Palestine Post 20

No. 20: A special issue on Israel’s interference in Britain’s internal affairs, February 2017

We recently submitted a motion on Palestine to the Party’s Federal Conference Committee (FCC), signed by 76 members, to be debated at the York conference.   Having engaged in a long period of dialogue with the Party hierarchy and having done all it wanted, we were confident that the motion would be accepted, but it was in fact rejected on the grounds of lack of time

However, we believe that the growing influence of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFI) within the Party hierarchy has played an important role in this decision.  We mention this by way of an introduction to this special issue that discusses the role of the pro-Israel lobby within the UK.  

We guarantee you a most informative read.    The Newsletter contains six sections, the last of which on page 9, poses some searching questions about the implications for the Country and the Lib Dem Party, suggesting that both need to come off the fence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Failing that, we shall remain part of the problem, not the solution.

Undercover Al-Jazeera sting produces a smoking gun

If you wish to understand the scandalous way in which Israel interferes in our politics and wrecks the career of British politicians who criticise it, we strongly recommend you turn to page 3, and also watch the ground-breaking Al-Jazeera documentary: The Lobby

The most outrageous finding of this investigation was a plot to take down the Deputy Foreign Secretary, Sir Alan Duncan.

Israel’s key objective is to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which has been gaining strength worldwide, and undermine Jeremy Corbyn who has championed it.  Al-Jazeera gained deep insights into the way it is doing this.  Turn to page 4 for more information on this.

DISTORTED NEWS used to defame Baroness Tonge

Three LDFP members were at a House of Lords meeting on October 25th.  The Times and other newspapers disgracefully misreported the event, smearing Tonge and causing her to be unfairly suspended from the Lib Dems.  Turn to page 5 for more information.

Abortive attempt to produce a combined LDFP/LDFI motion for the York Conference

When LDFP sought to present its own motion for a second year in succession, the Party leadership pressed it to produce a combined motion with the Liberal Democrats Friends of Israel (LDFI).  As explained on page 6, the shot-gun marriage failed and there is to be no motion.  But why was it necessary to produce a combined motion?

Redefining the term anti-Semitism

The pro-Israeli lobby has succeeded in getting HMG to endorse a biased definition of anti-Semitism that will result in much legitimate criticism of Israel being unfairly labelled anti-Semitic.  Turn to page 7 for more information.

The international lobby network

On page 7 we show that the British Israel lobby is part of a wider international network centred in Tel Aviv, and that builds on a long history of misleading propaganda going back to the 1940s.

Some important questions

What does all this teach us?

We think that these experiences pose some important questions for ourselves in the UK and for the Lib Dem Party itself.

Those questions can be found on page 9.

If you have any questions or comments, please send them to

LDFP exists to fight for the rights of the Palestinian people through the medium of the Liberal Democrat Party. For a full articulation of our position, see

Undercover Al-Jazeera sting produces a smoking gun

If you wish to understand the way Israel seeks to manage its affairs in the UK, we strongly recommend watching the recently released Al-Jazeera documentary, which is based on an under-cover investigation, and consists of four 25 minute episodes[1]. It shows:

  • A senior official at the Israeli Embassy (Shai Masot) discussing with a British civil servant (Maria Strizzolo) a plan to take down the Deputy Foreign Minister, Sir Alan Duncan. The Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt is also on the hit list. Both Duncan and Blunt consider Israel a legitimate state, but have been critical of its policies.
  • The Embassy setting up and assisting (with finance and information) front organisations to promote Israeli government thinking at all levels of British politics. This is having a significant pay-off in terms of policies favourable to Israel.
  • The Lobby instigating bogus ‘anti-Semitism’ allegations with the aim of destabilising the Corbyn leadership of the Labour Party, and similarly attacking the Chair of National Union of Students (NUS), Malia Bouattia.
  • That the very powerful American pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC is also active in the UK, with the reported aim of getting the UK to behave more like the US than Europe over Israel. It is channelling funds to British campuses through an organisation called the ‘Pinsker Centre’, and setting up a ‘City Friends of Israel’ with the assistance of wealthy donors[2].

We were already aware of much of this, but the move against Sir Alan Duncan is particularly serious. But why is Israel doing this to a country like the UK which is supposed to be its ally? Part of the reason may lie in Duncan’s momentous Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) speech of October 2014, when he comprehensively attacked Israel’s establishment of illegal West Bank settlements, which he saw as a major obstacle to peace. He also had hard words for the pro-Israel lobby in the UK, saying that it did not represent the diversity of Jewish opinion, and that:

For far too long, those who have made a moral stand against Israeli misconduct and in favour of justice for Palestinians have been trashed, traduced and bullied. This, and the character-assassination of critics, cannot be allowed to continue.

