John Ware was the reporter for the 2019 BBC Panorama documentary Is Labour Antisemitic? He explains here why he believes parts of The Forde Report, and Forde’s statements in a subsequent interview to Al Jazeera, are badly misleading people about his documentary. Noting that Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters and Al Jazeera have had a field day exploiting Forde’s confusions and misunderstandings, Ware sets the record straight in forensic detail. This level of detail matters, he argues, because it is an antidote to the attempts by Corbyn supporters and sympathisers to use the Forde report to rewrite the history of Labour under Corbyn. At stake, he says, is whether we tackle forms of anti-Zionism properly or continue to allow denialism to poison our politics and society. In part 2 of this Fathom series Ware will review Asa Winstanley’s book Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn and in part 3 he will critique Al Jazeera’s The Labour Files.
‘Education, surely is the key?’ I venture to the Community Security Trust’s Dave Rich. He sighs, resignation creasing across his face. ‘I wish’ he says, ‘I’m afraid it’s in the soil.’ Everyday Hate is the latest of Rich’s searing analyses of antisemitism; of how, as he puts it, the world’s oldest hatred is built into our world today.
My own experience of the attempt by anti-Zionists to rewrite the history of the antisemitism crisis under Jeremy Corbyn suggests he’s right.
Consistent with Corbyn’s claim that antisemitism within Labour was ‘dramatically overstated’ by his opponents inside and outside Labour, his supporters have been determined to pick away at anything that suggests the problem was deep seated or owed its growth to Corbyn’s anti-Zionist background and his own leadership failings. In Corbyn’s and in his supporters’ version of history, to the limited extent that they accept there was a problem, it was largely the fault of right-wing officials at party HQ who failed – sometimes deliberately – to manage the problem.
Central to this revisionist goal has been a sustained attempt to demolish a high-profile BBC programme for which I was the reporter and which some Corbynites have rather fancifully blamed for being ‘undoubtedly one of the biggest factors’ in depriving the UK of its first pro-Palestinian rights prime minister.
The programme Is Labour antisemitic? has been under persistent assault since transmission almost four years ago. It has become one of the most contested documentaries in the Corporation’s history despite surviving the scrutiny of BBC lawyers, the BBC’s own independent complaints process, the most senior scrutineer at the broadcast regulator Ofcom, and three defamation cases, all of which I took against Corbyn’s Labour party and its supporters – and won comfortably.
There is not a single criticism I have not litigated or addressed publicly, often in forensic detail. Yet entrenched anti-Zionists who support or sympathise with Corbyn seem impervious to evidence that undermines their claims. Calling a halt to this futile exercise of engaging with these critics was pretty much the point I had reached at the turn of the year.
Misleading: Forde’s Report
But then last March Martin Forde KC appointed by Labour leader Keir Starmer to investigate an 860-page internal Labour party report about the antisemitism crisis that was leaked in Corbyn’s last week in office, gave an interview to the Qatari state-owned Al Jazeera channel. The leaked report was originally intended as an annex to the Corbyn-led Labour party submission to the statutory investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into allegations that Jewish members were being unlawfully discriminated against. Forde has had our critics feasting at his feet.
Barristers are not like activists. Reason, perspective and evidence is meant to be their staple. So, when Forde was given a global television platform on Al Jazeera to accuse me and my BBC colleagues of ‘objectively entirely misleading’ the British public, he was not to be easily dismissed.
In justifying his verdict, heavily contested not just by me, but by senior BBC staff and lawyers, Forde emphasised he had 38 years’ experience of forensically examining and weighing evidence. At the risk of sounding immodest, that makes two of us. I may not be a barrister, but I also have decades of experience assembling evidence in numerous complex and potentially litigious cases that have withstood scrutiny. This has included as the presenter for the BBC’s former Rough Justice series in which we corrected miscarriages of justice. In any case, Kings Counsels are not infallible, and neither are Judges.
Readers may gasp at the audacity of a mere reporter challenging a KC. But in this particular case I believe it is Forde who has been ‘objectively, entirely misleading.’ I do not suggest that he has discriminated against Jews or that he is hostile to them, or that he is a revisionist. My criticism is that in parts of his report he has appeared oblivious to the ways in which antisemitism and anti-Zionism intersect. He seems not to have fully appreciated that ‘anti-Zionism’ can often provide the fertile soil which allows antisemitism to exist and grow. Nor, in my opinion, has he behaved with either the etiquette or the transparency that should have been expected. Having not offered the BBC a right of response in the first place, he also failed to address substantively the BBC’s specific arguments, despite being invited to do so. I will set out the evidence as fairly as I can and leave it to readers to judge whether they agree that Forde has made serious errors of judgement. The historical record matters.
