Israel’s involvement in spreading false allegations of anti-Semitism against political opponents became the topic of discussion in a high profile meeting in Ukraine over the weekend. During the annual conference organised by Yalta European Strategy (YES) – a leading forum for discussing Ukraine’s European future and global context – the country’s political elites gathered in Kiev where former Trump campaign chair’s coordination with a senior Israeli government official in spreading stories of anti-Semitism was raised.
Delegates commenting on the issue said that the fear of being branded anti-Semitic was keeping the establishment quiet about the alleged Israeli role, a report in Haaretz by a journalist who attended the conference, said.
The role of an Israeli official in “weaponizing allegations of anti-Semitism”- a term widely used to describe false allegations of anti-Semitism against critics and opposition figures- was a major revelation last week when Paul Manafort, US president Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, pleaded guilty to a number of charges including money laundering and illegal lobbying. The revelations were made during a hearing in which Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian involvement in US elections.
At the hearing, prosecutors detailed Manafort’s political consulting and lobbying work on behalf of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and the pro-Russian Party of Regions. It was revealed that in 2012 Manafort hatched a scheme to tarnish the reputation of Yanukovych’s opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko, by spreading a narrative that Tymoshenko and her supporters were anti-Semitic and were allied with anti-Semitic groups.
Manafort and the senior Israeli official, who is not named in the document, worked to jointly accuse Tymoshenko’s supporters and allies of supporting anti-Semitism. Manafort is reportedly bragged at the time that “Obama Jews” would put pressure on the American administration to disavow Tymoshenko and her supporters as a result of his ploy.
“Manafort sought to undermine United States support for Tymoshenko,” the document states. “He orchestrated a scheme to have, ‘Obama Jews’ put pressure on the [Obama] administration to disavow Tymoshenko” and support the Ukrainian government, which was his client.
The document further states that “Manafort coordinated privately with a senior Israeli government official to issue a written statement” that would highlight the alleged anti-Semitism of his client’s political rivals in Ukraine. Then, “with secret knowledge of that Israeli statement,” Manafort worked to spread the story in the American media.
He wanted to use the allegations in order to pressure the Obama administration into acting against his clients’ rivals in Ukraine. “The Jewish community will take this out on Obama on Election Day if he does nothing,” Manafort said at the time.
An Israeli official is reported to have been closely involved in fabricating the allegations of anti-Semitism. The US court statement relating to Manifort did not name the official, but there was speculation that it could have been Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Delegates at the YES conference said that they were not surprised by Israel’s involvement but they preferred to remain silent about the issue for fear of being labelled anti-Semitic, Haaretz reported. A senior diplomat cited in the report said: “We understand Israel has special circumstances and no one will attack Israel for fear of being seen as anti-Semitic. That’s why no one will call to investigate the Israeli involvement in the Manafort case and the smearing of Tymoshenko.”
Note: This article was updated at 16.59 BST on September 17, 2018 to correct a spelling error on the headline. The previous version of this page stated “…Trump aid linked…” instead of “…Trump aide linked…”