Duncan also recommended that British politicians who supported Israeli settlements be treated as extremists and barred from public office. He had also clashed with the leading pro-Israeli advocate, Robert Halfon MP (Strizzolo’s boss).

The Israeli Embassy quickly responded to the Al-Jazeera revelation by apologizing to Duncan, while both Masot and Strizzolo “resigned” their respective jobs. Significantly Masot, who had presented himself as a Senior Political Officer was not on the diplomatic list, raising questions as to his true role in the UK.

One former minister in David Cameron’s government, writing anonymously in the Mail on Sunday, said the Israeli Embassy’s efforts to exert improper influence on British public life went far further than any plot to take down unhelpful members of parliament. S/he went on to say that:

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 – – – 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, take donors’ money, and allowed Israeli influence-peddling to shape policy and even determine the fate of ministers[3].

Various other politicians, including Sir Hugo Swire, Sir Nicholas Soames, Emily Thornberry, Jeremy Corbyn, and Alex Salmond, as well as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, have called for an official enquiry. Boris Johnson responded by saying the matter was closed and rejected calls to discipline Israel, though more recently (29 January) we learned that The Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Crispin Blunt, had launched an enquiry into the UK’s policy towards the Middle East Peace Process that, among other topics, invited consideration of UK’s relationship with Israel, and of how UK policy is influenced by other states and interested parties”.

The main target is the Labour Party

The documentary shows that Israel’s key objective is to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign which has been gaining strength worldwide. London has become a major battleground, because (in the words of Israeli historian Illan Pappe) BDS in many ways germinated in Britain. In the past, Israel has counted on an unchallenged cross-party consensus that has for the last 50 years allowed it a free hand to continue building illegal colonies (known as settlements) on Palestinian land. However, Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party threatened this status quo, because he had for long been a champion of Palestinian rights. And while the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) continues recruiting most conservative MPs, Labour MPs have increasingly refused to join the equivalent Labour Party body, Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). For these reasons Israel is trying to change perceptions of itself within the Labour Party, while undermining Corbyn and other pro-Palestinian elements.

The under-cover Al-Jazeera reporter accompanied Shai Masot and British lobbyists over a six month period, attending the 2016 Labour Party conference in Liverpool, and he gained many insights into the way it operates. Here are a few poignant observations from Episodes 2 and 3 of the documentary.

  • An argument between Jean Fitzpatrick, a pro-Palestinian Labour Party member, and Joan Ryan, MP, the Chair of LFI, shows the latter arguing that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a two-state solution, but incapable of saying how Israel will implement this. She appears to be using the two-state solution as a rhetorical fig leaf for the status quo whereby Israel seizes land and moves in more settlers.  
  • The same discussion also shows the lobby contradicting itself as regards its own power and influence. At one point, Fitzpatrick alleged LFI had money and prestige, and that the son of a friend got a job in Oxford University on the strength of his connections with LFI. Ryan then protested that this was an anti-Semitic trope, accused her of saying things that certainly weren’t caught on camera, and invoked the Party’s disciplinary process with a view to Fitzpatrick’s expulsion. However other parts of the documentary make it crystal clear that the Embassy is financially supporting the pro-Israeli organisations and is also channelling funds from private donors. Ryan’s line of argument is humbug and disingenuous: while external funding oils the lobby’s wheels, she smears as anti-Semitic an opponent who dares to allude to the fact.
  • Jackie Walker (see picture on page 4), is a Jewish/black person suspended from the Labour Party and Momentum for allegedly anti-Semitic remarks.  She movingly stated as follows: “if they accuse anybody of being an anti-Semite, it’s basically as bad as accusing someone of being a paedophile or a murderer. It’s really hard to come back from that”.

A recent Lib Dem experience: DISTORTED NEWS used to defame Baroness Tonge

Al-Jazeera did not discuss the lobby’s work with the Lib Dems, but three members of LDFP witnessed it at work at a meeting in the House of Lords on 25th October. The purpose of the meeting was to launch a campaign to get HMG to apologize for not properly implementing the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which provided that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. The Lib Dem Baroness Jenny Tonge, chaired the meeting and there were four speakers. Of particular interest was the British Palestinian Karl Sabbagh, who made a thoughtful and carefully reasoned argument for Britain to apologise for the Balfour Declaration and many of its subsequent actions. Interestingly, he contended that Britain’s mistakes were largely a result of its leaders’ search for a quiet life.

The meeting was grossly misreported in an article in The Times of October 27th, 2016, entitled Jews blamed for Holocaust at ‘Shameful’ House of Lords Event.  It was written by Duncan Kennedy, who got much of his information from a pro-Israeli blogger present at the meeting. It unjustly held Tonge responsible for not challenging a practically unintelligible statement from an audience member, an orthodox Rabbi from an anti-Zionist sect. It was later found that this person had accused a leading American Rabbi of the 1930s of organising a boycott of Nazi Germany that had pushed Hitler over the edge. Kennedy did not mention the invited speakers or what they said, but he quoted the Israeli Embassy three times, notably its description of the meeting as a shameful event, which gave voice to racist tropes against Jews and Israelis alike.

