The Electronic Intifada / March 2, 2021
A leading British human rights law firm has written to Labour demanding answers on the party’s hiring of a former Israeli spy.
Jamie Potter from Bindmans announced on Tuesday that the firm was acting on behalf of Adnan Hmidan, a British Palestinian Labour member.
“I am very concerned that the Labour Party has recruited a former Israeli spy to a position that involves monitoring the social media accounts of its members,” Hmidan said in a statement from the law firm.
The hiring of Bindmans appears to be a precursor to legal action.
In January, The Electronic Intifada exclusively revealed that the Labour Party had hired Assaf Kaplan to help run its social media operation.
The position Kaplan was hired to fill is based in the office of party leader Keir Starmer, putting him in close proximity to Labour’s highest officials.
Kaplan has admitted online to being a “veteran” of Unit 8200, the Israeli military’s cyberwarfare division.
A Labour job description stated that Kaplan would now be responsible for “social listening” – monitoring members’ social media.
Is members’ data safe?
The Labour Party has so far refused to comment on the revelation. Kaplan himself has not commented.
Hmidan said that Labour has “failed to confirm what steps, if any, have been taken to limit the risks to these members or to ensure that our data is not processed without our consent.”
Hmidan says he is worried about what Kaplan could be doing with Labour members’ data, especially British Palestinians and those opposed to the occupation of Palestine.
Lawyer Jamie Potter said that given Kaplan’s background, “it is deeply concerning that the Labour Party recruited him without providing any assurances whatsoever to its Palestinian and other members, and has still not done so despite senior figures within the party condemning the recruitment.”
McDonnell, an ally of former leader Jeremy Corbyn, said that, “Despite all the social media talent available in our movement, the party has decided to recruit someone with a track record of working in an intelligence organization roundly condemned for its role in the abuse of the human rights of Palestinians.”
Chris Mullin, a former foreign office minister in the Tony Blair government, also told the website: “I am not sure if this is a good idea. Is he still working for the Israelis or for the Labour Party?”
Mullin was a supporter of Corbyn and wrote the 1982 novel A Very British Coup, about British spies and civil servants conspiring to overthrow a left-wing anti-imperialist Labour leader.
Bindmans lawyer Jamie Potter said that the firm hopes “the Labour Party will now engage with our client and respond fully to his questions concerning the recruitment decision.”
The Electronic Intifada understands that depending on how Labour responds, the firm could potentially take legal action.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada; he lives in London