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Monday, 29 May 2017

Lest We Forget - The Dog That Failed Even to Whimper

Ella Rose, the JLM's new Director was none too happy at her former employment  being revealed
If you annoy me you are a fucking anti-Semite!
The Jewish Labour Movements fragrant Ella Rose giving vent to her feelings about anti-Zionists

I have taken this amusing but very true piece by Jonathan Rosenhead, a Professor at the LSE, from the newsletter of Bricup - British Universities Palestine.  It echoes the piece I did when the Al Jazeera  revelations first broke - why wasn't the story of state and Israeli interference in the Labour Party and the false anti-Semitism allegations revealed by the British press.  The answer of course is that our 'free press' was up to its ears in manufacturing stories about 'anti-Semitism'

Tony Greenstein

Al Jazeera's 'The Lobby' and the British Media

Jonathan Rosenhead
Iain 'Crooked' McNicol, Labour's General Secretary, has just exonerated the fragrant Rose despite her threats of violence
we couldn't put it better ourselves - the winning is all that counts with Ella Rose
Many readers of the Newsletter will already be aware of the ground-breaking Al-Jazeera English series The Lobby, broadcast on 4 consecutive nights from January 11th. Some will not – and in this they will be in the good company of the vast majority of the UK’s population. It got a front-page splash in the Daily Mail (of all places), but this was not followed up by the sort of in depth coverage elsewhere that its explosive contents deserved.

However that silence is not the one this article’s title refers to. This silence is analogous in its essentials to that of the dog in the Sherlock Holmes story The Silver Blaze. The crux of the plot is the disappearance one night of a famous race horse, and the violent death of his trainer. The dog slept in the stables where this happened. The celebrated dialogue runs like this:
Joan Ryan MP, LFI Chair inquiring about the money she had applied for
Labour Friends of Israel Chair Joan Ryan MP receiving the good news that she had won over £1m for her slush fund.  Her only other claim to fame is claiming more expenses than any other MP in 2005 and 2006
Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident.”

The dog that signally failed to bark, not for one night, or over the last month, but for year after year is the entire British mainstream media – print, radio, television. What is the story that they missed and why did they miss it?
Labour Friends of Israel's Parliamentary Officer and Fabian Michael Rubin letting us know that he works closely with the Israeli Embassy
The set up

The Lobby is still viewable at  and if you haven’t seen it you should. It makes gripping viewing.

The programmes depend on ‘Robin’, whose face we never see. He created a cover story as an aspiring Labour party activist with strong Israeli sympathies, and for 6 months managed to penetrate the shadowy world where Israeli embassy officials set up sham organisations to support Israel, mingle with very willing activists (both Labour and Conservative) and make funds available to them. And all the while Robin wears a concealed camera.

We have known about ‘The Israel Lobby’ in the US, and its most notable unit AIPAC, for years. Mearsheimer and Walt wrote a celebrated book with that title. The Lobby however is about the UK’s own Israel Lobby. To UK activists its existence has been known, in principle, for years. There has been circumstantial evidence galore - the inside track which Israel so evidently makes use of, the lavish funding of pro-Israel organisations, the sabotage of pro-Palestinian events. So we ‘knew’. But now we really know.
Joan Ryan MP has tropes on her brain and precious little else
It is worth pointing up here the reason why the activity revealed in The Lobby is taking place at all - the growing world-wide success of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This is now seen by Israel as the principal strategic threat to its continuing domination over the Palestinian people. The frenetic and multi-headed activity of Israel’s friends, supporters and proxies revealed in these programmes is, paradoxically, a measure of BDS’s success. Israel can no longer afford to rely just on discreet words in sympathetic ears; it is mobilising on many levels. In the process, they run a greater risk of their slips showing.

For supporters of academic boycott, such as BRICUP, and of BDS as a whole, the revelations of The Lobby are both an education, and a motivator.
It is tempting, I'll agree
The plot

There is so much material in these programmes that I can only be selective. But I’ll give a fairly detailed rundown of what is in the first programme, and then get more selective.

