Undercover video shot by Al Jazeera reveals the lengths to which some leaders of the UK’s influential pro-Israel networks will go to discredit their critics.
Speaking to an undercover reporter who she thought was a pro-Israel activist, lawmaker Joan Ryan claimed the PSC activist had said Labour Friends of Israel was a route to getting a job at a bank in the City, London’s financial district.
“You heard her say … ‘join you lot and you get into Oxford’ or ‘you get into working in the bank,’” Ryan says.
But the film shows that PSC supporter Jean had said no such thing.
“A friend of mine’s son’s got a really good job at Oxford University on the basis of having worked for Labour Friends of Israel,” the undercover footage proves Jean saying at the LFI stall at the Labour Party conference in September.
At no point does the PSC supporter mention banks or the City of London.
Ryan accuses Jean of falling for “rumors” and claims that “it’s a trope. It’s about conspiracy theorists and cabals.” She later claims Jean had invoked “classic anti-Semitic tropes.”
Soon after, Ryan went to the press with her claims.
And she told a Jewish Labour Movement event that evening that the incident “tells you something about why we need to be having this Against Anti-Semitism Rally.”
Ryan reported Jean to the Labour Party for formal investigation. The experience had a profoundly disturbing effect on Jean’s life, leaving her under a cloud of suspicion.
In episode two of The Lobby, Israeli embassy agent Shai Masot is seen telling the undercover reporter that complaints of anti-Semitism should be pursued against long-time anti-racism activist and Labour Party member Jackie Walker. “Do not let it go,” Masot says. He encourages similar tactics against others: “Not just her, all of the party.”
“I reported that incident with that woman,” Ryan later tells LFI supporter and chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Chuka Umunna, who was checking up on the stall.
“I am very shocked about the way she described my words to other people. I feel very anxious and that she should be misinterpreting me totally to other people. I find that very, very worrying,” Jean says in the film.
Reported for “anti-Semitism”
Jean clarifies that “at no point did I ever say that Labour Friends of Israel will get people jobs in banking in the City. I did say, which is absolutely true, that I know the son of a friend of mine who, he believed himself that having some connection with Labour Friends of Israel didn’t harm his career at all.”
Jean had approached the LFI stall asking about the two-state solution which LFI claims to support, and how exactly they would help bring it about.
“I thought Labour Friends of Israel were talking about Palestine because they were promoting a two-state solution,” Jean says. “Now I find they don’t want to talk about Palestine, and if you do talk about Palestine it would appear you’re kind of sucked into having, an accusation of anti-Semitism brought against you.”
Speaking to the Jewish Chronicle on Friday in response to Al Jazeera’s revelations, Joan Ryan stood by her actions, claiming that “my complaint to the Labour Party about this incident made no references to the City and/or banking.”
Jean was formally investigated by the party and cleared of accusations of anti-Semitism.
Labour Friends of Israel is not an affiliated society of the Labour Party. But it has for years acted as a key part of the UK’s Israel lobby. Although it was once seen as an essential organization for any new MP to join, its influence has been waning in recent years.
Disgraced Israeli embassy agent Shai Masot is shown in the film telling undercover reporter “Robin” that “for years, every MP that joined the parliament, the first thing that he used to do is go to join the LFI. They’re not doing it anymore in the Labour Party. In the CFI [Conservative Friends of Israel] they are doing it automatically.”
Earlier episodes of The Lobby show undercover footage of LFI officer Michael Rubin talking about the group’s close ties to the embassy, all while publicly maintaining a distance so as “not to be seen as Young Israeli Embassy.”
“We do work really really closely together,” he says. “It’s just publicly we just try to keep the LFI as a separate identity to the embassy.”
The groundbreaking film has already led to the resignations of Israeli embassy agent Shai Masot and UK civil servant Maria Strizzolo.
As the political fallout continues, questions are being asked about the role of senior Israeli officials in the highly damaging debacle, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Part three of The Lobby can be viewed in the video above. All four parts of the film are airing on Al Jazeera this week, and can now be watched online.