While an Israeli operative’s efforts to “take down” Britain’s Deputy Foreign Minister, may appear to be the biggest scandal to arise out of Al Jazeera’s investigative documentary The Lobby, what became clear to me throughout the four-part series was that the primary function of the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) and other pro Israel groups in the UK working with the Israeli embassy was smearing Palestinians and their supporters with charges of anti Semitism and other nefarious ad hominem claims. Jackie Walker, former vice-chair of Momentum, the leftwing of the Labour party, called this “a constructed crisis for political ends”.
Evidence of this runs throughout the four-part series. Mark Regev, Israel’s ambassador to the UK, at a private meeting held during the annual Labour Party Conference in Liverpool last September, advises key activist leaders of Labour’s pro-Israel contingent on strategy and talking points:
“Why are people who consider themselves progressive in Britain, supporting reactionaries like Hamas and Hezbollah? We’ve gotta say in the language of social democracy, I think, these people are misogynistic, they are homophobic, they are racist, they are anti-Semitic, they are reactionary. I think that’s what we need to say, it’s an important message.”
Here’s Elliot Miller, past president of the Jewish Society at the University College London (UCL) and currently national organizer for Student Rights, whose motto is “Tackling Extremism on Campus”, using the same strategy as Ambassador Regev during a violent exchange at UCL last October:
Truly “a constructed crisis for political ends”. I was reminded of the “Strategy of Tension“, the covert psychological warfare utilized by agents-provocateurs during the cold war intended to manipulate and control public opinion using propaganda, disinformation and weaponizing fear in order to achieve strategic aims. Unwittingly, often the very society being manipulated becomes the public enforcer; that’s the idea anyway. Certainly the strategy appears to be wreaking havoc within the UK’s Labour party.
Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel, is captured saying in conversation at Labour’s annual conference that anti-Semitism is “the defining narrative actually now”. Defining narrative of what? The Labour party? Or the LFI’s strategy of taking down the leftwing branch of the party?
Gerber then explains how it was a “difficult moment” when a woman made the assertion that anti Semitism was being “concocted to crush [Labour leader Jeremy] Corbyn” and then asks, “Is that [assertion] anti-Semitic guys, I don’t know, like?”
Michael Rubin, parliamentarian and pro Israel activist (who works closely with ex-Israeli Embassy diplomat/spy Shai Masot), replies, “I don’t know where the line is anymore”.
Alex Richardson, parliamentary aide to MP Joan Ryan, the Chairperson of LFI, was also present during the exchange. He offered: “I think if it makes you feel uncomfortable that’s the point in which you call it out and report it.”
He said that MP Ryan “convinced” him to report an alleged claim of anti-Semitism “because I was made to feel uncomfortable.”
The young aide certainly looks uncomfortable, wincing throughout an exchange that takes place at LFI’s booth at the Labour convention between Jean Fitzpatrick, a Labour party member, and MP Joan Ryan. Fitzpatrick asks what LFI is doing to bring about a two state solution, an alleged aim of the organization. Fitzpatrick keeps saying she genuinely wants to know.
Ryan kept repeating the same message: they support and facilitate a two state solution, but she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, articulate how.
Sometimes people feel discomfort when they are cornered and do not know how to answer a question. It might make anyone feel uncomfortable, watching their boss or co-worker get tied up in knots flailing around unable to answer a simple question. Especially if your boss is an MP and the Chairperson of Labour Friends of Israel. But it doesn’t make the person inquiring a racist, or an anti-Semite. Especially when the question is a logical and a straightforward political demand.
If simply feeling uncomfortable is cause enough to file a report, this might help explain why Britain’s Community Security Trust (CST) reported 557 incidents of anti-Semitism across the UK last year, an 11% increase since 2015. It’s just not easy supporting and representing a state that is regularly charged with being an apartheid state, and participating in war crimes.
The climax of the exchange comes when Fitzpatrick implores Ryan to explain how LFI was facilitating a two state solution, and mentions money and prestige:
“I’m asking you how you are bringing this about… I’m asking you about the settlements …You’ve got lots of money, you’ve got lots of prestige in the world.”
Ryan is clearly trying to get out of the conversation prior to this final exchange, and her aide, Alex Richardson, has a pained expression:
Was it really discomfort that led the MP to misrepresent what Fitzpatrick said as evidence of anti-semitism, file a report, and convince her parliamentary aide to file a corroborating report, and have the incident plastered all over the British press after the conference?
