Category Archives: Middle East

Shai Masot, the Israel lobby, and its part in the ongoing coup against Jeremy Corbyn

Related news: The main article begins after the asterisk.

Last Monday [Feb 27th] 250 academics signed a letter to the UK government criticising their ‘adoption’ of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism:

“which can be and is being read as extending to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights, an entirely separate issue, as prima facie evidence of antisemitism.” 1

The full letter is included as an addition at the end of this post. You can also read it by clicking here.

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This extended post is based around a recent Al Jazeera investigation broadcast as a four-part series titled The Lobby which has uncovered “from the inside how the Israeli embassy penetrates different levels of British democracy”.

All four episodes are now uploaded on youtube and each is embedded below. I encourage readers, and especially those who are members and supporters of the Labour Party, to watch this documentary series in full. Here is the first episode:

The investigation came to wider public attention following the release of shocking footage of “Israeli diplomat” Shai Masot speculating about how to “take down” Deputy Foreign Minister, Sir Alan Duncan, and other senior politicians less than “solid on Israel”. After the story broke, the press were of course compelled to report on it: it was impossible to ignore such serious allegations that a foreign power was trying to subvert Britain’s democracy. Yet reaction both from the media and the government has been remarkably tepid since. There have been no sustained investigations and we see no push for an official inquiry – this in defiance of Labour demands that the government launch an immediate inquiry into what it rightly calls “a national security issue”:

The shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, said:

“The exposure of an Israeli embassy official discussing how to bring down or discredit a government minister and other MPs because of their views on the Middle East is extremely disturbing.” 2

Instead, however, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) promptly issued a statement:

“The Israeli Ambassador has apologized and is clear these comments do not reflect the views of the embassy or government of Israel.  The UK has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed.” 3

To which Thornberry in turn responded:

“It is simply not good enough for the Foreign Office to say the matter is closed. This is a national security issue.”4

The altogether miserly extent and scope of British media coverage of a plot to subvert our democracy can be usefully measured against the unlimited column inches and headline space given over to unfounded allegations of Russian hacking of the DNC in America. But no less importantly, the plot against Tory ministers occupies a mere ten minutes of one episode of what in full amounts to two hours over four parts of broadcast material. The revelation is damning in the extreme but it should not have been allowed to totally overshadow the real focus of the documentary: a dirty tricks campaign against pro-Palestinian Labour party members and other efforts to subvert the party’s elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn. This chicanery against Corbyn in the interests of a foreign power is something the media has helped to bury.

In this post I will touch on all of the findings of the Al Jazeera documentaries and supplement their revelations with additional background notes and other open source information of relevance. All parts are thoroughly annotated. The cases against Labour members Jean Fitzpatrick, Jackie Walker and others falsely accused of antisemitism are discussed at length.

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Caught in the act

“… seeking to influence decision-makers and opinion-formers to benefit the interests of a foreign power.” — from MI5 definition of ‘espionage’

There is no starker proof of the golden chains in which Israel has entangled the British political class, than the incredible fact that “diplomat” Shai Masot has not been expelled for secretly conspiring to influence British politics by attacking Britain’s Deputy Foreign Minister [Sir Alan Duncan], suggesting that he might be brought down by “a little scandal”. It is incredible by any normal standards of diplomatic behaviour that immediate action was not taken against Masot for actions which when revealed any professional diplomat would normally expect to result in being “PNG’d” – declared persona non grata.

This was the professional verdict of former UK ambassador Craig Murray in light of Al Jazeera’s investigation into Israel’s clandestine interference in British politics. Murray’s thoroughgoing analysis continues:

Obama has just expelled 35 Russian diplomats for precisely the same offence, with the exception that in the Russian case there is absolutely zero hard evidence, whereas in the Masot case there is irrefutable evidence on which to act.

To compare the two cases is telling. Al Jazeera should be congratulated on their investigation, which shames the British corporate and state media who would never have carried out such actual journalism. By contrast, the British media has parroted without the slightest scrutiny the truly pathetic Obama camp claims of Russian interference, evidently without reading them. 5

Episode two:

Craig Murray:

The Israeli Embassy has seventeen Israeli “technical and administrative staff” granted visas by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The normal number for an Embassy that size would be about two. I spoke to two similar size non-EU Embassies this morning, one has two and one zero. I recall I dealt with an angry Foreign Minister during my own FCO career incensed his much larger High Commission had been refused by the FCO an increase from three to four technical and administrative staff.

Shai Masot, the Israeli “diplomat” who had been subverting Britain’s internal democracy with large sums of cash and plans to concoct scandal against a pro-Palestinian British minister, did not appear in the official diplomatic list.

I queried this with the FCO, and was asked to put my request in writing. A full three weeks later and after dozens of phone calls, they reluctantly revealed that Masot was on the “technical and administrative staff” of the Israeli Embassy.

This is plainly a nonsense.

Murray then details the many reasons why he dismisses any claim that Shai Masot is a “diplomat” and simply one of the “technical and administrative staff” of the Israeli Embassy. This is an area I wish to come back to later. Regarding the serious implications of Masot’s role in “subverting Britain’s internal democracy”, Murray continues:

What is it they are always saying to us: if you have got nothing to fear, you have got nothing to hide?

I am confident I know what they are hiding, and that is FCO complicity in a large nest of Israeli spies seeking to influence policy and opinion in the UK in a pro-Israeli direction. That is why the government reaction to one of those spies being caught on camera plotting a scandal against an FCO minister, and giving £1 million to anti-Corbyn MPs, 6 was so astonishingly muted. It is also worth noting that while the media could not completely ignore the fantastic al-Jazeera documentaries that exposed the scandal, it was a matter of a brief article and no follow up digging.

This was not just a curiosity, it reveals a deep-seated problem for our democracy. I intend to continue picking at it. 7

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full post entitled “As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed”.

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It sounds like a conspiracy8

“The pro-Israel lobby in this country is the most powerful political lobby. There’s nothing to touch them.” — Michael Mates, Conservative MP and privy councillor 9

The following is a transcript of most damning conversation caught on tape by Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter ‘Robin’. It took place at the Aubaine restaurant close to the Israeli embassy in Kensington, and the videotape captures “senior political officer”, Shai Masot, casually proposing to ‘take down’ Cabinet members with Maria Strizzolo, a civil servant and pro-Israel activist, who was the former chief of staff to Minister of State for Education and former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, Robert Halfon:

Masot: Can I give you names of MPs I suggest you take down?

Strizzolo: Well you know, if you look hard enough I’m sure there is something they’re trying to hide.

Masot: Yeah. I have some MPs.

Strizzolo: Well, let’s talk about it.

Masot: No, she knows which MPs I want to take down.

Strizzolo: Yeah, it’s good to remind me.

Masot: The Deputy Foreign Minister [Alan Duncan].

Strizzolo: You still want to go for it?

Masot: No, he’s doing a lot of problems.

Strizzolo: Really?

Masot: Really. It sounds like a conspiracy.

Strizzolo: I thought you had neutralised it a little bit, no?

Masot: No.

Strizzolo: Ah, Boris [Johnson, Foreign Secretary and Duncan’s boss] is good.

Masot: Boris. He is basically good.

Strizzolo: He’s solid on Israel.

Masot: Yeah. He just doesn’t care. He’s busy with everything else, Boris is busy you know… You know he is an idiot but so far… he became Minister of Foreign Affairs without any kind of responsibilities. So technically if something will happen, it won’t be his fault…

Strizzolo: Rob [Halfon] was writing articles. He was doing everything, asking questions in parliament about the terrorist salaries

Masot: When he was an MP? Ah, when he [Duncan] was in DFID [Department for International Development]?

Strizzolo: Yeah, and after a while though Rob was doing a lot of it, and Alan Duncan took him like I think but I don’t exactly remember where… but he took him to one side and threatened him: “If you don’t stop this I’m going to ruin you, I’m going to destroy you” and all that shit.”

And Rob told the Whips, and the Whips just told him to calm down.

Masot: Okay.

Strizzolo: Yeah, you know, never say never.

Masot: Never say never, yeah but…

Strizzolo: A little scandal maybe? Anyway, please don’t tell anyone about our meeting!

Masot: To who would we tell? 10

Both Shai Masot and Maria Strizzolo have since resigned.

Here is episode three:

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The following is part of an anonymous statement made by a former Tory minister in Cameron’s Cabinet and published in the Mail on Sunday in light of these revelations:

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.

S/he continues:

The CFI is not affiliated to the Conservative Party. It is incorporated in a way that means it is not to transparent about donors. Yet it arranges for the support of MPs and funds regular visits to Israel which distort the truth. Cameron turned a blind eye to Israeli misconduct – if he ever cared about it – because he was persuaded any criticism would reduce Party donations.

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.

The statement concludes:

We need a full inquiry into the Israeli Embassy, the links, access and funding of the CFI and LFI, and an undertaking from all political parties that they welcome the financial and political support of the UK Jewish community, but won’t accept any engagement linked to Israel until it stops building illegally on Palestinian land.

This opaque funding and underhand conduct is a national disgrace and humiliation and must be stamped out. 11

The full statement is reprinted in Appendix A below.

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Joan Ryan and the LFI in the room

“Corbyn is a crazy leader. One of the things he doesn’t understand, he doesn’t get is that the moment you get the leadership, you need to drop all the weirdos. The extremists. It’s good that they were your campaigners. You cannot build a government from extremists. And he doesn’t want to do that. He wants to stay with all those weirdos” — Shai Masot 12

Corbyn is a prominent and long-standing campaigner for Palestinian rights. He is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In short, he is a thorn in the side of the right-wing Zionists who hold power in Israel. From their perspective Corbyn is indeed “an extremist” and so – as the documentaries repeatedly show – this extremely powerful lobby wishes to be shot of him as soon as possible.

Throughout the four parts of the investigation manoeuvres against Corbyn and his base are a constant theme. And their primary tactic is the promotion of claims that the Labour Party under Corbyn is a hotbed for antisemitism. Although founded on bogus allegations (two prime examples are revealed and discussed below), this assertion has been widely promulgated by news outlets including both Channel 4 and the BBC – and more about the BBC below.

Concurrently, the Israel lobby also employs a divide and conquer strategy which is partially exposed during episode 3 when Jeremy Newmark, Chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement (much more on JLM below), is caught on film attempting to drive a wedge between “one of Corbyn’s key lieutenants” and his supporters within Momentum. Here are two quotes revealing the method at work:

“Just to get Clive Lewis, as one of Corbyn’s key lieutenants, onto an openly Zionist JLM platform took a lot of heavy lifting.” 13

And later:

“We already have actual intelligence that from the Momentum political directors’ meeting last night they passed a vote of censure on Clive Lewis, just for coming to our meetings and speaking” 14

In fact, efforts by pro-Israel party members (including some within the PLP) to undermine Corbyn started long before last year’s Liverpool conference. Indeed, the pro-Israel campaign to defeat him predates his first election as Labour leader:

The new chairman of Labour Friends of Israel has acknowledged the “deep concerns” around Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign and urged supporters to instead back a figure who could play a key role in the Middle East peace process.

Joan Ryan was appointed to lead LFI in Parliament on Monday, replacing Anne McGuire who stood down at the general election.

From an article entitled “Don’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn, urges new Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan” published by The Jewish Chronicle during the 2015 Labour leadership battle which Corbyn won in spite of such well-financed opposition with a massive 59% of the vote.

The same article continues:

[Ryan] pledged to tackle pro-boycott voices within Labour and said she would oppose delegitimisation of Israel. She travelled to the country with LFI last December.

Ms Ryan, who nominated Liz Kendall [of the Blairite group Progress – more below] in the party’s leadership contest, said last month’s Jewish community hustings for the contenders had been a key step in the party’s efforts to “win back the trust and confidence of the Jewish community”.

She added: “We hope that Labour party members and supporters will consider when they vote which candidate is best placed to ensure that the next Labour government can play a constructive and engaged role in the crucial search for a two-state solution.

“We recognise the deep concerns which exist about positions taken, and statements made, by Jeremy Corbyn in the past and recognise the serious questions which arise from these.”

The new chair said Labour must be “steadfast” in its support for Israel.

LFI would “continue to work with progressives in both Israel and Palestine who share our commitment to peace and co-existence.

At the same time, we remain adamantly opposed to boycotts and sanctions, which delegitimise Israel, do nothing to further these goals and have no place in the Labour party.

Ms Ryan was ousted from Parliament in 2010 following the expenses scandal but returned with a majority of more than 1,000 in May. 15 

[Bold emphasis added]

Here is episode four:

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So who is Shai Masot?

“The last position that I applied for that there was a slight chance that I will get it actually, is to be the head of the Foreign Affairs Department of the Intelligence Department in Israel. I’m not a career diplomat, I am a political posting, which means that I came for just one position; to assist in political issues that are specific – sometimes you need someone to take care just of them, to be focused on them. That’s what I do. ” — Shai Masot 16

Astonishingly, the Israeli Embassy’s Senior Political Officer Shai Masot, implicated in a plot against the Deputy Foreign Minister, was not on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Diplomatic List, the Bible for the status of accredited diplomats. This opens up a number of extremely important questions. Who was he, what was his visa status and why was he resident in the UK? It is very plain that the work he was doing as “Senior Political Officer” would equate normally to senior diplomatic rank.

writes Murray again in an updated post published two days later on January 10th. He continues:

He was a major in the Israeli Navy – in the FCO’s own table of equivalent rank, Major equates to Second Secretary in the Diplomatic Service.

After that he went on to apparently executive positions in the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, before moving to the Israeli Embassy in London. There he held many recorded meetings with politicians, including giving briefings in parliament and at party conferences, and acted in a way that in general would accord with a rank around First Secretary to Counsellor.

So why exactly has he never featured in the FCO’s Diplomatic List? He very plainly outranks many of those Israeli diplomats who are featured. It should be noted it is perfectly normal for diplomats not to come from a country’s foreign affairs ministry. For one example Ivan Rogers who spectacularly resigned recently as Britain’s Ambassador to the EU, was from the Treasury not the FCO. Several people in the Israeli Embassy, who are on the Diplomatic List, are not from the foreign service. So that is not the reason.

This is not an obscure point. As a former diplomat, my first instinct was to look him up on the Diplomatic List. Every country in the world controls the number of permitted foreign diplomats very closely, for two reasons. Firstly it confers an immigration residency status, and secondly it confers tax exemption and an immunity from prosecution. The Diplomatic List is therefore not a loose thing – there is an entire section of good employees in the FCO tasked with policing it in close liaison with the Home Office.

Embassies are allowed a very small number of technical and support staff – IT people and cleaners – in addition. But these must be what they say they are. Plainly Masot was not in reality one of these, and plainly the official Israeli Embassy explanation that he was a “junior member of staff” is a lie. 17

The Israeli Embassy is not given visas for “junior members of staff” except in very specific job categories which Masot plainly does not meet. It is a lie in which the FCO must have been absolutely complicit in organising his immigration residency status in the UK.

I have contacted the media office of the FCO to query Masot’s immigration status, and so far received no reply. But the key questions are these:

Shai Masot was not on the Diplomatic List. What kind of visa and residence status did he have in the UK?
How many other operatives does the Israeli have with the same UK residence status as Masot?
Why is the British Government granting Israeli intelligence operatives false residency immigration status in the UK based on a deliberate lie about their role and position?
How many other Israeli intelligence officers are active in the UK with a false immigration status?
Who, specifically, authorised Masot’s visa, and why?

My advantage as an ex-British Ambassador is that I know the bureaucratically correct questions to ask to get to the heart of a matter. Please do ask them of your MP, and get them to demand answers from the FCO. 18

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full update entitled “Britain’s Most Undesirable Immigrant: Why Was Shai Masot Given a Visa?”

Craig Murray’s formal query to the FCO media department is reproduced below in Appendix B.

Murray first posed these questions on January 10th. On January 12th the FCO asked him to present them in writing. On February 2nd they replied to the first three questions, but refused to comment on questions 4 or 5 about involvement of the intelligence services in Masot’s appointment:

FCO Media Department have replied that they refuse to give me any further information on the subject, and that I should proceed through a Freedom of Information request so the FCO can assess properly whether the release of any further information is in the national interest. 19

As Craig Murray concludes:

The Al Jazeera documentaries plainly revealed that Masot was working as an intelligence officer, acquiring and financing “agents of influence”. It is simply impossible that the FCO would normally grant seventeen technical and administrative visas to support sixteen diplomats, when six of the sixteen are already support staff. The only possible explanation, confirmed absolutely by Masot’s behaviour, is that the FCO has knowingly connived at settling a large nest of Israeli spies in London. I fairly put this to the FCO and they refused to comment.

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full post entitled “As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed”.

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Israel’s useful idiots in Parliament20

 “Out of the forty new MPs who just got in at the last elections… all those ones were in the CFI, Conservative Friends of Israel. In the LFI [Labour Friends of Israel], it didn’t happen obviously. And you need to get more people on board. It’s a lot of work actually.” — Shai Masot 21

In episode four, undercover reporter ‘Robin’ asks Maria Strizzolo, the former chief of staff to Conservative Minister Robert Halfon, “How many of the MPs from your party are in CFI?”

To which Strizzolo replies:

“Oh, Pretty much all of them. When there is the annual lunch, which is just before Christmas, basically the Whips always make sure that the light votes come after to the CFI lunch because it’s like all the party’s there.” 22

Prompted by Masot, Maria Strizzolo adds: “And the PM, and the Chancellor, and the Foreign Secretary and everyone.” 23

As to how these members might best be influenced, Strizzolo explains her approach as follows:

“If at least you can get a small group of MPs that you know you can always rely on, when there is something coming to parliament, and you know you brief them, you say: ‘you don’t have to do anything, we’re going to give you the speech, we are going to give you all the information, we are going to do everything for you.’ Then I think it becomes easier. And from that little group it might grown and grow and grow.

“So if you prepare everything for them, it’s harder for them to say: ‘Oh no, I don’t have the time…’ So if they already have the question to table for PMQs [Prime Minister’s Questions], it’s hard to say ‘Oh no, no, no I won’t do it.’”24

She also offers an example of how the lobby’s influence has affected policy:

“I was in Israel when they found the three kids that had been kidnapped in 2014. And I was on the phone with Rob [Halfon] to convince him to table a question for Prime Minister’s Question Time for paying tribute… [‘Robin’ interjects “Did he do it?”] Yeah. And also tabling an urgent question to get a statement from the government on the three kids.” 25

In fact, Al Jazeera includes footage of Robert Halfon tabling the question in which he says:

“For the world to see the tragic and brutal murders of three Israeli youngsters most probably by Hamas. Will my honourable friends give the Israeli government every possible support at this time? And does he [Prime Minister David Cameron] not agree with me, that far from showing restraint, Israel must do everything possible to take out Hamas terrorist networks, and will he give the Israel government support in this?”

Cameron replies:

“I think it’s very important that Britain will stand with Israel as it seeks to bring to justice those who are responsible.” 26

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In 2009, Channel 4 broadcast a highly commendable episode of their flagship investigative series Dispatches. “Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby” looked into the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), a lobby group which then as now claims some 80% of all Conservative MPs as members of whom more than half then made up the Tory shadow cabinet as they now make up the government. Household names include former leaders David Cameron, Iain Duncan-Smith, William Hague; the former Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Sir Malcolm Rifkind; current Cabinet colleagues Sajid Javid, Priti Patel and Liam Fox; and the previous Chairman of the Conservative Party and current Chairman of CFI, Sir Eric Pickles.

Political columnist Peter Oborne, who also presented the Dispatches programme, wrote three years after the broadcast:

There is no doubt that the CFI has exercised a powerful influence over policy. The Conservative politician and historian Robert Rhodes James, writing in the Jerusalem Post in 1995, called it “the largest organisation in Western Europe dedicated to the cause of the people of Israel”. Its power has not waned since. On Tuesday, it hosted approximately 100 Tory MPs, including six Cabinet ministers, and a further 40 peers, at a lunch in central London. The speaker was David Cameron, who pronounced himself a “passionate friend” of Israel, making clear (as he has done in the past) that nothing could break that friendship.