In Episode 1 we see Robin swanning around in the milieu of Labour Friends of Israel, the Israel Britain Alliance (a Zionist Federation Project), BICOM, Sussex Friends of Israel, Jewish Labour Movement. He is under the wing of Shai Masot of the Israeli Embassy, an unimpressive but gregarious character, anxious to be popular. He is quite deeply embedded – claiming for example to know all 200 London-based members of the Young Fabians. And in fact he did organise a trip to Israel for the Young Fabians in 2015. As Masot says in conversation: “Delegation to Israel – always a good start”.
The subtlety of fragrant Rose's analysis leaves us speechless
The revelations come thick and fast. We meet a couple of NUS Vice-Presidents plotting against their President Malia Bouattia, who supports Palestine. (The Chair of Labour Students is in on the plot.) One of them, not I think Jewish, had been taken on an expenses-paid Union of Jewish Students trip to Israel. The Israeli Embassy actually funds UJS itself! A University College London pro-Israel student activist has set up the Pinsker Centre which channels funds from AIPAC to appropriate causes.

We eavesdrop on the summer barbecue of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). We meet Ella Rose, who has been President of UJS, and has just been appointed Director of JLM. As she herself says, her CV didn’t have the most Labour Party experience among the candidates. But hey, what does that matter if you are applying from a staff position within the Israeli Embassy? (Later, unknowingly on camera, Rose boasts that with her martial arts training – from Israel – she could easily ‘take’ anti-racist campaigner Jackie Walker.)
Joan Ryan can't contain her glee at learning that she's won the Zionist jackpot
And then Masot invites Robin to chair the Young Labour Friends of Israel. It doesn’t exist – Robin’s job is to set it up. He is invited to apply for a job at the Embassy, first by Masot and then by its Head of Civil Affairs, who says his job would be to research the UK’s BDS movement.

What we get is a picture of a heady swirling mix of right-wing politics, ambition, wads of Israeli and US money, fake and shadow organisations, and over-weening self-confidence. Stirring the mix is an Israeli diplomat who isn’t even a diplomat.

Later episodes

We are really spoilt for choice. Episode 2 shows the famous JLM training session (on antisemitism!) at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool. This was the session at which Jackie Walker was set up, and secretly filmed so that an edited version of her interventions could present her in a bad light. It worked – she was ousted as vice-Chair of Momentum and suspended from Labour Party membership.

Shai Masot is on the scene at the conference, sometimes in convoy with Regev, or sitting hugger-mugger with him and the Chair of JLM Jeremy Newmark at a private meeting with pro-Israel supporters. (Regev says that people on the 3 left are very opposed to Israel “and probably antisemitic”.)

We share the delight of Joan Ryan MP, Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, when Masot tells her he has more than £1 million from Israel needed to fund trips to Israel by influential Labour MPs. We share her fury when a conference delegate persistently asks her how a 2-state solution can work – persistently because her interlocuter is dissatisfied with the non-answers she is getting. Ryan then persuades herself that the questioner has indulged in an antisemitic trope (about Jews working for banks – which we can see is Ryan’s own subconscious interpolation of material that wasn’t said). Ryan makes a complaint; the delegate is suspended from party membership.

Of course it isn’t only happening in and around the Labour Party. Masot seems to be best buddies with Maria Strizzolo, the young chief of staff to MP Robert Halfon, a Minister in the Government, and deputy chair of the Conservative Party at the time the recording happened. Simultaneously she is also a Westminster-based civil servant. Their highly indiscreet conversation is recorded as ever by Robin’s attentive camera. They talk about setting up a ‘City Friends of Israel’ for young finance professionals, with AIPAC’s assistance.

