Labour’s Relationship to Zionism and the Israeli State

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The authors of this ‘pamphlet’, are all Labour Party members, all members of the health professions. Over the last year there has been a concerted effort to bully the Party into silence on Israel/Palestine, and we have witnessed the Party leadership buckle under the pressure. This campaign aimed, first, to confuse the struggle for civil rights in Israel/Palestine with racial prejudice; and, second, to demonise the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, a grass roots, human rights-based movement of non-co-operation with institutions complicit in Israel’s Occupation, undertaken in response to a call from the collective voice of Palestinian civil society. Our opportunity to express and act upon the compassion and solidarity we feel for the Palestinian people is at risk of being seriously eroded.

Our points of view and those of others like us have been made to sound controversial in the UK, although there is little here that has not been put forward in the pages of Israel’s own daily newspaper, Haaretz. We expect our efforts to be met with counter-arguments, and not further witch hunting. In this way, we hope that the membership will have the opportunity to appraise the relative merits of different points of view in the light of our shared ideals. Continue reading “Labour’s Relationship to Zionism and the Israeli State”

Not worth the paper it is written on

David Plank

My Critique of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee’s Report on Antisemitism in the United Kingdom concluded that –

“By falling so far short of the standards required (it) does disservice to the honourable cause of combating antisemitism in the united Kingdom: and fuels the fires of misunderstanding and ill feeling which dog its discussion…”; and that “If I was inclined to borrow an expression from the Committee’s Interim Chair” (when describing the Shami Chakrabarti Report), “I would say the Committee’s Report is not worth the paper it is written on.” [Paragraphs 9.4 & 9.5]

This is confirmed after seeing the astounding and undeniable revelations broadcast on 11 – 14 January in four half hour programmes on “Al Jazeera Investigates: The Lobby”.

It is now my firm conclusion that the vilification of the Labour Party by the Home Affairs Committee and others is without foundation. The Shami Chakrabarti Report got it right about the level of antisemitism in the Labour Party; the Home Affairs Committee got it very wrong.

It is also clear that there has been an organized campaign against the Labour Party and its Leader, in which the government of Israel, through the Israeli Embassy in London, has played a central and proactive part. A part described by the Al Jazeera programme presenter, Clayton Swisher, as “covert action that penetrates the heart of Britain’s democracy”; and which Peter Oborne calls “… outrageous interference in British politics … (which) shouldn’t be permitted … (and) … should be investigated by our intelligence services.” [Peter Oborne is associate editor of The Spectator and former chief political commentator of the Daily Telegraph.]

It appears from the programmes that parts of the Labour Party are involved in this “outrageous interference”, including the upper echelons of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) represented by Jeremy Newmark and the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) through its Parliamentary Officer, Michael Rubin.

LFI staffer Michael Rubin expalin9ing how the Embassy hides its involvement
LFI staffer Michael Rubin expalin9ing how the Embassy hides its involvement

The four Al Jazeera programmes provide substantial and convincing evidence of Israeli Embassy initiatives through Shai Masot, its Senior Political Officer, and in other ways, to undermine the Leader of the Labour Party and his supporters in the Party who are seen to be sympathetic to the Palestinian people. This involves the active support and influencing of groups within the Labour Party including the Jewish Labour Movement, Labour Friends of Israel, Young Fabians, and We Believe in Israel / Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM) – and the creation of other groups.

Amongst other things, Shai Masot, who first met the Al Jazeera undercover reporter at an LFI meeting, is recorded initiating a Young Labour Friends of Israel group through the reporter who is to be “chairman of it”, including getting him a job at the Israeli Embassy to support this activity. At a subsequent private meeting at a London hotel at which Ella Rose, Director of JLM was also present, the investigator meets Michael Freeman, Head of Civil Society Affairs at the Israeli Embassy, who explains that the Embassy is looking for someone to work on BDS (the world-wide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel’s actions towards the Palestinian people). The Guest of Honour at this private meeting is Gilad Erdan MK, Israel’s Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy. Mr Erdan is recorded as saying: “I grew up with the ideology that the land of Israel (by which he means the historic land of Canaan or Palestine) totally belongs to the Jewish people … It (BDS) is a strategic threat to the future of Israel because if we will allow them to continue with all the lies they are spreading against Israel we will lose this fantastic young generation …”

The evidence presented in the Al Jazeera programmes makes clear that it is in this context that the vilification of the labour Party and its Leader should be seen – as should the vilification of others including Malia Bouattia, President of the National Union of Students, and of Jackie Walker, Labour Party member and former Vice Chair of Momentum’s National Committee. All of whom are also vilified in the Home Affairs Committee’s report on antisemitism.

