This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman
Of course the Al Jazeera series ‘The Lobby’ found nothing untoward in Israel activism in the UK. These programmes never do. Andrew Billen in The Times on Thursday put it well:
“For the life of me I could not see what Israel was doing wrong here. The Lobby sensationally exposed the existence of, well, a lobby.”
But ‘finding something wrong’ was not the intent of this series. The real intent was something almost as offensive as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion – to fuel the antisemitic trope about Jewish power and conspiracy and to turn the allegation of antisemitism back against Jews – to make the victim look like the oppressor, in other words.
This was done in three ways: -
One, through covertly recording an employee of the Israel Embassy expressing views about an MP who has in the past made comments earning him a sharp rebuke from the CST (who said that they ‘resonated with the Jews / money / hidden power / alien purpose motifs of old antisemitic conspiracy theory: only now directed at Israel or pro-Israelis, rather than Jews’).
Shai Masot expressed the wish that Duncan should be “taken down”. Hardly a “plot by a foreign power”, as some have alleged. Merely a legitimate wish that an MP with a long record of hostile views should be rendered less influential. “Take down” is a very imprecise phrase. Admittedly spoken by Don Corleone it is unambiguous – but Shai Masot is not a Mafia Don.
Yet look at how the anonymous ‘former Minister in David Cameron’s government (surely Duncan himself) turns those two innocuous words into the ‘Jewish power’ trope (in the Mail on Sunday, whose Editors should be ashamed of endorsing the Al Jazeera bigotry):
“British foreign policy is in hock to Israeli influence at the heart of our politics, and those in authority have ignored what is going on.”
“Even now, if I were to reveal who I am, I would be subjected to a relentless barrage of abuse and character assassination”.
We do not know the full story of why Masot’s employment was terminated. However what is clear is that even though the programmes showed nothing untoward, the decision to terminate him and the apology given by the Ambassador to Duncan have fuelled the trope that “British foreign policy is in hock to Israeli influence”.
Two, through exploiting the misery of Ella Rose, the Director of the Jewish Labour Movement.
Rose is shown in tears after the Labour Party Conference, having been abused online by Jackie Walker after a ‘revelation’ is published that she worked for the Israeli Embassy pre-JLM (though she never hid that fact, why should she?). Rose: “Jackie Walker has been slamming me online all week and I just had to stand in front of her”. (Jackie Walker has been suspended from the Labour Party and removed from her position as Vice-Chair of Momentum over alleged antisemitic comments).
Appallingly ‘Robin’ – the undercover reporter – comforts her – utterly falsely, it turns out. As Marcus Dysch writes in the JC, “He knows how these images will be used to embarrass her and manipulates the situation accordingly.”
Appallingly also, Clayton Swisher (the series presenter) says “She’s in tears because of what SHE CONSIDERS antisemitic harassment” (“She considers” ……… in other words, questioning her good faith). How ironic – when ‘Robin’ has just feigned sympathy for Rose and manipulated the situation, knowing all the time that it was exploitation of another’s misery.
Some days later Ella Rose is seen saying to a colleague that she has learnt Krav Maga and “could take” Jackie Walker. Swisher then asks for Walker’s response – which is to feign self-righteous shock.
The truth is that this was classic Jew-baiting. An alleged perpetrator of antisemitism abuses a Jew online and then feigns self-righteous shock when the victim tries to pick up the pieces and preserve her self-respect (Rose imagines using her Krav Maga skills on Walker).
Not to mention that surreptitious filming of someone in obvious distress appears to violate OFCOM’s Broadcasting Code, even though it was in a public place.
Three, through provoking with antisemitism the Chair (Joan Ryan MP) and staff of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI).
At the Labour Party Conference a woman Jean Fitzpatrick (‘attending her first Conference’) comes to the LFI Stand. It is clearly a setup job and she is clearly scripted – but of course Ryan does not know this (neither does the viewer, come to that…..). Fitzpatrick is a Facebook friend of Jackie Walker; it is possible that Walker recommended her for the role.
Fitzpatrick asks Ryan how LFI proposes that a Two State Solution should be reached. Fitzpatrick moves quickly into antisemitism mode (asking “at what expense” Israel exists). She reveals she is a PSC supporter. She professes to want to know how LFI will facilitate a Two State Solution “because you’ve got a lot of money, a lot of prestige in the world …. Working for LFI is a stepping-stone to a good job …. A friend of mine’s son got a really good job at Oxford University on the basis of having worked for LFI”. Ryan (to her credit) immediately spots the antisemitism and tries to terminate the conversation saying the she doesn’t want to get involved in a conversation which suggests that a job with LFI leads to employment in Oxford “or the City”. That minor detail – Ryan’s mention of ‘the City’, which Fitzpatrick didn’t mention – is then unbelievably turned against Ryan by Swisher (“Ryan continues to reference banking, a typical antisemitic trope, as she left the Conference Hall”). Jew-baiting again (even though Ryan isn’t Jewish).
And the victim then becomes the oppressor, with Ilan Pappe saying that the charge of antisemitism is being used falsely, to “intimidate Corbyn”. And Fitzpatrick: “If you do talk about Palestine, it would appear that you are sucked into having an accusation of antisemitism brought against you”.
This series (complete with sinister music) was pure Viagra for antisemites – be they from the far Left or far Right – who believe that Jews have too much power and that Jews use the charge of antisemitism falsely, to gain what they want, whether that be suppression of criticism of Israel or the toppling of Corbyn, the “first Labour leader who champions Palestinian human rights”. No matter that it found nothing untoward about Israel advocacy in the UK – for antisemites, that’s irrelevant.
Under the cover of an investigation of the so-called “Lobby”, this series purposefully fuelled prejudice against Jews, aided and abetted by the Mail On Sunday. No surprise at all that Jeremy Corbyn has jumped on the conspiracy bandwagon and is demanding a public inquiry (as is Alex Salmond).
The OFCOM Broadcasting Code says:
* Surreptitious filming or recording should only be used where it is warranted.
* Normally, it will only be warranted if there is prima facie evidence of a story in the public interest.
What possible public interest is served by a programme which fuels prejudice against Jews by means of Jew-baiting and turning the allegation of antisemitism back against Jews?
OFCOM and Karen Bradley (the Minister at DCMS) need to look urgently at the footage. Al Jazeera has broadcast two hours of programming with a deeply antisemitic intent. That needs to be weighed in the balance when the time comes for renewing the company’s UK licence.