GOVERNMENT MUST NOT COVER UP ISRAELI INTERFERENCE IN UK POLITICS
Israeli Embassy collusion with pro-Israeli lobbyists must be fully investigated
All antisemitism charges against Labour Party members must now be reviewed
London, 18 January – Film evidence that Labour and Conservative pro-Israel lobbyists worked with the Israeli Embassy to undermine political opponents has implications for democratic processes in the UK that must be fully investigated, campaigners say.
“There must be no cover-up of what appears to have been a concerted campaign to discredit supporters of Palestine, Conservative as well as Labour, and to use concocted allegations of antisemitism to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and his support base,” said Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, speaking for Free Speech on Israel (FSOI).
Theresa May has rejected a call from Corbyn for a government inquiry into the Embassy’s “improper interference in this country’s democratic process.” But a number of Jewish groups that work for Palestinian human rights are supporting the Labour leader’s call and urging Labour to set up its own inquiry into the activities of politicians and lobbyists implicated by Al-Jazeera’s four-part documentary The Lobby.
The documentary showed an Israeli Embassy staffer discussing with a Conservative ministerial aide how to “take down” deputy foreign secretary Alan Duncan. It also revealed extensive collaboration between the embassy, Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) and Labour Party affiliate the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). Both organisations have consistently alleged antisemitism against supporters of Palestinian rights who criticise Israel. Many of these have been suspended and subjected to disciplinary procedures that lack transparency and take no account of natural justice.
FSOI calls upon Labour’s National Executive Committee to institute a full review of all outstanding disciplinary proceedings and to investigate the activities of both JLM and LFI.
Notes for Editors
Al Jazeera Investigative Unit’s series “The Lobby” was screened between Wednesday Jan 11 and Saturday Jan 15. It can be viewed online
2. Jeremy Corbyn’s letter to Prime Minister Theresa May called for an inquiry into “attempts to undermine the integrity of our democracy.”
3. Here is the full text of the statement from Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP), Jewish Socialists’ Group (JSG) and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG):
We note with concern the very serious allegations of Israeli Embassy interference in the United Kingdom’s democratic processes revealed in the Al Jazeera series “The Lobby”. We support Jeremy Corbyn’s call on the Government to hold an enquiry into this attempt to subvert both the government itself and the Opposition. It is imperative that the Foreign Affairs Select Committee should summon those Israelis and British politicians and lobbyists shown to have been implicated. We also call on the Labour party to conduct an immediate investigation into the involvement of its own members in the activities documented by Al-Jazeera.
4. Free Speech on Israel (FSOI) was founded as a predominantly Jewish campaign group in Spring 2016 to counter the manufactured moral panic over a supposed epidemic of antisemitism in the UK. Its earlier statement on the Al-Jazeera investigation can be read here.
5. Avi Shlaim, emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford University, analyses the relevance of the Al-Jazeera revelations, examining how anti-Zionism is deliberately conflated with antisemitism to suppress legitimate criticisms of Israeli policies.
a) Black Jewish activist Jackie Walker, former vice-chair of Momentum, is currently fighting her second bout of suspension from the party. She intends to make a formal complaint against Jewish Labour Movement director Ella Rose, seen threatening and abusing Walker in the second episode of the film.
b) The films show Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan MP discussing at length with fellow lobbyists how to frame a complaint of antisemitism against a Labour Party member, a woman who was suspended as a result and later reinstated on appeal.
c) Separately, activists in a party branch in the Liverpool constituency of former LFI chair, Louise Ellman MP, are fighting baseless allegations of antisemitism which have been used as an excuse to investigate the entire branch.
Unverified reports of Russian interference with the US election have been whipping through the British media like a hurricane. Fully authenticated reports of Israeli subversion of British Democracy can be heard like the faintest breeze in a distant forest. Labour Party calls for a Government investigation have been ignored. Scandalously the Labour Party is not calling for an internal investigation into the deep penetration of its own structures.
Al Jazeera, over four days in January, broadcast The Lobby a detailed investigation into the activities of London based Israeli diplomats. The programmes show them planning the downfall of opponents of Israeli occupation and Apartheid in both the Labour and Tory Parties and elsewhere and the creation of false antisemitic slurs. The programmes shine a light into the murky sewers of the concerted attempts by Israel’s acolytes and Labour right-wingers to destabilise Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party to advance their separate but overlapping agendas.
The programmes focus on the activities of Shai Masot, a senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London, and his attempts to: set up pro-Israel lobby groups inside the Labour Party; fund Israel supporting activities; and undermine the elected leaders of the Labour Party and the National Union of Students; and more.
The programmes mainly consist of secret recordings made by an Al Jazeera journalist. ‘Robin’, posing as an aspiring Zionist activist supplemented by commentaries by expert observers of Israeli activities.
The two key organisations of Israel apologists inside the Labour Party are the ‘Jewish Labour Movement’ (JLM), an affiliated organisation of the Labour Party operating in constituency parties, and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), a parliamentary group.
