Labour Friends of Israel denies funding from Israeli spy

Alex Richardson — laughing with Joan Ryan and Shai Masot about “more than 1 million pounds” in Israeli funding in Al Jazeera’s undercover film, left, and appearing unnamed in the BBC Panorama film “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” on the right. (Al Jazeera/BBC)

In a panicked response to increased scrutiny, Labour Friends of Israel on Tuesday denounced Al Jazeera for its undercover investigation The Lobby.

The Israel lobby group is attempting to discredit the documentary despite how Britain’s official broadcasting regulator threw out all complaints of bias against it.

The four-part film broadcast in 2017 exposed the covert activities of Labour Friends of Israel among other Israel lobby groups in the UK.

The film led to the expulsion from the UK of an Israeli diplomat who was caught secretly plotting to “take down” a British government minister.

That same diplomat, Shai Masot, was also caught discussing Israeli government funding for junkets to Israel with the head of Labour Friends of Israel.

Masot was a spy apparently operating under diplomatic cover.

Al Jazeera made a similar film exposing covert activities by Israel and its lobby in the United States. However it was never broadcast due to a massive Israel lobby campaign against the Qatar-based network.

The film was leaked and published by The Electronic Intifada last year.

Amongst many insights, the 2017 UK film shows definitively that Labour Friends of Israel has operated as a front for the Israeli embassy in London.

Some of the subjects of the film lodged complaints with Ofcom, the UK’s official regulator which has the power to sanction broadcasters if they breach rules on fairness and accuracy.

The complainants alleged that the program was anti-Semitic and misleadingly edited. But after a months-long investigation, Ofcom cleared the film on all counts.

The regulator threw out the charges of bias and ruled that it did not consider that “a critical analysis of the actions of a foreign state constituted anti-Semitism.”

Ofcom rejected every single one of the complaints lodged against Al Jazeera’s film.

So why is Labour Friends of Israel now issuing denials about a film broadcast more than two years ago?

Tearful pretense

The answer lies in last week’s broadcast of an increasingly discredited episode of Panorama, the BBC’s flagship investigative news program.

Titled “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?”, the episode features two key antagonists who were filmed undercover for Al Jazeera’s program – Ella Rose and Alex Richardson.

Not only does the BBC fail to disclose their affiliations with Israel lobby groups, they are not even named.

In fact, Rose is on the executive of the Jewish Labour Movement, a group staunchly opposed to left-wing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn

Like Labour Friends of Israel, the Jewish Labour Movement has deep ties to the Israeli embassy – where Rose herself once worked.

She was one of the people who complained to Ofcom after Al Jazeera exposed her activities.

In contrast to her tearful appearance on Panorama, Rose is seen in the undercover Al Jazeera footage wishing critical activists and journalists would “die in a hole,” and claiming she could “take” Jewish anti-Zionist Jackie Walker using an Israeli army combat technique.

Alex Richardson was an aide to Joan Ryan, a lawmaker and the Labour Friends of Israel chair who quit the Labour Party in January over Corbyn’s alleged “hatred for Israel.”

In a damning sequence in Al Jazeera’s film, Ryan and Richardson are seen fabricating an instance of anti-Semitism by a party member – despite Richardson privately admitting that “nothing anti-Semitic was said.”

Yet remarkably, Rose and Richardson are portrayed by Panorama as unnamed, sympathetic Jewish victims of alleged anti-Semitism – rather than as the partisan pro-Israel activists of Labour’s right wing that they really are.

But this pretense seems not to have fooled many in Labour’s grassroots.

Exposed

On social media, supporters of Labour and Corbyn began to point out that Rose and Richardson also feature in the Al Jazeera film.

It was this renewed interest in The Lobby that seems to have prompted The Jewish Chronicle to run an article accusing anyone who relied on the evidence in the film of being a “conspiracy theorist.”

It also led to Labour Friends of Israel’s panicked response in a Twitter thread.

Labour Friends of Israel claims that the Al Jazeera film amounts to “a combination of lies, insinuations and distortions” that “attempted to construct a vast conspiracy involving hidden power, money and improper influence – typical anti-Semitic tropes.”

The lobby group also alleges that the film “has now been weaponized by anti-Semites” to attack the “brave” participants in Panorama.

Al Jazeera’s investigations unit responded that the group’s attack was “shamefully dishonest, but an inevitable backlash from speaking truth to power.”

One million pounds

Labour Friends of Israel also claims that the infamous 1 million pounds ($1.25 million) of funding offered by Israeli embassy spy Shai Masot was “totally untrue and utterly ridiculous.”

But in the footage below, Labour Friends of Israel chair Ryan can be heard asking Masot, “What happened with the names that we put into the embassy, Shai?” – an apparent reference to persons who were to be sent on a junket.

Masot responds, “We’ve just now got the money, it’s more than 1 million pounds, it’s a lot of money.”

