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UK Labour Party hires former Israeli spy to work on social media: report

Assaf Kaplan reportedly worked for an elite Israeli military intelligence unit [Twitter]

Date of publication: 20 January, 2021

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Assaf Kaplan reportedly began working as a “social listening and organizing manager” for the Labour Party in December.

The UK's Labour Party has recruited a former Israeli military intelligence employee to work on the party's social media operations, according to a report by the Electronic Intifada website.

Assaf Kaplan allegedly worked for the Israeli army's Unit 8200, an elite military intelligence unit responsible for collecting signal intelligence and code decryption.

A snapshot of his LinkedIn profile shows him as having worked in military intelligence for the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) from May 2009 to November 2013 – first as an intelligence analyst and later as an officer.

Kaplan began working as a "social listening and organizing manager" for the British Labour Party in December after the job was advertised in September, according to a source who spoke to EI.

It is largely a public relations role involving monitoring online conversations about a brand or entity, akin to open source intelligence gathering.

The Labour Party did not respond to a request for comment by The New Arab at the time of publication.

Following the publication of the Electronic Intifada report, Kaplan reportedly deleted reference to his work for the IDF's military intelligence on his LinkedIn profile.

A separate brief on Kaplan featured on the website of a former employer describes him as a "Unit 8200 veteran".

The unit - on par with the United Stated National Security Agency (NSA) - is said to be composed of thousands of mostly young recruits who are selected based on their ability for rapid adaptation and speedy learning.

Afterschool programmes for teenagers which teach computer coding and hacking skills serve as feeder programmes for the unit.

Unit 8200 reportedly runs a large signal intelligence base in Israel's Negev desert, one of the biggest listening bases in the world, which can monitor various forms of communications - including phone calls and emails - throughout the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa.

In 2014, 43 of its members wrote a public letter to their commanders and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, announcing their refusal to continue their service and decrying the widespread surveillance of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

Their letter read, "The Palestinian population under military rule is completely exposed to espionage and surveillance by Israeli intelligence. It is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society."

Members who spoke anonymously to Israeli media said they were particularly troubled by the unit's work in gathering personal details of Palestinians, such as their sexual orientation or health status, to potentially pressure or blackmail them into becoming informants.

Read more:  Inform or else - how Israel recruits Palestinians

Veterans of Unit 8200 are behind the Israeli private intelligence firm NSO group, whose surveillance software is alleged to have been used in attacks attributed to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, including a recent massive hacking operation of Al-Jazeera journalists.

Kaplan's LinkedIn profile also states that he worked on the Israel Labour Party's campaign for parliamentary elections in April 2019, which saw the party's presence in the Knesset whittle down to six seats. Polling suggest the party will lose all remaining seats in an upcoming election this March.

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