In between working for the weapons industry, Britain’s top pro-Israel advocate Stuart Polak is known to give charities a helping hand. Rivals can even benefit from his benevolent deeds, judging by one barely noticed addition to his entourage.
Although Polak has supported the Conservative Party for decades, he recently came to the “rescue” of a Labour Party politician who had been abandoned by voters.
Natascha Engel, the politician in question, lost her parliamentary seat in last year’s general election. Since then, she has been appointed to the advisory board of Polak’s consultancy firm TWC Associates.
The firm’s clients include Israel’s Elbit Systems, a manufacturer of drones and white phosphorus and other munitions which Israel has used while attacking Gaza.
Elbit stated last year that it wished to regard Britain as an “actual home market,” because its activities have grown significantly in that country.
Elbit now owns at least five subsidiaries in Britain. And it would appear that Stuart Polak has used his influence to enable Elbit gain to a stronger foothold in the British market.
Dick Applegate, an Elbit strategist, has told undercover journalists that Polak could arrange access to useful contacts “from the prime minister down.”
Engel did not reply to a query asking if she was concerned that Elbit’s weapons are used to kill Palestinians.
Her willingness to embrace – at least implicitly – Israel’s arms industry is something of a U-turn. In December 2008, Engel was among a group of Labour politicians to sign a letter describing Operation Cast Lead, a major Israeli offensive against Gaza, as “an outrage.”
Despite signing that letter, Engel’s track record indicates that she was generally uncritical of Britain’s pernicious policies on the Middle East.
She sought to shield Tony Blair from accountability by opposing calls for investigations into the invasion of Iraq while he was still prime minister.
In 2011, she backed the West’s military assault on Libya.
In her view, the US and its allies were starting a war “for the right reasons,” albeit without being “clear enough” about the likely consequences.
We know now that the result of the assault was massive destruction in Libya – with many side-effects for the wider region. Engel’s caveat does not mitigate her responsibility for supporting a calamitous decision.
The activities of TWC Associates cannot be detached from Polak’s lengthy career as a pro-Israel lobbyist. He spent 25 years heading Conservative Friends of Israel.
He has been rewarded for his services to the Israel lobby with a seat in the House of Lords, the British parliament’s unelected upper chamber.
A number of Polak’s colleagues in TWC Associates have either worked for the pro-Israel lobby or developed strong business connections with Israel.
Scott Hamilton, a key member of the TWC management, was previously a consultant to European Friends of Israel, a Brussels-based pressure group that Polak founded.
Justine Zwerling, who also sits on the TWC advisory board, has worked in Israel for both the British government and the London Stock Exchange. She is involved in a project called Vibe Israel, which seeks to promote Israel as stylish and innovative, thereby distracting from its crimes against the Palestinians.
Engel is evidently enterprising. She set up her own firm – Palace Yard Communications – in July last year, just a few weeks after losing her parliamentary seat.
If she plays her cards rights, Engel could command a far higher salary than she did as an elected representative. By teaming up with Stuart Polak and Israel’s arms industry, she could gain a slice of the profits made through killing Palestinian children.
•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 22 February 2018.