“I know, it must be,” Ryan replies. When Masot says the money has been approved but not yet transferred from Israel, Ryan jokes, “I didn’t think you had it in your bag.”

The video also shows that Richardson was party to the conversation, which perhaps contributed to his wide recognition by Labour activists after he appeared on Panorama.

Despite this filmed exchange, Labour Friends of Israel said in a tweet Tuesday that, “so there can be absolutely no room for doubt, no payment of 1 million pounds, or indeed any other amount, for LFI, or our delegations, was offered, given or received.”

Labour Friends of Israel now also claims that the funding being discussed was for “a visit for young people,” rather than the usual trips for lawmakers the group is known for organizing.

It says the embassy asked it to recommend potential participants. “The ‘names’ discussed in the program refer to this,” the group says.

This appears to be the first time Labour Friends of Israel has denied the delegation was for members of Parliament.

As the Tweet below shows, the lobby group did not deny it back in 2017.

It claimed then and now that the delegation was “openly arranged” and “advertised” but did not reply when asked where and when it was advertised.

Regardless of who was to go on the junkets, this was an exercise lavishly funded by the Israeli government to influence the Labour Party and British opinion more broadly.

The Al Jazeera documentary reveals that Masot was also attempting to engineer a “grassroots” pro-Israel organization for Labour youth – an tactic known as astroturfing to create the illusion of organic support.

The effort to manufacture a “Young Labour Friends of Israel” group ultimately collapsed, mainly because Masot foolishly entrusted it to “Robin” – who turned out to be Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter.

In the video above Labour Friends of Israel’s parliamentary officer Michael Rubin cautions “Robin” to be careful “that we’re not to be seen as Young Israeli Embassy,” since it would harm the effort’s credibility.

He tells “Robin” that in his efforts to found Young Labour Friends of Israel, he should be “keeping Shai [Masot] up to date.”

“Publicly, we just try to keep the LFI as a separate identity to the embassy,” Rubin explains, adding, that this “allows us to reach out to people who wouldn’t want to get involved with the embassy.”

In other words, Rubin is explaining how Labour Friends of Israel covertly operates as a front for the embassy to enable a foreign government’s messaging and influence to reach further.

“We work really closely together,” Rubin says of the embassy. “But a lot of it is behind the scenes.”

According to Rubin, Ryan, the lobby group’s chair, was coordinating closely with the Israeli embassy: “We work with the ambassador and the embassy quite a lot. So she’ll speak to Shai [Masot] most days.”

“We work with Shai, we know him very well”

Masot was also caught by Al Jazeera plotting to “take down” a British government minister – the immediate cause of his expulsion from the UK.

Boris Johnson, then the UK’s foreign minister, accepted “a very full apology” from Israeli ambassador Mark Regev, saying that “whatever he [Masot] may exactly have been doing here, his cover” was “well and truly blown.”

Official Israeli documents examined by The Electronic Intifada indicate that Masot was likely an agent of Israel’s Ministry of Strategy Affairs.

The ministry is Israel’s semi-covert global agency tasked with fighting the nonviolent boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.

One veteran Israeli intelligence correspondent says that the ministry is engaged in “black-ops” against the Palestine solidarity movement.

Many of these covert tactics and dirty tricks were revealed in Al Jazeera’s film on the US Israel lobby.

And as The Electronic Intifada revealed last year, Ella Rose privately admitted that the Jewish Labour Movement also coordinated closely with Masot.

“We work with Shai, we know him very well,” she admitted. At the time, Rose was employed as JLM’s director.

One of the positive unintended consequences of the BBC’s Panorama hatchet job is increased and much needed scrutiny on the activities of the Israel lobby.

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Baroness Hayter, who this week was relieved of her position on the Shadow Cabinet after comparing Jeremy Corbyn to Adolf Hitler, is a member of Labour Friends of Israel. The question remains- when will this Trojan horse of an organisation finally be put out to pasture? The same must be asked regarding the odious Jewish Labour Movement, an Israeli Front group so crass in its operations as to have placed someone like Ella Rose in nominal charge. It really is past time to deal decisively with the entire cabal of Israeli stooges- from Deputy Leader Tom Watson on down- who afflict a decent, well-intentioned Labour Party.