The JLM, which is affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation and is a sister party of the Israel Labor Party (ILP), has, in the last couple of years, been roused from a decades long torpor to play a leading role in defaming critics of Israel. The ILP is a fiercely Zionist organisation: it initiated the settlement programme after the 1967 war and to dispel doubts has rebranded itself as the Zionist Union. Although formally in opposition to Netanyahu’s far right government, it has actively pursued a strategy of trying to join the Government coalition.
A telling incident in the programmes is from the 2016 Labour Party Conference when a sympathiser with Palestine approached the Labour Friends of Israel stall to discuss the two-state solution. Joan Ryan, MP for Enfield and Chair of LFI was on the stall. Ryan became very defensive and refused to answer the delegate’s questions. After the encounter Ryan met with her advisers and Robin and discussed how to turn inoffensive comments into an antisemitic and offensive tirade which could support an official complaint to the Party. Ryan invented words that the party member did not utter in order to create an illusion of ‘antisemitic tropes’ of Jewish control of finance and secret influence. Although the delegate was eventually cleared she suffered great distress and the Party has taken no action to hold Ryan account for her misuse of her authority and for her bullying of a person with none of her resources or influence.
The JLM is now headed by Ella Rose who segued into her position as JLM Director straight from a post in the Israeli Embassy. Rose is shown threatening to use her Israeli military unarmed combat training to ‘take’ Jackie Walker after Walker, a Black Jewish party activist, had asked unwelcome questions at a JLM led Party training session at the conference. Rose could not ascribe any motive to anyone questioning the purge by the Party of critics of Israel to anything other being a “f—–g anti-Semite”.
Masot is fearful that young people are increasingly hostile to Israel and offers to fund Robin to set up young LFI. Michael Rubin, a parliamentary officer of LFI is recorded saying, “The Israeli Embassy is able to get a bit of money…I don’t think money should be a problem really”. Masot is anxious to keep the link clandestine. “We do work really, really closely together. It’s just publicly we just keep the LFI as a separate identity to the Embassy”.
It is not just the Labour Party that is of concern to the Embassy. They are greatly exercised by the small minority of the Parliamentary Conservative Party who are not members of Conservative Friends of Israel. An extract that has received wider publicity shows Masot meeting with a former aide to Robert Halfon, formerly Party Vice-Chair and Chair of CFI, plotting to “take down” Government Minister Alan Duncan.
Since the programmes little has happened. Masot, his cover blown, has been recalled to Tel Aviv and sacked. Throughout the programmes Masot is shown in close contact with Ambassador Mark Regev and other senior Embassy officials. Despite that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has rushed to accept Regev’s assurances that Masot was a junior official flying solo. Even a cursory viewing of the footage shows that to be untrue and that there is a clear need for detailed investigation of this subversion and, in an old fashioned term, treason. Regev, himself, must be told to take the next plane back to Israel for abuse of his diplomat position.
The reason for the reluctance to investigate, we can infer, is that it would reveal the most senior members of both main parties, with the exception of Corbyn and his close associates, and the Liberal Democrats, to be part of the network of Israeli influence.
The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee’s report on Antisemitism that gave fuel to the witch hunt of alleged antisemites was chaired by LFI member Keith Vaz and included many members of the respective FOI groups; a number of whom had received all-expenses paid visits to those parts of Israel and the Occupied Territories it was convenient for them to be shown.
The investigation allows us to understand better how Israelis influence works and frames political behaviour. Theresa May’s ill-judged endorsement of the fatally flawed ‘International’ definition of antisemitism which closely links antisemitism to criticism of Israel must be viewed through her membership of CFI. Her bizarre attack on John Kerry for his mild rebukes to Israel following the recent Security Council Resolution on the settlements might also be seen as reciprocity for previous career assistance from the Israelis.
This article can only cover a tiny fraction of the disturbing content of the exposé and readers are urged to view the programmes for themselves. Only then can you fully appreciate the degree to which the policy of successive Governments may have been skewed to favour what is in Israel’s interests rather than that of their own people, let alone the Palestinians.
Any human rights activists will recoil in horror at the way the Labour Party has become a pawn of Zionist organisations that place loyalty to Israel’s interests above advancing the Labour Party. Every Labour Party member must be demanding that each and every Party MP, Peer and Official who has betrayed the Party must be held to account. The evidence for every suspension for claimed antisemitic activity must be reviewed urgently and all those based upon confections of offence or statements lifted blatantly out of context revoked immediately.
Anti-Zionism is deliberately conflated with anti-Semitism to suppress legitimate criticisms of Israeli policies
There is no denying that from time to time anti-Semitism raises its ugly head in the UK, as it does in many other countries.
What is striking, however, about contemporary Britain is the use of anti-Semitism as a political tool to silence legitimate criticism of the policies and practices of the Israeli government and the collusion of members of the political establishment in this process.
A word on definitions is in order.
