Last night, Britain’s equivalent of Frontline—a Channel 4 news show called Dispatches—aired an investigation into Britain’s Israel lobby, which host Peter Oborne argued is as powerful in Westminster as the American equivalent is in Washington, but much less well known. The bulk of the program appears to have focused on one group in particular, the partisan Conservative Friends of Israel, which is described as “beyond doubt the most well-connected and probably the best-funded of all Westminster lobbying groups,” and which presumably matters more than its opposite in the Labour Friends of Israel because everyone thinks the Conservatives are going to win next year’s general election. (But it’s worth noting that Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown is, nonetheless, having this year’s official Hanukkah party at Downing Street, an upgrade from the Foreign Office, because he wants to make nice with the Jews after all the fuss over the Goldstone Report.)
Oborne, writing a companion piece in the Guardian, was careful to say that he wasn’t alleging any kind of conspiracy, nor even anything resembling a conspiracy. But London’s Jewish Chronicle reports that Jewish groups are nonetheless arguing that charges in the program about the lobbying groups’ influence veers too close to the controversial assessment put forward a couple of years ago by academics Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, who argued that Congress has been duped into promoting Israeli policy goals at America’s expense. The head of the Conservative Friends of Israel called the show’s specific allegations about donations and influence “fictitious,” while the Community Security Trust, which is a little bit like the Anti-Defamation League, accused Oborne of “shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted,” arguing on its blog that the show would inevitably stoke anti-Semitism.
Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby [Channel 4]