is so opposed to Israel’s existence.
6) …we do nothing to condemn the deplorable activity………..
The UK condemns settlement activity constantly!
7) …it is behaving against international law in the land around it. It’s taking someone else’s land.
Israel has broken no law and has not expropriated one inch of land that belongs to ‘someone else’.
But these are cookie-cutter falsehoods parroted by everyone with Israel Derangement Syndrome (most commonly on the left – it is true – but Duncan is by no means the only Conservative sufferer).
What I want to focus on is what Duncan said about Conservative Friends of Israel – which is deeply unpleasant, to say the least.
The allegation that CFI is “run by people who are pushing a very Likud/Netanyahu view” simply proves Duncan’s total unsuitability for the Middle East job in the Foreign Office. It is a ludicrous and ignorant description. CFI has two aims: to support Israel and to promote Conservatism in the UK. ‘Supporting Israel’ means arranging meetings with Knesset members and fighting opposing malevolent lies such as the Vaccine Libel as well as eg helping MPs with speeches (eg in the debate about proscription of Hezbollah). The complexion of the governing coalition in Israel is utterly irrelevant.
CFI no more ‘pushes a very Likud/Netanyahu view’ than does Labour Friends of Israel. In any case Likud is the biggest Party in the Knesset and Binyamin Netanyahu is its leader and therefore the Prime Minister. Duncan’s pejorative sneering at the democratic outcome of the only democracy in the Middle East proves that he would have been a disaster in the Middle East job. How democratic is Oman, the country with which he has long been associated?
CFI organises numerous events in and around Westminster, takes Conservative parliamentarians and candidates on delegations to Israel, campaigns hard for Tory candidates in target seats, and works to ensure that Israel’s case is fairly represented in Parliament.
In the book Duncan says of CFI:
…. They just want to belittle and subjugate the Palestinians.’
A despicable blatant lie which will only worsen antisemitism.
…they use very nasty tactics with people in Parliament always doing questions they have been provided with but they also – by deploying what they say is their donor base – I think exercise improper influence at the centre of government.
Shock horror … CFI helps MPs ask questions about the Middle East! We must have a Royal Commission of Inquiry!
But the next bit is really despicable – and that’s an understatement.
by deploying what they say is their donor base they exercise improper influence at the centre of government’
Bingo- All the antisemitic tropes are here – Jews using their money to exert illicit influence – it stinks!
…manoeuvred to stop me getting it by saying essentially – I’m sure – “well you know there will be consequences if you let this man be Minister for the Middle East !“
It gets worse if that’s possible. The vile nature of Duncan’s innuendo is perfectly obvious: “Rich Jews threatened to cease donating to the Conservative Party if I was appointed to the Middle East job in July 2016.”
Here’s the relevant book extract:
Note that in the book (p60) Duncan says that the Prime Minister (Theresa May) “implicitly” offered him the Middle East job. Maybe it wasn’t as surefire as he makes out to Dale!
And mention must be made here of Dale’s tweet to Richard Millett following the programme:
Dale defends Duncan and calls the settlements ‘illegal’ and CFI’s activities ‘illicit’. It’s incendiary for antisemitism. Either Dale must provide evidence or apologise and withdraw.
Back to Duncan:
I’m totally in favour of the Jewish Community of the UK being involved in politics and supporting the party they wish. But I think that should be decoupled from the promotion of a policy of a third country.
This is not the first time that Duncan has said that supporters of Israel should play no part in domestic political life. In October 2014 in his Royal United Service Institute speech he said that “no endorser of Israeli settlements should be considered fit to stand for election, remain a member of a mainstream political party, or sit in a Parliament.”
It is slamdunk antisemitism for which he should be investigated. What’s sauce for the Labour goose is sauce for the Tory gander.
And they were caught redhanded in the Al Jazeera documentary you mentioned.
I wrote about that Al Jazeera programme as soon as it was aired. Nothing untoward but intensely antisemitic.
