Something is happening in the UK that is not happening in the U.S.: Al Jazeera is about to release a four part investigative series titled “The Lobby,” on the influence of the Israel lobby in British politics.
Over the weekend, AlJazeera published one of the more damning findings: that an official of the reigning Conservative Party conspired with an Israeli diplomat in London about how to create a scandal so as to “take down… the Deputy Foreign Minister,” Sir Alan Duncan, for being critical of Israeli settlements. Duncan is a member of the same Conservative Party that the conspirator is from.
Al Jazeera characterizes its investigative series:
The Israeli government is in the midst of a brazen, covert influence campaign in Britain, a six-month undercover investigation by Al Jazeera will reveal.
When is a mainstream news organization going to undertake such a project in the U.S.? (The New York Times has the revelation on page A3 today.)
The Israeli government has now apologized, saying that it rejects the comments and the scheme; and the British Foreign Secretary has accepted the apology.
Here’s how Al Jazeera describes the undercover incident:
Robin [alias for an Al Jazeera journalist] posed as a graduate activist with strong sympathies towards Israel who was eager to help combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement prominent in Britain… Robin secretly filmed the moment at a London brasserie when Shai Masot, a senior political officer at the Israeli embassy, asked Maria Strizzolo, who was then chief of staff to MP Robert Halfon, the deputy chairman of the ruling Conservative Party: “Can I give you some MPs that I would suggest you take down?”In response, Strizzolo said: “Well you know, if you look hard enough I’m sure that there is something that they’re trying to hide.”
“Yeah. I have some MPs,” Masot replies.
“[Strizzolo] knows which MPs I want to take down … The Deputy Foreign Minister.”
Masot was referring to Sir Alan Duncan, the foreign office minister.
Strizzolo later hinted that “a little scandal” might see Duncan dismissed.
Duncan said in 2014 that 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.
Halfon is a Jewish member of Parliament, per Wikipedia. The Daily Mail is reporting the revelations as shocking and outrageous and says that some Conservative ministers have called for a government inquiry into the matter.
Here is BBC’s characterization of Duncan’s views on settlements:
Sir Alan launched a scathing attack on Israel in 2014, when MPs backed Palestinian statehood, deeming Israeli settlements as an “act of theft”.
“Occupation, annexation, illegality, negligence, complicity – this is a wicked cocktail which brings shame on Israel,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme.
A British friend informs us: “Sir Alan Duncan is the second-most important British diplomat. If anything happened to the Foreign Secretary, Sir Alan would – temporarily, at least – become the most senior representative of British interests abroad. Sir Alan happens also, of course, to be a veteran parliamentarian democratically elected to his seat [in Leicestershire] in successive elections and one of too few senior Conservatives prepared to call-out Israel over the settlements’ enterprise and over its treatment of Palestine and the Palestinians.”
This friend says that the coverage in Britain has been disappointing. “This story should be major news in Great Britain. Regrettably, I don’t expect the story will hit the top MSM headlines and I doubt, despite opposition calls for one, that there will be a full enquiry or that the diplomatic fall-out will be anything like as serious as it ought to be.”
AJ says that Strizzolo advised Robin on her methods at shifting the discourse for Israel:
Strizzolo… revealed that 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.
Strizzolo has has now stepped down in wake of the revelations. She said that the conversation with Masot was chiefly “gossip” of a purely social character.
More on discourse manipulation, from the AJ piece:
While in Israel with the Conservative Friends of Israel parliamentary group in 2014, [Strizzolo] 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.