This speech can be seen as part of a pattern. The CFI can call almost at will upon the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer or Foreign Secretary. The Palestinians enjoy no such access. They would be lucky to get a single Conservative MP in the audience for their events, and perhaps some moribund peer to make an address. There is no such organisation as the Conservative Friends of Palestinians. 27

Click here to read Peter Oborne’s full article entitled “The Cowardice at the heart of our relationship with Israel”.

Conservative Friends of Palestine is still yet to be founded (don’t hold your breath!), but interestingly there does exist a variety of other parliamentary lobby groups including Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, European Friends of Israel as well as Labour Friends of Israel, about whom the Al Jazeera series was mainly focussed. According to some reports, there is also a fledgling ‘SNP Friends of Israel’:

The pro-Israel group, whose three founding members are Joe Goldblatt, activist Sammy Stein, and Frank Angell, plan to pay out thousands of pounds for a stall at next month’s SNP conference to challenge support for justice in Palestine within the party. […]

While the group denies connections to support for Israel, its military occupation of Palestinian land, or Israel’s bombing campaigns on Gaza, its members have numerous links to pro-Israel campaigns.

Jeremy Stein said it was unclear where the group would receive the thousands of pounds required to buy access to the conference. He also questioned their claim to be a ‘neutral’ organisation.

“It’s dishonesty on their part,” Jeremy Stein [co-chair of the Glasgow Jewish Education Forum] added. “They don’t support peace in any meaningful sense of the term. They don’t support Palestinian rights.”

From a report published by CommonSpace last September entitled “Jewish community leader speaks out over SNP ‘Israel Front Group’”. It continues:

Jeremy Stein warns that in reality some major funders and supporters of Israel come from a ‘neo-conservative, christian zionist’ perspective, from the more extreme rightwing end of the political spectrum.

“[They have] politics on the far-right of the Israeli political spectrum. They don’t represent mainstream Israeli opinion. A great deal of harm to Israel because they promote the most extreme policies,” he added. 28

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Reframing the campuses

“The Labour Party at the moment is not in a good place to say the least. There are lots of young people coming through who are moderate, with good views on Israel. I think we haven’t really paid attention to those people, you know, people that are going to be in parliament in ten to fifteen years’ time.” 

— Michael Rubin, Parliamentary Officer for the LFI

In episode 1, Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter, identified as ‘Robin’, asks Masot about the formation of a youth group within Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI). In response, Masot confides that it was “my idea” but that having established a youth group within CFI “when I tried to do the same in the Labour [Party], they had a crisis back then with Corbyn.” Adding: “Specifically, LFI young people doesn’t exist. That is the only place where there is a vacuum.”

The investigation then reveals links between Masot, the Israel Embassy’s “Senior Political Officer” and a whole host of pro-Israel groups which include The Parliamentary Friends of Israel, We Believe in Israel and its parent body, the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM). 29

It transpires that Masot has also been directly involved with Young Conservatives, the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) and the youth arm of the Fabian Society and says he knows nearly all the activists in the Young Fabians and that he took a Fabian group on a visit to Israel. 30

Moreover, Masot has a close liaison with The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the predominant pro-Israel lobbying group in America, with whom, as we learn in episodes 2 and 4, he is building ties to an organisation called The City Friends of Israel. In fact, on the train to Liverpool in episode 2, Masot announces to colleagues that this is a group he is helping to establish – although later we discover the group is already founded after he invites ‘Robin’ to a function they are holding.

Masot tells ‘Robin’:

“I went to AIPAC last year because I organised the American-British delegation to AIPAC. It was me and the British donors: around thirty, forty rich families which have sponsored CFI. The Conservatives were with us and some from Labour as well, and we all went together to AIPAC. But the bottom line [is] we had a donor meeting with the head of strategy at AIPAC and he met us basically to teach us, you know, give us some ideas for Britain.” 31

In episode four, Masot even discusses a more audacious plan to tackle the BDS movement involving a front company set up by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs:

“So the Strategic Affairs they asked me, they are establishing a new company – a new private company that basically will work for the Israeli government.

“It’s going to be an office of twenty people, so the position that they suggested to me to do is to be the liaison for the international communities around the world. So it’s good sometimes because you know it’s good to work with AIPAC and all the others, CFI and LFI. It is cool, it’s good.” 32

However, Masot is very careful to distance himself from claiming direct involvement in the formation of any of this multitude of outwardly appearing pro-Israel grassroots organisations, even while, as ‘Robin’ impresses, he encourages him to push ahead with the launch of a new youth branch of LFI. Soon thereafter Masot puts ‘Robin’ in touch with one of his close contacts, Michael Rubin, the Parliamentary Officer for the LFI.

Although prior to contacting Rubin, Masot actually cautions ‘Robin’ saying: “LFI is an independent organisation. No one likes [to think] that someone is managing his organisation.” 33

Later Michael Rubin confides to ‘Robin’ that:

“The Embassy helps us quite a lot. When bad news stories come out about Israel, the Embassy sends us information so we can counter it. Getting it directly from the horse’s mouth, as it were, is quite helpful… We work really closely together, but a lot of it is behind the scenes” 34

Adding, with regards to ‘Robin’s proposed formation of a youth branch:

“We’ve got to be careful because I think there are some people who would be happy to be involved in a Young LFI but wouldn’t necessarily be happy if it was seen as an embassy thing… I think we just have to be careful we’re not to be seen as, you know, ‘Young Israeli Embassy’. You know, we want it to be distinct by itself… We do work really, really closely together. It’s just publicly we try to keep the LFI as a separate identity to the Embassy.35

Rubin then proposes they get in touch with Joan Ryan MP, the Chairperson of the LFI, whom he says “work[s] with the ambassador and the embassy quite a lot, so she’ll speak to Shai most days.” 36

The investigation also steadily reveals how the powerful American lobbying group AIPAC is beginning to channel funds to British campuses through an intermediary known as the Pinsker Centre which was jointly set up by Adam Schapira and Elliot Miller.

Elliot Miller: “I spent a year working in the government of Israel. I was doing a fellowship at the foreign ministry, in the congressional affairs department, so all Congress as far as AIPAC and stuff.” 37

Adam Schapira: “Elliot and I have set up the Pinsker Centre. Our aim is to reframe the rhetoric on UK campuses. I feel like a lot more needs to be done in the educational field, bringing more diverse speakers from across the political spectrum on campus… to present another narrative.” 38

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The blacklisting of Jackie Walker

“I was seeking information and I still haven’t heard a definition of antisemitism that I can work with” — Jackie Walker 39

In episode 2, undercover reporter ‘Robin’ travels to the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. There he meets up with a sizeable pro-Israel delegation, including Russell Langer, who is the former Campaigns Director at the Union of Jewish Students (UJC) and current Public Affairs Manager with the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), an influential umbrella group of Jewish organisations in Britain.

Langer tells ‘Robin’: “There’s a Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East [event] at 2:30, which I’ll be going to, so I need to charge my phone up so I can get some more recordings.” 40 Many others within the pro-Israel delegation also attend the event as ‘spies’ (a shared joke amongst themselves). One is Luke Akehurst, someone Shai Masot describes as “a great campaigner” and “one of the best in the inside… in all the party”, 41 and head of We Believe in Israel, itself an affiliated branch of BICOM. We learn that Akehurst is intending to write a report of the LFPME event.

Later, we see secretly recorded footage from a different scheduled event. It is a ‘training session’ hosted by Mike Katz, the Vice Chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).

Katz opens his session with a presentation entitled “Antisemitism as a phenomenon across the world” during which he informs the delegates about the worrying trend in statistics collected by the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity set up to monitor levels of antisemitism across Britain: “they recorded 557 antisemitic incidents across the UK in the first six months of 2016. That is an 11% increase in the period in 2015. 2014 was the most antisemitic year on record.” 42

Also at the meeting is Labour Party member Christine Tongue who directly challenges the SCT claims saying:

“I’m wondering if I’m now going on that list because my MP actually sent a letter to Jeremy Corbyn asking him to bar me from a rally in Ramsgate because I was an example of antisemitism. Because his office had trawled through my facebook page and found an article that I shared by Norman Finkelstein.” 43

The son of two Jewish holocaust survivors yet staunchly pro-Palestinian, Finkelstein is the bane of the Israel lobby in America. Apparently, he had jokingly proposed a way of ending the occupation of Palestine by resituating Israel within the territory of the United States.

In reposting Finkelstein’s joke, however, Christine Tongue, certainly in the eyes of the Israel lobby, was deemed guilty of the “new antisemitism”, which, as Katz elucidates during the same session, regards any attacks that delegitimise the state of Israel as antisemitic because: “Israel is an integral part of the vast majority of the Jewish community’s identity”. 44 According to this standard, Norman Finkelstein and fellow Jews critical of Israeli policy are likewise denigrated as “self-hating”.

Graham Bash was another Labour Party member who had joined the session. Bash told the audience:

“I’m Jewish and I don’t agree with the concept of a Jewish state because it gives me the right to live in Israel whereas a Palestinian who’s been displaced has a lesser right than me. So when you say it’s not appropriate [“to delegitimise the right of Israel to exist”], are you really saying it’s not appropriate for us to have a political discussion?” 45

Another outspoken delegate at the same session was Jackie Walker, who along with her partner, is Jewish too. Walker, both a political activist and long-standing anti-racist campaigner, was as then Vice Chair of Momentum. And she responded to Katz as follows:

“If you are saying effectively that Zionism, you know, is not open to debate as a concept, then that is really worrying. Antisemitism, like any form of racism, is deplorable, and my feeling about how to tackle this is for Jews to be standing firmly and squarely alongside our Black comrades, our Muslim comrades, who are much more at the moment the target of racism than thankfully at the moment we are…” 46

After delivering her rebuttal, Walker is heard to receive a brief ripple of appreciative applause, and yet soon afterwards she became the centre of a headline-making scandal that would revive allegations of increasing antisemitism within ‘Corbyn’s Labour Party’:

Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker has been suspended from Labour over controversial comments she made at a party training event.

Leaked footage showed the campaigner saying she had not found a definition of antisemitism she could work with. […]

When she was asked whether she had considered resigning given the outrage among some Jewish groups, Walker said: “Some other prominent Jewish groups, of which I’m a member, think a very different thing. What we have to look at when we’re talking about this subject, particularly at the moment, is the political differences that are underlying this as well.”

She said whomever leaked the footage from a Labour party antisemitism training event “had malicious intent in their mind”. She also said she was anti-Zionist rather than antisemitic, adding: “I think Zionism is a political ideology, and like any political ideology, some people will be supportive and some people won’t be supportive of it. That’s a very different thing.” 47

From a report by the Press Association published in the Guardian on September 30th.

Here is an example of the public support she did receive from other Jewish Labour activists but which the mainstream media were determined to overlook:

We are Jewish Labour activists who were with Jackie Walker at the training session on antisemitism led by Mike Katz, vice chair of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) during the Labour Party conference in Liverpool on Monday September 26. Like her, some of us were heckled when we raised questions unpalatable to others in the audience who share the JLM’s bias towards Israel, its coupling of Jewish identity with Zionism and its insistence on the uniqueness of Jewish suffering.

Jackie had every right to question the JLM’s definition of antisemitism and the tendency of mainstream Jewish organisations to focus entirely on the slaughter of Jews when they commemorate the Nazi Holocaust. We share her determination to build greater awareness of other genocides, which are too often forgotten or minimised. Jackie responded appreciatively when one audience member described Holocaust memorial events involving Armenians and others. She has since issued a statement on this issue, reproduced below.

Click here to read the full statement by Free Speech on Israel and see  Appendix C to read Jackie Walker’s personal statement.

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews actually went so far as to call Walker “an unapologetic Jew-baiter”. 48

This is how Walker afterwards described the events that unfolded to Al Jazeera:

“At the start they seemed relatively relaxed. It was simply a training session. I think some of us had gone along there with the idea it was kind of strange, because in some ways this was against what Shami Chakrabarti had actually advised. So we wanted to see what was going on. […]

By the time the row actually broke out I was on my way home. I mean none of us thought anything about this training session. I was in the car and suddenly I started to get these tweets coming through to me. And these phone calls from the BBC.” 49

As it transpired, a secretly recorded clip from the ‘training session’ had been leaked to a news outlet.

Walker continues: “What was actually leaked was certain little segments that would be as controversial as possible.” 50

The decontexturalised sound-bite that most ignited this very heated though totally belated reaction was this one: “In terms of Holocaust Day, I would also like to say wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust Day was open to all peoples who experienced Holocaust…” 51

Out of context, her statement quoted at the top of this section also caused considerable furore: that she hadn’t “heard a definition of antisemitism that I can work with”. Of this, Walker explains:

“How it was reported and how it was tweeted was [that] I was basically saying ‘I can’t find anywhere a definition of antisemitism to work with’. That’s total nonsense. I’m an anti-racist trainer. I’ve been an anti-racist trainer for forty years. I’ve been fighting fascists and antisemites on the streets for decades.” 52

Walker concludes:

“I’m not just Jewish, I am black. And my ancestry is of African enslavement. Only this year I spoke at Slavery Remembrance Day, and I spoke to a crowd in Trafalgar Square about the African Holocaust. And that is what we call it. You can disagree with me as to whether I should call that a holocaust but it is not antisemitic for me to call what happened to African people in the diaspora, a holocaust. […]

If they accuse anybody of antisemitism, it’s basically as bad as kind of accusing somebody of being a paedophile or a murderer. And it’s really hard to come back from that.53

Later ‘Robin’ speaks with Masot about Jackie Walker. Masot tells him:

“Yeah, she is problematic. What can we do…? Do not let it go. That’s all you can do. Do not let it go… that’s the key.” 54

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JLM in the campaign against Corbyn

“Some of us would say it was mostly a constructed crisis for political ends. I would say there was a crisis of the way that antisemitism is being manipulated and being used by certain parts of, not just the Labour Party but other parties, and the media to discredit Jeremy Corbyn and a number of his supporters. I mean let’s disagree politically: I’m anti-Zionist, they’re pro-Zionist… Let’s have THAT argument. Not this one that’s going on at the moment.”

— Jackie Walker 55

It was investigative reporter Asa Winstanley from the Electronic Intifada who first revealed last September that Ella Rose, the Director of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), was working at the Israel embassy as public affairs officer between September 2015 and August 2016, when she joined JLM as its first director:

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 antisemitism.

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 deligitimization of Israel.” (Photoshot/Newscom)

Importantly, Electronic Intifada also established close ties to the Blairite Labour faction and ginger group ‘Progress’:

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 antisemitism under the leadership of left-winger and long-time advocate for Palestinian rights Jeremy Corbyn.

At the time, Jackie Walker reportedly told them “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 antisemitic 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. 56

Click here to read the full article entitled “New Jewish Labour Movement director was Israeli embassy officer” published by The Electronic Intifada.

Towards the end of episode 2, ‘Robin’ runs into Ella Rose:

“I saw Jackie Walker on Saturday and thought, you know what, I could take her, she’s like 5’2 and tiny… That’s why I can take Jackie Walker. Krav Maga training,”

Still referring to the Israeli army hand-to-hand fighting technique, she then added: “Yeah. I’m not bad at it. If it came to it I would win, that’s all I really care about.”

Jackie Walker again: “What we need to have is some investigation of this from the Labour Party. And I will be making a formal complaint against both Ella Rose and the Jewish Labour Movement” 57

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Outside the comfort zone

“It’s in a way pathetic, but it’s also worrying how such pathetic evidence can be used to intimidate Jeremy Corbyn into publishing an inquiry commission, making daily confessions that he’s not antisemitic. And so on…”

— Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian and activist 58

Members, activists and at least one MP of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party described as “anti-Semitic” a member who challenged their pro-Israel ideas, despite some uncertainty over whether the member’s comments were actually racist, an investigation by Al Jazeera has found.

The charges, made at September’s Labour Party conference, led to the member being suspended pending a full investigation.

In total, the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) said it had seen three cases of anti-Semitism during the first day of September’s Labour Party conference, with the group of Israel supporters later debating the validity of two of them.

The complaints came in the wake of the Chakrabarti Inquiry, an investigation during summer 2016 into anti-Semitism within the Labour ranks. That report had concluded racism, including anti-Semitism, was not endemic within Labour. 59

Click here to read the full Al Jazeera article – Note that: the link did work prior to posting but the page seems to have been since taken down.

The member in question is Jean Fitzpatrick and it happened during her first visit to a party conference. Joan Ryan was overseeing the LFI stall when Jean Fitzpatrick arrived to pitch a question about the FLI’s stance on Israel’s illegal settlements. After a few minutes, Ryan tells Fitzpatrick that she has decided to end the conversation and it is better that they agree to disagree. But Fitzpatrick persists, and says (correctly) that she has not had a reply to the LFI’s policy regarding the settlements. Then she makes a claim. She says: [LFI] is a “stepping-stone to good jobs”, before adding “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.”

Afterwards ‘Robin’ records a conversation between Michael Rubin, Jennifer Gerber, Director of LFI, and Alex Richardson, who is Joan Ryan’s Parliamentary Assistant:

JG: “If an antisemite comes up, somebody says to me: ‘Jews, they’re all f**king big noses and control the world’ I’m like wow, you’re an antisemite, that’s terrible. Someone like her [Jean Fitzpatrick] worries me more because is she an antisemite? I don’t know, but she basically denies the fact that it [antisemitism] exists, she just thinks it’s made up…”

“Is that antisemitic guys, I don’t know, like…?”

MR: “I don’t know where that line is anymore…

AR: “I think if it makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s the point which you call it out and report it, and that’s why Joan convinced me to report the one yesterday [with Jean Fitzpatrick] because I was made to feel uncomfortable and though nothing antisemitic was said I’m sure there were undertones of it and it was brought upon by that context.

“At the end of the day, if you feel offended by it and uncomfortable for it – this should be a safe space and anything that breaks that should be reported I think. But there is that line, obviously, I don’t know.” 60

Later Alex Richardson emails undercover reporter ‘Robin’ to ask him to act as a witness to what is now alleged to have been act of antisemitism.

Richardson says:

“I kind of feel it was an antisemitic trope, against Israel. Like Jews controlling and having power and money… although she didn’t say Jews and she said Israel. It is definitely on the line, do you know what I mean? If she had said the word ‘Zionist’ I would have said one hundred percent. A hundred percent.” 61

Notwithstanding his misgivings, Richardson is apparently keen to see Fitzpatrick expelled from the Labour Party:

“How it works is that you make a complaint within the Labour Party and their own rules will decide. I suspect, I don’t know. But I suspect that this woman might be potentially banned because she said something that was antisemitic.” 62

Joan Ryan also discusses it with colleagues.

“They’re antisemitic… you heard her say, you know… ‘join you lot and you get into Oxford’ or ‘you get into working in the bank’ or… That’s antisemitic.”

And later the same evening, at a rally held ‘to combat antisemitism’ that was organised by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), Joan Ryan describes her day at the stall:

“We have also had three incidents of antisemitic harassment on our stand, to the people who are staffing that stall today. And that, I think tells you something about why we need to be having this ‘Against Antisemitism Rally.’”

A formal complaint is made against Jean Fitzpatrick and in episode 4, we learn how she too has become the subject of a formal Labour Party investigation regarding her conduct. In this formal complaint, it is alleged that she had “constantly suggested” that the LFI has “lots of money and power” when in actual fact what she said was the LFI has “money and prestige” and she said it just once. Indeed, as the recording shows, it is Joan Ryan herself who used the alleged words saying: “Labour Friends of Israel have got a lot of power, a lot of money…” presumably in an attempt to elicit a reaction.

The concluding paragraph of the statement against Fitzpatrick read:

“The above incidents and allegations levelled at JF left the complainants feeling victimised, intimidated, and both felt the incident contained what they both described as incidents of anti-Semitism.” 63

In other words, and to quote Joan Ryan’s Parliamentary Assistant, Alex Richardson, again: “I was made to feel uncomfortable and though nothing antisemitic was said I’m sure there were undertones of it…”

Jean Fitzpatrick’s name was cleared. Reflecting on the incident afterwards, she told Al Jazeera:

“I’m just a regular citizen who is concerned about what is happening in the Middle East. And not to be able to talk about that, without being accused of being antisemitic, I find deeply worrying.” 64

A full transcription of the conversation between Joan Ryan and Jean Fitzpatrick (as broadcast) is available in Appendix D below.