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Why does the Labour Party embrace Labour Friends of Israel and not Labour Friends of Palestine, or Labour Friends of Algeria, or Labour Friends of Morocco, or Labour Friends of Costa Rica. Why Israel? You don't have to think long or far to see why. The Zionist lobby is very skilled and diligent at worming its way into organisations. Might we call this infiltration? After all, Jews can join the Labour Party and be part of its democracy like anyone else. There is something very simple but appalling here: the State of Israel is an illegal occupier; it was born in terrorism; it refuses to comply with international law; it denies uncontroversial historical facts; it has passed a Nation Law which, by any reasonable standard, is racist. Of course it needs to cloak itself in respectability.
In 1944 the Labour Party issued a declaration calling for "the compulsory transfer of the Arab population of Palestine." Labour does not have a clean record as far as the rights of the Palestinians goes, but it now has a leader who has been consistent in his rejection of racism and support for the Palestinians. That is why there is such a vicious, dishonest campaign against him. LFI nestles in the Party because its leaders have failed to see that they were being manipulated. LFI is essentially a Zionist organisation and Zionism has consistently made use of anti-Jewish rhetoric and violence. LFI should be investigated and if discovered to have colluded with Zionist anti-Jewish propaganda, disbanded. Jews have nothing to fear from that.

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It's obvious to anyone with just a little intelligence, what dirty game the Labour Friends of Israel have been up to. As for the BBC, we are getting to the stage of calling them, BBC Friends of Israel. Jeremy Corbyn is been attacked from all sides including by his own deputy Tom Watson. Corbyn deserves much credit as a lesser man would have folded long ago.

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Corbyn has borne up very well under a volley of vilification and falsehoods. He has the membership behind him. Every time he is attacked the 400,000 members who voted or him are attacked.

It is a dirty game indeed. At the heart of it is a fear and hatred of democracy. Palestine should be a democratic State where all citizens enjoy the same rights, elect their government and obey the law. Israel is an object lesson in the denial of democracy. Yes, Israeli citizens can vote, but Israel controls the lives of those in the occupied territories and they have no say in Israeli elections. It is as if the people of Corisca had no vote in French elections. Israel is a State founded on messianic entitlement. It traces its legitimacy not to the people but to the Old Testament. That is a denial of democracy. In a democratic State, legitimacy lies with the people and only with the people. This is why reactionaries across the globe, including in the Labour Party, cleave to Israel: it is a bulwark against the people, against the legitimacy of State power being secular and limited. As the power of the Israeli State is said to come from god, it is limitless and beyond question. Corbyn believes in the common folk. He wants them to have power. That is why the reactionaries in the Labour Party loathe and want to destroy him. The Zionists will tell any lie to bring him down. The big lie is that Labour is "institutionally racist" a claim for which their is no evidence. Remember who used the big lie and kept repeating it? But this time the people see through it. The grassroots know the claims are wildly exaggerated. This is a fight between the common folk and a self-serving, dishonest elite. The common folk want democracy and justice, the elite wants power.

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The current investigation into the Labour Party by the EHRC is in response to complaints from the Jewish Labour Movement and the Campaign Against Antisemitism. Both are anti-Corbyn. Both are essentially Zionist in nature ie they support the fundamental contention of Zionism that Palestine belongs to them by messianic entitlement. That they complain about the Labour Party is a little like a burglar complaining to the police that the house he broke into was untidy.

One of the EHRC's panel of counsel is Adam Wagner, a human rights barrister and representative of the CAA. Wagner has been a frequent critic of Corbyn. As the CAA is effectively a front for Zionism, that he should be anywhere near the inquiry is a disgrace.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, who heads the EHRC has, apparently, recused herself from the investigation, which is just as well given that she drew its conclusions two years ago: in September 2017 she observed that the Labour Party needed to rid itself of antisemitism.

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Jewish and a leading light in Jewish Voice for Labour, has received death threats. From whom? Why? What is Mr Watson saying? Or Mrs Hodge? Or Mrs Ellman? Or Mr Mann? Or Mr Streeting? Will the EHRC look into her case? Will it look into the question of Zionists within the Labour Party, given the long Zionist tradition of anti-Jewish abuse and violence? It will have to if enough people demand it. Write to the EHRC calling on it not to whitewash the Zionists in the Labour Party. Otherwise, we risk an investigation which lets them off the hook.

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The problem is the remit of the EHRC so-called investigation already accepts the premise of the CAA (which called for the enquiry) and the JLM etc. That is, they take for granted that labour has "a problem with anti-Semitism" and are not asking whether or not is it true. They are investigating whether labour is covering up for "anti-Semites" in its ranks by failing to properly deal with cases brought before its disciplinary bodies and is thereby showing itself to be "institutionally antisemitic". I suspect they will probably conclude this is the case: after all, they have been helped by the swamping of the party with false allegations that it HAS proved unable to deal with, along with the delaying tactics of the hundreds of anti-Corbyn personnel in its administration.

It's a clever ruse. I wonder how much of this was worked out in advance?

Only if the membership shows it is not taken in by these manoeuvres will this outrageous campaign be defeated. That is why the current change.org petition in support of Corbyn is important:
https://www.change.org/p/labou...

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Agreed. That's why the EHRC needs an avalanche of letters calling on it not to whitewash the Zionists. And copies of those letters should be sent to the editors of daily newspapers.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.