Yesterday’s Al Jazeera investigation focused on a covertly filmed private dinner conversation in London involving a diplomat at the Israeli embassy who was looking for information to “take down” deputy Foreign Minister, Sir Alan Duncan.
Though the Israeli ambassador quickly apologised for the comments by the low-level official, Shai Masot, and there was no suggestion of a coordinated Israeli effort to bring down Mr. Duncan, British news outlets immediately pounced, devoting significant coverage to the incident – more coverage, overall, than on the deadly terror attack later that same day.
Some of the coverage has addressed the question of why Masot seemed particularly keen on getting information on Duncan, and correctly pointed out his extreme criticism of Israel. Both the Guardian and BBC specifically noted Duncan’s critique of settlements in speeches and interviews made in 2014.
An article was published in the BBC website on Jan. 8th titled “Israel’s ambassador sorry over ‘take down’ Sir Alan Duncan comment” which included the following background.
Sir Alan, who has described expanding Israeli settlements as a “stain on the face of the globe”, was seen as more of a problem than Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – who was “basically good”, according to Mr Masot in a transcript of the conversation.
“He just doesn’t care. He is an idiot but has become minister of foreign affairs without any responsibilities. If something real happened it won’t be his fault… it will be Alan Duncan.”
Sir Alan launched a scathing attack on Israel in 2014, when MPs backed Palestinian statehood, deeming Israeli settlements as an “act of theft”.
“Occupation, annexation, illegality, negligence, complicity – this is a wicked cocktail which brings shame on Israel,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme.
Curiously, the BBC omitted the most controversial comments from Duncan’s 2014 BBC Radio 4 interview. Duncan said during the interview – in the context of the previous days vote by MPs to recognise Palestinian statehood – that American politics is ”dominated by a very powerful financial lobby.” (Unsurprisingly, these comments were not challenged by the BBC host.)
Similarly, a Jan. 8th Guardian report by Patrick Wintour, “Why might an Israeli diplomat believe Alan Duncan needs taking down?” focused on Duncan’s record of comments on Israel and the settlements. Here’s the relevant part:
Above all, he simply refuses to accept Israel’s policy in the Middle East is defensible. In a landmark speech in 2014 at the Royal United Services Institute he pushed the anti-settlement policy further than any Tory politician, likening the Israeli attitude towards Palestinians to apartheid in South Africa.
He said: “Those that supported settlement policy should be put on a par with racism sexism and xenophobia and antisemitism. Indeed just as we rightly judge someone as unfit for public office if they refuse to recognise Israel, so we should shun anyone who refuses to recognise settlements are illegal.
“No settlement endorsers should be regarded as fit to stand for public office, remain a member of a mainstream political party or sit in a parliament. How can we accept lawmakers in our country or any other country when they support lawbreakers in another? They are extremists and should be treated as such.”
Leaving aside Duncan’s extraordinary demand that anyone who expresses a pro-settlements view is unfit to stand for election, note that, as with the BBC, the Guardian omitted Duncan’s comments about the powerful lobby’s putative control over the US.
Tellingly, Duncan’s dog whistle was clearly heard by one particularly prominent antisemitic extremist, who cited his comments as a rare example of a British politician ‘revealing’ the injurious nature of Jewish power.
Earlier today, we tweeted the BBC thusly:
you omitted Duncan's troubling comments about "the lobby's" alleged control on US politics https://t.co/w9tEjIvM68 pic.twitter.com/DDRhXHAVvO
— CAMERA UK (formerly UK Media Watch and BBC Watch) (@CAMERAorgUK) January 9, 2017
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