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The ‘new antisemitism’ and the PLP’s witch hunt

“The fashion is, if you are on the left today, you are probably very hostile to Israel, if not antisemitic… Some of the people [in the Labour Party] are more Palestinian than the Palestinians” — Mark Regev, Ambassador of Israel 65

Charley Allan, a Jewish member of the party, and a Morning Star columnist, has described the current atmosphere in the press and Labour Party as a “witch hunt.”

It has reached such an absurd volume that any usage of the word “Zionist” is deemed to be anti-Semitic – although tellingly not when used by self-described Zionists.

From an article by Asa Winstanley published last April. The same piece continues:

Smears of anti-Semitism against Corbyn started even before he was elected.

During his leadership campaign in the summer of 2015, the establishment media worked itself into a frenzy of anti-Corbyn hysteria, led more than any other paper by the liberal Guardian.

One of the recurring themes in this campaign was Corbyn’s long-standing support for Palestinian human rights.

Because of this, attempts were made to say outright, or to imply, that Corbyn was a secret anti-Semite, or that he associated with, or tolerated “notorious” anti-Semites.

Although these hit jobs gained some traction, they were soon debunked, and ultimately seemed to have little impact on the leadership election.

Winstanley then unpicks the “anti-Semitism scandal” which allegedly erupted in the Oxford University Labour Club and became a focus of huge media attention:

In a public Facebook posting Alex Chalmers, the co-chair of the club, resigned his position over what he claimed was anti-Semitic behavior in “a large proportion” of the student Labour club “and the student left in Oxford more generally.”

But as evidence he cited the club’s decision, in a majority vote, to endorse Oxford’s Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual awareness-raising exercise by student groups which support Palestinian rights.

This connection was clearly designed to smear Palestine solidarity activists as anti-Semites – a standard tactic of the Israel lobby

The Electronic Intifada can reveal for the first time evidence that Chalmers himself has been part of the UK’s Israel lobby.

Chalmers has worked for BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.

Funded by the billionaire Poju Zabludowicz, BICOM is a leading pro-Israel group in London. […]

Chalmers has also been accused of disseminating a false allegation that a left-wing Labour student at Oxford had organized people into a group to follow a Jewish student around campus calling her a “filthy Zionist,” and that he had been disciplined as a result.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the accused student said that he had reason to believe Chalmers may have been behind the dissemination of this smear.

Paul Di Felice, the current acting principal of the Oxford college in question, confirmed to The Electronic Intifada the authenticity of a statement from its late principal denying all the allegations. “I have found no evidence of any allegations being made to the college about” the student “involving anti-Semitism, or indeed anything else, during his time at the college,” the statement read.

The Electronic Intifada put all this to Alex Chalmers in an email, but he failed to reply.

In the same article, Asa Winstanley also draws attention to the “large crossover between right-wing, anti-Corbyn Labour and the pro-Israel lobby within the party”:

[MP Wes] Streeting has a long history in Progress, a right-wing faction within the party that continues to support former prime minister Tony Blair.

One of Progress’ leading supporters has described the group as “an unaccountable faction” dominated by the “secretive billionaire” Lord Sainsbury. […]

Streeting and [Chair of JLM, Jeremy] Newmark are arguing for tougher action and changes to the party’s rules.

The head of Progress proposed rule changes in the Mirror which would put “a modern understanding of anti-Semitism” into the party. “It is not acceptable to use the term ‘Zionism’ as a term of abuse,” the article stated, arguing for people who did so to be expelled.

This proposal echoes efforts pushed by Israel lobby groups, including at the University of California, to legislate that opposition to Zionism – Israel’s state ideology – is itself a form of antisemitism. 66

Click here to read the full article entitled “How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis” published by The Electonic Intifada in April 2016.

Back in April 2016, Wes Streeting and Jeremy Newmark were given a free platform by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to accuse Corbyn of not doing enough to stem the alleged rise in antisemitism, and to call for changes to Labour’s rule book that would make it easier to expel members over charges of antisemitism:

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Meanwhile, there is another battle in Liverpool where MP Louise Ellman, who is the former Chair of the JLM as well as the current Vice Chair of LFI, has called for the suspension of Labour’s Riverside constituency party on the basis of an anonymous dossier:

Momentum and Labour party member Audrey White has now written to the party’s general secretary Iain McNicol urging him to step in, saying the document which was used to accuse far left groups of infiltrating the party, contains “libellous mis-information”.

In her letter to party bosses Audrey White says: “I have recently read that Ms Ellman sent this document to the general secretary of the Labour Party urging the suspension of the Riverside CLP relying on information from this report.

“If this is true, I ask that the NEC not accept this document and give it no credibility whatsoever as this document not only contains falsehoods and whispers, it includes libel.”

Mrs White told the ECHO the MP should “apologise to me and to members of the party” and said: “It’s clearly a dodgy dossier – anything that is unauthored like this is dodgy, and it’s scurrilous. She should be apologising to me, for the hurt to my family from the lies in it, and to the constituency.”

In her letter complaining about the MP she said: “It is wrong for a person holding public office to rely on, quote or promote an anonymous document which is full of lies and scurrilous comments.”

The letter ends: “I find it intolerable that an MP can act in this way and hope that you will take the necessary action.” 67

More recently, veteran activist Audrey White has written to the NEC to say she has no confidence in the investigation – her letter reads:

“Before you make any decisions regarding the future of our CLP I wish to remind you that the Labour Party officials who made unsubstantiated claims of antisemitism at Riverside meetings have a duty of care to all their constituents. What they did amounts to inciting racial tension.

“The many years of work to unite the different communities in our city has been seriously damaged by their actions.

“The fact that these claims were not investigated by the CLP executive or NW Labour for 10 months has helped to create divisions both locally and nationally.

“I am sorry to say I have no confidence in this investigation which I believe is a smokescreen to hide and excuse these powerful people. I fear that in an effort to protect Louise Ellman and (assistant mayor) Nick Small this investigation will produce a headline grabbing false narrative using the words bullying, toxic, intimidation and antisemitism while the solid facts are cast aside.

“There was no bullying and antisemitism this is a fabrication and we will not let this slur against us and our city go unchallenged.” 68

The investigation is ongoing. A list of the allegations contained in the ‘dodgy dossier’ and further responses from the defendants and the Labour NEC can be read in Appendix E.

On January 28th, George Galloway interviewed Audrey White for the second half of his RT show ‘Sputnik’ embedded below:

Click here to watch the same show on the RT website.

The so-called “new antisemitism” – this conflation of antisemitism with all forms of criticism of Israeli policy and its far-right Zionist agenda is Israel’s preferred way to shutdown the debate as I explained in two earlier posts on the subject here and here.

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The BBC and its routine bias against Corbyn

“I am pro-Israel. I believe in the State of Israel” — James Harding, Director of BBC News

The BBC broke accuracy and impartiality rules in a News at Six report about Jeremy Corbyn’s view on shoot-to-kill, the BBC’s governing body has said.

The item, by BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, was shown three days after the Paris attacks in November 2015.

So begins a damning BBC retraction hidden away in its ‘Entertainment and Arts’ section. The same BBC report then provides a blow-by-blow account of how the interview with political editor Kuenssberg had been deliberately manipulated:

In the News at Six report, Kuenssberg said she had asked Mr Corbyn “if he were the resident here at Number 10 whether or not he would be happy for British officers to pull the trigger in the event of a Paris-style attack”.

He was seen to reply: “I am not happy with a shoot to kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counter-productive.”

The actual question Kuenssberg had asked during the interview was: “If you were prime minister, would you be happy to order people – police or military – to shoot to kill on Britain’s streets?”

The previous question in the interview, in a section that was not used on the News At Six, he had been asked specifically about his response to a Paris-style attack if he was prime minister and whether he would “order security services onto the street to stop people being killed”.

In answer to that question, Mr Corbyn had replied: “Of course you’d bring people onto the streets to prevent and ensure there is safety within our society.” 69

The BBC Trust was strong in its condemnation of Kuenssberg saying:

“The breach of due accuracy on such a highly contentious political issue meant that the output had not achieved due impartiality.”

But in response, James Harding, Director of BBC News, said:

“While we respect the Trust and the people who work there, we disagree with this finding.” 70

Click here to read the full BBC report.

But then Harding, director of BBC News, is very far from an impartial observer. Here is what he said at a media event organized by The Jewish Chronicle in 2011:

“I am pro-Israel. I believe in the State of Israel. I would have had a real problem if I had been coming to a paper [The Times] with a history of being anti-Israel. And, of course, Rupert Murdoch is pro-Israel.”

The strongly Zionist Jewish Chronicle reprinted those words with glee as news of Harding’s BBC appointment broke. And it also took the opportunity to remind its readers that, during the Israeli massacre in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, when more than 1,400 Palestinians were slaughtered, Harding wrote a Times editorial titled, “In defense of Israel” (“Signs of The Times at JCC,” 14 April 2011).

Now bringing his pro-Israel biases into the top ranks of the BBC, Harding will be in charge of its flagship news and current affairs programs including Today, Newsnight, Panorama and Question Time. He will also be responsible for daily news bulletins on the BBC’s main television channels and radio stations.

According to the Guardian, Harding now holds “arguably the most important editorial job in Britain” (“James Harding: ex-Times editor could become the story at the BBC,” 16 April 2013).

The news of his appointment to the £340,000 ($518,000) per year post comes just a fortnight after the former Labour Party minister James Purnell took up his new position at the BBC as director of strategy and digital.

Purnell, who was one of Hall’s first appointments, served for two years while in Parliament as chairman of the Westminster lobby group Labour Friends of Israel71

Click here to read the full article entitled “Apologists for Israel take top posts at the BBC” published by The Electonic Intifada in April 2013.

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Click here to read a Guardian article published on May 12th 2016 entitled “BBC may have shown bias against Corbyn, says former trust chair.”

The BBC was also declared guilty of “marked and persistent imbalance” in a report released by the researchers from the Media Reform Coalition and Birkbeck, University of London, which found that “almost twice as much unchallenged airtime was given to people criticising Mr Corbyn than his allies on the BBC”.

Click here to read an Independent article published on July 30th entitled “Media ‘persistently’ biased against Jeremy Corbyn, academic study finds”

The above links were previously appended to this earlier post about last year’s leadership challenge from Owen Smith.

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The scandal of Fox, Gould and Werritty revisited

“If neo-cons such as yourself, Robert [Halfon], are plotting a war in Iran, we should know about it.” — Paul Flynn MP 72

In Craig Murray’s analysis of the revelations involving Shai Masot, he once again draws attention to connections with an earlier scandal surrounding undisclosed and illicit British-Israel relations – the briefly disgraced Liam Fox (quietly rehabilitated and back in May’s cabinet as Secretary of State for International Trade), former UK Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, and their close association with a shadowy figure named Adam Werritty (you can read much more about this in earlier posts here):

The two stories – Russian interference in US politics, Israeli interference in UK politics – also link because the New York Times claims that it was the British that first suggested to the Obama administration that Russian cyber activity was targeting Clinton. Director of Cyber Security and Information Assurance in the British Cabinet Office is Matthew Gould, the UK’s former openly and strongly pro-Zionist Ambassador to Israel and friend of the current Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev. While Private Secretary to David Miliband and William Hague, and then while Ambassador to Israel, Gould held eight secret meetings with Adam Werritty, on at least one occasion with Mossad present and on most occasions also with now minister Liam Fox. My Freedom of Information requests for minutes of these meetings brought the reply that they were not minuted, and my Freedom of Information request for the diary entries for these meetings brought me three pages each containing only the date, with everything else redacted.

I managed to get the information about the Gould/Werritty meetings as a result of relentless questioning, where I was kindly assisted by MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas and Paul Flynn. The woman with whom Shai Masot was conniving to undermine Alan Duncan, was Maria Strizzolo, who works for Tory Minister Robert Halfon. It was Halfon who repeatedly tried to obstruct Paul Flynn MP from asking questions of Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell that threatened to get to the heart of the real Adam Werritty scandal.

Both Robert Halfon and Adam Werrity received funding from precisely the same Israeli sources, and in particular from Mr Poju Zabludowicz. Halfon also formerly had a full time paid job as Political Director of the Conservative Friends of Israel. Halfon’s assistant is now caught conspiring with the Israeli Embassy to attack another Tory minister.

Murray then supplies notes from the House of Commons Public Administration Committee, dated 24/11/2011, which you can find reprinted in Appendix F.

Here are the opening exchanges:

Paul Flynn: Okay. Matthew Gould has been the subject of a very serious complaint from two of my constituents, Pippa Bartolotti and Joyce Giblin. When they were briefly imprisoned in Israel, they met the ambassador, and they strongly believe—it is nothing to do with this case at all—that he was serving the interest of the Israeli Government, and not the interests of two British citizens. This has been the subject of correspondence.

In your report, you suggest that there were two meetings between the ambassador and Werritty and Liam Fox. Questions and letters have proved that, in fact, six such meetings took place. There are a number of issues around this. I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories, but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran, in the service. Werritty is a self-proclaimed—

Robert Halfon: Point of order, Chairman. What is the point of this?

Paul Flynn: Let me get to it. Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran.

Chair: I have to take a point of order.

Robert Halfon: Mr Flynn is implying that the British ambassador to Israel is working for a foreign power, which is out of order.

Back to Murray:

It is shocking but true that Robert Halfon MP, who disrupted Flynn with repeated points of order, receives funding from precisely the same Israeli sources as Werritty, and in particular from Mr Poju Zabludowicz. He also formerly had a full time paid job as Political Director of the Conservative Friends of Israel. It is not surprising that Shai Masot evidently views Halfon as a useful tool for attacking senior pro-Palestinian members of his own party.

But despite the evasiveness of [Gus] O’Donnell and the obstruction of paid zionist puppet Halfon, O’Donnell confirmed vital parts of my investigation. In particular he agreed that the Fox-Werritty-Gould “private dinner” in Tel Aviv was with Mossad, and that Gould met Werritty many times more than the twice that O’Donnell listed in his “investigation” into the Werritty affair. The truth of the Werritty scandal, hidden comprehensively by the mainstream media, was that Werritty was inside the UK Ministry of Defence working for Israel. That is why it was so serious that Defence Minister Liam Fox had to resign

Of the eight meetings of Fox-Gould-Werritty together which I discovered, seven were while Fox was Secretary of State for Defence. Only one was while Fox was in opposition. But O’Donnell let the cat much further out of the bag, with the astonishing admission to Paul Flynn’s above questioning that Gould, Fox and Werritty held “meetings that took place before the election.” He also referred to “some of those meetings” as being before the election. Both are plainly in the plural.

It is evident from the information gained by Paul Flynn that not only did Fox, Gould and Werritty have at least seven meetings while Fox was in power – with no minutes and never another British official present – they had several meetings while Fox was shadow Foreign Secretary. O’Donnell was right that what Fox and Werritty were up to in opposition was not his concern. But what Gould was doing with them – a senior official – most definitely was his concern. A senior British diplomat cannot just hold a series of meetings with the opposition shadow Defence Secretary and a paid Israeli lobbyist.

All of this underlined the pernicious influence that Israel has in the political class, which is founded on the Israeli lobby’s shameless use of cash for influence – as witnessed in the discussion between Shai Masot and Labour Friends of Israel and his flaunting of a million. Attitudes towards the plight of the Palestinians are an extreme example of the disconnect between public opinion and the views of the political class, and Al Jazeera should be congratulated heartily on giving us a peek into that.

No further evidence is required. There could be no more conclusive evidence of Israel’s undue and pernicious influence than the astonishing fact that Shai Masot has not yet been expelled. 73

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full post entitled “Why Has Israeli Spy Shai Masot Not Been Expelled?”

*

The co-opting of Owen Jones

On February 14th, JLM announced that Owen Jones would be appearing in conversation with their Vice-Chair Sarah Sackman for the inaugural Henry Smith Memorial Lecture on the April 2nd. He is going to speak on “left anti-Semitism, the Middle East and the Labour Party.”

In view of the extraordinary revelations of the recent Al Jazeera documentaries and the prominent role played by JLM in the dirty tricks campaign against Corbyn and his supporters, the timing of Jones’ invitation is highly politically charged. So why did Jones accept?

Here was his offhanded response to criticism from independent journalist Jonathan Cook:

And here is part of Cook’s reply to Jones:

Owen Jones has responded to this blog post both on Twitter, calling it “tedious nonsense” in his usual, dismissive style, and with a post here that tries to deflect attention from my argument with a straw man: that a conspiracy theory is painting him as a stooge of the Israeli government.

No conspiracy is being posited here – only very, very poor judgment. I have also not accused him of working on behalf of the Israeli government. Only of assisting, presumably thoughtlessly, those who are working on behalf of the Israeli government inside the Jewish Labour Movement, including most definitely its current director, Ella Rose.

Sadly, though predictably, he has avoided addressing the point of my criticism. 74

Click here to read the full post on Jonathan Cook’s blog.

Jones ought to be aware, but seems oblivious to the fact, that he is being used:

The Jewish Labour Movement scoring Jones appears to be a high-profile instance of a new push endorsed by Israel’s government to ensure that Palestine solidarity “instigators” are “singled out” from so-called “soft critics” of Israel.

According to The Jewish Daily Forward, the strategy – jointly developed by the Reut Institute and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – “calls for a big tent approach that accepts progressive critics of Israel” while also demanding “an all-out assault on leading critics of Israel, sometimes using covert means.”

“The instigators must be singled out from the other groups, and handled uncompromisingly, publicly or covertly,” the Reut-ADL report states, according to The Forward, which obtained a copy on condition it not publish the entire document.

The Jewish Labour Movement, a pro-Israel organization within the UK’s main opposition Labour Party, appears to be on board with this strategy.

From a more recent article written by Asa Winstanley and published in The Electronic Intifada. The piece continues:

Following the announcement that Jones would headline the Jewish Labour Movement event, Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook criticized the Guardian columnist for promoting a group “shown to be acting as a front for the Israeli government’s efforts” in Labour.

Jones replied with a blog post calling his critics conspiracy theorists and reaffirming that he was “very glad” to speak at this pro-Israel group’s event.

“I am a passionate opponent of anti-Semitism in all its forms, overt or subtle. It has to be fought, relentlessly, wherever it appears, including on the left,” Jones asserted – an implication that his critics might condone or tolerate anti-Semitism.

Whether Jones realizes it or not, he is facilitating the strategy of isolating Palestine solidarity campaigners by performing the role of “soft critic” of Israel.

Any division in Labour ranks over Jones’ decision will likely be seen by Jewish Labour Movement leaders as a success. 75

Click here to read Asa Winstanley’s full article published on February 21st.

*

Appendix A: Anonymous statement from Tory ex-minister 76

‘Poisonous conduct is a disgrace’:  Minister who served in David Cameron’s government says it is time to end the problem of Israel buying UK policy

Last month Theresa May, like David Cameron each year before her, spoke to the annual lunch of the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI).

She oozed praise for Israel as a democracy, spoke of the constant terrorist threat they face, and condemned the way that Palestinians supposedly incite violence and anti-Semitism.

Her own policy that considers Israeli settlements on Palestinian land illegal received only a passing mention.

The reason is clear: the Conservative Party wants pro-Israel donors’ money, and principle in the Government’s foreign policy has been relegated.

Matters deteriorated further over Christmas after US Secretary of State John Kerry’s forceful condemnation of the extremism and conduct of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli government.

Instead of agreeing with his comments – which are identical to her own policy – she criticised Kerry.

Behind this inconsistent and concerning attitude lies a serious and troubling problem. 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.

The CFI is not affiliated to the Conservative Party. It is incorporated in a way that means it is not to transparent about donors. Yet it arranges for the support of MPs and funds regular visits to Israel which distort the truth. Cameron turned a blind eye to Israeli misconduct – if he ever cared about it – because he was persuaded any criticism would reduce Party donations.

