Anger over Dalyell's 'Jewish cabal' slur

TAM Dalyell, the Father of the House, may be referred to the Commission for Racial Equality after claiming a "Jewish cabal" operating in both the United States and Britain is driving the governments of both countries into a war against Syria.

Eric Moonman, the president of the Zionist Federation in London, has said he believes Mr Dalyell’s remarks constitute a formal offence - and that he is considering a formal complaint to the commission.

Mr Dalyell said that he now expects to be victimised because he raised "a whisper of criticism" about the influence which Jewish advisers hold on Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and George Bush, the president of the US.

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The outrage was prompted by Mr Dalyell’s comments in Vanity Fair magazine, where he said the ideas of hardline Jewish White House advisers are being embraced by men of equivalent stature in London.

He has named Peter Mandelson, Jack Straw and Lord Levy as the trio which influences Mr Blair in his foreign policy - and are ensuring that Britain follows a "Zionist agenda" in the Middle East.

When asked to explain his comments, Mr Dalyell told The Scotsman yesterday he was not anti-Semitic but felt the need to lay out his fears that Zionist ministers may make Syria the "next stop" after Iraq.

"A Jewish cabal have taken over the government in the United States and formed an unholy alliance with fundamentalist Christians," he said.

The members of this cabal, he said, are Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary, Elliott Abrams, a member of the national security council, Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, and John Bolton, the undersecretary of state.

"I was asked [by Vanity Fair] what effect this has had on Britain and I said it has fallen on fertile ground here. I mentioned Mandelson, Straw and Levy as being fertile ground. They have all encouraged Blair to go through with this terrible war."

Of the three, only Lord Levy, who has acted as Mr Blair’s personal envoy to the Middle East, is a practising Jew. Mr Mandelson’s father is Jewish and Mr Straw’s great-grandfather was a German Jewish migr.

Mr Mandelson said yesterday that he was baffled by the argument. "Apart from the fact that I am not actually Jewish, I wear my father’s parentage with pride," he said. "As for Tam, he is as incorrigible as ever."

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Mr Dalyell said he is aware about the opposition his remarks caused. "One is treading on cut glass on this issue and no one wants to be accused of anti-Semitism, but if it is a question of launching an assault on Syria, then one has to be candid."

David Garfinkel, the editor-in-chief of the London Jewish News, said Mr Dalyell’s remarks introduced an anti-Semetic dimension into the debate - and would send shock waves through the community.

"Coming a few days after the British National Party won seats in the north of England, this is the kind of menacing ‘candour’ which the country certainly does not need" he said. "These kind of insinuations may have been seen as socially acceptable when Mr Dalyell was first elected in the 1960s, but it has no place in the 21st century. He has proven today why he is long overdue for retirement."

Downing Street would only say that Mr Dalyell’s theory is "ludicrous" and did not comment further.

Mr Dalyell, the Father of the House as the longest-serving MP, has recently accused Mr Blair of being a war criminal on account of his actions in Iraq.

Although he has been a consistent opponent of the British government’s policy in the Middle East, he has not before suggested that it is being driven by Jewish influence. Aged 69, he is expected to retire at the next general election. He recently defended George Galloway, the Glasgow Kelvin MP, who has denied accusations that he has been in the paid service of Saddam Hussein.

Mr Dalyell and Mr Galloway vehemently opposed the Iraq war and now are turning their attention to Syria - which is, like the old Baghdad government, run by the Baathist party of Arab nationalists.

Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, returned from a tour of the Middle East yesterday to say that Washington will be keeping a close eye on Bashar Assad, Syria’s president.

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"It is not what he says or what he said to me or what he professes. It is what he actually does. It’s a performance we’ll be looking at in the coming days and weeks and months," Mr Powell said.

The theme of a Jewish cabal in the White House has been a source of controversy in the US since the outbreak of the war.

Mr Bush was last week accused of "conscripting American blood to make the world safe for Israel".

A recent survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee shows that 59 per cent of Jews approved of the war with Iraq while 36 percent disapprove - a division which mirrored that of the US overall.

Mr Wolfowitz and Mr Abrams are usually named with Douglas Feith and David Wurmser as members of the "cabal."

All men are prominent figures of the US neo-conservative movement.