Ofcom alert over Al Jazeera's 'Lobby' documentary

Pro-Israel groups explore possibility of legal action against Qatar-backed channel as Labour fails to explain how undercover reporter gained access to annual conference


An undercover Al Jazeera investigation into alleged Israeli influence in British politics has been reported to the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom over alleged antisemitic content and a lack of impartiality.

The JC understands that a complaint has been received by Ofcom following last week’s screening of the four-part investigation, The Lobby. Ofcom said it would assess the complaint — about content in the first episode — before deciding whether to investigate.

Jewish organisations were still taking legal advice this week over whether to lodge further complaints over Al Jazeera’s secret filming.

Meanwhile, Theresa May has rejected Jeremy Corbyn’s call for an investigation into the behaviour of Israeli officials in the UK. A government spokesman said Britain’s relationship with Israel remained “strong” and there would be no further action over what Mr

Corbyn had called “improper interference in this country’s democratic process”.

In a letter to Mrs May last week, the Labour leader urged her to launch an inquiry following the series.
Baroness Tonge repeated the call for an investigation in the Lords on Tuesday, hours after the government responded to Mr Corbyn’s plea.

Shai Masot, an Israeli embassy employee, was secretly filmed discussing his intention to “take down” British MPs, including Sir Alan Duncan, the Foreign Office Minister.

Mark Regev, Israel’s ambassador in London, had earlier apologised and described Mr Masot’s comments as “completely unacceptable”. Mr Regev met Sir Alan at the Foreign Office on Tuesday, with the Tory MP describing it as a “friendly encounter”.

The final episodes of the documentary, broadcast at the end of last week,   showed Ella Rose, director of the Jewish Labour Movement, being approached by the undercover reporter while she was in a distressed state.

Ms Rose was later heard saying she could “take” Jackie Walker, the former Momentum vice-chair currently suspended by the Labour Party, using krav maga martial arts.

The JC understands the Al Jazeera reporter sent Ms Rose a series of text messages in which he attempted to meet her socially.

Lawyers are now thought to be advising Ms Rose and the JLM on whether to pursue further complaints against the channel.
Labour Friends of Israel was angered by the third episode, which showed chair Joan Ryan clashing with a pro-Palestinian activist named Jean Fitzpatrick.

LFI said The Lobby misrepresented the nature of a complaint made about Mrs Fitzpatrick’s conduct at Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool as a false allegation of antisemitism.

Ms Ryan said: “My actions were entirely appropriate. The intention of this programme is sadly clear: to deny and belittle the serious problems with antisemitism experienced by the Labour party over the past year.”

The JC understands the undercover reporter gained access to the conference by using Mr Masot as his referee.
The reporter, who adopted the false identity of “Robin Harrow”, was vouched for by Mr Masot, meaning the reporter’s application was not flagged up for further security checks.

“Robin Harrow” is thought to have filled in a registration form for the conference under his false identity using a Labour Party membership he had set up in the same name.

He also used a credit card matching the address he was using.

Labour failed to respond to repeated requests for a comment over the apparent security breach and false accreditation application.

Mr Masot’s role in the scandal is said to have prompted a fierce war of words in Israel. The Ministry Of Foreign Affairs and the

Strategic Affairs Ministry were embroiled in “briefing wars” as each side attempted to deflect blame for the failure to spot potential problems with Mr Masot’s employment in London.

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