Israeli military intelligence analyst Assaf Kaplan given “crucial new role at the heart of Labour”

Israeli military intelligence analyst Assaf Kaplan given “crucial new role at the heart of Labour”

In September 2014, the Guardian published an article entitled Israeli intelligence veterans refuse to serve in Palestinian territories.  It began:

Forty-three veterans of one of Israel’s most secretive military intelligence units – many of them still active reservists – have signed a public letter refusing to serve in operations involving the occupied Palestinian territories because of the widespread surveillance of innocent residents.”

The military intelligence entity in question was Unit 8200, which is the equivalent of America’s civilian NSA or Britain’s GCHQ.  Its job is to intercept electronic communications including email, phone calls and social media, plus foreign military and diplomatic communications.  Much of its work involves close surveillance of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, including providing information for Israeli military action against Palestinian targets.

Signatories to the letter, interviewed by the Guardian, said that 

  • Palestinians in the occupied territories didn’t need to be suspected of terrorist involvement in order to be targeted by Unit 8200; in practice, there were no rules governing which Palestinians in the occupied territories could be targeted – all of them were fair game;
  • Unit 8200 operatives were instructed to keep any damaging details of Palestinians’ lives they came across, including information on sexual preferences, infidelities, financial problems or family illnesses that could be used to extort/blackmail the person and turn them into collaborators;

(*)

According to his LinkedIn profile, Assaf Kaplan was a member of Unit 8200 from May 2009 to November 2013, first as a military intelligence analyst and then as an officer.   A few months ago, he was hired by the Labour Party in a key role working beside Sir Keir Starmer in the leader’s office.

This was revealed by Asa Winstanley in an article in Electronic Intifada on 19 January [1].  Surprise, surprise, soon after the article was published mention of Kaplan’s military intelligence background was deleted from his LinkedIn profile.  

Last September, the Labour Party advertised for a Social Listening and Organising Manager, described as having “a crucial new role at the heart of Labour’s new approach to digital campaigning”[2].  Assaf Kaplan now holds that post.  In this role, according to his job description, he will “help to move the social media listening framework of the party to be laser-focused on those we need to win over to form the next government” and “help build and implement our earned media strategy into the May elections and into 2024”.  

It is true that Kaplan once worked for the Israeli Labour Party – his LinkedIn profile states that he was deputy head of its campaign for the April 2019 Israeli general election.  In that election, the party’s seat tally collapsed from 18 to 6.

(*)

Assaf Kaplan has ties to the Israeli spy, Shai Masot, who was expelled from the UK in January 2017, having been unmasked by the Al Jazeera TV documentary series The Lobby.  

Asa Winstanley revealed that he is a “friend” with Masot on Facebook.  Understandably, Kaplan was not comfortable with that information being readily available and his Facebook settings have now been changed to restrict access to his “friends” list.  But it is still possible to view a “like” he has made for Masot’s consulting firm.

Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation revealed that in 2016 the Israeli government was engaged in a brazen, covert influence campaign in Britain [4].  As part of this, Masot, who was an Israeli diplomat based in its London Embassy, was trying to engineer the setting up of a pro-Israel youth group within the Labour Party.

In a notorious incident, he was secretly filmed in a conversation with Maria Strizzolo, who was then chief of staff to MP Robert Halfon, then the deputy chairman of the ruling Conservative Party.  He asked her if he could give her some names of MPs he would suggest she “take down” and he named Sir Alan Duncan, who was then UK deputy foreign secretary.

Duncan had made a speech at RUSI in October 2014, in which he said that while he fully supports Israel’s right to exist, he believes settlements on occupied Palestinian land represent an “ever-deepening stain on the face of the globe”. He also likened the situation in Hebron in the occupied West Bank to apartheid.  Strizzolo later hinted that “a little scandal” might see Duncan dismissed.

(*)

Speaking to Middle East Eye [3], John McDonnell, Labour’s former shadow chancellor, said:

“I believe most party members will be bewildered to say the least that despite all the social media talent available in our movement, the party has decided to recruit someone with a track record of working in an intelligence organisation roundly condemned for its role in the abuse of the human rights of Palestinians.”

Chris Mullin, who was a Labour MP for 23 years and served as a foreign office minister under Tony Blair, asked the right question: 

“I am not sure if this is a good idea. Is he still working for the Israelis or for the Labour Party?”

David Morrison

27 January 2021

References:

[1]  electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/uk-labour-party-hires-former-israeli-spy

[2]  labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/JD-Social-Listening-and-Organising-Manager.pdf

[3]  www.middleeasteye.net/news/labour-ex-israel-military-intelligence-officer-role-anger-grows

[4]  www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/1/12/israel-diplomat-forced-to-resign-after-aj-investigation

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