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Boastful idiots do not a plot make

After six months of secret filming, this is all Al Jazeera could come up with - the stupid bragging of two junior aides with close to zero influence, writes Stephen Pollard

    Israeli embassy employee Shai Masot was caught on camera at a London restaurant
    Israeli embassy employee Shai Masot was caught on camera at a London restaurant
    “Israel Plot To Take Down Tory Minister”, screams the front page of today’s Mail On Sunday.

    Congratulations to Al Jazeera. They’ve secured a round of media coverage for an old-fashioned undercover sting. Their reporter managed to do his job so well, according to one account, that the Israeli Embassy even offered him a job working to counter BDS.

    But if this is the best evidence they’ve got of a so-called plot, then all they’ve really managed is to show that, despite six months of undercover filming, there was next to nothing.

    A contract employee at the Embassy, Shai Masot, had lunch with an aide to a junior minister, with the undercover reporter joining them, and the Israeli said how difficult Sir Alan Duncan was and how they’d rather he wasn’t in office.

    In another piece of filming, the same Israeli tells the chair of Labour Friends of Israel that he’s got funding from the Israeli government to pay for MPs to visit Israel.

    And that’s it.

    They don’t have an MP ‘plotting’. They don’t have an Israeli diplomat ‘plotting’. They have an MP’s aide (named as Maria Strizzolo) bragging about how influential she is – she says at one point that she’s drafted questions for her boss, Rob Halfon – and they have a junior Israeli Embassy employee saying how awful some Tory MPs are and he’d like them ‘taken down’.

    Here’s the thing: every MP’s aide drafts questions and speeches for their boss. That’s their job. It’s what they’re there for. The idea this shows that Rob Halfon is some kind of putty in Maria Strizzolo’s hands is away with the fairies.

    Yes, Ms Strizzolo boasts about her influence. Find me a junior aide who doesn’t exaggerate his or her influence and you’ve found one who won’t be junior for long, because they have the sense not to exaggerate and puff themselves up. This one clearly does not.

    And yes, Mr Masot has a list of MPs that he regards as damaging to Israel, which include Crispin Blunt and Sir Alan Duncan. Well, guess what: they are. Sir Alan has a long history of Israel-bashing and Crispin Blunt is probably the worst chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in its history. 

    But none of this really matters, because none of what was recorded matters. It was the stupid, silly boasting of two junior employees with close to zero genuine influence.

    And it’s the most Al Jazeera can come up with after six months of undercover filming.

    As it happens, there is a jewel buried in the footage.

    Unless Ms Strizzolo is simply making it up, it seems Sir Alan “threatened to destroy” Mr Halfon because he was too ready to stick up for Israel.

    Funnily enough, that’s not the story they’ve chosen to run with.

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