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by Bethany Rielly
PALESTINIAN rights campaigners are “deeply concerned” over reports that Labour has hired a former Israeli intelligence officer to help manage its social media.
Assaf Kaplan is working in Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s office, according to Electronic Intifada.
The website, which focuses on Palestine and Israel, reported this week that Mr Kaplan served in the Israeli intelligence’s notorious Unit 8200 from May 2009 to November 2013.
The cyber warfare unit was exposed in 2014 by a group of whistleblowers for allegedly using information on Palestinians for purposes of extortion and blackmail.
They also revealed that information collected and stored by Unit 8200 was used for “political persecution” and to create divisions in Palestinian society by recruiting informers.
Mr Kaplan’s LinkedIn profile describes him as a former intelligence analyst in the Israeli Defence Forces. This information was later pulled down following the report’s publication.
His role with Labour is said to involve helping the party track and analyse what is being said about it online.
Labour did not respond to requests for comment.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Ben Jamal said that he is “deeply concerned” by reports that the party employed a former spy of a state “that is systematically violating international law and committing rights abuse.”
He said: “Without absolute clarity that this individual has acknowledged and fully addressed their complicity with those abuses, the message being sent is that these war crimes are of no matter.”
Mr Jamal added that PSC will be bringing up the issue directly with Sir Keir.
His appointment is likely to fuel concerns about the ongoing targeting of Palestinian rights activists in Labour, with many members suspended from the party for criticising Israel on social media.
“Anyone concerned with free debate in the Labour Party will be alarmed by reports of the appointment of a veteran of the Israeli cyber spooks unit 8200 to a surveillance post in the party,” Jewish Voice for Labour’s Mike Cushman told the Morning Star.
“Unit 8200 is responsible for monitoring Palestinians and their work has resulted in the administrative detention, without trial, of many innocent men, women and children.
“Assaf Kaplan was active in the Israel Labour Party which has indulged in extensive anti-Palestinian racist rhetoric and he is associated with Israeli operatives who sought to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.
“With that history, he is not someone we can trust to assess posts without prejudice.”
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