CIF’s Israel attack dogs went wild when British Foreign Minister David Miliband announced on Tuesday that he had expelled an Israel diplomat in retaliation for Mossad’s alleged cloning of British passports. Former Ambassador to Libya Oliver Miles – who is on record as believing that Jewish historians have no place on the UK Iraq War Enquiry – sanctimoniously welcomed the expulsion as ‘action, not words’ suited to a country that “continues to flout international law and ignore any UN condemnatory resolution that does not suit it.”
But look what happened in an arguably precisely analogous case in Israel, to one of the Guardian’s favourite sons, Alastair Crooke.
Crooke used to work for MI6, the UK equivalent of Mossad. Now he is the Beirut-based Director of Conflicts Forum and as someone who showed disregard for the opposition demonstrations in Iran after the elections, is even too extreme for Mark Perry (who started last week’s malicious misrepresentations of what General David Petraeus really said about Israel). Perry quit as a Director of Conflicts Forum – started by Crooke – in protest.
Crooke was was sent to Israel, as part of the British consular delegation in Jerusalem, ostensibly to oversee Israeli Palestinian relations on behalf of the UK Government.
Sheila Raviv – an Israeli freelance journalist – says that Crooke had relationships with some highly questionable people in and around Jerusalem, people who were not connected to his diplomatic work. She relayed these concerns to the then British Ambassador (2001-3) Sherrard Cowper-Coles.
The Ambassador was apparently very sympathetic to her information and asked her to prepare a full report. But within ten minutes of sending it by email, Raviv received a frighteningly threatening email warning her off – the Ambassador’s personal computer had been hacked! Concerned for her own safety, Raviv reported her concerns to the Shin Bet.
Crooke was investigated and within a short time was packing his bags. But there was no public announcement of an expulsion. The Israeli government had the prerogative of a formal public expulsion, of course – as all governments have for the diplomatic corps whom they host. But it seems that Israel chose to magnanimously offer the UK the chance of a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that Crooke could go quietly and below the radar, so as not to embarrass an ally.
It was later revealed that Crooke was a member of MI6 and the astonishing breadth of his terrorist contacts became known. An Italian magazine, Il Riformista, commented as follows (July 2005):
This activity over the past year finished by provoking a growing resentment among Israeli authorities, who a couple of times went so far as to issue “warnings” to Crooke and to present confidential protests about him to the British embassy in Tel Aviv. Further, on 19 May, the deputy chief of information at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Gideon Meir, referring to the secret British meetings, saw fit to say that “any contact with Hamas on the part of representatives of foreign governments is considered by the Israeli government as encouragement for striking us with terrorist acts.”
Yet despite this flagrant breach of trust, Israel – unlike Miliband on Tuesday – did not seek to turn a diplomatic spat into a PR opportunity. Crooke’s departure took place quietly and discretely, out of respect to an ally.
Why did Miliband not show the same respect and magnanimity towards Israel as Israel showed to the UK in the Crooke case? And of course as an Arabist and a former Middle East Ambassador, Miles must know all about the Crooke case. Not mentioning it must have been an oversight, of course.
Ah, but there is an election within six weeks in the UK and Miliband knows that Israel-bashing plays well with Labour’s core vote. And Miles just happens to be deputy chairman of the Libyan British Business Council.
The moral of this story: As far as this Foreign Minister and the FCO’s camel corps are concerned, when votes and money are at stake, “respect for allies” can go hang, especially when that ally is Israel and the UK Jewish community just lies back and thinks of England.
As Oliver Worth says:
British Jewry, in its muted action, has goaded the willingness of the British government to stab Israel in the back. We are undoubtedly in a situation where the British government has no fear of provoking the pro-Israel and Jewish population into meaningful action, rendering Israel by far the easiest target when finding a scapegoat to cover up domestic misgivings. This must be the wake-up call.
He might have added that Israeli citizens do not blow up UK ones.
(UPDATE: The Spectator has published an apology on its site which reads as follows:
A blog by Melanie Phillips posted on 28 January 2011 reported an allegation that Alastair Crooke, director of Conflicts Forum, had been expelled from Israel and dismissed for misconduct from Government service or the EU after threatening a journalist whose email he had unlawfully intercepted. We accept that this allegation is completely false and we apologise to Mr Crooke.
The ‘allegation’ referred to in this apology refers to the post above from which Melanie Phillips quoted. As can be seen, however, this post made no such allegation. Insofar as an inference could be drawn to that effect, we would like to make it clear that no such implication was intended and no such inference should be drawn. However, neither CiF Watch nor Sheila Raviv made any such allegation, and consequently the Spectator’s statement is inaccurate.)