Regulator vindicates Channel 4 over interview of British Palestinians

British Palestinians in the Channel 4 programme

Asa Winstanley reports in The Electronic Intifada on 27 July 2021:

The UK’s broadcast regulator Ofcom vindicated a Channel 4 News interview with young British Palestinians in a ruling last week [19 July 2021].  Israel lobby group UK Lawyers For Israel (UKLFI) had complained about the segment, which aired on the channel in December.

This is the latest defeat for the pro-Israel group, after an out-of-court settlement last year for libeling a children’s charity which works in Palestine.

The presenter of the Channel 4 segment, British Palestinian activist Akram Salhab, had given a platform for his peers. Ironically, they had said that a combination of ignorance and censorship means that Palestinian voices are being silenced in the UK today.

“There is this taboo around it,” said Rama, one of the group.

“We’re a community that is silenced, and with really strong repressive measures,” said Alia, a second Palestinian.

“It’s a campaign that is directed at eliminating Palestinian voices from universities, not by any coincidence, but by design,” explained Rama.

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But UKLFI claimed the segment was “unfair” and “seriously prejudicial” to it.  Although none of the people in the segment had even named UKLFI, the report briefly showed statements posted to the websites of War on Want and Medical Aid for Palestinians – two British charities which do work on Palestine.  The statements both accurately announced that the UK’s charity regulator had dismissed complaints UKLFI had made about them.  In its complaint to Ofcom, UKLFI did not dispute the facts of either statement. Instead the group demanded Channel 4 give it a new opportunity to reiterate its dismissed complaints against the two charities.

As presenter Salhab explained in the segment, “it’s the work [War on Want] does on Palestinian rights that led to several complaints to the Charity Commission. Repeated investigations found no issues to take forward.”

In its summary of UKLFI’s submission, Ofcom said that the lobby group had complained “that it was identified by screenshots of website pages of these charities and said that it was ‘criticized for attempting to silence campaigning in support of Palestinian human rights.’”

But in its response to Ofcom, Channel 4 News said that “the report did not comment on, or seek to examine, the substance or merits of the complaints, or the motivation of UKLFI in making them.”

Ofcom ultimately ruled that UKLFI’s complaint would not be upheld.

The regulator also found that it had not been necessary for Channel 4 News to provide UKLFI with an opportunity to respond, given that the segment was not primarily about it.

The Electronic Intifada understands that the complaints process took six months.

Such “lawfare” attacks are a common strategy used by Israel and its overseas lobby groups.  Both of UKLFI’s complaints against War on Want and Medical Aid for Palestinians – as referenced in the Channel 4 News screenshots – were co-authored by US lawyer Brooke Goldstein in the name of her lobby group The Lawfare Project.

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Another British pro-Israel lobby group, Campaign Against Antisemitism, also complained to Ofcom about the Channel 4 News segment.  But the regulator dismissed it without even a full investigation.

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