Al Jazeera cleared over Israel lobby documentary

The broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has rejected all complaints made against Al Jazeera’s undercover series about the Israeli lobby in the UK which was broadcast in January and made global headlines.

Filmed over six months, “The Lobby” revealed that the Israeli embassy ran a covert influence campaign to smear and attack British citizens critical of Israel and its practices – including British Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan.

In the aftermath of “The Lobby,” Ofcom received a number of complaints from pro-Israeli British activists, some of which prompted investigations.

Among those to complain was Ella Rose, director of the Jewish Labour Movement, Russell Langer, who was filmed in his role as public affairs manager at the Jewish Leadership Council, and one former Israeli embassy employee.

These complaints levelled a range of charges against Al Jazeera from “anti-Semitism” and bias to unfair editing and infringement of privacy.

In each instance, Ofcom dismissed the charges, and the complaints as a whole without reservation in a 60-page ruling published on Monday.

“We did not consider that this aspect of the complaints warranted further investigation,” Ofcom said. “The fact that the programmes uncovered evidence of inappropriate behaviour by those acting on behalf of the Israeli government, or by those belonging to a small number of organisations that promote Israeli policy, does not mean that they were anti-Semitic. In the same way, programmes that expose the violence associated with some black gang culture in Britain’s inner cities are not, by default, racist.”

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Ruling that Al Jazeera had not breached rules on due impartiality, especially on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the watchdog concluded: “We considered that the programme had included a range of viewpoints on this matter of political controversy.”

Commenting on the ruling, Al Jazeera has declared itself “vindicated.”

“We are extremely pleased with the verdict,” said Clayton Swisher, Al Jazeera’s director of investigative journalism and the series narrator. “It overwhelmingly validates the revelations captured by our brave undercover, known as ‘Robin’.  Our entire team put a ton of care into making this film, under full legal review throughout. This totally vindicates our work and is a terrific verdict for all journalists exposing wrongdoing.”

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