Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Cameron breaks clean politics pledge with honor for Israel lobbyist

Before he became the UK's prime minister, David Cameron vowed to "come clean about who is buying power and influence" in Westminster.

Cameron broke that promise when he recently appointed Stuart Polak, a veteran lobbyist for Israel and the arms industry, to the House of Lords.

For the past 26 years, Polak has been a director with Conservative Friends of Israel, a pressure group inside the current ruling party. He has combined that post with running a consultancy that puts corporations in touch with law-makers.

Rules applying to the House of Lords state that its members will "declare all relevant interests in order to make clear what are the interests that might reasonably be thought to influence their parliamentary actions." The rules add that "information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for doing so."

Polak is not living up to these requirements.

His entry in the Lords' register states that he is a director of TWC Associates yet does not list that consultancy's clients.

The website of TWC Associates (formerly The Westminster Connection) says that references for its clients are available on request. Last week I contacted the firm asking for such references. I did not receive a reply.

That lack of transparency wouldn't be serious if Polak was planning to spend his time in the Lords concentrating on a topic such as wetlands conservation. Yet Polak has stated that he will use his new platform "to continue to advocate for Israel."

The website of TWC Associates says that it represents clients in the defense sector -- a euphemism for the weapons industry. Elbit, a provider of drones to the Israeli military, has been among its clients, according to The Sunday Times.

Most, if not all, of the West's large arms manufacturers have business connections to Israel. So there is no excuse for Polak to hide the identities of his clients. Each time he defends Israel, it should be emphasized that he has a vested interest in supporting that state.


Polak has been gloating about the effectiveness of his pro-Israel work. Earlier this month, he celebrated how CFI had moved from being "a reasonably active organization to one somewhat feared" in Westminster.

His role in TWC Associates is not the sole example of an overlap between his business and political pursuits. He is also named as a director of Cedars Oak, a firm providing the administration of a cross-party alliance for Israel in the Houses of Parliament.

That group's chairperson -- Louise Ellman from the Labour Party -- has been televised telling lies in the service of Israeli propaganda. In 2011, she claimed -- in the present tense -- that Hamas was using children for suicide bombings. The BBC upheld a complaint against that broadcast -- on its current affairs program Newsnight -- on the grounds that nobody under 18 had undertaken a suicide bombing for Hamas since 2003.

Ellman has also described Israel's use of extrajudicial executions as "legitimate" despite how they violate due process.

Polak's pro-Israel activities are not confined to London. He founded European Friends of Israel, a group headquartered in Brussels that has played an important role in integrating Israel into the EU's single market for goods and services.

A seat in the Lords (a "peerage" in Westminster parlance) is the second honor that the British establishment has bestowed on Polak in as many years. In early 2014, he was given the title commandant of the British Empire by the queen of England.

CFI's cheerleading for Israel's attacks on Gaza later that year did not damage its reputation among the elite. Attending a recent CFI event, Philip Hammond, the British foreign secretary, said he was "proud" to have supported the 2014 offensive.

Israel killed more than 551 children during that attack.

People of conscience everywhere were horrified by Israel's crimes. The UK government was proud to support the criminals.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 26 October 2015.

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