Labour’s top Israel lobbyist accused of defrauding Jewish charity

Jeremy Newmark, sitting between disgraced Israeli embassy agent Shai Masot and Israeli ambassador Mark Regev at a private meeting during Labour’s 2016 conference. Newmark is seen in undercover Al Jazeera footage giving the ambassador “intelligence.” (Al Jazeera/YouTube)

Jeremy Newmark, a top Israel lobbyist and parliamentary hopeful in the UK’s Labour Party, misappropriated tens of thousands of dollars from his former employer, it was revealed on Thursday.

An internal report obtained by The Jewish Chronicle shows that the real reason Newmark stepped down as executive of the Jewish Leadership Council in 2013 was that his financial conduct had been exposed.

Under Newmark, the report states, it “appears to be standard practice in the [Jewish Leadership Council] to falsify information relating to finances.”

It also states that when auditors asked Newmark for information and clarifications, he “did not provide honest responses to a number of queries.”

But top figures at the registered charity – including Mick Davis, who is now chief executive of the ruling Conservative Party – buried the affair and allowed Newmark to resign citing health concerns, the paper reported.

Stephen Pollard, editor of The Jewish Chronicle, slammed the trustees of the Jewish Leadership Council for their failure to “call in the police and let the law take its course” when Newmark’s behavior was discovered, instead deciding “to cover it up” and hand him six months salary as a parting gift.

Newmark, who denies any wrongdoing, did not reply to a request for comment from The Electronic Intifada.

Among Newmark’s alleged financial irregularities were expense claims relating to family holidays in Israel; leasing a BMW worth $64,000 on which he put a personalized number plate; inflating project budgets while failing to account surpluses; routinely charging personal expenses to the organization; habitually withdrawing cash while failing to provide receipts and attempting to cover his tracks.

Since leaving the Jewish Leadership Council, Newmark has reinvented himself as the chair of the revived Jewish Labour Movement which lobbies for Israel within the Labour Party.

The Jewish Chronicle reported on Friday that “senior” members of the group were calling for Newmark to step down, but that he had initially refused.

Later on Friday the group issued a statement announcing that Newmark had agreed to quit so he could seek “redress following the publication of historic allegations.”

The statement, signed by the group’s secretary Peter Mason, said that the paper’s report they had called for Newmark to resign was “completely untrue” and claimed that “there are no allegations whatsoever against Jeremy that relate to the Jewish Labour Movement.”

Labour’s Israel lobby

Newmark is now a leading Labour councilor in the London suburb of Hertsmere and was a candidate for Parliament in the 2017 election, narrowly losing to a Conservative.

Newmark has for years worked with the Israeli government to attack campaigns for Palestinian rights in the UK.

In 2012 he told an Israeli newspaper that he was “liaising closely with the government of Israel” to help Israeli colonel Moty Cristal sue the trade union Unison after its members threatened to boycott a training session he’d been set to run.

The “discrimination” case ultimately came to nothing, and was dropped in 2014.

In the Labour Party since becoming chair of the new Jewish Labour Movement in early 2016, Newmark has made frequent media appearances claiming the party has become institutionally anti-Semitic under the leadership of Palestine solidarity veteran Jeremy Corbyn.

A spokesperson for Corbyn declined to comment on the report in The Jewish Chronicle, saying it was “not one for us to comment on.”

Despite his record of attempting to undermine Corbyn’s leadership and acting as an agent for Israel within Labour, Corbyn has publicly backed Newmark.

At a Jewish Labour Movement event in December, Corbyn said he was “very grateful” to Newmark for his “help and advice” and that he admired part of the speech Newmark had just given.

In 2016 Newmark was caught on camera in an undercover Al Jazeera investigation at Labour’s annual conference colluding at a private meeting with the Israeli ambassador and the now-disgraced embassy agent Shai Masot.

Masot was later forced to leave the country after the documentary exposed how he had been plotting to “take down” British ministers.

At the meeting, Newmark provided the ambassador with what he called “intelligence” from an apparently private leadership meeting of Momentum, the left-wing group set up to support Corbyn from the grassroots. The footage can be viewed in the video above.

Momentum’s chairperson Jon Lansman declined to comment on the Jewish Chronicle report, but, in an email to The Electronic Intifada, responded to the undercover Newmark footage: “I don’t think we have Israeli spies in Momentum. At that time we never had private meetings. They were reported on various websites or Facebook feeds while they were still going on.”

