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Palestinian member of UK Labour party protests hiring of IDF veteran

Complaint cites social media strategist Assaf Kaplan’s past in Unit 8200, saying its alleged mass surveillance of Palestinian civilians should have thwarted appointment

In this handout photo provided by UK Parliament, Britain's Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons in London, November 11, 2020. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP)
In this handout photo provided by UK Parliament, Britain's Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons in London, November 11, 2020. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP)

The British Labour Party is facing a backlash from pro-Palestinian activists for hiring an Israeli social media strategist who served in an IDF intelligence unit renowned for its cyber skills, with a law firm filing a complaint with the party.

The left-wing opposition party, which traditionally is critical of Israel’s military rule over the West Bank and the Jewish state’s policies toward the Palestinians, has been mired in anti-Semitism controversies in recent years, with its leader Keir Starmer vowing to steer the party away from the course it had taken under his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn.

The party has recruited Assaf Kaplan to lead its digital campaigning. However, the appointment has drawn rebuke due to Kaplan’s past in the Israel Defense Forces’ Unit 8200, which is roughly equivalent to the National Security Agency in the US or the MI5 in Britain.

Bindmans solicitors, a law firm acting on behalf of Labour member Adnan Hmidan, who is of Palestinian origin, filed a complaint, saying Kaplan served in Unit 8200 from 2009 to 2013 and arguing that “the party’s stance on illegal occupation of Palestinian territories should have precluded Kaplan’s employment,” the Guardian reported Tuesday.

The complaint alleged that the unit “has been mired in controversy over its surveillance practices against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza,” which “could be used for blackmail,” the report said.

The complaint, The Guardian said, “argues that either the party did know about Kaplan’s background, in which case it has shown a failure to consider the views of its Palestinian members, or it did not know and has failed to show due diligence.”

Hmidan demanded an explanation by Labour and said that unless he receives satisfactory answers, he will consider legal action on the basis of “unfair and unlawful recruitment.”

The report said another complaint was filed by former shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

Labour responded to the report by saying the party doesn’t comment on staffing matters. Kaplan hasn’t commented.

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