Israel and The British Left: The Great Betrayal Revisited

An article from earlier this year continues to provoke discussion, but it should not poison other de

It is difficult to know what to do about people visiting this site who hide behind their anonymity to make obsessive and personal comments. We do not have a policy on these so-called "trolls". Perhaps we should. Much of this comment would never have seen the light of day in the pre-internet age because there is only a certain amount of space on the letters page. Magazines and newspapers do their readers the courtesy of making a selection of the best letters to save them from the green-ink merchants.

I have long believed that we insult our readers by allowing a free-for-all on the web. But it is extremely time-consuming to constantly moderate the trolls.

However, the New Statesman Investigates section is too important for this. I have decided it does decent readers of the website no favours for us to get involved in discussions about articles published several weeks ago.

I have therefore taken the unusual step of removing comments by "redharry" about The Great Betrayal article I wrote from Israel, which was published on 15 May 2008. The 168 comments the original article received discussed the issue in great detail. The article is still available for anyone to read.

There is no real obligation to engage with people who refuse to write under their real identity, but I do not want to stifle debate.

So here, once more, is "redharry" on his favourite subject:

Bright's trip to Israel was bankrolled by BICOM founder and backer Poju Zabludowicz.

'Poju Zabludowicz, whom the Sunday Times reveals has donated £70,000 to the Conservative party over the past three years, is also one of the financial supporters of the Conservative Friends of Israel, which has also given money to the party. He is chairman of the Britain-Israel Communications and Research group, BICOM, which works directly with the Israeli embassy.'

[See New Statesman article Kosher Conspiracy.]

Today, the family fortune is managed by Shlomo's son Poju, who has kept a finger in the arms pie through the munitions manufacturer Pocal.

Poju Zabludowicz got his money from the family firm Soltam

Soltam is an Israeli company which operates both on the military market and the civilian market. Its military expertise is artillery systems, cannons and ammunition. It is a subsidiary of the Israeli defense firm Elbit.

Military products:

* Tank guns

o Merkava smoothbore 120 mm main gun

* Artillery - towed gun and self-propelled gunshowitzers

o M-68 towed 155 mm howitzer.

o M-71 towed 155 mm howitzer.

o Rascal self-propelled 155 mm howitzer

o Slammer (Sholef) - Merkava-based self-propelled 155 mm howitzer.

* Mortars

o Merkava 60 mm internal mortar.

o Cardom 120 mm self-propelled mortar.

o Dragon EFSS (Cardom, version for the USMC).

o M-65 120 mm mortar.

o M-66 160 mm mortar.

* Ammunition

o Mortar shells (60 mm, 81 mm, 120 mm, 160 mm)

o Artillery shells (155 mm , 175 mm)

Civilian products:

* Cooking pots

I suppose Bright will claim that his trip was paid for with the proceeds of the sale of cooking pots.

Please feel free to carry on the discussion here, but please keep to the point when discussing the New Statesman investigations.

Felipe Araujo
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Hull revisited: What happens when a Brexit stronghold becomes City of Culture?

We report from Hull, to find out if you can replace the kind of nostalgia that led to a Leave vote with cultural investment.

At 75 metres long, the offshore wind turbine blade erected across Queen Victoria Square, in the heart of Hull, is a sculpture intended to mark a new chapter in the city’s history. For the next 12 months, Hull, a city of more than a quarter of a million people in the northeast of England, will be the UK’s City of Culture.

The 28-tonne blade hails from the local Siemens plant. The German technology company employs around 1,000 people in the area, making it Hull’s biggest single employer.

Seen up close in this context – laid dormant in the middle of a town square instead of spinning up in the air generating energy – the structure is meant to remind passersby of a giant sea creature. It is also, I’m told, an allusion to Hull’s rich maritime history.

All photos: Felipe Araujo

Nostalgia is a big thing in this part of the country. At one point, Hull was the UK’s third largest port but technology and privatisation drastically changed that. The battle over cod fishing with Iceland in the waters of the North Sea 40 years ago has also dealt a major blow to a region with a long and proud trawling tradition.

People here still talk about a bygone era when the fishing industry provided jobs for everyone and there was enough money to go around.

Fast forward to 2017, and the country’s new capital of culture is the same city that voted 67 per cent in favour of leaving the EU last June. Its new-found prestige, it seems, is not enough to erase years of neglect by a political class “too busy for commoners like us”, as one resident puts it.

“More than a message to Brussels, it [the Brexit vote] was a message to Westminster,” Paul Leeson-Taylor, a filmmaker born and bred in Hull, tells me. “For the first time in a long time people in Hull felt like they had the chance to change something, and they took it.”

But while speaking to people on the high street and hanging out with locals at the Community Boxing Club in Orchard Park, one of the city’s most deprived areas, there is one word that consistently popped up in conversation – more than any specific policy from Westminster or the much-hated rules “dictated” by Brussels. Foreigners.

According to official figures, Hull’s population is 89.1 per cent white British. Still, immigration is big on people’s minds here.

During my two-day stay in the city, I find myself being the only black person in most places I visit – I’m certainly the only black guy at the boxing club. So when someone begins a sentence with “I’m not racist but…”, I know a tirade on immigrants is about to ensue.

“There are just too many of them,” Nick Beach, an estate agent whose Polish clientele is a big part of his business, tells me as he is about to teach a boxing class to local children. Beach was born in Shepherd’s Bush, in West London, but has been living in Hull for the last 20 years.

“When I go down there these days and go into Westfield shopping centre, it is very rare you get an English person serving you now,” he says. “I just find it disappointing that you go into your capital city and you are a minority there.”

These are the much-discussed “left behind”, a white working-class community that has gained particular prominence in a time of Brexit and Donald Trump. Under economic pressure and facing social change, they want to have their say in running a country they claim to no longer recognise.

For Professor Simon Lee, a senior politics lecturer at the University of Hull, immigration is only a superficial layer when it comes to explaining the resentment I witness here. For him, the loss of the empire 70 years ago is still something that as a country Britain hasn’t come to terms with.

“The reason for us to be together as a United Kingdom has gone, so what is the project?”

As destiny would have it, a foreign company will now play a major role on Hull’s economic future, at least in the short term. In the wake of the Brexit vote, there were widespread fears Siemens would pull out of the region and take its factory elsewhere. With the massive blade looming large in the background, Jason Speedy, director of the blade factory in Hull, assures me that isn’t the case.

“The Brexit decision has made no difference. We have made our investment decision, so Siemens, together with the Association of British Ports, has put in £310m. It’s all full steam ahead.”

As Hull becomes the country’s cultural hub for the next few months, the hope is that its residents stop looking back and start looking forward.

For Professor Lee, though, until there is a complete change in the power structures that run the country, the north-south divide will remain – with or without the EU. “The way you kill nostalgia is to have something new,” he said. “The reason why people here are nostalgic is because there is nothing to replace it with.”

Felipe Araujo is a freelance journalist based in London. He writes about race, culture and sports. He covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics on the ground for the New Statesman. He tweets @felipethejourno.