The section of the programme Forde criticised went to the heart of the debate over what exactly counts as antisemitism, a more layered and nuanced form of racism than irrational prejudices provoked by skin colour: in particular, when exactly does anti-Zionism activism morph into antisemitism? Also, was Corbyn’s office being truthful when they insisted categorically that neither he nor they ever interfered in disciplinary cases? 
What Forde Got Wrong About the Office of LOTO (Leader of the Opposition) in the Glyn Secker Case and Why It Matters
Central to this dispute is the role of a small but vocal group of anti-Zionist Jews. They belong to Jewish Voice for Labour, established in 2017 to defend Corbyn as the antisemitism crisis grew by opposing ‘attempts to widen the definition of antisemitism beyond its meaning of hostility towards, or discrimination against, Jews as Jews.’
The mainstream affiliated Jewish Labour Movement argues that in practice, the JVL was established to ‘downplay antisemitism and deny the lived experience of our members.’ The JVL counter that they ‘fight all forms of racism including antisemitism.’
Certainly, the JVL more closely captured Jeremy’s Corbyn’s position and those of his allies like Len McCluskey and MP Diane Abbott, who respectively dismissed allegations of antisemitism as largely ‘mood music’ created by Corbyn’s opponents and a smear. In April 2016, Corbyn himself remarked privately that antisemitism was being ‘used as a political football’ and there needed to be a clearer distinction between antisemitism and anti-Zionism.
The case in contention, with the BBC taking one view, and Al Jazeera, the JVL and now Martin Forde KC firmly taking the other, relates to the suspension by party HQ officials of a senior JVL member, Glyn Secker in 2018.
Although the JVL is relatively fringe and not affiliated to the Labour party, as JVL Secretary Secker was a valued ally of Corbyn.
In fact, only some 30 per cent of JVL members are Jewish, the majority being ‘solidarity’ members.  Neither they nor Al Jazeera would ordinarily be regarded by mainstream Jewish opinion as credible go-to sources as to when anti-Zionism becomes antisemitism. JVL have form for distorting facts – as they did, for example when their spokesperson Naomi Wimborne Idrissi accused me publicly of having ‘engaged in Islamophobia and extreme far right politics’ or when, they claimed, I had been disciplined and the BBC had to publicly apologise. Had there been the remotest truth in that, the BBC would have fired me, and rightly so. But the BBC have never disciplined me. There was no truth whatever in any of their claims. I sued the JVL and they had to pay me damages and my legal costs and apologise in open court. The JVL later said ‘The apology issued in open court was not for what we had written or said about the Panorama programme. The agreed settlement did not require us to retract or qualify in any way our criticism of the programme itself.’ Asa Winstanley, Editor of the Electronic Intifada makes play of this in his new book Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn (which I review in part 3 of this series). His point is moot. What the JVL’s statement omits is the fact that the only reason the JVL sought settlement of the case was because they’d spent two fruitless years trying to defend Wimborne Idrissi’s wild outburst (reproduced on the JVL website) on the basis of their criticisms of the programme. I was perfectly happy to go to trial but equally content provided they apologised and paid damages and my costs which, as I say, they did.
In respect of Al Jazeera, January 2009 saw them broadcasting a series of speeches by the then spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the late Yusuf Qaradawi telling the Arab world: ‘I will shoot Allah’s enemies, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus, I will seal my life with martyrdom.’ This didn’t seem to trouble Al Jazeera at the time who gave him a weekly prime-time religious show. Two days later Qaradawi paid homage to Hitler on Al Jazeera:
Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers. 
In 2019, two Al Jazeera journalists produced a video saying the Holocaust had been exaggerated and ‘adopted by the Zionist movement’, and that Israel is the ‘biggest winner’ from the genocide. This time Al Jazeera did at least suspend them. 
The descent into this sinewy squabble between me and Corbyn supporters and sympathisers over facts, fairness and journalistic probity has its origins in the morning of 7 March 2018. Jeremy’s Corbyn’s head of communications James Schneider asked party officials in the Governance and Legal Unit (GLU) ‘what action’ they were taking so that he could brief the media after lunchtime’s PMQs that Corbyn ‘condemns antisemitism in all its forms in the strongest possible terms.’  The devil in this story is in the detail, so bear with me.
Earlier that morning an antisemitic Facebook group called ‘Palestine Live’ to which several Labour members belonged, had been published. Corbyn himself had once been active in the group. The head of GLU investigations Sam Matthews told Panorama that Schneider said he wanted three suspensions for that days’ post PMQ media briefing. Schneider denies this.
What is not in doubt is that at 12.28 Matthews texted Schneider that they were about to suspend three members, one of whom was Secker. 
Schneider replied ‘Thanks’ and told a journalist off the record that ‘the investigation had already resulted in suspensions.’ At 12.54 Secker was notified he was suspended.