The Jewish philosopher Isaiah Berlin defined an anti-Semite as someone who hates Jews more than is strictly necessary.
This definition has its humorous side but it does not take us very far. A simpler definition of an anti-Semite is someone who hates Jews as Jews.
An anti-Zionist, on the other hand, is someone who opposes Israel as an exclusively Jewish state or challenges the Zionist colonial project on the West Bank.
Israeli propagandists deliberately, yes deliberately, conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to discredit, bully, and muzzle critics of Israel; in order to suppress free speech; and in order to divert attention from the real issues: Israeli colonialism, Israel’s apartheid, its systematic violation of the human rights of Palestinians, and its denial of their right to independence and statehood. The propagandists persistently present an anti-racist movement (anti-Zionism) as a racist one (anti-Semitism).
In light of the revelations made by the Al Jazeera investigative documentary The Lobby, Palestinian students in the UK have published a letter calling for an apology and the resignation of the National Union of Students VP Richard Brooks. In the footage Brooks implicates himself in helping to organise a group that is trying to oust Malia Bouattia for her strong stance on Palestine. The attacks being levelled against Bouattia are based on her politics and principled opposition to Israel’s regime of apartheid and settler colonialism. As an elected official of the NUS, Brooks is betraying the trust placed in him by students and has demonstrated seriously misplaced and misguided priorities, which lead him to collude with the Israeli Embassy.
Following the revelations made as part of the first episode of the Al Jazeera documentary, The Lobby, we as Palestinian students, many of whom are members of the student movement in the UK, are issuing this statement to express solidarity with NUS President Malia Bouattia and to demand an apology from NUS Vice President (Union Development) Richard Brooks, as well as his resignation. These revelations contain evidence that Brooks has been implicated in soliciting help from the Israeli Embassy to bring down the NUS President and to destabilise the Union as a whole. In a climate where student activists, NUS, and the NUS President in particular, have been undermined, attacked, and harassed for their pro-Palestine politics, such activities and communications are outrageous, must be condemned outright, and cannot go without severe consequences.
We believe that Brooks’ activities constitute a flagrant violation of the guidelines of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign (BDS), which was endorsed and adopted by the NUS in 2014 as part of a democratic and transparent process amid widespread concern over the deteriorating situation in Palestine after Israel’s devastating attacks on Gaza that summer. The BDS Campaign calls for freedom, justice, and equality for Palestinians and the provision of their full human rights. Palestinian students in the UK are an important part of the national student movement, and it is due to this that both the Palestinian students and the wider student movement feel disturbed at what has been shown to transpire between Brooks and the Israeli Embassy.
As an elected full time official within the National Union of Students, Richard Brooks bears a great deal of responsibility towards the student movement, as well as to the Palestinian students who come under attack by public figures on an increasingly regular basis due to our nationality. It is unacceptable for a somebody in Brooks’ position to conspire with a foreign government to undermine and damage one of the largest democratic institutions in the country, which represents over 7 million students. This constitutes a massive betrayal of the trust placed within Richard Brooks by the students who elected him, in addition to demonstrating his misplaced and misguided priorities, none of which should include colluding with the Israeli Embassy, as is evidently the case. Furthermore, it is important to affirm that the attacks levelled at Bouattia since her electoral victory were based on her politics and principled opposition to Israel’s regime of apartheid and settler colonialism. As Palestinian students, we see these attacks as part of a broader attempt to dehumanise Palestinians and silence our narratives.
In light of these appalling and outrageous revelations, we the undersigned Palestinian students in the UK and supporters of the Palestinian cause feel that the position of NUS Vice President Richard Brooks has become untenable and unworkable. In light of this, we demand the following:
– An unequivocal public apology for the actions taken by Richard Brooks.
– Richard Brooks’ resignation from his position as Vice President (Union Development) of the National Union of Students with immediate effect.