The crunch point, politically, is when she and Masot discuss the possibility of ‘taking down’ some non-compliant Tory MPs. As Strizzolo says “If you look hard enough, I’m sure there is something that they are trying to hide”. The one name that they put in the frame for this treatment is Sir Alan Duncan – certainly well known for showing more sympathy for the Palestinian predicament than most of his colleagues. But he was, and is, Deputy Foreign Minister! This small indiscretion has lost Maria Strizzolo both her jobs, and got Masot sent back to Israel in disgrace. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee is now investigating “How UK policy is influenced by other states and interested parties”.

Strategic Affairs

So that’s all right then? Well, not really. This is the tip of a rather large iceberg. Craig Murray has ferreted out of a reluctant Foreign Office the fact that Masot was supposed to be a member of the embassy’s ‘technical and administrative staff’, a grade well below the diplomatic salt. But as we see in the series, Masot is Ambassador Regev’s chosen travelling companion to the Labour Party conference – not really a technical and administrative duty. Evidently this is not all above board.

In fact Murray has examined the register of Israeli Embassy employees, and believes he has discovered what he calls ‘a large nest of Israeli spies’. It is, he says, “simply impossible” that the FCO would normally grant seventeen technical and administrative visas to support sixteen diplomats, when six of those sixteen are already support staff. So it seems that we have quite a bunch of supernumerary staff at the Embassy, up to something, and connived at by the UK government.

There is certainly some circumstantial evidence for this reading in Masot’s own biography, in so far as it is known. Until quite recently he was a major in the IDF. London was his first ‘diplomatic’ assignment, it was temporary, and he was not a regular member of the diplomatic service. The very credible suggestion has been made that his placement in London was the responsibility not of Israel’s Foreign Ministry but of its Ministry of Strategic Affairs. The MSA was set up in 2010 to counter Israel’s perceived ‘strategic threats’, principally the international BDS campaign. In the last year or two it has been on a spending spree for new ‘talent’, quite affordable from its $50 million budget. The new employees are “mostly former officers from Israel’s intelligence community”. All this fits Masot’s profile rather well. And then there is the fact that when the Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan visited London last September, Masot was among the Israeli officials he met.

No wonder, then, that Israel removed Masot from the UK at something approaching the speed of light, and that the FCO in an unseemly rush pronounced the matter satisfactorily closed. We must hope that the Foreign Affairs Select Committee will not so easily be deflected from its task.

The second scandal

In fact the fiasco of Masot’s incompetent machinations is only one, and perhaps the lesser, of two scandals. The other scandal is how this can have been going on, evidently for years, yet no British news organisation with the resources to do so thought it worth investigating. Why do we have to rely on Al-Jazeera to cleanse our stable? It is that overwhelming silence that shouts complicity.

There is one honourable exception to this charge sheet. In 2009 the respected right-wing journalist Peter Oborne made a television programme Inside Britain's Israel Lobby for the Dispatches series. He concentrated then on the Conservative Friends 4 of Israel (barely touched on in The Lobby), which the programme makers describe as "beyond doubt the most well- connected and probably the best funded of all Westminster lobbying groups". (The full text is available on line.)

Oborne is interviewed for comment on the Al-Jazeera programme, and is almost incandescent with indignation about the revelations of Israeli interference with UK political processes. But some of that rage should surely be diverted and redirected at our own media. In the USA the operations of big oil and the gun lobby in distorting the political agenda are well known and visible. This relative transparency doesn’t just happen – it needs an alert, vigilant media with the courage and freedom of its convictions.

The British media is a watch dog that hasn’t barked. It is as appropriate to ask why that is so, and perhaps more useful, than to fulminate about the iniquity of Israel’s ruthless pursuit of what it perceives to be its interests. Are the watchdog’s teeth rotten beyond repair? Is it muzzled? What are the mechanisms that have maintained this complaisant silence in the presence of a blatant affront to open democracy?

Postscript


























We left Conan Doyle’s dog in the stables waiting for Sherlock to sort out the mystery of its silence. But nowadays the government has adopted a problematic ‘definition’ of antisemitism, and the Anti-Antisemitic Tropes patrols are out in force. So I won’t draw any possible analogy. You’ll just have to read the story yourself.

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