‘If Jeremy Corbyn hired an ex-spy, it would be all over the front pages’

Unit 8200 veteran Assaf Kaplan. (IRI/Facebook)

JVL Introduction

We’ve taken the Canary’s headline ‘If Jeremy Corbyn hired an ex-spy, it would be all over the front pages’ as the title for our posting below.

You can listen to the Canary’s interview with Asa Winstanley here, but pride of place in our posting below is Asa’s exposure in the Electronic Intifada of how a former Israeli military intelligence officer, Assaf Kaplan, should find himself working in Keir Starmer’s office.

His role: “Social Listening and Organizing Manager.”

Sounds like he is uniquely suited for the post given his spying background!

We also link to a petition calling for his appointment to be rescinded.

Stop press: see the Tysky Sour video with Michael Walker on Youtube – Keir Starmer Hires A Former Israeli Intelligence Officer

This article was originally published by The Electronic Intifada on Tue 19 Jan 2021. Read the original here.

UK Labour Party hires former Israeli spy

The UK Labour Party has hired a former Israeli spy to help manage its social media, The Electronic Intifada can reveal.

Assaf Kaplan will work in the office of Labour leader Keir Starmer, a source with knowledge of the hire said.

Kaplan was in Israeli military intelligence for nearly five years, an officer in Unit 8200, its cyberwarfare branch.

Unit 8200 specializes in spying, hacking and encryption. It carries out blackmail, mass surveillance and systematic discrimination against Palestinians.

In 2014, a group of whistleblowers detailed how the unit spies on Palestinian civilians living under Israeli military occupation.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Kaplan was in the Israeli army’s military intelligence division from May 2009 to November 2013.

He was a Unit 8200 intelligence analyst and later an officer.

This likely coincided with the period when 8200 was carrying out the type of crimes exposed by the whistleblowers, in a September 2014 letter to The Guardian.

Extortion, blackmail

“Any information that might enable extortion of an individual is considered relevant,” one Unit 8200 reservist explained in the letter. “Whether said individual is of a certain sexual orientation, cheating on his wife, or in need of treatment in Israel or the West Bank – he is a target for blackmail.”

Another explained that: “Any Palestinian is exposed to nonstop monitoring by the Israeli Big Brother, without legal protection, and with no way of knowing when they too would become an objective – targeted for harassment, extortion or physical injury.”

In a profile of Kaplan on an ex-employer’s website, he is proudly described as a “Unit 8200 veteran.”

The Israeli Regional Initiative’s website says Kaplan is a “Unit 8200 veteran.” (IRI)

Neither Kaplan nor the Labour Party answered requests for comment.

Soon after publication of this article, mention of Military Intelligence was deleted from Kaplan’s LinkedIn. You can read a full copy of the original by clicking here.

The job he has taken was advertised by UK Labour in September last year. The following month, Kaplan announced on Facebook that he had moved to London.

He began work in December, a source told The Electronic Intifada.

His full job title is “Social Listening and Organizing Manager.” A relatively new trend in public relations, “social listening” is a way for organizations to monitor online conversations about their “brand.”

But a more blunt way to think of it would be surveillance.

Kaplan’s LinkedIn states he has experience using a “digital monitoring platform” as well as “human analysis” to keep tabs on voters in Israeli elections.

The UK Labour job listing shows that Kaplan is now responsible for leading efforts at “challenging disinformation online” about the party, as well as helping it win elections.

But Kaplan’s qualifications for winning elections are questionable.

Losing elections

His LinkedIn profile states that he was deputy head of the Israeli Labor Party’s campaign for the April 2019 general election to the country’s parliament, the Knesset.

That election saw the once dominant Israeli Labor Party collapse to just six seats.

And recent polling suggests Labor may be wiped out altogether in the Israeli election set for March.

If helping to win elections and build voter support is a qualification for the “social listening” job, then it looks like the British Labour Party picked the wrong person.

