Thursday, February 21, 2008

How Labour used the law to keep criticism of Israel secret

This article appeared in the Guardian on Thursday February 21 2008 on p1 of the Top stories section. It was last updated at 01:35 on February 21 2008.

English and Israeli flags

Crowds attending an Israel solidarity rally in Trafalgar Square in 2002. Photograph: Graham Turner/Guardian

The full extent of government anxiety about the state of British-Israel relations can be exposed for the first time today in a secret document seen by the Guardian.

The document reveals how the Foreign Office successfully fought to keep secret any mention of Israel contained on the first draft of the controversial, now discredited Iraq weapons dossier. At the heart of it was nervousness at the top of government about any mention of Israel's nuclear arsenal in an official paper accusing Iraq of flouting the UN's authority on weapons of mass destruction.

The dossier was made public this week, but the Foreign Office succeeded before a tribunal in having the handwritten mention of Israel kept secret.

The FO never argued that the information would damage national security. The Guardian has seen the full text and a witness statement from a senior Foreign Office official, who argued behind closed doors that any public mention of the candid reference would seriously damage UK/Israeli relations. In the statement, he reveals that in the past five years there have been 10 substantial incidents and 20 more minor ones relating to Israeli concerns about attitudes to their government within Whitehall.

Continued . . .

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