Ofcom clears Al Jazeera of anti-Semitism over probe into Israeli lobbying of Parliament

Broadcast regulator Ofcom has dismissed a number of complaints against Al Jazeera English over its undercover documentary series investigating the influence of the Israel lobby on British politics.

The four-part series, called The Lobby, was broadcast in January this year and was produced by its in-house investigative unit.

It exposed the Israeli Embassy’s then senior political officer Shai Masot allegedly plotting to “take down” British Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan during a discussion with British civil servant Maria Strizzolo.

The pair’s conversation had been covertly recorded by an Al Jazeera journalist and resulted in Masot losing his post and Strizzol’s resignation after it was broadcast in the last episode of the series.

The programme is also understood to have triggered an ongoing parliamentary inquiry into foreign interference in British politics.

Ofcom, which regulates Al Jazeera English, received two standards complaints and three complaints from individuals featured in the series under fairness and privacy clauses.

The complaints ranged from allegations of anti-Semitism, bias and that the programme was materially misleading. Complainants included Ella Rose, Russell Langer and Luke Akehurst.

On the claims of anti-Semitism, Ofcom said: “Given the subject matter, it was likely the programme would be controversial, particularly as it raised questions about the actions of Mr Masot, the Israeli Embassy and other individuals (several of whom are Jewish) associated with the various pro-Israeli groups and organisations identified in the programme.”

It added: “We did not consider that the programme portrayed any negative stereotypes of Jewish people as controlling or seeking to control the media or governments.”

On accusations of bias, Ofcom rauled that the programme had “included a range of viewpoints on this matter of political controversy,” adding that “in light of the nature of the programme and its particular subject matter, we considered that the programme had maintained due impartiality”.

An Al Jazeera source said the verdict “goes to show that no matter what Al Jazeera’s critics say, its journalism meets and exceeds the highest standards of objectivity and balance”.

They added: “We feel vindicated by the rulings and evermore committed to exposing human rights violations by anyone—regardless of geography, religion, or the power of their lobbies.”

The findings come at a time when Israel is seeking to close Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem Bureau and deny its reporters access for allegedly causing “incitement.”

Four Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, have called for Al Jazeera to be shut down over allegations Qatar, where the network is based, has been supporting terrorism.

Read Ofcom’s adjudications in full.

Picture: Reuters/Naseem Zeitoon

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