Channel 4 defends Israel lobby probe

Presenting: Peter Oborne

Presenting: Peter Oborne

Channel 4’s flagship investigations programme, Dispatches, is to probe what it calls “one of the most powerful and influential political lobbies in Britain” — the pro-Israel lobby.

The political columnist Peter Oborne is to front an hour-long broadcast, Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby, due to be broadcast on Monday week.

The hard-hitting documentary strand has been responsible for such programmes as Undercover Mosque two years ago, which included covert filming of Islamist extremists preaching in British mosques.

According to Channel 4’s official pre-publicity, “despite wielding great influence among the highest realms of British politics and media, little is known about the individuals and groups” who work “in support of the interests of the state of Israel”.

They wield great influence in support of Israel

It says that Mr Oborne “sets out to establish who they are, how they are funded, how they work and what influence they have, from the key groups to the wealthy individuals who help bankroll the lobbying.

“He investigates how accountable, transparent and open to scrutiny the lobby is, particularly in regard to its funding and financial support of MPs.”

The pro-Israel lobby, it adds, “aims to shape the debate about Britain’s relationship with Israel and future foreign policies relating to it. Oborne examines how the lobby operates from within Parliament and the tactics it employs behind the scenes when engaging with print and broadcast media.”

According to a spokesman for the channel, Dispatches wanted “to look at one of the most powerful, but also least transparent lobbying groups in the UK”.

He explained it was “an entirely legitimate area for journalistic investigation, not least in the run-up to an election, where a lobby working in support of the interests of a foreign power could wield great influence in shaping future British policy”. He rejected any suggestion that it had been designed to balance such controversial programmes as Undercover Mosque.

The programme had been commissioned by the commissioning editor for Dispatches, Kevin Sutcliffe, in discussions with production company Hardcash.

Hardcash managing director David Henshaw said the programme was a “conventional political investigation” and “not a conspiracy-theory film”.

It was “not the synagogue equivalent of Undercover Mosque”, he said.

    Last updated: 4:42pm, November 5 2009