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, which acts in defiance of international law, and whose government Kerry called its most extreme ever.

We need a full inquiry into the Israeli Embassy, the links, access and funding of the CFI and LFI, and an undertaking from all political parties that they welcome the financial and political support of the UK Jewish community, but won’t accept any engagement linked to Israel until it stops building illegally on Palestinian land.

This opaque funding and underhand conduct is a national disgrace and humiliation and must be stamped out.

*

Appendix B: Craig Murray’s query to the FCO media department

For over twelve hours there has been stunned silence from the FCO media department in reply to my questions about the Shai Masot case – I am an NUJ member, and I think the idea of a British journalist actually doing real journalism and asking real questions has astonished them. They have now asked me to put them in writing, and I have just done so. This is what I have submitted.

I am investigating the status of Shai Masot, the Israeli Embassy officer caught plotting against Alan Duncan and who was very active with UK political parties.

I appreciate the FCO line is that the case of his conduct is now closed. But I am not investigating his conduct, I am investigating the improper conduct of the FCO in granting him a visa and residency status in the first place.

My initial questions are these:

1) On what basis was Mr Masot in the UK?
2) He was not on the Diplomatic List, but plainly was a senior officer (an ex Major and current executive in the Directorate of Strategic Affairs) and therefore not qualified in the normal categories of technical and support staff. What precise visa and residence status did he hold?
3) How many more officers does the Israeli Embassy have with that same visa and residence status?
4) Has the FCO connived with the Israeli Embassy to allow many more Israeli intelligence operatives residence in the country than the official and reciprocated diplomatic staff allocation of the Embassy?
5) Did MI5, MI6 or any other of the security services have any input into Mr Masot’s acceptance and visa/residency status?

It is over 12 hours since I contacted the FCO’s media people with these questions. I would appreciate your earliest contact. My number is …

Craig Murray

Do not hold your breath 77

*

Appendix C: A statement from Jackie Walker

“A number of people made comments in a private training session run by the Jewish Labour Movement. As we all know, training sessions are intended to be safe spaces where ideas and questions can be explored. A film of this session was leaked to the press unethically. I did not raise a question on security in Jewish schools. The trainer raised this issue and I asked for clarification, in particular as all London primary schools, to my knowledge, have security and I did not understand the particular point the trainer was making. Having been a victim of racism I would never play down the very real fears the Jewish community have, especially in light of recent attacks in France.

In the session, a number of Jewish people, including me, asked for definitions of antisemitism. This is a subject of much debate in the Jewish community. I support David Schneider’s definition and utterly condemn anti-Semitism.

I would never play down the significance of the Shoah. Working with many Jewish comrades, I continue to seek to bring greater awareness of other genocides, which are too often forgotten or minimised. If offence has been caused, it is the last thing I would want to do and I apologise.”

*

Appendix D: The conversation between Jean Fitzpatrick and Joan Ryan at LFI stall

Labour Party member Jean Fitzpatrick, who was attending her conference, had heard about the Labour Friends of Israel stall and took it upon herself to ask about their position regarding the building of settlements. The dialogue ran as follows [from 8:10 mins]:

Jean Fitzpatrick: Can I just ask you if you’re very anti the settlements – what is Labour Friends of Israel doing about that?

Joan Ryan: We make our view clear and we meet people at all levels in Israeli politics and diplomatic circles, etc. And we make it absolutely clear we’re not friends of Israel and enemies of Palestine, hence our new campaign launching next month and that we’re showcasing here. We believe in a two-state solution and the coexistence and self-determination of both peoples and that’s really important.

JF: And how will that come about do you think?

JR: Well our job is to support any possible means that can bring it about and facilitate…

JF: So what has sort of… come about so far?

JR: Well what we are supporting is coexistence projects, which is what this is about.

JF: But what about Israeli occupation?

JR: Well what we want is a two-state solution and the reason we’ve not got it now at the moment is because there is a distinct lack of security…

This is a big picture situation and we want a two-state solution that is good for all…

JF: No I know, you’ve said that a number of times. But what steps, because you know… So the Labour Party is saying…

JR: Well I’ve told you what steps we’re taking… I’m not going to defend or criticise…

JF: But it seems you are defending Israel.

JR: No. I would defend Israel, I defend Israel’s right to exist. I defend Israel as a democracy, and a social democracy.

JF: But at what expense?

JR: I think we have to be very, very careful not to let our feelings about this morph into anti-Zionism.

JF: So no feelings come into account? No, I’m not being anti-Zionist…

JR: You have to be very careful I think… Don’t we all want a two-state solution based on coexistence and peace?

JF: But I’m asking you how you are bringing about…

JR: So you make your effort and we make ours… Thank you Jean, I’ve enjoyed the conversation, I’m leaving it there.

JF: No, no, I’m asking you about settlements…

JR: Well I’m not answering it anymore, sorry Jean.

JF: … they’ve totally atomised the whole of the West Bank. I’m asking you, I’m really genuinely interested how a two-state solution…?

JR: I’m just working for a two-state solution.

JF: But how can it come about if the whole of the West Bank is atomised?

JR: We’re trying to do everything we can to support and facilitate that solution.

JF: Okay, but in practical terms?

JR: That’s what we’re doing as Labour Friends of Israel, that’s what you’re doing as Palestine Solidarity Campaign. That’s good isn’t it?

JF: No, but I’m asking in terms of the West Bank is atomised, where will the state be? That’s a genuine, genuine question. Where will the state be?

We go over there, we witness, but nothing changes.

You’ve got a lot of money, you’ve got a lot of prestige in the world.

JR: I don’t know where you get that from?

JF: Sorry?

JR: Labour Friends of Israel have got a lot of power, a lot of money… that’s just not…

JF: Well I think so – that’s what I hear. That, you know, it’s a stepping-stone to good jobs. 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.

JR: If you just believe rumours then I…

JF: It’s not a rumour, it’s a fact.

JR: It’s antisemitic.

JF: No it’s not.

JR: It is. It’s a trope.

JF: No it’s not antisemitic, it’s not.

JR: It’s about conspiracy theorists.

JF: It’s not.

JR: Sorry, it is. Anyway, that’s my view and I think we’ll have to agree to differ.

JF: No, I don’t think we do have to agree to differ.

JR: Well I’m agreeing to differ and I am ending the conversation because I am not really wishing to engage in a conversation that talks about getting involved with this [i.e., LFI] and then you get a good job in Oxford or the City or… and that is antisemitic, I’m sorry.

Shortly after her conversation with Jean Fitzpatrick, Joan Ryan discusses it with colleagues.

They’re an antisemitic… you heard her say, you know… “join you lot and you get into Oxford” or “you get into working in the bank” or… That’s antisemitic.

That evening, at a rally to combat antisemitism organised by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), Joan Ryan describes her day at the stall:

We have also had three incidents of antisemitic harassment on our stand, to the people who are staffing that stall today. And that, I think tells you something about why we need to be having this Against Antisemitism Rally.

*

Appendix E: The ‘dodgy dossier’ against Riverside CLP

The dossier includes claims that:

* Members and former members of far left groups banned by Labour were attempting to take control of the local party

* A small number of members were attempting to deselect local MP Louise Ellman and local councillors

* Far left members conspired to undermine a local investigation of antisemitism complaints

* The dossier concluded these members were “clearly operating against the best interests of and, in many instances, in direct opposition to the Labour Party”.

But some local party members have said the dossier is “nonsense” – and in her latest letter Ms White says the dossier “contains lies and libel”.

She said: “This is fake news at its most insidious”.

A Labour spokesperson said: “We do not comment on internal party matters. All complaints are taken seriously.”

A Liverpool Labour spokesperson said: “These are serious allegations that have been made in good faith.

“They are being investigated by the Labour Party NEC. They need to be investigated thoroughly.

“What’s important is that everybody gets behind whatever the recommendations are from the NEC, whatever they are, and that people move forward on that basis.”

Louise Ellman’s office said the MP would not comment on Audrey White’s letter and was awaiting the results of the inquiry. 78

Click here to read the full report in the Liverpool Echo.

*

Appendix F: House of Commons Public Administration Committee, 24/11/2011

Q Paul Flynn: Okay. Matthew Gould has been the subject of a very serious complaint from two of my constituents, Pippa Bartolotti and Joyce Giblin. When they were briefly imprisoned in Israel, they met the ambassador, and they strongly believe—it is nothing to do with this case at all—that he was serving the interest of the Israeli Government, and not the interests of two British citizens. This has been the subject of correspondence.

In your report, you suggest that there were two meetings between the ambassador and Werritty and Liam Fox. Questions and letters have proved that, in fact, six such meetings took place. There are a number of issues around this. I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories, but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran, in the service. Werritty is a self-proclaimed—

Robert Halfon: Point of order, Chairman. What is the point of this?

Paul Flynn: Let me get to it. Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran.

Chair: I have to take a point of order.

Robert Halfon: Mr Flynn is implying that the British ambassador to Israel is working for a foreign power, which is out of order.

Paul Flynn: I quote the Daily Mail: “Mr Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran and has made several visits. He has also met senior Israeli officials, leading to accusations”—not from me, from the Daily Mail—“that he was close to the country’s secret service, Mossad.” There may be nothing in that, but that appeared in a national newspaper.

Chair: I am going to rule on a point of order. Mr Flynn has made it clear that there may be nothing in these allegations, but it is important to have put it on the record. Be careful how you phrase questions.

Paul Flynn: Indeed. The two worst decisions taken by Parliament in my 25 years were the invasion of Iraq—joining Bush’s war in Iraq—and the invasion of Helmand province. We know now that there were things going on in the background while that built up to these mistakes. The charge in this case is that Werritty was the servant of neo-con people in America, who take an aggressive view on Iran. They want to foment a war in Iran in the same way as in the early years, there was another—

Chair: Order. I must ask you to move to a question that is relevant to the inquiry.

Q Paul Flynn: Okay. The question is, are you satisfied that you missed out on the extra four meetings that took place, and does this not mean that those meetings should have been investigated because of the nature of Mr Werritty’s interests?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: I think if you look at some of those meetings, some people are referring to meetings that took place before the election.

Q Paul Flynn: Indeed, which is even more worrying.

Sir Gus O’Donnell: I am afraid they were not the subject—what members of the Opposition do is not something that the Cabinet Secretary should look into. It is not relevant.

But these meetings were held—

Chair: Mr Flynn, would you let him answer please?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: I really do not think that was within my context, because they were not Ministers of the Government and what they were up to was not something I should get into at all.

Chair: Final question, Mr Flynn.

Q Paul Flynn: No, it is not a final question. I am not going to be silenced by you, Chairman; I have important things to raise. I have stayed silent throughout this meeting so far.

You state in the report—on the meeting held between Gould, Fox and Werritty, on 6 February, in Tel Aviv—that there was a general discussion of international affairs over a private dinner with senior Israelis. The UK ambassador was present. Are you following the line taken by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who says that he can eat with lobbyists or people applying to his Department because, on occasions, he eats privately, and on other occasions he eats ministerially? Are you accepting the idea? It is possibly a source of great national interest—the eating habits of their Secretary of State. It appears that he might well have a number of stomachs, it has been suggested, if he can divide his time this way. It does seem to be a way of getting round the ministerial code, if people can announce that what they are doing is private rather than ministerial.

Sir Gus O’Donnell: The important point here was that, when the Secretary of State had that meeting, he had an official with him—namely, in this case, the ambassador. That is very important, and I should stress that I would expect our ambassador in Israel to have contact with Mossad. That will be part of his job. It is totally natural, and I do not think that you should infer anything from that about the individual’s biases. That is what ambassadors do. Our ambassador in Pakistan will have exactly the same set of wide contacts.

Q Paul Flynn: I have good reason, as I said, from constituency matters, to be unhappy about the ambassador. Other criticisms have been made about the ambassador; he is unique in some ways in the role he is performing. There have been suggestions that he is too close to a foreign power.

Robert Halfon: On a point of order, Chair, this is not about the ambassador to Israel. This is supposed to be about the Werritty affair.

Paul Flynn: It is absolutely crucial to this report. If neo-cons such as yourself, Robert, are plotting a war in Iran, we should know about it.

Chair: Order. I think the line of questioning is very involved. I have given you quite a lot of time, Mr Flynn. If you have further inquiries to make of this, they could be pursued in correspondence. May I ask you to ask one final question before we move on?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: One thing I would stress: we are talking about the ambassador and I think he has a right of reply. Mr Chairman, I know there is an interesting question of words regarding Head of the Civil Service versus Head of the Home Civil Service, but this is the Diplomatic Service, not the Civil Service.

Q Chair: So he is not in your jurisdiction at all.

Sir Gus O’Donnell: No.

Q Paul Flynn: But you are happy that your report is final; it does not need to go the manager it would have gone to originally, and that is the end of the affair. Is that your view?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: As I said, some issues arose where I wanted to be sure that what the Secretary of State was doing had been discussed with the Foreign Secretary. I felt reassured by what the Foreign Secretary told me.

Q Chair: I think what Mr Flynn is asking is that your report and the affair raise other issues, but you are saying that that does not fall within the remit of your report and that, indeed, the conduct of an ambassador does not fall within your remit at all.

Sir Gus O’Donnell: That is absolutely correct.

Paul Flynn: The charge laid by Lord Turnbull in his evidence with regard to Dr Fox and the ministerial code was his failure to observe collective responsibility, in that case about Sri Lanka. Isn’t the same charge there about our policies to Iran and Israel?

Chair: We have dealt with that, Mr Flynn.

Paul Flynn: We haven’t dealt with it as far as it applies—

Chair: Mr Flynn, we are moving on.

Paul Flynn: You may well move on, but I remain very unhappy about the fact that you will not allow me to finish the questioning I wanted to give on a matter of great importance.

*

Additional: Open letter to British government signed by 250 academics

The spike in far-right antisemitic incidents on UK campuses that you report (UK universities urged to act over spate of antisemitic stickers and graffiti, 18 February) seems to reflect the increase in xenophobia since the Brexit vote.

Yet the government has “adopted” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, which can be and is being read as extending to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights, an entirely separate issue, as prima facie evidence of antisemitism. This definition seeks to conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

Now Jo Johnson, the government minister whose brief includes universities, has written to Universities UK asking for this definition to be disseminated throughout the system. His letter specifically mentions Israeli Apartheid Week (a worldwide activity at this time of year since 2005) as a cause for concern.

The response has been swift. Late last week, in haste and clearly without legal advice, the University of Central Lancashire banned a meeting that was to be addressed by journalist Ben White as well as by academics. The university statement asserted that the meeting on “Debunking misconceptions on Palestine” contravened the definition of antisemitism recently adopted by the government, and would therefore not be lawful.

Meanwhile, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a body set up during the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014, cites this definition in asking its supporters to “record, film, photograph and get witness evidence” about Israeli Apartheid Week events; and “we will help you to take it up with the university, students’ union or even the police”.

These are outrageous interferences with free expression, and are direct attacks on academic freedom. As academics with positions at UK universities, we wish to express our dismay at this attempt to silence campus discussion about Israel, including its violation of the rights of Palestinians for more than 50 years. It is with disbelief that we witness explicit political interference in university affairs in the interests of Israel under the thin disguise of concern about antisemitism.

Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, Prof Conor Gearty, Prof Malcolm Levitt, Tom Hickey, Prof Dorothy Griffiths, Prof Moshé Machover, Sir Iain Chalmers, Prof Steven Rose, Prof Gilbert Achcar, Prof Penny Green, Prof Bill Bowring, Mike Cushman, Jim Zacune, Dr Jethro Butler, Dr Rashmi Varma, Dr John Moore, Dr Nour Ali, Prof Richard Hudson, Dr Tony Whelan, Dr Dina Matar, Prof Marian Hobson, Prof Tony Sudbery, Prof John Weeks, Prof Graham Dunn, Dr Toni Wright, Dr Rinella Cere, Prof Ian Parker, Dr Marina Carter, Dr Shirin M Rai, Andy Wynne, Prof David Pegg, Prof Erica Burman, Dr Nicola Pratt, Prof Joanna Bornat, Prof Richard Seaford, Dr Linda Milbourne, Dr Julian Saurin, Dr Nadia Naser-Najjab, Prof Elizabeth Dore, Prof Colin Eden, Dr Neil Davidson, Jaime Peschiera, Catherine Cobham, Prof Haim Bresheeth, Dr Uriel Orlow, Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia, Dr Abdul B Shaikh, Dr Mark Leopold, Prof Michael Donmall, Prof Hamish Cunningham, Prof David Johnson, Dr Reem Abou-El-Fadl, Dr Luke Cooper, Prof Peter Gurney, Dr Adi Kuntsman, Prof Matthew Beaumont, Dr Teodora Todorova, Prof Natalie Fenton, Prof Richard Bornat, Dr Jeremy Landor, Dr John Chalcraft, Milly Williamson, David Mabb, Dr Judit Druks, Dr Charlie McGuire, Dr Gholam Khiabany, Glynn Kirkham, Dr Deirdre O’Neill, Dr Gavin Williams, Prof Marsha Rosengarten, Dr Debra Benita Shaw, Dr João Florêncio, Prof Stephen Keen, Dr Anandi Ramamurthy, Dr Thomas Mills, Dr Don Crewe, Prof Robert Wintemute, Andy Gossett, Prof Mark Boylan, Angela Mansi, Dr Paul Taylor, Tim Martin, Keith Hammond, Karolin Hijazi, Dr Kevin Hearty, Prof Daniel Katz, Dr Richard Pitt, Prof Ray Bush, Prof Glenn Bowman, Prof Craig Brandist, Prof Virinder S Kalra, Dr Yasmeen Narayan, Prof Michael Edwards, John Gilmore-Kavanagh, Prof Nadje Al-Ali, Prof Mick Dumper, Graham Topley, Dr Shuruq Naguib, Prof David Whyte, Peter Collins, Dr Andrew Chitty, Prof David Mond, Prof Leon Tikly, Dr Subir Sinha, Dr Mark Berry, Dr Gajendra Singh, Prof Elizabeth Cowie, Dr Richard Lane, Prof Martin Parker, Dr Aboobaker Dangor, Dr Siân Adiseshiah, Prof Dennis Leech, Dr Owen Clayton, Dr John Cowley, Prof Mona Baker, Dr Navtej Purewal, Prof Mica Nava, Prof Joy Townsend, Dr Alex Bellem, Dr Nat Queen, Gareth Dale, Prof Yosefa Loshitzky, Dr Rudi Lutz, Dr Oliver Smith, Tim Kelly, Prof Laleh Khalili, Prof Aneez Esmail, Fazila Bhimji, Prof Hilary Rose, Dr Brian Tweedale, Prof Julian Petley, Prof Richard Hyman, Dr Paul Watt, Nisha Kapoor, Prof Julian Townshend, Prof Roy Maartens, Dr Anna Bernard, Prof Martha Mundy, Prof Martin Atkinson, Dr Claude Baesens, Dr Marijn Nieuwenhuis, Dr Emma Heywood, Dr Matthew Malek, Prof Anthony Milton, Dr Paul O’Connell, Prof Malcolm Povey, Dr Jason Hickel, Dr Jo Littler, Prof Rosalind Galt, Prof Suleiman Shark, Dr Paula James, Dr Linda Pickard, Pat Devine, Dr Jennifer Fortune, Prof Chris Roberts, Dr Les Levidow, Dr Carlo Morelli, Prof David Byrne, Dr Nicholas Cimini, Prof John Smith, Prof Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, Dr Peter J King, Prof Bill Brewer, Prof Patrick Williams, Prof Daphne Hampson, Dr Wolfgang Deckers, Cliff Jones, Prof Luis Pérez-González, Prof Patrick Ainley, Dr Paul Kelemen, Prof Dee Reynolds, Dr Enam Al-Wer, Prof Hugh Starkey, Dr Anna Fisk, Prof Linda Clarke, Prof Klim McPherson, Cathy Malone, Prof Graham Dawson, Prof Colin Green, Prof Clément Mouhot, Prof S Sayyid, Prof William Raban, Prof Peter Hallward, Prof Chris Rust, Prof Benita Parry, Prof Andrew Spencer, Prof Philip Marfleet, Prof Frank Land, Dr Peter E Jones, Dr Nicholas Thoburn, Tom Webster, Dr Khursheed Wadia, Dr Philip Gilligan, Dr Lucy Michael, Prof Steve Hall, Prof Steve Keen, Dr David S Moon, Prof Ken Jones, Dr Karen F Evans, Dr Jim Crowther, Prof Alison Phipps, Dr Uri Horesh, Dr Clair Doloriert, Giles Bailey, Prof Murray Fraser, Prof Stephen Huggett, Dr Gabriela Saldanha, Prof Cahal McLaughlin, Ian Pace, Prof Philip Wadler, Dr Hanem El-Farahaty, Dr Anne Alexander, Dr Robert Boyce, Dr Patricia McManus, Prof Mathias Urban, Dr Naomi Woodspring, Prof David Wield, Prof Moin A Saleem, Dr Phil Edwards, Dr Jason Hart, Dr Sharon Kivland, Dr Rahul Rao, Prof Ailsa Land, Dr Lee Grieveson, Dr Paul Bagguley, Dr Rosalind Temple, Dr Karima Laachir, Dr Youcef Djerbib, Dr Sarah Perrigo, Bernard Sufrin, Prof James Dickins, John Burnett, Prof Des Freedman, Dr David Seddon, Prof Steve Tombs, Prof Louisa Sadler, Dr Leon Sealey-Huggins, Dr Rashné Limki, Dr Guy Standing, Dr Arianne Shahvisi, Prof Neil Smith, Myriam Salama-Carr, Dr Graham Smith, Dr Peter Fletcher 79

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1 From “Free speech on Israel under attack in universities”; an open letter to the British government signed by 250 academics published in the Guardian on February 27, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/feb/27/university-wrong-to-ban-israeli-apartheid-week-event

2 From an article entitled “Labour calls for inquiry into Israeli diplomat’s ‘take down MPs’ plot” written by Ewan MacAskill and Ian Cobain, published in the Guardian on January 8, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/08/labour-calls-for-inquiry-into-israeli-diplomats-take-down-mps-plot

3 Available in a BBC news report entitled “Israel’s ambassador sorry over ‘take down’ Sir Alan Duncan comment” published January 8, 2017. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-38545671

4 From an article entitled “Labour calls for inquiry into Israeli diplomat’s ‘take down MPs’ plot” written by Ewan MacAskill and Ian Cobain, published in the Guardian on January 8, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/08/labour-calls-for-inquiry-into-israeli-diplomats-take-down-mps-plot

5 From a post entitled “Why Has Israeli Spy Shai Masot Not Been Expelled?” written by Craig Murray, published on January 8, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/01/israeli-spy-shai-masot-not-expelled/

6 On the train to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, Masot announces the launch of a new organisation with the help if a US congressman, with direct ties to AIPAC it is to be called The City Friends of Israel.

Once at the conference Masot formally introduces undercover reporter ‘Robin’ to Joan Ryan at the LFI stall. They also discuss paying for influential MPs to take a government-run tour of Israel, and Masot tells Ryan that he has received the approval for funds of “more than one million pounds… from Israel”.

Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 7:55 mins

7 From a post entitled “As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed” written by Craig Murray, published on February 7, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/02/netanyahu-may-chat-large-nest-israeli-spies-london-exposed/

8 Words used by Shai Masot in his conversation with Maria Strizzolo as reprinted in this section.

9 Quote from Channel 4’s Dispatches: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby at 0:25 mins.

10 Transcription from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 21:40 mins and 23:00 mins

11 From an article entitled “Israel plot to ‘take down’ Tory minister: Astonishing undercover video captures diplomat conspiring with rival MP’s aide to smear Deputy Foreign Secretary” written by Simon Walters, published in The Mail on January 7, 2017. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4098082/Astonishing-undercover-video-captures-diplomat-conspiring-rival-MP-s-aide-smear-Deputy-Foreign-Secretary.html

12 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 9:40 mins

13 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 3:50 mins.

14 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 4.35 mins.

15 From an article entitled “Don’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn, urges new Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan” written by Marcus Dysch, published in The Jewish Chronicle on August 10, 2015. https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/don-t-vote-for-jeremy-corbyn-urges-new-labour-friends-of-israel-chair-joan-ryan-1.68062

16 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 21:05 mins

17 

“Masot was plainly not carrying out technical and administrative duties. The term is a formal one from the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and it is plain from the convention that technical and administrative staff are in official status lower than the diplomatic staff. The majority of support activities are carried out in all Embassies by locally engaged staff already resident in the host country, but a very small number of technical and administrative staff may be allowed visas for work in particularly secure areas. They may be an IT and communications technician, possibly a cleaner in the most sensitive physical areas, and perhaps property management.

“These staff do not interact with politicians of the host state or attend high level meetings beside the Ambassador. The level at which Shai Masot was operating was appropriate to a Counsellor or First Secretary in an Embassy. Masot’s formal rank as an officer in his cover job in the Ministry of Strategic Affairs would entitle him to that rank in the Embassy if this were a normal appointment.”

From a post entitled “As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed” written by Craig Murray, published on February 7, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/02/netanyahu-may-chat-large-nest-israeli-spies-london-exposed/

18 Images and text from an article entitled “Britain’s Most Undesirable Immigrant: Why Was Shai Masot Given a Visa?” written by Craig Murray, published on January 10, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/01/britains-undesirable-immigrant-shai-masot-given-visa/

19 From a post entitled “As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed” written by Craig Murray, published on February 7, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/02/netanyahu-may-chat-large-nest-israeli-spies-london-exposed/

20 Quoted from anonymous statement made by a former Tory minister in Cameron’s Cabinet (see Appendix A)

21 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel at 3:35 mins.

22 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 14:00 mins

23 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 14:25 mins

24 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 15:15 mins

25 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 16:05 mins

26 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 16:40 mins

27 From an article entitled “The Cowardice at the heart of our relationship with Israel” written by Peter Oborne, published in The Telegraph on December 12, 2012. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/9740044/The-cowardice-at-the-heart-of-our-relationship-with-Israel.html

28 From an article entitled “Jewish community leader speaks out over SNP ‘Israel Front Group’” written by Michael Gray, published in CommonSpace on September 22, 2016. https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/9418/jewish-community-leader-speaks-out-over-snp-israel-front-group

29 Shai Masot: “We Believe in Israel is sitting together in the offices of BICOM. But it’s not the same organisation.”

Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 3:40 mins.

30 “I went on one of the trips of the Conservative Friends of Israel to the Middle East. It was brilliantly well arranged. [You were] very well looked after – you got fantastic access. You did meet Palestinians. If all you did was to rely on that one trip, you would have a very one-sided point of view.”  – Peter Oborne

Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel at 8:10 mins

31 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 19:30 mins

32 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 20:00 mins

33 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 4:50 mins

34 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 5:05 mins

35 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 5:25 mins

Rubin then adds: “Being LFI allows us to reach out to people who wouldn’t want to get involved with the Embassy. Keeping it as a separate thing is actually best for everyone because ultimately we want the same goal of getting more people to be pro-Israel and understand the conflict. It’s just how you do it.”

36 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel at 16:20 mins

37 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel at 23:45 mins

38 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel at 24:35 mins

39 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 19:45  mins

40 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 11:10  mins

41 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 4:05 mins

42 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 13:45  mins

43 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 14:15  mins

44 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 15:30  mins

45 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 16:15  mins

46 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 17:15  mins

47 From an article entitled “Labour suspends Jackie Walker over Halocaust comments” published in the Guardian on September 30, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/30/labour-suspends-jackie-walker-over-holocaust-comments

48 I cannot find a link but the evidence of this statement is available in Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 20:15 mins

49 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 13:25  mins and at 18:00 mins

50 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 18:20  mins

51 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 18:30  mins

52 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 19:50  mins

53 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 19:10  mins and 21:20 mins

54 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 20:35  mins

55 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 4.55 mins.

56 All quotes above taken from an article entitled “New Jewish Labour Movement director was Israeli embassy officer” written by Asa Winstanley, published in The Electonic Intifada on September 21, 2016. https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/new-jewish-labour-movement-director-was-israeli-embassy-officer

57 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 24:30 mins

58 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 20:00 mins.

59 From a report entitled “Israel Lobby: Antisemitism battle in UK Labour Party” published by Al Jazeera Investigation Unit on January 13, 2017. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/01/israel-lobby-antisemitism-battle-uk-labour-party-170113073206692.html

60 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 21:30 mins.

61 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 23:20 mins.

62 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 23:45 mins.

63 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4:The Takedown at 11:15 mins.

64 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4:The Takedown at 12:10 mins.

65 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 3:00 mins.

66 From an article entitled “How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis” written by Asa Winstanley, published in The Electonic Intifada on April 28, 2013. https://electronicintifada.net/content/how-israel-lobby-manufactured-uk-labour-partys-antisemitism-crisis/16481

67 From an article entitled “Formal complaint against Liverpool MP over use of ‘dodgy dossier’” written by Liam Murphy, published in the Liverpool Echo on October 13, 2016. http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/formal-complaint-against-liverpool-mp-12023001

68 From an article entitled “Labour activist slams delays in investigating antisemitism ‘slur’ in Liverpool” written by Alistair Houghton, published in the Liverpool Echo on January 16, 2017. http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/labour-activist-slams-delays-investigating-12463533

69 From an article entitled Laura Kuenssberg report on Jeremy Corbyn inaccurate, says BBC trust” published by BBC news on January 18, 2017. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-38666914

70 Quotes taken from the same BBC article.

71 From an article entitled “Apologists for Israel take top posts at the BBC” written by Amena Saleem, published in The Electonic Intifada on April 23, 2013. https://electronicintifada.net/content/apologists-israel-take-top-posts-bbc/12395

72 Paul Flynn MP speaking at the House of Commons Public Administration Committee, 24/11/2011. See Appendix F.

73 From a post entitled “Why Has Israeli Spy Shai Masot Not Been Expelled?” written by Craig Murray, published on January 8, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/01/israeli-spy-shai-masot-not-expelled/

74 From a post entitled “Why is Owen Jones helping to subvert Corbyn?” written and published by Jonathan Cook on February 15, 2017. http://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2017-02-15/why-is-owen-jones-helping-to-subvert-corbyn/

75 From an article entitled “How the Israel lobby is using Owen Jones” written by Asa Winstanley, published in The Electronic Intifada on February 21, 2017. https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/how-israel-lobby-using-owen-jones

76 From an article entitled “Israel plot to ‘take down’ Tory minister: Astonishing undercover video captures diplomat conspiring with rival MP’s aide to smear Deputy Foreign Secretary” written by Simon Walters, published in The Mail on January 7, 2017. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4098082/Astonishing-undercover-video-captures-diplomat-conspiring-rival-MP-s-aide-smear-Deputy-Foreign-Secretary.html

77 Published as part of Craig Murray’s post entitled “Britain’s Most Undesirable Immigrant: Why Was Shai Masot Given a Visa?” written by Craig Murray, published on January 10, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/01/britains-undesirable-immigrant-shai-masot-given-visa/

All quotes transcribed from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope between 8:00–16:00 mins.

78 From an article entitled “Labour activist slams delays in investigating antisemitism ‘slur’ in Liverpool” written by Alistair Houghton, published in the Liverpool Echo on January 16, 2017. http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/labour-activist-slams-delays-investigating-12463533

79 From “Free speech on Israel under attack in universities”; an open letter to the British government signed by 250 academics published in the Guardian on February 27, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/feb/27/university-wrong-to-ban-israeli-apartheid-week-event

 

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How We Were Misled About Syria: Channel 4 News

Tim Hayward

Difficulties faced news organisations attempting to cover events in the war in Syria, particularly in the eastern part of Aleppo when under siege. Western journalists had stopped even trying to enter that area for fear of being kidnapped, or worse, at the hands of one or other of the armed factions holding the area. International relief agencies and NGO’s were not to be found on the ground either, for the same reasons.

This is one of the two main problems for media coverage of Syria that Eva Bartlett highlighted at a UN press conference in November 2016 when talking about her first hand experience of conditions in Aleppo.[1] Asked by a journalist from a mainstream publication why she seemed to be challenging ‘all these absolutely documentable facts that we’ve seen from the ground’, she pointed out that he was referring to a hearsay narrative, not facts, because ‘sources…

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on Yemen’s forgotten war: two stories that say so much

Millions of people in Yemen are starving, including children who will be crippled for life, the UN has warned as new photographs from areas worst hit by the war show teenagers dying of hunger.

Saida Ahmad Baghili, 18, in the Yemen city of Hodeida, is among many people left without food by a Saudi blockade. British support for Riyadh was raised at prime minister’s questions yesterday Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters

Yemen now has one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said yesterday. More than 14 million people are going hungry, half of them starving. At least ten of the country’s 21 governorates are close to a famine.

From an article published yesterday [Thurs 27th] by The Times.

*

Meanwhile, also published on Thursday:

Yesterday 129 Labour MPs voted to stop support for Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen. The vote was defeated by a majority of 90.

The motion called for support to be withdrawn from the Saudi government until a United Nations investigation could determine whether the Saudi bombing campaign had breached international law. The motion did not explicitly include a suspension of UK arms sales.

Over 100 Labour MPs did not vote on the motion. If all of them had voted to support it, the government would have been defeated.

The following list are the Labour MPs who abstained or were not present for the vote yesterday.

  1. Adrian Bailey
  2. Andy Burnham
  3. Angela Eagle
  4. Angela Smith
  5. Ann Clwyd
  6. Ann Coffey
  7. Anna Turley
  8. Barry Sheerman
  9. Ben Bradshaw
  10. Bridgit Phillipson
  11. Caroline Flint
  12. Catherine McKinnell
  13. Chris Bryant
  14. Chris Elmore (Teller)
  15. Chris Evans
  16. Chris Leslie
  17. Clive Lewis (ill)
  18. Connor McGinn
  19. Dan Jarvis
  20. David Crausby
  21. David Lammy
  22. Diana Johnson
  23. Fiona MacTaggart
  24. Frank Field
  25. Gareth Thomas
  26. Gavin Shuker
  27. Geoffrey Robinson
  28. George Howarth
  29. Gerald Kaufman
  30. Gill Furniss
  31. Gisela Stuart
  32. Gloria De Piero
  33. Graeme Jones
  34. Graham Allen
  35. Graham Stringer
  36. Heidi Alexander
  37. Helen Jones
  38. Ian Austin
  39. Ian Murray
  40. Ivan Lewis
  41. Jamie Reed
  42. Jim Fitzpatrick
  43. Joan Ryan
  44. John Mann
  45. John Spellar
  46. John Woodcock
  47. Judith Cummins (Teller)
  48. Julie Elliott
  49. Kate Hoey
  50. Keith Vaz
  51. Kevan Jones
  52. Kevin Barron
  53. Liz Kendall
  54. Luciana Berger
  55. Lucy Powell
  56. Madeleine Moon
  57. Margaret Beckett
  58. Margaret Hodge
  59. Maria Eagle
  60. Mark Hendrick
  61. Mary Creagh
  62. Meg Hillier (Paired)
  63. Melanie Onn
  64. Michael Dugher
  65. Mike Gapes
  66. Natascha Engel
  67. Neil Coyle
  68. Nia Griffith
  69. Pat McFadden
  70. Paul Flynn
  71. Peter Kyle
  72. Phil Wilson
  73. Rachel Reeves
  74. Rob Flello
  75. Rob Marris
  76. Roberta Blackman-Woods
  77. Rosena Allin-Khan
  78. Rosie Cooper
  79. Rushanara Ali
  80. Ruth Smeeth
  81. Shabana Mahmood
  82. Siobhain McDonagh
  83. Stephen Kinnock
  84. Susan Jones
  85. Toby Perkins
  86. Tom Blenkinsopp
  87. Tom Watson
  88. Tracy Brabin
  89. Tristram Hunt
  90. Vernon Coaker
  91. Wayne David
  92. Wes Streeting
  93. Yasmin Qureshi
  94. Yvonne Fovargue

Click here to read the original report at Evolve Politics.

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“no-fly zone” means escalation of war, and this time it will be against Russia… are you ready for that?

Update:

It is abundantly clear from our dark alliance with Saudi Arabia and our conduct in support of jihadists in Syria that our current leaders have learned nothing from Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya as we prepare to plunge head-long into the abyss of a world war.

The warning comes from former Democrat presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich in an article published on October 21st by Counterpunch.

*

On every occasion it goes like this. Firstly, a pretext – an outright and convenient lie that justifies invasion. A lie to be repeated again and again until it sticks; so better to make it sound plausible (although even plausibility is not as important as it might first appear). Then the military offensive and a regime change – the true intention. And lastly, there follows an absolute collapse of law and order and the breakdown of civil society in a once stable, perhaps even relatively prosperous nation. The repeated outcome is a failed state and a puppet regime, overrun with Jihadist terrorists, but not to worry – the only cameras left at this stage of events will be the ones used for targeting drone-strikes.

So here’s a quick recap:-

Afghanistan – fifteen years ago the pretext was Bin Laden, of course, wanted dead or alive. Then, once the place had been bombed to hell, with the Saudi-backed Taliban overthrown thanks to the assistance of warlords of the so-called ‘Northern Alliance’, a pro-western government led by Hamid Karzai was briskly installed. (Tremendous news if you happened to be building oil pipelines – remember Unocal? – or for those in the business of smuggling opium.)

Iraq – here it was ‘babies out of incubators’ first time around (a since discredited story about a non-existent atrocity scripted and staged by PR firm Hill & Knowlton 1) and then came those still more infamous missing WMDs which the weapons inspectors led by the exemplary Hans Blix simply couldn’t uncover any evidence of, but which, as Bush Jr. joked later, “gotta be somewhere”. He even had the temerity to say it during the annual Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner. And the press just lapped it up, as he knew they would:

The WMDs were a fiction, of course, as Bush was later forced to admit more soberly 2, but so what – those admissions came much too late to change anything. A million people had died already and millions of other disposable lives are still being quietly destroyed thanks to the use of chemical agents like white phosphorous and the misleadingly named ‘depleted uranium’ (DU). Read more here.

With Libya, there was a different Commander-in-Chief and a new twist: the UN’s ‘responsibility to protect’ invoked to deal with freshly concocted stories of regime-supplied Viagra and mass rape. A more nonsensical fiction than before – but never mind that, the press dutifully lapped it up.

Gone too was ‘shock and awe’ (at least in name). The bombs tearing up Libyan lives were more lovingly delivered since dropped under the guise of a “humanitarian intervention”. A “no-fly zone” that Russia and China very reluctantly sanctioned (having eventually succumbed to hysterical and sustained criticism across the western media) which immediately paved the way to more expansive (and wholly unsanctioned) “kinetic action” as Nato supplied air cover to the bloodthirsty Salafist militias on the ground.

The slaughter of innocents by those same ‘moderate’ al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists, and especially the widespread lynching of black Africans, was barely reported upon in the western press – the greater truth is unlikely to ever come out. But you can read more about it here – and here in an earlier post.

Today we have more of the same in Syria – once again, the intention was always regime change and indeed there is rather more candour in admitting this than on past occasions. However, the movable official narrative and the facts on the ground quickly diverge thereafter.

The West and its Middle East allies have covertly backed a mix of al-Qaeda factions from the very earliest days of the Syrian conflict, precisely as they did in Libya. In both instances, when it comes to western-backing, use of the term ‘moderate’ is next to meaningless. Here is an article I posted in August 2012  as news of Islamist infiltration was first beginning to leak into mainstream articles. And here is a more intensively documented piece put together a year ago and closely detailing our clandestine support of al-Qaeda factions and their splinter group ISIS.

The ‘moderate rebels’ are mixed in with al-Qaeda terrorists, the official story now openly confesses – an incremental shift from outright denial to open admission of terrorist ‘links’ that accidentally provides a measure of just how far the mask of the West’s legitimacy has fallen. It has shifted out of desperation, as the strategy for overthrowing Assad and the Syrian government began to falter.

So the clamour again is for another “no-fly zone”; a more overtly aggressive act of war-making, necessarily portrayed as an act of peace. That “no-fly zone” always means ‘war’ is unarguable as I have already pointed out on a number of occasions during the lead up to the bombing campaign in Libya (here is one post). But why trust me, when you can hear it straight from the horse’s mouth:

The issue is not complicated. As today’s leaks show Hillary Clinton laid it out back in 2013 when she said, “To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defenses, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk— you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians.”

The quoted reminder is courtesy of a piece by Chris Nineham of the Stop the War Coalition. His article, published on Tuesday 11th, continues more alarmingly:

Or, just last month, General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff admitted, “right now, for us to control all of the air space in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia; that’s a pretty fundamental decision”.

‘Fundamental’ is putting it lightly – but let’s go on with Nineham’s excellent analysis of the likely consequences for the Syrians (I’ll come back to consider the prospect of apocalyptic madness in a moment):

The situation in Aleppo and other parts of Syria is desperate. The idea of a no-fly zone can seem attractive because people rightly want there to be an effective humanitarian response. But as these two quotes outline, a no-fly zone would need to be secured by Western forces against opposition from Syria and Russia. Air defenses would have to be taken out and Syrian and Russian planes shot down. In the end a no-fly zone in Syria would work the same as the no-fly zone in Libya did, as a corridor for western military bombing. […]

People say the situation in Syria can get no worse, but they are wrong. As Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign Secretary explained today in parliament, “in a multi-playered, multi-faceted civil war such as Syria, the last thing we need is more parties bombing”. Such action will inflame and escalate an already desperate situation leading not just to more agony on the ground in Syria, but almost certainly to the break up of the country.

It is quite amazing that the views of MPs like Boris Johnson and Andrew Mitchell are taken seriously at all on issues of foreign policy. Andrew Mitchell voted for the Iraq War, for the intervention in Libya and twice for bombing in Syria. Johnson too has voted for every war he has been able to. If the daily reports of carnage and chaos in the news are not enough to convince people of the catastrophic effects of these escapades, they have been roundly condemned as chaotic disasters in a series of official reports, including Chilcot, the Select Committee Report on Libya, and the House of Commons Defence Committee report on the intervention in Syria. 3

Click here to read Nineham’s full article.

But here’s the mystery – it’s not really a mystery, but let’s pretend for just a moment. When the modus operandi becomes this transparent, how come it still works as effectively as it does? How do good people fall into the belief time and again that the next bombing campaign will be different – will result in a better outcome and not perpetuate the carnage of this monstrous “war on terror”?

And how do our western powers manage to stake a claim to having any kind of humanitarian agenda whatsoever, especially when simultaneously they are aiding the despotic regime of Saudi Arabia in its genocidal bombing of Yemen? Are we supposed to believe that the powers-that-be – our marvellous military-industrial complex – really love Syrians so much more than Yemenis?

There’s actually no mystery at all. The war party is extremely adept at playing on and manipulating our good conscience. It operates by unabashed deceit and by virtue of the largesse of foundation funding – these two go hand-in-hand in fact. If you want some names of our deceivers then read this earlier article and this one too. In short, beware the pressure groups and NGOs – take care to follow the money. But most importantly of all, beware the corporate media. The corporate media has taken us into each and every one of these disastrous wars and without its relentless, monotonous and insidious manufacturing of our consent there would be no “war on terror” at all:

In the video embedded above, independent journalist James Corbett exposes Channel 4 news as they are caught lionising the very same criminal gang (literally the same men) who filmed themselves beheading a twelve-year old boy.

For it is an easily corroborated fact that the West and its allies have a long and sustained history of manipulating gangs and insurgents, and most notably Islamist factions, to achieve their desired geostrategic objectives, yet this irrefutable truth must never be widely disseminated. Amnesia is vital, therefore, and thankfully the media is highly dependable when it comes to aiding our forgetting. But then, every atrocity the West commits is simply a cock-up; our enemies alone commit all the war crimes (with the singular exception of the crimes of Tony Blair).

Meanwhile, compliance of the press is likewise assured whenever it comes to pushing buttons readying us for the next war. Allowing an occasional embarrassing truth to dribble out now and again serves to regain some public trust – just enough to convince us of how the media maintains a vital role in holding power accountable rather than simply operating as a propaganda arm for the establishment. In this regard Blair serves the cause as a wonderful decoy too – his own unprosecuted crimes taking much of the heat off Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama.

Moreover, to those who in any way sponsor our perpetual “war on terror” yet talk freely and hypocritically about the ‘war crimes’ of others please do reflect on the Nuremberg rulings which deem every war of aggression “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” 4

But here is the truly startling difference today: these purveyors of war appear to have become more irresponsible and reckless than ever before. Indeed, it seems that many in our press corps are finally losing a grip on reality. Inevitable perhaps, once groupthink takes such a hold of you.

This “no-fly zone” in Syria, if launched, means war not just against Syria and its already deeply committed ally Iran, but also and unavoidably against Russia. Yet voices across parliament and throughout the media are cheering on this unthinkable act. Do these same low-grade politicos and media hacks feel so assured of their place hunkered down in some impenetrable secret bunker, tucked up with the Strangeloves? Or do they feel rather unconcerned about the catastrophic potential of a war with Russia, imagining it will somehow remain contained like all our other ongoing wars – faraway and in someone else’s backyard? In short, are they blasé or just plain stupid? I confess to feeling contempt either way. Contempt combined with a growing sense of bewilderment and dread.

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1 Nayirah al-Ṣabaḥ (Arabic: نيره الصباح‎), called “Nurse Nayirah” in the media, was a fifteen-year-old Kuwaiti girl, who gave false testimony before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990, stating that she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers take babies out of incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital, take the incubators, and leave the babies to die. The testimony was widely publicized, and was cited numerous times by United States senators and President George H.W. Bush. In 1992, it was revealed that Nayirah was the daughter of Saud Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, and that her testimony was scripted as part of a PR campaign run by Hill & Knowlton for the Kuwaiti government. Her story was initially corroborated by Amnesty International.

2

3 From an article entitled “Don’t believe the Start the War Coalition – Ask Libyans About No-Fly Zones” written by Chris Nineham, published by Stop the War Coalition on October 11, 2016. http://www.stopwar.org.uk/index.php/news-comment/2208-don-t-believe-the-start-the-war-coalition-ask-libyans-about-no-fly-zones

4 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/judnazi.asp#common

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Filed under al-Qaeda & DAESH / ISIS / ISIL, analysis & opinion, Britain, Iraq, Libya, Syria

first-hand accounts from the US Peace Council and other non-aligned observers of the ‘civil war’ in Syria

What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so — Mark Twain 

In July, the US Peace Council sent a delegation to Syria for a week-long visit to meet with secular and religious leaders. They returned to the US and gave a press briefing at the UN on August 9th in which they denounced the entire US/western depiction and narrative of Syria as a propagandist lie:

“What we saw in Damascus and what we saw in the two villages outside Damascus belies the propaganda that has overwhelmed us. [Yet] it’s hard for even those of us who have been in the peace movement for a long time – it’s hard for us to ignore this propaganda – it is so well-orchestrated.”

I have produced a comprehensive transcript of the briefing which is attached as an addendum.

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The journey from Homs however is a profound experience, for it involves hours of travelling across expansive plains, through miles of destroyed and deserted villages and towns that had been occupied, terrorised and destroyed by Islamist fighters, and the battles that ensued. Most of the millions of internally displaced who fled to the comparative safety of government-controlled areas, and refugees who have fled the country fled early in the fighting, both because of the brutality of the rebel groups, and because of the government bombing of the enemy. But none of us realised the extent of destruction which had been done at the hands of the fighters, who would destroy the homes and factories of anyone who opposed them.

As we passed through the deserted destroyed streets of one large town, we saw graffiti insulting a local Saudi Sheikh who had preached the Wahhabi ideology, and who had encouraged the town to rise up against the secular government. Throughout our visit, people in different places told us that one of the factors leading to the uprising had been the influence of Wahhabi doctrine on the thousands of Syrians who had gone to Saudi Arabia to work and study prior to the conflict. This was an insight of which I had not been previously aware.

writes Revd. Andrew Ashdown who led an entirely separate British delegation on a visit to Syria just one month ago at the start of September. The group, which included two cross-bench members of the house of Lords: Baroness Caroline Cox and Lord Raymond Hylton, had been invited by the Grand Mufti of Syria, Dr. Hassoun; Bishop Armash Nalbandian, Armenian Archbishop of Damascus; Bishop Audo of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Aleppo;  and Revd. Harout Selimien, President of the Armenian Evangelical Church in Syria.

Following visits to Damascus and Maaloula, the party journeyed onwards to Homs and Aleppo. This is Ashdown’s account of what they found in Aleppo:

Arriving in Aleppo from the Castello Rd is a bewildering experience. After passing through miles of destroyed suburbs, (formerly occupied by ‘rebels’, but now secured by the Syrian army) the road into town very suddenly becomes like any other city. Within the space of a hundred metres, empty ruins become tree-lined, car-filled boulevards, cafes, shops, Churches and mosques. The media give the impression that the whole city of Aleppo is destroyed. This is far from the truth. Large areas are, but two thirds of the city still stands, and in this city, constantly shelled by rebel-held areas, where death and destruction is a threat from all sides, a veneer of ordinary life goes on. Arriving at sunset, less than five hundred metres from an area that looks like a scene from Armageddon, people were out in the streets and the cafes were full. This is government-controlled Aleppo, where 1.5 million people live. These people are not being bombed by Assad. Rather the Syrian Army is protecting them, no matter to which sectarian or faith community they belong. These people are very grateful that the long siege of the city imposed by the rebels, which received barely any attention in the international media is now over.

The scenes of devastation that we see on our TV screens are real, but they are only a part of the story. The narratives we hear about on our media are exclusively reported from the rebel side, where an estimated 200,000 people struggle to survive. Of those, 50,000 are fighters, many of them foreign and most belonging to extremist factions, and the remainder are mainly families of those fighters. Most of the resident population of those areas have long since fled, either to the safety of the government-held areas, or have fled the country. […]

The Syrians we met asked if the world knew what was going on in Aleppo. I could only respond that as far as people knew, the whole city was destroyed, and that the government are bombing, shelling and gassing their own people. They were both amused and exasperated. They said that the rebels had used gas, not the government. It is also an extremely common view in Syria (and often repeated by those in Aleppo themselves) that the people whom the government are bombing in the city, are not civilians, but are almost exclusively terrorists and their families. The 1.5 million civilians living in the comparative ‘safety’ of the government-held areas of the city are exhausted by the constant shelling and ‘hell-fire canon’ attacks of the rebels, and are keen for the government to win the war.

Continuing:

In the afternoon, we met with the Governor of Aleppo who told us of the efforts being made to receive what civilians are left in rebel-controlled areas.  He mentioned the many stories of people who are wanting to leave those areas, being prevented from doing so, and some being killed for wanting to do so.  He despaired of the international media’s misrepresentation of the realities on the ground.

Afterwards we were incredibly lucky to visit the Senior Doctor’s Council of Aleppo. This was a last minute arrangement, and by chance we interrupted a meeting of the Senior Executive of Aleppo Doctors. The doctors were glad to interrupt their meeting and welcomed us warmly, saying they were delighted we had come to see the situation. The group that were present included representatives of different medical specialities. The first thing we asked was about the regular media reports that there are only a few doctors left in Aleppo and that the last paediatrician was killed in a government airstrike. They laughed.

“Firstly you must understand that there is a media war against Syria, so you won’t hear about what’s happening in Government-controlled areas. Actually, there are 250 paediatricians currently active in Aleppo. The one that was killed is not on any register as a doctor of this city. Nor is the ‘Al Quds’ hospital that was supposedly destroyed known in Aleppo it all. It was probably a temporary field clinic set up by the terrorists. When they say that a ‘hospital’ has been targeted by the government, they are usually temporary field-clinics; they are not registered clinics or hospitals. Today, there are 4,260 doctors in Aleppo of which 3,150 are active. Of these, about 1,500 are specialists. Since the start of the conflict, 20 registered hospitals have been destroyed by the terrorists (these are not mentioned in the western media). But there are still 6 active public hospitals and about 40 small private hospitals in the city. At the moment we have a huge shortage of medicines and equipment in both public and private hospitals, including MRI machines. Our priorities are spare parts for equipment. Most of the aid given by the WHO and by other agencies, and all the resources given by Saudi Arabia and Turkey goes to the terrorists, not to the citizens of the city.”

Click here to read Ashdown’s full diary and a summary of the findings of his own delegation which concludes as follows:

While almost all media coverage in the West focuses on the devastating effects of military offensives by Government forces, in just one day during our visit (September 5th) the following attacks by the armed Opposition inflicting indiscriminate death and injury included:

Four car bombs at Homs with 12 killed and 30 injured; in Tartus 45 killed and 100 wounded; in the Damascus countryside, 3 killed and 12 wounded; in Hasaka, 6 killed and 20 wounded.

This is only a part of the daily toll of death and injury inflicted by Opposition forces on civilians, such as the shelling of the University in Aleppo by 4 missiles on the day we were there.

Already, we have been accused of spouting ‘government propaganda’.  No. We travelled to Syria to listen to the voices of Syrian people and we have met hundreds from across the respective communities in the country. Personally, this is my fifth visit to the country since April 2014, and the messages remain consistent and widespread. What we are sharing is not ‘government propaganda’ at all, but the voices of ordinary Syrians. Anyone who thinks otherwise is showing their ignorance!

I would repeat the cry of most Syrians we have met. Come and visit us and see the reality for yourselves. I have seriously wondered whether the enormous pressure put upon us by both government and Church figures NOT to visit Syria, is precisely because they do not want us to see and hear the truth, simply because it does not ally with the deliberate misrepresentation the international community is conveying to achieve their own agendas.

I hope and pray that any ceasefire leads to a true and lasting peace. I also hope and pray that the international community will adjust their policies to consider the real needs and wishes of the Syrian people, and that we do not use the ‘provision of aid’ as a means of rearming militant factions to further prolong the war. The goal of everyone should be the restoration of peace; the rebuilding of the country; the respect of plurality and development of reform; and the reconciliation and healing of souls, which will be the most difficult task. Enough of fuelling war. Let us end the policy of violence, and truly seek the path of peace, and listen first to the voices of the people themselves.

[bold emphasis added]

Andrew Ashdown was interviewed about his experiences by Mike Robinson for UK Column on Thursday 6th. The interview is embedded below:

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Eva Bartlett is Canadian freelance journalist and activist who spent more than three years living in Gaza documenting Palestinian life under Israeli rule. Since 2014, she has undertaken four trips to Syria and following her latest visit gave an extended interview to Sign of the Times Media [September 2nd] which is embedded below:

Click here to read more on her blog In Gaza.

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Vanessa Beeley is a British investigative journalist and photographer. The daughter of Sir Harold Beeley, Middle Eastern Advisor to Labour Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, she too has been a frequent visitor to the Gaza Strip and campaigner for Palestinian rights.

Vanessa Beeley was a member of the US Peace Council delegation that visited Syria in July (see above). After the main contingent returned, however, she journeyed onward and continued with her own investigation. Here is an interview she gave on Liberty Report in late September shortly after returning:

Click here to read more on her blog thewallwillfall.

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Addendum: transcript of US Peace Council speaking at UN

It was quite evident to us over the several years that what we were hearing and reading from the press was obviously confusing the American people and the peace movement – the large vocal anti-war movement that exists in our country. We saw the same pattern of ever other invasion where the leadership of the country was demonised and therefore used as an excuse to intervene in the internal affairs. Our organisation, US Peace Council, is a firm advocate of the United Nations Charter, with deep respect for the sovereignty of all countries; respecting the rights of the peoples of those countries to determine their own destiny.

It was our consideration that we had to reach out to the US peace movement and ask that they participate in a delegation to Syria to see for themselves what existed, to speak to both officials and non-officials, [and] civil society, to try to determine for themselves independently, the situation in Syria and the road to peace. That is our responsibility. Our responsibility is to reach out first to the US peace movement and then to the American people.

The campaign to confuse the American people has been intense. And it is our purpose to try to bring some light – some understanding – which can perhaps lead to the American people demanding an end to the intervention and peace in Syria.

We reached out to many peace organisations in our country to try to get a broad delegation to go. I would be less than honest if I did not say that some did not come because they were fearful of going into a warzone. Others demonstrated a confusion that does exist because of reading the propaganda and the barrage of, unfortunately, the media which gives such a one-sided story. We feel we have that obligation. And it is a tribute to those who went that they overcame those obstacles and agreed to go and, may I point out, paid their own way to go.

– Alfred Marder, President of the US Peace Council [3:00 mins on]

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I think what Alfred said is so true: we are fighting a mass of propaganda that has demonised the Syrian government, demonised its leaders. An effort that precedes every other intervention that the United States has made over the course of many, many decades. In order to convince people that it’s okay for quote-unquote “humanitarian reasons” to overthrow a government, and to replace it with whatever. The United States prefers a government that is not independent, that is a willing participant in whatever US policy is. So what we saw in Damascus and what we saw in the two villages outside Damascus belies the propaganda that has overwhelmed us. It’s hard for even those of us who have been in the peace movement for a long time – it’s hard for us to ignore this propaganda – it is so well-orchestrated.

We spoke to members of industry – the chamber of industry. We spoke to leaders in the student union – the national student union. We spoke with NGOs that are involved with taking care of the orphans of those who have died in this war on both sides. They don’t discriminate. Orphans are orphans: whatever side they were fighting on these young people have to be taken care of. We spoke with an NGO that trains women (who don’t have a skill in sewing) because they lost the breadwinner in their family. We spoke to an NGO where they’re trying to deal with reconciliation and trying to make sure supplies get to the country that is under the control of the terrorists – the mercenaries.

And we make a distinction between opposition – the political opposition with whom we also met – and the terrorists and the mercenaries with whom we did not meet. We met people in Syria who work non-violently to bring about change. We learned of their efforts to bring about change working in opposition to the government, working with the government, but non-violently.

We met with government officials. We met with the Minister of Administration. We met with the Ministry of Health. We met with the Minister of Reconciliation: a whole approach to bringing back those Syrians who have for one reason or another joined the mercenaries and the terrorists. […]

We saw for ourselves the damage that was done to the university. Even while we were there a shell fell into the School of Architecture killing students and faculty. And the students themselves were rebuilding the damage. We saw villages that are basically Christian villages that have been besieged by the terrorists but have now been liberated. And the damage done to a shrine in a village called Maaloula, which is a village where they still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. And the attacks on the Christian population.

One of the things I bring back – there are two things I want to mention finally, that we feel are really important – one is that while the United States would like to divide the Syrians up by religion, or within a religion by the different beliefs within that religion, there wasn’t a Syrian we talked to who would accept that. We spoke to the Grand Mufti and he said people ask me how many Muslims there are in Syria, and his response is always 23 million. That’s the population of Syria. And when we spoke to the bishop of one of the Orthodox churches he answered the same thing. The number of Christians is 23 million. We will not allow ourselves to be divided up the way that the United States has divided up the people of Iraq or Libya or Afghanistan or so many other countries. We won’t allow that. And that unity, I believe, has led to the ability of the Syrians to withstand an invasion by the most powerful country in the world and its most powerful allies in Europe [and] its most powerful allies in the Middle East. With what is a vicious attack on the Syrian people.

The second is the sanctions. I have to admit that I did not know before I went that the United States has imposed sanctions on Syria in a way that’s similar to the sanctions the United States imposed on Iraq in the 1990s, in order to weaken that country and that government, that the United States admits killed 500,000 children in Iraq (during the 1990s sanctions). That set of sanctions means that the Syrian people cannot get medicines that they desperately need, that they cannot get factory parts that they need to maintain their economy, they can’t get infant formula and many other things. Their students cannot go abroad. Their lawyers are separated from the rest of the international legal system because of those sanctions.

These sanctions are not reported in the US media to my knowledge and we need to know about them. These sanctions are another way to weaken the Syrian government and the Syrian state.