Ryan is well aware that LFI is well funded, and if it weren’t for its prestige, her allegations would never have landed in the headlines of the British press the next day. Is it really anti-Semitic to point out that her organization is well funded, when the Israeli government is giving a lot of money to the group via the Embassy?
In an undercover tape Al Jazeera aired, Shai Masot, an official at the Israeli embassy, introduced Robin, Al Jazeera’s undercover agent, to Ryan, mentioning “he’s trying to arrange another delegation maybe, activists from LFI”, Ryan then queried Masot about what happened to “names we put into the embassy?” to which he responded he had been authorized by the Israeli government to spend a million pounds. It’s not altogether clear what that money was authorized for. According to Al Jazeera (pt 2, 25:38), LFI stated “the conversation between Mr. Masot and their chairperson, Joan Ryan, had nothing whatsoever to do with LFI delegations.” Regardless, Ryan responded “ That’s a lot of money!” Is it anti-Semitic to point out (as JJ Goldberg, Jeffrey Goldberg, and Stephanie Schriock have in the United States) that wealthy Jewish pro-Israel funders are the bedrock of support for the liberal parties? Don’t go there, anyone; it’s a trope, according to Ryan.
And what does the money pay for? When Jeremy Newark, Chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), announced the elevation of young Ella Rose to the post of JLM director, he explained that Rose “by no means… had the most Labour Party political experience” (in part one of the Al Jazeera series). But she could “play an incredibly critical role in the lead of the struggle against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party”.
Rose proves her mettle later on in the series, when she accuses Jackie Walker, the director of Momentum, of anti-Semitism. Rose has dramatic gifts: she burst into tears (pt 2, 21:56), having to “stand in front” of Walker, after being exposed as an Israeli embassy employee by Electronic Intifada, and claimed that her critics are all anti-Semites and she doesn’t care if they all “die in a hole“.
Rose’s conversation (at 17:26 pt 1) reveals a trajectory of what could be perceived as a strategy of accusation (of anti semitism), a gotcha focus with the objective of trapping people, as a means of one-upsmanship so as to advance the profile of the Jewish Labour Movement on the right flank of Labour, aligned with the faction of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Rose explains why Newmark hired her:
“A new guard came in… then all the anti-Semitism stuff kicked off, and JLM vastly increased its profile. They thought we should probably hire someone political who actually knows what they’re doing. Before that I was at the [Israeli] embassy working with Shai.”
The suggestion by critics that anything untoward is taking place is angrily rebuffed. Labour’s right flank postures itself as the real victims– for being accused of falsely accusing! For example, Michael Foster, a generous Jewish donor (£700,000) to Labour, last summer accused Corbyn supporters of behaving like “Nazi stormtroopers”, and was suspended by the party for the abuse, leading to yet more glaring Blame-Corbyn headlines in the British press:
Jeremy Corbyn reignites anti-Semitism row by kicking out leading Jewish donor for /comparing supporters to ‘Nazi stormtroopers’
As if accusing members in your own party of being Nazis is acceptable discourse. Foster said he “could have easily referred to Mao and the Red Guard or Saddam Hussein and the Revolutionary Guard” when discussing Momentum. But he didn’t: He chose Nazis.
I’m reminded of the competition for leadership within our own Democratic Party, the accusations lodged against Keith Ellison or potentially anyone else challenging the pro-Israel flank of the party if they slip up. There’s an effort to drive the left on both sides of the Atlantic into a conversation about anti-Semitism, because the left doesn’t buy Israel’s victim status.
As for those targeted, the bigger fish the better, beginning with Jeremy Corbin, of course, and his supporters in Momentum, like Walker. Labour party members are targeted for re-education programs through Labour Party trainings on anti-Semitism, and if you slip up you’re subject to an inquisition with the threat of being thrown out of the party, loudly and publicly with the press cheering it on.
Even using the word Zionist can be detrimental to one’s reputation and get one reported. Unless, of course, you are one:
Everyone in the UK, is well aware of the Labour party getting dragged through the mud ever since Corbyn’s left wing took over leadership of Labour in September of 2015. It’s time to end the strategy of tension. Hopefully this exciting Al Jazeera series will begin that process.
Here are links to this important series: