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Israel’s lucrative lobby racket

August 9, 2021 at 4:00 pm

British police maintain a police cordon to seperate pro-Israeli demonstrators rallying outside the Israeli Embassy in London from pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered nearby, in London, United Kingdom on 23 May 2021. [Hasan Esen – Anadolu Agency]

The British comedian David Schneider is well known for his memorable bit parts in sitcoms and his writing for shows such as faux news bulletin “The Day Today”. Unfortunately he is a political disappointment. Like so many minor British celebrities and TV personalities, Schneider took a hostile posture against Jeremy Corbyn and the popular movement which came close to bringing the former Labour leader to 10, Downing Street.

Schneider was not as bad as some of the minor-TV-actor crowd polluting Twitter’s blue check sphere. People like Rachel Riley and Eddie Marsan were quite unhinged in their opposition to Corbyn, and their fantastical insistence that one of the country’s leading anti-racists was a secret anti-Semite. Nonetheless, I raise Schneider as a case in point because of an opinion piece he wrote for The Independent in 2019.

Touted in its headline as a handy guide on “how to talk about Israel without sliding into anti-Semitism”, the piece was, in fact, nothing of the sort. Rather, it was a condescending list of irrelevancies and non sequiturs practically dripping with wilful ignorance.

Schneider insisted in the piece that it is “anti-Semitic” to argue that Israel is “paying money to MPs, celebrities or the media to act as they do.” He does so despite the well documented fact that Israel does precisely this. The role of money in the Israel lobby’s power and influence is well documented.

Could Schneider just be ignorant of this fact? Not a bit of it; he even made clear in the article that he was aware of 2017’s Al Jazeera undercover series The Lobby, in which Israeli embassy spy Shai Masot was infamously caught red-handed on camera discussing “more than £1 million” in funding for Israeli propaganda trips to occupied Palestine.

Masot’s interlocutor for that conversation was none other than Joan Ryan MP, who at the time was the chairperson of lobby group Labour Friends of Israel. Ryan spent the whole of the Corbyn leadership period doing her best to sabotage not only the leader personally, but also her own electoral chances. In 2019, she quit Labour altogether, joining the group of breakaway kamikaze right-wing Labour defectors who formed the short-lived “Independent Group”. The group failed to win a single seat and Ryan subsequently left parliament.

READ: The long shadow of Israel’s arm in Europe 

Like most of that group, who seemed to go on to some very high paying jobs in various think tanks and consultancies, Ryan had no need to worry about queuing up at the dole office. Today, her lucrative career in the Israel lobby continues. She is now executive director of the British branch of an Israel lobby outfit which has dubbed itself with the innocuous moniker “The European Leadership Network”, or ELNET.

According to her CV on LinkedIn, she also remains “Honorary President” of Labour Friends of Israel, even though she quit the party to protest against Jeremy Corbyn’s criticism of Israel’s crimes.

Despite having apparently watched The Lobby, or at least being aware of the nature of its revelations, in his Independent opinion piece Schneider insisted that it is anti-Semitic to raise such issues. Reality is “anti-Semitic” according to such twisted logic.

Or as Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner put it when attacking Corbyn over his comment last year that the issue of anti-Semitism had been exaggerated by the media and his political opponents: it may be true but it is “completely unacceptable” to talk about it.

Even worse, Schneider says that it is anti-Semitic to even use the term “Israel lobby”. He apparently has no problem with the terms “Russian lobby” or “Saudi lobby”, though. Double standards at their worst.

Contrary to minor TV personalities’ bone-headed and ignorant insistence that to discuss reality is “anti-Semitic”, there was this week in the United States another perfect illustration of the fact that Israel and its lobby still has an immense amount of influence on elections and the political process in the West; and that this is achieved in no small part thanks to vast sums of cash.

Progressive candidate Nina Turner (who had been a regular feature of Bernie Sanders’ most recent failed campaign for president) was defeated by pro-Joe Biden, pro-Israel candidate Shontel Brown in the Democratic primary election for an open Congressional seat in Ohio. Turner was well ahead for the race at one point, even polling with a double-digit lead. However, one major factor managed to turn that around: Israel lobby money.

Lobby groups Pro-Israel America and (especially) Democratic Majority For Israel (DMFI) poured obscene amounts of funding into the race to defeat Turner. This was despite the fact that Turner was not especially active in terms of supporting Palestinian rights. The lobby tolerates no dissent.

DMFI alone spent almost $2 million on negative attack advertisements targeting Turner as well as pro-Brown messaging. According to one journalist, this Israel lobby cash alone was almost more than the Turner campaign’s entire spend from outside groups.

Interestingly, though, none of the Israel lobby adverts mentioned Israel. This shows just how unpopular Israel is among the Democratic Party base — its activists and voters as opposed to party elites who are more often pro-Israel – and that even the pro-Israel lobbyists knows this. As I’ve argued in this column before, the Israel lobby is in historic decline.

But decline is all relative. As the facts around the Turner-Brown race showed once again, the Israel lobby is still able to mobilise vast resources to promote its evil cause. It is indeed a lucrative lobby racket.

READ: How Europe sustains Israel 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.