The Israeli embassy in London is working with the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee to set up pro-Israel groups and cultivate an American-style lobbying culture in the UK, secret recordings of an AIPAC event in the British capital appear to suggest.
In covertly filmed footage, a senior political officer at the embassy described how he had set up an organization called the City Friends of Israel with AIPAC's support, and later brought AIPAC officials over from the US to address the group.
Shai Masot, the now-former embassy official at the center of revelations about Israeli influence inside British politics, also told an undercover reporter how he had arranged a meeting between Conservative and Labor party delegates and AIPAC's head of strategy in Washington in order that he could give them “some ideas for Britain”.
Student activists in the UK also revealed how they had received funding from AIPAC to set up groups tasked with countering pro-Palestinian sentiment and undermining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign on university campuses, Middle East Eye reported.
AIPAC is considered one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in American politics, with a member of its delegation telling his audience in London that it had built relationships with all 535 members of Congress.
But the secretly filmed videotapes shed new light on its ambitions and activities beyond Washington.
The tapes suggest that one organization supported by AIPAC and by donors in Israel is the Pinsker Centre, which describes itself as “a coalition of young people educating about Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict".
Speaking to an undercovr reporter, Adam Schapira, one of the center’s co-founders, who last year ran unsuccessfully for the presidency of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), said its aim was to “reframe the rhetoric on UK campuses”.
“I feel like a lot more needs to be done in the educational field, bringing over diverse speakers from across the political spectrum on campus, present another narrative.”
Schapira also said in the recordings that the UJS had received money from the Israeli embassy.
In a statement on Twitter, however, Josh Nagli, the UJS’s campaign director, said that the group was neither directed nor funded by the embassy.
“We have a productive working relationship with the Israeli Embassy in the UK and warm contacts with a range of Israeli civil society organizations. We are of course neither funded nor in any way directed by the Israeli Embassy,” said Nagli.
The Pinsker Centre was co-founded by Elliot Miller, the national organizer of Student Rights, a campaign group that was established by the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society think-tank to support “freedom, equality, democracy and freedom from extremism on university campuses”.
Critics have accused Student Rights and the Henry Jackson Society of stoking Islamophobia. Confronted by Palestinian activists at an event at University College London in October last year, Miller described Islam as a “violent religion”.
In a Student Rights statement about the incident, Miller said that he and others attending the meeting had been confronted by “aggressive and violent protesters”.
Masot also talked about how he had taken a delegation of donors from both the Conservative and Labour Friends of Israel groups to Washington and arranged for them to be briefed by AIPAC’S head of strategy.
“The bottom line, we had a donor meeting with the head of strategy at AIPAC and he met us basically to teach us, you know, give us some ideas for Britain,” said Masot.
He described how he had had been tasked by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs in Israel with setting up a private company that would “work with the Israeli government” and act as a “liaison for international communities around the world”.
The position would be based in Israel but would involve working with “AIPAC and all the others”, Masot said.
MEE asked AIPAC for comment but did not receive a response.
Ron Wasserman, the chairman of Fuel for Truth, said the organization did not have any activities in the UK. He said that while Fuel for Truth's website said that it had members from the UK, that referred to British members living in the US.