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