Tag Archives: UK

Cameron buries Muslim Brotherhood report to please Gulf tyrants

Yet another delay, probably for good this time:

Reports in the British press suggest that Sir John has cleared the Brotherhood of any violent extremist tendencies. It is “not a terrorist organisation but should be more open about its dealings,” is how The Independent summarised the findings on Monday, when the report failed to materialise.

Read the full story here.

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School “buddies” raise awareness about Palestine in UK

Go and have a read of this nice little story about CADFA I wrote for EI:

Palestinian schoolchildren come here, and British schoolchildren and teachers go to Palestine. For seven consecutive summers, children have been brought over from Palestine. The focus is educational, with the English kids learning first-hand. The children go to events together and have “amazing conversations.” At one Wiltshire camping trip during this soggy-wet English summer, the kids came back as “ambassadors for the Palestinians,” she said.

Perhaps the main strength of such low-key, unglamorous projects is that they involve people beyond the usual activist suspects. By “always reaching new people,” as Dowson puts it, they help raise awareness about Palestine at a local level.

 

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Is the UK’s pro-Israel lobby starting to lose?

I was pleased to be invited to be August’s guest writer for MEMO, the Middle East Monitor. I was asked to write about the Raed Salah case, so used the opportunity to revist some of the evidence. The focus of the article is what the case taught us about the waning power of the Israel lobby in the UK:

In Palestine solidarity circles the debate around the pro-Israel lobby often focuses on the chicken-or-the-egg problem: are Western governments supportive of Israel because the lobby is so influential, or does the lobby only seem influential because governments are so supportive of Israel?

A focus on this question neglects another, more crucial, aspect of the debate: how can we win? How can the tide be turned against Western governments’ support for Israel?

In April, a Palestinian political and religious leader won an important victory in the British judicial system. Sheikh Raed Salah’s successful appeal against deportation gives us a glimpse of how to answer this question.

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The Palestine lobby?

EI published my latest feature this morning, on Palestine in mainstream politics. Here’s the intro:

On Wednesday, 4 July, a public meeting took place in the British Parliament’s Grand Committee room. Speaking on the panel of members of parliament were a Conservative former career soldier, a senior minister in two previous Labor governments, and a member of Labor Friends of Israel. What could they all possibly have had in common?

They had assembled to speak at a meeting about the reality of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation in the West Bank. This followed a trip they had participated in, organized by the Council for Advancing Arab-British Understanding.

Earlier that same day, during a Westminster Hall debate, the Foreign Office minister responsible for relations with the Middle East had — for the first time — strongly hinted that a ban on importing goods made in Israeli settlements could be on the way.

The events of that day were only the latest examples of how views critical of Israeli policy have entered the mainstream of UK politics.

Read on…

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New feature: Israel’s kangaroo courts for Palestinian children exposed in FCO-backed report

I was quite surprised this week to learn about the publication of a new report that accuses Israel of being in violation of international law. Yes: yet another report, you might well say. But this one is funded by the British government and written by some serious establishment figures. So: interesting. But the question remains:

Karmi later told The Electronic Intifada that the report is “toothless in the end” because there is no way to compel Israel to comply.

“Palestinians are fed up of being studied,” she said. What they really want to know is “how will I get help to end” the abuses of the military occupation. Karmi did however conclude the report was a good thing and the delegation was a “very interesting mission” because it was backed by the foreign office, who could not be accused of anti-Israel bias in the same way that Israel has managed to taint UN missions with “the usual slanders.”

Read my full feature over on The Electronic Intifada. And you can read the full report here.

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Feature on Palestine Place, London

Palestine Place is a new, temporary squatted social centre in London, expressly focused on the occupation of Palestine. It’s points of unity are the three principles of the BDS movement: end of the 1967 occupation, equal rights for everyone, and full return of the refugees.

Here is my new feature about it: Palestine Place brings resistance to heart of London, The Electronic Intifada, London, 8 June 2012:

“At first I couldn’t really comprehend it, or understand how London squatting can be connected to Palestine,” he said. In the Palestinian context one might normally associate “squatting” with Israelis settlers, I offered. The idea of “a land without a people” is “the base of the Zionist movement,” he said. “But then [I thought] … to be able to create this kind of free space for discussion, for organizing, is fantastic … because solidarity with Palestinians in London has been trapped in certain circles … not to say anything bad about them, but this is new [and will bring in new people].”

You can read the full article here.

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Court victory for Raed Salah deals blow to UK “anti-terror” policy

Published by The Electronic Intifada and protected by copyright. Republished with permission.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | Ramallah | 9 April 2012

After nearly ten months fighting to clear his name in UK courts, Palestinian activist Sheikh Raed Salah won his case against deportation on Saturday.

Salah is a Palestinian citizen of Israel and the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, a political and religious organization. Upper tribunal judge Mark Ockelton ruled that Sheikh Salah’s appeal succeeded “on all grounds.”

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Europe’s Islamophobes and Israel: The Right Alliance

Published by Al-Akhbar English and protected by copyright under a Creative Commons license.

By: Asa Winstanley

Published Monday, January 2, 2012

London – While the European far-right once made the Jewish community their primary scapegoat, their more recent focus on Muslims has made them Israel’s latest bedfellows.

Islamophobia has been on the rise in recent years, with Muslim communities coming under increasing attack both rhetorically and physically. This political climate of Islamophobia has been dubbed “The Cold War on British Muslims” by a recent report.

These right-wing rabble-rousers are increasingly coming to view Israel as an embattled front-line state against what they consider the threat of Islamist expansion. For its part, Israel has made a conscious effort to appeal to such paranoid scenarios of inter-civilization conflict for decades. While in the past, Israel touted its anti-communist credentials and belligerent role against the “threat” of Arab nationalism as reasons for Western support, Islam is the current bête noire.

Far-right parties and groups across Europe are starting to talk warmly about Israel, even making contacts as high as the governmental level. While many are “new right” groups such as the English Defence League, some like France’s National Front and the British National Party have historical roots in neo-fascism and anti-semitism.

The far right’s newfound love for Israel has gone hand-in-hand with a related trend: the idea that there is a “new anti-semitism” primarily carried out by leftist and Muslim opponents of Israel. Antony Lerman, the founder and former director of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research, describes this thesis as “the radical notion that to warrant the charge of antisemitism, it is sufficient to hold any view ranging from criticism of the policies of the current Israeli government to denial that Israel has the right to exist as a state, without having to subscribe to any of those things which historians have traditionally regarded as making up an antisemitic view.”