— Henry Lowendorf, Member of the Executive Board of the US Peace Council, Head of the Syria Delegation [7:30 mins on]

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I went to Syria because I thought it was important to learn from the Syrian people themselves what was actually happening in Syria because there has not been a focussed enough response by the peace movement in the United States to what’s been going on in Syria.

I can’t add a whole lot to what Henry and Al have said but I want to make this one particular point because I think it’s very important and it gets to the core of everything that’s going on. This is not a civil war in Syria. That’s probably the first thing we heard and we heard it over and over again. It is not President Assad against his own people. It is President Assad and the Syrian people all together in unity against outside forces – outside mercenary forces – terror organisations. And the names change every day, or every other day, to try to protect their identity and maybe keep the connection between the country that funded it and that group a little more nebulous. But there are groups – mercenary forces – supported by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States, and underneath it Israel – the state of Israel. And these outside mercenary forces are the ones that are terrorising the Syrian people and are attempting to divide the Syrian people.

I remember when the US invaded Iraq. Our organisation was against it well before the invasion ever began. But once the invasion was over and the United States was setting up a government we talked to many Iraqis who said: we’re not Sunni and Shia; we’re not Sunni, Shia and Kurds; but the United States is trying to divide us that way. And we got exactly the same message when we were in Syria. We are Syrians. As Henry said before: whether you are Christian, Muslim or other you are Syrian; and that’s one of the things that enabled the Assad government to withstand five-plus years of this kind of outside attack.

When it was time for the US to unseat Saddam Hussein after years of sanctions and two wars, he fell like that [click of fingers]. When it was time the United States decided for Gaddafi to go he fell like that [click of fingers]. But when it was time the United States decided for Assad to go, he did not fall. And why? Because he has the support of 23 million Syrian people – and it was more before all these refugees were created and sent around the world.

The whole idea of regime change – the policy of regime change – is illegal under international law. The United States has no right to do that. The United States has no right to decide for the Syrian people who their government leaders should be. And so during my time there in Syria I felt over and over again “who are we?”, “why are we presuming to know what’s best for the Syrian people?”

And the other part of this that I think the people of United States need to know is that the Assad government provides free healthcare – free universal healthcare to everyone. It’s part of the government’s mission. Free education for everyone from primary school all the way through, even to university and medical school. And when we met with this one particular person from the non-violent opposition, we asked him, well tell us, what are some of your grievances with the Assad government, and he said, well, you just heard that it costs about $50 a year for people going to medical school, we think that’s too high. He was being somewhat facetious, of course, but these are the kinds of policies that our citizens here in the United States are calling for: tuition free college; universal healthcare. So the Assad government is in the business of doing this and providing this to the people. And without a doubt, even the non-violent opposition parties, who had issues with democracy or corruption prior to 2011, everyone has thrown themselves in behind the Assad government because that’s the best hope, the best bet for the Syrian people.

Lastly, I think I want to echo what Henry said, that to a person, people ask that the sanctions be lifted. While we were there someone came and said a certain pharmaceutical company which name I forget at the moment was refusing to send childhood immunisations from the United States to Syria causing great harm to Syrian people. That’s not how this country or any country should act within the world’s community. So the sanctions, as we’ve learned many times, do not hurt the governments they’re intended to hurt, they hurt people – and so, they need to be lifted.

We also heard that the border between Turkey and Syria needs to be closed so that this pipeline of trained groups – terror groups – is blocked, and no more of those groups get into Syria. And finally, that the United States needs to stop supporting some of those outside terror groups. All of the support for the outside terror groups needs to be withdrawn. And allow the Syrians to fend for themselves. The Syrian Arab Army is fighting for its life and fighting for the life of Syria, and we need as a country to acknowledge our role – what we’re doing to cause harm and destruction to the Syrian people – and we need to stop it, and we need to stop it now, and that’s one of the things I’ll be saying over and over again since my return from Syria.

— Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director of New Jersey Peace Action, Member of the Syria Delegation [16:30 mins on]

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I have been a human rights and a peace activist as long as I can remember… I was honoured to be asked to be part of this delegation. […]

As an American citizen it is shameful for me to admit what my government is doing in the sovereign country of Syria. We have no right to impose these illegal sanctions. In fact, these sanctions, allegedly the government says, are against the government of Syria, but in fact, it’s against the people – civil society. People who are attempting to maintain the infrastructure, the healthcare, the safety of all Syrian people. One of the things that stood out to me is not only the lack of medication [but] the fact that Syrian children are dying because they can’t get chemotherapy med[icine] into the country, because of the illegal sanctions that the US and the West has imposed.

Also, they’re not allowing parts and materials to get to businesses who are trying to maintain. And they are trying to maintain for more than one reason – not just to continue to make money, but to employ people. Because when people have no way to earn a living they become desperate. And we know that some of the Syrian people who may have chosen to join the terrorists [did so] mostly for economic reasons, because they couldn’t earn a living. And their benefactors, the US and all the others who are collaborating together to fund this terrorism, are paying people very well to participate in this illegal activity against the Syrian people.

So there are so many ways – subtle ways – that the US sanctions are affecting the Syrians. And when we spoke the business people, they mentioned to us that we are desperately trying to stay in business, we’re desperately trying to keep our people employed, so they don’t become desperate, and they don’t then feel like they have no other choice.

Something else that’s very important is that we did have the opportunity to speak with civil society – not just all of the official organisations. And we met with people who have witnessed, and lived through, and shared their experiences with the mercenaries and explained unspeakable things that I’m not going to go into detail about what those were, but it was very difficult to sit in the presence of someone whose child was assassinated, whose niece was kidnapped and is still missing, whose daughter was raped – kidnapped, raped and then sent back – male and female rapes we heard about.

So this is what the US is financing. This is what the US is backing. And this is not okay. And as a citizen, beyond being a peace and human rights activist, I will not be silent about what I learned, and we have to take responsibility for what’s happening in this country, and the lack of morality when it comes to our foreign policy, and what we are doing elsewhere.

I do want to say that we had almost a two hour meeting with President Assad which we were all very grateful for. After listening to all the voices of civil society groups and officials that we met with, if you think about it, it makes no sense what the US and western media is reporting. It makes no sense that Assad, who is trying to maintain the infrastructure and look toward the future for the Syrian people, would be the one destroying hospitals, and all these places that the US media and western media is saying he is the one responsible for destroying. Just doesn’t make sense. He is interested in the future for Syria. He told us flat out, when this is over with we can have another election, [and] if they don’t want me, they don’t want me, that’s fine. But for now, I have been elected to lead this country and that is what I will do.

The last piece I want to talk about is, you know, having been a student and scholar of restorative and transitional justice for many years, I was really very, very impressed and excited about the fact that they have a Ministry of Reconciliation. That even in the middle of the trauma that Syrian people are involved with at this point, they are looking towards the future and they are dealing with people in a restorative and healing way already. So if some Syrian citizen has joined the mercenaries and if they put down their arms, they are welcomed back into Syrian society. They are fed and their families are fed and restorative justice techniques are being used so that you don’t have a group of Syrians now who are feeling outside of society. So everything I have said, I will continue to say and I will continue to share with other people. And I feel now, since I have been there, we are now capable of sharing truth that unfortunately our media has not been offering the world, and we intend not to be silent from here forward.

— Donna Nassor, Professor and Lawyer also part of US Peace Council [23:30 mins on]

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I am reminded of the famous comment by the American writer Mark Twain who once said that it’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble, what gets us into trouble is what we think we know for sure that just ain’t so. And that’s what I think of when I think of my fellow Americans and what they know about Syria – and what they think they know about the war and the Syrian government and the Syrian leadership. What they think they know, just ain’t so. So we have to take that on, because we’re getting into trouble.

Our delegation came to Syria with political views and assumptions, but we were determined to be sceptics, and to doubt everything – meet everyone we could – and to confirm or disconfirm received opinion, conventional wisdom, and to follow the facts wherever they led us. I concluded a number of things from the trip: I won’t go over things that my colleagues have already mentioned.

The motive, in my opinion, of the US war is to destroy an independent Arab secular state. It’s the last secular Arab state standing, and it wants a client regime like Libya, like Iraq, like a number of other countries you could mention. The US hostility to independent Syria long precedes 2011, the beginning of the war.

US, I concluded, claims to be against ISIS, but yet has been loathed to fight a really consistent fight against terrorism. Certain privileged groups such as the al-Nusra Front – the names shift – are called ‘moderate rebels’ because they fight the Syrian government, and the US wants that. They are not moderate: they beheaded a twelve year-old boy when we were there – we saw it on youtube and on TV.

The motives of the US proxy states are somewhat different: sectarian motives and regional power rivalries affect Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Wahhabist ideology, the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, is a sick, medieval, backward ideology, it drives the Saudi state, it motivates that state to finance this war, and Damascus by contrast promotes a socially inclusive and pluralistic form of Islam – and we met the leaders of that form of Islam and they are humane and democratic-minded people, and have every reason to join with the American people in stopping this insane support for Wahhabism, which is behind so much terrorism in the world.

Those of my fellow countrymen who are dogmatic about Assad demonisation are not going to like what I have to say now, which is that the Syrian government is popular and for that reason it is winning the war. The battle for Aleppo will probably be decided soon – relatively soon – and may be the last hurrah, in my opinion, of the foreign mercenaries. The president is popular. His government is recognised as legitimate by the UN. It contests and wins elections. The elections are monitored. There’s a parliament which contains opposition parties – we met them. There is a significant non-violent opposition, which is trying to work constructively for its own social vision. Some of it is inside the government, which in effect is a government of national unity; some of it is in the parliament – we met them. The Minister of Reconciliation deals directly with armed groups, and he’s an opposition leader.

So let me conclude. The US policy on Syria regime change is not wrong in its details, it is wrong in its fundamentals. It is wrong, root and branch. It violates the UN Charter. It violates international law. The US is bombing parts of Syria without the consent of legitimate government – that violates international law. The sanctions violate international law. […]

I think, out of our trip flows certain tasks. I think it is the task of the US anti-war movement to unite around a different vision than what it has united around thus far. Thus far it has united around a feeble vision that is partly false: that partly accepts the dominant State Department, corporate media narrative. We must directly and forthrightly challenge US policy if we are to shift US public opinion. Some organisations alas buy into the dominant mainstream media narrative. They have not covered themselves in glory by so doing.

This is a dangerous moment. Without mentioning names, apparently the leading candidate for president is surrounded by military advisors who are talking about ‘no-fly zones’, which means air-war against the Syrian airforce and the Russians, or ‘boots on the ground’ which means US invasion. If we’re not frightened by that talk, we should be (frightened by that talk). This is a dangerous moment. We have to change the basic US policy, we need a different anti-war movement, and we must begin to shift US public opinion.

— Joe Jamison, Member of the Executive Board of the US Peace Council, Member of the Syria Delegation [30:00 mins on]

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Widely attributed although unsourced.

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Filed under al-Qaeda & DAESH / ISIS / ISIL, analysis & opinion, Syria

marking the 15th anniversary of 9/11, the BBC assists the relaunch of al-Qaeda

On the fifteen anniversary of 9/11, last night’s BBC Newsnight [Monday 12th] featured “an exclusive interview” with a member of a Salafist terrorist faction which a mere forty days prior was officially affiliated to al-Qaeda.

Mostafa Mahamed, puffed up as “Director of Foreign Media Relations” for Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), a rebranding of the al-Qaeda in Syria terrorist faction formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, was afforded uninterrupted airtime to claim that aside from no longer being any part of al-Qaeda, his terrorist militia is “deeply embedded in [Syrian] society and cannot be singled out in any way”. Put another way, he is saying “we are the moderates”.

[Note that: after I posted this article, BBC uploaded the report on the Newsnight youtube channel — I have therefore decided to include it in an update at the end of the article.]

Reminiscent of the sudden appearance of ISIL, soon after renamed ISIS and then DAESH, JFS are just the latest al-Qaeda franchise. Except that once ISIS had splintered from al-Qaeda, they were immediately decried as the terrorist bad boys – the worst of the worst – a portrait that took a little of the heat away from remnant factions of al-Qaeda, including allied ‘rebels’ Jabhat al-Nusra, thereby enabling some in the West to recast them in a comparatively better light. This time, however, JFS – who have been loyal al-Qaeda affiliates until July 28th – are seeking to jettison the terrorist label altogether, albeit with nothing more substantial than a name change:

The name change was announced by al-Nusra Front leader Abu Mohamed al-Jolani in a debut video appearance.

“We have stopped operating under the name of al-Nusra Front and formed a new body … This new formation has no ties with any foreign party,” he said, giving the group’s new name as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham – the front for the liberation of al-Sham, the historical Arabic name for the Levantine region. […]

While committing Jabhat Fateh al-Sham to continuing the fight against the Assad regime and its backers, Jolani made no mention of a change of ideology or approach and said he remained committed to implementing Islamic law. The apparently amicable split with al-Qaida would suggest no substantive change has taken place. 1

[bold emphasis added]

Click here to read the full report by the Guardian published on July 28th.

Back on BBC Newsnight, and following on from Mahamed’s more or less untrammelled JFS promo, the same report continued as follows:

“JFS have concentrated on attacking the Assad regime, but some in western security establishments say despite the official break they’re still al-Qaeda. Still a danger. Something their spokesman [Mahamed] denies.”

This self-questioning caveat, evidently inserted to maintain the pretence of impartiality, cleared the way for further seeds to be planted. Over again to JFS ‘spokesman’ Mahamed:

“We’ve been extremely clear about our split, but I’ll say it again. JFS is not an affiliate of al-Qaeda. We’re a completely independent body working to establish the common goal of the revolutionary forces in Syria.”

Not to be outdone, we also heard from Michael Stephens of RUSI who told Newsnight:

“[JFS] is seen as a Syrian movement. It’s seen as standing up for Syrians and fighting the regime… and so it makes no sense to peel away from them because actually what you’re doing is weakening your own position by doing that.”

But then, Stephens is echoing the opinion of RUSI’s Senior Vice President, General (Ret’d) David Petraeus, who last year publicly advocated the arming of members of the al-Nusra Front [A report can be found from August 31st in The Daily Beast].

As Trevor Timm writing for the Guardian asked at the time, “Could there be a more dangerous and crazy idea?”

Let’s put aside for a second that there’s not much difference between arming al-Nusra and arming “some individual fighters, and perhaps some elements, within Nusra.” How the US can possibly “peel off” fighters from a terrorist group is a complete mystery. In Iraq – Petraeus is apparently using part of the largely failed Iraq “surge” as his blueprint here – he convinced some Sunni tribes to switch sides temporarily, but that was with over 100,000 US troops on the ground to do the convincing. Does Petraeus think we should invade Syria to accomplish the same feat? […]

Petraeus is likely not the only one who thinks this plan to work with and arm members of the al-Nusra front is a good idea. There are probably many faceless officials and spooks who are pushing the same agenda in Washington, but Petraeus is the only one with enough clout to go ahead and say it out loud (since we already know he is above the law). Now you can expect a bunch of fresh hot takes explaining how Petraeus is right and we should be arming al-Qaida. 2

Click here to read an earlier post about RUSI that includes more on David Petraeus’ involvement with the organisation.

And what about 9/11? The justification for war in Afghanistan had been to hunt down and destroy the terrorists. But 9/11 also served as the original if somewhat discarded pretext for the war on Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam. In actuality, 9/11 ignited all of the wars under the expanded guise of that initial and ongoing “war on terror”.

The territory gained by the various al-Qaeda affiliates is a direct consequence of those wars. Having moved into Iraq, they spread out again into Syria. Funded by the Gulf States, many others have been covertly armed and trained by the West throughout the so-called Syrian civil war. In Libya, meantime, Nato provided air cover to affiliated factions of extremists in their bid to oust Gaddafi. Whilst the preferred route into Syria for the terrorists has mainly been across the porous border from Nato member Turkey. The West’s “war on terror” is riddled with such blatant contradictions.

In short, all of these Islamist factions, very much including ISIS and al-Nusra (now JFS), are small but grotesque outgrowths of the legacy of 9/11 and the neo-imperialist adventuring that singular atrocity had prepared the way for.

Here, however, is what the rather clean-cut spokesman for JFS had to say in reply to the BBC’s question:

“As for 9/11, that happened fifteen years ago, and is completely irrelevant to what is happening in Syria today.”

And indeed, fifteen years on, the BBC backs this entirely false claim by providing a platform for furthering the spread of terrorism in the name of ‘revolution’.

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Update:

This curtailed version of the Newsnight report was uploaded on Sept 15th with the following notes:

One of the biggest challenges facing the ceasefire in Syria is the treatment of jihadist group Jabhat Fateh al Sham — who have been excluded from the deal. Secunder Kermani reports.

Newsnight has an exclusive interview with one of Fath al Sham’s leading figures.

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1 From an article entitled “Al-Nusra Front cuts ties with al-Qaida and renames itself” written by Martin Chulov, published in the Guardian on July 28, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/28/al-qaida-syria-nusra-split-terror-network

2 From an article entitled “David Petraeus’ bright idea: give terrorists weapons to beat terrorists” written by Trevor Timm, published in the Guardian on September 2, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/02/david-petraeus-bright-idea-give-terrorists-weapons-to-beat-isis

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two little boys in Aleppo and what the corporate media don’t want you to see

Images of little Omran Daqneesh dazed and covered in dust and blood reminded us again of the horrors of war, however the mainstream media outlets who featured the video as their headline story, told us very little about its source, a man named Mahmoud Raslan (also Rslan). Had they dug just a little deeper, they would have quickly uncovered something immeasurably more horrific and sinister.

Here is Mahmoud Raslan standing in front of a tank captured by ‘the rebels’ in the Ramouseh district of Aleppo:

 

Below we find Raslan featured within a montage of four images. Top left, he is again the main subject of a selfie but standing in front of a different group of ‘rebel’ fighters taken from his Facebook page – these same friends are also seen in the adjacent image with arrows indicating who is who (I will come back to that in a moment). Bottom left, we find Raslan wearing his distinctive blue and white shirt, as he is in the accompanying photo (bottom right) which reveals him in the act of filming little Omran Daqneesh.

Now let’s return to the image above again (top right) which is a single frame captured from a ‘rebel’ video. It shows Raslan’s friends sitting in the back of a truck next to another little boy (his face blanked). This second boy is a 12 year old Palestinian child named Abdullah Tayseer Al Issa. Abdullah is about to be slowly decapitated with a knife. 1 The perpetrators of this sickening crime are the CIA-backed Nour al-Din al-Zinki Movement, a faction affiliated to the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA). 2

As a report by offGuardian explains:

So, the alleged event the MSM are doing their best to make a catalyst for more Western intervention in Syria, was filmed by friends of al Nusra, and its chief witness seems to be an associate of the worst and most depraved murderers in the region.

Is there any independent confirmation that this video [of Omran Daqneesh] is showing what it claims to show? Do we positively know the little boy was hurt by a bomb and not by any of his handlers?

Maybe those misguided people currently chiding and insulting us for daring to question the video should turn their attention to the real issues here. The boy in the video is fortunately alive. The one beheaded by Mahmoud Raslan’s chums is not. If your outrage is real and not feigned – turn it where it deserves to be. 3

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Additional:

The Canary also reported on the “brutal skeletons” in Mahmoud Raslan’s closet with further disturbing evidence taken from his Facebook page that reads [translated by The Canary]:

“With the suicide fighters, from the land of battles and butchery, from Aleppo of the martyrs, we bring you tidings of impending joy, with God’s permission”

And:

“Thousands of suicide fighters and tens of booby-traps are being prepared for the great battle in Aleppo, the first battle where I see men weeping because they can’t participate on account of the number of attackers.” 4

Click here to read the full report.

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 1 Warning: The video embedded below is by Mimi Al Laham (Syrian Girl). It carefully puts all the pieces of the story together, however, it also contains scenes so disturbing [from 5:30 on] that I cannot even bring myself to watch it in full:

2

The men in the first video say he [little Abdullah] is a fighter from Liwa al-Quds (the Jerusalem Brigade), a Palestinian pro-government militia operating in the Aleppo area.

