Jeremy Corbyn has joined calls to investigate the “extent of improper interference” by Israel in British politics following the undercover Al-Jazeera sting operation.
The Labour leader wrote to Theresa May days after his shadow foreign secretary urged a probe, as the broadcaster aired the final part of its four episode series The Lobby.
It showed the Israeli Embassy’s political officer Shai Masot joking with a friend, a former parliamentary aide, over about “taking down” critical MPs including foreign minister Alan Duncan. Masot has since had his employment terminated and Ambassador Mark Regev has personally apologised to the minister.
But Corbyn wrote: “Many members of Parliament and the public will be concerned at this evidence of attempts to undermine the integrity of our democracy.
“I’m sure you’ll agree that such improper interference in this country’s democratic process is unacceptable, whatever country is involved.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – who was described as an idiot in the same footage filmed undercover – has said he sees the matter as closed.
But describing the matter as a “national security issue”, Corbyn writes: “I would therefore ask that you treat the matter as such and launch an inquiry into the extent of this improper influence.”
Posing as an Israel activist keen to help tackle BDS, the undercover reporter befriended Masot and ended up being introduced to key figures standing up for Israel in Britain. It was even suggested along the way that he might help in the setting up of a Young Labour Friends of Israel.
But his tactics including the filming of the director of the Jewish Labour Movement, Ella Rose, while she was in tears at feeling she was the victim of anti-Semitism have provoked anger.
Al-Jazeera’s attempt to undermine accusations of anti-Semitism have also been condemned by the Community Security Trust. “Antisemitism is real and Jewish concerns are genuine. Your claims of dishonesty over this are baseless and inciting more antisemitism,” the charity tweeted.
Labour Friends of Israel Chair Joan Ryan MP, whose report of an incident at their party conference stall was the focus of the third programme, said: “My actions were entirely appropriate. It is the duty of Labour party members – whether in parliament or at the grassroots – to report language that they believe to be racist or anti-Semitic. References to groups having ‘lots of money … lots of prestige in the world’ and suggestions that they advance people’s careers appeared to me to evoke classic anti-Semitic tropes.
“My complaint to the Labour party about this incident made no references to the City and/or banking and I have never publicly named the person who was the object of it.
“The intention of this programme is sadly clear: to deny and belittle the serious problems with anti-Semitism experienced by the Labour party over the past year. It would be most regrettable if it succeeded in deterring people from taking a stand against language that they believe to be hateful.”
Thornberry has also written to Crispin Blunt, the chair of the foreign affairs select committee, urging a separate probe. The committee told Jewish News a decision has yet to be taken on whether to do so.”