How The Independent triggered Tory civil war over Israel

The Independent was the first to report Sir Alan Duncan’s explosive remarks that have triggered a rift in the Tory party over the Israel-Gaza conflict

Holly Evans
Thursday 04 April 2024 20:30 BST
Sir Alan Duncan first made his comments against Israel’s actions in an editorial for this paper (Victoria Jones/PA)
Sir Alan Duncan first made his comments against Israel’s actions in an editorial for this paper (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Archive)

An outspoken attack on Israel by former Tory foreign minister Alan Duncan first reported in The Independent has now led to the prospect of him being expelled from the party.

The former MP, who served as a Foreign Office minister under Theresa May, wrote an editorial calling for the UK government to cease supplying arms to Israel, and questioned if they could be considered an ally.

Meanwhile, claims over the influence of the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) over the higher levels of government were made in an article for The Independent by political pundit Peter Oborne, fuelling the explosive rift in the Tory party over the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Sir Alan now faces expulsion after attacking several past and present pro-Israel cabinet members he called “extremists” and claiming security minister Tom Tughenhadt should be sacked.

The seven aid workers killed in Gaza, three of whom were British (PA)

In a series of subsequent interviews which were a direct result of him writing for The Independent, he claimed the CFI group was “doing the bidding of Netanyahu” and called for two of its prominent members - Lord Polak and Lord Pickles - to be “removed from the House of Lords”.

The CFI was being used to “exercise the interests of another country” by lobbying for Israel, said Sir Alan, who also called Suella Braverman, Michael Gove and Oliver Dowden “extremists” for failing to denounce Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

An inquiry has since been launched into his comments, which could lead to him having the Party whip withdrawn.

Meanwhile, a defiant Sir Alan said the decision to investigate him over accusations of using antisemitic tropes could prove “dangerously harmful” to the party’s reputation.

The UK government is under increasing pressure to halt sales of arms to Israel as it continues to bombard Gaza (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The CFI row was triggered by a separate article in The Independent by experienced Middle East expert Mr Oborne, who argued that the group wielded too much power among the Conservatives.

It comes after seven aid workers for the World Central Kitchen were killed in Gaza by the Israel Defence Forces, with three Britons among the dead.

All former soldiers, John Chapman, James Kirby and James Henderson, the three men were security advisers ensuring the aid convoy followed a safe route and had the necessary safety protocols.

In his editorial, Sir Alan said their “merciless” deaths were a “tipping point” for Israel’s international reputation.

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