Israel lobby complaints about an Al Jazeera documentary were rejected on all counts by the UK’s broadcasting regulator on Monday.
After the news broke, the satellite channel’s Investigative Unit revealed that it will soon be broadcasting an undercover investigation of the Israel lobby in the United States.
Clayton Swisher, Al Jazeera’s director of investigative journalism, told the network’s Arabic channel on Monday that the documentary had been held back pending the outcome of the Ofcom investigation.
Swisher said he was announcing for the first time that “at the same time we had an undercover [reporter] in Britain, we also had an undercover in the United States.”
The UK documentary in January exposed the activities of Israeli embassy officer Shai Masot, and his efforts to influence political groups in the UK.
He had plotted to “take down” senior government minister Alan Duncan, and worked with pro-Israel lawmakers in the Labour Party who exaggerated and faked anti-Semitism in the party, amid plots and coup attempts against leader Jeremy Corbyn – long a Palestine solidarity activist.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a government investigation into the issues raised by the program.
Ofcom ruled on Monday that allegations of anti-Semitism against the program were false.
The regulator said it did not consider that “a critical analysis of the actions of a foreign state constituted anti-Semitism, particularly as the overall focus of the program was to examine whether the State of Israel was acting in a manner that would be expected of other democratic nations.”
Swisher told The Electronic Intifada that the “ruling is a victory not only for Al Jazeera, but for all investigative journalists.”
He said Al Jazeera had scrupulously followed Ofcom rules, and the fact that the complainants “would accuse our broadcast of being anti-Semitic speaks volumes about our accusers. Ironically, in doing so they proved a central argument in our film.”
A statement from Al Jazeera said that the Qatar-based broadcaster feels “vindicated by the rulings and ever more committed to exposing human rights violations by anyone – regardless of geography, religion or the power of their lobbies.”
Swisher added on the Arabic channel that the network had not wanted to put out the program on the Israel lobby in the United States until the British film had been ethically and legally vindicated by Ofcom.
“Now having our names cleared, and having our journalism vindicated, inshallah we will see the investigation [about the Israel lobby] within the United States very soon,” Swisher said.
The Ofcom ruling said that its regulations on impartiality had not been broken by Al Jazeera, since the program included the viewpoints of Masot and others in the Israeli government.
The broadcaster also approached Masot and others who had been secretly filmed to give them an opportunity to issue statements in response, including them on screen when provided.
Three individuals linked to Israel lobby groups who had featured in undercover footage in the film also filed complaints with Ofcom.
These were Russell Langer, a former officer with the Israel-funded Union of Jewish Students; right-wing Labour Party activist and “We Believe in Israel” director Luke Akehurst; and Ella Rose, director of the Jewish Labour Movement and former Israeli embassy officer.
The three alleged unfair treatment, dishonest editing and violation of privacy.
Ofcom painstakingly compared unedited undercover footage with the video as broadcast and concluded that Al Jazeera edited Rose fairly.
It concluded the same for the other two, saying that Akehurst’s claim the footage had been “heavily edited” to misrepresent the facts was untrue, that “the editing was very limited” and that “the program was an accurate reflection of what was said.”
Ofcom upheld Al Jazeera’s use of undercover filming, acknowledging that “there was a public interest justification,” and that the privacy of those who complained “was not unwarrantably infringed.”
One target of Rose’s ire was this writer, who had earlier revealed in an article for The Electronic Intifada that Rose previously worked at the Israeli embassy.
Rose claimed to Ofcom that her comments were just “boosting my self-esteem.”
Rose can be seen in the undercover footage saying she used to work with Masot in the Israeli embassy.
The Ofcom ruling shows Rose implying that even the regulator was anti-Semitic, claiming its preliminary ruling “wholeheartedly” bought into “the discriminatory Al Jazeera narrative.”
Rose claimed it set a “precedent for the infringement of privacy of any Jewish person involved in public life.”
Ofcom ruled however that “the filming of Ms. Rose was important as it enabled the broadcaster to demonstrate the links she had with [Shai] Masot and the embassy.”