- 03 Sep 19
Dabbling in anti-semitism should spell the end of any political career. But that does not give the Israeli embassy in London any right to ‘take down’ politicians they deem to be ‘insufficiently supportive’ of Israel’s brutal policies in Gaza and the West Bank.
You couldn’t make it up. Although if the issue is the security of the Israeli State and the continued oppression of the Palestinian people and you are a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy, you can make up more or less anything you reckon will serve your interest in full confidence there’ll be no comeback from anybody that matters.
Take Shai Masot, who just three years ago was rumbled helping set up a series of phoney organisations with the sole purpose of undermining and if possible ending the careers of MPs deemed insufficiently supportive of Israel and/or too positive in their attitude to Palestinian rights.
Masot, senior officer at the Israeli embassy in London, was covertly filmed by an Al-Jazeera news crew discussing how to “take down” “unreliable” parliamentarians. The conversation was with Maria Strizzolo, a civil servant and former aide to a Conservative minister, Robert Halfon. They discussed Strizzola’s success in helping Halfon, a vocal supporter of Israel, win promotion to government. Could she, Masot asked, bring down as well as build up an MP – specifically junior Defence Minster Alan Duncan, an outspoken critic of Israel?
“I thought we had neutralised him just a little bit,” said Strizzola.
“No,” said Masot – but “never say never.”
“A little scandal?” mused Strizzola.
No scandal ever emerged. Duncan resigned from the government last July in protest against the then-imminent upgrade of Boris Johnston to PM.
Masot suggested to another participant in the conversation, “Robin,” that he set up a new organisation, Young Labour Friends of Israel. Organise a reception at a Labour Conference to announce the group, then compile an email list of supporters and Benjamin’s your uncle...
“Robin” was told not to mention the involvement of the Embassy. “No one likes that someone is managing his organisation.”
At Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool in September 2017, Masot was filmed introducing “Robin” as chairman of the (still non-existent) Young Labour Friends of Israel.
“Robin” was the undercover Al-Jazeera reporter.
SNAKES AND WEASELS
It is not difficult to imagine what the response would have been to a diplomat from any other country -- Iran, say – interfering in Britain’s internal affairs so blatantly as to infiltrate a major political party in order to boost the careers of friendly MPs AND stymie the careers of those insufficiently supportive.
At a bare minimum, the ambassador would have been summoned for a dressing down, a bunch of embassy officials would have been booted out, every news station in the land would have led with the story and presented phalanxes of accredited experts to discuss the implications.
In this case, there was the smallest possible fuss. Israeli ambassador Mark Regex pleaded that Masot had been a rogue operator acting on his own and apologised for his misbehaviour. The UK government declared the matter closed.
No mainstream newspaper or political party demanded that Regev be put on the next flight to Tel Aviv and diplomatic relations with Israel suspended. Although it had potential to trigger an international convulsion, few remember the incident now.
It was by no means an accident that the parry Masot had in his sights was Labour. All over the world, any suggestion that the Israelis are in breach of diplomatic protocol or international law is routinely rubbished as antisemitic, with the smear usually applied to parties and people on the Left.
The experience of Derby MP Chris Williamson offers an egregious example. He has been expelled from Labour, has been described by a fellow MP as “an extreme antisemite,” by a Guardian writer as a “Jew baiter,” and more along the same lines – on account of a speech to party activists in Sheffield saying that Labour “had done more than any other to actually address the scourge of antisemitism and yet we are being traduced. I’ve got to say I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that, because in my opinion we’ve backed off too much, we’ve given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic.”
This passage has been quoted thousands of times as proof of Williamson’s hostility to Jews. Of course, it’s evidence of no such thing. But that matters little to the snakes and weasels surrounding Corbyn whose main purpose in political life is to keep Labour safe from socialism. It’s Corbyn they really want rid of.
TRUTH AND JUSTICE
Likewise, Donald Trump doesn’t seriously believe that the Democratic Party is antisemitic. Probably, doesn’t care much one way or the other. But he knows that the antisemitic slur will put Democrats on the defensive for fear of being slandered as bigots.
Turn on CNN and see Democrat House majority leader Nancy Pelosi dither and cringe when asked about members of her own party, particularly women, especially women of colour, specifically women who don’t fall down in a faint at use of the word “socialism” nor kow-tow to Benjamin Netanyahu. Women like Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib scare the life out of the macho sleaze-bags who concur in Trump’s assessment of himself as The Chosen One. Morning, noon and night, each of them is splattered with the spittle of hate.
Against the background of the Holocaust and millennia of malevolence towards Jews, it is right and proper that dabbling in antisemitism should spell the end of any political career. By the same token, wielding antisemitism as a weapon to bludgeon political opponents should be regarded morally as well as politically as the contemptible misuse of a horrendous atrocity.
There are many thousands of Jewish people who hold the view that hostility to the policies and actions of the Israeli State does not constitute antisemitism. While they stand up straight for truth and justice, the rest of us shouldn’t buckle or back away from the democratic imperative to support Palestine.