Al Jazeera faces ‘harassment’ claims as new TV doc targets Jewish Labour activists

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Al Jazeera faces ‘harassment’ claims as new TV doc targets Jewish Labour activists

Qatari-linked TV channel is broadcasting a three-part 'investigation' which aims to once again discredit claims of antisemitism in Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Al-Jazeera compiled a four-part series The Lobby in 2017 based on six months' of undercover reporting
Al-Jazeera compiled a four-part series The Lobby in 2017 based on six months' of undercover reporting

Qatari-based television channel Al Jazeera is facing claims it has engaged in the “harassment” of seven Jewish Labour activists who have been targeted by producers of a new documentary looking into the party under Jeremy Corbyn.

The first of a three-part Al Jazeera Investigation, The Labour Files, airs this Thursday and renews claims made by hard left activists, many of whom are now expelled from the party, that Corbyn and his supporters were victims of an alleged “purge” by Labour “bureaucrats”.

But an advanced promotional video for the series tweeted by Al Jazeera Investigations ahead of the first episode, makes clear that a central aim of the series is to once again challenge the narrative around antisemitism in Labour under Corbyn.

Back in January 2017, Al Jazeera sparked anger within the community after airing four-part series The Lobby, which attempted to suggest Israel was heavily influencing British politics through its embassy.

But this new documentary, timed to coincide with Labour’s annual party conference which begins in Liverpool this weekend, represent a further attempt to challenge Keir Starmer’s decision to remove the whip from the former leader.

The second and third episodes of investigation, focusing on discrediting antisemitism claims, will being aired as Jewish families celebrate Rosh Hashanah.

Jewish News understands senior figures close to the former Labour leader have openly contributed to the new programmes.

A tweet put out by the channel on Sunday advertising the new series includes a quote from Corbyn himself claiming antisemitism is “an evil” which “will not be tolerated in any form” under his government.

The video then continues with a female voice saying: “Beneath the surface lies a darker side in British politics.”

The next two episodes of the documentary then claim to reveal the “disturbing truth” behind Labour’s “so-called ‘antisemitism crisis’ that helps destroy the party leader and silence debate on Israel and Palestine.”

During the final episode claims are made that Labour has created a “hierarchy of racism” which prioritises antisemitism over other forms of racism, a claim made by groups such as Jewish Voice For Labour, and the expelled activist Jackie Walker.

Schedule for Al Jazeera Investigations: Labour File programmes

Ahead of the documentary, Jewish News has learned that Al Jazeera has sent out 26 right of reply emails and letters to those featured in the investigation, offering them the right to reply to allegations.

Among these 26 are at least seven individuals linked to the Jewish Labour Movement, who have openly raised claims of antisemitism in Labour under Corbyn.

The programme’s producers aim to discredit the allegations of antisemitism made by the seven, who Jewish News has decided not to name.

It is understood Al Jazeera has received a stern response from JLM on behalf of all seven individuals.

One senior Labour official also told Jewish News they considered the allegations being made against the seven Jewish members constituted “harassment ” by the programme’s makers.

It is understood that lawyers are ready to take action on behalf of Jewish individuals if the three episodes make false claims.

The programme already includes an attempt to falsely link the JLM activists as allies of outspoken right-wing campaigners from within the Jewish community, including the blogger Jonathan Hoffman.

It is understood that television journalist John Ware is also the subject of sustained attacks in the documentary, focusing on the BBC Panorama documentary on Labour’s antisemitism crisis he presented in July 2019.

Al Jazeera will allege that Ware’s programme Is Labour Antisemitic? played a crucial role in shaping the narrative around Corbyn’s handling of the issue ahead of the general election in December 2019.

The pro-Corbyn commentator Peter Oborne is filmed suggesting the BBC had been wrong to air the Panorama episode when it did, even though the general election was still months away.

Asked by Jewish News to clarify his comments to Al Jazeera, Oborne said he had made them some time ago so could not recall them exactly.

The show will also accuse the BBC of failing to feature anyone from the JVL organisation in the Panorama, even though Corbyn and senior figures in his office were all given a right of reply by Ware and his producers.

Al Jazeera also attempts to cast doubt on claims made by both Ware’s Panorama and supported by the EHRC in its probe in Labour, that Corbyn’s office openly interfered in a high-profile disciplinary case involving the notorious anti-Zionist activist Glyn Secker.

The programme will use the recently published Forde Report to attempt to defend senior figures around Corbyn, including his former communications director Seamus Milne, with the claim that email communications over the Secker case were misrepresented by Ware and the EHRC.

But Jewish News understands that the account of the Secker case as detailed in the Forde Report is itself about to be challenged.

Another Labour source added: “These three Al Jazeera programmes are dogged by often discredited individuals making discredited claims about John Ware, the BBC, and voices conspiracy theories about establishment attacks on Jeremy Corbyn.

“The simple truth is that through Ofcom, through the law courts, and through Keir Starmer’s leadership of Labour, the claims made about antisemitism under Corbyn have been vindicated.”

The final episode of the new Al Jazeera series will attempt to push the line that antisemitism complaints are taken more seriously within Labour than complaints about Islamophobia or anti-black racism.

It will once again make reference to serious concerns about anti-Black racism in the party outlined in the recently published Forde Report.

But again, all of these complaints relate to allegations that took place under the leadership of the Corbyn.

It is understood that former senior Labour officials who voiced concern about Corbyn as party leader are among those approached for comment over racism claims by Al Jazeera.

But the programme is not believed to examine why official Labour disciplinary statistics published by the party, confirm that there are still a disproportionate number of complaints relating to antisemitism, with over 80 per cent of them doing so in the most recently available figures.

Al Jazeera has every right to raise concerns about anti-black racism in Labour,” insisted a senior party source. Of course all forms of racism should be treated with equal concern. But the claim there is a ‘hierarchy of racism’ in Labour in a false, and indeed dangerous one to be making. It only helps cause further division, and should be challenged fully whenever it is raised.”

Jewish News has contacted Al Jazeera for comment on the three-part Labour Files series ahead of broadcast of the first episode on Thursday.

The programmes are being shown on Al Jazeera English, an international 24-hour English-language news channel which is owned by the Al Jazeera Media Network and endowed by the government of Qatar.

Attracting large audiences, particularly on its Arabic channel, Al Jazeera has been criticised as being both anti-Israel and anti-Hindu in the past.

Last year a delegation from Hamas visited the Al Jazeera bureau in Gaza to present the channel with a certificate for its coverage of the last conflict with Israel.

Several pro-Israel British activists and a former Israeli embassy employee filed complaints with UK media regulator Ofcom in 2017 that Al Jazeera four-part documentary series The Lobby was antisemitic.

The complaints also accused the organisation of bias, unfair editing, and infringement of privacy but in October that year, Ofcom issued a 60-page ruling rejecting the complaints.









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