Malaka Mohammed, University of Exeter
Samar Ahmed, Kings College London
Yara Hawari, University of Exeter
Toqa Zait, Leeds University
Kareem Bseiso, SOAS, University of London
Yahya Abu Seido, University College London
Ayat Hamdan, University of Exeter
Shahd Abusalama, SOAS, University of London
Laura Al-Tahrawy, Lincoln University
Afnan Jabr Alqadri, St. Mary University
Sahar S, Kings College London
Omar Jouda, Oxford Brookes University
Abdulla Saad, SOAS, University of London
Eyad Hamid, SOAS, University of London
Motaz Ayyad, Imperial College
Razan Masri, SOAS, University of London
Gabriel Polly, University of Exeter
Rawand Safi, University College London
Razan Shamallakh, Kings College London
Yousef Anis, University College London
Hani Awwad, Oxford University
Beth Jamal, Cambridge University
Layla D., University of Nottingham
Emily M., Surrey University
Dana El Ghadban, University of Leeds
Mahmoud Zwahre, Coventry University
Miriam Abu Samra, Oxford University
Doa Althalathini, Plymouth University
Rama Sahtout, University of Exeter
Mostafa Afana, Belfast University
Haya Natsheh, London School of Economics
Ashraf Hamad, University of Leeds
Rama Sabanekh, SOAS, University of London
Basel Sourani, SOAS, University of London
Layla Al-Khatib, University College London
Hussam Al-Kurd, London School of Economics
Ramsey El-Dabbagh, University College London
Ala Sawalha, SOAS, University of London
Marwan Hanbali, Cardiff University
Jamal Abdulfattah, Exeter University
Mjriam Abu Samra, University of Oxford
Rawan Yaghi, Oxford University
Ibtehal H., Kings College London
Sari Sati, University of Kent
Abdulrahman Arasoghli, University of Manchester
Saba I., Kings College London
Syeda Tahmina Khatun, Brunel University London
Dena Qaddumi, Palestinian PhD student, University of Cambridge
Khalil al-Wazir at the University of East Anglia
Haya Naji, Southampton University
Dina Tahboub, University of Cambridge
Abdelrahman Murad, University of the Arts London
Alessia Cancemi, Goldsmiths University of London
Tamer EL-Nakhal , Medicine, Cambridge University Hospital
Hamss Hassan Dawood, University College London
Salim Habash, Loughborough University
Huda Ammori, University of Manchester
Laila al-Khatib, University College London
Samir al-Khatib, University College London
Zeena Jojo, London School of Economics
Ahmed A., University of Leeds
Haneen Shubib, University of Leeds
Hana Elias, University of Exeter
If you wish to add your name, please email Malaka933@gmail.com
For over twelve hours there has been stunned silence from the FCO media department in reply to my questions about the Shai Masot case – I am an NUJ member, and I think the idea of a British journalist actually doing real journalism and asking real questions has astonished them. They have now asked me to put them in writing, and I have just done so. This is what I have submitted.
I am investigating the status of Shai Masot, the Israeli Embassy officer caught plotting against Alan Duncan and who was very active with UK political parties.
I appreciate the FCO line is that the case of his conduct is now closed. But I am not investigating his conduct, I am investigating the improper conduct of the FCO in granting him a visa and residency status in the first place.
My initial questions are these:
1) On what basis was Mr Masot in the UK?
2) He was not on the Diplomatic List, but plainly was a senior officer (an ex Major and current executive in the Directorate of Strategic Affairs) and therefore not qualified in the normal categories of technical and support staff. What precise visa and residence status did he hold?
3) How many more officers does the Israeli Embassy have with that same visa and residence status?
4) Has the FCO connived with the Israeli Embassy to allow many more Israeli intelligence operatives residence in the country than the official and reciprocated diplomatic staff allocation of the Embassy?
5) Did MI5, MI6 or any other of the security services have any input into Mr Masot’s acceptance and visa/residency status?
It is over 12 hours since I contacted the FCO’s media people with these questions. I would appreciate your earliest contact. My number is …
Do not hold your breath
Astonishingly, the Israeli Embassy’s Senior Political Officer Shai Masot, implicated in a plot against the Deputy Foreign Minister, was not on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Diplomatic List, the Bible for the status of accredited diplomats. This opens up a number of extremely important questions. Who was he, what was his visa status and why was he resident in the UK? It is very plain that the work he was doing as “Senior Political Officer” would equate normally to senior diplomatic rank.
He was a major in the Israeli Navy – in the FCO’s own table of equivalent rank, Major equates to Second Secretary in the Diplomatic Service. After that he went on to apparently executive positions in the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, before moving to the Israeli Embassy in London. There he held many recorded meetings with politicians, including giving briefings in parliament and at party conferences, and acted in a way that in general would accord with a rank around First Secretary to Counsellor.
Shai Masot & Jeremy Newmark with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev speaking at an event at Labour party conference in 2016 (Al Jazeera)
Shai Malot in his Navy uniform
Shai Malot with Ambassador Regev
So why exactly has he never featured in the FCO’s Diplomatic List? He very plainly outranks many of those Israeli diplomats who are featured. It should be noted it is perfectly normal for diplomats not to come from a country’s foreign affairs ministry. For one example Ivan Rogers who spectacularly resigned recently as Britain’s Ambassador to the EU, was from the Treasury not the FCO. Several people in the Israeli Embassy, who are on the Diplomatic List, are not from the foreign service. So that is not the reason.
This is not an obscure point. As a former diplomat, my first instinct was to look him up on the Diplomatic List. Every country in the world controls the number of permitted foreign diplomats very closely, for two reasons. Firstly it confers an immigration residency status, and secondly it confers tax exemption and an immunity from prosecution. The Diplomatic List is therefore not a loose thing – there is an entire section of good employees in the FCO tasked with policing it in close liaison with the Home Office.
Embassies are allowed a very small number of technical and support staff – IT people and cleaners – in addition. But these must be what they say they are. Plainly Masot was not in reality one of these, and plainly the official Israeli Embassy explanation that he was a “junior member of staff” is a lie. The Israeli Embassy is not given visas for “junior members of staff” except in very specific job categories which Masot plainly does not meet.
