Solicitors acting for former government minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi announced last week that she had won £20,000 in libel damages plus costs from the Jewish News, after it published a defamatory article by Colonel Richard Kemp. In the April 2017 article, the ex-British Army officer claimed falsely that the prominent Tory peer and former chairperson of Britain's Conservative Party was guilty of excusing the vicious "Islamic State" group, which is responsible for so many atrocities. In fact, like most people, Warsi is naturally a strong critic of ISIS (Daesh). As Warsi's solicitors pointed out, she is also on an ISIS death list herself.
The paper has published a statement on its website "apologis[ing] unreservedly" saying that it "wish[es] to make absolutely clear that these allegations were wholly untrue and should never have been published."
What had in reality annoyed Kemp, was Sayeeda Warsi's call in March 2017 for the law to be changed so that British citizens travelling abroad to fight for another state – including Israel – can be prosecuted. In the interview, she had in fact said nothing explicit about ISIS, let alone excused its crimes. This was a pure invention of Kemp's, one with more than a tinge of Islamophobia about it.
Warsi's solicitors said that Kemp's work of fiction had suggested that "she had objected to action being taken against British Muslims who murder and rape for Islamic State. As Jewish News has now accepted, these allegations were wholly untrue and should never have been published."
Warsi then went on in her statement to clarify her condemnation of ISIS. She should not have been made to do this.
It's despicable for Kemp to propagate such a blatant lie, and it's a sign of the low regard that he has for basic fidelity to the truth. Kemp, incidentally, is the pro-Israel lobby's favourite former British Army officer. No matter how horrible the Israeli war crime; no matter how unpopular Israel's murderous actions make it; no matter how racist its treatment of Palestinians, Kemp will be there waiting to pop up at a conference, or on TV, or on social media to defend the Zionist state.
As I reported in 2013, the colonel seems to be part of the long-running but antiquated British military tradition of fanatical support for Christian Zionism. At a "Christians United for Israel" conference that year, Kemp reportedly "began by revealing his own Christian faith," and then proceeded to deliver "an impassioned defence of Israel that brought many in the room to tears."
At a conference in Jerusalem in 2015, Kemp was described by a leading anti-Palestinian lawyer as "one of the Jewish state's greatest allies." At the same event, Kemp described himself as a "thug" who liked to fight and who had disobeyed army rules of engagement. Even more alarming, during his multiple appearances at that conference, he called for Israel, the US and Britain to be given more freedom to inflict "collateral damage", a euphemism for killing civilians.
Although he claimed not to "advocate the callous butchery of civilians," he came very close to doing just that: "On the real battlefield, often… civilian casualties will ensue." Kemp made clear that he wanted Israel's and other such armies to be given "maximum possible freedom of action" when bombing, invading and destroying.
That a key pro-Israel propagandist resorted to such outrageous lies will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the lobby's methods. Israel long ago lost the political debate in the West, especially in Europe, which some pro-Israel lobby groups now consider a lost cause. All they have left are defamatory statements and smears targeting critics of the Zionist state, no matter how mild they may be. As a Conservative member of the House of Lords, Sayeeda Warsi is hardly a radical, but her record of criticising Israeli war crimes (she resigned from the government over its supportive attitude towards Israel's 2014 war on Gaza) makes her a target for propagandists like Kemp.
Warsi has said that she will be handing the £20,000 damages over to two charities which benefit Muslim and Jewish women. Kemp himself, meanwhile, appears to be wholly remorseless. He's refused to comment on the award on his rather prolific Twitter account.
"As perhaps befits an individual who appears to wantonly publish inflammatory and offensive comments without a thought for the consequences (let alone the truth)," said Warsi, "Kemp himself has been too cowardly even to respond to my solicitors' correspondence."
Colonel Richard Kemp seems to spend a large part of his lucrative career on propagandising for Israeli war crimes. Today, however, it seems that one British newspaper, at least, has deep regrets about printing one of his screeds; 20,000 regrets to be precise.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.