There is a curious fuss about the comments of Labour's Paul Flynn MP, who suggested that Matthew Gould is an inappropriate choice for British Ambassador to Israel, because he is, er... Jewish.
Mr Flynn has reportedly been carpeted by Labour Chief Whip Rosie Winterton, rebuked by Edward Miliband, and sent to Coventry by his Labour colleagues.
Mr Gould is the UK's first Jewish envoy to Israel. Mr Flynn raised the ages-old question of divided loyalties: the political dilemma of serving (or being perceived as serving) two masters. Mr Flynn said: “No Jewish diplomat has held the post before because of concerns that it might lead to a conflict of interest, or at the very least create the impression of dual loyalty. Given these traditional concerns, Gould was a strange choice. He is a self-declared Zionist who has cultivated an image that led the Forward, the most prominent Jewish newspaper in the US, to describe him recently as ‘not just an ambassador’.”
Mr Flynn is firmly of the opinion that the post should be filled by 'someone with roots in the UK (who) can't be accused of having Jewish loyalty'.
This is curious.
If Mr Flynn is preoccupied with 'traditional concerns', why did he not object to the appointment of Francis Campbell, the UK's first Roman Catholic ambassador to the Holy See since the Reformation? That particular potential divided loyalty has rather more historic resonance than any Jewish treason or plot against the British State. Would Mr Flynn object to Roman Catholic convert Ann Widdecombe being appointed to the Holy See? Might she not conspire with the cardinals to abolish contraception and outlaw abortion in the UK? Would Mr Flynn object to Sayeeda Warsi being appointed ambassador to Pakistan? That is not an unlikely future posting for her, but would she pass Norman Tebbit's 'cricket test? And what of Labour's Shahid Malik, who appears to favour the total islamification of Britain within the next 30 years? Or Sadiq Khan, determined to subsume Britain's justice system to sharia? Are they serving Allah or Her Majesty?
Why is it that Paul Flynn raises the need for a religio-political 'Test Act' upon Jews, but has never once questioned the potential divided loyalties of Muslims or Roman Catholics? Why is Mr Flynn concerned only with Zionist conspiracy? Is it because talk of 'papist plots' and 'political Islam' might offend minorities? It is bizarre indeed that, having incrementally abolished restrictions upon Nonconformists and Roman Catholics holding public office, Paul Flynn seeks to render Jews ineligible for postings which relate to Israel.
As it happens, His Grace thinks such questions may be pertinent, and MPs ought to be free to express concerns and reservations. But the fact that Paul Flynn singles out the Jews is undeniably and undoubtedly anti-Semitic, no matter how 'friendly' he professes to be towards Israel.