David Hearst & Peter Oborne
Saturday 7 January 2017 10:37 UTC Last update: Sunday 8 January 2017 10:35 UTC
LONDON - A senior political officer at the Israeli Embassy in London has been secretly filmed talking about how he would like to "take down" UK foreign office minister Alan Duncan, a vocal opponent of illegal Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.
He said Duncan, who is one of the few Conservative ministers to speak out over settlements, was causing "a lot of problems". He also called Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, "an idiot".
In a separate conversation with the embassy staffer, Crispin Blunt, the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, was described as being "on the hit list" for his views which were "strongly pro-Arab rather than pro-Israel".
The revelations provoked an immediate political reaction, with Desmond Swayne, a former Conservative minister and parliamentary aide to former prime minister David Cameron, calling for the incident to be "investigated thoroughly".
"What we cannot have is Israel acting in the UK with the same impunity it enjoys in Palestine," he told Middle East Eye. "This is clearly interference in another country's politics of the murkiest and most discreditable kind."
In a statement on Saturday night, the Israeli embassy said that Mark Regev, Israel's ambassador to the UK, had spoken to Duncan to apologise and that Regev had made clear that the embassy considered the remarks to be "completely unacceptable".
A spokesperson for the UK's foreign office also confirmed that Regev had apologised.
"The Israeli ambassador has apologised and is clear these comments do not reflect the views of the embassy or government of Israel," he said. "The UK has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed."
PETER OBORNE: Duncan's opposition to settlements makes him Israeli target
The undercover recording, which exposes how Israeli influence extends to senior levels of the governing Conservative Party, also includes a conversation in which an assistant to another Conservative minister described how she used her position to plant parliamentary questions supportive of Israel.
Shai Masot, Political Officer for the Israeli Embassy (Al Jazeera)
The conversation was filmed by Al Jazeera's investigative unit at a restaurant in London last year and features Shai Masot, the embassy's political officer, and Maria Strizzolo, a former parliamentary assistant to Robert Halfon, a junior education minister and former Conservative Party deputy chairman. She also mentions meeting Masot's bosses at the Ministry of Strategic Affairs several times in Israel.
Speaking to an undercover reporter posing as a pro-Israel political activist, Strizzolo boasted of how she had taken on Halfon, the MP for Harlow in Essex, when he was a backbencher: "And now look at him, he's a minister, so I'm not too nonsense!"
Masot, who in an online profile deactivated on Saturday described Niccolo Machiavelli as his "God," then asked her whether she could do the opposite: "Can I give you some MPs that you can take down?"
Strizzolo, who is now a UK government employee working at the Department for Education's Skills Funding Agency, replied: "Well you know, if you look hard enough I'm sure that there is something they are trying to hide."
Masot said: "Yeah, I have some MPs."
Strizzolo said: "Let’s talk about it."
Masot then told the reporter: "No, she knows which MPs I want to take down."
Strizzolo replied that it would be good to remind her, and Masot then said: "The deputy foreign minister."
This did not come as a surprise to Strizzolo, who replied: "You still want to go for it?"
Masot said: "No, he's doing a lot of problems."
Shai Masot and Maria Strizzolo (Al Jazeera)
Strizzolo then recounted an encounter between Duncan and Halfon, her boss, in which she alleged that Duncan had threatened to "destroy" him. Halfon allegedly reported the incident to the party whips, who told him to "calm down".
The conversation about what to do about Duncan then continued, with Masot saying: "Never say never, yeah but ...", and Strizzolo suggesting: "A little scandal maybe?"
In response to the revelations, Crispin Blunt told MEE that the "Israelis need to explain what's going on".
"While this apparent activity of a representative of a foreign state in the politics of the United Kingdom is formally outrageous and deserving of investigation, the real questions should be for the state of Israel itself," he said.
"Israel's future peace and security is not being served by ignoring the substantial peace lobby in both Israel and the worldwide Jewish community and working to undermine those foreign politicians who share that perspective."
Duncan became a target for Israel in 2014 when he produced a blistering attack on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which he said amounted to a wicked cocktail of occupation and illegality, a system akin to apartheid which brought shame on the Israeli government.
The speech was one of the strongest attacks on Benjamin Netanyahu's government by a British front-bench politician.
Duncan said: "Settlements are illegal colonies built in someone else's country. They are an act of theft, and what is more something which is both initiated and supported by the state of Israel."
BDS is not the only tactic against Israeli occupation, but it is working
The exchange about Duncan is among hours of conversations recorded over a period of months, which reveal how Masot sought to manipulate the political debate over Israel and Palestine within both the Conservative Party and the opposition Labour Party.
The Al Jazeera reporter gained Masot's trust and infiltrated his circle so effectively that he was offered a job by the embassy to help combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign in Britain.
The strategy, which is described in the tapes by a senior member of AIPAC, the influential pro-Israel lobbying organisation in the US, is to detach Britain from pro-Palestinian sentiment in Europe and bring the UK closer to the US.
The embassy tapes reveal the extent to which Israel has penetrated the Conservative Party through an organisation called the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) for whom both Halfon and Strizzolo had worked.
The strength of Conservative support for Israel was highlighted last week in comments by a spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May, which appeared to criticise US Secretary of State John Kerry's recent speech in which he said that Israeli government policy was being driven by "extreme elements".
"We do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally," the spokesperson said.
The Daily Mail featured a response critical of May headlined, Poisonous conduct is a disgrace: Minister who served in David Cameron's government says it is time to end the problem of Israel buying UK policy, in which the former minister wrote: "The reason is clear: the Conservative Party wants pro-Israel donors' money, and principle in the Government's foreign policy has been relegated.
"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, taken donors' money, and allowed Israeli influence-peddling to shape policy and even determine the fate of Ministers. Even now, if I were to reveal who I am, I would be subjected to a relentless barrage of abuse and character assassination," the former minister wrote.
"It now seems clear people in the Conservative and Labour Parties have been working with the Israeli embassy which has used them to demonise and trash MPs who criticise Israel; an army of Israel's useless idiots in Parliament. This is politically corrupt, and diplomatically indefensible," the former minister wrote, concluding that: "We need a full inquiry into the Israeli Embassy, the links, access and funding ... and an undertaking from all political parties that they welcome the financial and political support of the UK Jewish community, but won't accept any engagement linked to Israel until it stops building illegally on Palestinian land."
The tapes also expose how the Israeli embassy has helped to establish, and in some cases has directly funded, a number of organisations that claim to be independent of it. This includes the Union of Jewish Students and a group for aspiring diplomats called Young Diplomatic London, to which Masot was on the executive committee
Strizzolo said that "pretty much" all Tory MPs belonged to the CFI, including Theresa May, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Boris Johnson.
She also claimed credit for a question asked by Halfon at the time of the kidnap and suspected murder by Hamas of three Israeli settler youths in the West Bank in June 2014.
The incident contributed to tensions which led to Israel's assault on Gaza the following month in which more than 2,000 Palestinians died, according to United Nations figures.
Strizzolo, who was in Israel with the CFI at the time, said: "And I was on the phone with Rob [Halfon] to convince him to table a question for Prime Minister's Question Time, paying tribute ..."
The reporter interrupted: "Did he do it?"