It is a lie in which the FCO must have been absolutely complicit in organising his immigration residency status in the UK.
I have contacted the media office of the FCO to query Masot’s immigration status, and so far received no reply. But the key questions are these:
Shai Masot was not on the Diplomatic List. What kind of visa and residence status did he have in the UK?
How many other operatives does the Israeli have with the same UK residence status as Masot?
Why is the British Government granting Israeli intelligence operatives false residency immigration status in the UK based on a deliberate lie about their role and position?
How many other Israeli intelligence officers are active in the UK with a false immigration status?
Who, specifically, authorised Masot’s visa, and why?
My advantage as an ex-British Ambassador is that I know the bureaucratically correct questions to ask to get to the heart of a matter. Please do ask them of your MP, and get them to demand answers from the FCO.
New revelations expose dubious links between Israel and British politicians
Campaigners call for withdrawal of accreditation from Israeli ambassador
Tory and Labour ‘Friends of Israel’ must account for close relationship with embassy
London, 8 January – Campaign group Free Speech on Israel (FSOI) has called for the withdrawal of credentials from Israel’s ambassador to the UK and demanded that pro-Israel politicians account for their close ties to the Israeli embassy.
FSOI says in a statement that covert meetings between Israeli official Shai Masot and Tory and Labour politicians, revealed in an investigation by Al-Jazeera, are evidence of a concerted campaign to undermine pro-Palestinian currents in both parties.
“These latest revelations vindicate the case that Free Speech on Israel has been making for many months. There can now be no doubt: Pro-Israel advocates in the UK have been working with representatives of the Israeli state to undermine their political opponents,” the statement says.
FSOI rejects the UK Government’s assertion that the matter is closed following an apology from ambassador Mark Regev, who achieved notoriety on British TV as spokesman for the Israeli government during its deadly assault on the Gaza Strip in 2014.
FSOI says: “The whole story of the dubious relationship between the Israeli government and British politicians must come out into the open. And Ambassador Regev, who has presided over this infiltration policy, needs to be told that he is no longer welcome.”
Spokesman Glyn Secker said: “The UK government just last month said it would adopt a highly politicised ‘definition’ of antisemitism favoured by pro-Israel lobbyists. Disturbingly, Labour supported the move. This looks more and more like the handiwork of pro-Israel sympathisers among UK policy makers. A spotlight needs to be shone into these dark corners of our political system.”
Notes for Editors
Leading Jewish activists familiar with the issues covered in this media notice are available for interview. Send inquiries by email or call the contact numbers provided.
Al Jazeera Investigative Unit’s series “The Lobby” can be viewed in four episodes at 10.30 pm on Wednesday January 11, Thursday January 12, Friday January 13 and Saturday January 14. The series will also be available online . These broadcast times are several days earlier than originally scheduled (update 10.1.17).
Free Speech on Israel (FSOI) was founded as a predominantly Jewish campaign group in Spring 2016 to counter the manufactured moral panic over a supposed epidemic of antisemitism in the UK.
There can now be no doubt: Pro-Israel advocates in the UK have been working with representatives of the Israeli state to undermine their political opponents.
Free Speech on Israel statement on the hidden relationship between the Israeli government and British politicians
News of covert meetings between an Israeli diplomat and Tory and Labour politicians is evidence of a concerted campaign to undermine pro-Palestinian currents in both parties. These latest revelations vindicate the case that Free Speech on Israel has been making for many months. There can now be no doubt: Pro-Israel advocates in the UK have been working with representatives of the Israeli state to undermine their political opponents. The Labour Party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, a strong supporter of Palestinian rights, has been a particular target.
Evidence exposed by Al-Jazeera shows that the Israeli government has ‘infiltrated’ both the Conservative and Labour parties via its embassy in the UK, using secret cash and covert support.
Film footage shows intelligence expert Shai Masot joking with senior Labour MP Joan Ryan about having obtained ‘more than £1 million’ to pay for sympathetic Labour MPs to visit Israel. He was also filmed discussing with Maria Strizzolo, senior aide to Conservative Education Minister Robert Halfon, how to “take down” Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan, a supporter of a Palestinian state.
Halfon and Ryan are leading members of their parties’ respective ‘Friends of Israel’ lobby groups.
Strizzolo has since resigned, Masot is reportedly to be relieved of his Embassy job, Israeli ambassador Mark Regev has apologised and the UK Foreign Office has stated: “The UK has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed.”
This is a blatant attempt to close down the affair. But a scandal of this magnitude needs to be exposed to full public scrutiny. The whole story of the dubious relationship between the Israeli government and British politicians must come out into the open. And Ambassador Regev, who has presided over this infiltration policy, needs to be told that he is no longer welcome.