Enab Baladi, a pro-opposition news website, said the boy was captured in Handarat by members of a local rebel group, the Nour al-Din al-Zinki Movement.

It quoted Yasser Ibrahim Youssef, a member of the group’s political bureau, as saying on Facebook that an independent judicial commission had been appointed to investigate the incident. Anyone proven to have been involved in any violations would be referred to military justice, he added.

A legal adviser for the Western-backed Free Syrian Army was also cited by Enab Baladi as saying it would hold to account those responsible for such a violation. […]

A report published by the human rights group Amnesty International earlier this month detailed a series of violations allegedly committed by Nour al-Din al-Zinki Movement fighters, including abductions and torture.

The group is reported to have benefited from financial and military support from the US, UK, France, Turkey, Qatar and other Gulf Arab states in the past.

From a BBC news report entitled “Syria conflict: Rebels ‘filmed beheading boy’ in Aleppo” published on July 19, 2016. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-36835678

3 From an article entitled “An ID for ‘Mahmoud Raslan’” published by offGuardian on August 19, 2016. https://off-guardian.org/2016/08/19/an-id-for-mahmoud-raslan/ 

4 From an article entitled “The man behind the viral ‘boy in the ambulance’ image has brutal skeletons in his own closet”, written by Brad Hoff,  published in The Canary on August 19, 2016. http://www.thecanary.co/2016/08/19/the-man-behind-the-viral-boy-in-the-ambulance-image-has-brutal-skeletons-in-his-own-closet-images/ 

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stop the White Helmets winning the Nobel Peace Prize

The White Helmets, or Syria’s ‘Civil Defense Units’, present themselves as fully independent, non-governmental, non-partisan humanitarian organisation, who risk their lives to help save all victims of the Syrian War irrespective of religion and political affiliation. It is an image that is made all the more immaculate thanks to a very artful and expensive PR campaign. Beneath the gloss, however, a catalogue of evidence shows the White Helmets in an altogether different light.

As I wrote in an earlier extended post  in which I examined the PR lies that infest the Syrian debate, the origins of the White Helmets trace back to British “security specialist” James Le Mesurier. Close-up inspection of the organisation also reveals affiliation to a variety of aligned terrorist factions including Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra (aka al-Qaeda in Syria). Evidence of such ties can be found posted across social media by White Helmet members themselves. Furthermore, far from being independent, White Helmets are known to have received $23 million from USAID, €4 million from the Dutch government and multiple millions more from our own Foreign and Commonwealth Office.*

Activist and journalist Vanessa Beeley has been in the vanguard of exposing the White Helmets. On Thursday [May 19th], she presented a sample of evidence exposing the organisation in a short interview with Mike Robinson broadcast by UK Column and embedded below:

Click here to sign the change.org petition calling for the White Helmets to not be awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

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*

QUESTION: Do you know – I understand about the White Helmets. Do you know who finances them, how they operate, who are they supported by, what kind of organization they have? How do you get your information from them and so on?

MR TONER: Well – well, I can say we provide them with —

QUESTION: We – you do know a little bit.

MR TONER: Well, I can tell you that we provide, through USAID, about $23 million in assistance to them.

Transcript from daily briefing April 27, 2016 published by US State Department. Note that Mark C. Toner is Deputy Spokesperson.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2016/04/256667.htm

Foreign minister Bert Koenders is providing €4 million over the next two years to support Syria’s White Helmets, a group of volunteer rescue workers. ‘These heroic people risk life and limb to pull victims from the rubble following airstrikes,’ he said on Thursday. ‘They are a beacon of light in a very dark and complex situation, a shining example of human good, and they deserve our support.’

From Government of the Netherlands official website, published December 3, 2015 https://www.government.nl/latest/news/2015/12/03/dutch-support-for-syrian-rescue-workers

Since the start of the revolution, the UK has been at the forefront of providing the moderate opposition with practical and political support. This year we have provided more than £20 million in support to save lives and provide services to the Syrian population. This support includes training and equipping civil defence teams to carry out fire fighting and search and rescue; training over 300 Syrian journalists and activists helping to develop an independent Syrian media; funding local level peace-building projects within Syria and between communities in neighbouring countries where refugees are based.

From “2010 to 2015 government policy: peace and stability in the Middle East and North Africa – GOV.UK”, Appendix 6: “the crisis in Syria”

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2010-to-2015-government-policy-peace-and-stability-in-the-middle-east-and-north-africa/2010-to-2015-government-policy-peace-and-stability-in-the-middle-east-and-north-africa

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anti-Zionism ≠ antisemitism: Jewish voices against the pro-Israel witch hunt

Ask yourself a simple, but serious, question. You go for a job interview. Which trait is most likely to work against you: if you’re ugly, if you’re fat, if you’re short, or if you’re Jewish? It’s perhaps a sad commentary on our society’s values, but the trait most likely to elicit a rejection letter is if you’re ugly. Then fat; then short. The factor least likely to work against you is, if you’re Jewish.

says American Jewish scholar Norman Finkelstein.

Finkelstein, who is the son of holocaust survivors, a leading authority on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and a fierce opponent of Zionism, was replying to questions about Labour’s alleged “antisemitism problem”. Asked about the current campaign against Corbyn, he continued:

The question you have to ask yourself is, why? Why has this issue been resurrected with a vengeance, so soon after its previous outing was disposed of as a farce? Is it because of a handful of allegedly antisemitic social media postings from Labour members? Is it because of the tongue-in-cheek map posted by Naz Shah? That’s not believable. The only plausible answer is, it’s political. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the factual situation; instead, a few suspect cases of antisemitism – some real, some contrived – are being exploited for an ulterior political motive. As one senior Labour MP said the other day, it’s transparently a smear campaign.

Finkelstein has chosen to break his silence on this latest pro-Israel witch hunt by giving an interview to Jamie Stern-Weiner. A transcript published May 3rd is available here.

He concludes the interview as follows:

Labour has now set up an inquiry that is supposed to produce a workable definition of ‘antisemitism’ – which is to say, to achieve the impossible. It’s been tried countless times before, and it’s always proven futile. The only beneficiaries of such a mandate will be academic ‘specialists’ on antisemitism, who will receive hefty consultancy fees (I can already see Richard Evans at the head of the queue), and Israel, which will no longer be in the spotlight. I understand the short-term political rationale. But at some point, you have to say, ‘enough already’. Jews are prospering as never before in the UK. The polls show that the number of, so to speak, hard-core antisemites is miniscule. It’s time to put a stop to this periodic charade, because it ends up besmirching the victims of the Nazi holocaust, diverting from the real suffering of the Palestinian people, and poisoning relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities. You just had an antisemitism hysteria last year, and it was a farce. And now again? Another inquiry? Another investigation? No.

In order to put an end to this, there has to be a decisive repudiation of this political blackmail. Bernie Sanders was brutally pressured to back down on his claim that Israel had used disproportionate force during its 2014 assault on Gaza. He wouldn’t budge, he wouldn’t retreat. He showed real backbone. Corbyn should take heart and inspiration from Bernie’s example. He has to say: no more reports, no more investigations, we’re not going there any more. The game is up. It’s long past time that these antisemitism-mongers crawled back into their sewer – but not before humbly apologising to Naz Shah, and begging her forgiveness.

It is true that Bernie Sanders’ response is an exemplary one, but we should of course bear in mind that he is a Jewish candidate. This provides immunity (at least to some extent – though not entirely as we shall see) from spurious charges of antisemitism.

Incidentally, the published interview was afterwards appended with the following clarification:

Readers have expressed shock at the scandalous remarks attributed to Jonathan Freedland. Finkelstein decided to amend the paragraph so as to quote Freedland word-for-word. Readers will now perhaps be even more shocked.

Here’s what Finkelstein said that caused such a furore:

You can see this overlap between the Labour Right and pro-Israel groups personified in individuals like Jonathan Freedland, a Blairite hack who also regularly plays the antisemitism card. He’s combined these two hobbies to attack Corbyn. Incidentally, when my book, The Holocaust Industry, came out in 2000, Freedland wrote that I was ‘closer to the people who created the Holocaust than to those who suffered in it’. Although he appears to be, oh, so politically correct now, he didn’t find it inappropriate to suggest that I resembled the Nazis who gassed my family.

We appeared on a television program together. Before the program, he approached me to shake my hand. When I refused, he reacted in stunned silence. Why wouldn’t I shake his hand? He couldn’t comprehend it. It tells you something about these dull-witted creeps. The smears, the slanders – for them, it’s all in a day’s work. Why should anyone get agitated? Later, on the program, it was pointed out that the Guardian, where he worked, had serialised The Holocaust Industry across two issues. He was asked by the presenter, if my book was the equivalent of Mein Kampf, would he resign from the paper? Of course not. Didn’t the presenter get that it’s all a game?

Click here to read the full transcript of Finkelstein’s scathing rebuke of all accusations of latent racism within the Labour Party, including those levelled at Ken Livingstone.

*

Naz Shah has been hung out to dry today. She has confessed, recanted and repented. Her shame is absolute. She has had the Labour Party whip withdrawn and people like the rapidly moving rightwards airhead, Owen Jones, was in the vanguard of the witch hunt calling for her suspension John McDonnell was right to swiftly force Naz Shah’s resignation – but now the party has to suspend her. All we need is the scaffold and then she could literally be hung out to dry.

writes founding member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Britain and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, Tony Greenstein, who has also written a number of articles for the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’, before “being censored because he rejected the idea that comparing Zionism and the Israeli State to the Nazis was anti-Semitic.”

Greenstein continues:

Indeed Naz Shah has confessed to her comments being anti-Semitic. Isn’t that enough proof? No. The defendants in the Stalin purge trials also confessed to being Trotsky’s agents and more. It is perfectly possible to create a psychological atmosphere such that people will confess to all manner of things, even though they are not guilty. Police interrogators have, throughout the years, been quite skilled in obtaining false confessions without the need to beat people up or torture them.

So let me say it here – there is nothing anti-Semitic in what Naz Shah has said. She made what was quite a flippant humorous joke in the midst of something that was anything but funny – the merciless use of American planes, white phosphorous and the most modern missiles and rocket technology against a people who had nothing except pea crackers to fire back with (the ‘rockets’ that Israel used as a pretext for the bombardment and invasion). Let us not forget that 2,200 people were murdered in Gaza including 551 ‘terrorist’ children.

He adds:

The anti-Semitism talked about today is nothing more than an attempt to defend Israel. It has nothing to do with actual anti-Semitism. Zionists (no it’s not a term of abuse it means those who defend the State of Israel – they do after all have a World Zionist Organisation) find it difficult to defend incarceration and torture of children as young as 12 (if they are Palestinian). Jewish children of course can’t be locked up unless they are at least 14 and they have social workers and parents accompanying them unlike Palestinian children who are kept in solitary confinement, beaten and worse. It is difficult defending a system where 93% of Israeli land is reserved wholly for Jewish use. It is much better to cry ‘anti-Semitism’ and attack the messenger rather than the message.

What is happening is that the millions of pounds that the Israeli government has devoted to propaganda is being spent now to destabilise Jeremy Corbyn and the new Labour leadership.  They are hunting down every tweet, email etc. in order to create an atmosphere of permanent instability. I know because tweets I have issued have been taken totally out of context to suggest I am anti-Semitic. If someone calls me a ‘self-hater’anti-Semite’ etc. I will accuse them of being ‘zio scum’ or whatever. Anti-Semitic? Get a life.

Greenstein is another to have been caught up in the recent witch hunt, when he was prominently featured in an article published by The Telegraph on April 1st entitled “Activist who derides critics as ‘Zionist scum’ admitted to Labour in latest anti-Semitism scandal to hit the Party”. The piece very studiously avoids any mention of the rather glaring fact that Greenstein is from an Orthodox Jewish family, although at the end a clarification has since been added that “we have been asked to make clear that we had not intended to imply that Tony Greenstein is anti-Semitic. We are happy to do so.”

Click here to read more from Tony Greenstein’s extended piece entitled “Naz Shah – More False Allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ – British Jews are NOT oppressed: This is a Bogus Campaign Worthy of Stalin’s Purges”

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As the witch hunt gathered pace, the Jewish Socialists’ Group issued a formal statement. Thanks to social networking forums it quickly gathered a sizeable audience across the internet. However the corporate media turned an immediate blind eye instead.

I recommend reading the full statement, but here is a flavour:

Accusations of antisemitism are currently being weaponised to attack the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party with claims that Labour has a “problem” of antisemitism. This is despite Corbyn’s longstanding record of actively opposing fascism and all forms of racism, and being a firm a supporter of the rights of refugees and of human rights globally. […]

The attack is coming from four main sources, who share agendas: to undermine Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Labour; to defend Israeli government policy from attack, however unjust, racist and harmful towards the Palestinian people; and to discredit those who make legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy or Zionism as a political ideology. As anti-racist and anti-fascist Jews who are also campaigning for peace with justice between Israelis and Palestinians, we entirely reject these cynical agendas that are being expressed by:

  • The Conservative Party
  • Conservative-supporting media in Britain and pro-Zionist Israeli media sources
  • Right-wing and pro-Zionist elements claiming to speak on behalf of the Jewish community
  • Opponents of Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour party.

[…]

The Jewish Socialists’ Group sees the current fearmongering about antisemitism in the Labour Party for what it is – a conscious and concerted effort by right-wing political forces to undermine the growing support among Jews and non-Jews alike for the Labour Party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and a measure of the desperation of his opponents.

We stand against antisemitism, against racism and fascism and in support of refugees. We stand for free speech and open debate on Israel, Palestine and Zionism.

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Concluding remarks:

Back in March, as the current witch hunt was just brewing, I posted an extended article entitled “anti-Zionism ≠ antisemitism: playing the race card cannot diguise Israel’s guilt”. As an epigraph, I quoted a dictionary definition of the word ‘racism’. My idea was to encourage readers to reflect on the strict meaning of the word so as to reach an appreciation that this has significantly drifted and, more importantly, been diluted.

On reflection the use of such a device was gauche and may have appeared sententious, although in light of what has since transpired my concern was surely a justifiable one. Indeed, the need to reclaim the word ‘racism’ is becoming an urgent one. Casually brandished by those whose sole purpose is to blacken the name of their opponents, its proper meaning is cheapened. This is an exceedingly dangerous game. For words very often act as safeguards against the gravest of our errors: ‘racism’ serves as just such a safeguard. We undermine its correct meaning at our collective peril.

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Update:

Jackie Walker, Vice Chair of the grassroots movement Momentum that helped Jeremy Corbyn become party leader, is another Labour activist who was suspended over alleged antisemitic comments posted on social media.

Walker, who is a black activist of Jewish heritage and lifelong anti-racist campaigner as well as a signatory to Jews For Justice For Palestinians was interviewed by Afshin Rattansi on RT’s Going Underground on March 21st:

 

On May 21st, Walker was invited back on the show to speak about the charge of antisemitism against her and how the suspension has affected her life:

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summary execution in Hebron: Israel denies charge that it carries out routine extra-judicial killings

The video below was shot in Hebron on Thursday [March 24th] by Israel’s B’Tselem human rights group. The footage is graphic (although details are intentionally blurred out) and shows an IDF soldier executing wounded and incapacitated Palestinian suspect, Abed al-Fatah al-Sharif, from point blank range and then, no less shocking, fellow Israeli soldiers and medics ignoring the incident and carrying on as though nothing happened:

“Today, we have the proof, the actual video of the soldier shooting the Palestinian youth in the head after he was shot and wounded and laying on the ground,” said Hisham Sharabati of Al Haq, a Palestinian human-rights group. “Now we will wait and see if the Israeli soldier will be prosecuted for his actions.”

Sarit Michaeli, a spokeswoman for the Israeli rights organization B’tselem, said she thought that prosecution was unlikely, based on past experience. She said that for her, “the most shocking thing about the video, aside from the action of the soldiers, is the callous indifference of the soldiers and officers and members of security forces around him.”

Ms. Michaeli blamed “the public climate in Israel,” with “virtually every politician condoning the notion” that Palestinian attackers should be killed. “You cannot but have an impact on the soldiers on the ground,” she said.

Ms. Michaeli said there were suspicions in at least 12 other cases of Israeli soldiers using disproportionate force to kill Palestinian attackers.

Click here to read more of the same report in The New York Times published on March 24th.

“I state here that this soldier is not a murderer, and that prosecution on a murder clause would be a total loss of control,” Bennett told Israel Radio in remarks echoed by other ministers, including from Netanyahu’s rightist Likud.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the far-right Jewish Home party in the coalition government, cautioned against murder charges. Israeli media said Bennett sparred with Netanyahu over the issue at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

The Hebron incident brought to the boil a debate in Israel over whether excessive force has been used against Palestinian assailants. Palestinian leaders have accused the Israelis of routine extra-judicial killings – a charge that Israel denies.

According to Army Radio, the soldier arrived on the scene after other troops determined the Palestinian no longer posed any danger, and twice told comrades he “deserves to die”.

The infantryman’s family said he had feared the Palestinian might set off a hidden bomb. Supporters circulated an online petition demanding that he be decorated for bravery.

“I state here that this soldier is not a murderer, and that prosecution on a murder clause would be a total loss of control,” Bennett told Israel Radio in remarks echoed by other ministers, including from Netanyahu’s rightist Likud.

[all bold highlights added]

Click here to read more from Reuters report published March 27th.

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Update:

“Whether he made a mistake or not, is a trivial question,” said an Israeli Jewish man who joined large protests throughout Israel in support of a soldier who calmly, and with precision, killed a wounded Palestinian man in al-Khalil (Hebron). The protesting Jewish man described Palestinians as ‘barbaric’, ‘bestial’, who should not be perceived as people.

This is hardly a fringe view in Israel. The vast majority of Israelis, 68%, support the killing of Abdel Fatah Yusri al-Sharif, 21, by the solider [sic] who had reportedly announced before firing at the wounded Palestinian that the “terrorist had to die.”

writes Ramzy Baroud in an article entitled “The Logic of Murder in Israel: A Culture of Impunity in Full View of the Entire World” published by Counterpunch on April 14th. Baroud continues:

Killing Palestinians as a form of religious duty goes back to the early days of the Jewish state, and such beliefs are constantly corroborated by the country’s high spiritual institutions, similar to the recent decree issued by the country’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef. While 94% of ultra-Orthodox agree with the murder edict of Yosef, 52% of the country’s secularists do, too.

In fact, dehumanizing Palestinians – describing them as ‘beasts’, ‘cockroaches’, or treating them as dispensable inferiors – has historically been a common denominator in Israeli society, uniting Jews from various political, ideological and religious backgrounds.

Rabbi Yosef’s decree, for example, is not much different from statements made by Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, and other army and government official, who made similar calls, albeit without utilizing a strongly worded religious discourse.

Using the same logic, the quote above describing Palestinians as beasts is not divergent from a recent statement made by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. “At the end, in the State of Israel, as I see it, there will be a fence that spans it all,” Netanyahu said in February. “In the area that we live, we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts,” he added.

Ramzy Baroud concludes the piece:

In case one is still fooled by the ‘rational’ argument used to justify the murder of militarily occupied, oppressed and besieged Palestinians, Batzalel Smotrich, from the Jewish Home Party, which is part of Netanyhu’s ruling coalition, protested via twitter that his wife was expected to give birth in the same hospital room where Arab babies are born.

His written ‘rationale’, after declaring that his wife “is not a racist’, “It’s natural that my wife wouldn’t want to lie next to someone whose baby son might want to murder my son.”

The likes of Smotrich, and the majority of Israelis are morally blind to their own wrongdoing. They have long been sold on the idea that Israel, despite its brutality is a ‘villa in the jungle’. According to a recent Pew survey, nearly half of Israelis want to expel Palestinians Arabs – Muslims and Christians, from their ancestral homeland.

The danger of impunity is not merely the lack of legal accountability, but the fact that it is the very foundation of most violent crimes against humanity, including genocide.

This impunity began seven decades ago and it will not end without international intervention, with concerted efforts to hold Israel accountable in order to bring the agony of Palestinians to a halt.

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