“a unit 8200 veteran,” no less

UK Labour Party hires former Israeli spy
Asa Winstanley, Electronic Intifada, Jan 19 2021


The UK Labour Party has hired a former Israeli spy to help manage its social media, The Electronic Intifada can reveal. Assaf Kaplan will work in the office of Labour leader Keir Starmer, a source with knowledge of the hire said. Kaplan was in Israeli military intelligence for nearly five years, an officer in Unit 8200, its cyber-warfare branch. Unit 8200 specializes in spying, hacking and encryption. It carries out blackmail, mass surveillance and systematic discrimination against Palestinians. In 2014, a group of whistleblowers detailed how the unit spies on Palestinian civilians living under Israeli military occupation. According to his LinkedIn profile, Kaplan was in the Israeli army’s military intelligence division from May 2009 to Nov 2013. He was a Unit 8200 intelligence analyst and later an officer.

This likely coincided with the period when 8200 was carrying out the type of crimes exposed by the whistleblowers, in a Sep 2014 letter to the Groan. One Unit 8200 reservist explained in the letter:

Any information that might enable extortion of an individual is considered relevant. Whether said individual is of a certain sexual orientation, cheating on his wife, or in need of treatment in Israel or the West Bank, he is a target for blackmail.

Another explained:

Any Palestinian is exposed to nonstop monitoring by the Israeli Big Brother, without legal protection, and with no way of knowing when they too would become an objective, targeted for harassment, extortion or physical injury.

In a profile of Kaplan on an ex-employer’s website, he is proudly described as a “Unit 8200 veteran.”

Kaplan did not answer requests for comment. The job he has taken was advertised by UK Labour in Sep 2020. The following month, Kaplan announced on Facebook that he had moved to London. He began work in December, a source told The Electronic Intifada. His full job title is “Social Listening and Organizing Manager.” A relatively new trend in public relations, “social listening” is a way for organizations to monitor online conversations about their “brand.” But a more blunt way to think of it would be surveillance. Kaplan’s LinkedIn states he has experience using a “digital monitoring platform” as well as “human analysis” to keep tabs on voters in Israeli elections.

The UK Labour job listing shows that Kaplan is now responsible for leading efforts at “challenging disinformation online” about the party, as well as helping it win elections. But Kaplan’s qualifications for winning elections are questionable. His LinkedIn profile states that he was deputy head of the Israeli Labor Party’s campaign for the Apr 2019 general election to the Knesset. That election saw the once dominant Israeli Labor Party collapse to just six seats. And recent polling suggests Labor may be wiped out altogether in the Israeli election set for March. If helping to win elections and build voter support is a qualification for the “social listening” job, then it looks like the British Labour Party picked the wrong person.

Labour’s right-wing leader Keir Starmer has obsessively purged the party of left-wing and Palestine solidarity elements since succeeding Jeremy Corbyn last year. A multi-millionaire pro-Israel lobbyist donated $62k towards his leadership election campaign. But Starmer kept this secret until after he had won the party leadership. Assaf Kaplan’s social media shows he has already established ties with UK Labour’s internal Israel lobby, as well as at least one past Israeli spy.

His Facebook profile shows he is “friends” with both Shai Masot and Michael Rubin. Masot was the Israeli embassy agent ejected from the UK in Jan 2017 after being exposed for plotting against British ministers and MPs. Masot also interfered in British politics by trying to secretly engineer the creation of a pro-Israel youth group within the Labour Party. A close contact of Masot, Rubin is director of Labour Friends of Israel. In undercover footage filmed by Al Jazeera, Rubin admitted:

I knew Shai in my role at Labour Students, we did a couple of things together.

Rubin was chair of Labour Students in Feb 2016, when the fabricated “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” against Jeremy Corbyn first kicked off in earnest at Oxford University. Rubin secretly conducted Labour’s first ever “investigation” into alleged anti-Semitism. It was such an obvious hatchet job that it was buried by the party. But The Electronic Intifada obtained a copy and published extracts last year. Not only did the document smear and misrepresent the pro-Corbyn Labour left at Oxford, but it included outright fabrications. Yet the report was highly influential in promoting the false “Labour anti-Semitism” narrative. Kaplan is also followed on Twitter by Liron Velleman, an officer with the Jewish Labour Movement, another pro-Israel group which has smeared Corbyn.

Israel’s first victims are the Palestinians. But what begins with the Palestinians rarely ends there. Unit 8200 is notorious as a factory for churning out high-tech Israeli spies, who then often flow into Israel’s privatized global spy network. Mercenary Israeli “intelligence” firms like Black Cube and NSO Group have been linked to horrendous human rights abuses and pervasive intrusion the world over, including against Americans. NSO Group was founded by Unit 8200 veterans and offers sophisticated spyware to repressive regimes including Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Their Pegasus software can be used to hijack a person’s phone allowing spies to steal data, passwords, email and text messages, as well as listening in on phone calls and being able to turn on microphones at will. The latest version of Pegasus to be discovered by security researchers Citizen Lab was used to spy on journalists at Al Jazeera. Israeli companies established by Unit 8200 veterans have also been responsible for global theft of user data for commercial advantage. One such firm was Onavo. It was marketed as a free VPN privacy tool and bought by Facebook. But it was removed from the Apple app store after it emerged that it granted Facebook almost full visibility of a user’s data, giving the technology giant insights into consumer behavior. This ultimately led to Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for $19b in 2014. Black Cube, which is reportedly stuffed with 8200 veterans, was hired by the once powerful Hollywood producer and convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein to silence and intimidate his victims. Unit 8200 is also a key part of Israel’s war against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, or BDS. Israel’s anti-BDS minister at the time Gilad Erdan met with the head of 8200 in an apparently habitual meeting, his 2016 diary showed.

Nas Daily’s “Israeli” partner makes “secret” visit to Lebanon
Tamara Nassar, Electronic Intifada, Jan 18 2021

A Nas Daily video posted last February unambiguously
identifies Alyne Tamir as Israeli. (via YouTube)

A video blogger who has repeatedly identified as Israeli is now claiming she is only a US citizen, following a secret visit to Lebanon earlier this month. Alyne Tamir is the partner and colleague of Nuseir Yassin, the creator of the viral videos under the name Nas Daily. Tamir travels around the world with Yassin and makes frequent appearances in his videos. Last month, The Electronic Intifada published an exposé of how the pair push pro-Israel propaganda and help Israel fight the boycott movement. The couple recently moved to the UAE where they are working to boost the country’s imageafter its normalization deal with Israel. Tamir has her own social media outlet called Dear Alyne, and a combined social media following of three million people. On Jan 2, Tamir published a picture of herself on Instagram saying she hadn’t posted much of late “because I went on a secret trip.” In the photo, she is holding an American passport with a partially visible boarding pass sticking out. Some information on the boarding pass is also redacted in the photo. Despite the redaction, the flight number and the airport codes of the two cities are visible. It appears to be Emirates flight 958 from “BEY” to “DXB,” Beirut to Dubai. In a screenshot of a chat shared by Tamir, the video blogger reassures a friend that she hasn’t been active on Instagram “because I was in a country where I need to be careful.”

In a Jan 2 Instagram story Alyne Tamir said she hadn’t
been active online “because I went on a secret trip.”

Lebanon strictly forbids Israeli passport holders or travelers who have Israeli visas or stamps in their passports from entering the country. Israel also generally prohibits its own citizens from traveling to Lebanon and other “enemy states.” However, this is a provision Israel has habitually used to target and persecute Palestinian citizens of Israel who have traveled to Arab countries. Israeli Jewish visitors to Arab countries by contrast are often viewed in Israel as intrepid trailblazers for normalization. Tamir posted other pictures from the trip, teasing them as a “useless hint” about where she had been. Lebanese blogger Gino Raidy identified one of the pictures as a location outside the building of Lebanon’s power company Electricité du Liban, near Beirut’s port. With mounting speculation that Tamir was in Lebanon, several reports raised the alarm that an Israeli had apparently bypassed Lebanese security to enter the country. “The secret is out,” Tamir wrote on Facebook on 11 January, confirming that she had indeed been in Beirut. She posted a video titled “24 Hours in Lebanon” on the same day. It is the usual Nas Daily-style fare, highlighting beautiful scenery, delicious food and smiling people. She also mentions last August’s massive port explosion that devastated many parts of Beirut. Tamir describes Lebanon as “a country that even when dealing with hardship, like civil wars, blasts and inflation, is so full of history, amazing experiences and beautiful people.” Typically for Tamir, her lightning-fast history skips over some of the biggest hardships Lebanon has faced: Israel’s frequent devastating invasions and occupations of the country and Israel’s campaigns of terrorism and assassination that have killed, injured and displaced hundreds of thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians. While Tamir has consistently whitewashed Israel’s crimes, she asserts:

The reason I didn’t want to post about this trip while I was there is because a lot of people think I’m an Israeli citizen (I am not) and Israelis are not allowed in Lebanon (politics).

She states on Facebook:

I have only one passport and citizenship: American.

