Richard Ingrams' Week: Iran's missiles, the Jewish lobby and US policy


A full-page advertisement for the American Jewish Committee was published in the Financial Times on Wednesday. Under the question "Can anyone within range of Iran's missiles feel safe?", it showed a map with Iran at the centre and concentric rings circling round the Middle East and Europe. Southern England just managed to be included.

The map reminded me of all those other maps that appeared in the press before the invasion of Iraq three years ago which purported to show the range of Saddam's nuclear missiles within striking distance of Cyprus and even possibly London. The AJC advertisement coincides with the publication of a long report by two Harvard professors showing the power of the Jewish lobby in America in determining that country's foreign policy.

There is nothing especially new about this story. Those of us who study the writings of such experts as Seymour Hersh and our own Robert Fisk are well aware of the connection between the two and especially the long-lasting links between neo-cons such as Paul Wolfowitz with Israeli politicians such as former Prime Minister Netanyahu.

But predictably the Harvard report has been greeted with cries of anti-Semitism. Those cries are beginning to sound a little hysterical as more people demand to know the truth of why the US invaded Iraq in 2003, a decision which quite plainly had an Israeli dimension.

But for some time there has been reluctance even to mention the issue. Israel must be like a missing piece in the jigsaw. The whereabouts of which are known to everyone but which for whatever reason nobody wishes to place in the puzzle in order to complete it.

J ust what we needed: more political memoirs

So many shocking things are done in today's society that it is easy to become indifferent, even cynical about them.

Even so I was deeply shocked to read in the papers this week that the publisher Bloomsbury is to pay David Blunkett £400,000 for his account of his nine years in office which ended in his ignominious departure last year. A Bloomsbury statement called the book "an honest self-portrait and intimate insight into New Labour's years in power".

It may be said that following the amazing success of its Harry Potter books Bloomsbury now has so much money in the kitty that it could give every family in Britain £1,000 without noticing the difference. All the same it remains a puzzle as to why publishers continue to dole out these huge sums to discredited and unpopular politicians to enable them to write books no one will want to read. There may be even less incentive to read Blunkett's story as he has already given us his unflattering views of all his colleagues in the recent biography by Stephen Pollard.

Another minus point is that Blunkett is most unlikely to say a word about the one thing that readers might be interested in - namely his tragicomical romance with The Spectator's American publisher Kimberly Quinn. But this apparently does not deter the Bloomsbury director Michael Fishwick who excitedly describes Blunkett's memoirs as "pure gold".

I am doing myself no favour writing in this way as it so happens that Mr Fishwick is my own publisher and I myself live in hope of acquiring some small share from the Potter treasure chest. But there are occasions when conscience compels one to speak out. As Hilaire Belloc said: "To release the truth against whatever odds is a necessity for the soul."

* The goings-on of the art world, particularly when today's art consists literally of old rubbish, are indeed hard to fathom.

My eye is caught by an announcement of a sale next week of modern British prints at the posh auction house Christie's.

This will include as one of its highlights a print entitled Lord Goodman In His Pyjamas by the very old but still very fashionable artist Lucian Freud.

To many younger readers the name of Lord Goodman will be unfamiliar. He was an obscure libel lawyer who as a result of his connection with Harold Wilson rose to become an extraordinary éminence grise - a negotiator in Rhodesia, chairman of the Arts Council, friend and protector of the great and good.

Unfortunately for his reputation it was revealed after his death that he had been regularly stealing large sums of money from one of his wealthy clients, Lord Portman.

You would think that a prospective purchaser of Lucian Freud's work might be deterred by the estimated price which is £25,000 - and this not for an original work but for one of 50 impressions.

All this quite apart from any aesthetic consideration, the sight of Lord Goodman in his pyjamas being scarcely pleasing, the artist having done little to disguise his sitter's rather grotesque and sinister appearance.

All the same you can bet that come next week's sale somebody will stump up the £25,000 - if not more.

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