Strizzolo continued: "Yeah. And also tabled in an urgent question to ... get a statement from the government on the three kids."
'Hamas is Hamas is Hamas': How UK minister spoke up for Israel
Halfon spoke about the incident in parliament on 2 July 2014, putting the following question to then-prime minister David Cameron: "The world has seen the tragic and brutal murders of three Israeli youngsters, most probably by Hamas.
"Will my right honourable friend give the Israeli government every possible support at this time? Does he agree that, far from showing restraint, Israel must do everything possible to take out Hamas terrorist networks, and will he give the Israeli government support in that?"
Cameron replied that he knew Halfon to be "passionate about these issues," but said that security operations needed to be conducted with care to avoid further escalation.
"It is very important that Britain will stand with Israel as it seeks to bring to justice those who are responsible. The people responsible for this should be found and brought to justice," he said.
Strizzolo also revealed she "prepared everything" for MPs so it was hard for them to say no.
"So you literally prepare everything for them, it's harder from them to say: 'Oh no, I don’t have the time, you know.' So if they already have the questions to table for PMQs, it’s harder to say, 'Oh no, no, no, I won’t do it.'"
Halfon had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.
Masot, a former major in the Israeli navy, described his position at the embassy as a "political posting" and explained that he was not a "career diplomat".
He said he worked for the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which was set up by Netanyahu to conduct what has been described in Israel as a secret war against the BDS movement.
Israeli ambassador Mark Regev speaking at an event at the Labour party conference in 2016 (Al Jazeera)
Masot said Mark Regev, the current Israeli ambassador to the UK, was a friend, though in a revealing episode he hinted that he considered him too dovish.
"Mark Regev, he's all the time asking me, yeah he's a good friend," he said.
"Yeah, but that's the thing with Netanyahu usually the people that surround him are really nice, they are comfortable, they are comfortable people. Mark is a great person but he's not the guy that will go for a war."
In a statement, Strizzolo said her conversation with Masot had been "tongue in cheek and gossipy" and had taken place "in a social context".
Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit uncovers Israel's covert influence campaign in Britain
Investigation involved six-month undercover infiltration of anti-boycott campaign
Discussions between Israeli diplomat and British civil servant to 'take down' politicians revealed
Senior members of parliament have slammed comments made by an Israeli diplomat on plans to "take down" the UK's deputy foreign secretary over his criticism of Israel's settlement policy in the occupied West Bank.
Emily Thornberry, the Labour Party's shadow foreign secretary, called the statements by Shai Masot - a senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London - "extremely disturbing" and demanded a probe into the potential extent of political "interference" in the United Kingdom.
Masot's comments were secretly captured on film during a six-month undercover operation by Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit, which reveals plots by the Israeli diplomat and a British civil servant to destroy the careers of senior politicians .
"It is simply not good enough for the Foreign Office to say the matter is closed. This is a national security issue," Thornberry said in a statement.
"The embassy official involved should be withdrawn, and the government should launch an immediate inquiry into the extent of this improper interference and demand from the Israeli government that it be brought to an end," she said.
Israel apology after plot against UK politicians
In the recorded conversation with Maria Strizzolo, who was then chief of staff to MP Robert Halfon, the deputy chairman of the ruling Conservative Party, Masot asked if he could give her some names of parliamentarians he would suggest she "take down".
Masot named Deputy Foreign Minister Sir Robert Duncan, who in 2014 said while he fully supports Israel's right to exist, he believes settlements on occupied Palestinian land represent an "ever-deepening stain on the face of the globe".
He also likened the situation in Hebron in the occupied West Bank to apartheid.
Strizzolo later hinted that "a little scandal" might see Duncan dismissed.
At the same dinner table conversation, Masot described British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Duncan's boss, as an "idiot … without any kind of responsibilities", while Strizzolo said he was "solid on Israel".
Since the announcement by Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit of its findings - and the international media coverage that followed - the Israeli embassy tweeted a response saying that Masot would be "ending his term shortly", adding that Mark Regev, ambassador of Israel to the UK, had apologised to Duncan "and made clear that the embassy considered the remarks to be completely unacceptable".
Al Jazeera learned on Sunday that Strizzolo had resigned from her post.
Scottish National Party MP Alex Salmond reiterated the call on Sunday for Masot's deportation.
"Boris Johnson must right now revoke Mr Masot's diplomatic status and remove him from the country as would most certainly have happened had the circumstances been reversed. Perhaps then the Israeli government representatives will regard the foreign secretary as less of a fool."
Salmond also backed an official probe into the matter "so that we can be confident our elected officials are free to carry out their jobs to the best of their ability and without fear of having their reputation smeared by embassy officials who do not agree with their views".
RELATED: Israel's parliamentary plot against UK politicians
Ben White, a researcher and journalist who has written about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, told Al Jazeera it is not surprising that Israel would seek to influence British politicians, but he added this case was unique because it involved a secret video that has been publicised.
"We know that the Israeli foreign ministry - and also interestingly the Israeli ministry of strategic affairs, which it actually seemed that this individual [Masot] is an employee of - are very focused on fighting what they see as dangerous, powerful solidarity activism with particular focus on trying to thwart and undermine the Boycott Divest and Sanctions campaign," said White.
Al Jazeera reveals discussions of Israel diplomat and British civil servant to 'take down' anti-settlement politicians. Shai Masot, senior political officer at the Israeli embassy [Al Jazeera]
The incident is just one among the Investigative Unit's many findings, which will be revealed in a four-part series "The Lobby" that will broadcast daily on Al Jazeera from January 11 at 22:30 GMT.
The undercover investigation shows how the Israeli government is involved in a brazen, covert influence campaign in Britain.
For half a year, Robin (an alias), an undercover reporter working with Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit, met with members of Britain's lobby network that enjoys strong support from the Israeli government by way of the Israeli embassy in London.
Robin posed as a graduate activist with strong sympathies towards Israel who was keen to help combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement prominent in Britain.
Shaping foreign policy agenda
Strizzolo, while advising Robin, revealed she had a strategy of manipulation to ensure Israel remains at the top of the UK's foreign policy agenda.
"If at least you can get a small group of MPs that you know you can always rely on, when there is something coming to parliament and you know you brief them, you say: 'you don't have to do anything, we are going to give you the speech, we are going to give you all the information, we are going to do everything for you'," she said.
She also advised trying to infiltrate Prime Minster's Questions, a weekly session in which the leader of the country answers questions from MPs. The debate is televised live.
"If they already have the question to table for PMQs [Prime Minister's Questions], it's harder to say: 'No, no, no, I won't do it'," she said.
Strizzolo then boasted how her own efforts once made an immediate impact on the national debate.
While in Israel with the Conservative Friends of Israel parliamentary group in 2014, she persuaded MP Halfon to question the prime minster in public over three missing teenagers believed to have been kidnapped and murdered "to get a response from the government", Strizzolo said.
Halfon took the request and called on former prime minister David Cameron to support the Israeli government, which he said should do "everything possible to take out Hamas terrorist networks".
In response, Cameron promised that Britain would "stand by Israel".