Labour’s right-wing leader Keir Starmer has obsessively purged the party of left-wing and Palestine solidarity elements since succeeding Jeremy Corbyn last year.

A multi-millionaire pro-Israel lobbyist donated $62,000 towards his leadership election campaign. But Starmer kept this secret until after he had won the party leadership.

Assaf Kaplan’s social media shows he has already established ties with UK Labour’s internal Israel lobby, as well as at least one past Israeli spy.

His Facebook profile shows he is “friends” with both Shai Masot and Michael Rubin. After publication of this article, his Facebook settings were 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.

Masot was the Israeli embassy agent ejected from the UK in January 2017 after being exposed for plotting against British ministers and lawmakers.

Masot also interfered in British politics by trying to secretly engineer the creation of a pro-Israel youth group within the Labour Party.

A close contact of Masot, Rubin is director of Labour Friends of Israel. In undercover footage filmed by Al Jazeera, Rubin admitted that “I knew Shai in my role at Labour Students, we did a couple of things together.”

Rubin was chair of Labour Students in February 2016, when the fabricated “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” against Jeremy Corbyn first kicked off in earnest at Oxford University.

Rubin secretly conducted Labour’s first ever “investigation” into alleged anti-Semitism. It was such an obvious hatchet job that it was buried by the party.

But The Electronic Intifada obtained a copy and published extracts last year.

Not only did the document smear and misrepresent the pro-Corbyn Labour left at Oxford, but it included outright fabrications. Yet the report was highly influential in promoting the false “Labour anti-Semitism” narrative.

Kaplan is also followed on Twitter by Liron Velleman, an officer with the Jewish Labour Movement – another pro-Israel group which has smeared Corbyn.

Mercenary spies

Israel’s first victims are the Palestinians. But what begins with the Palestinians rarely ends there.

Unit 8200 is notorious as a factory for churning out high-tech Israeli spies, who then often flow into Israel’s privatized global spy network.

Mercenary Israeli “intelligence” firms like Black Cube and NSO Group have been linked to horrendous human rights abuses and pervasive intrusion the world over – including against Americans.

NSO Group was founded by Unit 8200 veterans and offers sophisticated spyware to repressive regimes including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Their Pegasus software can be used to hijack a person’s phone allowing spies to steal data, passwords, email and text messages, as well as listening in on phone calls and being able to turn on microphones at will.

The latest version of Pegasus to be discovered by security researchers Citizen Lab was used to spy on journalists at Al Jazeera.

Israeli companies established by Unit 8200 veterans have also been responsible for global theft of user data for commercial advantage.

One such firm was Onavo. It was marketed as a free VPN privacy tool and bought by Facebook.

But it was removed from the Apple app store after it emerged that it granted Facebook almost full visibility of a user’s data, giving the technology giant insights into consumer behavior. This ultimately led to Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014.

Black Cube – which is reportedly stuffed with 8200 veterans – was hired by the once powerful Hollywood producer and convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein to silence and intimidate his victims.

Unit 8200 is also a key part of Israel’s war against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, or BDS.

Israel’s anti-BDS minister at the time Gilad Erdan met with the head of 8200 in an apparently habitual meeting, his 2016 diary showed.

Updated after publication to report on scrubbing of his social media.



Please sign this petition: A Foreign Spy in Starmer’s Office? No Thanks!

As a campaigner for Palestinian rights and a Labour Party member, I was alarmed to read a report in The Electronic Intifada (19 January 2021) that the Labour Party “has hired a former Israeli spy to help manage its social media […]” and who would be working in the office of Keir Starmer himself. Details of the new appointee’s role in the Israeli army’s military intelligence division from May 2009 to November 2013 are given in the article, including the claim that he was an analyst and later an officer in Unit 8200, which “specializes in spying, hacking and encryption [and] carries out blackmail, mass surveillance and systematic discrimination against Palestinians.”

The following tweets by journalists at Novara Media have given the report wider publicity:

·         “I don’t care who broke the story, or how. A man who chose to work for a military unit whose surveillance methods are so inhumane that its own active reservists publicly refused to work for it has no place in the Labour Party, let alone the leader’s office” (Rivkah Brown).

