Undercover Al-Jazeera reporter films London embassy employee Shai Masot talking to civil servant about ‘hitlist’ of members of parliament, including Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan, a vocal supporter of Palestinian state.
An official with the Israeli embassy in London was caught on camera discussing “taking down” British lawmakers seen as anti-Israeli, U.K. media reported overnight on Saturday.
The official, Shai Masot, was recorded by an undercover Al-Jazeera reporter apparently discussing his wishes to engineer the downfall of several British Members of Parliament, including Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan, a supporter of a Palestinian state and outspoken critic of the Israeli settlements. The Guardian reported that the footage was part of a wider project recording conversations with Israeli embassy staff, British politicians and pro-Israel activists, which is set to air in documentaries that Al-Jazeera will broadcast from January 15.
According to a press release, the Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, apologised to Duncan and said the embassy considered Masot’s remarks “completely unacceptable.” Masot “will be ending his term of employment with the embassy shortly,” said the statement.
“The Israeli ambassador has apologised and is clear these comments do not reflect the views of the Embassy or the Government of Israel. The U.K. has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed,” the British Foreign Office said in a statement.
The embassy stated that Masot was not a diplomat, but a junior employee. However, the Guardian said he describes himself as a “senior political officer” on his business card, and that his LinkedIn page states that his work is “being the chief point of contact between the embassy and MPs and liaising with ministers and officials at the Foreign Office.”
According to The Guardian, Masot is seen in the recording speaking to Maria Strizzolo, a civil servant and former aide to a Conservative minister. Another person present is a man they knew as “Robin,” and believed to be working for Labour Friends of Israel. But Robin was is in fact an undercover reporter working for Al-Jazeera.
Masot is heard suggesting to Strizzolo that she help “take down” several MPs, and refers to Duncan by name, adding that he was causing problems, the Guardian reported. Another name mentioned was Crispin Blunt, chair of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, who has voiced his support for the Palestinian cause. Strizzolo refers to him as being on a “hitlist.”
The two agreed that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was pro-Israel, with Masot adding: “You know he is an idiot.”
Approached by The Guardian, Strizzolo said that the quotes were used out of context, and that the conversation was “light, tongue-in-cheek and gossipy.”
“Any suggestion that I, as a civil servant working in education, could ever exert the type of influence you are suggesting is risible,” she said.
Lord Stuart Polak, the head of Conservative Friends of Israel, condemned the incident. “We utterly condemn any attempt to undermine Sir Alan, or any minister, or any member of Parliament,” the BBC quoted him as saying.
Crispin Blunt also condemned the incident, calling the remarks about Duncan “outrageous,” according to the Mail on Sunday.