Marcus Dysch

Strange how Al Jazeera's ‘The Lobby’ focussed only on Labour

The connections between the programme’s most prominent commentators went almost completely unacknowledged

January 19, 2017 17:25

Of the many peculiarities surrounding Al Jazeeras series on the Israel lobby, one sticks in my mind.

Why did the programme focus so heavily on Israel advocates on the left, and mainly on those associated with Labour?

The Conservative Friends of Israel, Westminster’s largest lobby group, with its hundreds of MP supporters and the ear of the Prime Minister, and which held a lunch for more than 800 people only a month ago, received only the briefest of mentions.

Instead, the Doha-based, Qatar government-owned channel spent its time harassing young Jews going about their professional business. Those working for the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel were given the hardest time. Their supposedly clandestine links to each other were illustrated through shadowy spider’s-web graphics.

Meanwhile, the connections between the programme’s most prominent commentators went almost completely unacknowledged.

Clayton Swisher, the Al Jazeera journalist who fronted the show and provided the voice-over, is a close associate of Seumas Milne, Jeremy Corbyn’s chief spin doctor.

The pair worked together on stories about the Palestine Papers — leaked intelligence documents about Israel and the Palestinians — less than two years ago, writing joint articles in the Guardian.

Jackie Walker, the activist suspended by Labour twice last year — first for attempting to link Jews to causing an “African holocaust” and later after causing uproar at a Jewish Labour Movement training session on antisemitism — featured repeatedly in the episodes.

She was wheeled out to bemoan the claims against her, saying being accused of antisemitism was as bad as being labelled a “paedophile or murderer”.

Ms Walker is both a political ally and close friend of Mr Corbyn. She has repeatedly argued that the Jew-hate claims around Labour figures have been “exaggerated for political purposes”, with the key intention being to undermine the leader. The accusations were a “weapon of political mass destruction”, she said last September.

After the documentary aired last week, Mr Corbyn seized on the opportunity to write to the Prime Minister, demanding a full inquiry into lobbying and claiming the footage of Israel embassy aide Shai Masot talking about Sir Alan Duncan “clearly” constituted “a national security issue”.

Mr Corbyn’s letter, presumably composed with Mr Milne’s input, thus completed the circle. How convenient.

Al Jazeera set out to stitch up Israel supporters, presumably with the intention of uncovering some nugget of information so grave that it would change the agenda, taking the spotlight off Mr Corbyn’s handling of his party’s problem with Jews.

What was this venture? It certainly was not an investigation in any conventional sense. This was retribution, pure and simple.

Daniel Hope

I was shocked to hear of the death last week of political journalist Daniel Hope after a serious illness.

Dan was one of Barnet’s many Jewish Tory councillors a decade ago, and after leaving the council ran the popular Barnet Bugle blog.

He filmed political meetings across the country and was regularly on hand with softly-spoken insight. His dedication to transparency in politics knew no bounds.

Dan was a good friend to the JC and will be sorely missed.

January 19, 2017 17:25

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