Reposted from The Electronic Intifada, By: 30 October 2018: An Israeli embassy officer spied on student supporters of Palestinian rights, undercover video released exclusively by The Electronic Intifada shows.
Julia Reifkind wrote reports on boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists, which were then sent back to intelligence agencies in Israel.
Her superior at the embassy did this via a classified server designated âCablesâ which, Reifkind emphasized, âI donât have access to because Iâm an American.â
The undercover footage also suggests that Reifkind was engaging in deception when she suggested that Palestinian students were behind an anti-Semitic incident on campus the previous year.
In January 2015, painted swastikas were found on a Jewish frat house at theÂ University of California, Davis. Reifkind was then president of the student group Aggies for Israel, and had yet to be directly employed by the embassy.
Contrary to what she told journalists at the time, in the leaked Al Jazeera footage, Reifkind admits that the racist graffiti had almost certainly not been done by pro-BDS students, but was likely the work of white supremacists from off campus.
The effort to falsely implicate Palestine solidarity activists in the 2015 incident is particularly disturbing in light of the massacre of 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
The gunman arrested after that attack is Robert Bowers, a white supremacist with aÂ historyÂ of conspiratorial and virulently anti-Semitic social media postings.
Talking points used by the party cast blame for the massacre on a âleft-wing Jewish group that promoted immigration to the US and worked against Trumpâ and echoed the gunmanâs own anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Days before the 2015 graffiti incident at UC Davis, the student senate hadÂ voted in favorÂ of boycotting Israel â a major victory for the BDS movement.
Reifkind had already been accusing the student movement of anti-Semitism, and reacted to the graffiti by drawing media attention.
She and other pro-Israel activists strongly implied in the press that Palestinian and other pro-BDS students had been behind the swastikas â without evidence.
Reifkind complained that university administrators had refused to blame the swastikas on campus Palestine solidarity activists.
TheÂ Jewish JournalÂ reported at the timeÂ that Reifkind had âexpressed disappointment that school leaders have not drawn a more direct and public âconnection between the divestment resolution itself and anti-Semitism.ââ
AEPi, the Jewish fraternity on whose house the swastikas were found, also blamed the incident on Palestine solidarity activism.
âOn campuses throughout North America and Europe, AEPi brothers have been leading the Jewish community and leading the student movement to defend Israel,â the fraternityâs executive directorÂ said. âBecause of that leadership, in the last few months alone, our brothers have been the targets of anti-Semitic attacks at a dozen universities,â including â he claimed â UC Davis.
On its Facebook page, Reifkindâs group Aggies for IsraelÂ posted a photoÂ of the graffiti. The group stated that âAEPi was clearly targetedâ due to its âstrong track record of championing pro-Israel causes,â including campaigning against the divestment vote at UC Davis.
Aggies for Israel alerted media outlets includingÂ BuzzFeedÂ by tagging them in comments.
But in the footage, viewable above, Reifkind admits to Al Jazeeraâs undercover reporter âTonyâ that âwe donât even knowâ who did the graffiti.
âWe just think it was like some random white supremacist type people who just came, did it and left. We donât think it was students,â she states.
In the Al Jazeera film â though not in the leaked excerpts â she explains that Reifkindâs false allegations were âhugely damagingâ to the group at the very momentÂ they had won a victory for BDS.
Obeid reacts to the undercover footage of Reifkind admitting the graffiti was likely the work of a ârandom white supremacistâ by saying: âThatâs very surprising, because it was very clear from their behavior towards us and their attitudes towards us that we had done some heinous crime towards them and we deserved to pay for it.â
The backlash that Reifkind and other anti-Palestinian activists drove was part of a general atmosphere of Islamophobic coverage of the divestment resolution.
Fox News, for example,Â claimedÂ that pro-Israel students had been shouted down and âheckledâ during the Student Senate vote.