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
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother." http://www.aljazeera.com/investigations/
Aljazeera is to be congratulated on an undercover investigation exposing something most of us could probably have guessed: that some Israeli embassy staff in the UK – let’s not pussy around, Mossad agents – are working with senior political activists and politicians in the Conservative and Labour parties to subvert their own parties from within, and skew British foreign policy so that it benefits Israeli, rather than British, interests.
One cannot really blame Israel for doing this. Most states promote their interests as best they can. But one can and should expose and shame the British politicians who are collaborating with Israel in further harming Britain’s representative democracy.
It is not as though these people cannot be easily identified. They even advertise what they are up to. They are members of the Conservative and Labour Friends of Israel (CFI and LFI respectively). They dominate both parliamentary parties, but especially the Conservatives. According to the CFI’s figures, fully 80 per cent of Tory MPs belong to the party’s Friends of Israel group.
Once, no one would have hesitated to call British politicians acting in the interests of a foreign power, and very possibly taking financial benefits for doing so, “traitors”. And yet, as Aljazeera’s secretly filmed footage shows, Israeli spies like Shai Masot can readily meet and conspire with a Tory minister’s much-trusted aide to discuss how best to “take down” the deputy foreign minister, Alan Duncan, over his criticisms of Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied territories. Maria Strizzolo, Education Minister Robert Halfon’s assistant, suggests engineering a “little scandal” to damage Duncan.
Once, no one would have hesitated to call British politicians acting in the interests of a foreign power, and very possibly taking financial benefits for doing so, “traitors”.
Masot and Israel’s intelligence services cannot influence British foreign policy through the opposition Labour party, but that doesn’t prevent them from also taking a keen interest in Labour MPs. Masot is filmed talking to Labour Friends of Israel’s chair, Joan Ryan, about “lots of money” – more than GBP 1 million – he has received from the Israeli government to send yet another batch of Labour MPs on an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel, where they will be wined and dined, and primed by top officials to adopt even more extreme pro-Israel positions. LFI is known for sending the largest proportion of MPs to Israel on these kinds of trips.
Labour MP Joan Ryan was told by the Israeli spy Shai Masot at the meeting that she could go on an expenses paid trip to Israel
Does that have an effect on British domestic politics. You bet it does! Israel isn’t a charity.
A large number of those who have been making Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s life a misery belong to Labour Friends of Israel. They are the same MPs who have been talking up an “anti-Semitism crisis” in the Labour party – based on zero tangible evidence – since Corbyn became party leader. Were they following the dictates of their conscience? Did they really fear an anti-Semitism plague had suddenly beset their party? Or were they playing deeply cynical politics to oust a leader who supports justice for the Palestinian people and is considered by Israel’s right wing government, which has no interest in making peace with the Palestinians, to be bad news for Israel?
Al Jazeera’s investigation has not been shown yet, so we can rely only on the snippets released so far, either by Aljazeera itself or additional leaks of the investigation provided by the Mail on Sunday.
It is worth listening to a Tory minister in the government of recently departed David Cameron, who writes anonymously in the Mail on Sunday. S/he warns of a double whammy to British politics caused by Israel and its British partisans – one that is starting to approach the damage done to the US political system by Israel.
Agents of Israel
The British government skews its foreign policy to avoid upsetting Jewish donors, s/he says. MPs, meanwhile, act like agents of a foreign power – s/he generously assumes unwittingly – rather than representatives of the British people. Forget international law, these politicians are not even promoting British interests.
Here is what the minister writes:
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 CFI and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) have worked with – even for – the Israeli government and their London 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, taken donors’ money, and allowed Israeli influence-peddling to shape policy and even determine the fate of ministers.
Even now, if I were to reveal who I am, I would be subjected to a relentless barrage of abuse and character assassination…
It now seems clear people in the Conservative and Labour parties have been working with the Israeli embassy, which has used them to demonise and trash MPs who criticise Israel; an army of Israel’s useful idiots in Parliament.
This is politically corrupt, and diplomatically indefensible. The conduct of certain MPs needs to be exposed as the poisonous and deceitful infiltration of our politics by the unwitting agents of another country …
We need a full inquiry into the Israeli embassy, the links, access and funding of the CFI and LFI.
It is rare that I agree with a Tory government minister, but such an inquiry cannot come too soon.
An indictment of the UK media
Note too that it is an indictment of the UK media that Aljazeera, rather than the British fourth estate, has exposed Israel’s moves to subvert the British political system. It is not as though reporters from the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Mail haven’t had ministers like the one above complaining to them for years about interference from Israel. So, why did they not long ago send in undercover teams to expose this collusion between Israel and British MPs?
Here we have documented evidence of the Israeli government secretly plotting with “friendly” British MPs to oust a British government minister. Will we… have weeks of coverage of this story in the UK media, or will it be quickly filed away and forgotten?
We have had weeks of stories about the supposed efforts of Russia and Putin to subvert the US election, without a hint yet of any evidence, and based on a central allegation against the Russians that they compromised the election result by releasing truthful information about wrongdoing in the Democratic Party. Russian diplomats have been expelled based on these evidence-free claims, and President Obama has vowed to take other, covert action against Russia.
Here we have documented evidence of the Israeli government secretly plotting with “friendly” British MPs to oust a British government minister. If that isn’t interference in the British political system, I don’t know what is. Will we similarly have weeks of coverage of this story in the UK media, or will it be quickly filed away and forgotten?
And will any action beyond the removal of Masot be demanded by the British government? It seems unlikely. The Foreign Office has already issued a statement saying that, following Masot’s dismissal, it considers the matter closed.
In particular, he urges people to watch part 1 of Al Jazeera's investigative footage:
'Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby P1: Young Friends of Israel':
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceCOhdgRBoc _________________ 'And he (the devil) said to him: To thee will I give all this power, and the glory of them; for to me they are delivered, and to whom I will, I give them'. Luke IV 5-7.
Joined: 25 Jul 2005 Posts: 16080 Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
Posted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 12:57 pm Post subject:
that article has disappeared off the internet Paul,
After a while I found it!
Historian, Former Ambassador, Human Rights Activist
Britain’s Most Undesirable Immigrant: Why Was Shai Masot Given a Visa?
10 Jan, 2017 in Uncategorized by craig
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.
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.
Craig Murray is taking a very strong, principled stand on this issue:
I just clicked on the link I gave, and up it came. Ditto for the youtube, though Craig also has it in his article.
They can hardly take down Craig's own blog (though they would love to!). _________________ 'And he (the devil) said to him: To thee will I give all this power, and the glory of them; for to me they are delivered, and to whom I will, I give them'. Luke IV 5-7.
'....“Not a lot of young people want to be affiliated. For years, every MP that joined the parliament joined the LFI. They’re not doing it any more in the Labour party. CFI, they’re doing it automatically. All the 14 new MPs who got elected in the last elections did it automatically. In the LFI it didn’t happen. We need to get more people on board. It’s a lot of work, actually.”
At a meeting the following month, Masot suggests Robin might want to be chairman of the group he is establishing. He also says Robin should not tell other people that the embassy has established the group. “LFI is an independent organisation. No one likes that someone is managing his organisation. That really is the first rule in politics.”
In September, while on a train to Liverpool for the Labour conference, Masot tells Robin he is also establishing a group called City Friends of Israel. Once in Liverpool, the footage shows Masot introducing Robin at conference social events as the “Young LFI chairman”.