While some Zionists have been pushing this concept for decades, it has gained increased prominence over the last 10 years. As Lerman has written, it has reached such an absurd point that French intellectual and Zionist Bernard Henri-Levy claimed in a 2008 book that the “antisemitism of the 21st century would be ‘progressive’ – meaning essentially left-wing hatred of Israel – or not exist at all.”

This is essentially an attempt to re-define anti-semitism from the phenomenon of bigoted or racist views against Jews, to any and all hostility towards Israel. Hatred of Jews as Jews, the belief that Jews are racially inferior or a belief in a world-wide Jewish conspiracy could all be forgiven, or at least overlooked, as long as ideological loyalty to Israel is maintained.

This is where the “new right” of Europe has fitted right in. They see alliances with Israel as natural in what they think is a battle against the “Islamization of Europe.”

Lerman traces the beginnings of this trend back to even before the 9/11 attacks. In the early 2000s Italian former neo-fascist party National Alliance (AN) led by Gianfranco Fini “reached out to the Italian Jewish community to apologize for the party’s ‘former’ antisemitism and to express support for Israel.”

Geert Wilders, whose anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV) is currently the third-largest party in the Netherlands, has visited Israel numerous times, including in 2008, the year his anti-Muslim film Fitna made international headlines. In 2010 he met with far-right Israeli foreign minister (and settler) Avigdor Lieberman and gave a speech in Tel Aviv in which he called for more Israeli colonization of the Palestinian West Bank. Speaking to Reuters, he explained the counter-jihad ideology that so many in Europe’s far right are now adapting: “Our culture is based on Christianity, Judaism and humanism and [the Israelis] are fighting our fight…If Jerusalem falls, Amsterdam and New York will be next.”

The day after Wilders spoke in Tel Aviv, a delegation of politicians from European anti-Islam parties toured West Bank colonies, reported settler news site Arutz Sheva. They included leaders from Germany, Austria and Belgium; “and yet these parties had by no means abandoned their antisemitic roots” according to Lerman.

In October 2009, BNP leader Nick Griffin made a controversial appearance on Question Time, the BBC’s flagship political talk show. He used the occasion to express enthusiastic support for Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip: “I have brought the British National Party from being, frankly, an antisemitic and racist organization into being the only political party which, in the clashes between Israel and Gaza, stood full square behind Israel’s right to deal with Hamas terrorists.”

The BNP won almost a million votes in 2009 elections to the European parliament, so Griffin cannot be dismissed as a totally unrepresentative quack. Nonetheless, he clearly is an extremist in mainstream political terms. But the leading British parties feed into BNP rhetoric on issues like immigration.

Also in 2009, David Cameron, leader of the UK’s Conservative party and the current prime minister, broke with the centre-right bloc in the EU parliament and allied his party with the new Euro-skeptic EP bloc. But its chairman Michal Kaminski was well known for his past anti-semitic views. Objections were raised in the Jewish community, but many Zionist leaders, editor of the Jewish Chronicle Stephen Pollard and the Israeli ambassador praised Kaminski because he expressed strong support for Israel.

The English Defence League, an anti-Muslim street gang that contains many football hooligan elements, regularly waves Israeli flags during its demonstrations. Since it rose to prominence in 2009, it was open about its counter-jihadist orientation. EDL leader Tommy Robinson said that one of the main principles the group was founded on was “support for Israel’s right to defend itself…Israel is a shining star of democracy. If Israel falls, we all fall.”

In 2010 the EDL launched a so-called Jewish Division. Although this sub-group is thought to be numerically insignificant, it is emblematic of the EDL’s counter-jihadist, pro-Zionist ideology. There are also more recent reports that the EDL may be developing links with the Jewish Defense League, founded in America by Meir Kahane the extremist American rabbi who later settled in occupied Palestine and founded the Kach party (later banned under US terrorism legislation).

While visiting Berlin in July this year Israeli deputy minister Ayoob Kara met Patrik Brinkmann, who has ties with the German neo-Nazi party. Brinkman has reportedly visited Kara in Israel several times. In November, Israel’s new UN ambassador Ron Prosor was photographed smiling next to Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French National Front (laughably, he later claimed this was an accident).

And then there is the Islamophobic Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, who reportedly confessed to the murder of 77 people in a combined bombing and mass-shooting in July. Press reports noted that some of his young leftist victims had held Palestine solidarity workshops at their summer camp on Utøya island.

From what he’s written, it’s clear Breivik is a big fan of Israel. His rambling online book is full of flattering references to the state. For example: “let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists,” he wrote, “against all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists.” This is from page 1163 of his “compendium,” large chunks of which were reportedly copied from other Islamophobic sources.

These connections and affinities between Zionism and the far-right do not stop at Europe of course. In the US, right-wing fundamentalist Christianity is a far bigger political factor, and this current very much tends to side with Israel. It has even been argued that this Christian Zionism the greatest factor fueling political support for Israel in the United States. John Hagee of Christians United for Israel is openly anti-semitic, with his fundamentalist rantings about how Hitler was supposedly sent by God and so forth.

The extent to which this developing new alliance between Israel and the far-right is sustainable remains to be seen. From the Zionist point of view, it could be argued that Israel is strategically foolish to throw its lot in with European fascists. Making friends with Nick Griffin is hardly likely to win many of the “progressive friends of Israel” that seem to be so important to the Reut Institute these days.

On the other hand, it seems possible the far-right stands to gain from the ever-increasing signs of economic meltdown in Europe. Maybe elements in Israel have just scented that the Islamphobic far-right is just the way the tide is turning in Europe.

More likely, there is no single plan. Israel is a creature of the West after all. From that perspective, it’s no surprise that a European settler-colonial entity such as Israel would mimic, echo and amplify the worst of European racism.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist based in London who writes about Palestine. www.winstanleys.org

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EI exclusive: UK charity with Mossad links secretly denounced anti-Zionist Jews to government

Published by Electronic Intifada, protected by copyright. Republished by permission.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | London | 21 December 2011

An influential UK charity denounced Jewish critics of Israel in secret reports to the government earlier this year, The Electronic Intifada has learned.

The Community Security Trust (CST) is known for its work recording anti-Semitic attacks and for security patrols at Jewish communal events.

But evidence uncovered by The Electronic Intifada suggests the CST works behind the scenes with an assertively pro-Israel agenda not stated in its charitable remit. There are also serious questions over the CST’s links to the government of Israel and, allegedly, to its intelligence services.