The national media attention on the California campus peaked withÂ former TV star Roseanne Barr tweeting: âI hope all the Jews leave UC Davisâ and âthen it gets nuked!â
In reality, asÂ video from the nightÂ demonstrates, Reifkind was respectfully givenÂ ample time to speak at the debate, where she harangued students as being part of a âcampus plagued by anti-Semitism.â
She was not heckled or interrupted even as she denounced the BDS movement as âanti-Semitic and hate-promoting.â She and her group then staged a walkout as a way to attract press attention, as they expected to heavily lose the vote.
At the time, in January 2015, Reifkind was a student and campus pro-Israel activist not yet employed by the Israeli embassy in Washington.
But in the clip, she admits to âTony,â Al Jazeeraâs undercover reporter, that as president of Aggies for Israel she had been in touch with the Israeli consulate in San Francisco.
Immediately after she graduated in 2016, her on-campus efforts for Israel paid off, and she was offered a job at the Israeli embassy in Washington. She spoke to âTonyâ soon after, in September.
Her official title seen in a business card in the clip was âdirector of community affairs.â But as she explains to âTonyâ in the film, her role mainly entailed âmonitoring BDS things and reporting it backâ to agencies in Israel.
Neither Reifkind nor the Israeli embassy in Washington replied to Al Jazeeraâs request for comment, and she left her role at the embassy in October 2017.
In the clip above, Reifkind describes her role as âmainly gathering intel, reporting back to Israel. Thatâs a lot of what I do. To report back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs.â
In the clip above, Reifkind describes to âTonyâ how she monitors the activities of Students for Justice in Palestine, using several fake Facebook accounts.
âI follow all the SJP accounts,â she explains. âI have some fake names. My name is Jay Bernard or something. It just sounds like an old white guy, which was the plan. I join all these groups.â
The âintelâ she got from such activities was then fed into the classified âCablesâ server via her boss at the embassy.
The surveillance seems to have been effective.
SJP president Marcelle Obeid explains in another part of the film that âevery single event that I put on, you would have these pro-Israel groups coming out â before our guests even got there â with their cameras videotaping.â
Reifkind, as the president of Aggies for Israel, received assistance from the Israeli consulate in 2015. In the same manner, she, as part of her role at the Washington embassy, gave pro-Israel groups all over the US âour support, in that behind-the-scenes way.â
This arms-length approach through front organizations is key to how Israel operates in the West.
In 2016, the Israeli embassy in LondonÂ warnedÂ in a cable that the strategic affairs ministry was âoperatingâ British Jewish organizations behind the embassyâs back in a way that could put them in violation of UK law.
It later emerged â from an Al Jazeera film about the Israel lobby in the UKÂ broadcast last yearÂ â that the embassy was attempting to âtake downâ a British minister deemed critical of Israel.
In the US, Reifkind was also active with the powerful lobby groupÂ AIPACÂ while she was on campus. In another part of the censored film she explains to âTonyâ that âWhen youâre lobbying on behalf of AIPAC, you never say youâre AIPAC, you say, âI am a pro-Israel student from UC Davis.ââ
The undercover footage of Reifkind explaining her activities shows how Israel â with total impunity â spies on and disrupts US citizens involved in lawful advocacy for Palestine.
The film indicates that the Israel on Campus Coalition is connected to the anonymous blacklisting siteÂ The Canary Missionon behalf of multimillionaire pro-Israel financier and convicted tax evaderÂ Adam Millstein.
In undercover footage yet to be leaked, the Israel on Campus CoalitionÂ admitsÂ to coordinating its covert spying and sabotage campaigns with Israelâs strategic affairs ministry. Like other groups profiled in the film it did not respond to Al Jazeeraâs requests for comment.
Al Jazeeraâs film raises questions about the nature of Israelâs network of front organizations in the US and to what extent they may be violating the law in acting as undeclared agents for a foreign state.
As Reifkind sums up to Tony in the clip above, âI canât say anything negative about Bibi [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] or the government because I definitely work for them. Not directly. Iâm just a normal American.â