Former British Foreign Minister Jack Straw has denied making "anti-Semitic" comments at an event last week at the House of Commons in London. Former Member of Knesset Einat Wilf accused Straw of saying in a Middle East seminar that “unlimited” funds are available to Jewish organizations - such AIPAC in the United States - that "control" American policy, and that Germany has an “obsession” with defending Israel were the problem.
Wilf's accusations were widely reported in the Israeli media, where Straw was accused of unleashing an "anti-Semitic rant." After being unavailable for the last two days for comment, Straw finally responded with a statement on Monday afternoon denying he is "remotely anti-Semitic," and claiming to "have all my life strongly supported the [State] of Israel, and its right to live in peace and security."
In his statement, Straw wrote that he had voiced concerns at the seminar over Israel's "settlement-building… on Palestinian land (in East Jerusalem, and the Occupied Territories). This is illegal, as the British Foreign Secretary William Hague has observed and in those terms. I said that this amounted to “theft” of Palestinians’ land." In addition, he said that he advocated at the seminar "a tougher stand on this (and on the related issue of goods exported from the Occupied Territories by Israelis) by the European Union." He said that he had pointed out in the past that one of the obstacles to a EU policy on this had been "the attitude of Germany, who for understandable reasons have been reluctant to be out of line with the Government of Israel."
While some of the reports had mentioned that Straw spoke of "Jewish money," he said that he had spoken at the seminar of the "Israeli lobby" and "the problems which faced President Obama from AIPAC" and spoke of the way AIPAC spends large sums of money supporting pro-Israeli candidates in American elections.
Straw emphasized in his statement that "none of this is 'anti-Semitic.' There are plenty of people in Israel who take a similar view to me – not least (as I do) because they believe that the current approach of the Government of Israel will weaken the position of the state of Israel in the medium and long-term."
Israel's ambassador to Britain, Daniel Taub, also commented Monday on Straw's remarks saying that they "fall in a very troubling tradition of attributing support for Israel to a sinister exercise of Jewish power. Particularly striking is the refusal to consider that support for Israel may arise, not as a result of pressure from some mysterious cabal, but simply from the recognition that, within the current turmoil in the Middle East, Israel remains an island of stability, irrevocably committed to democracy, free speech and the rule of law. "
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