Home Israel Lawyers complain to Labour over hiring of ex-Israeli intelligence officer

Lawyers complain to Labour over hiring of ex-Israeli intelligence officer

22
0

Lawyers acting for a Palestinian activist and Labour member have complained to the party over its decision to hire an alleged former Israeli intelligence officer to help run its social media strategy.

Assaf Kaplan was hired by Labour as a social listening and organising manager, a new post described as “a crucial new role at the heart of Labour’s new approach to digital campaigning”.

The complaint from Bindmans solicitors alleges that Kaplan worked for Unit 8200, the cyber branch of the Israeli Defence Force, from 2009 to 2013. It adds that the unit has been mired in controversy over its surveillance practices against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza.

In 2014, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 signed a public letter refusing to serve in operations involving the occupied Palestinian territories because of the widespread surveillance of residents, which could be used for blackmail. Hundreds of reservists then signed a counter-protest letter.

It is not clear what Kaplan did within the unit or whether he had any knowledge of the monitoring of citizens.

The job description for his Labour role says: “You will help to move the social media listening framework of the party to be laser focused on those we need to win over to form the next government.”

Bindmans, acting for Adnan Hmidan, say the party’s stance on illegal occupation of Palestinian territories should have precluded Kaplan’s employment, and they urged Labour to explain the decision. His appointment has also drawn a complaint from the former shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

The episode underlines how raw the issue of Israel remains in the Labour party. Both Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer’s leaderships have been marked by controversies over antisemitism.

Hmidan’s parents were born in Palestine and forcibly removed to Jordan. His lawyers’ letter points out that successive Labour conferences have criticised Israeli annexation plans as a breach of international law, adding that the occupation has led to mass violations of Palestinian rights.

His lawyers’ letter argues that either the party did know about Kaplan’s background, in which case it has shown a failure to consider the views of its Palestinian members, or it did not know and has failed to show due diligence.

Hmidan asked whether the party undertook any risk assessment and what personal data of party members Kaplan will be able to access in his role. He said unless he receives satisfactory assurances from the party, he intends to refer the issue to the information commissioner and consider whether he will take legal action on the basis of unfair and unlawful recruitment.

The Labour party said: “We do not comment on staffing matters.” Kaplan did not respond to attempts to contact him.