A quite incredible story out of England has not received much media coverage in the United States. It concerns how the Israeli Embassy in London connived with government officials to “take down” parliamentarians and government ministers who were considered to be critical of the Jewish State. It was also learned that the Israeli Embassy was secretly subsidizing and advising private groups promoting Israeli interests, including associations of Members of Parliament (MPs). The story is interesting on several levels, particularly given the recent furor in the U.S. over allegations that Russia has been interfering in American politics.
By way of comparison, though no evidence has been provided to support the claim, Russia allegedly arranged for a hack into the Democratic National Committee server to obtain factual information potentially embarrassing to the Hillary Clinton campaign. The information was then made public and may have influenced how some Americans voted.
Compare that to what has been going on meanwhile in Britain, where an Israeli Embassy diplomat named Shai Masot, “an officer in the Israel Defense Forces and…serving as a senior political officer at the London Embassy,” was meeting with Maria Strizzolo, a senior British civil servant who was formerly chief of staff to Conservative parliamentarian and ardent Zionist Robert Halfon. Masot is certainly an intelligence officer under diplomatic cover. Masot and Strizzolo’s candid discussion, which was secretly recorded by al-Jazeera, related specifically to getting rid of Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan, regarded as a supporter of an independent Palestinian state.
To Masot’s additional query “Can I give you some MPs that I would suggest you would take down?” Strizzolo suggested “…if you look hard enough, I’m sure there is something that they’re trying to hide…a little scandal maybe.” Another alleged pro-Arab member of Parliament Crispin Blunt was also identified, with Strizzolo confirming that he was on a “hit list.”
It was also learned that Masot had been secretly subsidizing and advising two ostensibly independent groups, the parliamentary Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). Masot did, however, express concern that Israel’s control over incoming parliamentarians was not quite what it used to be: “For years, every MP that joined the parliament joined the LFI. They’re not doing that any more in the Labour Party. CFI, they’re doing it automatically. All the 14 new MPs who got elected in the last elections did it automatically.”
Shai Masot also was working with friendly young British Jews, providing them with jobs at his embassy and then seeding them into positions in advocacy organizations where they continued to be paid secretly by him while promoting positions that would protect Israel from any criticism. One such group is Britain’s National Union of Students (NUS). Recently there has been somewhat of a furor over Shakira Martin, a vice president in the group, who accepted an all-expenses paid trip to Israel organized by the Union of Jewish Students, a pro-Israel organization which is among those receiving funding and guidance from the Israeli embassy in London. The al-Jazeera tape has also revealed that Richard Brooks, another NUS vice president, had been plotting with pro-Israel activists to remove elected NUS president Malia Bouattia, a supporter of Palestinian rights and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
It does not require much in the way of imagination to realize that the Masot meetings probably occur every day right out in the open in Washington, including Israeli officials and Congressmen as well as heads of political advocacy organizations and lobbies. The list of prominent politicians “taken down” by Israel is lengthy, and includes Cynthia McKinney, Adlai Stevenson III, Paul Findley, Chuck Percy, William Fulbright, Roger Jepsen, and Pete McCloskey. And a similar situation prevails in the U.S. regarding human rights and politically liberal organizations that are ostensibly privately funded. As Jeff Blankfort has noted, they are frequently headed by American Jews who prove quite willing to criticize the United States but are generally reluctant to say anything bad about Israel. Whether they are actually directly or indirectly on the Israeli government payroll would be an interesting project for a good investigative journalist.
One might reasonably consider Israel’s interference in the democratic process in friendly countries like the U.K. and U.S. as much farther reaching and damaging than anything Moscow has done. Yet Russia is being excoriated by the U.S. and European media daily, investigated by Congress and sanctioned because of what are little more than unproven allegations. Israel has clearly done some things to interfere with local politics that are arguably much worse and the silence is deafening. So one should not be surprised by the toothless British reaction to the suggestion that its government officials might be removed by the clandestine activity of a foreign country: “The Israeli ambassador has apologized…the UK has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed.”
Britain under its new Prime Minister Theresa May has also been rolling over in response to Israel’s perceived interests almost as obsequiously as the U.S. Congress. After Secretary of State John Kerry described Israel’s government as “extreme right wing” on December 28th, May sprang to Tel Aviv’s defense, saying “we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. We are also clear that the settlements are far from the only problem in this conflict. In particular, the people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for too long.”
May’s rejoinder could have been written by Netanyahu, and maybe it was. Two weeks later, her government cited “reservations” over a French government sponsored mid-January Middle East peace conference and would not sign a joint statement calling for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after Netanyahu vociferously condemned the proceedings.
It all recalls Pat Buchanan’s description of the U.S. Congress as an Israeli occupied zone, which raised holy hell at the time even though Buchanan did not go far enough judging by what has been happening in Britain. Indeed, lobbying on behalf of Israel is a global phenomenon with organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) existing in various forms in a number of other countries. BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an AIPAC clone located in London. It is well funded and politically powerful, working through its various “Friends of Israel” proxies. Americans might be surprised to learn that in Britain Jewish organizations uniquely are allowed to patrol heavily Jewish London neighborhoods in police-like uniforms while driving police type vehicles and there have been reports of their threatening Muslims who enter the areas.
Indeed, wherever one goes – Western Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States – there is a well-organized and funded mechanism in place ready, willing and able to go to war to protect Israel. Most of the organizations involved take at least some direction from officials in Tel Aviv. Many of them even cooperate fully with the Israeli government, its parastatal organizations and faux-NGOs like the lawfare center Shurat HaDin. Their goal is to spread propaganda and influence the public in their respective countries of residence to either hew to the line coming out of Tel Aviv or to confuse the narrative and stifle debate when potential Israeli crimes are being discussed.
Israel’s diaspora allies are backed up by a formidable government organized machine that spews out disinformation and muddies the waters whenever critics surface. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has a corps of paid “volunteers” who monitor websites worldwide and take remedial action and there is a similar group working out of the Prime Minister’s office. That is why any negative story appearing in the U.S. or Britain about Israel is immediately inundated with pro-Israel comments, many of which make exactly the same coordinated points while exhibiting the same somewhat less than perfect English. On sites like Yahoo they are actually able to suppress unwelcome comments by flooding the site with “Dislike” responses. If a comment receives a large number of dislikes, it is automatically blocked or removed.
The sayanim, local Jews in their countries of residence, are essential to this process, having been alerted by emails from the Israeli Foreign Ministry about what to do and say. The reality is that Israel has lost the war of public opinion based on its own actions, which are becoming more and more repressive and even inhumane and so are difficult to explain. That means that the narrative has to be shifted by Israel’s friends through subterfuge and the corruption of the information and political processes in each country. In some places the key media and political players who are engaged in the process can simply be bought. In other places like England they can be intimidated or pressured into taking positions that are neither in their own countries’ interests nor morally acceptable. In large countries like the United States, Britain and France a combination of friendly suasion and coercive elements often come together.
In some extreme cases the game Israel plays is brutal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently warned New Zealand that backing a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements would be a “declaration of war.” In all cases, the objective is the same: to repress completely, discourage or misrepresent any criticism of Israel and to block any initiatives that might be taken that would do damage either to the Israeli economy or to the country’s perceived standing in the world. In some countries including the U.S. and Britain, Israel’s advocates work their subversion of local institutions right out in the open and are highly successful in implementing policies that often remain largely hidden but that can be discerned as long as one knows what to look for.