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

Keir Starmer Assaf Kaplan and Jeremy Corbyn
Steve Topple

The journalist who broke the story about the Labour Party hiring Israeli former-spy Assaf Kaplan has spoken exclusively to The Canary. And he pointedly said that if Jeremy Corbyn had done something similar, the establishment corporate press would have had a field day.

Meet Assaf Kaplan

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor at the Electronic Intifada. On Tuesday 19 January, he broke a story about Keir Starmer’s Labour Party hiring an ex-spy. As Winstanley wrote:

Kaplan will work in the office of Labour leader Keir Starmer…

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

He noted that:

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.

Unit 8200

But as Winstanley told The Canary, Unit 8200:

is the Israeli military intelligence. They’re essentially their cybercrime outfit…. And I say that in the pejorative sense of perpetuating cybercrime. They carry out mass surveillance against Palestinians. And… they’re well documented… as carrying out blackmail, extortion against Palestinians… there was a letter that whistleblowers released in the Guardian in 2014, where this was quite well documented. So this is who the Labour Party has chosen to hire.

You can watch The Canary‘s full interview with Winstanley at the bottom of this article.

The Guardian reported in 2014 that the letter, signed by 43 Israeli Unit 8200 veterans, alleged:

that the “all-encompassing” intelligence the unit gathers on Palestinians – much of it concerning innocent people – is used for “political persecution” and to create divisions in Palestinian society.

The largest intelligence unit in the Israeli military, Unit 8200 intercepts electronic communications including email, phone calls and social media in addition to targeting military and diplomatic traffic.

The signatories say, however, that a large part of their work was unrelated to Israel’s security or defence, but appeared designed to perpetuate the occupation by “infiltrating” and “controlling” all aspects of Palestinian life.

Now, Kaplan has a new role in the Labour Party.

Spying for Labour?

Winstanley wrote that:

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.

It should be noted that Kaplan also worked for Israel’s Labor Party as deputy head of its 2019 election campaign. The party suffered a collapse, gaining just six seats in that election.

The conscription issue

People have been criticising Winstanley’s article on Twitter. They have pointed out that Israel operates conscription. So, essentially, Kaplan may not have had a choice but to serve in Unit 8200.

But Winstanley told The Canary:

First of all, Israeli conscription only lasts… two and a half years. And Kaplan was in military intelligence for almost five years. So you know… this was something he clearly enjoyed doing. And secondly, in reality, Israeli conscription is not really compulsory… the actual figures for Israelis who… enlist in reality is as low as 35%, depending on which figures you look at. Because it’s very easy to escape the so-called compulsory conscription, you just have to basically get a doctor’s note to say that, you know, you’re mentally unable to. … So it’s wrong to say that… he had no choice to do this.

Facebook friends

People have also been defending the Labour Party’s decision to hire Kaplan; essentially saying ‘what’s the problem?’  But the problems with the appointment are numerous.

As Winstanley wrote that 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.

Classified intel

Unit 8200’s work is classified. As the website Security Alliance wrote, it:

serves as the main central intelligence collection service in Israel and specialises in electronic warfare and code decryption. Communications data is gathered from the EMEA region using an array of satellite dishes spread across Israel.

Although the offensive cyber operations of Unit 8200 will evidently remain a closely guarded secret, a former commander of the unit was quoted in Forbes, stating that: “there isn’t a major operation, from the Mossad or any intelligence security agency, that 8200 is not involved in.”

So essentially, you have a former security agent, presumably with knowledge of the classified operations of a foreign power working for a UK political party. This should spark serious questions for Labour. But there are also questions over what Kaplan will be doing in his new job of “Social Listening Manager”?

The purge

Part of his role includes being the:

Lead on challenging disinformation online and empowering our leaders, members and supporters to be equipped to deal with it effectively.

Does that mean countering negative news stories about the party? Or monitoring criticisms from members as part of the current Labour “purge“? It’s currently unclear. But as SKWAWKBOX noted, the Labour Party has form on the latter:

During Jeremy Corbyn’s second leadership election, the Labour right – still in control of the party machine – purged thousands of party members based on innocuous social media comments, even when the accounts those members were using were anonymous and used email [addresses] that were not used for party communications.

The Canary asked the Labour Party for comment. But it had not responded at the time of publication.

But perhaps the biggest issue is surrounding the fact that, turn the clocks back 18 months, and a story like this would have played out very differently.

Shoes on other feet

Winstanley said to The Canary:

if Jeremy Corbyn had hired someone from the… former Russian intelligence, it would have been in all the mainstream newspapers’ front pages the next day… there’s no doubt about that. It would have been massive.

He summed that up by saying:

it does show the hypocrisy of the so-called mainstream media that they’re not paying attention to this story as they should be.

I expect Labour to come back with nothing; to ignore my request for comment. Because that’s habitually what they do. And yeah, I do think he’ll keep his position… The Labour Party under Keir Starmer wants to signal how friendly they are to Israel. And Keir Starmer, as you know… supports British intelligence carrying out crimes against British civilians. So why wouldn’t you support Israeli intelligence carrying out crimes against Palestinians and other civilians around the world?

Already, Winstanley has reported that Labour is trying to kill the story running in the Guardian. So it appears it’s down to independent and foreign media to report the story. This is another vital reason why outlets like The Canary need the public’s support. And overall, the story shows yet another concerning move by a party that’s becoming a shadow of its former self.

Watch The Canary’s full interview with Wistanley:

Featured image via the Telegraph – YouTube, Electronic Intifada – screengrab and i-D – YouTube 

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  • Show Comments
    1. As I have said many times before, Starmer is a very, very dangerous man. This appears to be just another piece in his dangerous jigsaw, which has been given a huge boost by Covid, as there are no face to face meetings, no conferences, so he has a clear run.