The article was followed by untruthful and defamatory editorial pieces in The Times and The Sunday Times, and similarly inaccurate reports in other news media. One of the most tendentious pieces appeared in The Wall Street Journal, also part of the Murdoch Empire. There can be no doubt that a cheap Times scoop set a journalistic tone that spread rapidly throughout the media.

The flood of publicity unjustly defamed Baroness Tonge, leading to her suspension from the Lib Dems, and subsequent resignation. According to Tonge’s account, the Party contacted her before she saw the papers, telling her that she was being suspended pending an investigation. Anti-Semitism was mentioned, but she was not asked to explain or offered a meeting. She then resigned, feeling angry that she had not been consulted, and is continuing her career as an independent cross-bench peer.

The scurrilous misreporting of the meeting caused considerable ire among those present, and 30 of them have formally complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). It is unfortunate the Lib Dems did not check their facts with the numerous eye-witnesses.

Aborted LDFI/LDFP conference motion

Like LDFP, Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFI) is one of our party’s associate organisations, but it enjoys a close relationship with the Israeli Embassy. It recently hosted a meeting for peers and the Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev, a well-known opponent of the two-state solution, and then circulated the Ambassador’s defence of settlements. At its 2015 AGM, LDFI invited as a guest speaker the same Shai Masot whom Al-Jazeera has exposed for gross interference in British politics.

Our Party leaders often express a wish to maintain balance and remain equidistant between LDFP and LDFI, or as one put it to be in the pocket of neither. At the same time, they have been at pains to avoid conflict between the two organisations, and in November 2016 they asked LDFP and LDFI to submit a joint motion to conference. 

This proved infeasible, because the two organisations’ positions are irreconcilable; while LDFI accepts the two-state solution at a rhetorical level, it will not contemplate any external pressure to ensure that the powerful party, i.e. Israel, negotiates in good faith. As in the case of Labour Friends of Israel, LDFI seems to be using the two-state solution as a fig leaf for the status quo whereby Israel seizes land and moves in more settlers.

In a spirit of openness we allowed our motion to be shown to LDFI which thereupon submitted a much blander motion that did nothing to move forward Party policy or effect change on the ground. The Federal Conference Committee then decided to reject both motions.

Redefining the term anti-Semitism to suit an expansionist Zionist narrative

Genuine anti-Semitism exists and is as despicable as any other form of ethnic or religious discrimination, and also very unpleasant for those who are targeted. Notwithstanding, the number of anti-Semitic hate crimes reported by police for England and Wales was only about 1% of the total number of hate crimes during 2015[4]. Despite this low figure, allegations of anti-Semitism figure prominently in the lobby’s narrative.

Pro-Israeli advocates in Parliament were instrumental in getting the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) to investigate anti-Semitism in the UK. Its report of Oct. 16, 2016 recommended the adoption of a new definition of anti-Semitism[5] drawn up by an organisation called the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA), with two caveats, as well as the criminalisation of the terms Zionist and Zio in an accusatory or abusive context. In its response, Government has accepted these recommendations[6]. However, the IHRA definition is accompanied by a Guidance section that, in a politically-charged atmosphere, is likely to result in much legitimate criticism of Israel being unfairly labelled anti-Semitic. Moreover, the terms accusatory or abusive can easily be interpreted to condemn reasonable criticisms of Zionism.

A series of reports, some of them very erudite, have thoroughly trashed the HASC report on the grounds of weak methodology and gross bias. Perhaps the most concise report is that by Jonathan Rosenhead[7], a professor of operational research at the LSE with an MSc in statistics. He describes the report as a partisan attack on the left of the Labour Party rather than a sober account of the state and significance of anti-Semitism in the country, and an object lesson for the future in how not to hold an Inquiry. It had no terms of reference, lacked expert witnesses, excluded many witnesses and much evidence, cited statistics of dubious provenance without caveats, refused to hear witnesses whom it subsequently criticized, and failed to give those it criticized the opportunity to rebut. Significantly, the HASC interviewed members of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine (LDFP) along with representatives of equivalent Labour and SNP organisations, but did not include their testimony in the report and criticised LDFP for a Facebook post critical of Israel without mentioning that this was just a link to an Israeli newspaper.

The international dimension

The above-mentioned link with AIPAC reminds us that the British Israel lobby is part of a wider international network centred in Tel Aviv. A recent documentary available on Youtube, called the Occupation of the American Mind, provides an in-depth account of Israel’s PR war in the USA, and shows that propaganda in western countries has been at least as important to Israel as its military and other endeavours in Israel/Palestine.