Dale asks Duncan about his conversation with Mark Regev who was “apologising but not apologising”.
Yes exactly. I said ‘Oh what for?’ At that stage [laughing] it hadn’t been broadcast. He didn’t know what I knew and I didn’t know what he knew but I now know blooming well that he knew everything [laughs].
The book (p121) shows that Duncan tried to trick Regev by pretending that he didn’t know precisely why he was apologising (“I only have an email from the Guardian to go on”). In fact he knew all the details of the programme. Clayton Swisher of Al Jazeera had called him and Simon Walters of Mail on Sunday – who had seen the tapes and a transcript – had been to see him at his home.
Incidentally Regev should not have apologised – it just gave the Al Jazeera non-documentary legs which it didn’t deserve. I doubt his successor would be so supine.
Duncan’s toxic record on Israel and Jews speaks for itself………… :
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 in October 2014, following the debate in Parliament on Palestinian statehood, he said
All know that the United States is in hock to a very powerful financial lobby which dominates its politics.”
What lobby might that be?
I was also pretty sure at the time that the ‘‘ex-Minister in David Cameron’s government’ quoted in the Mail on Sunday (8 January 2017) before the Al Jazeera broadcast was Duncan. I am still surer now. The comments about Israel and her supporters in the UK were sickening. Why did the ex-Minister choose to hide behind anonymity?
And in the new book there is this (according to the Mail extracts: the year is 2018):
The clear inference is that the IDF killed 41 innocent people in Gaza for no reason, right?
Now for the truth. This was during the time when Hamas fighters in Gaza were trying to get through the security fence into Israel to kill Israelis. On Monday 14 May 2018, tens of thousands of massed on the border. Yes 62 were killed. There was a chorus of condemnation that Israel was killing ‘innocent protesters’. Those of us who combat lies about Israel knew this was nonsense. The IDF documents every use of weapons and is rigorous about not using them unless necessary. Sure enough, early on Wednesday Salah Bardawil, a Hamas official, said that 50 of the 62 killed were members of the Islamist terrorist group.
The best comment on the Mail extracts came from Steerpike in The Spectator. He notes that in just the first three extracts, Duncan ‘took aim at no less than 27 of his fellow Tory MPs — than 9 per cent of the 2017-19 parliamentary Conservative party’:
Mr S wonders whether it was the entire parliamentary party who were useless or maybe Duncan should take a look at himself?
2: The Book
On page 16 Duncan calls a comment by Lord Polak ‘repulsive’, for suggesting that Palestinian schoolbooks contain incitement against Israel. Duncan is in denial. Palestinian schoolbooks are full of antisemitic incitement. He owes Lord Polak an apology.
On page 61 Duncan refers to Sir Eric Pickles’ (now Lord Pickles) support for Israel through CFI as ‘venom’. He says:
Nobody understands where Pickles’ venom has come from – he’s no internationalist, but maybe some of it is driven by his experience when he was leader of Bradford Council.
What on earth has Bradford Council got to do with it, I wondered? Surely Duncan is not suggesting that as leader of Bradford Council, Pickles developed an animosity towards Muslims and that made him side with Jews who also (according to this appalling bigotry of Duncan) have an animosity to Muslims? Surely not. Because that would be libellous to Pickles and antisemitic towards Jews, wouldn’t it?
On page 77 we read:
Trump says if he is elected he will recognise a united and indivisible Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This would be an outrageous and illegal act of modern colonialism.’
Now for the truth. The Jerusalem Embassy Act (1995) recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and provided funding for moving the Embassy by 31/5/1999. However it allowed the President to invoke a six-month waiver of the application of the law, and reissue the waiver every six months on “national security” grounds. On 23/2/2018 President Trump announced that the Embassy would move.
