Jewish Chronicle admits libeling Labour councilor over “anti-Semitism”

Glyn Secker at a 2014 rally against Israel’s war on the Palestinians in Gaza

Mark Esper Polaris

The Jewish Chronicle has apologized and agreed to pay damages to a Labour Party councillor in the UK over claims of anti-Semitism.

In a series of articles published last year, The Jewish Chronicle writer Lee Harpin claimed that Nada al-Sanjari, who is Muslim, had invited an “anti-Semitic activist” to speak at a Labour Party event.

But the activist was Jewish Voice for Labour secretary Glyn Secker – who al-Sanjari had never invited in any case.

In an apology published online and in print, The Jewish Chronicle withdrew its claims against al-Sanjari. It also agreed to pay her “a substantial sum” in libel damages as well as her legal costs, her lawyers said.

“I am very pleased that The Jewish Chronicle has apologized for what it accepts are completely unfounded allegations,” al-Sanjari stated via her lawyers.

But the paper has not retracted its claims against Secker, who was not part of al-Sanjari’s legal action.

Secker told The Electronic Intifada: “It’s good that The Jewish Chronicle has been forced to apologize for these libelous articles, but it’s a shame they haven’t gone the next logical step and withdrawn their false claims about me.”

Deleted

The articles containing the false claims against al-Sanjari were deleted from the paper’s website. Harpin and his editor Stephen Pollard have also apologized to her, according to al-Sanjari’s lawyers.

The paper falsely claimed that the councillor had launched “a vicious protest” against Jewish lawmaker Luciana Berger “in terms suggestive of anti-Semitism,” al-Sanjari’s lawyers said.

Berger, a former director of Labour Friends of Israel, was at that time one of Jeremy Corbyn’s staunchest critics in Parliament.

Like most of the rest of the Labour right, she falsely alleged that the party under Corbyn – a veteran Palestine solidarity campaigner – had become anti-Semitic.

In February last year, Berger quit Labour in protest along with other “friends of Israel.”

“It closes us down”

Although The Jewish Chronicle’s libelous articles have been deleted, two contemporaneous responses written by Labour activists are still online.

They indicate that Glyn Secker was the activist the paper had claimed was invited by al-Sanjari to speak.

The anti-Palestinian and right-wing publication has frequently attacked Secker and Jewish Voice for Labour – a left-wing, pro-Corbyn group with Palestine solidarity activists and anti-Zionist Jews among its members.

Secker told The Electronic Intifada that Labour activists in Reading had discussed with him the possibility of inviting a Jewish Voice for Labour activist to speak there, but that he had not communicated with al-Sanjari.

After the fuss caused by The Jewish Chronicle’s articles smearing al-Sanjari, the local Labour group withdrew and no event was held.

“That’s the effect they want,” Secker said. “[It] closes us down. It frightens the people on the ground in the groups.”

Secker called this a “relentless tightening of the net around free speech” as well as an infringement on “the right of Palestinians and their supporters to talk about the increasing oppression that they’re being subjected to.”

False allegations

Secker, who is Jewish, was suspended from Labour in 2018 after false allegations of anti-Semitism.

He was only reinstated after “a chorus of angry voices” campaigned for a reversal.

A spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain said the stories smearing al-Sanjari are only “the latest in a long line of appalling articles by The Jewish Chronicle related to Muslims.”

The paper has also published numerous stories attacking Palestinians and their supporters, as well as the pro-Corbyn Labour left.

In February, The Jewish Chronicle apologized and paid damages to Labour activist Audrey White after a series of articles attacking her over supposed anti-Semitism in the Labour Party in Liverpool.

In September 2019, the paper agreed to pay $60,000 in damages to Interpal, a British charity which aids Palestinians.

The paper had falsely claimed the group was involved in terrorist activity – a charge frequently made against Interpal by Israel and its supporters.

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I too have been slandered by organizations like the UK charity campaign against anti-Semitism. If I had the money I would take them to court and demand substantial damages. The court of inquiry is often the place where such accusations can be disproved. I suggest it is necessary that people come together and create a fund to take such organizations to court immediately.

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Just do a trawl for media stories about the Audrey White case. Don't forget that Louise Ellman claimed White was one of the anti-Semites in her constituency. You'll have a long search to find any significant coverage of the story by the UK media; yet they were eager to report every suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn was a racist, that hordes of anti-Semites had followed him into the Party, that Labour was not a safe place for Jews, that "the Jewish community" (an anti-Semitic designation if ever there was one) was united in its opposition to Corbyn. Then comes the White story, a story which will engender scepticism about the exorbitant claims of anti-Semitism, which will show up John Ware's farrago of special pleading, distortion and downright lies for what it is, which will suggest at least exaggeration in the claims of "institutionalised anti-Semitism" and the media say nothing. Such is the degree to which the media connived in the lies about Labour, to bring down Corbyn, to vilify the pro-Palestinian campaign, to buttress Israel's racism and violence. It's good that Glyn has been re-instated. He's one of the lucky ones. There are many left in limbo, suspended on the same specious grounds, victims of Zionist lies and despicable snitching. Terrific that Nada has won her case and a payout. But it won't halt the Zionist myth-machine which has ground out its falsehoods for 72 years and more. We have a right-wing government partly because of Israel's intervention in our politics through its nefarious proxies generating lie after lie about Labour and Corbyn. They should never be forgiven for that and we should never rest till their power is stilled, Palestine free and free speech allowed to be what its name implies.

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A glance at the Jewish Chronicle's Wikipedia page reveals- and fails to reveal- some interesting information. Figures from 2018 indicate an average press run of fewer than 13,000 copies purchased. This represents a steep decade-long decline. The paper has lost numerous cases resulting in sizeable payouts, yet seems able always to struggle though. How is this possible? Well, the article contains this tidbit:

"In 2019, a consortium of 20 individuals, families and charitable trusts made donations to The Kessler Foundation so it could continue to support the newspaper. The identities of the members of the consortium were not disclosed. The fundraising was led by Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council.[13][47]"

Despite this intercession, the Chronicle went into liquidation in 2020, only to be purchased by a new group of "investors". Keep in mind, this is a publication almost nobody buys or reads. It loses money on a guaranteed basis through low circulation, unsavory politics, and plenty of adverse libel rulings. The unavoidable conclusion must be that the Chronicle is artificially maintained at great cost in order to play its disgusting but useful role in UK political life. Although even in the present instance it's difficult to establish who's really paying for all of this, the article goes on to identify some of the figures now involved, and a grubby cast they are:

"...a private consortium of political insiders, broadcasters and bankers, including John Woodcock, John Ware and Jonathan Kandel. The other members of the consortium acquiring the Chronicle are biographer William Shawcross, Rabbi Jonathan Hughes, broadcaster Jonathan Sacerdoti, Investec’s corporate and institutional banking chief operating officer Robert Swerling, managing partner at EMK Capital Mark Joseph and Tom Boltman, head of strategic initiatives at Kovrr.[53]

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William Shawcross is surely still chair of the Charities Commission, which defends the virulently anti-Labour "Campaign Against Antisemitism". for evidence see Joe Glasman's boasting about having 'slaughtered ' the Labour Party in 2019. Available on this website I believe.

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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.