The Israeli Embassy’s interference in UK politics is not confined to the Labour Party. According to the programmes, other groups are also influenced including the Conservative Friends of Israel, the Young Conservatives and Conservative Future. The need to do this with the Conservative Party is seen to be less by the Embassy because, as Shai Masot says, new Conservative MPs are joining the CFI “automatically”, whereas Labour MPs are not joining Labour Friends of Israel and “… you need to get more people on board.” Nevertheless Shai Masot is recorded as noting that an initiative was taken to set up the Young Conservative Friends of Israel, “CFI yeah … CFI started with it one year ago because of my idea.”

A private meeting of “sympathetic Labour activists” at the Labour Party Annual Conference last September, was addressed by Mark Regev, the Israeli Ambassador, at which Shai Masot was also on the platform alongside the Ambassador, as was Jeremy Newmark of JLM. Jeremy Newmark is recorded as saying: “Just to get Clive Lewis, as one of Corbyn’s key lieutenants, onto an openly Zionist JLM platform took a lot of heavy lifting”, “Everything is wheels within wheels, it has created a bit of division within Momentum … We already have actual intelligence, that from Momentum political directors’ meeting last night they passed a vote of censure on Clive Lewis just for coming to our meetings and speaking.”

Shai Masot & Jeremy Newmark with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev speaking at an event at Labour party conference in 2016 (Al Jazeera)
Shai Masot and JLC Chair Jeremy Newmark with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev speaking at an event at Labour party conference in 2016 (Al Jazeera)

Michael Rubin is recorded in the same programme as saying: “We work with the Embassy quite a lot. When bad news stories come out about Israel, the Embassy sends us information so we can still counter it. We work really closely together. But a lot of it’s behind the scenes … but they (young Labour people) wouldn’t be happy if it (LFI) was seen as an Embassy thing… Being LFI allows us to reach out to people who wouldn’t want get involved with the Embassy … we obviously want the same end goal of getting more people to be more pro-Israel and understand the conflict. It’s just how you do it.” Other remarks from Shai Masot on purportedly independent groups he has been instrumental in setting up in Britain, including nudge, nudge, wink, wink type body language, indicate his clear view that LFI is not a body independent of the Israeli Embassy.

The programmes show regular interaction of this kind between JLM, LFI and Israeli Embassy personnel including the Deputy Ambassador as well as the Ambassador at the Labour Party’s Annual Conference and elsewhere. This includes contact at informal events such as the JLM summer barbecue where another attendee said to the undercover investigator, “Oh, you know Shai? How interesting, I work with Shai. I work for the Ambassador.” It was at this event that Jeremy Newmark welcomed Ella Rose to her new post as JLM Director and made clear that, “Ella was by no means the person … that had the most Labour Party and political experience. But there was something … as trustees (of JLM) we felt mattered much more, which is that she is one of you” – referring to her experience as President of the Union of Jewish Students where “she … fought the campus battles alongside you …” and why trustees appointed her “… to go on to play an incredibly critical role at the lead of the struggle against antisemitism in the Labour Party.”

At the private meeting with Labour Party activists at the Party’s Annual Conference referred to above, the Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev, is recorded as saying: “The fashion is, if you are on the left today, you are probably very hostile to Israel, if not antisemitic.” Mr Regev also describes Hamas and Hezbollah in wholly derogatory terms as “These people are misogynistic, they are homophobic, they are racist, they are antisemitic, they are reactionary. I think that’s what we need to say”. Mr Regev made no reference to the origins of these bodies in the establishment of the state of Israel in Palestine by which they were forcibly dispossessed, as they see it, or to their current status within the Palestinian diaspora in the government of Lebanon and Palestine Authority.

