Undercover Al-Jazeera sting produces a smoking gun

Sir Alan Duncan: on the Israeli Embassy’s hit list

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. 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 the 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.

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.

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”.