The disclosure that Masot was also attempting to influence Labour affairs by establishing new political groups is likely to enrage the party’s leaders, who have already characterised the threat to “take down” MPs as a serious national security issue.
The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, said: “The exposure of an Israeli embassy official discussing how to bring down or discredit a government minister and other MPs because of their views on the Middle East is extremely disturbing.
“This is a national security issue. The embassy official involved should be withdrawn and the government should launch an immediate inquiry into the extent of this improper interference and demand from the Israeli government that it be brought to an end.”
One former minister in David Cameron’s government said the embassy’s efforts to exert improper influence on British public life went far further than any plot to “take down” unhelpful members of parliament.'
But, as so often with controversial subjects like Israel or Syria, there was no comment section. _________________ 'And he (the devil) said to him: To thee will I give all this power, and the glory of them; for to me they are delivered, and to whom I will, I give them'. Luke IV 5-7.
Israeli strategic affairs minister Gilad Erdan’s denial that an Israeli embassy agent caught plotting to “take down” British politicians works for his ministry is contradicted by undercover footage. (UK Embassy in Tel Aviv)
Israel’s strategic affairs minister Gilad Erdan has denied outright that an official at Israel’s London embassy exposed plotting to “take down” UK lawmakers deemed hostile to Israel works for his ministry.
But the embassy official, Shai Masot, revealed to an undercover reporter working for Al Jazeera that he was indeed working on a secret project for Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs.
In the fourth and final part of Al Jazeera’s groundbreaking film The Lobby, to be broadcast on Saturday, Masot will be seen telling the reporter that he is involved in a project to set up a front company run by the strategic affairs ministry to help fight the BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – movement.
Masot’s statements secretly recorded during Al Jazeera’s six-month undercover investigation of the Israel lobby’s influence in the UK directly contradict Erdan’s flat denial made in a series of tweets on Thursday.
Erdan tweeted: “Shai Masot does not work in my ministry. My ministry has no employees abroad. There is no connection to my ministry.”
Erdan was responding to a column by Israeli journalist Gideon Eshet in the mass circulation daily Yediot Ahronot which identified Masot as a likely employee of Erdan’s ministry.
The indignant Erdan tweeted that Eshet’s claims were “lies” and a “disgrace.”
Hours after Erdan’s denial, news broke confirming that Masot had resigned from his post as a senior political officer at the London embassy.
An Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson told Middle East Eye that “Masot resigned three days ago and I want to emphasize that Masot will not have any contact with the Ministry for Strategic Affairs in the near future.”
The foreign ministry official’s reference to the strategic affairs ministry casts even more doubt on Erdan’s denial. It also comes in the context of a long-running turf war between the two ministries over who should receive the biggest budget and powers to combat BDS.
Shai Masot, a senior political officer in Israel’s London embassy, was filmed by an undercover reporter for Al Jazeera’s investigative documentary “The Lobby.”
Last year, Israeli diplomats even accused the strategic affairs ministry of “operating” UK Jewish organizations in a manner that could potentially breach UK law.
Veteran Israeli journalist Yossi Melman has described the secret efforts of Erdan’s strategic affairs ministry to thwart the BDS movement as “black ops.”
The strategic affairs ministry has stressed that most of its anti-BDS activities would remain secret.
In recent days, the Israeli embassy in London, which answers to the foreign ministry, has also sought to distance itself from Masot.
Despite the fact that Masot is seen in Al Jazeera’s film working in close concert with his embassy colleagues, the embassy has tried to portray him as a junior staffer and a loose cannon.
Calls for investigation
If both the foreign and strategic affairs ministries are to be believed, then Masot was somehow able to operate in plain sight of senior officials of the Israeli embassy, the UK Israel lobby and members of Parliament, without anyone really knowing what he was doing.
That is clearly absurd on its face – and the evidence, including Masot’s own secretly recorded admission, shows otherwise. The obvious explanation is that Israel is deeply embarrassed by the exposure of the activities of its London embassy.
One of the senior British politicians on the “hit list” of officials Masot aimed to “take down” is deputy foreign minister Alan Duncan, who has criticized Israel’s illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.
The Labour Party, the Scottish National Party, as well as senior figures in the governing Conservative Party, have expressed outrage at Israel’s interference in the UK’s political process and have called for investigations.
Asked about Masot in Parliament on Tuesday, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that “The Israeli ambassador made a very full apology for what had taken place and the diplomat in question seems no longer to be a functionary of the embassy in London – so whatever he may exactly have been doing here his cover may well be said to have been and well truly blown – so the matter can be considered closed.”
The Lobby can be viewed online and on Al Jazeera English this week.
Former Tory Minister Sir Nicholas Soames last night launched a blistering attack on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his country’s threat to ‘take down’ Boris Johnson’s deputy.
Sir Nicholas warned Mr Netanyahu’s government not to repeat the ‘outrageous’ threat by Israeli diplomat Shai Masot against Sir Alan Duncan, which was exposed by The Mail on Sunday last week.
Masot and an aide to pro-Israeli Minister Robert Halfon were fired after a secretly recorded film showed them discussing ‘taking down’ pro-Palestinian Sir Alan with ‘a little scandal’ and putting another senior Tory MP, Crispin Blunt, on a ‘hit list’.
Sir Nicholas said: ‘Israel has not heard the last of this. We must make it very clear indeed to Mr Netanyahu and his government that we will not tolerate this kind of outrageous behaviour.
For a diplomat at Israel’s London embassy to talk of taking down Sir Alan is disgraceful. Israel cannot behave like this.
‘Mr Netanyahu would not tolerate a British diplomat acting like that in Israel for a second and he has to be made to understand he cannot do it here either.
It is the equivalent of the way Russians use intelligence to suborn democracy in other nations.’
Our disclosure of the secret film involving Masot, who has close links to Israeli intelligence, and Maria Strizzolo, an aide to Mr Halfon, made headlines around the world.
Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, made a grovelling apology to Mr Johnson and Sir Alan. Masot was sent home to Israel in disgrace and then fired by his government.
A furious Theresa May intervened to order the dismissal of Strizzolo, who, unusually, worked as a civil servant in Mr Halfon’s ‘Skills’ section of the Department for Education, paid by the taxpayer, as well as his Commons assistant, paid by Tory HQ.
Strizzolo revealed in the leaked tape that Mr Halfon and Sir Alan had clashed in the past over the Middle East.
In a Commons debate last week, former Foreign Office Minister Sir Hugo Swire called on Mr Johnson to investigate the ‘serious issues’ raised by the MoS report.
The ‘take down Duncan’ scandal is to be investigated by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, chaired by Mr Blunt, who was targeted by Masot and Strizzolo in the film.
Mr Blunt said: ‘I hope to include this matter in the committee’s wider inquiry into the Middle East peace process.’
Al-Jazeera’s initial undercover investigation into the links between Mossad agents, the UK political class and activists designed to subvert British domestic politics in order to favour a foreign power, did not come a surprise to this writer. During this initial investigation, Israeli operative, Shai Masot, revealed that the Israeli government intends to spend £1m on an all expenses Israeli trip for Labour MPs where they will be wined and dined in return for political favours.
