Al Jazeera denies it canceled US Israel lobby film

Qatar’s ruling emir visiting the US defense secretary at the Pentagon earlier this month. The Zionist Organization of America timed its announcement to coincide with the Washington visit. (US Department of Defense)

Al Jazeera has denied a claim it has canceled the broadcast of an undercover investigation into the US Israel lobby.

The Qatar-funded network also rejected as “abhorrent” accusations that the film is anti-Semitic.

The statement came last week, after the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) asserted that its president Morton Klein had convinced the Qatari ruler Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to cancel the film.

The network said in a statement that it “totally refutes false claims” by Klein “that Al Jazeera was compelled to ‘cancel’ a yet to be broadcast investigation into the activities of pro-Israel advocacy groups in the United States.”

The ZOA boasted that due to the efforts of Klein, Qatar agreed to cancel the “viciously anti-Semitic” Al Jazeera film on the “American Jewish lobby.”

The group claimed that Klein held “numerous, exhaustive and round​-​the​-​clock meetings in Doha, Qatar, with the Emir and other top Qatari officials​.”

It even asserted that Klein held “a two-hour meeting with the emir in his palace.”

Clayton Swisher, the head of Al Jazeera’s investigative unit, responded immediately on Twitter, pointing out that the film “was never called the ‘Jewish Lobby’ – it’s always been called ‘The Israel Lobby: US Edition.’”

“I demand you retract this shameful fabrication, including your defamatory claim that our film is in any way anti-Semitic,” Swisher added in a tweet directed at the ZOA.

In its statement last week, Al Jazeera also said it “utterly rejects the abhorrent allegation that the series is ‘viciously anti-Semitic,’” and charged Klein with writing “about a documentary series that he has not seen in terms that are prejudicial, inaccurate and inflammatory.”

No denial on emir

The ZOA said it timed its announcement to coincide with Emir Tamim’s visit to the US to meet with President Donald Trump earlier this month.

But Al Jazeera’s denial the that film has been canceled notably omits mention of the emir, or any promises he may or may not have made to the Zionist organization.

Al Jazeera’s response was also hardly swift, coming a full week after the initial ZOA claim. This could indicate differences among decision makers at the channel and the government of the gas-rich state that sponsors it.

Qatar previously denied a report by Israeli newspaper Haaretz in February that the Gulf emirate’s rulers had promised the film would not be aired.

Qatar’s foreign ministry responded that Al Jazeera’s journalism was independent of the government.

But Haaretz stood by its story, which was based on five anonymous pro-Israel sources in Washington.

The ZOA’s new statement is the first time an Israel lobby group has openly claimed credit for the alleged cancellation.

“Very soon” seven months later

Al Jazeera’s Clayton Swisher first confirmed that his network had run an undercover investigation of Israel lobby groups in the US in October last year, saying it would air “very soon.”

But seven months later, the film has yet to be shown.

In an article last month, Swisher expressed his frustrations at the delay, writing that if the documentary does not air, it would lend credibility to accusations by US lawmakers “that Al Jazeera is indeed a foreign agent, at the direction and control of Qatar’s government.”

Since discovering that an undercover reporter working for Al Jazeera had apparently infiltrated their circles, Israel lobby groups – including Klein’s – actively lobbied Qatar to cancel the film.

Harvard law professor and long-time mouthpiece for anti-Palestinian propaganda Alan Dershowitz – to whom Swisher screened part of the film – has even demanded the channel “reshoot and re-edit” the film before its release to add “pro-Israel commentators.”

Last month, The Electronic Intifada exclusively obtained the first concrete details of what the finished film contains.

According to a source who has seen it, the film shows the director-general of a powerful Israeli ministry admitting that Israel works with groups in the US to monitor American citizens on its behalf.

“Data gathering, information analysis, working on activist organizations, money trail. This is something that only a country, with its resources, can do the best,” the Israeli official is said to state.

Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, commonly known as FARA, US organizations and individuals who work on behalf of foreign governments are required to register with the counterintelligence section of the Department of Justice – so some of these groups may be in violation of US law if they do this kind of work for Israel without having registered.

List of demands

The Zionist Organization of America’s statement said that Klein had first been invited to Qatar last September, “but turned down the invitation.”

But after a host of Israel lobbyists visited the emirate at the invitation the emir and other officials, Klein decided to go along in January.

Qatar has been seeking to cozy up to Israel as a way of getting back into the good books of the US president, after Trump blamed the emirate for being behind “terrorism,” and Saudi Arabia led a blockade of the tiny Gulf country.

The ZOA said Klein had handed a long list of “demands” to the emir.

According to the ZOA, Al Jazeera must cease making all programs even remotely critical of Israel and remove all “anti-Israel propaganda,” including anything deemed to support the nonviolent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, from its websites and YouTube channel.

The list of videos it demands removed includes the The Lobby, the four-part undercover investigation of pro-Israel groups in the UK which Al Jazeera broadcast last year and which can still be viewed online.

Despite complaints by the UK Israel lobby that the film was misleading, unfair and anti-Semitic, the UK’s broadcasting regulator Ofcom fully vindicated Al Jazeera after an eight-month investigation.

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I hope Swisher can get the better of the powers that be in Qatar that are delaying the airing of this film. It seems that the demands of Morton Klein would turn Al-Jazeera into something very similar to the BBC and CNN.

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It must be almost a year ago the GCC cabal demanded that Qatar shutter al Jazeera, as part of its campaign to purify and intensify Arab hostility toward Iran.
But still there are those in the Drumph administration and Israel who hold court with al-Thani.
I have to admit, this whole interrelationship is pretty opaque to me. Is Israel and US just playing Qatar temporarily because it's the only way to keep al Jazeera's mouth shut? Is it more about winning Qatar over to the anti-Iran coalition? Both? What else? I know I thought at the time that the demand to shut down al Jazeera was way over the top and likely to cause more trouble than even this film would. So what's up really?

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Do Drumph and the Saudis really believe Israel is going to deliver a realistic peace deal somehow? Do any of these parties really believe a US led coalition is going to war on Iran? What, short of bombing them into the quasi-stone age condition Iraq and Syria enjoy, could possibly be enough to get Israel to give up it's designs for a "Greater Israel"? Would even that?
I don't think so, in fact I think it would only radically further their agenda. Their paranoia and their goals ARE mutually exclusive. The former being more useful fiction than fact and the latter are already well established "facts on the ground".

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Too bad Swisher forgot to mention when it will be broadcast.

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.