The man behind the scam: dubious tactics of Al-Jazeera’s undercover reporter

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Israeli Embassy sting

The man behind the scam: dubious tactics of Al-Jazeera’s undercover reporter

Details emerge about how undercover journalist duped Israeli Embassy and community figures as questions raised over behaviour towards female activist

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

This is the man who spent six months undercover for a sting that aimed to expose “attempts by the Israeli government to influence British democracy” – but his true identity remains hidden four days after the story broke.

The reporter, posing as a pro-Israel Labour activist by the adopted name Robin Harrow, first made contact with Shai Masot, then assistant to deputy ambassador Eitan Na’eh, last summer.

He subsequently spent considerable amount of time with him, even accompanying him to a Jewish Labour Movement meeting between Ambassador Mark Regev and a group of young Israeli Labor leaders, and social gatherings such as the one where he made his much-reported remarks about ‘taking down’ Alan Duncan.

To create his persona, ‘Harrow’ set up a fake Twitter account promoting pro-Israel messages and also a blog on the Times of Israel, with a bio describing himself as German-born and having taken part in Israel exchange programmes in school. He also professed his fascination with the strength of Israeli society “to live under such circumstances and continue to grant civil rights to all citizens”.

Shai Masot, political officer for the Israeli embassy, being filmed by an undercover Al Jazeera reporter.
Shai Masot, political officer for the Israeli embassy, being filmed by an undercover Al Jazeera reporter.

In one in which he lauds the treatment of LGBT people compared to other parts of the Middle East, he wrote that those calling themselves anti-Zionist are “effectively saying that Israel should not exist”. He added: “If the Labour Party loses its path, leaves the progressive camp and sanctions terrorist groups like Hamas, we lose more than legitimacy and electability in the minds of the electorate. The Labour Party will lose its soul and open the door to a new wave of anti-Semitism.”

At around the same time he disappeared off the radar, he requested both posts he wrote on the platform be removed on 19 December, saying his new employer didn’t want him to write.

It’s understood various communal organisations were contacted with a series of questions about their links to Israel and the Embassy from an anonymous email address. A source close to one of those organisations said: “While this country has a fine tradition of investigative journalism, in this case Al-Jazeera’s employee appears to have overstepped them mark, behaving unethically and used the cloak of anonymity to seek footage that can be presented out of its original context in order to incite venom and hatred against Israel’s supporters in the UK.”

“Despite spending six months compiling his undercover footage, individuals and organisations targeted were given a shockingly short amount of time to respond to anonymised emails over the holiday period.”
Questions have now also been raised over his tactics during the investigation. Jewish News understands that at least one organisation targeted by ‘Harrow’ is considering a formal legal complaint related to the reporter’s “unacceptable” behaviour towards a female activist.

The sting began shortly after the height of the anti-Semitism row surrounding Labour and the timing has raised questions about whether the investigation was designed to undermine those raising concerns about cases within the party. Jackie Walker, who was twice suspended from the party, appears in a promo for the Al-Jazeera series, calling for an investigation.

Al-Jazeera brought forward the screening of the first in a series to today after originally advertising it to go out on Sunday. Harrow does not appear in front of the camera at any point in the episode.

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