The Electronic Intifada contacted the CST and inquired about these points, but representatives of the organization declined to comment.

In a report sent to government department the Home Office, the CST denounced several “anti-Zionist British Jewish individuals and groups” as “extreme groups,” claiming they were “unrepresentative of the vast majority of British Jews.”

Dating from August, the report was primarily an attempt to help the government in its court case to deport Palestinian political activist Raed Salah. The report expressed concern that certain Jews had “voiced support for Salah,” recommending that the “extent of their credibility to speak on these issues should be considered.”

The CST denounced as “extreme” well-known Palestine solidarity activist Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and the anti-Zionist Orthodox Jewish group Neturei Karta. The report highlights that Wimborne-Idrissi is secretary of Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods.

Use of the term “extreme groups” is significant. It’s a phrase the CST usually reserves for violent far-right groups such as the British National Party, the National Front and Combat 18; or for Islamic political groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The CST sent a second document to the Home Office at the same time titled “Neturei Karta & Raed Salah” as part of a larger dossier. This four-page report suggests the group is guilty of everything from Holocaust denial to “defending” a 2008 terrorist attack against Jews in Mumbai.

Both texts formed part of the Home Office’s defense against Salah’s attempt to resist deportation. In September, a civil servant testified in court that the CST had been its “principal source.”

The full text of both secret CST reports can be read in the blog post accompanying this article.

“Pure lies”

The Electronic Intifada sent copies of the reports to the activists attacked in the documents and asked for comments.

Rabbi Yacov Weisz of Neturei Karta UK replied that the report was “pure lies” and “absolute nonsense.” He said it was no surprise to find the CST trying to marginalize his organization. Weisz said the CST was a provocative organization not wanted by many in his own Orthodox community in Stamford Hill, London, since it “plays into political Zionism.” He said there is a problem with racism in the UK, but it could be directed at Muslims just as much as Jews.

Wimborne-Idrissi said the CST does not like the fact that Jewish critics of Israel are becoming more numerous and vocal.

“Our existence shows that organizations like the Board of Deputies [of British Jews], the Zionist Federation and CST cannot legitimately claim to represent all Jews,” she told The Electronic Intifada. “We give the lie to their insistence that defending Israel is central to Jewish identity and that to defend Palestinian interests against it is synonymous with anti-Semitism.”

In a statement, IJAN said the CST was “known to many as the Zionist police… We would ask who but racists would call opposing all forms of racism ‘extreme’? It is the CST that is ‘unrepresentative’ — most of the world does not support Israeli apartheid, including a substantial and rapidly-increasing number of Jewish people.”

Lauded by government

As demonstrated in The Electronic Intifada’s coverage of the Raed Salah case, the CST has strong links with government departments — especially the Home Office and Department for Communities and Local Government. In some areas CST volunteers jointly patrol with the police.

It has also been lauded by politicians at the highest levels of government. Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have both given speeches at black tie CST dinners this year.

Founded as a charity in 1994, the CST had several notable predecessors. The Group Relations Educational Trust (GRET) was founded by Gerald Ronson in 1978. Now CST chairman, Ronson wrote in his memoir Leading from the Front that he hoped GRET would “operate as a sort of umbrella organization” for the 62 Group and other militant anti-fascist groups.

The 62 Group was a street-fighting Jewish activist group formed to combat the rise of neo-Nazis in the 1960s. It reportedly specialized in infiltration and intelligence gathering.

Ronson wanted to distance GRET from such militant direct action approaches. He wrote that although he was the chief fundraiser for the 62 Group and “I was once a foot soldier out there fighting on the front lines,” he increasingly came to think that “being hooligans to fight hooligans wasn’t the smartest way.”

The CST’s immediate predecessor was the Community Security Organization — part of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. In 1994, it broke away from the Board and established itself as a new charity — the Community Security Trust.

Trained by Mossad?

Antony Lerman, founder and former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), told The Electronic Intifada that CST volunteers had in the past received self-defense training from Mossad, Israel’s overseas spy agency.

Mossad is perhaps most well known for its assassinations of Palestinian intellectuals, activists and fighters around the world. It is thought that the Mossad was behind the 1972 Beirut car bomb that murdered writer and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine activist Ghassan Kanafani. In 1986, Mossad agents kidnapped Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician turned whistleblower. More recently, it was thought to be behind the murder of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, in which the killers used forged passports as part of their operation.

But Mossad also claims to protect Jews, says Lerman. “On one level you can understand why” CST trained with the Mossad, he said. “One of the things the Mossad believes that it should be responsible for is Jewish security all around the world.”

The Electronic Intifada had a wide-ranging conversation about the CST with Lerman. JPR ran the first project to monitor anti-Semitism in a human rights fashion, he added. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, Lerman had “very close relations” with GRET and, later, the CST.

In the early 1990s “the Israeli government was trying to exert control over the monitoring of anti-Semitism through diaspora communities around the world,” he recalled. Lerman and the CST both resisted this, preferring to remain independent. They were “quite angry with the way the Israelis were handling this kind of thing.”

The Israelis’ list of anti-Semitic incidents “was appalling stuff,” he added. “I wouldn’t say at that time they were so much into exaggerating the problem, but they just had no real feel for what anti-Semitism really was. They would take any kind of incident, anything that involved Jews often would sometimes go down as an anti-Semitic incident when it hadn’t [really been one] and often they would miss anti-Semitic incidents as well.”

The Israel Government Monitoring Forum on Anti-Semitism at that time operated through representatives at embassies throughout the world, and “they were mostly Mossad representatives,” said Lerman.

“During that time the CST … felt they needed to keep good relations with the Board, with the Israelis, with the Israel embassy … [but] they were broadly supportive of our position throughout the 1990s,” he recalled. “During that time my experience with them as a whole was rather good.”

This didn’t last. “My relations with them began to deteriorate at the end of the ’90s and from 2000 onwards,” he said. “I from the beginning was never in agreement with this idea of the ‘new anti-Semitism.’” But the CST was “very much behind that kind of line.”

Lerman is a noted critic of this “new anti-Semitism” line. Writing earlier this year, he described it as “the notion that Israel has become the Jew among the nations and that therefore extreme criticism and anti-Zionism are a new version of the anti-Semitism that existed prior to the establishment of the state.”

He added, “The entrenchment of the concept of the ‘new anti-Semitism’ [has] so extended the range of expressions of what can be regarded as anti-Semitic that the word anti-Semitism has come close to losing all meaning” (“The farcical attack on the UCU for voting against use of the EUMC ‘working definition’ of anti-Semitism,” Antony Lerman’s blog, 2 June 2011).

Conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism

Lerman’s is far from the only Jewish voice critical of the the CST. Tony Greenstein is a Palestine solidarity and anti-racist activist who has blogged extensively on the CST. He has frank criticisms of their methods. “The CST has a long record of barring anti-Zionist Jews from meetings and harassing them,” he wrote on his blog in January 2009 (“Community Security Thugs Bar Jewish Opponents of Gaza War from Liberal Judaism Meeting”).

While leftist critics such as Greenstein allege the CST exaggerates or inflates its anti-Semitism figures, Lerman disagrees. “They’re not making up the numbers, it’s what they do with the information [that’s more problematic],” Lerman said. “It’s the role that they play behind the scenes with government, it’s the connections with the Israelis — whether it’s lobbying on their behalf or not, they’ve got very close relations.”

Lerman still gives the CST credit for the rigor it uses when deciding which incidents to record as anti-Semitic and which to reject. He said that it does not record incidents as anti-Semitic unless it is absolutely sure. But the “new anti-Semitism” logic means they will be predisposed to see an anti-Israel statement as being anti-Semitic, he added.

What its critics tend to agree on is that the CST conflates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Its latest report describes anti-Zionism as “in effect anti-Semitic” (Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2010, 8 December 2011 [PDF]).

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi said the CST “try to undermine our credibility by noting that we are small in number. They cannot acknowledge that growing numbers of Jews are breaking with the unquestioning loyalty to Israel that has been the norm in past decades.” Wimborne-Idrissi was barred from a 2009 “liberal Judaism” meeting by CST guards.

Greenstein has accused the CST of thuggish behavior against Jewish critics of Israel, and has written that CST security volunteers guard pro-Israel demonstrations and events. “Its stewards looked benignly on as the EDL [English Defense League] joined a demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in August 2010 to celebrate the murder of nine unarmed activists aboard the Mavi Marmara,” Greenstein wrote on his blog (“Community Support Trust supplies false information to deport Sheikh Raed Salah,” 3 October 2011).

Lack of transparency

Although the CST claims to represent the Jewish community, it has asked for a special dispensation from the Charity Commission so that the names of its trustees are not publicly accessible (most charities in the UK have the names of their trustees listed on the Charity Commission’s website). A spokesperson from the Charity Commission said such dispensations were only given in “very exceptional” cases, such as for women’s shelters where the trustees were thought to be “in personal danger.”

However, in May 2003 the CST established a private company called Support Trustee limited. The Memorandum of Association filed at Companies House in Cardiff says Support Trustee limited acts as “trustee, custodian trustee, nominee or director of or for the charity Community Security Trust.”

According to documents filed at Companies House, the current directors of Support Trustee Limited are: Keith Black of the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA), Lloyd Dorfman (chairman of the Travelex currency exchange group), banker and UJIA trustee Jeremy Isaacs, solicitor Brook Land, property investor Gary Landesberg, former chairman of the British division of Jewish educational group ORT Mark Mishon, CST chairman Gerald Ronson and accountant Jeremy Trent. Its secretary is CST Chief Executive Richard Benson.

A multi-million pound operation

CST chairman Gerald Ronson is a property magnate and the multi-millionaire owner of the Heron Group. Accounts on the Charity Commission website show that Ronson’s charitable trust has donated almost £500,000 ($780,000) to the CST since 2007. In the early 1990s, he was sentenced to a year in prison for his role in the “Guinness affair.” This was a share price inflation scam The Daily Telegraph has described as the best-known British stock market scandal of the 1980s (“Famous stock market scandals,” undated).

In a 2009 interview with The Jewish Chronicle, Ronson claimed to have friends at the highest levels of the Israeli government: “He received a phone call from the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, and met [current Prime Minister] Binyamin Netanyahu, at the time a minister in Shamir’s government, while on a day-release for a medical examination,” the article states (“Interview: Gerald Ronson,” 4 June 2009).

Greenstein described the CST as “a well-paid gravy train.” Accounts available on the Charity Commission’s website show the CST spent £5.3 million ($8.3 million) in the year ending December 2010 — £2.1 million ($3.3 million) of this was on salaries and wages. It is thought to employ 64 staff, some full-time on security issues.

Last year the government announced £2 million ($3.1 million) in new funding for security at Jewish faith schools. The CST’s Chief Executive Richard Benson wrote in The Jewish Chronicle that this came in response to five years of CST lobbying (“Let’s recognize our friends,” 22 December 2010). Antony Lerman said the schools are likely to give the CST an advisory role in how the money is spent.

The CST and “infiltration”

In April and June, historian Geoffrey Alderman wrote two pieces for The Jewish Chronicle taking the CST to task for being unaccountable to the community. “What right does a completely private body that happens to call itself the CST have to involve itself in the safety and well-being of British Jews?”

Alderman is a Zionist and hostile to the Palestinian people and their supporters. In May of this year, he wrote a column saying nothing had caused him “greater pleasure in recent weeks than news of the death of the Italian so-called ‘peace activist’ Vittorio Arrigoni,” the International Solidarity Movement volunteer murdered in Gaza (“This was no ‘peace activist,’” The Jewish Chronicle, 13 May 2011).

In one of his columns, Alderman made reference to a more “murky dimension” of the CST’s work — possible “infiltration” of “extremist organizations” (“Our unrepresentative security,” The Jewish Chronicle, 18 April 2011).

What does Lerman think of that accusation? “I certainly wouldn’t rule it out,” he replied. “What I am absolutely certain about is that they’ve got connections with people who have [infiltrated]. So whether that’s through Searchlight or others, I’ve no idea”

Searchlight is an anti-fascist organization and magazine which has long been criticized by anti-fascist activists on the left for allegedly strong links to intelligence services and law enforcement entities. Its central figure, Gerry Gable, was involved in the 62 Group with Ronson.

In 1980 The New Statesman magazine published the “Gable Memo,” a secret memorandum to Gable’s then bosses at London Weekend Television. In the 1977 memo, Gable makes various accusations against a journalist, Phil Kelly, and infamously concluded: “I have now given the names I have acquired to be checked out by British/French security services … I may try somebody in the Israeli Foreign Office.”

Gable’s accusations against Kelly included that he “acted as a cheerleader on several Arab demonstrations in London” and “he could have blown the cover of a man who had infiltrated the Palestinians and some left groups” (“The Gable Memo,” Lobster, December 1992).