Al Jazeera’s revelations throw new light on Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May’s extraordinary public contradiction last week of US Secretary of State John Kerry speech criticising expansion of Israel’s settlements; extraordinary because Kerry’s position coincides precisely with that of the British government. This reads like UK policy being distorted in the Israeli interest.
We also note that Shai Masot accompanied ambassador Regev and Jeremy Newmark, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, at meetings during the 2016 Labour Party conference. Newmark’s JLM has been instrumental in promoting allegations of rampant antisemitism on the Labour Left, through which supporters of Palestine have been systematically targeted.
We urge grassroots members of the Labour Party, trade unions, Momentum and other progressive, antiracist organisations to insist that their leaders dissociate themselves from pro-Israel lobbyists and defend those victimised without due cause.
Free Speech on Israel supports the call by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry for a government inquiry into “improper interference in our democratic politics”.
However certain other actions are needed. FSOI calls upon:
the UK government to withdraw the accreditation of the Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev who has presided over this grave intrusion in the country’s democratic processes
MPs Robert Halfon, Joan Ryan and any others whose names emerge from this Al-Jazeera investigation to give a full public explanation of their relations with Israeli state representatives
Friends of Israel organisations in British political parties, and the Jewish Labour Movement, to account for their relationship with the Israeli Embassy and other state institutions, including all financial transactions
the Labour Party leadership to sever links with groups where evidence emerges that they have placed support for the interests of the state of Israel above democracy in the party
Note (updated 10.2.17): Al Jazeera Investigative Unit’s series “The Lobby” can be viewed in four episodes at 10.30 pm on Wednesday January 11, Thursday January 12, Friday January 13 and Saturday January 14. The series will also be available online . These broadcast times are several days earlier than originally scheduled.
Al-Jazeera has done what all the US spy agencies have so far failed to do: produced conclusive proof of a foreign state trying to undermine the democratic processes of another country.
The Americans have responded to suggestions that the Russians tried to say the presidential elections in favour of Donald Trump by expelling 35 diplomats and complaining long and hard. What has the UK Government done when Shai Masot was found with his hand far down in the cookie jar? Very, very little except say, ‘Move along, move along. Not much to see here’. It’s not as though it was only Israel’s attempts to destabilise the Labour Party that have been brought to light, which you cannot expect a Conservative government to lose much sleep over. The Israelis were targeting senior Tories and it seems the Tories do not even want to look after their own.
Mark Regev only had to say, ‘Nothing to do with me, guv’ and the Foreign Office rushed to applaud his prompt action in doing nothing. This is the same Mark Regev who, before he was accredited to the Court of St James’s, toured the British media lying on behalf of Benjamin Netanyahu as his personal spokesman. His reception, even by some usually credulous journalists, was one of disbelief and fascination that anyone could be so brazen.
In the 17th Century Sir Henry Wotton famously said, an ambassador was “an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country” little has changed in 400 years except that in the case of Regev we seem to have a dishonest man sent to do the job.. Regev would have to have been singularly incompetent not to have known what Masot was doing and, whatever his other faults, Regev is not incompetent.
Are we expected to believe that when Regev sat beside Shai Masot and Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, Jeremy Newmark, at the Labour Party Conference he did not know what was going on?
A former Conservative minister has told the Daily Mail:
“British foreign policy is in hock to Israeli influence at the heart of our politics, and those in authority have ignored what is going on.
“For years the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) have worked with – even for – the Israeli embassy to promote Israeli policy and thwart UK government policy and the actions of ministers who try to defend Palestinian rights.
“Lots of countries try to force their views on others, but what is scandalous in the UK is that instead of resisting it, successive governments have submitted to it, take donors’ money, and allowed Israeli influence-peddling to shape policy and even determine the fate of ministers.”
The eruption of allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party has long been suspected of having been orchestrated from Tel Aviv. The extensive trawling of historic twitter and Facebook accounts required the resources of state actors – it was far beyond the ability of amateurs. We now have the proof that Israel’s London embassy was actively engaged in discrediting, on the basis of flimsy or totally false evidence, anyone who questioned their right to occupy Palestinian land and oppress the Palestinian people.
The Jewish Labour Movement has been vigorously stirring the pot and pressing the Labour Party to take ever more extreme action against those they disagree with. They must be forced to disclose details of all their links with the Israeli Embassy and publish all the briefings and information they have received. It is well known they act as agents of their affiliates, the Israel Labor Party, inside the British Labour Party. Now it is apparent they are also agents of the Israeli state.
What the Israelis have been doing is far worse than anything the Russians and Trump have been accused of. The Russians worked on their own account and fed information to a compliant media. Their hacks were not conducted with the active assistance of the Trump team. In the UK the Israelis had the active connivance of British politicians, it was a joint effort and the subversion was deeper and longer.
The British spend billions on the security services. Were they asleep on the job, did they not notice this avalanche of subversion? Or were they co-operating with their friends in Mossad with whom they have close working relationships in setting up this treachery?
There are many questions to be answered and Emily Thornberry and Alex Salmond are to be congratulated in speedily calling for a full investigation. But more is needed.
