The plot to infiltrate UK: exposé not antisemitic


October 13, 2017
Sarah Benton

1) Al Jazeera; 2) Press Gazette; 3) Notes incl. link to Ofcom report and to the complainants who occasioned the report.


Ambassador Mark Regev L, and political officer Shai Masot R,  go hunting at Labour party conference 2016.

Ofcom dismisses complaints about Al Jazeera’s The Lobby

By Al Jazeera
October 09, 2017

Al Jazeera did not breach any broadcasting rules in its coverage of the pro-Israel lobby in the UK, Britain’s broadcasting regulator has ruled.

On Monday, Ofcom dismissed complaints against Al Jazeera’s four-part series “The Lobby”, an undercover investigation that aired in January and made global headlines.

Filmed over six months, The Lobby revealed the Israeli embassy’s covert influence campaign to smear and attack British citizens critical of Israel and its practices – including British Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan.

Ofcom received complaints in the aftermath of the series from a number of pro-Israeli British activists, including one former Israeli embassy employee.

These complaints levelled a range of charges against Al Jazeera from “antisemitism” and bias to unfair editing and infringement of privacy.

In each instance, Ofcom dismissed the charges, and the complaints as a whole without reservation.

“We did not consider that this aspect of the complaints warranted further investigation,” Ofcom said.

“The fact that the programmes uncovered evidence of inappropriate behaviour by those acting on behalf of the Israeli government, or by those belonging to a small number of organisations that promote Israeli policy, does not mean that they were anti-Semitic,” Ofcom said. “In the same way, programmes that expose the violence associated with some black gang culture in Britain’s inner cities are not, by default, racist.”

Ofcom is a government-appointed body that regulates all broadcasting media in the UK with wide-ranging, statutory powers.

It maintains journalistic standards and ethics and presides over conduct and policies for programme makers.

“We are extremely pleased with the verdict,” said Clayton Swisher, Al Jazeera’s director of investigative journalism and the series narrator. “It overwhelmingly validates the revelations captured by our brave undercover, known as ‘Robin’. Our entire team put a ton of care into making this film, under full legal review throughout. This totally vindicates our work and is a terrific verdict for all journalists exposing wrongdoing.”

Undercover investigation

As part of the investigation, Al Jazeera filmed Shai Masot, the Israeli embassy’s then senior political officer.

At one point, in a discussion with British civil servant Maria Strizzolo, Masot plotted to “take down” Sir Alan Duncan, a vocal supporter of Palestinian rights who has condemned the Israeli occupation.

Masot’s position came to an early end shortly after the investigation was broadcast. Strizzolo resigned.

The Israeli ambassador to Britain, Mark Regev, formally apologised to the British Foreign Office while Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson conceded Masot’s “cover” was “well and truly blown”.

Ofcom’s findings come at a time when Israel is seeking to close Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau and deny its reporters access for allegedly causing “incitement”.

Meanwhile, at least four Arab states are demanding the wholesale closure of Al Jazeera amid a blockade against Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based.

The Lobby is available to watch here.


Ofcom clears Al Jazeera of antisemitism over probe into Israeli lobbying of Parliament

By Freddy Mayhew, Press Gazette
October 09, 2017

Broadcast regulator Ofcom has dismissed a number of complaints against Al Jazeera English over its undercover documentary series investigating the influence of the Israel lobby on British politics.

The four-part series, called The Lobby, was broadcast in January this year and was produced by its in-house investigative unit.

It exposed the Israeli Embassy’s then senior political officer Shai Masot allegedly plotting to “take down” British Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan during a discussion with British civil servant Maria Strizzolo.

The pair’s conversation had been covertly recorded by an Al Jazeera journalist and resulted in Masot losing his post and Strizzol’s resignation after it was broadcast in the last episode of the series.

The programme is also understood to have triggered an ongoing parliamentary inquiry into foreign interference in British politics.

Ofcom, which regulates Al Jazeera English, received two standards complaints and three complaints from individuals featured in the series under fairness and privacy clauses.

The complaints ranged from allegations of antisemitism, bias and that the programme was materially misleading.

Complainants included Ella Rose, Russell Langer and Luke Akehurst.

On the claims of antisemitism, Ofcom said: “Given the subject matter, it was likely the programme would be controversial, particularly as it raised questions about the actions of Mr Masot, the Israeli Embassy and other individuals (several of whom are Jewish) associated with the various pro-Israeli groups and organisations identified in the programme.”

It added: “We did not consider that the programme portrayed any negative stereotypes of Jewish people as controlling or seeking to control the media or governments.”

On accusations of bias, Ofcom rauled that the programme had “included a range of viewpoints on this matter of political controversy,” adding that “in light of the nature of the programme and its particular subject matter, we considered that the programme had maintained due impartiality”.

An Al Jazeera source said the verdict “goes to show that no matter what Al Jazeera’s critics say, its journalism meets and exceeds the highest standards of objectivity and balance”.

They added: “We feel vindicated by the rulings and evermore committed to exposing human rights violations by anyone—regardless of geography, religion, or the power of their lobbies.”

The findings come at a time when Israel is seeking to close Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem Bureau and deny its reporters access for allegedly causing “incitement.”

Four Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, have called for Al Jazeera to be shut down over allegations Qatar, where the network is based, has been supporting terrorism.


NOTES

The Adjudication in full:

Ofcom broadcast and on demand bulletin, pdf file

Issue number 338, 9 October 2017

Complaints to Ofcom from:

  1. Ms Ella Rose of unjust or unfair treatment and unwarranted infringement of privacy. Not upheld. Ms Rose  worked at the Israeli embassy as public affairs officer between September 2015 and August 2016, when she joined JLM as its first director.
  2. Complaint by Kingsley Napley LLP on behalf of Russell Langer. “Russell is the public affairs manager for the Jewish Leadership Council. Prior to joining the JLC he spent two years at the UK Union of Jewish Students where he ran all national political activity. Russell has a Masters degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Sheffield where he also served as president of the Jewish Society.” From JLC
    [In the last few years the JLC has turned itself from an elite and well-funded group of leaders of select Jewish organisations into a different sort of group with over 30 member organisations.]
  3. Complaint by Kingsley Napley LLP on behalf of Luke Akehurst: Akehurst is a PR man. A critical article by David Cronin said of him Arms industry promoter latest recruit for UK Israel lobby, Electronic IntifadaAlso saying it made a complaint to Ofcom: “Campaign Against Antisemitism” (now calling itself  ‘Antisemitism UK’). There is no mention of the CAA in the Ofcom report which doesn’t mean it didn’t make a complaint; just that it didn’t warrant a mention.
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