Daily archives: December 9, 2011

The Gould Werritty Investigation Continues

An MP has been refused by the Commons Table Office when they tried to table a question asking how many meetings Gould had held with Werritty and/or Fox. The Table Office say the question has already been answered – even though we know for certain that the answer given was untrue.

This was the untrue – or at the very least radically unfull – answer cited by the Table Office:

Adam Werritty
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings HM ambassador to Israel has had with the Secretary of State for Defence (a) in Israel, (b) in the UK and (c)
31 Oct 2011 : Column 374W
elsewhere since May 2010; whether Mr Adam Werritty was present on any such occasion; and which (i) other officials and (ii) other people were present on each occasion. [76970]
Alistair Burt: All meetings which our ambassador to Israel has had with the former Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) since May 2010 are set out in the Cabinet Secretary’s report of 18 October 2011. Our ambassador to Israel was also invited by the former Defence Secretary to a private social engagement in summer 2010 at which Adam Werritty was present.

It is remarkable rule of parliament that apparently once a minister lies about something, parliamentarians are never allowed to ask about it again.

Meantime I have submitted a Freedom of Information request about a Freedom of Information request! I have asked for any notes, minutes, emails or correspondence relating to the handling of my FOI request for the Gould-Werritty correspondence. You may recall that my request was declined on grounds of cost, and dealt with in the remarkable time of just 76 minutes, the answer ebing received at 11.31 pm!

Finally the editor of the Jewish Chronicle has declined to publish the following article, which I submitted to him as a comment piece covering the JC’s promotion of the charges of anti-semitism against Paul Flynn for pursuing the Gould/Werritty issue. This is a shame, because the JC used to give space to liberal views, and because I believe a serious percentage of their readership would have been interested in the other side of the story.

There is a genuine argument that it was not wise to appoint Matthew Gould as Ambassador to Israel, and the accusations of anti-Semitism levelled at MP Paul Flynn MP by Dennis McShane, and reported by Martin Bright in the JC, do not address that argument.

Of course being Jewish does not in any way disqualify Matthew Gould from being a British ambassador. We are fortunate in the UK to have many brilliant Jewish diplomats. Jon Benjamin in Santiago is an example of an absolutely first rate ambassador with whom I was once privileged to work.

But Israel/Palestine remains, beyond dispute, a scene of unresolved conflict. The Israeli government, for example, recognises that conflict by invoking the San Remo Agreement to justify its naval embargo of Gaza. The San Remo agreement only applies in times of armed conflict. The dispute is also witnessed not just by events on the ground, but in diplomatic terms by the whole paraphernalia of Middle East peace negotiation, including the post of Quartet envoy occupied by Tony Blair.

So the situation surrounding Israel is not normal and involves conflict. That is, of course, by no means unique. Nearby Cyprus is subject to a dispute that has many parallels. I was Head of the FCO Cyprus section for three years, and tried hard but failed to make progress in resolving the “Cyprus question”. Winning trust was extremely difficult; it would have been well nigh impossible had I been ethnically Greek or Turkish. For the Head of the FCO Cyprus section, or for our Ambassador in Nicosia, to be ethnically Greek, Turkish or either shade of Cypriot just would not be practically useful. I hope nobody will accuse me of being anti-Greek or anti-Turk for saying so.

Similarly, it is just not helpful to have an Ambassador in Tel-Aviv who is Jewish or Palestinian. It just isn’t practically wise. This is not a matter of high policy. There may be Jews or Palestinians of such exceptional personal qualities they could rise above any suspicion of partisanship and be effective. But Matthew Gould has proven himself not to be that talented.

Matthew’s frequent declarations to the Israeli media of his personal commitment to zionism are neither helpful nor necessary for a diplomat. Take for example this from the Jerusalem Post of 29 May:

“British Ambassador Matthew Gould declared his commitment to Israel and the principles of Zionism on Thursday”
That really is a very peculiar thing for a diplomat, who is supposed to have just the one national commitment, to say. I was dismissed as an Ambassador – by FCO ministers including Dennis McShane – for too strong a personal commitment to human rights. A personal commitment to zionism is by comparison a good thing, apparently.

We also cannot pretend that in 2011 to declare oneself a “zionist” in political terms merely has its 19th century meaning of somebody who believes in the existence of a state of Israel. The readership of the JC knows that the term “zionist” has accrued baggage of support for settlements and a greater Israel, for the annexation of the whole of Jerusalem, and of links with the non-Jewish foreign policy neo-Cons both sides of the Atlantic. who also declare themselves ardent zionists at every opportunity.

It is also worth noting that, of the entertained guests who have passed into Gould’s Tel Aviv residence, a disgruntled British Embassy source tells me that well less than 5% of invites have been to Israeli Arabs who constitute 20% of the population.

Finally, we have to consider the extraordinary relationship of Gould with Adam Fox and Liam Werritty. It has been shown that the trio met at least seven times, including several meetings before the election, according to Gus O’Donnell’s replies to Paul Flynn at the Public Administration Committee. The FCO refuses point-blank to say how many times Gould met Werritty without Fox, and refused within the hour (at nearly midnight!) my emailed Freedom of Information request for the Gould/Werritty correspondence.

No other official was ever present at any of the Fox-Gould-Werritty meetings – one of many strange facts about them. Gus O’Donnell’s report mentions only two of what we now know was a much larger series of meetings. We really need to know what Gould, the “committed zionist”, was doing with the two extreme Atlanticist neo-cons – and why the government is so anxious to hide it..

That is a genuine question, and to scream “anti-semite” at anyone who asks it devalues the term.

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Ten Per Cent for Freedom

From now until the referendum, I shall give ten per cent of my income to the campaign for Scottish Independence. My income is both meagre and unreliable, and I can’t really afford it, but people have died for freedom willingly, and this is a much smaller sacrifice by comparison.

I urge all my fellow Scots to do the same. The media is viciously anti-independence and the massive resources of the British establishment are going to be concentrated fully against us. This is our first chance for national self-determination since 1707, and if we are not to be “Bought and sold for English gold” again, we need to raise some of our own.

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