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
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.