Labour and Conservative Friends of Israel groups have been active agents in this underhand programme and must be disowned by their parent parties.
The Jewish Labour Movement has been acting in the interests of the right-wing Israeli Government, not in the interests of the Labour Party and must be disaffiliated. A new independent organisation must be set up to represent the interests of all Jewish members of the Party.
Mark Regev must be sent back to Tel Aviv immediately and the activities of his replacement carefully monitored to ensure no repetition
Al Jazeera Investigative Unit’s series “The Lobby” can be viewed on Al Jazeera at the following times:
UPDATE: Labour’s Emily Thornberry calls for a government inquiry into “improper interference in our democratic politics”. This is welcome, but attention also needs to focus on the role of Labour’s own “Friends of Israel.”
An undercover Al-Jazeera report has revealed clear evidence of collaboration between both Labour and Tory “Friends of Israel” and the Israeli Embassy in London.
The right-wing Daily Mail – a staunch supporter of Israel – has nonetheless reported at length on the revelations, which vindicate Free Speech on Israel’s case over recent months. There can now be no doubt that supporters of Palestine have been systematically targeted in a campaign to undermine their valid criticisms of the Israeli state and its ideology.
The UK Foreign Office has said that the Embassy, quoted in the Guardian with all the appearance of trying to play the story down, has apologised and the matter is closed. This is clearly not the case.
A full statement from Free Speech on Israel will follow.
See the Daily Mail story below.
Israel plot to ‘take down’ Tory minister: Astonishing undercover video captures diplomat conspiring with rival MP’s aide to smear Deputy Foreign Secretary
PUBLISHED: 22:03, 7 January 2017 | UPDATED: 10:48, 8 January 2017
The Israeli Embassy made a shocking vow to ‘take down’ Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office deputy, a secret film reveals today.
The bombshell footage, covertly filmed in a London restaurant and obtained by The Mail on Sunday, shows a senior diplomat making the astonishing threat to target Sir Alan Duncan.
Extraordinarily, he is egged on by a senior aide to another Conservative Minister, Robert Halfon.
The video comes in a film claiming to expose the way that the Israeli government has ‘infiltrated’ both the Conservative and Labour parties via its embassy in the UK, using secret cash and covert support.
Further footage shows the Israeli diplomat, intelligence expert Shai Masot, telling senior Labour MP Joan Ryan that he has obtained ‘more than £1 million’ to pay for sympathetic Labour MPs to visit Israel.
Mr Masot also mocks ‘crazy’Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his ‘weirdo’ supporters. Footage shows pro-Israel Labour activists discussing the Jerusalem government’s secret role in backing their activities.
In 1981, a wise Israeli journalist called Boaz Evron observed that the Jewish people endured two tragedies in the twentieth century. One of course was the Holocaust. The second, he suggested more controversially, was what he termed “the lessons drawn from it” by those in power in Israel. These were the narrow nationalist lessons that “Never Again” applied to the Jews alone, rather than humanity in general; that anti-semitism was different from other forms of racism; that threats to Israel were always existential; that critics of Israel were always motivated by anti-semitism, and many of them really wanted to perpetrate a second Holocaust.
In Evron’s view, the main aims of Holocaust awareness perpetuated by Israeli politicians and mainstream media, and through Israel’s education system, were “not at all an understanding of the past but a manipulation of the present” (my emphasis).
My mind drifted back to Evron’s words when I heard that the UK prime minister Theresa May had decided that she wanted to adopt a definition of anti-semitism drawn up by a group called the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and turn it into law in Britain. May says this will enable her government to tackle rising anti-semitism.
But you wouldn’t draw such confidence if you looked down the list of the 30 countries that have also signed up to this approach. These include several where anti-semitic incidents are on the rise, and some, such as Austria, Poland, Greece and Hungary, where politicians and leading commentators seem to indulge in anti-semitism themselves.
It’s not very international either. The countries signed up to the alliance are, with just four exceptions, confined to Europe. Those four exceptions are Argentina, Canada, Israel, and the US. The latter has just elected a president who was not only endorsed enthusiastically by dozens of far-right organisations in America, but who used anti-semitic tropes in his election campaign.
Is this coalition really saying that African and Asian countries (other than Israel), despite long histories of exposure to racism and its terrible outcomes, and the fact that several have diasporic Jewish communities, have nothing to contribute on tackling anti-semitism?
This definition by the IHRA is also an act of manipulation. It draws heavily on an earlier attempt in Europe: the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) definition of 2005. This was dropped by the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency in 2013 because of the way it had stretched and twisted that definition to include various forms of criticism of Israel and opposition to Zionism.
Now, the IHRA seeks to revive the worst aspects of the EUMC definition, for the main purpose, I believe, of defending the Israeli government’s increasingly indefensible policies from attack by supporters of human rights, by anti-racists, and by growing numbers of dissident Jews in Europe, America, South Africa, and also in Israel. If you can label such critics as anti-Semites, you can hope to nullify their impact among the wider population and on political actors who might challenge the continued oppression of the Palestinians.
