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Israel embassy sent UK imams on tour of occupied Palestine   

British imams stand outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque during a tour of Jerusalem organised by the Israeli embassy in the UK on 22 April 2019 [Vivian Aisen/Twitter]
British imams stand outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque during a tour of Jerusalem organised by the Israeli embassy in the UK on 22 April 2019 [Vivian Aisen/Twitter]

The Israeli Embassy in the UK has bragged about the role it played in organising a delegation of British imams to occupied Jerusalem last month. The tour, which has been denounced by critics as “soft propaganda” for the Zionist state, saw imams from various parts of the UK being paraded around Palestinian and Jewish communities in what was billed as a “peace and coexistence” initiative.

The nature of the embassy’s role came to light following the discovery of a tweet by one of its staff, Vivian Aisen, who describes herself in her Twitter bio as a “Diplomat & Director of Public Diplomacy at the Embassy of Israel in the UK”. She said that she had “escorted” the imams during the trip. In her tweet about the trip Aisen tagged the Israeli Foriegn Ministry and the Israeli Embassy in London.

Pro-Palestinian activists have cited Aisen’s tweet and her participation in the delegation as “cast-iron proof that these imams are being used as soft propaganda for the apartheid, racist state of Israel”.

While the embassy appears to have played a major role, the main tour organisers were Journey to Jerusalem, which is sponsored by Basharat & Bashert, where Ed Husain, formally of the Quilliam Foundation and the Tony Blair Foundation is a director.

The delegation included Dr Musharraf Hussain, the chief executive of Nottingham’s Karima Institute; Imam Asim Hafiz, the first Muslim Chaplain of the British Armed Forces; Shaykh Ghulam Rabbani; and Shaykh Mohammad Asrar, who heads the largest mosque in Leeds.

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Hussain has defended himself against the criticism saying that the aim of the trip was to “advance peace and coexistence in the Holy Land of Muslims and Jews and Christians” and that he believed “that peace in Jerusalem will inspire peace.”

Israeli embassies are known for their role in overseeing the country’s propaganda campaigns in foreign soil, especially in the UK and US. In the UK both the Labour Friends of Israel and Conservative Friends of Israel have enjoyed close ties with Tel Aviv’s mission in London.

The Al Jazeera documentary on the Israeli lobby in the UK exposed the nefarious operations of the embassy. The Investigation uncovered attempts to influence British politics using front groups. The six-month undercover investigation revealed the extent to which it had penetrated different levels of British democracy.

Shai Masot, who was a senior political officer at the Israeli embassy, was caught on camera plotting to “take down” senior government minister Alan Duncan and other lawmakers. He confessed to having a “hit list” of MPs.

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The scoop also revealed that the Israeli embassy was providing covert assistance to supposedly independent groups within the Labour party; jobs at the embassy were being offered to groom young Labour activists; and how concerned the embassy was with removing not just Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan, but also Crispin Blunt MP, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee (both of whom are Conservative MPs), as well as Jeremy Corbyn MP, the leader of the Labour party.

The British public reacted angrily to the Israeli embassy’s attempt to “take down” an MP. More than 10,000 people signed a petition calling on the government to investigate Masot, who was later fired.

More recent scandals include attempts by the Israeli embassy to pressure a UK university to censor free speech.

MEMO has contacted some of the imams from the delegation and asked if they would have taken part in the delegation knowing the role of the embassy. So far none has provided a response.

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