She adds in another post on Instagram that she was born in Santa Monica, California. Tamir blames others for spreading what she calls “fake news” that she is an Israeli citizen. But there is a good reason for that belief: She and her partner Nuseir Yassin have repeatedly described her as “half Israeli” or even just “Israeli.” In a 2017 Facebook post with a video about Tamir, Yassin describes her as “half Israeli, half American.” In a 2019 interview posted on Medium, Tamir said she was from Los Angeles, and that “my dad is Jewish Israeli and my mother is Mormon. I have lots of family on both sides.” And in an episode of the Nas Talks podcast last July, Tamir says:

My dad is Jewish. His parents are like Orthodox Jewish. They’re like super Jewish, Israeli. Moved to Israel when it became a country, right at the beginning.

In his co-authored memoir Around the World in 60 Seconds, Yassin describes Tamir as “an all-American girl (with a dash of Israeli thrown in).”

Tamir reassures a friend that she hasn’t been active on Instagram
“because I was in a country where I need to be careful.”

“I’m Palestinian and she’s Israeli,” Yassin said in a Nas Daily video last year, leaving little room for ambiguity. If that wasn’t clear enough, images of Palestinian and Israeli flags are superimposed over the couple as Yassin speaks these words. In one Instagram story Tamir posted in December, she enthusiastically films Israeli tourists on the streets in Dubai. she says in an accompanying caption:

So crazy. Israeli passports were literally banned for years! I speak Hebrew. I’m half Israeli/Jewish. That’s why I’m so excited.

In a bizarre exchange in a Nas Talks episode from October, Yassin and Tamir compare their “privileges.” Yassin tells his partner:

I’m not a US citizen like you, I don’t have the privilege of being a US citizen like you do.

Tamir responds:

Obviously I have citizenship privilege. Obviously, actually not, Israeli citizenship is just as good. I’m literally the same race as you.

Yassin replies in jest:

Are you Arab?

Tamir responds:

I’m half Israeli.

It is unclear what Tamir means by being “racially” Israeli. What is clear is that she and Yassin have frequently and unambiguously identified her as “Israeli,” but she is now denying it when that identification appears to be inconvenient. Tamir did not respond to The Electronic Intifada’s request for comment.

A screenshot from a video Alyne Tamir posted on Instagram.

Tamir speaks Hebrew and visits her father in Israel “every summer” since he moved back there after a divorce. Her LinkedIn profile shows she worked at a language training center in Utah in 2013 teaching Hebrew to an FBI agent. She writes that her training was “contracted through the FBI” and that she taught the “client about Israeli life and culture.” Tamir considers herself so familiar with Israel that she has a travel guide on her website about it. It includes a “quick history” of Israel that completely omits the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Zionist militias. It also fails to mention Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank or its siege of Gaza, although she mentions how “security is an important matter in Israel due to terrorism.” Moreover, she considers Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to be part of Israel. Yassin and Tamir even tried living in Tel Aviv, but Yassin found it to be “difficult” and Tamir said she “didn’t adjust that well,” so the pair moved on to Dubai. While Tamir pretends to challenge stereotypes, her travelogue reveals her own biases and misconceptions about the Middle East. In the Lebanon video, Tamir seems surprised that Arab Christians exist. She says:

When you think of the Middle East, you usually think of Muslims. But here in Lebanon, there are actually a lot of Christians.

Through this video and other behind-the-scenes clips on Instagram, Tamir whitewashes and glamorizes the French colonization of Lebanon. She says of Lebanon’s capital:

The city is known for its gorgeous European and Middle Eastern style architecture. “Beirut was once called the Paris of the Middle East.

In another picture she posted on Instagram of her holding up a jacket, she wrote:

They were colonized by the French and now are a center of fashion.

And for Tamir, Beirut’s famous Raouche Rocks evoke “Italian coastline vibes.” She seems unable to view Lebanon outside of a colonial European lens. Tamir’s trip to Lebanon comes in the context of accelerating efforts to normalize ties between Israel and Arab regimes. Israel and the US even appear to be aiming at bringing Lebanon into the normalization club. Tamir has appeared in Yassin’s videos in which he has attacked Arab countries for refusing to normalize ties with Israel. In others, she celebrates the fruits of the UAE-Israel normalization deal. Yassin, who is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, commented on his partner’s Instagram picture of her by the Raouche Rocks:

Looks like a fun trip!! I’ll go there one day!

destruction Israel has caused in Lebanon decade after decade, any such anger is entirely understandable. And nor is the threat over: Israel still frequently violates Lebanese sovereignty, flying drones and warplanes over the south of the country and even its capital. Following last August’s catastrophic explosion at Beirut’s port, Israel exploited the tragedy to erase its own crimes against Lebanon, distract from military occupation and polish its image. Whatever the truth about her citizenship, there’s no doubt that Tamir, like Nas Daily, is 100% on board with Israel’s propaganda messaging and came to Beirut eager to help spread it.

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