Al-Jazeera followed up this expose with their revelation that senior National Union of Students official, Richard Brooks, conspired to oust the organisation’s president Malia Bouattia as part of a sting involving the Israeli embassy. As I highlight below, these two cases represent the tip of a large iceberg of deceit and corruption at the heart of the British political system.
The joint underhand activities of the Israeli secret service and their collaborators within the Blairite Labour Friends of Israel rump of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and related activists was evident the moment Jeremy Corbyn became elected leader of the party.
Gould & Wallis-Simons
Matthew Gould and Jake Wallis-Simons are two relatively recent examples of what appears to be British-born Jewish Zionists conforming to tropes that involve the prioritizing of Israel, above the interests of the British state. The former was the first Jewish-Zionist to have been appointed as Britain’s ambassador to Israel. Gould, who along with Minister of Defence, Liam Fox and his businessman friend, Adam Werritty, through undisclosed meetings, seemed intent on ensuring that Britain would be drawn into a war with Iran, ostensibly on Israel’s behalf. Gould’s openly Zionist leanings implied a serious conflict of interest issue.
The latter example, the Daily Mail’s Jake Wallis-Simons, who has been at the forefront of a sustained and coordinated media witch-hunt as part of a coup attempt against pro-Palestinian Jeremy Corbyn while simultaneously labeling anybody who supports Corbyn’s position as an “antisemite,” stated he would support Israel if Britain and the Jewish state were hypothetically to go to war. Needless to say that if a British-Muslim had proffered support for any one of Britain’s official enemies, the security forces would have almost certainly detained him/her under terrorism legislation and the corporate media would have plastered the story over its front pages.
Imagine too, what the reaction of the British state would have been if Russian diplomats had acted in a way that subverted UK democracy. Almost certainly, mass Russian expulsions would have ensued, the media would have deemed it an act of war and the story would have been at the forefront of news bulletins for weeks on end. However, unlike the relationship with Russia, British state collusion with Mossad goes right to the top of British establishment, as evidenced by the fact that Masot’s role was covered up.
As former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray posits: “Plainly the official Israeli Embassy explanation that he [Shai Masot] 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”.
Following the money
Clearly, the severity of the media’s attacks on Corbyn and their under-reporting of the roles played by both Masot and Brooks in subverting British domestic politics, can be explained by the close political and financial relationship that exists between the PLP, the British establishment and the Israeli state. The pro-Israel lobby, who have a significant financial stake in the Labour party and whose influence spreads throughout the British political establishment more generally, clearly see pro-Palestinian Corbyn as an anathema to their wider interests viz a viz Israel. Certainly the Hasbara propaganda web site, UK Media Watch, regard the witch-hunt against Corbyn, as well as the attempts by his detractors to disorientate the membership, as ‘a job well done’.
Blogger Mira Bar-Hillel proffers an extremely lucid and revealing account of the extent to which the Zionist pro-Israel lobby have managed to inculcate their propaganda within the wider UK political and corporate media with the intention of subverting the democratic process and thereby undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership with a view to his eventual toppling.
The media attacks on Corbyn and his supporters within the party began to reach stratospheric levels following the appointment of the ultra-Zionist Mark Regev to the role of Israeli ambassador to the UK with the openly anti-Corbyn figure John Mann who hounded Ken Livingston, operating as the Zionists principal henchman.
Specter of antisemitism
The cynical attempts of right-wing Zionist elements within the hierarchy of the Labour Party to drive a wedge between traditionalists and Blairites, using the specter of antisemitism as their ideological weapon, is an obvious smokescreen as a basis in which to discredit all legitimate support for the Palestinians by influential or prominent figures both inside and outside the Labour Party. The deliberate misrepresentation of the views of Craig Murray by Zionists at the forefront of the anti-Corbyn campaign, is an example of this.
Journalist Asa Winstanley outlines the links between right-wing, anti-Corbyn Labour and the pro- Israel lobby within the party. He meticulously shows how this lobby manufactured an “antisemitism crisis”, pinpointing the individuals involved, the tactics and dirty tricks used and the connections to powerful individuals whose ties lead to pro-Israel groups both in London and Israel.
Winstanley also shows how media outlets such as the Telegraph, Huffington Post and the Jewish Chronicle have been complicit in the systematic attempt to disorientate Labour party members and supporters by either printing misinformation or reproducing unsubstantiated accusations and smears against individuals which has contributed to a false media narrative.
Among those who instigated the antisemitism row are David Klemperer who opposed Corbyn’s run for the labour leadership (but has since been kicked out of the party), former Israel lobby intern, Alex Chalmers, and former chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), Jeremy Newmark, now the chairperson of the Labour party-affiliated, Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). The JLM is also affiliated to the Israeli Labor Party and the World Zionist Organization. According to the UN, the latter pumps millions into building in the occupied West Bank through its settlement division.
According to Winstanley, no mainstream journalists “have disclosed Newmark’s long-standing role in the Israel lobby, or his record of lying about anti-Semitism.” Clearly Newmark’s mission in rooting out ‘left antisemitism’ cannot be disentangled from his wider role as sympathizer and propagandist for the Zionist-Israel cause.
The intention of the lobby is to create the impression that antisemitism is not only more prevalent within the Labour party compared with other political parties but that it’s also more widespread compared to other forms of racism in UK society. Neither claim stands up to scrutiny. A 2015 survey by Pew found that seven percent of the UK public held ‘unfavourable’ views of Jews. By contrast, about a fifth held negative views of Muslims and almost two-fifths viewed Roma people unfavourably.
In the aftermath of the massacres in Gaza in 2014, the London Metropolitan police recorded 358 anti-Semitic offences. Two hundred and seventy three of these were online, 36 involved criminal damage and 38 constituted “harassment”. Eleven cases of assault were recorded in which four resulted in personal injury. One hundred and eighty thousand offences in these categories were recorded within the wider population throughout Metropolitan London. In other words, attacks against Jews in 2014 against a backdrop in which Gaza was being pulverized, made up only one in 500 of the total, while they made up around one in 86 of the population of London as a whole.
Community Security Trust (CST) figures for the first six months of last year show a rise of 15 per cent above those from the previous year. But this is from an extremely low base. The actual number of such incidents recorded for the first half of 2016 was 557. And that figure is still below that for 2014 when the Israeli assault on Gaza occurred. So claims that there has been a ‘surge’ in antisemitic incidences in recent years are false and misleading.
Moreover, there is no evidence to suggest that antisemitic views are any more prevalent in the Labour party which historically has been at the forefront of anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigns. On the contrary, racism and fascism is more likely to be symptomatic of far-right politics then left-wing politics. Take Zionism as an example. Far-right political parties court the Zionist vote because Zionism is a far-right and racist ideology.
Smearing activists with the antisemitic epithet for arguing in favour of boycotting Israel is another tactic adopted by the Zionists. According to.pro-Israeli propagandist and former representative of the Zionist Federation, Jonathan Sacerdoti, Jews regard boycotts against Israel to not only be intimidating but are also perceived to be an illustration of “antisemitism disguised as criticism of Israel which are driving Jews in fear of their lives from Britain to Israel.”
