John Ware

Al Jazeera’s central allegation against my BBC programme can be easily debunked

Timeline of messages between party officials and Jeremy Corbyn’s office show the former leader's supporters claim there was no 'unwarranted meddling in antisemitism case' to be wholly untrue

October 13, 2022 13:52

Some on the hard-left have claimed my 2019 BBC Panorama piece Is Labour Antisemitic ?, which alleged that top Labour party figures had interfered with investigations into antisemitism, cost the party the election that year.

I doubt that. There was much more to Mr Corbyn’s defeat than Panorama. Either way, my programme was an obvious target in Al Jazeera’s The Labour Files, which sought to defend Mr Corbyn and his office against those claims.

Al Jazeera’s central allegation against the BBC was an interview with Mr Corbyn’s spokesman James Schneider. He claimed to have “exposed” how there was no “unwarranted meddling” by Mr Corbyn or his office “in antisemitism cases”, contrary to what we on Panorama had suggested.

The full timeline of messages between party officials and Mr Corbyn’s office in the case he cited show that to be wholly untrue.

And more broadly, it flies against the statutory investigation into Labour by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which found that Mr Corbyn’s office had indeed interfered, thereby unlawfully discriminating against the party’s Jewish members.

But supporters of Mr Corbyn who spoke to Al Jazeera claimed vindication from a report by the barrister Martin Forde KC, which appeared to conclude that my BBC programme — as well as other broadcasters and newspapers — had been “entirely misleading” in how we’d reported allegations of interference.

In my view, the Corbynites prefer the non-statutory Forde report to the statutory EHRC. For them, Forde further discredits Is Labour Antisemitic?, a show they’ve seemed determined to discredit since its transmission. Mr Forde’s two words — “entirely misleading” — are their “gotcha” moment.

To the profound frustration of the Corbynites, Mr Corbyn’s Labour Party and their anti-Zionist supporters in Jewish Voice for Labour have both had to apologise in open court and pay damages and costs for a series of defamatory statements about me.

Labour have also had to apologise to seven Labour party insiders who described how antisemitism crisis under Mr Corbyn had developed. Labour and JV had to acknowledge they were unable to prove the truth of their allegations.

Supporters of the Al Jazeera documentary insist that far from interfering in antisemitism cases, Mr Corbyn and his office pushed for more action. It’s true — occasionally they did.

However, this ignores many documented cases of Mr Corbyn and his office intervening directly in disciplinary cases, beginning with the investigation into antisemitism allegations in 2016 at Oxford University Labour Club that triggered the crisis.

It also ignores the attempted intervention by Mr Corbyn’s office in the case of former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Mr Corbyn’s closest ally, which I have written about in the JC.

To judge by Al Jazeera, a viewer would be left thinking there was almost no political interference by Mr Corbyn or his office at all in antisemitism cases.

October 13, 2022 13:52

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