Some Labour MPs also appear caught up in these events, though it is not clear whether a wholly conscious part is being played or not.  The vividly painful filming of Joan Ryan MP, Chair of the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), when asked questions by the admirably persistent Jean Fitzpatrick at the LFI’s stand at the Labour Party’s Annual Conference last September, shows shameful resort by the MP to an allegation of antisemitism without any foundation in fact. Joan Ryan’s painfully embarrassing inability to answer Jean’s informed questions about the two-state solution, led her to make an official complaint of antisemitic conduct against her fellow Party member backed up by Alex Richardson, her Parliamentary Assistant, who witnessed the encounter. It is appalling to see how perfectly fair and polite, if persistent and clearly uncomfortable questioning, was first not addressed because Joan Ryan did not have an answer, and then “twisted” to use the Prime minister’s word, to conjure out of the air things which had not been said or implied to make them antisemitic. This is unintentionally acknowledged in Alex Richardson’s recorded remarks shortly after the encounter when he said: “… and although nothing antisemitic was said, I’m sure there were undertones of it and it was brought upon by that context.”

Yet both he and Joan Ryan had no compunction in making an official complaint to the Labour Party about a fellow Labour Party member on this non-existent basis. Not only that, but Joan Ryan went on that same evening to announce at a rally to combat antisemitism organized by the JLM, “We have also had three incidents of antisemitic harassment on our stand to the people who are staffing that stall today” – of which she makes clear subsequently that the one involving Jean Fitzpatrick was in her view the worst. Is this the stuff on which the internal assault on Jeremy Corbyn using allegations of endemic antisemitism as hammer blows  with which to strike him, is based? Judging by this and other recorded episodes such as that of Ruth Smeeth MP described in my Critique, I share the view of Ilan Pappe, Israeli historian, expressed on the Al Jazeera programmes that as evidence they are “pathetic”.  They are also illustrative of a disturbing mind-set, apparently all too willing to perceive inconvenient or uncomfortable behaviour as antisemitic, including justified criticism of Israel’s indefensible and unlawful conduct in the occupied West Bank. Despite being informed of the results of Al Jazeera Investigates, Joan Ryan asserted that her actions were “entirely appropriate”. This beggars belief.

The Al Jazeera programmes show that the LFI’s parliamentary officer, Michael Rubin, is not the only LFI officer to have regular contact with Shai Masot and the Israeli Embassy. Michael Rubin confirmed this in respect of LFI’s Chair, Joan Ryan MP, saying “So she’ll speak to Shai most days.”

The programmes also revealed the insensitive subsequent handling by the Labour Party of the complaint made by Joan Ryan, which caused Jean Fitzpatrick great and wholly unjustified anxiety. The Party’s letter to Jean Fitzpatrick does not make clear who the complainant was, referring inaccurately to her allegedly having spoken “… to a member of party staff”, not to the complainant. The complaint was eventually not upheld.

At the same LFI stand at the Labour Party Annual Conference, we also heard Chuka Umunna MP, after he had hugged Jennifer Gerber, Director of the LFI, and heard Alex Richardson’s unspecific account of the alleged antisemitic incidents involving Party members, say: It’s disgraceful. We’ll prevail. We’ll prevail in the end”. This was shortly after the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party Leader and shortly before publication of the Home Affairs Committee’s Report. This apparent reference to events inside the Labour Party provides further support for my Critique’s conclusion that the Home Affairs Committee’s inquiry into antisemitism had been hi-jacked by the internal Labour Party dissension following the PLP’s vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn, a dissension which was pursued in the Committee’s Report.

The unacceptable treatment of Jackie Walker is also fully revealed in the Al Jazeera programmes. The alleged antisemitism took place at the same Labour Party Annual Conference at a purported training session led by Mike Katz, one of the Vice Chairs of JLM. Someone was secretly recording the trainer’s contribution and the subsequent debate. There is no antisemitism in what Jackie Walker said. Some might take exception to her comment on International Holocaust Day but it is not antisemitic. There was clear misunderstanding of her intent in making that remark, which Jackie Walker attempted to correct, but there was no exploration of her explanation, which is most surprising in a training session. It is clear that Jackie Walker, like Malia Bouattia, is an anti-Zionist, not an antisemite. I agree with Jackie Walker’s reaction of – let’s have a debate about that – Zionism and anti-Zionism – not about this – the false and destructive equation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism.

In practice, the abuse seems to be the other way round; first in the leaking of information to a news outlet, the Jewish Chronicle, from a training session by, it is claimed, a member of the JLM; second in the subsequent statement by the Board of Deputies of British Jews who called Jackie Walker “an unapologetic Jew baiter” – a most outrageous and unfounded remark from a supposedly respectable body towards a Jewish, black woman who is an anti-racism trainer and advocate in relation to the African Holocaust at the hands of the slavers; and third in the recorded conduct of Ella Rose, the then new Director of the JLM and formerly an official at the Israeli Embassy in London. Ella Rose, in addition to expression of a number of expletives, is recorded as saying: “I saw Jackie Walker on Saturday and thought, you know what, I could take her, she’s like 5’ 2” and tiny. That’s why I can take Jackie Walker; Krav Maga training.” [A hand to hand combat technique developed by the Israeli military.] I agree with Jackie Walker’s response when shown this recording that it was “breath-taking” and that it “says it all”.

Unless it has evidence of which I and others are unaware, the Labour Party should drop the allegation against Jackie Walker forthwith. It is not acceptable that the matter has not been concluded to date, which is also the case I understand with the complaint against Ken Livingstone.

These events illustrate the chilling effect on free speech the unjustified vilification of the Labour Party could well have – and appears to be having now. This is to the detriment of our open democracy and to our hard won right to speak up without fear or favour – in this instance for the cruelly oppressed people of Palestine. This is wholly unacceptable as the de facto annexation of the West Bank takes place in plain view through the Israeli state sponsored settler movement and the frequent bulldozing of Palestinian homes, olive groves and business premises – most recently resulting in the deaths of two Palestinians in the dawn raid by Israeli troops on 18 January to demolish the Palestinian Bedouin village of Umm Al-Hiran. In plain view, that is, to those who have open minds and eyes willing to see it – but not to those whose minds are closed and do not wish to see it for what it is.

Here we have, as they see it, a dispossessed people being oppressed and further dispossessed by the strongest military power in the Middle East for whom the accustomed status of victimhood fits increasing ill. And which seems determined upon expansion of its territory way beyond Israel’s internationally recognized 1967 boundaries, not just in respect of the bitterly disputed areas of East Jerusalem. Yet our government seems unwilling to say boo to this goose and, in common with other governments, huffs and puffs to no effect, preferring occasional votes at the UN. Yet Mr Netanyahu asserts that legitimate protest through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign by the Palestinian people and others is “a moral outrage” – with no gainsay from those with the power to make it count. If anyone has the right to feel “moral outrage” it is the people of Palestine; and the people of our own country at a foreign government’s now exposed efforts to interfere in our democratic affairs.

At the same time it is important to get a better understanding of what is driving the forces inside Israel whose actions are seen to be so oppressive by Palestinians – as well as many Israeli and British Jews – and intrusive upon our democratic process – yet which seem from the point of view of those concerned to be appropriate and justified. Notwithstanding the military power referred to above, the fear of attack amongst Israeli civilians referred to in my Critique is not in any way confined to the areas within rocket range of Gaza – indeed it appears to be much more widespread and to play a significant part in the bitter division of views which surrounds the current debate of antisemitism in this country. [Paragraph 5.2]

It is in this bitterly divided context that the Al Jazeera programmes also vividly illustrate the great danger of the government’s proposed definition of antisemitism. They help to make clear the considerable scope for incorrect interpretation of a fair exercise of free speech in the intended examples in that definition, including: “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination …”, which many people unjustifiably equate with informed and persistent questioning of Israel’s behaviour towards the Palestinians, or with anti-Zionism which is inaccurately equated with antisemitism; and “Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity”, which as I point out in my comments on the proposed definition, is precisely how many British and Israeli Jews do see Israel – including, according to his own recorded words, Israel’s Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy (see above).

From the Al Jazeera programmes and from other events such as Ruth Smeeth MP’s conduct at and after the launch of the Shami Chakrabarti Report, my clear impression is that there is an over-propensity on the part of some people involved in these matters to interpret conduct as antisemitic when to the objective ear it is not. It is imperative that the government does not encourage this by adopting its proposed definition. Its adoption would be harmful not helpful to the cause of combating antisemitism – and would risk that honourable cause being brought into disrepute.

It is also most important, as Peter Oborne says in the Al Jazeera programmes about Shai Masot and the Israeli Embassy’s “outrageous interference” in the United Kingdom’s democratic process, that it should not be tolerated in the quiescent manner the government affects. It requires full, fearless and open investigation.

It is imperative that the Labour Party respects the informed and objective conclusion of the Shami Chakrabarti Report that “The Labour Party is not overrun by antisemitism…” And that the Party disregards the conclusions of the Home Affairs Committee’s Report in this regard – as not being worth the paper they are written on.

It is time to stand up and speak out against these various outrages and not to be cowed by fear of being falsely accused of antisemitism. An accusation which does as much harm to Israel and its legitimate right to live without fear within its internationally recognized boundaries as to the equally legitimate right of the Palestinian people to be secure in their own homeland.  This is what Jean Fitzgerald was asking Joan Ryan MP about: it is to our collective shame that answer was there none, other than hurtful accusation.  We must also speak out against the neglect of the true facts by the BBC and the large majority of the privately owned British media. We need to stand up and be counted as true democrats in the honourable tradition of Tom Paine who, I guess, would have a thing or two to say about the current state of affairs. Perhaps “He who dares not offend cannot be honest” might be apposite.

3 February 2017

David’s interview on his Critique by Rosemary Bechler of Open Democracy
David’s response to the Government’s proposed definition of antisemitism

Jackie Walker Hits Back

In these videos  Black Jewish Labour activist Jackie Walker, former vice-chair of Momentum, describes how she was targeted by the Zionist Israel Lobby, and falsely accused as being anti-Semitic. The Al Jazeera series The Lobby, uncovered the shenanigans of the Israel embassy and its Senior Political Advisor, Shai Masot, in four programme during January 2017. The investigation detailed how the embassy worked with Zionist organisations within the Labour Party to defame and harass critics of Israel. Jackie, iconic for her proclamation of her joint Jewish and Black identities was a prime target of this campaign.

FSOI Supports Suspended Black Labour Activists

Mike Cushman

Free Speech on Israel were proud to support the vigil of suspended black Labour Party activist, Marc Wadsworth outside London Labour Party offices today, 1 February. The combined presence of Black and Jewish activists made a powerful statement about the illegitimacy of victimising life-long anti-racists for invented slurs of antisemitism.

FSOI supporting Marc Wasdswoth vigil

Marc’s supporters issued this call which FSOI responded to.

Labour has excluded from membership or suspended prominent Black activists as part of a shameful purge. The main target of the rightwing witch-hunters are supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s progressive politics, including his friend and ally Marc Wadsworth, the veteran anti-racist and human rights activist.

Wadsworth’s “crime” is that he dared call out anti-Corbyn Labour MP Ruth Smeeth at the June 2016 launch of the Chakrabarti report into Labour anti-semitism and racism and raise the under-representation of Africans, Caribbeans and Asians at the event. At a time when anti-semitism has been cynically weaponised to attack the Labour leader and his closest supporters, anti-Black racism and Islamophobia have been conveniently ignored. This vigil is being held outside the Labour hearing for Wadsworth the party has been forced to hold because of huge political pressure. It begins the Black community’s fightback against Labour injustice.For too long the party has taken for granted Black people, its most loyal supporters it needs to win back power. Now Labour has cracked down on Black activists telling truth to power to silence their voices. And, in solidarity with them, we say: Enough is enough.

A major part of the accusation against Wadsworth was a totally confected claim by Zionist MP Ruth Smeeth which FSOI refuted at the time it was made

One question was from a Daily Telegraph journalist about a Momentum leaflet on deselection of Labour MPs. The leaflet had been handed out by Marc Wadsworth, a Black activist and journalist.  He had refused to hand a leaflet to Ruth Smeeth who had been pointed out to him as one of the first MPs to call for Corbyn’s resignation – he had never come across her of heard of her before. Wadsworth had seen the Telegraph journalist, Kate McCann, hand her copy of the leaflet to Smeeth and the two sat together. Wadsworth accused Smeeth of collaboration with the media. Smeeth, whose Jewish heritage was totally unknown to Wadsworth chose to interpret the accusation as an antisemitic slur and departed the room. Later she claimed, despite video evidence to the contrary, to have fled the room in tears.

View video of Marc’s alleged offence

Black activists are asking for individuals to express their support by emailing

iain_mcnichol@labour.org.uk
I..(insert your name), call on you as Labour’s General Secretary to immediately lift the unjust suspension from party membership of veteran activist Marc Wadsworth. Please acknowledge receipt of my email.

Labour must reinstate anti-racist activist Marc Wadsworth

Marc received support in a letter in the Guardian signed by an impressive selection of respected public figures headed by former Head of the Equal Opportunities Commission Herman Ouseley

We call on Labour’s general secretary to lift the unjust suspension from Labour membership of veteran anti-racist campaigner Marc Wadsworth. It is a cause for serious concern that Wadsworth is one of several prominent black activists suspended or excluded by the party, which has historically relied on Africans, Caribbeans and Asians, its most loyal voters, to get many Labour MPs elected. Labour cannot hope to get back into power without black support. Black people, and their anti-racist allies in these troubled times, will be watching closely to see how this matter is handled.

We are making public our support for Wadsworth because, after a more than six month wait, he will on Wednesday be interviewed by Labour officials and a demonstration will be held to support him.

It is scandalous that Wadsworth was suspended by the general secretary, Iain McNicol, because he dared to challenge a Labour MP who was a high-profile opponent of the democratically elected Labour leader, and raise the issue of black political under-representation at the launch of the Shami Chakrabarti report into antisemitism and racism. Fortunately, the moment when Wadsworth spoke out was captured on a video that has been widely publicised by the media. It clearly demonstrates he is not guilty of antisemitism.

We note that Wadsworth has a long record of fighting against racism and antisemitism, inside and outside the Labour party and trade union movement, and demand that he is reinstated immediately.

Herman Ouseley Chair, Kick it Out, Linda Bellos, Peter Tatchell, Prof Paul Gilroy, Prof Gus John, Prof Pat Thane, Suresh Grover The Monitoring Group, Stafford Scott Tottenham Rights, Dr Iqbal Scram, Peter Herbert Society of Black Lawyers, Simon Woolley Operation Black Vote, Jackie Walker, Orson Nava, Gary Younge

We are also actively continuing our support of suspended Jewish Black activist Jackie Walker.

FSOI Media Notice – Government must not Cover up Israeli Interference in UK Politics

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

  1. 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.”

Letter from Jeremy Corbyn to Theresa May demanding a public inquiry
Letter from Jeremy Corbyn to Theresa May demanding a public inquiry

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.

6. Examples of the witch hunt against a large number of pro-Corbyn, pro-Palestinian Labour Party activists exposed in the Al-Jazeera programmes include:

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.

Al Jazeera Lifts the Lid on the Swamp of Israeli Subversion

Mike Cushman

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”.

JLM Director Ella Rose boasts how she can 'take' Jackie Walker
JLM Director Ella Rose boasts how she can ‘take’ Jackie Walker

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”.

LFI staffer Michael Rubin expalin9ing how the Embassy hides its involvement
LFI staffer Michael Rubin expalin9ing how the Embassy hides its involvement

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.

Shai Masot & Jeremy Newmark with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev speaking at an event at Labour party conference in 2016 (Al Jazeera)
Shai Masot & JLC Chair Jeremy Newmark with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev speaking at an event at Labour party conference in 2016 (Al Jazeera)

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.

End Israeli state interference in British political parties

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

Shai Masot (2nd left) & Jeremy Newmark with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev speaking at an event at Labour party conference in 2016 (Al Jazeera)

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. 

 

Israeli Embassy Caught in the Act

No Mrs May, the matter is not closed

Regev must be sent home

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.

Shai Masot & Jeremy Newmark with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev speaking at an event at Labour party conference in 2016 (Al Jazeera)
Shai Masot & Jeremy Newmark with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev speaking at an event at Labour party conference in 2016 (Al Jazeera)

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

Mike Cushman

Al Jazeera Investigative Unit’s series “The Lobby” can be viewed on Al Jazeera at the following times: 

Episode One – Wednesday, January 11, 22:30 GMT

Episode Two – Thursday, January 12, 22:30 GMT

Episode Three – Friday, January 13, 22:30 GMT

Episode Four – Saturday, January 14, 22:30 GMT

The series will also be available online.