Claims of 'Jewish Conspiracy' in U.K. Campaign Finance Scandal Has Local Community Worried

BERLIN - What began as another scandal concerning illegal campaign contributions to the British Labour Party has become in recent days a tangled matter that is arousing conspiracy theories regarding a "Jewish plot" in the United Kingdom, and the role of the pro-Israel lobby there. David Abrahams, a Jewish millionaire who has admitted he made secret donations to the ruling British party, said in an interview that appeared in The Jewish Chronicle this past Friday that he concealed his activity because, "I didn't want Jewish money and the Labour Party being put together."

The contributions were illegal under British law, which requires campaign contributors to declare the amounts of their donations.

Abrahams, who claimed after the interview that his words had been taken out of context, added that the conduct of the British press has proved he was right to worry it would depict him as part of a "Jewish conspiracy."

The scandal broke two weeks ago, when The Mail on Sunday revealed that Abrahams had used three junior employees as conduits for secret donations to the Labour Party, totaling 600,000 pounds sterling (approximately $1.2 million). Next day, the party's general secretary, Peter Watt, said he had known about the illegal contributions - and resigned.

The result was another blow to the standing of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and suspicions that others party officials beside Watt knew about the contributions.

Among those mentioned - including by Abrahams himself - was Jon Mendelsohn, Brown's chief fundraiser, who is also Jewish.

Some media outlets quickly focused on Abrahams' close ties to Israel, and the fact that he was the deputy chair of Labor Friends of Israel until 2002. According to press reports, it was Mendelsohn who forced him out of LFI, because his political views contradicted the organization's.

LFI organizes visits to Israel for British politicians, arranges meetings for Israeli politicians with their British colleagues, and generally advocates on Israel's behalf among Labour members.

A weeks ago, The Telegraph ran a front-page photograph of Abrahams shaking hands with Israel's former ambassador to Britain, Zvi Heifetz, and insinuated that Israel was the source of the illegal campaign contributions.

Press reports have also recalled the previous police inquiry into illegal campaign donations, against Lord Levy, a prominent leader of Britain's Jewish community, which ended without an indictment.

Several in the media have maintained a connection between the money collected or donated by Zionist Jews and the pro-Israel policy of former British prime minister Tony Blair, who was a member of LFI, as is Brown today.

The scandal has sparked widespread concern in Britain's Jewish community. "Clearly there is a potential for it to turn against us," Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told The Forward. "We have been there before." The Board of Deputies is an umbrella group for British Jewish organizations.