From the late 1940s, it successfully portrayed itself as a David that managed to conquer an Arab Goliath, whereas the reality (well known to the British forces on the ground) the Arab side was never any match[8]. Since then the PR has typically consisted of: (a) framing all Palestinian resistance as terrorism, while presenting all Israeli action as self-defence; (b) failing to state the context in which the violence has developed, notably Israeli’s unremitting armed seizure of territory, and; (c) endlessly denouncing the Hamas Charter, while keeping quiet about the Likud Charter.  Since 2003, there has been a major and sustained push to redefine the word anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel and BDS.

Important questions about Israel’s interference in Britain’s internal affairs

We think that the experiences outlined above pose some important questions for ourselves in the UK:

  • Why was the Foreign Secretary so insistent that the matter of taking down of Sir Alan Duncan be closed? Peter Oborne argues that if something similar happened with Russia, all hell would have broken loose and a full-scale diplomatic crisis would have erupted[9]. Craig Murray asked: why has Israeli spy Shai Masot not been expelled? [10]
  • Don’t we expect a country like Israel that is supposed to be Britain’s ally, to behave better than Russia?
  • As Jonathan Cook asks, how many British MPs are working for Israel?[11]
  • Why must we rely on Al-Jazeera to tell us about the activities of the pro-Israel Lobby? Why is the BBC, to which we pay our license fee, not investigating it? Last year the BBC gave enormous publicity to allegations that the Labour Party had an anti-Semitism problem, but it failed to shine an investigative light on those responsible for the allegations. The only such investigation in the UK was Oborne’s Channel 4 report of 2009[12]
  • Has the UK gone far enough in regulating the Press? Notwithstanding the Leveson Inquiry, the behaviour of The Times group and other news media suggests there remains a serious problem.

Do we underestimate the harm that Israel is capable of doing to the UK? It is worth recalling that Zionist forces carried out a ruthless insurgency against the British forces in Palestine during the 1940s, that they assassinated Lord Moyne (the British Resident Minister of the Middle East) and Count Folke Bernadotte (a top UN official), and tried to assassinate a number of senior British public figures including Ernest Bevin, Anthony Eden and Winston Churchill[13].

1940s style terror, from Mondweiss review, 13 October 2016

While conditions have massively changed, and Israel is formally an ally of the UK, it clings to largely the same underlying doctrines that inspired the 1940s insurgency, and has become more extreme in recent years (as we explain on our website[14]).

But this is not all. We also have some important questions for the Lib Dem Party:

  • Isn’t it time for Lib Dem leaders to speak up in the same way as some distinguished Tories, as well as Labour and SNP leaders, have already done on the Al Jazeera revelations, and demand a thorough investigation? In the words of Alan Duncan: ‘Justice for Palestine’, like all the ‘isms’ which define our moral being, should now be a cross-party, international cause. Have we lost the spirit of Charles Kennedy, who opposed the Iraq war?
  • Isn’t it high time the Lib Dem Party defended Jenny Tonge’s performance in the House of Lords meeting of 25th October 2016?
  • Why, for the second year in the succession, has the Party refused a serious conference motion on the Israeli-Palestinian issue? We believe that it has been taking the path of least resistance, with a view to keeping the peace with the pro-Israel lobby.
  • Is it reasonable and legitimate for the Party to remain equidistant between Friends of Israel, an internal Party organisation that seeks to defend a nation engaged in an occupation that contravenes international law and human rights, and LDFP, another internal organisation that, while acknowledging Israel’s right to exist, promotes an end to the occupation and equality for all in the region, Israeli and Palestinian alike?

In attempting to get LDFP and LDFI to agree a motion, we believe the Party has been seeking to paper over an internal division which could cause the pro-Israel lobby to attack it, in the savage way it has attacked the Labour party. Unfortunately, this makes the Lib Dem position with regard to Palestinian human rights no improvement to the Conservative position, one of countless expressions of concern and regret without action to change the unjust status quo. Unless we in Britain can change this posture we are, sadly, part of Israel and Palestine’s problem, not part of the solution.

If you have any questions or comments, please send them to

Thank you for your support, Team LDFP

LDFP exists to fight for the rights of the Palestinian people through the medium of the Liberal Democrat Party. For a full articulation of our position, see

[1] See

[2] See

[3] See 2017/jan/08/labour-calls-for-inquiry-into-israeli-diplomats-take-down-mps-plot

[4] See Rosenhead in

[5] dia-room/stories/working-definition-antisemitism

[6] See:

[7] See Rosenhead, op. cit.

[8] See Suarez, T. (2016) State of Terror. How Terrorism Created Modern Israel. Oxford: Skyscraper Publications

[9] See

[10] See 2017/01/israeli-spy-shai-masot-not-expelled/

[11] See

[12] See 0E70BwA7xgU

[13] See Suarez, op. cit.