·         “I’m sure many Labour members will be nervous sharing this piece, but it’s well researched and clearly of interest that someone in LOTO worked for Israeli intelligence for five years” (Michael Walker).

·         “I’m open to hearing the case why its fine to have someone who worked for five years in military intelligence of a human rights abusing power work alongside the leader of the opposition. However, the idea it’s not an important topic of investigation and discussion is laughable” (Michael Walker again).

·         “The idea any U.K. political leader has a former intelligence officer of a foreign power working for them raises hugely important questions. I think most people, Labour voters or Tory, would find this unsettling” (Aaron Bastani).

If this report is confirmed, and given its very serious implications for Labour members and supporters, and for the Party’s reputation, in the UK and abroad, I call on Keir Starmer

·         to rescind, or persuade the Party’s General Secretary (David Evans) to rescind, this appointment in order to restore members’ confidence that their legitimate use of social media will remain protected against unauthorised breach of privacy; and that members who are Palestinian or who support Palestinian rights can expect Labour to be a safe environment for them as it should be for every other member; and

·         to ensure, or persuade the Party’s General Secretary to ensure, that those responsible for the appointment be forthwith suspended from membership pending an enquiry into their behaviour, whether for undermining a safe environment which all Labour members have a right to expect, or for bringing the Party into disrepute, or both.

Unless the appointment is promptly rescinded and the lessons learned, I fear for my own safety in the Labour Party as a campaigner for Palestinian rights, and for the democratic rights of members. I refuse to be silenced on Palestine nor have I any intention of leaving the Party. Labour members deserve better and have every reason to demand this terrible misjudgement be corrected.

Please support this urgent call and sign the petition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments (12)

  • steve mitchell says:

    Perhaps Labour should change its name to IngSoc

  • James Dickins says:

    “The job he has taken was advertised by UK Labour in September last year. The following month, Kaplan announced on Facebook that he had moved to London. He began work in December, a source told The Electronic Intifada.”
    ______________________________________________
    1. Is Kaplan a British citizen? (We certainly know he’s an Israeli one.)

    2. Is Kaplan a member of the (British) Labour Party?

    3. Is Kaplan likely to be any good at his job for Labour?

    The article itself answers that one: “he was deputy head of the Israeli Labor Party’s campaign for the April 2019 general election to the country’s parliament, the Knesset. That election saw the once dominant Israeli Labor Party collapse to just six seats.”

    After the March 2020 election, the Israeli Labor Party has 3 seats in the Knesset and 2% of the national vote: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_Labor_Party

    It accordingly seems unlikely that Keir Starmer has brougth Assaf Kaplan in to help Labour win elections. I wonder what the real reason is.

  • bob cannell says:

    I would advise LP members not to download any LP apps and to delete any they have or not to update them. Israeli intelligence are masters at hacking into phones and turning them into listening devices, even when switched off. (You have to remove the battery to be sure you arent being spied on).
    We have only an allegedly former Israeli spy’s assurance that he is an ex-spy, now that he has access to LP records.

  • Jacob Ecclestone says:

    Asa Winstanley and the Electronic Intifada are to be congratulated on a great bit of journalism. Members of the Labour Party – and the people of Britain – owe them a debt of thanks.

    The fact that the BBC, Guardian, ITV and the rest of the mainstream media have so far failed to follow up this story shows yet again that they are “whited sepulchres” – merely pretending to be seekers after truth and holding the powerful to account. They do nothing of the kind. They are professionally spineless and little more than the political mouthpieces of corrupt governments.

    Keir Starmer has again shown his political incompetence and that his promises of honesty were false. The appointment of Mr Kaplan demonstrates that the leader of the Labour Party cares nothing for racial justice, the oppression of the Palestinian people or – indeed – the members of the Labour Party who are humiliated by this grotesque appointment. If Keir Starmer and his circle of supporters want to run the Labour Party in the interests of Israel and religious bigots, let them at least have the honesty to say so .

