Re­vealed: MI5’s Jewish ter­ror fear

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page - BY SI­MON ROCKER

MI5 FOR many years avoided re­cruit­ing Jews as spies out of con­cern about their po­ten­tial loy­alty to Is­rael, ac­cord­ing to a new book pub­lished this week.

Its pol­icy stemmed from the years of Is­rael’s strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence when the se­cu­rity ser­vices feared ter­ror­ist at­tacks on Bri­tain by mil­i­tant Zion­ist groups.

The rev­e­la­tion comes in The De­fence of the Realm, an au­tho­rised his­tory of M15 based on its archives, by Chisto­pher An­drew.

Al­though some Jews were en­listed, most notably Vic­tor, Lord Roth- schild, who set up M15’s first counter-sab­o­tage depart­ment dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, Pro­fes­sor An­drew writes: “The post-war Ser­vice re­fused to re­cruit Jews on the grounds that their dual loy­alty to both Bri­tain and Is­rael might cre­ate an un­ac­cept­able con­flict of in­ter­est.” He quotes one MI5 sec­tion head, John Mar­riot, say­ing in 1955 that “our pol­icy is to avoid re­cruit­ing Jews if pos­si­ble” un­less they had qual­i­fi­ca­tions that were needed. One woman was re­jected the fol­low­ing year be­cause she was a prac­tis­ing Jew.

“As late as 1974,” Prof An­drew writes, “when it was agreed that there was ‘no gen­eral bar on the re­cruit­ment of Jews of Bri­tish na­tion­al­ity’, there was still prej­u­dice against par­tic­u­larly ob­ser­vant Jews and those of distinctively Jewish ‘phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance and de­meanour’.”

His book de­votes one chap­ter to the threat of Zion­ism ex­trem­ism as the mil­i­tant Ir­gun and Stern Gang launched at­tacks on Bri­tish troops in Pales­tine. Re­ports cir­cu­lated in au­tumn 1946 that the wanted Ir­gun leader Me­nachem Be­gin was in­tend­ing to travel to the UK.

In 1947 the Colo­nial Of­fice in White­hall sur­vived a Stern Gang bomb — only be­cause the timer failed — and the same group sent let­ter bombs to Bri­tish politi­cians that year.

Al­though most Bri­tish Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions were op­posed to ter­ror­ism, a few Jews were sus­pected of plan­ning ter­ror­ist at­tacks here. In one case, in July 1947, grenades and det­o­na­tors were dis­cov­ered, by his chauf­feur, in the boot of the car of Harry Isaac Presman of north Lon­don, but he pleaded ig­no­rance and the po­lice did not charge him.

The au­thor­i­ties were con­cerned about arms pur­chases for the Zion­ist un­der­ground and il­le­gal Jewish im­mi­gra­tion to Pales­tine to beat the tight Bri­tish quota.

Prof An­drew writes: “The Se­cu­rity Ser­vice be­lieved that, as a re­sult of its pen­e­tra­tion of the Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions in Lon­don and other in­tel­li­gence sources, ‘only one out of 30 ships car­ry­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants reached their des­ti­na­tion.’”

Else­where in the book Prof An­drew records how the no­to­ri­ous dou­bleagent Kim Philby, the first of the Cam­bridge Five, was re­cruited for the KGB by Arnold Deutsch, a Jewish Com­mu­nist from cen­tral Europe who was study­ing in Lon­don and who was a cousin of Odeon cin­ema founder, Os­car Deutsch.

Many years later, Philby’s treach­ery was ex­posed af­ter Flora Solomon, a Wizo ac­tivist, told Vic­tor Roth­schild, in a con­ver­sa­tion at the Weiz­mann In­sti­tute in Is­rael, that Philby had tried to re­cruit her for the KGB.

In the 1970s MI5 was wor­ried about some of the Jewish busi­ness as­soci- ates of Prime Min­is­ter Harold Wil­son, Joseph Ka­gan, Rudy Stern­berg and Harry Kissin, whose deal­ings in East­ern Europe made them po­ten­tial tar­gets of Soviet es­pi­onage. All be­came peers.

Ka­gan was courted by a KGB of­fi­cer who suc­cess­fully per­suaded him to ask Jewish leaders in the UK to call off dem- on­stra­tions on be­half of Soviet Jewry. One MI5 of­fi­cer said he did not think Ka­gan­was“like­ly­to­be­comea­con­scious Soviet agent but I am sure he has been a valu­able source of in­for­ma­tion”.

Kissin’s taste for call girls also made him a du­bi­ous con­fi­dant of Wil­son’s, MI5 thought.


Be­gin: sus­pect


left, clock­wise)

The Colo­nial Of­fice at White­hall ( Also, ( the spy Kim Philby, Lord Roth­schild, Flora Solomon and Lord Ka­gan with pipe

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