Momentum’s press office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Financial improprieties

The Jewish Chronicle apparently obtained the internal report into Newmark’s financial improprieties from a whistleblower at the charity and published it in full on Thursday.

The report says an external auditor revealed that in September 2011 Newmark had made an unspecified number of cash withdrawals from the charity’s account which were spent at party political conferences – presumably those of Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

The report states that “receipts were never found and the amounts were ‘written off’ by” the auditor.

The report elsewhere states that Newmark “has commonly withdrawn cash while abroad which has been difficult to monitor.” One withdrawal of $570 during a 2013 trip to Israel went “unaccounted for.”

Such withdrawals included Newmark’s trip to the 2012 conference of Washington’s most powerful Israel lobby group AIPAC.

Newmark did not reply to The Electronic Intifada when emailed to ask if he had made such cash withdrawals from the Jewish Labour Movement.

In his editorial The Jewish Chronicle’s Pollard charges that some donors who knew the truth about Newmark nonetheless “sat back mutely” and “gave the JLM generous donations, while knowing the details of his behavior.”

“Preposterous” lies

The Jewish Leadership Council is a registered charity, a large part of whose work is to lobby for Israel.

In one of its most high profile anti-Palestinian cases during Newmark’s tenure as executive, the group backed a failed attempt to sue the University and College Union for “institutional anti-Semitism.”

In reality the union’s membership had debated – and not even implemented – the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli academic institutions complicit in occupation and apartheid.

The case spectacularly backfired in March 2013 when it was thrown out by the tribunal on all counts. The judge said the case “was an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means” and singled out Newmark for giving “preposterous” and “untrue” evidence.

The leaked report says that Newmark was responsible for inflating the Jewish Leadership Council budget for the case, one of several such instances in which Newmark “independently decides on the allocation” of the funds.

Thousands of pounds

An almost $53,000 surplus for the case then existed, and it was suggested that the money be transferred to a fund to help pay for other legal work, including the Moty Cristal case.

However, the audit report states, Newmark “indicated he intends to transfer [the amount] in full to the [Jewish Leadership Council] account” where it could be used to cover “staff time” including his own.

Newmark also said he was waiting to hear from the lawyers who handled the University and College Union case “whether they will be invoicing” the group for their fees, in the amount of about $28,000, which he suggested would be paid out of that surplus.

But in 2012 lawyer Anthony Julius told The Electronic Intifada that his firm Mishcon de Reya had taken on the case pro bono.

Newmark did not reply to The Electronic Intifada when emailed to ask about the discrepancy.

The report also states that Newmark transferred more than $29,000 to external accounts managed “independently” by Newmark without oversight from the Jewish Leadership Council’s auditors.

One of these was an account for the Fair Play Campaign Group, which was set up in 2006 to combat the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.

One bank statement allegedly showed that about $1,900 from the Fair Play Campaign Group’s account was used to pay off one of Newmark’s credit cards. When challenged Newmark claimed this was for expenses he was owed. The report states that the balance in the campaign’s account was “lower than expected” based on the money that had been transferred into it.

The report also shows that the charity paid annual costs for Newmark’s home security system. Newmark claimed he had been advised by the Community Security Trust – another pro-Israel group – he was “at risk” due to being “actively and publicly engaged in counter boycott work.”

Updated to add Jon Lansman comments and news of Newmark’s resignation.

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Comments

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Well, it comes as no surprise that a greasy, double-bluffing, mendacious charlatan might have tendencies of a peculative nature. And it appears that in demonstrating that character he has made enemies amongst his friends. It's one thing when you abuse the Palestinian cause. But when you fleece your own donors, expect a visit from the accountants. As with most slippery operators, he's running out of road. Meanwhile, Labour prepare for the general election and wisely decline to comment on this tawdry affair.

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No room for corrupt individauls like Newmark in the Labour Party.
Plenty of replacements available in the JVL organization of moderate UK Jews and gentiles.

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The following section needs correction because it makes no sense as it stands:

“Newmark also said he was waiting to hear from the lawyers who handled the University and College Union case “whether they will be invoicing” the group for their fees, in the amount of about $28,000, which he suggested would be paid out of that surplus.
But in 2012 lawyer Anthony Julius told The Electronic Intifada that his firm Mishcon de Reya had taken on the case pro bono.
Newmark did not reply to The Electronic Intifada when emailed to ask about the discrepancy.”

This section makes no sense because Mishcon de Reya were acting (pro bono) for the JLC, not for UCU!

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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.