So asks the former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan and long-time Foreign Office diplomat, Craig Murray, in an article in the Mail on Sunday today.
The former Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, had been combatively responding to the mounting allegations against him and his close friend, Adam Werritty, for the past few weeks. The very serious allegations involved the central claim that Fox and Werritty were running a parallel defence and foreign policy independent of the government and designed to promote the interests of Israel, the United States and Sri Lanka. In the end, it was only on Friday when The Times revealed the names of some of the wealthy backers of Werritty that Fox finally resigned.
One of the main financial backers of Adam Werritty was revealed to be a chap called Chaim ‘Poju’ Zabludowicz. Who is he? I would wager a bet that 99% of the British public would have no idea who this bloke is. Zabludowicz – who lives in Hampstead, London – happens to be a hugely wealthy individual who is also the main funder of BICOM, the Britain Israel Communication and Research Centre, a leading pro-Israel lobby group. It is an odd fact that many of the individuals who covertly fund government lobbyists do not wish their activities to be in the spotlight. As Peter Oborne found during the making of his superb C4 Dispatches documentary. ‘Britain’s Israel Lobby’ two years ago:
BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is Britain’s major pro-Israel lobby. Founded in 2001 as an equivalent to America’s hugely influential AIPAC, it is bankrolled by its Chairman Poju Zabludowicz, a Finnish billionaire and former arms dealer. Over the past three years Zabludowicz has given over two million pounds in donations. This year, they sent thirty representatives to the AIPAC conference in America, a sign of BICOM’s growing ambition.
Incredibly, almost no one we interviewed for the film had even heard of Zabludowicz, a key player at the heart of the pro-Israel lobby in Britain. Our questions continually met with blank expressions from senior politicians and people in the Jewish community. Zabludowicz fiercely guards his privacy and does so with great success despite his wife being a renowned art collector, and counting Madonna and other A-list celebrities
among close personal friends.
Zabludowicz’s father, Shlomo Zabludowicz, made his money through Israeli arms manufacturers Soltam Systems, a company, which continues to thrive and recently provided the IDF with artillery for its Gaza campaign. Poju Zabludowicz also ran
Soltam, but has since moved his money from arms into property. He is now estimated to own around forty percent of downtown Las Vegas.
Far more significantly, we have discovered that he owns property in the illegal settlements in the West Bank. He has a stake in a shopping centre in Ma’ale Adumim, a settlement which is seen as strategically crucial in ensuring Jerusalem remains in Israeli hands. So much so that Netanyahu launched his election campaign in the settlement in 2005. “Starting my campaign here is not coincidental [it is] because Jerusalem is in
Zabludowicz believes Israel suffers unfairly from an image problem with Palestinian propaganda swallowed too readily by European liberals. He hoped to create one lobby that oversaw media and politics in the style of AIPAC, but met with resistance from the parliamentary Friends of Israel groups, guarding their patch. He does, however, play a role at Conservative Friends of Israel as a significant donor. He has also established a relationship with David Cameron, the man almost certain to be Britain’s next prime minister.
In September 2005 when Cameron was planning his Conservative leadership election campaign he met Zabludowicz for a coffee. Zabludowicz was suitably impressed with what he heard, and Cameron received £15,000 from Zabludowicz over the course of his election campaign. To ensure that the donations complied with election law, he made the donations through his British subsidiary Tamares Real Estate Investments.
Despite the CFI and BICOM not formally merging there is a huge amount of co-ordination. Many of BICOM’s key figures also play roles in the CFI: Trevor Pears, Michael Lewis and Poju Zabludowicz are driving forces behind both lobbies. David Cameron also accepted £20,000 from Trevor Pears in his leadership election.
Do read Oborne’s pamphlet in full and do watch his C4 documentary – it really is fantastic eye-opening material and provides an essential insight into how money from wealthy donors oils our government.