With such highly exaggerated sectarian-based nonsense, Sacerdoti appears to be confusing Britain’s multicultural, secular and pluralistic liberal democracy with the inherently racist, Zionist entity headed by a Israeli PM who also sees himself as the leader of the whole of the Jewish world.
The implication of Sacerdoti’s racist sectarian-based argument is that Zionists and Jews are synonymous, and therefore to attack Israel is “antisemitism”. Netanyahu outwardly expressed this racism when he attempted to shift the blame for the Holocaust from Hitler on to the Grand Mufti. From the perspective of Zionism this makes sense given that Muslims are the joint enemy of both the European far-right and their Zionist allies.
Politically, the purpose of the misuse of antisemitism by Zionists is to quash all legitimate criticisms of Israel, its oppression of the Palestinian people and, by extension, Muslim/Arab nationalist aspirations more generally. The media attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, Ken Livingston and others are political and represent a determined effort by the Israel lobby to make Britain’s Labour Party ‘a safe pair of hands’ for Israel and Zionism.
All of this underlines the pernicious influence that Israel has in the political class, which is founded on the Israeli lobby’s shameless use of cash for influence – as witnessed in the discussion between Shai Masot and Labour Friends of Israel and his flaunting of a million. The contrived ‘antisemitism crisis’ within the party that this kind of behaviour is a reflection, is outflanked by the far greater problems it has with modern day Zionist aspirations which are never addressed.
Israel’s ‘friends’ within the PLP, for example, continue to remain silent about the illegal ongoing dispossession of Palestinians from their land and the historical Zionist programme of ethnic cleansing of which Plan Dalet, the Koenig Plan, Operation Cast Lead and Operation Protective Edge are historical manifestations.
Smears and astroturfing: UK Israeli embassy's techniques revealed
Al Jazeera Investigations film senior political officer Shai Masot while undercover [screengrab Al Jazeera]
Date of publication: 10 January, 2017
Comment: Shai Masot's unguarded comments suggest that Israel's UK 'grassroots' are actually more 'astroturf'; operating effectively as front groups for Israeli state power, writes Hilary Aked Tags: Israel, Shai Masot, Labour, anti-Semitism, BDS, Friends of Israel
Extraordinary footage captured by an undercover reporter posing as a Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) activist has revealed the modus operandi of the UK Israel embassy in London.
Its techniques include political "hit lists" and establishing front groups.
In one clip, Shai Masot, a senior political officer at the embassy, suggested he wanted to "take down" certain British MPs; they included the Deputy Foreign Minister Alan Duncan and chair of the Foreign Affairs committee Crispin Blunt - both of whom have been critical of Israeli settlements.
Maria Strizzolo, then chief of staff to Tory Party deputy chair - and Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) stalwart - Robert Halfon, responded "Well, you know, if you look hard enough, I'm sure that there is something that they're trying to hide." Later she added: "A little scandal, maybe."
Keen observers have been aware for years that Israel and its supporters favour smear campaigns, and have little respect for democracy. I've personally learnt that Israeli embassy staff are less-than-diplomatic behind the scenes.
The latest dramatic proof of this prompted an apology from the Israeli ambassador, coupled with unconvincing attempts to portray Masot as more junior than his title suggests. Strizzolo resigned. Yet rather than Masot being immediately expelled, the Foreign Office sought to put the matter to bed, saying it considered the issue "closed" following the apology.
Keen observers have been aware for years that Israel and its supporters favour smear campaigns, and have little respect for democracy
Incredibly, the pro-Israel editor of the UK's Jewish Chronicle even downplayed the seriousness of the Israeli representative's comments, suggesting it was the "best evidence they've got of a so-called plot". In fact, more revelations followed.
A second video shows Masot - who appears to work for the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, leads Israel's fight against the pro-Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement - explaining that the embassy has helped to establish political groups in the UK, but has kept its assistance secret. He says "it's good to leave those organisations independent. But we help them, actually."
Later he discussed wanting to set up a group called City Friends of Israel with the help of US Israel lobby group AIPAC. He also had plans to establish a youth wing of LFI, whose chair Joan Ryan he assured he had obtained a promise of "more than £1 million" to finance trips for a list of Labour MPs whose names LFI had apparently submitted to the embassy.
This confirms what had already been suggested in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which described "the creation over the last four years of a network of more than 40 pro-Israel organizations throughout Britain" and credited the embassy's Ishmael Khaldi as "one of the key people responsible for building the pro-Israel network in Britain".
A second video shows Masot explaining that the embassy has helped to establish political groups in the UK, but has kept its assistance secret
As journalist Ben White observed in October 2016, the Israeli embassy's director of public affairs Rony Yedidia-Clein has also stated, in a video of a public talk, that the embassy had helped to "set up friends of Israel organisations around the country", citing the examples of Inverness Friends of Israel and Jersey Friends of Israel.
Yedidia-Clein said she worked with a "whole team" of people to do this and one person she shared credit with was an audience member called "Stephen" – likely Stephen Jaffe, grassroots consultant of the Board of Deputies, who believes that the Israel lobby functions best "when leadership and grassroots combine". He is also co-chair of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel which has hosted several Israeli embassy speakers.
Read More: Israel’s counter-boycott campaign: all coercion, no moral persuasion
Like Jaffe's Northern Irish group, ostensibly independent local organisations such as Glasgow Friends of Israel and West of England Friends of Israel have hosted speaking events for Israeli embassy figures. Might they too be less "grassroots" and more "astroturf", operating, effectively as front groups for Israeli state power?
Notably, these last three bodies all feature on a list of groups compiled by We Believe in Israel, a side-project of major UK pro-Israel group BICOM, set up in 2011 to mobilise civil society in support of Israel.
We Believe boasts that "Over the last few years we have seen the growth of friends of Israel groups covering nearly every corner of the UK" and its director, Labour activist Luke Akehurst, has spoken alongside the Board's Stephen Jaffe at the launch events of several such groups, including the East Midlands and Merseyside.
Their existence is designed to give the impression to policymakers that support for Israel runs deep
The proliferation of local pro-Israel groups established in a top-down, centralised way should be understood in the context of growing anxiety in pro-Israel circles about overwhelming public support for Palestinians, demonstrated not only by the huge popular protests in 2014 during Israel's Operation Protective Edge but also growing support for the BDS movement to boycott Israel.
Many of these pro-Israel groups consist of merely a handful of Christian Zionist pensioners. But their existence is designed to give the impression to policymakers that support for Israel runs deep, beyond influential elite lobby groups like LFI and CFI. The reality is that this is largely an illusion - if it wasn't, such groups would spring up spontaneously without needing to be conjured into life by the Israeli embassy.
Talk of creating pressure groups within Labour and "take downs" of pro-Palestinians also raises significant questions about the long-running and mostly highly tenuous claims of "anti-Semitism" against some figures within Labour critical of Israel. Though there remains no hard evidence that the Israeli embassy had a hand in the saga, it now seems more credible - and less conspiracy theory - to suggest that it may well have done.
Hilary Aked is an analyst and researcher whose PhD studies focus on the influence of the Israel lobby in the United Kingdom.
