As you might have read, a Labour MP called Paul Flynn has caused offence by suggesting that Matthew Gould, Britain’s first Jewish Ambassador to Israel, might have divided loyalties.
Flynn, 76, kicked all this off last Wednesday, when he told a Select Committee discussing the Adam Werritty saga: “I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories but the Ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran, in the service.”
Interesting choice of words, no? The clause ‘I do not fall for conspiracy theories but…’ suggests he feels he has this time.
Still, even ridiculous conspiracy theories can be entertaining in a way. So talk to us, Mr Flynn, of your smoking gun. Where is your freeze-framed Twin Tower video, your evidence of doctored moon photographs, your Roswell dolls? Lead us, we beg you, to the very heart of your personal Area 51.
Well, he continued, it was the words of two of his constituents who were arrested when they took part in the anti-Israel flytilla earlier this year that made him doubt Gould. He said: “When they were briefly imprisoned in Israel, they met the Ambassador, and they strongly believe… that he was serving the interest of the Israeli government, and not the interests of two British citizens.”
That he would consider the testimony of two anti-Israel clowns – one of whom has happily posed for photographs alongside Hamas terrorists and written that ‘one could hardly blame them’ for hating Jews – more reliable than a distinguished British diplomat is a glimpse of the sort of private hell Mr Flynn might inhabit.
Challenged by the Jewish Chronicle‘s respected Martin Bright to clarify his comments, Flynn waded deeper into the marsh and said: “In the past there hasn’t been a Jewish ambassador to Israel and I think that is a good decision – to avoid the accusation that they have gone native.” He added that the British Ambassador to Israel should be “someone with roots in the UK [who] can’t be accused of having Jewish loyalty”.
The ‘dual loyalty’ accusation is one of the most sickening of antisemitic tropes. It long predates the foundation of the modern state of Israel. It was spread in Medieval Europe, formed a plank of the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as well as forming a part of the Dreyfus affair. Those who spread such insinuations know they often need no more than nudges and winks, and that it is often the very unfounded nature of their accusations that makes them difficult to defend against.
Indeed, while I am saddened that Labour leader Ed Miliband has yet to directly condemn Flynn’s words, one can almost hear the cries of ‘Well he would’ if or when Mr Miliband does act on this. It’s a wicked cycle.
If Mr Flynn did not mean to make such a wicked insinuation he should clear that up fast. So far, his defence has been: “Today’s accusation… that I have made an anti-Semitic remark is ludicrous. I have been a lifelong friend of Israel and Jewish causes.” No retraction of his accusations about Gould and no recognition of the upset he has caused. In the interests of fairness, you can read the rest of his response here.
I’m disappointed an MP – albeit an obscure one – can make such an outrageous insinuation and get away with it. While Britain got in a flap over Jeremy Clarkson’s silly joke on The One Show, Flynn’s wicked whispers barely raised an eyebrow outside of the Jewish community and its friends.
A final thought: Flynn said that the fact Mr Gould “proclaimed himself to be a Zionist” raises doubt over his suitability to be an Ambassador to Israel. Definitions of the word ‘Zionist’ do vary, but at heart it surely means someone who believes in a Jewish homeland within the land of Israel. Wouldn’t belief in the right to existence of the country you are posted to be a basic requirement for an ambassador?