Page last updated at 01:19 GMT, Monday, 22 February 2010

UK officer says views of Israeli forces 'anti-Semitic'

By John McManus
BBC News

London protest against Israel's 2008 Gaza incursion
The UK and Israel have rarely had an easy relationship

A former senior British army officer has said international media including the BBC are being exploited by "dark forces" who want to harm Israel.

Col Richard Kemp, who was a commander in Afghanistan, said some international criticism of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) was motivated by anti-Semitism.

He was speaking at a dinner in London hosted by a pro-Israel lobby group.

Col Kemp had defended the actions of the IDF at the UN Goldstone Hearings into the Gaza incursion of 2008.

The Israeli minister for Information and the Diaspora, Yuli Edelstein, was also present at the dinner hosted by the Zionist Federation.

He refused to comment on rumours that the Israeli secret service Mossad had fraudulently used the passports of British citizens during an operation to kill the Hamas boss Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

Col Kemp, who is now retired from the Army and makes a living from writing, said the advice he received from the Israeli armed forces on how to tackle Afghan suicide bombers had been invaluable, and formed the basis of official army guidelines used by soldiers on the ground there.

There were some "bad" soldiers in the IDF, Col Kemp acknowledged.

But he added that despite similarities between the IDF and British forces, UK soldiers did not have to deal with the same amount of criticism from the international community.

"When we go into battle we do not get the same knee-jerk, almost Pavlovian response from many, many elements of the international media and international groups, humanitarian groups and other international groups such as the United Nations which should know better... of utter automatic condemnation. We don't have to put up with that."

'New' anti-semitism

The event, which was attended by over 400 British Jews, heard Mr Edelstein criticise the Goldstone report, which is widely regarded as biased within Israel, and warn against the rise of what he called a "new" anti-semitism.

He said that although it was important to investigate any allegations of wrongdoing by Israeli forces, the Goldstone report had influenced the enemies of his country to continue their campaign of hatred.

"Yes, we have to investigate, yes we have to check ourselves. Yes, I am ashamed of the soldier who stole some credit cards from a deserted house in the Gaza Strip. But between this and war crimes?"

Colonel Richard Kemp CBE
Colonel Kemp criticised some media coverage of Israeli Forces

A small protest by UK Jews who oppose Israeli actions in Gaza took place outside the hotel where the dinner was held.

The Zionist Federation held the dinner to celebrate 110 years of its existence.

Early members helped to lobby the UK government for the creation of a Jewish homeland.

In recent years it has campaigned on behalf of Israel, often criticising what it calls international bias against Israeli actions in Gaza and the West Bank.

None of the speakers referred to the investigation in Dubai into the murder of Mr al-Mabhouh, or the allegation that Mossad had misused British passports.

But referring to some table ornaments that resembled the revolving sign at Scotland Yard police headquarters, Mr Edelstein did joke to his audience that he wondered if the Metropolitan Police were trying to tell him something.

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