Follow her on Twitter: @Hilary_Aked
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff. _________________ --
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
An Israeli diplomat tried to undermine a UK minister, and government did nothing. Were he Russian, the response would have been explosive
Let's try a mental experiment. Let's imagine that the Russian embassy had been caught red-handed drawing up a "hit list" of British MPs it wanted to take down.
Let's further assume that the hit list included a senior minister in the British foreign office known for his deadly criticisms of Vladimir Putin.
And that a second figure on the list was another critic of Russia, the influential chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, once again targeted for his anti-Russian opinions.
Let's assume also that a Russian official had been filmed telling the chairman of the Labour Friends of Russia that he had obtained "more than £1m" - say $1.2m - to pay for sympathetic Labour MPs to travel to Russia.
REVEALED: Israeli diplomat caught plotting to 'take down' UK MPs
All hell would have broken loose. The Russian ambassador would have been summoned to the Foreign Office to explain himself.
The embassy official would certainly have been frog-marched onto the next plane home.
We would have heard threats of sanctions and the breaking of diplomatic relations. A full-scale diplomatic crisis would have erupted. The British prime minister, Theresa May, would have demanded a personal explanation and apology from Putin.
Substitute "Israel" for "Russia" and it's a very different story.
No expulsions. No diplomatic row. No threat of sanctions. Matter closed. Business as usual.
No expulsions. No diplomatic row. No threat of sanctions. Matter closed. Business as usual.
We have been blandly informed that the Israeli ambassador has apologised to Alan Duncan. The British foreign office has issued a brief statement saying that the UK has "a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed".
There's a stench here. Something is badly wrong. Nothing adds up.
This episode raises a number of burning questions concerning British national security, not one of which have been answered.
First and foremost, who in reality is this Israeli embassy official Shai Masot? We are told that, even though he operates out of the Israeli embassy, he is not a diplomat.
If he's not a diplomat, what is he?
Shai Masot, the Israeli Machiavelli caught in the act
The Israeli embassy says that Major Masot (he apparently describes himself as an officer in the Israeli Defence Forces) is a nothing more than a junior figure who spoke out of place.
We should not blindly accept this assertion. Indeed we should not accept this assertion at all.
Masot is handling very large sums of money - more than £1m for Labour Friends of Israel alone if the tapes are to be believed.
The tapes, the result of months of undercover filming by Al Jazeera, appear to show him meddling very deeply with both main parties in the heart of British politics.
His activities are absolutely consistent with the kind of covert influence campaign of which Russia has recently been accused in the United States.
This improper interference in the politics of another country is unacceptable whether it comes from Russia or an ally such as Israel.
The fact that Britain and Israel are such close allies does not improve matters. It makes them much worse.
Indeed the fact that Britain and Israel are such close allies does not improve matters. It makes them much worse.
Israeli politicians and diplomats have very privileged access in this country. They share all kinds of secrets, and they have access to anybody they like.
It is a gross abuse of confidence and trust if they are simultaneously engage in conversations about "taking down" British politicians who do not share their outlook.
Today senior British MPs have come out and demanded a full-blooded government investigation.
One of them is Sir Nicholas Soames, the grandson of the great wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill and himself a former defence minister.
When I spoke to him today, Sir Nicholas compared the activities of the Israelis to the KGB.
He told me: "This ranks as the equivalent of Soviet intelligence in what they are doing to suborn democracy and interfere in due process."
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry rightly noted that this is a "national security issue". As such it demands a very serious investigation.
We need to know if Masot took any concrete steps to damage Alan Duncan, the deputy foreign secretary, and Crispin Blunt, the foreign affairs committee chairman.
Have any other British MPs been targeted by the Israelis? What did Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev know about Masot's activities? And if he didn't know, why not?
Crucially, we need to know where Masot got the £1m for Labour Friends of Israel? What other sums has he dispensed to British political organisations? Have individual payments been made to MPs and others?
OBORNE: Alan Duncan's opposition to settlements makes him Israeli target
How effective has Masot been in shaping political discourse in the UK?
If any other country had been involved in this kind of operation – and that includes allies such as France, Saudi Arabia or the United States - we would urgently need to know the answer.
Israel may be an ally, but it is no exception.
There is one other extremely serious point to consider.
If Britain does not investigate this Israeli malpractice we simply give the green light to further covert operations of this sort on British soil.
Finally, mystery surrounds the reaction of the Foreign Office. Within hours of the story breaking it announced that the issue was "closed".
Why? How did it reach this conclusion so quickly? Is Theresa May's government complicit in Israeli interference in the British democratic process?
Masot, we now know, believes that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is an "idiot".
A prominent BBC journalist has deleted a tweet in which a senior Conservative MP can be seen complaining about the British media turning a blind eye to the corrupt relationship that has allowed Israel to “buy access” in Westminster.
The tweet was posted by the BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg on Wednesday while the Scottish journalist was covering the build up to the resignation of Priti Patel. The Secretary of State for International Development had taken part in undisclosed meetings in Israel organised by the powerful Conservative Friends of Israel lobby (CFI) last summer.
Kuenssberg’s Twitter posts on the day was full of posts on the Patel story including comments about Number 10 denying the allegation made by the Jewish Chronicle that Prime Minster Theresa May had been made aware of the 12 meetings Patel had had during her “family holiday” in Israel.
In her deleted tweet, which MEMO has been able to grab as a screenshot, Kuenssberg reported a comment made by a “senior” Tory MP who, enraged by the debacle, called for Lord Polak, honorary president of CFI and the person thought to be behind Patel’s Israel trip, to be sacked.
“Strong words,” tweeted Kuenssberg, “Senior Tory says Lord Polak should be chucked out of the party, claiming ‘the entire apparatus has turned a blind eye to a corrupt relationship that allows a country to buy access’.”
Read: Priti Patel scandal is the tip of the Israel lobby iceberg
MEMO contacted Kuenssberg to ask why she had deleted the tweet but has not received a reply from the journalist.
The BBC has often been accused of pro-Israel bias and it would appear that this was yet another example of the broadcaster censoring criticism of Israel or senior BBC journalists enforcing self-censorship when it comes to Israel.
While it’s not absolutely clear what the senior Tory meant by the “entire apparatus”, it would appear that the concerns raised by the Conservative politician echo similar complaints made by Israel’s critics over the influence of CFI and other pro-Israeli lobby groups on the entire British establishment including the media.
Kuenssberg’s decision to delete the tweet it seems is further proof that the “entire apparatus” is reluctant to shed light on the “corrupt relationship” between the UK and Israel, which critics say is the reason why the BBC and other media corporations have turned a blind eye, and allowed Israel through the CFI and organisations like the Labour Friends of Israel to “buy access”.
Published in: Europe & Russia, Israel, Middle East, News, Palestine, UK
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View it on middleeastmonitor.com _________________ --
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
Milstein is named as the financier of Canary Mission by Eric Gallagher, a former employee of The Israel Project, in Al Jazeera’s censored investigative film, The Lobby – USA.
The Electronic Intifada is releasing segments it has obtained of the film: one shows Gallagher telling an undercover Al Jazeera reporter about Milstein’s role and the other shows Milstein talking about the need to “investigate” and “expose” critics of Israel, who Milstein believes are not only anti-Semites, but also “anti-Christian” and “anti-freedom” activists who “terrorize us.”
