BBC’s anti-Corbyn hatchet job fails to land blow

Israel supporters protest alleged anti-Semitism outside Labour Party headquarters.

Henry Nicholls Reuters

The BBC heavily trailed details from Wednesday night’s Panorama program, “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?”

The papers were full of headlines about it over the weekend, and it was supposed to prove just how anti-Semitic Labour has become under left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In truth, all the program proved was just how dishonest the British establishment and the Israel lobby have been in manufacturing this “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” for the past four years.

Mike Creighton, Labour’s former director of complaints, admitted this candidly in the film itself.

Asked by Corbyn’s top aide Seumas Milne how Labour could deal with the “crisis,” Creighton says he insisted Corbyn should give a speech, “particularly saying that Israel had a right to exist.”

That sums up what this fabricated “crisis” has been about all along.

Corbyn is a veteran Palestine solidarity activist.

That became the biggest weapon used to attack him from day one.

Israel’s supposed “right to exist as a Jewish state” is predicated on systemic racism and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians – as my colleague Ali Abunimah has for years patiently explained.

Therefore, recognition of Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish state” – as Israeli leaders and lobby groups demand – means recognizing that Israel has a “right” to be racist against Palestinians.

It is no surprise that a member of the old, New Labour establishment like Creighton would support such racism.

Blogging about his retirement in 2017, Creighton complained in his goodbye speech that Labour was becoming a “party of protest” against things like the Iraq war.

He wistfully recounted an anecdote about his hero Tony Blair.

More recently, Creighton tweeted that although he was remaining a party member, he was “not interested in winning government. I’m interested in winning the party.”

In other words he’s determined to win Labour’s civil war, even if it means sabotaging the party’s chances at the ballot box.

Israel lobby

This was a message endorsed on Twitter by two activists from the Jewish Labour Movement, Ella Rose and Adam Langleben.

Both also appeared on Panorama last night.

The JLM is an explictly pro-Israel organization which has close ties to the Israeli embassy.

Indeed, Rose herself is a former embassy employee, who came straight out of that job and into a role as the JLM’s executive director in 2016, soon after the JLM was reactivated to fight against Corbyn.

Yet not only were these affiliations unmentioned on last night’s BBC program, these two heavily partisan figures were not even named!

Instead they appeared on screen, distressed, speaking straight to camera. The were presented as sympathetic whistleblowers against Labour Party racism.

Yet, as The Electronic Intifada has reported in detail for the past four years, the JLM has been one of the main groups promoting and manufacturing the false “Labour anti-Semitism” crisis all along.

If the BBC was so convinced of the truth of their claims, why did it not disclose their clearly relevant affiliations and let viewers make up their own minds?

The rest of the program went mostly along the same dishonest lines.

The limits to criticizing Israel

One of two main “experts,” portrayed as independent authors, was Alan Johnson, who tried to set what he claimed were the acceptable boundaries for criticizing Israel.

“You can say the occupation is wrong, you can say the settlements are wrong,” he opined – but he spoke against calling Israel “an inherently racist endeavor.”

This is the typical line of Israel and its lobby groups – recognizing the reality of Israel’s foundational and systemic racism against all Palestinians is deemed anti-Semitic.

It is no surprise to see Johnson putting forth this poisonous view – he is an employee of BICOM, the UK’s main Israel lobby group.

Once again Panorama did not mention this affiliation.

The program was chock-full of such figures – many who have been driving the manufactured “anti-Semitism crisis” all along.

One further example is telling.

Fabricating anti-Semitism

Another of the young whistleblowers speaking “as a Jew in the Labour Party” was Alex Richardson – a member of the JLM executive.

The BBC did not name him, but I – and many others on social media – recognized him because he was a key figure exposed in Al Jazeera’s 2017 undercover documentary, The Lobby.

At the time of filming, Richardson was an employee of lawmaker Joan Ryan – who chairs Labour Friends of Israel, which is an Israeli embassy front group.

Ryan, who quit Labour earlier this year, was infamously exposed in Al Jazeera’s film fabricating an instance of “anti-Semitism” at the Labour conference in 2016.