      WHY would a British political party employ a foreign spy. Something is extremely wrong, and every day that Starmer remains leader, the danger increases.

      1. That is why Democratic Socialists need to leave, with his loopholing expertise people are going to end up in Prison/with Criminal Records for nothing, let him be Dangerous to his Neoliberal Neolabour Brigade, while we bring change!

    2. Is there any such thing as an “ex-spy”? Surely when you join, you swear to serve your country in any way required and that’s a life long oath. Why would anyone hire an agent of another country’s security services knowing this?

      Whatever, with this knowledge, surely the current Labour Party leadership should now be considered a risk to national security.

    3. I can’t understand why people remain in this toxic party.

      I left after Starmer won and I am afraid he has turned out worse than I expected – he really does deserve his Stalin nickname.

      We need a different vehicle to achieve the original aims of labour – the ppj perhaps.

    4. I see the far-right blog Guido Fawkes has covered this. Of course they have ignored the security implications to merely laugh up their sleeve at Labour for this.

      Whatever this man’s qualifications he would fail vetting for even the most basic of Civil Service jobs. If advisors were vetted and held to Civil Service T&Cs (like the Civil Service Code) we would have avoided Boris’ calamitous hiring of advisors with controversial views on eugenics, for example.

      Regardless of how friendly we are with a country we shouldn’t be hiring from their spies to work at the heart of government – as he may well be in a few short years. He is allegedly a ‘former’ spy with connections to those who are still spies. I don’t buy into the argument over whether he was conscripted or volunteered for the job or stayed on. It’s unimportant and a deliberate distraction from the fact that he spent years working as a spy for a foreign power.

      There are straightforward and strict rules over who you can hire in the Civil Service and how they can behave. We should expect the same calibre of personnel in political advisors and the same level of security. There have been too many mistakes in the past from ignoring both of these rules.

      Starmer is alienating an entire wing of the party who would like to see recognition for Palestine rather than hire those who directly took part in their oppression. After 14 years in power, overseeing austerity, COVID and Brexit it would be unlikely for the Tories to expect another term. At the very least you’d expect ‘Tory Fatigue’ to have set in. Starmer is in danger of permanently alienating anyone who might’ve voted Labour again. He’s completely lost Scotland and although he may get a few extra votes from the publicity surrounding the new leader it will make little difference to the overall result. He should be trying to win them back along with the former ‘red wall’ voters that he alienated in his overthrow of Corbyn. He won’t though..

    5. Sitting ironically in one’s e-mail inbox this morning next to the latest Canary newsletter, which contained the link to this revealing article and, as usual, links to a number of other interesting articles, was an e-mail from Lisa Nandy. Ms Nandy’s e-mail was entitled: “Our best days still lie ahead” when, in fact, it is quite clear to anyone with eyes to see with and ears to listen with that, post-Corbyn, Labour’s worst days so far are here – right now! whilst there is every prospect that what lies ahead are, contrary to Ms Nandy’s desperately absurd claim, even worse days for the Labour Party!

      I am not currently a member of the Labour Party which is no doubt why I received Ms Nandy’s ‘join the Labour Party’ recruiting e-mail this morning. Rather than privately reply to Ms Nandy’s request however I prefer to publicly inform the Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who, even long before the final instruction to “Kill socialism: destroy Corbyn!’ was issued (I like to visualise this instruction coming from Donald Pleasence’s brilliant incarnation of Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the 1967 Bond movie ‘You only Live Twice’) was consistently one of the very fiercest critics of the probably the most honest and most decent and committed Labour politician to grace the benches of the House of Commons since Britain’s best ever government, the immediate post-war 1945 Clement Atlee-led Labour government, sat within that historic chamber, her confederate master, Sir Keir Starmer, and my anti-Corbyn constituency (Labour) MP, that in singular contradistinction to my steadfast political position prior to Sir Keir imperiously assuming the reigns there is now as much chance of my voting for Labour as one tiny fraction of one single constituent fundamental particle within one single proton within the nucleus of one single atom of one tiny snowball has of surviving in the very core of the massively re-stoked flames of Hell just after Satan has taken on fresh deliveries of coal!

    6. Who says this man is no longer a spy? Old spies never die they only become unhinged! Has anyone confirmed he is no longer a spy? Who employs a “former” spy in this particular job? Hmm! Why was it alleged that a reporter confronted Labour representative yesterday and he was told in most forcible manner not to report this particular appointment! It stinks! Labour Party stinks to high heaven!!!

    7. I left the Labour Party when Mr Starmer sacked RL-B for a contrived reason. Shortly afterwards I regretted leaving when some members of the left began putting up a fight. Those regrets have gone, the purge has continued, the party slips further and further to the right, an appeal to “British values”, the CHIS bill, the Overseas Operation Bill, the totally unjustified and illegal (in terms of Labour Party rules) continued suspension of Jeremy Corbyn as a Labour MP, the suppression of all discussion of that suspension, and now this. I have long thought Starmer was in the pocket of the Board of Deputies, this suggests that it’s even worse than that, he seems to have close links to the Israeli state. Is the Labour Party drifting towards fascism aka national socialism?

    8. It finally comes out in the open about Isreal , especially about Shia Masot who has the political experience. Now a take over of the labour Party for to still the tonque of human rights for the Palestinians.
      Isreal won’t care about winning any British elections.
      I find it bizarre Isreal is doing it under everyone’s noses so easily.
      It must be a sleep walking nightmare for many to see the Party so quiet.

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