The film also reveals that Israel lobby operatives who rely on information provided by Canary Mission “coordinate” their activities with the Israeli government.
The revelation could help explain more recent reports that Canary Mission profiles are being used by Israeli border officials to deny Palestinian Americans entry to their homeland.
As a broadcaster licensed in the UK, Al Jazeera operates according to the code set by the regulator Ofcom.
These rules require that Milstein and other pro-Israel figures featured in the film be given an opportunity to reply to allegations. Neither Milstein, Gallagher nor dozens of other pro-Israel figures who appear in the film responded to Al Jazeera’s “right to reply” letters, the film states.
Despite intense efforts to find out who is behind Canary Mission, it is only Al Jazeera’s investigative unit that has been able to identify Milstein as the website’s driving force.
Last week The Grayzone Project reported that Howard Sterling, a wealthy lawyer and fervent supporter of Israel, owns the internet domain name used by the Canary Mission website. But Sterling, unlike Milstein, is relatively unknown.
McCarthyism for Israel
Alongside his associate Sheldon Adelson, Milstein is a high-profile figure in the Israel lobby.
Milstein’s foundation funds such anti-Palestinian organizations as the Israel on Campus Coalition, StandWithUs, CAMERA, the AMCHA Initiative and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Milstein also funds the Israeli-American Council, a lobby group whose board he chairs.
An Israeli-born real estate mogul based in California, Milstein served time in federal prison for a 2009 conviction for tax evasion.
Canary Mission has targeted some 1,900 students and academics in its profiles since 2015, smearing them as “racist,” “anti-American” and “anti-Semitic.”
In the film, a Milstein associate states regarding Canary Mission: “Adam Milstein, he’s the guy who funds it.”
The admission was made by Eric Gallagher, who was then in charge of fundraising at The Israel Project, one of the organizations bankrolled by Milstein. Prior to that, Gallagher worked at the Israel lobby giant AIPAC.
Gallagher spoke to “Tony,” the Al Jazeera reporter who went undercover as an intern with The Israel Project. Gallagher stopped working for The Israel Project after pro-Israel groups learned about Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation.
“So Adam Milstein funds The Israel Project and he’s funding the Canary Mission website?” Tony asks in the film.
Gallagher replies: “Yeah, which is interesting because it makes it seem as though we’re a part of it [at The Israel Project]. But we’re not.”
Gallagher explains to Tony that he doesn’t know who Milstein hired to run Canary Mission.
The Al Jazeera documentary shows that the Israel on Campus Coalition, another group funded by Milstein, operates in close coordination with Canary Mission.
Jacob Baime, executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, boasts in the film that “Canary Mission is highly, highly effective to the extent that we monitor the Students for Justice in Palestine and their allies.”
The film also shows footage of Milstein and Baime in lengthy private discussions on the sidelines of a StandWithUs conference.
Baime discusses Canary Mission as an example of the Israel on Campus Coalition’s secretive strategy of putting “up some anonymous website,” promoted by targeted Facebook ads, to smear Palestine solidarity activists on campus.
The Israel on Campus Coalition’s Ian Hersh and Jacob Baime explain how their blacklisting sites work.
Asked by Tony if he has any links to Canary Mission, Baime replies with a wide grin: “No, Canary Mission is totally anonymous. It’s really hard to figure out who’s behind it.”
But soon afterwards, Baime inadvertently admits to a direct role.
Speaking of the need to respond to publications including The Electronic Intifada which expose the work of anti-Palestinian organizations, Baime says, “* them, we’re doing it back. I mean, not ‘we’ but, um, just some anonymous group.”
Baime explains his reticence to openly claim credit for these types of operations, emphasizing that “we do it securely and anonymously and that’s the key.”
“If one of these terrorists on campus wants to disrupt a pro-Israel lecture or something and like unfurl a banner or whatever else, we’re going to investigate them,” he says. “That stuff becomes very useful in the moment and there are any number of ways to push it out.”
Baime also describes his organization’s cooperation with the strategic affairs ministry, Israel’s covert agency for fighting the Palestine solidarity movement around the world – particularly the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, or BDS.
The ministry’s director general is Sima Vaknin-Gil, a former senior officer with Israel’s military intelligence. It is staffed by officers from Israel’s various spy agencies whose identities are mostly classified, although some have been exposed.
Spying for Israel
For information sharing, “we did add the Ministry of Strategic Affairs to our operations and intelligence brief,” Baime’s deputy Ian Hersh explains in the film.
Hersh said this link with Israel relates to how “we get information about what’s going on on American college campuses.”
Baime also confides to Tony, who is British, of his ties with the Israeli government, explaining that “my view and the view of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which we coordinate with sometimes, we communicate with sometimes, is, um, like Europe is lost and it’s basically over and like they’re turning a lot of attention now to the US because they feel we’re on your path.”
According to Baime, their strategy is to “drip out a new piece of the opposition research” every few hours. “It’s psychological warfare. It drives them crazy,” he states.
Baime describes the approach as “modeled on General Stanley McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq.”
The Israel on Campus Coalition has a “very high tech” research operation, Baime states, which amounts to “a million and a half [dollars] or more. Probably it’s like even $2 million at this point. I don’t even know, it’s huge.”
Baime’s admissions raise questions about whether the Israel on Campus Coalition and individuals associated with the work he describes are acting as agents of a foreign state without registering, as required by US law, with the counterintelligence division of the Department of Justice.
In footage viewable at the top of this article, Adam Milstein explains the strategy in similar terms, though he does not admit to any direct role in Canary Mission.
“We need to expose what they really are. And we need to expose the fact that they are anti everything we believe in. And we need to put them on the run,” Milstein states. “We’re doing it by exposing who they are and what they are, the fact that they are racist, the fact that they are bigots, they’re anti-democracy.”
Tony asks if the targets of these tactics should be labelled as anti-Semites. Milstein replies: “Not just anti-Semites, it’s too simple. We need to present them for what they really are. They’re anti-freedom, they’re anti-Christian.”
Canary Mission began publishing profiles of student activists in 2015.
As reported by The Electronic Intifada in June this year, its McCarthyite harassment campaign has targeted nearly 2,000 students and academics.
The profiles smear Palestine solidarity activists – often students of Palestinian heritage – as anti-Semitic, with the explicit aim of harming their future career prospects.
In the film, Baime explains the effect of the strategy on its targets: “They either shut down or they spend time responding to it and investigating it, which is time they can’t spend attacking Israel. That’s incredibly effective.”
Many of those targeted by the website “have reported being questioned by current and prospective employers and schools about their support for Palestinian rights,” Palestine Legal has stated.
Others have been put on leave, denied bank accounts, received death threats and been denied entry by Israel, including to the occupied West Bank, the civil rights group says.
The film is a follow-up to The Lobby, Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation of pro-Israel groups in the UK, broadcast in January last year.
Since the UK’s broadcasting regulator vindicated that film in October, it became increasingly clear that the Qatari government has banned Al Jazeera from broadcasting the sequel.
The film has been censored even though it addresses matters of considerable public interest, including covert efforts on behalf of a foreign state to spy on, harass or prevent Americans from engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment.
In March, The Electronic Intifada was the first to publish details of the film’s contents.
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