But the film also shows that Richardson was personally involved in that same fabrication.

“Joan convinced me to report the one yesterday because I was made to feel uncomfortable,” the undercover footage shows him telling Labour Friends of Israel’s director Jennifer Gerber.

Yet he privately admitted, “nothing anti-Semitic was said.”

You can watch the relevant clip in the video above.

But a party member was still reported for “anti-Semitism.” She was Jean Fitzpatrick, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Fitzpatrick was formally investigated by the party and ultimately cleared of accusations of anti-Semitism. But the experience had a disturbing effect on her life, leaving her under a cloud of suspicion.

Hatchet job

Judging from social media though, the grassroots base of the Labour Party is not fooled by the narrative put out by Panorama.

Calling it the #PanoramaHatchetJob, Corbyn supporters have slammed the program for its numerous misleading aspects, including selectively edited emails leaked by disaffected ex-staff members from the Labour right.

Labour’s press office has hit back, promising to lodge a formal complaint with the BBC and calling the program “seriously inaccurate,” an “authored polemic” and “an overtly one-sided intervention in political controversy.”

But this could be far too little, far too late.

If Jeremy Corbyn and the rest of the Labour leadership cannot even fight back and defeat the Israel lobby within their own party, what hope is there that, in government, they could successfully take on the far more powerful combined forces of British – and American – capitalism?

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What is happening is surreal. This is beyond McCarthyism. Our country is corrupt to the core when the government allows journalists and commentators to interfere in democracy by lying and spinning the truth in order to influence voting

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Another month, another attempted assassination on JC, led by Blair, Mendelson & Co who have made no secret of their intentions from the word go. Why are these people still acceptable in the Labour Party?

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And Mr Watson calls it a "watershed moment". Mrs Ellman speaks of "decision time". This is part of the concerted campaign to unseat Corbyn. Mr Watson calls the people who appeared on the programme "brave". They were craven. A miserable bunch of liars. There was not one serious, searching question put to any of them. In addition, Dave Rich, a tendentious apologist for the Israeli state was presented as an objective commentator. This must rank s one of the worst, most biased, least informed programmes the BBC has ever broadcast. It makes the BBC a laughing stock. No one can take it seriously as responsible journalism.

But Asa is right, Labour needs to fight back. What needs to be said is that there are avowed Zionists on the Labour benches who are complicit with the long and vile history of Zionist anti-Jewish abuse and murder, let alone Zionist racism towards the Palestinians. If Labour is to be rid of all racism, it must investigte its Zionists and expel those who refuse to condemn Zionist racism. Mrs Ellman for example is a consistent apologist for the Israeli state who whitewashes Zionism. She has never uttered a word of criticism of Zionism's terrorism during the British Mandate, its murder of British public servants, its murder of Jews who refused its project, the Haavara Transfer Agreement, the Jerusalem Agreement of 1940. She is by association and silence a racist. Labour needs to set its face against all racism and that must include the Zionists.

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Good day, We need for the general public to KNOW what is going on here behind the scenes. They need to know that this is a conserted effort by Israel and its minions to get rid of Jeremy Corbin and all who support his view on a free palestine. We have to fight back often and relentlessly.

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One of the allegations, by the Investigtions Officer sent to 'do a job' on my CLP, was that he was abused because of his Israel connection. He just LIED. How do we know? Because the interviews were taped. What he alleges was said, WASN'T. Thanks to Johnny Beggs for the info on facebook:

"Former Labour Party investigator caught lying in BBC Panorama interview.

Last night's Panorama 'investigation' was a hotch-potch of lies and unattributed quotes, all overlain with sinister B-movie music. It was clearly an attempt to stitch up Jeremy Corbyn.

We listened here in Liverpool very carefully. Our Riverside constituency was put in special measures in 2016, and investigated by an antisemitism 'expert', Ben Westerman.

Mr Westerman featured on the programme, and claimed that he had been asked during one of the six interviews he conducted here if he came from Israel. He implied that this was antisemitic.

