PROFILE

Piers Corbyn did me a favour by ending my interests in a political career

THE light lilt of a north-east accent is a subtle giveaway when it comes to Sir Lawrence Freedman’s origins.

Despite having left his native Whitley Bay decades ago, he retains fond memories of the seaside town — and lifelong support for Newcastle United.

And this Jewish son of Tyne and Wear rose to become the doyen of war and strategic studies.

He is, perhaps, more widely known to the British public as a member of the Chilcot Inquiry, in 2009, which looked at the UK’s role in the Iraq War, a conflict that began six years earlier.

It was during that period that Sir Lawrence experienced some latent antisemitism.

Both he and fellow panel member, historian Sir Martin Gilbert, were attacked by former Private Eye editor Richard Ingrams and diplomat Oliver Miles — a leading Arabist — for their perceived support of Israel.

Ingrams wrote in The Independent: “The pro-Israeli bias of Sir Martin Gilbert and Sir Lawrence Freedman, both of them supporters of the 2003 invasion, is a perfectly respectable point to raise”.

But Sir Lawrence told me from his home in Wimbledon, South London: “They just decided that I must be biased because I was Jewish, which annoyed me, not least because if he actually wanted my views I had recently written a book which covered both the Iraq war and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“The Times responded with an editorial about how shameful the comments were. Fortunately, this became less of an issue as time went on.”

The 72-year-old has held numerous positions, including at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

He served as Professor of War Studies at King’s College London from 1982 to 2014, and was the first head of its School of Social Science and Public Policy.

But those responsibilities were a long way from his formative years in Whitley Bay.

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