Page 120: Confirms my suspicion at the time that it was Duncan who was quoted in the Mail on Sunday on 8 January 2017 before the Al Jazeera broadcast (‘Simon’ is Simon Walters of Mail On Sunday; ‘Heywood’ is Sir Jeremy Heywood, Cabinet Secretary):
Simon is an old hand, and can be trusted not to stitch me up. Background will be background, and I will properly uphold my undertaking to Heywood not to make any public comment
Pages 121-122: The Al Jazeera non-documentary included undercover filming of Shai Masot, an employee of the Embassy. In his phone call to Duncan to apologise, Mark Regev said that Masot was a local hire, without diplomatic status. Duncan writes:
It’s all total bollocks. Masot is a First or Second Secretary, a member of military intelligence …. Disingenuous deceitful mendacious crap… What on earth is the point of Regev stating something that is so blatantly untrue, and about which we both hold the facts? What a muppet … Regev had started off well by apologising and then screwed himself by lying. Par for the course.
Mark Regev was not lying. Masot was a local hire, reporting to the Deputy Ambassador Eitan Na’eh.
On page 128 Duncan says this about the Al Jazeera non-documentary:
…. this episode has rebalanced the argument about settlements and the conduct of the Israeli government away from the propaganda of deceit and – a step – towards lawfulness and truth.
He really knows how to lay on the malicious bombastic drivel, doesn’t he …………..
On page 242 Duncan attacks Priti Patel for failing to inform the Foreign Office about meetings in Israel that she had arranged in 2017. He describes Patel’s statement about her trip as ‘commissioning policy work in DFID (the then Ministry for International Development) about working with the Israeli Army in Palestine.’ Of course Duncan fails to tell readers about the humanitarian purpose of the proposed collaboration. It was this: Operation Good Neighbour , to help refugees from Syria’s civil war. Hard to think of a better use of UK taxpayer funds going to DFID.
On the same page he attacks Lord Polak and CFI again:
It is yet further evidence of the pernicious influence of Polak and the CFI , something that amounts to embedded outside influence at the heart of our politics.
The inference is reprehensible.
On page 244 (more on Patel):
The rules of propriety, and all the morality and principle that goes with it, are discarded and rewritten to accommodate this exceptional pro-Israel infiltration into the very centre of our public life.
More malicious bombastic drivel.
On page 249 Duncan writes:
If the Balfour Declaration had been or were to be implemented in full, we would even now have a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side. But we don’t. The failure to honour it is costly and dishonourable.’
This of course is a wilful misreading of the Balfour Declaration. As noted above – in 1948 the Arabs could have had their own State (see UN Resolution 181 on Partition, 1947) but they chose to attack the Jews instead.
Finally Duncan writes about the process of proscribing the terrorist organisation Hezbollah in the UK. Prior to February 2019 when Hezbollah was banned, the UK government had maintained the fiction that there was a difference between the political and the military wings of Hezbollah; only the military wing was banned.
On page 303 he says that Sajid Javid (Home Secretary in 2018) wanted to ban Hezbollah in its entirety. He argues against a complete ban. He writes ‘You’d have thought our IRA experience would give us a clue’. This is complete nonsense. There was no separation between the terrorist function of the IRA and the political function. What happened was that the IRA ran out of money which made the Good Friday Agreement – preceded by the IRA commitment to renounce terror – possible.
Then we get this odious comment:
It’s not as if he [Javid] knows anything much about international relations, but it is quite clear who has got to him’.
“Who has got to him?” Must be those Jews again .. I mean Zionists …. I mean CFI ….…. Right?
On page 425 he comments about the ban when it happens (February 2019):
Sajid Javid bans Hizbollah. They are ‘terrists’. Their ‘terrist’ activity is deplorable. He is inarticulate and just sucking up to the CFI, who are out in force behind him reading out their scripted interventions. He is always trying too hard and lacks any poise or dignity. Meanwhile Polak and Pickles are in the Peers’ Gallery gloating from above about having deployed their Commons’ troops in Israel’s cause. We are supposed to be Great Britain, but I fear we are too willing to let others pull our strings.
‘Letting others pull our strings’ ………. It really doesn’t get more antisemitic than that ………..