When the Raed Salah case came to the attention of the British government, it called on the CST for information. As reported in detail by The Electronic Intifada, government departments asked the CST to send information on Salah that they could use to ban him from entering the UK.

As Salah prepared to go to the High Court hearing that would ultimately release him on bail, the CST posted two Jerusalem court indictments against Salah on its blog. Both related to old incidents (one from 2007). And both were dated 23 June — the exact date that Home Secretary Theresa May said she banned Salah (“Sheikh Raed Salah: The Indictments,” 6 July 2011).

“I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the Mossad,” said Lerman. “They had close relations with the Mossad when I was working with them, and I’m sure that they still do.”

A freedom of information request to the UK Border Agency sent by The Electronic Intifada in July was finally answered this month. A request for a copy of the original banning order signed by May was denied on data protection grounds.

Israeli government links

The Israel Government Monitoring Forum on Anti-Semitism with which Lerman was at odds in the early 1990s now has a successor body called the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism. The forum’s website lists the CST as one of the “members of the forum” along with the Anti-Defamation League and the Israeli prime minister’s office.

Lerman said that CST volunteers “go along at their own expense to guard Jewish sites and meetings and things of that kind. Well they get training, and I believe that the training has been done in the past by people from the Mossad, who come over and give them training in self-defense and that sort of thing.”

How likely is it that the CST lobbies politically for Israel behind the scenes?

In September, the law on universal jurisdiction was changed, making it easier for Israeli ministers and generals charged with war crimes to visit the UK. The Jewish Chronicle published an article quoting the Board of Deputies as acknowledging “the efforts of the various communal groups, in particular the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), Board of Deputies, CST and Friends of Israel groups that have helped to ensure the safe passage of the bill.”

But “CST” was soon removed from the online version of the article, apparently after spokesman Mark Gardner intervened (see The Electronic Intifada’s correspondent Ben White’s screen capture).

Though Lerman’s relations with the CST have deteriorated, he thinks it unlikely that the CST would lobby for Israel in any way that would contravene its charitable status. “It would have undermined the role that they are trying to play on the issue of anti-Semitism,” he said. “Having said that, the very fact that they support the ‘new anti-Semitism’ kind of arguments … [means] they are doing the work of the Israel government, because it … is a very strong Israel government line.”

CST declines to comment

For its part, the CST has previously denied acting on behalf of Israel. Of its role in having Salah banned from the UK, the CST stated: “We did not do this on behalf of Israel or in pursuit of Israel’s policy objectives.” It said its only concern is anti-Semitism.

The Electronic Intifada wrote to the CST and asked the following questions: Why did the CST denounce Wimborne-Idrissi, Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network as “extreme”? Why did the CST do so privately not publicly? In light of Alderman’s “infiltration” comments, can you give assurances you are not involved with the infiltration or subversion of pro-Palestinian activist groups? In light of the allegation that the CST has received Mossad training, what is the current nature of the CST’s relations to the Israeli intelligence services? Did Israeli authorities help the CST with its case against Raed Salah?

The Electronic Intifada enclosed the part of the Salah report that denounced anti-Zionist Jews.

Despite having been given several days notice in advance of publication, the CST did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A phone call to the CST office three days after the original email request produced “no comment.”

Nevertheless, the CST will need to respond to these serious charges eventually. In court in September, UK Border Agency case worker Jonathan Rosenorn-Lanng referred to the CST as “the Jewish community” — yet it is clear the group does not represent the entire community. The British government should ask itself how appropriate it is to maintain such strong links to an organization so politically compromised.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who writes about Palestine. His website is www.winstanleys.org.

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Boycott Israel campaign grows among UK unions, despite Zionist backlash

Exclusive to The Electronic Intifada, 30 Nov.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | London | 30 November 2011

Over the last few years, UK trade unions have expressed solidarity with Palestine more and more explicitly. Union after union has overturned a previous orthodoxy of balance between “two sides” when it comes to policy on Israel and the Palestinians. So many unions have now passed motions in support of the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that even the often conservative Trades Union Congress (TUC) has been compelled to change policy.

In 2009, TUC policy on Palestine was — for the first time — brought closer to the policy of member unions. A motion calling for a targeted boycott of Israeli settlement goods was passed at the September congress. It instructed the TUC to “develop an effective Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions campaign by working closely with the PSC [Palestine Solidarity Campaign] to … encourage trade unionists to boycott Israeli goods, especially agricultural products that have been produced in the illegal settlements.”

Each year since has brought progress on BDS, according to trade union official and Palestine solidarity activist Hugh Lanning. “Big players who’ve not had positions before, say like Unite, the largest union — but also little ones — are discussing the issue for the first time,” he said.

Lanning is deputy general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), and also chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He has a relaxed air about him, but constructs persuasive arguments. It’s clear to see why he has been able to win so many union activists over to the BDS movement.

The 2010 TUC motion on Palestine moved the focus to “companies who profit from illegal settlements, the occupation and the construction of the wall” Israel is building in the West Bank, rather than just companies based in the settlements.

In September of this year, the TUC annual meeting passed a motion reaffirming previous boycott policy, with an amendment calling for unions to “review their bilateral relations with all Israeli organizations, including Histradrut,” the Israeli trade union federation. This latter point marks this year’s slow, but steady BDS progress in UK unions.

But it’s not the first time Histadrut has come in for criticism from UK unions for its involvement with Israeli war crimes. The 2010 motion stated that TUC “condemns the Histadrut statement of 31 May which sought to justify” the deadly Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara, while that Turkish ship was attempting to break the blockade of Gaza.

PSC’s director Sarah Colborne said the 2008-09 Histadrut support for the Israeli attack on Gaza was another turning point: “You don’t expect that from any trade union — to be supporting a war of aggression. So I think that was quite a shock for people.”

But after several years of bitter battles, the pro-Israel wing of the unions has dwindled to such a degree that it seems to have given up the battle against BDS. At congress, no one even spoke against the 2011 TUC motion, said Lanning.

Israel lobby’s backroom tactics

But this does not mean the Israel lobby has given up. Backroom tactics, appeals to union official to “see sense” and smearing activists as anti-Semitic seem to be the order of the day.

This year, the Board of Deputies of British Jews wrote to Brendan Barber, the TUC general-secretary, calling for him to revoke the leadership’s support for the motion. “This is a moment for principled leadership to prevail,” the Board wrote in conjunction with the Jewish Leadership Council (another pro-Israel group) (Press release, “Board and JLC write to TUC General Secretary,” 13 September 2011).

