“The Israeli embassy in the UK gives money to the Union of Jewish Students,” pro-Israel activist Adam Schapira says, speaking to an undercover reporter.
This comes to light in episode one of Al Jazeera’s groundbreaking film The Lobby which was broadcast on Wednesday, and can be watched in the video above.
“Once you’re involved with the Union of Jewish Students, they then connect you,” said Schapira. “My sister worked for the embassy for a bit, as her first job. It’s a good platform to do for like a year.”
The UJS sent students critical of the union’s president Malia Bouattia on trips to Israel.
The Al Jazeera film shows another pro-Israel operative in UJS scheming to overthrow Bouattia because of her stance in support of Palestinian rights and the boycott of Israel.
The UJS has long been an important part of the Israel lobby in the UK, so it is little surprise that evidence has emerged of financial links with the embassy.
UJS’s constitution commits it to “inspiring Jewish students to making an enduring commitment” to Israel.
She moved straight on from there to her current position at the Jewish Labour Movement, another Israel lobby group.
Links between pro-Israel organizations in the UK and the Israeli state go deep. In September a cable leaked to an Israeli newspaper revealed the embassy had lodged a complaint with the Israeli foreign ministry that Israel’s strategic affairs ministry was “operating” UK groups in a way that could violate UK law.
The strategic affairs ministry has been given a $45 million budget to try to sabotage the Palestine solidarity movement through what a veteran Israeli analyst has termed “black ops.”
The leaked cable seems to have come in the context of a turf war between the two Israeli ministries over who should get the bulk of funding and authority to combat the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Israeli embassy “diplomat” Shai Masot is shown in the film promising $1.2 mllion in funding for delegations to Israel in a conversation with Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan.
Abuse and bigotry
Adam Schapira ran for UJS president in 2016, but failed.
The documentary says Schapira took money from Israel to set up a new campus-based group, the Pinsker Centre, with another pro-Israel activist, Elliot Miller.
Miller was secretly filmed talking about his closeness to Israel.
“I just spent a year working in the government in Israel,” he tells Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter. “I was doing a fellowship in the foreign ministry, in the congressional affairs department, so all Congress, AIPAC stuff.”
AIPAC is the most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in the US Congress.
“The guy behind me, is in Israel now,” Miller continues. “He’s the main guy. He’s the sort of guy who can walk into a room with the donor, and the donor will give him a cheque for 2,500 [pounds]. Just like that. He’s a genius.”
In October Miller was filmed being violent and abusive during student protests against a speech by a former Israeli army officer at University College London.
Videos online show Miller using Islamophobic abuse against students. “It’s a violent religion,” he shouts at one protester.
Since his activities, including plotting to “take down” a UK minister and lawmakers deemed hostile to Israel, were exposed the Israeli embassy has distanced itself from senior political officer Shai Masot.
They have sought to portray him as merely a junior local employee, who has since been dismissed.
The UK government accepted this implausible denial and declared the matter “closed.”
Now, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s strategic affairs minister has also denied that Masot worked for his ministry.
But the claim that Masot was a self-aggrandizing loose cannon working on his own flies in the face of the evidence.
Al Jazeera’s secretly filmed footage shows Masot talking about large sums of money to which he apparently has access to support pro-Israel activities, including junkets to take British lawmakers to Israel.
He is also seen working directly with other senior embassy staff.
In one sequence of episode one of The Lobby, Masot brings “Robin,” Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter who is posing as a pro-Israel activist, to meet embassy colleagues at a gathering of Israeli officials and pro-Israel activists at a London hotel. The guest of honor was Gilad Erdan.
One of the Israeli diplomats urges Robin to apply for a job at the embassy.
Robin responds that Masot had also encouraged him to submit his CV to the embassy. The diplomat, Michael Freeman, head of civil society affairs at the embassy, replies to Robin, “That’ll be it. We’re looking for somebody to work on the whole BDS piece.”
Several people involved in the UK Israel lobby, including Michael Rubin, the parliamentary officer for Labour Friends of Israel, refer to Masot as their key contact with the embassy.
Jewish Labor Movement director Ella Rose tells Robin that when she worked at the embassy, she was “working with Shai [Masot].”
Given the evidence, Israel’s eagerness to downplay Masot’s role can be taken as a sign of how damaging it considers the revelations about its London embassy’s activities to be.