Friends of Israel Initiative: The neoconservatives’ eastern front

July 20, 2010 § 4 Comments

by Tom Mills

Today in the House of Commons Britain’s leading neoconservative organisation the Henry Jackson Society hosts the UK launch of the Friends of Israel Initiative.  This new organisation is the latest of a number of well connected advocacy groups in the UK seeking to deflect criticism of Israel’s illegal occupation and repeated human rights abuses.

The Friends of Israel Initiative says it ‘aims to create a network linking private and public figures who agree with the idea of an Israel fully anchored in the West’.  This network will not have to be built from scratch; rather Friends of Israel will be able to integrate itself into extremist networks already well established in UK politics.

The Friends of Israel Initiative is an international operation and was first launched in Paris on 31 May – the same day that Israeli soldiers boarded the Mavi Marmara in international waters and killed nine activists.  The organisation was reportedly established by Dore Gold, an American born Israeli who heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and was formerly an adviser to Ariel Sharon and the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.[1]

Gold also has links with UK politicians.  In January 2007 he led an Israeli delegation at a conference at the House of Commons debating possible measures against Iran.[2]  The conference resulted in an Early Day Motion signed by 68 MPs urging ‘the British Government to put forward a resolution at the United Nations Security Council demanding President Ahmadinejad be brought to trial on the charge of incitement to commit genocide’.[3]  The Motion was introduced by the neoconservative MP Michael Gove, a signatory to the Henry Jackson Society’s Statement of Principles and now a Cabinet Minister.

Dore Gold also spoke at the House of Commons more recently in October last year, again focusing on Iran and its supposed threat to the western world.[4]  He was invited to speak by Patrick Mercer MP who as the Conservative’s Shadow Security Minister developed connections with a number of dubious figures involved in fabricating terror threats and spreading alarmist propaganda on Iran.[5]

The leading light in Dore Gold’s Friends of Israel Initiative is the former Prime Minister of Spain José María Aznar.  Whilst in office Aznar committed Spain to the invasion of Iraq in defiance of Spanish public opinion.  He has since been appointed President of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, the 175 subsidiaries of which without exception supported the Iraq War.[6]

Other leading figures in Friends of Israel include the former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton – another key architect of the Iraq War – and the Ulster Unionist politician turned Tory David Trimble.  Trimble chaired Dore Gold’s House of Commons conference in January 2007 and has recently been appointed an ‘international observer’ to Israel’s inquiry into the Gaza Aid Flotilla killings.

The group’s source of funding is not disclosed but it is almost certainly bankrolled by its billionaire founder member Robert Agostinelli.  An Italian-American, Agostinelli made his fortune working in Mergers and Acquisitions in London in the 1980s and is currently Managing Director of private equity firm the Rhone Group.  Agostinelli provided funds for the Presidential campaigns of John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, has praised Silvio Berlusconi and Nicolas Sarkozy, and once described the left-wing as ‘a cancer that needs to be eradicated’.[7]  He has called Barak Obama a ‘soulless serpent from the deep’ and considers him to be an agent of Marxists who have ‘finally stuck the raw edge of their poisoned sword into the heart of the glorious genie of capitalism and freedom.’[8]

Like its likely paymaster, Friends of Israel is quite open about its extremist agenda.  Last month The Times – a News Corporation subsidiary – published an article by José María Aznar outlining his reasons for promoting the organisation.  In the article Israel is portrayed not as a violent rogue state but as an outpost of Western civilisation and an indispensable strategic asset:

Israel is our first line of defence in a turbulent region that is constantly at risk of descending into chaos; a region vital to our energy security owing to our overdependence on Middle Eastern oil; a region that forms the front line in the fight against extremism. If Israel goes down, we all go down.[9]

In common with many right-wing and neoconservative commentators Aznar chastises ‘The West’ for its supposed failure to assert itself over those who he claims ‘oppose Western values’:

The West is going through a period of confusion over the shape of the world’s future. To a great extent, this confusion is caused by a kind of masochistic self-doubt over our own identity; by the rule of political correctness; by a multiculturalism that forces us to our knees before others; and by a secularism which, irony of ironies, blinds us even when we are confronted by jihadis promoting the most fanatical incarnation of their faith.[10]

This notion of a Western civilisation weakened by liberal guilt is commonly held on the right and is propagated by Britain’s Islamophobic think-tanks.  It is a perception apparently impervious to the reality of growing Islamophobia on Europe’s streets and a proliferation of anti-Muslim legislation.  For Aznar and those like him, this repression is part of protecting Europe’s ‘Judeo-Christian roots’ and Israel is seen as being on the frontline in this imagined war.  Friends of Israel’s founding statement declares that an ‘assault on Israel is itself an assault on Judeo-Christian values.’  The founding statement also provides some clues on the exact nature of this unholy ‘assault’ and the ‘Judeo-Christian values’ so under threat.  It describes with concern how ‘principles of human rights and universal jurisdiction’ are now being ‘turned into weapons against Israeli democracy’.

Tom Mills is a freelance investigative researcher and a doctoral candidate at the University of Strathclyde. He also writes for PULSE.

– Notes –
[1] ‘Lord Trimble’s ‘Israel-friendly’ reputation’, Jewish Chronicle. 17 June 2010

[2] Dore Gold, Biography, http://www.dore-gold.com/biography.php [Accessed 14 July 2010]

[3] Early Day Motion. EDM 900. IRAN AND ISRAEL. 19.02.2007.

[4] Henry Jackson Society, The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran defies the West By Ambassador Dore Gold, 12 October 2009, [Accessed 14 July 2010]

[5] see Tom Mills and David Miller, ‘The British amateur terror trackers: A case study in dubious politics’, Spinwatch, 26 August 2009 and Tom Mills and David Miller, ‘Réalité EU: Front group for the Washington based Israel Project?’, Spinwatch, 30 October 2009

[6] Roy Greenslade, ‘Their master’s voice’, Guardian, 17 February 2003. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2003/feb/17/mondaymediasection.iraq

[7] Tony Barrett, ‘Rhône Group should not expect a warm welcome at Anfield’, Times Online, 16 March 2010. Available at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/premier_league/liverpool/article7065086.ece

[8] Robert F. Agostinelli, ‘Letter: Behold the naked hand of socialism’, The Washington Times, 30 March 2010; p.2.

[9] José María Aznar, ‘Support Israel: if it goes down, we all go down’, The Times, 17 June 2010; p.31

[10] José María Aznar, ‘Support Israel: if it goes down, we all go down’, The Times, 17 June 2010; p.31

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