Rupert Murdoch’s influence over British politics is finally sagging. His best-selling paper The Sun – which in 1992 claimed to have won a general election for the Conservatives – tried its best to lampoon opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn ahead of last week’s general election. The efforts backfired: against the odds, Corbyn’s Labour Party dramatically increased its vote.
Murdoch has nonetheless been offered a consolation prize. Michael Gove, a Conservative with a record of sycophancy towards the media tycoon, is back as a cabinet minister.
Since his bid to lead the ruling Conservatives failed last year, Gove has been writing a column for The Times – a Murdoch title.
Gove has used that platform to argue that Britain should be more strident in its support for Israel. In one article, he advocated that Britain should move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
That would be a reversal of official British policy – which opposes Israel’s settlement activities in occupied East Jerusalem as they violate international law.
Gove has also worked as a pro-Israel lobbyist during the past 12 months.
He has become a trustee of the Henry Jackson Society, which he has misleadingly called a “charity dedicated to upholding democratic values worldwide.”
The Henry Jackson Society is not actually dedicated to democracy – if democracy means ordinary folk having a genuine say in their nation’s affairs. Rather, the London-based outfit espouses a neoconservative worldview; it was founded in 2005 to make the case that the US and Britain “must shape the world more actively.”
Support for Israel is integral to its viewpoint. And the group’s staff frequently behave as mouthpieces for Israel – by, for example, depicting those who expose Israel’s human rights abuses as “terrorist” sympathizers.
The Henry Jackson Society is embedded within the wider pro-Israel network in London. In November last, Gove took part in an event that the Henry Jackson Society organized to mark the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Britain’s 1917 pledge of support for Zionist colonization in Palestine. The event featured, too, an array of Israeli diplomats.
Earlier this year, Gove visited Washington. He met US government officials in his capacity as a lobbyist for the Henry Jackson Society, according to his parliamentary declaration of interests.
Most of his expenses for that trip were covered by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the most powerful organizations in Washington. Gove was a speaker at AIPAC’s annual conference.
He has been active, too, in Conservative Friends of Israel, a pressure group within his party that enjoys extremely close relations with the Israeli state apparatus.
It regularly brings members of parliament on trips to the Middle East. The trips are organized in tandem with and receive significant funding from the Israeli foreign ministry.
The staff at Conservative Friends of Israel include former employees of the Israeli state. Tanyah Murkes, who heads the group’s office in Tel Aviv, has previously worked in “public relations” for an Israeli embassy, for example.
Gove is especially close to David Meller, an entrepreneur in the jewelry and cosmetics trade who has been a senior officer with Conservative Friends of Israel.
When Gove held the post of education secretary in the British government a few years ago, he introduced “reforms” aimed at treating schooling as a commodity, rather than a basic right. Meller was involved in some of the projects under that rubric and was given a post in the education ministry while Gove was steering through his “reforms.”
A man named David Meller was among the donors to Gove’s failed Conservative leadership bid in 2016.
Gove now holds the environment portfolio in the reshuffled British cabinet. If his past performance is anything to go by, there is little chance that he will discard his neoconservative baggage and concentrate on saving the planet.
Before the 2015, general election Gove held the post of government chief whip. He still found time to engage in pro-Israel activities then. It is highly probable that he will do so again.
Parroting Israeli propaganda is almost mandatory for right-wing British politicians. Gove is evangelical in his support for Israel – to the point of praising that state as a “near miraculous” success story.
Perhaps Gove believes the hyperbole that he has churned out. His activities indicate, though, that he is not an independent analyst. He is a gun for hire.
•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 15 June 2017.