Mr Westerman is not telling the truth.

No-one knew Mr Westerman was Jewish, and no-one asked him about coming from Israel. He is attempting to use his Jewishness to smear another (Jewish!) Party member.

It is a provable lie because all the interviews were recorded by us.

The transcript of the conversation with an elderly Jewish comrade, who was acting as the interviewee's silent friend, goes like this. The initials R signifies the interviewee’s Silent Friend, present at the interview."

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Those tapes should be made public. The interview should be posted online and sent to every CLP in the country. The BBC should be hounded to broadcast the crucial exchanges. Mr Westerman must be unmasked as a liar. A transcript of the interviews should be printed and distributed: at CLP meetings and union meetings.

The propaganda at work here would have made Goebbels blush. A programme based on tendentious comments by dubious witnesses, some of whom have links to the Israeli State which were not revealed, is used as evidence of a serious problem of anti-Semitism. Mr Corbyn is said to be "morally responsible". The party is said to be "institutionally anti-Semitic". That means anti-Semitism in every branch, every CLP. What can such a claim be based on?

Those "whistle-blowers" look suspiciously like fifth columnists. Did they work for the party with the specific intent of doing it damage? That would be entirely in keeping with the procedures of ethno-political Zionism.

Anti-Semitic abuse and violence have been tactics of Zionism since its creation. Why is there no outcry about that? Why is no one calling for the avowed Zionists in the party to be scrutinised? Is there a case for expelling Zionists from the party? Yes, if they do not renounce the anti-Semitic abuse and violence which have been at the core of the creed they support.

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Why are we not doing more on television to counter this attack on the Labour party by those involved with the Labour Friends of Israel. The British public need to know about their connection to the Israeli Embassy and the diplomat Shai Masot. They need to be told why he was forced to leave the UK and who in the Labour Party he was involved with to bring down people like Sir Alan Duncan. This needs to be brought out into the open and the Television is the best place to do it.
British people need to know that their are Jewish MP's (and others) trying to bring down Jeremy Corbyn and his ilk for supporting a Free Palestine. We need to take the FIGHT to THEM. (In a broadcasting sense)

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I back Corbyn and Palestine completely but stopped reading the article by Asa Winstanley when he added the word Jewish to Creighton's insistence that Corbyn should give a speech, “particularly saying that Israel had a right to exist.” He did not say that Israel has a 'right to exist as a Jewish state'. I know that is Israel is becoming more and more an apartheid state in which non Jews are not granted equal rights to Jews but defenders of Corbyn and Palestine should not, as the BBC often does, put words into the mouths of those we disagree with.

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John, I think this is an unfair criticism. Creighton is quoted accurately, and the article explains for necessary context that Israeli leaders demand that Palestinians and others recognize not just Israel’s “right to exist,” but specifically its “right to exist as a Jewish state.” Creighton did not add those words, but Israeli leaders always do as noted. The whole point of their demand is to negate Palestinian rights by establishing that Israel has a “right” to maintain a certain demographic composition by whatever means necessary — a fundamentally racist proposition. Israel is not interested in having a “right to exist” as a democratic state with full and equal citizenship for all who live in it. It’s important people understand the full context of the “right to exist” language.

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In what sense does Israel have the right to exist? It can have meaning only legally, but Israel flounts international law. It is not interested in a legal right to exist because it believes it has a messianic right to do so. It's as if I were to take over your garden on the grounds that god gave it to my forbears 3,000 years ago. The courts would have something to say and frankly, so might the psychiatrists. It's always a mistake to characterise your political enemies as mad, but the belief in messianic entitlement is, properly speaking, a delusion. History does not stand still. National boundaries can't be decided by what the Old Testament says. They have to be determined by international law. People can believe what they like. I can believe your garden is mine, but that doesn't grant the legal right to take it. The whole of the problem returns to this delusional position: we have the right to Israel by genetic entitlement and therefore we ignore the law. A two-state solution isn't possible while Israel maintains this position. It could be if Israel would obey international law.

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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.