UPDATED BELOW: The four half-hour episodes of Al Jazeera’s investigation.
Al Jazeera are to be congratulated on an undercover investigation exposing something most of us could probably have guessed: that some Israeli embassy staff in the UK – let’s not pussy around, Mossad agents – are working with senior political activists and politicians in the Conservative and Labour parties to subvert their own parties from within, and skew British foreign policy so that it benefits Israeli, rather than British, interests.
One cannot really blame Israel for doing this. Most states promote their interests as best they can. But one can and should expose and shame the British politicians who are collaborating with Israel in further harming Britain’s representative democracy.
It is not as though these people cannot be easily identified. They even advertise what they are up to. They are members of the Conservative and Labour Friends of Israel. They dominate both parliamentary parties, but especially the Conservatives. According to the CFI’s figures, fully 80 per cent of Tory MPs belong to the party’s Friends of Israel group.
Once, no one would have hesitated to call British politicians acting in the interests of a foreign power, and very possibly taking financial benefits for doing so, “traitors”. And yet, as Al Jazeera’s secretly filmed footage shows, Israeli spies like Shai Masot can readily meet and conspire with a Tory minister’s much-trusted aide to discuss how best to “take down” the deputy foreign minister, Alan Duncan, over his criticisms of Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied territories. Maria Strizzolo, education minister Robert Halfon’s assistant, suggests engineering a “little scandal” to damage Duncan.
Masot and Israel’s intelligence services cannot infuence British foreign policy through the opposition Labour party, but that doesn’t prevent them from also taking a keen interest in Labour MPs. Masot is filmed talking to Labour Friends of Israel’s chair, Joan Ryan, about “lots of money” – more than £1 million – he has received from the Israeli government to send yet another batch of Labour MPs on an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel, where they will be wined and dined, and primed by top officials to adopt even more extreme pro-Israel positions. LFI is known for sending the largest proportion of MPs to Israel on these kinds of trips.
Does that have an effect on British domestic politics. You bet it does! Israel isn’t a charity.
A large number of those who have been making Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s life a misery belong to Labour Friends of Israel. They are the same MPs who have been talking up an “anti-semitism crisis” in the Labour party – based on zero tangible evidence – since Corbyn became party leader. Were they following the dictates of their conscience? Did they really fear an anti-semitism plague had suddenly beset their party? Or were they playing deeply cynical politics to oust a leader who supports justice for the Palestinian people and is considered by Israel’s rightwing government, which has no interest in making peace with the Palestinians, to be bad news for Israel?
Al Jazeera’s investigation has not been shown yet, so we can rely only on the snippets released so far, either by Al Jazeera itself or additional leaks of the investigation provided by the Mail on Sunday.
It is worth listening to a Tory minister in the government of recently departed David Cameron, who writes anonymously in the Mail on Sunday. S/he warns of a double whammy to British politics caused by Israel and its British partisans – one that is starting to approach the damage done to the US political system by Israel.
The British government skews its foreign policy to avoid upsetting Jewish donors, s/he says. MPs, meanwhile, act like agents of a foreign power – s/he generously assumes unwittingly – rather than representatives of the British people. Forget international law, these politicians are not even promoting British interests.
Here is what the minister writes:
British foreign policy is in hock to Israeli influence at the heart of our politics, and those in authority have ignored what is going on.
For years the CFI and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), have worked with – even for – the Israeli government and their London embassy to promote Israeli policy and thwart UK Government policy and the actions of Ministers who try to defend Palestinian rights.
Lots of countries try to force their views on others, but what is scandalous in the UK is that instead of resisting it, successive Governments have submitted to it, taken donors’ money, and allowed Israeli influence-peddling to shape policy and even determine the fate of Ministers.
Even now, if I were to reveal who I am, I would be subjected to a relentless barrage of abuse and character assassination. …
It now seems clear people in the Conservative and Labour Parties have been working with the Israeli embassy, which has used them to demonise and trash MPs who criticise Israel; an army of Israel’s useful idiots in Parliament.
This is politically corrupt, and diplomatically indefensible. The conduct of certain MPs needs to be exposed as the poisonous and deceitful infiltration of our politics by the unwitting agents of another country …
We need a full inquiry into the Israeli Embassy, the links, access and funding of the CFI and LFI.
It is rare that I agree with a Tory government minister, but such an inquiry cannot come too soon.
Note too that it is an indictment of the UK media that Al-Jazeera, rather than the British fourth estate, has exposed Israel’s moves to subvert the British political system. It is not as though reporters from the BBC, Guardian, Times and the Mail haven’t had ministers like the one above complaining to them for years about interference from Israel. So why did they not long ago send in undercover teams to expose this collusion between Israel and British MPs?
We have had weeks of stories about the supposed efforts of Russia and Putin to subvert the US election, without a hint yet of any evidence, and based on a central allegation against the Russians that they compromised the election result by releasing truthful information about wrongdoing in the Democratic party. Russian diplomats have been expelled based on these evidence-free claims, and President Obama has vowed to take other, covert action against Russia.
Here we have documented evidence of the Israeli government secretly plotting with “friendly” British MPs to oust a British government minister. If that isn’t interference in the British political system I don’t know what is. Will we similarly have weeks of coverage of this story in the UK media, or will it be quickly filed away and forgotten?
And will any action beyond the removal of Masot be demanded by the British government? It seems unlikely. The Foreign Office has already issued a statement saying that, following Masot’s dismissal, it considers the matter closed.