In June, there was a landmark defeat for the pro-Israel camp. At their conference, the leadership of the Community union (an recent amalgamation of remaining steelworker and knitwear unions) attempted to pass a motion pushing back against the BDS movement.

The text was a throwback to the era of “balanced” TUC policy on Palestine, including the line “there must be full engagement with both sides.” Eric Lee of the anti-boycott Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (TULIP) admitted afterwards there was “no point in trying diminish the size of this defeat … we have a lot of work to do” (“What happened at the Community union conference,” TULIP, 8 June 2011).

Community’s chairman Michael Leahy co-founded TULIP in 2009. Lanning describes it as a “global trade union friends of Israel.” In an email to The Electronic Intifada, Lee responded that this characterization was inaccurate: “We are what we say we are … That having been said, I think we would consider TUFI [Trade Unions Friends of Israel] to be an ally, as we would similar groups in other countries,” he wrote.

In its founding statement, TULIP lists its first goal as to unite groups “fighting within the labor movement against the boycott of Israel.”

Asked to comment on the successes of BDS in the unions, TULIP’s Lee said: “I agree with Hugh Lanning that the BDS campaigners have scored some impressive victories … This doesn’t mean that the average British trade unionist [is] more, or less, committed to BDS now than he or she was last year. It means that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has done an excellent job of mobilizing and lobbying British union conferences, including the TUC’s.”

The Electronic Intifada then asked Lee if TULIP has received or solicited funding from any of the following: the Israeli government or any of its embassies; pro-Israel lobby groups in the West; Israeli think tanks such as theReut Institute; or the Histadrut.

Lee responded: “TULIP receives — at the moment — no funding from anyone and is run on a volunteer budget. There are no links between TULIP and any of the groups you mention, though of course we were delighted that Histadrut leader Ofer Eini spoke positively about TULIP, as we have reported on the website. TULIP — like many other organizations — was interviewed by Reut as part of their research projects; I think they cite us but I’m not sure.”

Lanning was invited to debate Lee at the June Community conference. He said that the pro-Israel camp had set him up to be the fall guy at whom members were supposed to be disgusted and therefore vote against. Instead, some seemed open to BDS. During the debate, one delegate, Simon Brears, attacked the leadership for aligning the union to Israel.

“Since 2009, Community has been part of TULIP without a mandate from members.” Brears said. “This motion is a retrospective mandate for TULIP, which acts as an apologist for war crimes and human rights abuses committed by the Israeli government … [rejection of TUC policy would] isolate the union and send a message to the movement that Community is a nasty, right-wing union” (“Keep boycotting Israel say delegates,” Morning Star, 7 June 2011).

The motion was defeated. “I think they were overconfident,” said Lanning, who added that the leadership was expecting the motion to be approved.

But this failed anti-BDS strategy in the unions has been only one strand of the campaign by Israel’s advocates. This year, there has been a detectable return to an old strategy by Israel’s supporters: accusing critics of Israel of anti-Semitism.

Smear campaign revived

The main thrust of the Board of Deputies’ letter to Brendan Barber was to accuse the PSC of anti-Semitism. Lanning said these attacks are just an example of the pro-Israel camp “believing their own mythology” and emphasized that the vast majority of support for Palestine comes from people who simply don’t like the crimes of Israel. People demonstrating against Israel’s attacks on Gaza, for example, took to the streets because they didn’t like what they saw on TV, not because of supposedly latent anti-Semitism.

Lanning told The Electronic Intifada that these attacks will only make the movement stronger, because they are purely negative and often backfire. He also acknowledged that “there are people who attach themselves around Palestine who are driven by the wrong thing” but that it was PSC’s job to make it clear they are not part of the solidarity movement, which is based on solid anti-racist principles.

Colborne is all too aware of the negative strategy. She described it as the anti-BDS camp’s “delegitimization strategy … they are trying to distance people from PSC.” She pointed out that an influential Israeli think tank, the Reut Institute, dedicated five pages to the PSC in a key 2010 report on Palestine solidarity campaigning in London (“Building a Political Firewall Against the Assault on Israel’s Legitimacy,” Reut Institute, November 2010).

“You can almost see the cogs being put into place from the Reut Institute report,” said Colborne.

That report branded London “the ‘hub of hubs’ of the delegitimization network.” It also argued that a successful anti-BDS strategy should challenge BDS campaigners “by forcing them to ‘play defense’ … The goal is to eventually frame them, depending on their agendas, as anti-peace, anti-Semitic, dishonest purveyors of double standards.”

BDS goes mainstream

Since BDS is “becoming a mainstream issue,” said Colborne, the pro-Israel lobby wants to drag Palestine solidarity campaigners into an “Alice in Wonderland world” so that they focus on reacting to attacks, rather than pushing forward the BDS agenda.

“We’ve issued very clear statements opposing anti-Semitism,” Colborne stressed, but despite that, the PSC continues to be attacked constantly. Unions have mass appeal, which is why the Israel lobby is worried at the inroads BDS is making, added Lanning. Reut seems to agree: “With millions of members and a national presence, trade unions can potentially … turn BDS into a potent economic weapon against Israel” stated its report.

But despite such attacks, Colborne said that there is still a great deal of interest amongst trade unionists on Palestine. “Palestine has become this iconic struggle internationally,” she explained. This is not an achievement to be sniffed at, especially in a year that union activists are focused on more bread-and-butter issues of pay, conditions, pensions and the general climate of austerity coming from the UK government.

Despite these successes, Lanning said that although union policy on BDS is now strong, “what we haven’t yet done is translate that into activism at the local level” on a mass scale. Unions are “sort of oil tankers” that take a long time to change, he argued.

Lanning said the next stage of the BDS movement’s advance in the unions will be on the level of global union federations, which have been the “traditional stronghold” for the pro-Israel camp, with the Histadrut being present. In 2016, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) meets again, and Lanning is hoping for a better debate by then.

South African union federation COSATU raised BDS with the ITUC last year, but it was rebuffed. TULIP’s Lee said that “the Histadrut’s leader was elected a vice president” of the ITUC during its most recent congress. Winning the debate is a long term goal that could take five to ten years, said Lanning. But he considered it a good sign that Israel’s only support in the unions now is largely based in the “Anglo-world” — mainly the US and Australia.

Both Lanning and Colborne are hoping for advances on the level of activism, building on the strong policy victories. They are pushing for individual unions to start organizing members to address links their companies have with Israeli firms. For example, the Communication Workers Union has spoken out against British telecommunications firm BT’s links with Israel’s Bezeq over its services to illegal settlements in the West Bank.