    Questions:

    Mr Kaplan says he is a “former spy”. In the immortal words of Mandy Rice Davies, he would say that wouldn’t he ?

    Has Mr Kaplan taken British citizenship or does the leader of the Labour Party not mind having agents of a foreign power working in his office ?

    Keir Starmer is a member of the Privy Council and is on oath to “defend all civil and temporal jurisdictions of Her majesty………against all Foreign Princes, Persons, Prelates, States and Potentates”. Won’t that be a bit difficult with an Israeli spy working in his office, or will Mr Kaplan promise to be good?

  • Margaret West says:

    It is a disgrace that this story has essentially been spiked .. “nothing of any interest here .. just walk on ..”

    (Very good YouTube talk by Michael Walker by the way!)

    The fact that Kaplan had as a friend Masot (the agent who had been thrown out of Britain) should alone make it of interest – surely? I would be interested to know who was on the interviewing panel for this guy – was he asked about his values concerning Human Rights ?

    I take it the BBC is uninterested in the story. Michael Walker mentioned GMB in his talk and Piers Morgans insistence on the airing and discussion of political issues. Now I hesitate to suggest this because the man annoys me a lot of the time – but would GMB be interested in this story? Piers Morgan did speak up for Palestinians when the Israeli vaccine was being discussed as policy. Or am I being naive ..

  • Terence McGinity says:

    Good to have a Model Motion on this.

  • William Johnston says:

    What might be of concern, whoever the successful applicant, is the creation of this post in the first place. That the concern should be justified is confirmed by Starmer’s first choice appointee.

  • John Bowley says:

    This is just what we need. Irony.

  • Allan Howard says:

    Jacob said the following in his post above:

    ‘Asa Winstanley and the Electronic Intifada are to be congratulated on a great bit of journalism. Members of the Labour Party – and the people of Britain – owe them a debt of thanks.’

    I don’t mean to contradict Jacob, but the vast majority of ‘the people of Britain’ don’t follow the Electronic Intifada, or even know of its existence. The name ‘Asa Winstanley’ might ring a bell for some, but only because some of the MSM (and the Jewish newspapers) covered the fact that he was suspended from the LP (for anti-semitism supposedly).

    And I just this moment did a search, and the MSM and the Jewish newspapers have completely blanked the story as far as I can see, as one would expect of them!

  • Allan Howard says:

    In the process of doing a search I came across this abhorrent piece of black propaganda lies and falsehoods by the CAA on their website:

    Jewish Voice for Labour, a sham organisation which, by the admission of its chair, was founded in order “to tackle allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party”, is also hosting an event on Israel featuring highly controversial speakers.

    That the Labour Party continues to attract these figures and their following shows that its failure to address antisemitism is registered not only by those fighting antisemitism but also by those instigating and defending it.

    https://antisemitism.org/labour-conference-fringe-events-to-feature-individuals-suspended-or-expelled-from-party-over-antisemitism/

  • Les Hartop says:

    This appointment is a major mistake by the New Blairites.

    No one in the party wants to think they are being spied on… even less being spied on by the party that they pay subs to… and to top it all, spied on by a person who has supported Israeli intimidation and violence against Palestinians.

    We must make the most of this…

    Put this story onto the Facebook and Twitter pages of all Labour MPs.. Make it an issue for them and an embarrassment to the Starmer clique. Do it now.

    I’d like to see the wording Evans comes out with to justify a ban on discussing the employment of Israeli secret agents LOL
    Get those motions sent in to your… go for unanimous resolutions sent to Head office, Regional office, nearest local Labour MP.

  • Lindsey Colvin-Fox says:

    I am very concerned on hearing that the Labour party has appointed an Israeli former intelligence officer to manage its social media. Apart from the ethical considerations of such appointment, surely it is a security concern to have a former intelligence officer from a foreign country in such a position?

Comments are now closed.