British-Palestinians complain to Labour Party over hiring of Israeli former intelligence officer

British-Palestinians complain to Labour Party over hiring of Israeli former intelligence officer
Lawyers acting for a British-Palestinian activist have complained to the Labour Party after it hired a former member of a controversial Israeli military intelligence unit.
3 min read
03 March, 2021
The Labour Party hired a former Israeli spy to manage its social media [Getty]

A complaint has been filed with the UK Labour Party over its decision to hire an alleged former member of an Israeli military intelligence unit as a social media strategist.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Adnan Hmidan, a British-Palestinian member of the Labour Party, have written to the party calling on them to explain why Assaf Kaplan was recruited when he had reportedly admitted to working for the Israeli army’s Unit 8200.

Unit 8200 is an elite military intelligence apparatus responsible for code decryption and code decryption and it has been previously under scrutiny for its surveillance practices against Palestinians living in the occupied territories.

“I am very concerned that the Labour Party has recruited a former Israeli spy to a position that involves monitoring the social media accounts of its members including those that are British Palestinian, supportive of Palestine or opposed to the occupation of Palestine,” Hmidan said in a press release issued by Bindmans LLP, the law firm which has filed the complaint against Kaplan.

In 2014, 43 members of Unit 8200 said in an open letter that they would refuse to continue their service, saying that the unit had been “used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society.”

Anonymous members of the unit who spoke to Israeli media said it had gathered sensitive personal information about Palestinians in order to pressure or blackmail them into becoming informants.

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Kaplan has been recruited as a “social listening and organising manager” by the Labour Party. The position has been described as “a crucial new role at the heart of Labour’s new approach to digital campaigning”.

However, it is not clear what work Kaplan did for Unit 8200 and critics of his appointment fear that his Labour Party role could involve surveillance and censorship of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian activists within the Labour Party.

“Given Mr Kaplan’s apparent background it is deeply concerning that the Labour Party recruited him without providing any assurances whatsoever to its Palestinian and other members, and has still not done so despite senior figures within the party condemning the recruitment,” Jamie Potter, a lawyer at Bindmans LLP said.

Potter added that Kaplan’s appointment stood in stark contrast to the Labour Party’s condemnation of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and its continued building of illegal settlements there.

“The Labour Party has provided no assurances that the recruitment is in accordance with its stated position on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, its commitment to the Fourth Geneva Conventions or its public condemnation of Israel’s settlement policies,” Hmidan said.

The former leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, was known for his sympathy for the Palestinian cause but was beset by accusations of anti-Semitism in the run-up to the 2019 UK parliamentary elections, where Labour suffered a major defeat by the UK’s governing Conservative Party.

Labour’s current leader, Keir Starmer, has been keen to distance the party from Corbyn and the allegations against him. However, pro-Palestinian activists in the UK say that the anti-Semitism allegations against Corbyn are politically motivated and are related to his support for the Palestinians.

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