To build towards such activism, Colborne said the PSC has started to organize trade union delegations to Palestine, with the next such trip likely to take place during Easter next year. The PSC had also been planning to hold a conference of union activists last month to discuss BDS tactics. But after a 30 November joint day of action on saving workers’ pensions was agreed, the conference had to be postponed so that activists’ efforts were not split. Lanning is hoping it will push ahead early next year.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. He edited the book Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation. His website is www.winstanleys.org.

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Exclusive: Leaked emails show Israel role in UK plot to ban Raed Salah

My report, exclusive to the Electronic Intifada.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | London | 27 October 2011A UK immigration court ruled yesterday that popular Palestinian leader Sheikh Raed Salah could be deported from the country, after being banned by Home Secretary Theresa May in June.

The Electronic Intifada can now also exclusively reveal new details of an Israeli government role in the UK plot to exclude Salah.

Following yesterday’s decision, Salah could now take his appeal to a higher court, and meanwhile will remain in the UK on bail. Salah’s lawyer told The Electronic Intifada yesterday that his legal team were considering the judgment very carefully and could not comment further for the time being.

The judgment that Salah could be deported for “unacceptable behavior” comes as The Electronic Intifada reveals new details of the Israeli role in Salah’s June-July detention by the UK government. Government emails obtained by The Electronic Intifada contain evidence that the Israeli embassy in London gave information to the British government later used in an attempt to deport him from the country.

“Victim of unfairness and procedural irregularity”

In their ruling the First Tier Tribunal judges accepted that Salah “has behaved lawfully throughout this matter, and that he has been the victim of unfairness and procedural irregularity … [and] was detained unlawfully for a period of time.”

The judges wrote that their decision was a “balancing exercise” between the public interest and the interests of Salah. The ruling addresses each of five main points the government used to ban Salah, reiterating the case on each side, but for the most part it does not rule on the central facts, agreeing with the government’s argument that the five points did not need to be proven.

But on one of the five points, the judges wrote that a poem by Salah “is not directed to the Jewish people as a whole but only at those among them who aim at Israeli territorial expansion and control at the expense of the Palestinians.”

The Electronic Intifada previously published private documents proving that this accusation of anti-Semitism was fabricated, as it rested on what seemed to be a malicious mistranslation of Salah’s original words. But the judges have neglected the point that it was not just a mistaken quote, but a deliberate Israeli attempt to smear Salah. They state that video evidence shown in court proved that Salah was “the victim of serious [Israeli] police harassment” but that this was “not a matter which is relevant to the central issues in this appeal.”

Opaque criteria for “unacceptable behavior”

The judges concluded that Salah’s words came within the government’s anti-terrorist “Prevent” policy, because he “engaged in the unacceptable behavior of fostering hatred.”

They did not specify on this point, saying they had reached the decision from the evidence “viewed in the round.” They elaborated: “it is not necessary to satisfy the criteria of unacceptable behavior for words and actions to be racist as such … This might be achieved by words and actions which are not necessarily racist.” They also explain that the list of “unacceptable behavior” specified by the government (including racism) was indicative and not exhaustive.

In a striking turn of phrase, the judges wrote that “although it is not our task to rubber stamp a decision by the Secretary of State [Theresa May]” it was nevertheless her decision to make rather than the court’s.

From the beginning, Salah claimed Israel had a hand in the exclusion, arrest, unlawful detention and attempt to deport him from the UK. “Israel carries the full responsibility for his detention in the United Kingdom,” a press release said at the time.

Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), at the time said to the press: “The primary cause for the arrest is Israeli pressure and the pressure of Zionist elements inside Britain” (“Raed Salah arrested after UKappearance,” Ynet, 29 June 2011).

Concerns that Israel using UK case against Salah

Salah refused to consent to voluntary deportation — the UK Border Agency (UKBA) tried to persuade him to drop his in-country appeal. Salah was concerned that, once he returns home, the Israeli authorities would use a successful deportation from Britain in their long-standing campaign against him.

In June, right-wing Israeli parliamentarian Alex Miller used Salah’s arrest to build support for his so-called Raed Salah bill, according to daily Israel Hayom. “If the British government refuses entry for this individual because of his extreme views and the fear that he might use public and academic venues to incite violence and racism, there is no reason why Israel should allow him and his kind to enjoy such activities either,” he is reported to have said (“MK Ben-Ari urges Britain not to release Sheikh Salah,” 20 June). Miller is a member of the extreme right-wingYisrael Beiteinu party, and lives on an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Relying on dubious Israeli sources, elements of the British press accused Salah of anti-Semitism — an allegation now ruled false by the court which also formed the basis of the exclusion order. Three days after legally entering the UK on 25 June for a well-publicized speaking tour, Salah was abruptly arrested in his hotel room. This prevented him from attending a public meeting in Parliament the next day, organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

At the police station, UKBA officials served an exclusion order on Salah dated 23 June. The letter cited a 2009 Jerusalem Post editorial which attributed a fabricated anti-Semitic comment to Salah. The editorial said Salah wrote a poem including the comment “You Jews are criminal bombers of mosques” but the original Arabic text of the poem was in fact addressed at the Israeli occupation forces. The words “You Jews” were not in the poem and The Jerusalem Post appears to have added them.

In a July High Court hearing for bail, significant doubt was cast on this and other statements attributed to Salah in the Israeli and British press. The judge, Justice Nicholas Stadlen then freed Salah on restrictive bail. Conditions included a ban on public speaking. In September, the High Court ruled in a separate judicial review that the first few days of detention had been unlawful, and Salah was entitled to compensation.

Details of the plot against Salah emerged as the case went on. The Electronic Intifada uncovered evidence that the government had acted in collusion with pro-Israel lobbying groups in the UK.

But today, The Electronic Intifada can reveal new details of an Israeli government role in the plot.

Israeli government’s role

In a 22 June UKBA advice document used by Home Secretary Theresa May to justify her ban of Salah, case worker Jonathan Rosenorn-Lanng stated that although “this case is very finely balanced,” Salah’s alleged views had the potential to foster “inter-community violence” in the UK. Rosenorn-Lanng also said the British Embassy in Tel Aviv had been consulted: “The FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] in Israel has also confirmed that SALAH is considered to be an extremist.” Presumably, this view was based on Israeli press reports, or on consultation with Israeli officials.

