may face race hatred inquiry
By Nicholas Watt, political correspondent
Monday May 5, 2003
Tam Dalyell, the veteran Labour MP and opponent of countless wars, faces an investigation for inciting racial hatred after he accused Tony Blair of being unduly influenced by Jewish ministers and officials.
As leading British Jews criticised Mr Dalyell for his "misguided" remarks, a former Labour MP said he would refer the father of the Commons to the commission for racial equality.
Professor Eric Moonman, president of the Zionist Federation, who was a Labour MP from 1966 to 1979, said he was seeking advice on whether there was a case for referral. "I believe there is," he said.
"I will be distressed to do it because of a relationship with a man I admire enormously," Prof Moonman said. "But he made the statements and he knew what he was doing."
The row started when Mr Dalyell, who for 20 years has opposed every war involving British soldiers, told Vanity Fair magazine that Mr Blair relied too much on Jewish figures in Britain and the US. Mr Dalyell named the former cabinet minister Peter Mandelson, the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, and the prime minister's Middle East envoy, Lord Levy. Only Lord Levy is Jewish. Mr Mandelson's father was Jewish and Mr Straw had a Jewish grandfather.
Mr Dalyell said: "I am worried about my country being led up the garden path on a Likudnik, [Ariel] Sharon agenda", adding that "Straw, Mandelson and co" were leading "a tremendous drive to sort out the Middle East".
Mr Dalyell's critics took exception after it was claimed that he felt Mr Blair was influenced by a "cabal" of Jewish advisers. But Mr Dalyell said he used the word cabal only in reference to the Bush administration, not Downing Street.
"The cabal that I referred to was in the US," he said. "That is the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. I was thinking of [Paul] Wolfowitz, [deputy defence secretary], [Richard] Perle, [John] Bolton, assistant secretary of state, [Douglas] Feith, [Ken] Adelman, [Elliott] Abrams and [Ari] Fleischer, [Mr Bush's press secretary.] Those people drive this policy."
But Jewish figures were furious. David Garfinkel, the editor in chief of the London Jewish News, said: "Coming a few days after the BNP won council seats in the north of England this is the kind of menacing candour which the country certainly does not need."
Ministers were also aghast. One said: "Quite apart from how offensive his remarks are, Tam is wrong. Tony and Jack have faced strong criticism in Israel because of their pressure for the road map to be published."
Mr Dalyell denied he was anti-semitic. "If I were anti-semitic I would not have spent a holiday in Israel, I would not have gone as a young man to stay on a kibbutz. To say I am anti-semitic is preposterous."
He also said he had been
parliamentary private secretary to former cabinet minister Dick
Crossman, who was something of a hero in Israel. Crossman became
close to Chaim Weizman, who was Israel's first president. "Would Dick
Crossman have had an anti-semitic gentile as his PPS? I identify with
the Weizman tradition. This is not about being anti-Jewish,
anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli."