New Jewish Labour Movement director was Israeli embassy officer

Ella Rose (second left on right-hand side of table) was part of a January 2015 meeting with then Prime Minister David Cameron which discussed opposing “boycotts and the deligitmization of Israel.”

Photoshot/Newscom

The new director of the Jewish Labour Movement was an officer at the Israeli embassy in London for the past year, The Electronic Intifada can reveal.

Ella Rose worked at the embassy as public affairs officer between September 2015 and August 2016, when she joined JLM as its first director.

JLM chair Jeremy Newmark has hit out at the group’s Jewish critics, telling The Electronic Intifada that the embassy had been “a good career move” for Rose.

The Israeli embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

Press reports in July announcing Rose’s appointment did not disclose the Israeli embassy link, mentioning only her previous position as president of the Union of Jewish Students.

Jewish critics of the JLM have told The Electronic Intifada that JLM’s link to the Israeli embassy should disqualify it from leading Labour Party trainings on anti-Semitism.

The Israeli government and its allied organizations around the world have a long-standing policy of deliberately conflating criticisms of Israel with anti-Semitism.

Ella’s Rose’s social media refers to the Israeli embassy only as a “diplomatic organization.”

The JLM has drawn criticism from non-Zionist Jewish members of Labour for its pro-Israel tendencies. Jews who do not follow Zionism, Israel’s state ideology, have told The Electronic Intifada that JLM excludes them.

Anti-Semitism training?

Although a dormant organization for many years, the JLM in February rose to prominence not long after it appointed as its new chair Jeremy Newmark, a well-known Israel lobbyist.

It was soon being actively promoted by Progress the well-funded “moderate” Labour organization which is closely associated with the legacy of former leader Tony Blair.

Predictably, JLM soon became active in supporting the false narrative that Labour has become a cesspit of anti-Semitism under the leadership of left-winger and long-time advocate for Palestinian rights Jeremy Corbyn.

As The Electronic Intifada has exposed over the last year, Corbyn has faced a manufactured “anti-Semitism crisis” for most of 2016.

Exaggerated and, in some cases, entirely fabricated claims of anti-Semitism have been weaponized by Corbyn’s enemies within the Labour Party and the Israel lobby.

Jewish activists speak out

JLM chair Jeremy Newmark told The Electronic Intifada in May that, although his group is affiliated to a faction of the World Zionist Organization, JLM “is not a foreign policy group nor is it an Israel advocacy organization.”

Jackie Walker, vice-chair of the pro-Corbyn group Momentum, told The Electronic Intifada that in light of Ella Rose’s role at the embassy, JLM’s claim not to be an Israel advocacy organization was “highly doubtful.”

Walker, a Jewish anti-racism activist who has been falsely smeared as anti-Semitic by JLM and others, said it was ironic that members don’t have to be Jewish to join JLM, but they do have to be Zionist.

Labour Party activist and London School of Economics professor Jonathan Rosenhead told The Electronic Intifada that the revelation about Rose’s link with the Israeli embassy supported “grave doubts about how it comes about that the enemies of Jeremy Corbyn and the friends of Israel have come together to promote this amazing moral panic about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.”

Founder and former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research Antony Lerman told The Electronic Intifada that “the problem lies in the fact that a member of the JLM has to sign up to the so-called Jerusalem Program, a statement of adherence to a completely unreconstructed Zionism that makes no mention whatsoever of the Palestinians” and their human rights.

The World Zionist Organization’s Jerusalem Program calls for “settling the country as an expression of practical Zionism” and makes clear that this refers to the entirety of historic Palestine: “Eretz Yisrael” – the “Land of Israel” in Hebrew.

Prospective JLM members are told that the group “supports the Jerusalem Program of the WZO” while signing up for membership.

In a response to The Electronic Intifada, Newmark said that “JLM organizes inside the [World Zionist Organization] as part of the left/Socialist Zionist bloc. We do this to oppose the right wing, to oppose settlements and to speak out against the occupation.”

“We are opposed to the current text of the Jerusalem Program and at the last WZO Congress submitted proposals to revise it,” Newmark added. “However Antony Lerman’s characterization of the program is only one, very simplistic way of reading it.”

Newmark justified the JLM’s support for the Jerusalem Program on the basis that “it is necessary for our members to endorse it to enable us to elect delegates to the [World Zionist Congress].”

“JLM does have non-Zionist members who are made to feel very welcome,” Newmark asserted.

“Emanation of the Israeli state”

At the Labour Party conference later this month, the JLM is scheduled to run a training session on “confronting anti-Semitism.” It will also run a “rally against anti-Semtism” due to be attended by Labour’s shadow chancellor and close Corbyn ally John McDonnell.

Lerman said that the new JLM director is likely to “build into the training the ferreting out of anyone in the Labour Party who espouses anti-Zionism and ensure that both anti-Zionists and non-Zionists are kept out of the JLM.”

“It’s a reasonable assumption that coming straight from a position at the Israeli embassy, Ella Rose will have no problem in implementing this program for the JLM,” Lerman added.

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi told The Electronic Intifada: “As a Jewish voter myself, and a Labour Party member who is in permanent fear of being attacked by the JLM and friends for my support for the Palestinian boycott movement, it seems grotesque to put such a training session in their hands.”

Newmark insists that JLM is “not part of the Israeli government and does not share all of their views on how to address the BDS movement.”

He said that his organization’s strategy for opposing BDS is “political engagement and debate.”

Ian Saville, a founder of the Jews For Jeremy support group, told The Electronic Intifada that the appointment of a former Israel embassy staffer as director “seems to confirm again that the central purpose of the JLM is to defend Israel and to justify its actions to the Labour Party.”

“It would be alarming if such an organization was charged with outlining the definition of anti-Semitism,” Saville added.

Asked about the nature of JLM’s current relationship with the Israeli embassy and its war against Palestine solidarity activism, Newmark did not give a direct answer, but said it would be “rather odd” to suggest that the organization should have no contact with the embassy.

Blurring the line

Free Speech on Israel, a recently founded network of mostly Jewish left-wing activists – Wimborne-Idrissi and Rosenhead are members – has led much of the criticism of JLM.

The JLM and Labour Friends of Israel are “the emanation of the Israeli state inside the Labour Party,” the group argues. “The purpose of LFI and JLM is to justify the actions of the Israeli state, whomsoever is in power.”

The Jewish Socialist Group told The Electronic Intifada that “JLM confuses and blurs the line between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israeli policies or Zionism.”

It emphasizes that “not all Jews are Zionists and not all Zionists are Jews.”

“We, along with a lot of Jewish people in the Labour Party, oppose the occupation and support the struggle of the Palestinians for a just peace,” it adds. “We believe that the Israeli government deliberately conflates valid critiques of Israel and Zionist ideology with racism against Jews, in order to stifle free debate and genuinely held political support for Palestinian rights.”

The Jewish Socialist Group said that by working at the embassy, Rose would have been working for the far right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, which could be contradictory to JLM’s affiliation with the Israeli Labor party.

The JLM’s Newmark responds that Rose’s employment at the Israeli embassy is irrelevant and that “unfounded assumptions and allegations are a thinly veiled attempt to bully a young woman for making a good career move.”

In May, JLM posted on its website an unpublished letter sent to The Guardian in which some of its activists appeared to argue that Jewish critics of Israel should not be considered real Jews.

It said such critics were “far removed from [the] mainstream” and “only identify as Jews for purposes of taking such contrary positions” regarding Israel.

After a backlash, this accusation was quietly deleted.

“War” against BDS

In an August 2014 interview with Jewish News, when she was incoming president of the Union of Jewish Students, Ella Rose promised to “combat BDS.”

Such rhetoric echoes the declarations of war on the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that the Israeli government has been making with increasing fervor in recent years.

Recently, the director general of the Israeli government ministry charged with fighting BDS said the ministry was using its $45 million budget to wage a “battle” against BDS “with a lot of secrecy.”

According to one veteran Israeli security journalist, the ministry is engaging in “black ops” against activists around the world, which may include “defamation campaigns, harassment and threats to the lives of activists” as well as “infringing on and violating their privacy.”

As former chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, Jeremy Newmark was part of a failed Israel lobby effort to sue the University and College Union for debating the academic boycott of Israel.

In 2013, an employment tribunal judge ruled the case “devoid of any merit” and “an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means.”

The judge criticized Newmark personally for a “disturbing” attempt to crush free speech in the union. He also found that that Newmark’s evidence to the tribunal was “preposterous” and “untrue.”

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He first visited Palestine in 2004.