Alexander's visit to Israel took place at the height of a scandal involving illegal donations to Britain's Labor Party. The affair rocked the party and prompted theories about a Jewish and Israeli conspiracy in the kingdom.
It all started two weeks ago when the Mail on Sunday revealed that Jewish millionaire David Abrahams had secretly donated 600,000 pounds, or $1.4 million, to the ruling party through front-men. Abrahams, who admitted to the donation, said that the Laborites who knew of his donations included Jon Mendelsohn, Brown's chief money-raiser and a Jew as well. Speaking with the Jewish Chronicle two weeks ago, Abrahams said he had acted covertly because he didn't want to link "Jewish money" to the Labor Party. Later he claimed that his words had been taken out of context but did say that the conduct of the British press proved that he was right to fear that his donation would be considered part of a "Jewish conspiracy."
Most of Abrahams' wealth comes from real estate business. He is considered a major benefactor to both education in Israel and to Jewish education in Britain. He also has close ties with some Israeli politicians. The British media didn't miss any of that, nor the fact that until 2002 he had been deputy leader of the "Friends of Israel in Labor" organization, which aims to bring elements in the party closer to Israel.
In a piece headlined "Hunt for 'mystery benefactor' in Gordon Brown's donations scandal," the Daily Telegraph published a picture of Abrahams shaking hands with former Israeli ambassador Zvi Hefeitz. The hint was loud and clear: The illegal donations originated in Israel. Some voices in the British media linked the donations to Tony Blair's pro-Israel policy.
As this and other scandals lowered Labor's approval ratings to 13 percent below the conservative opposition, Jewish elements expressed grave concern about repercussions affecting the Jewish community. A senior political source in Israel told Haaretz that he feared bilateral relations could suffer, too. "It will certainly make it harder to raise funds, attract investors, and organize meetings and visits," he said.
Douglas Alexander's name also arose in the context, through his sister, Wendy Alexander, a Labor leader in the Scottish parliament, who is also suspected of receiving an illegal donation. Asked about the ramifications of the scandal, Douglas Alexander says the government must remain constantly alert to the possibility of anti-Semitic outbursts. But he has faith in interfaith dialog and in the close inter-community relations being forged in Britain. He chooses to praise the "efficient and impressive" advocate of the Jewish community, none other than chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks, whose last book -- a controversial tome about multiculturalism in society -- Alexander is currently reading. He also has warm words for other members of the Jewish community who, he says, are making a terrific contribution to modern life in Britain. Moreover, he is confident that the bilateral relations between Israel and Britain will not suffer in the aftermath; they are as strong as ever, he says.
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