Joan Ryan MP, Chief of Labour Friends of Israel filmed at the Party Conference in Blackpool
The documentary shows that Israel’s key objective is to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) 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.
- 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. See Episode 3.
- 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 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, a Jewish/black person suspended from the Labour Party and Momentum for allegedly anti-Semitic remarks 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. See Episode 2
Jackie Walker speaking to Al Jazeera