The basic definition that the IHRA works from is rather wordy but not so contentious:
“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Immediately after that, though, it leaps to:
“Manifestations might include the targeting of Israel conceived as a Jewish collectivity.”
That is quite a catch-all. So it then steps back to reassure those of us who may be less than enthusiastic about the actions of the Israeli state, that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic”. But there are reasons why Israel attracts a qualitatively different kind of opprobrium to most other states, and it is not about anti-semitism. It is about Israel being an ethnocracy and an occupying power.
There is no doubt that many social democratic states around the world have a long way to go before we can say that their minority populations are treated equally. There is much institutionalised and indirect racism across the world, but in most countries it is against the law; in Israel, though, discrimination is built into many of the laws. Palestinians within the pre-1967 borders of Israel are second class citizens, and those in the Occupied Territories are ultimately under Israeli state control and suffer daily acts of repression despite a certain measure of autonomy given to the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian political activists (including children) fill Israel prisons, many of them under administrative detention with no date set for any process of justice.
The IHRA definition gives eleven examples of anti-semitism, six of which mention Israel, while one refers to “it” meaning the State of Israel. This conflation of Israel and Jews has the potential to outlaw perfectly legitimate pro-Palestinian human rights campaigns as anti-semitic. It is also dangerous for Jews. If opposition to Israeli policy and state action can be defined as anti-semitic in such a manipulative way, those who will quite rightly continue to stand up for Palestinian rights will become less frightened of the label “anti-semite”; as a result, the targets of their actions might spread from those directly identified with the Israeli state to more general Jewish targets.
Theresa May deliberately added to this blurring of Jews and Israel by announcing her plan not at a Jewish community gathering, but at a luncheon organised by the Conservative Friends of Israel – a body that brings together right-wing non-Jewish and Jewish supporters of Israel, a number of whom have expressed less than sympathetic attitudes towards Muslims.
One of the sleights of hand which fuels that conflation is this clause:
“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.”
Let’s unpack this. Jewish people live in many different countries where they exercise their self-determination. They live as Jews, practising their Jewish life in each of them in their own way, in almost every single case with very few or no restrictions. Most Jews in the world already have one homeland and don’t see the need for another. For many decades now, almost every Jew who wished to do so could go to Israel where they would automatically be granted citizenship to exercise their self-determination there, something denied to Palestinian refugees. The majority have opted to stay in the diaspora, and that diaspora has been swelled by a significant number of Israelis who find it much more tolerable to live outside of Israel. Most Jewish self-determination therefore takes place outside of a “Jewish State”.
As for the accusation that the existence of Israel is a racist endeavour, you don’t have to believe that those who founded Israel were inspired by racism to recognise that racism has been an indisputable outcome of the creation of Israel, and that this racism has had more horrible manifestations in each succeeding decade. Neither do you have to define all Zionists as racists to acknowledge as a fact that Israel’s creation involved the displacement, the ethnic cleansing, of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
The creation of Israel solved a problem for many Jewish Holocaust survivors who languished for years in Displaced Persons camps in Europe with no countries offering to take them. But as their problem was solved by moving to Palestine/Israel, another tragic problem was being created for another people who had just as much or more right to live there.
Many Jews who settled in Israel were in fact left-wing, anti-racist, anti-fascist idealists who settled in kibbutzim and believed they were creating a new and just society. They sincerely believed that they were striking a blow against anti-semitism in the world, but they were blind to its impact on the Palestinians.
Israeli society is not monolithic, and there are a small but growing number of groups in Israel who challenge the status quo, who monitor human rights abuses, who stand up for Palestinian rights, who engage in solidarity activity despite repression from the authorities, and who are not afraid to call many actions of the Israeli state “racist” endeavours. It would be the height of absurdity to label these people and groups “anti-semites” but that is where definitions like the IHRA’s take us.
What kinds of attitudes towards Holocaust remembrance are likely to be engendered when the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, in practice, uses that name as a shield to defend an ethnocracy, a heartless occupying power, from perfectly legitimate censure? It will undoubtedly engender attitudes of cynicism and even hostility. That is bad for humanity.
Holocaust remembrance gains, rather than lessens, in its importance in a world that is sliding further and further away from the Declaration of Human Rights established just after the horrors of the Nazi genocide. Whether it is the treatment of longstanding minorities, newer migrants, or refugees, we see unambiguous processes of scapegoating, discrimination, exclusion, and dehumanisation unfolding in front of our eyes. Processes that must feel very painful to those, such as Boaz Evron, now nearly 90 years old, and to so many human rights campaigners, who have made an effort to learn and apply the lessons for humanity from the Holocaust.
Those lessons implore us to stand up and unite against all forms of racism and intolerance, whether directed against Jews, Blacks, Gypsies and Travellers, Muslims or, indeed, Palestinians.