Only one day before Salah flew to London’s Heathrow Airport on 25 June, a UKBAofficial emailed Alan Stewart, an official with the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, telling him about the ban and detailing British-Israeli efforts to collaborate on the case.

UKBA official Rebecca Hadlow attached a copy of the exclusion, along with a border warning from the Risk and Liaison Overseas Network (RALON), part of the UKBA’s International Group. Hadlow said the RALON notice had been issued to airlines flying direct from Tel Aviv to the UK: “If they identify him, they will not carry him.”

The alert was disseminated to the Israeli state airline El Al in Tel Aviv. But it turned out that Salah traveled on a British Airways flight.

Even then, on 24 June, the British government had still not been able to serve the exclusion order on Salah: “we did not until this morning have an address for him (I am grateful for the assistance of the Israeli Embassy in London for this).” Hadlow then gave Salah’s address and asked Stewart to arrange for the exclusion order to be couriered to him, while acknowledging that “he may not receive it before he travels.”

The same email was copied to Philip Boyle, an official at the British Embassy in Amman, who replied to Hadlow that he had “passed details of the exclusion notice to a contact in the Israeli Immigration Intelligence [sic – there is no known organization by that name] and asked to be notified if they encounter the subject leaving for the UK on an indirect route.”

The text of the RALON border warning makes it clear Salah did not know he was banned — “He has not yet been notified of his exclusion.” The UKBA knew his passport number, therefore it is logical to assume they got this information from the Israeli government, perhaps via the Israeli embassy in London. Yet somehow, the UKBA got his full name wrong, mixing up two of his names.

On 5 July, Claire Lawrence, Head of the “Middle East Peace Process/Palestine/Israel” desk at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, wrote to Rosenorn-Lanng, saying: “Our Embassy in Tel Aviv have just let us know that a very high level delegation intend to call on our Ambassador early tomorrow, to discuss the Salah case amongst other issues.” Who exactly was part of this delegation was not revealed, although it seems a likely reference to Israeli government ministers or security officials.

Salah and his legal team are due to meet and will decide whether or not to pursue his appeal against deportation further. It remains to be seen if any higher court would act as anything other than a “rubber stamp” of the political decision to expel Salah from the UK, apparently with the cooperation of Israel.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. He edited the newly-released book Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation. His website is www.winstanleys.org.

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Palestine is Still the Issue: Pro-Palestinian activist…or police spy?

My monthly column for Ceasefire Magazine, 22 October.

In Thursday’s Guardian (20th Oct) there was an important feature article describing a “mounting crisis” in the Metropolitan Police’s spying outfit targeting activist groups. This comes on the heels of a series of dramatic journalistic revelations this year that have unmasked several police officers who had infiltrated environmental, anti-fascist and anarchist activist groups.

The revelations began late last year when former friends of activist “Mark Stone” became suspicious of his conduct, eventually confronting him. He was, it turns out, Mark Kennedy, an undercover police officer sent to disrupt non-violent activist groups. His former friends published their findings on Indymedia and, not long after, the mainstream media got wind of the story and, in an attempt to catch up, started to do more digging.

The Guardian‘s article sums up the current state of what has been uncovered thus far. Again, several secret police agents who had posed as activists were named: as well as Kennedy, there was Jim Boyling, who operated undercover within Reclaim the Streets, as well as “Mark Jacobs”, “Lynn Watson”, “Pete Black” (all three are fake identities) and Simon Wellings.

These people went to extraordinary lengths to subvert perfectly legal protest groups. Kennedy even had a long-term activist girlfriend while Boyling married a fellow campaigner. Some have stated that Kennedy, far from being a mere passive observer, had in fact acted as an agent provocateur, trying to goad activists into more assertive direct action in order to entrap them into offences they could be prosecuted for.

It seems Kennedy’s sham came to light after suspicions were raised when a trial of activists had, somewhat unexpectedly, collapsed – police presumably did not want to reveal how they knew so much about the protests in question. The latest revelations in the Guardian is that Boyling allegedly committed perjury in court by giving false testimony under oath.

But the name that most caught my eye in recent police spy revelations was Robert Lambert. For the past few years, Lambert has been an academic, with particular expertise in Islamophobia, at the University of Exeter. He had previously been head of the Muslim Contact Unit, an anti-terrorist unit set up to “build relations” with the Muslim community after 9/11.

However, last weekend, the Guardian named him as a spy who’d infiltrated Greenpeace in the 1980s, later becoming head of the unit which worked on such infiltrations.

This caught my attention, because of Lambert’s connection to the case of Sheikh Raed Salah, the Palestinian leader who the UK is currently attempting to deport. On Electronic IntifadaI have been closely covering Salah’s case, exposing the bizarre way the UK government has been acting towards him.

In Salah’s appeal against deportation, his lawyers called Lambert as an expert witness. Lambert duly testified to the unreliability of the Community Security Trust (CST) when it comes to Muslim criticism of Israel. The CST seems to have provided the vast majority (if not all) of the material used by Theresa May to secretly ban, and then order, the deportation of Salah. The CST’s secret reports to the government on Salah are often based on dubious sources – including highly hostile Israeli sources.

Lambert’s supporters point to the fact he had never made a secret of having been part of Special Branch before his retirement and subsequent move into academia. This is of course true, but for many it still leaves a lot of unanswered questions, the first of which is this: who are the active spies today?

Indeed, although we now know a lot about police subversion and infiltration of the protest/activist movement, virtually nothing has emerged so far on whether UK pro-Palestinian groups had, or have, been similarly infiltrated. In theory, it seems a likely possibility. For example, London is regarded by influential Israeli thinktank the Reut Institute as a global “hub of delegitimisation”.

From talking to activists in Palestine solidarity groups, many have for years suspected the presence of spies within the movement, presumably working in a similar way to Kennedy and the rest: mostly engaging in low level disruption and intelligence gathering. The Guardian says the spies named above were involved in infiltrating Stop the War (although so far they’ve not gone into much detail on that aspect). Considering STW’s considerable involvement in the Palestinian cause over the years, I would certainly like to know more, notably whether similar infiltrators are currently moving in pro-Palestinian circles right now.

Having said that, it’s clearly important for campaigners and activists to bear in mind that paranoia (however justified it may prove to be in some cases) can be paralysing, and getting too obsessive about “alleged” spies cannot be healthy. Of course, should proof of cases similar to Kennedy’s come to light, it would be yet another telling indictment of the state and its often immoral methods.

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. His first book “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation” has been published by Pluto Press. His Palestine is Still the Issue column appears monthly. His website is www.winstanleys.org.

 

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