By 17.12 that day Schneider was protesting to the GLU that by selecting Secker, they seemed to be disciplining what he described as a ‘Jewish peace activist.’ 43 minutes later Corbyn’s Director of Strategy Seumas Milne messaged Labour’s Head of Governance Emilie Oldknow and the General Secretary Iain McNicol that Secker’s suspension ‘… seems to be a mistake.’  Oldknow replied: ‘There are other things on this Secker bloke … which are problems.’
Schneider and Milne’s intervention had been unsolicited by the GLU who thought that even though Secker was Jewish, his anti-Zionist activism had been at best inflammatory, and at worst antisemitic:
– After the Israeli justice minister suggested in 2016 that European advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign were the new antisemites, Secker had tweeted ‘THE CIRCULARITY Jew=Zionism=Israel=Jew’, followed by a quote from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: ‘One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.’  Had Secker said simply that Israel doesn’t represent all Jews, that would have been unremarkable. But by inserting Tolkien’s Ring verse about sinister and wicked power, the GLU considered that Secker had revived the antisemitic trope about Zionism as a malevolent all-controlling force that claims to represent the world’s Jews – when of course it doesn’t. Secker refutes this assessment by the GLU. His comments and my response can be found here.
– Secker had approvingly re-tweeted the American academic and activist Norman Finkelstein’s dismissal of Labour MP Naz Shah’s Facebook post as being antisemitic whereas Jews and others – including the Labour party NEC – interpreted the post as endorsing the ethnic cleansing of the Jews in Israel. Shah had suggested that the Israel-Palestine conflict could easily be resolved by the ‘transportation’ of Jews out of Israel to America. Finkelstein referred to it as a ‘little joke about how Israel is in thrall to the US, or vice versa.’ Many Jews did not see the funny side. Shah’s references to the ‘solution’ to the conflict was to ‘relocate Israel to the United States’ saving the US billions except for the ‘transportation’ costs – language redolent of jam-packed cattle trucks transporting Europe’s Jews to Nazi death camps. Shah also referred to Jews in a derogatory way: ‘The Jews’ were ‘rallying’ to a poll about whether Israel had committed war crimes. When challenged, Shah, unlike Finkelstein, did consider her posts had been antisemitic and expressed her deep sorrow for ‘causing upset and hurt to the Jewish community.’ Finkelstein dismissed the furore as ‘obscene.’
As the GLU continued their inquiries, they also found that:
– In Facebook posts, Secker had suggested that Israel was in cahoots with ISIS by purchasing ISIS oil, in order to fan the flames of antisemitism, thereby generating sympathy for Israel and so deflecting criticism of its treatment of Palestinians.  ‘It’s a conspiracy theory that fits with the model of Jews/Israel/Zionists being blamed for whatever ”bad thing” is afflicting society at any given time,’ says Dr Dave Rich, Head of Policy at the Community Security Trust.
Without naming Secker, Panorama briefly summarised his case as an example of interference by Corbyn’s office. As one of Panorama’s seven ex Labour party HQ whistle-blowers, Sam Matthews told me on Panorama that the GLU had felt compelled to lift Secker’s suspension three days after it was imposed following an email from Seumas Milne setting out his objections and calling for a review of the disciplinary process into antisemitic complaints. There was a risk, Milne told the head of Governance Emilie Oldknow of ‘muddling up political disputes with racism’ which is what Milne believed had happened in the Secker case. Matthews’ allegation was corroborated by the timeline we had acquired of email and WhatsApp messaging between him, Oldknow and LOTO (Leader of the Opposition’s office). This chain showed quite clearly the pressure that Milne and other senior members of Corbyn’s office had brought to bear on Oldknow and Matthews over the previous three days.When I suggested in writing to LOTO that they had intervened in the Secker case, they categorically denied this: ‘The Leader’s Office did not intervene. These former disaffected employees sought the view of staff in Leader’s Office (sic), which was complied with in good faith. Jeremy Corbyn was not involved and was not asked to express a view.’ 
LOTO’s denial of interference was thoroughly disingenuous. Whilst it was true that those they dismissed as ‘these disaffected employees’ (Oldknow and Matthews) had sought LOTO’s ‘view’ on the merits of Secker’s suspension on 9 March, what LOTO’s statement omitted was that this request was only emailed to LOTO because LOTO had objected to the suspension in the first place on 7 March, pressurising Oldknow and her staff to justify Secker’s suspension. Furthermore, that pressure was also coming directly from Corbyn himself. ‘Jeremy has asked me to look into it’ emailed one of his senior aides Andrew Murray to Milne and Corbyn’s Chief of Staff Karie Murphy on 9 March at 11.15. At 17.43 Murray texted Oldknow: ‘Glyn Secker suspension is going to be a car crash I’m afraid.’ The combination of all these LOTO pressures on officials from the outset, constitutes interference.
As Corbyn’s head of communications, James Schneider has said he ‘worked very closely’ on LOTO’s rebuttal to Panorama. When I asked him if he had approved the wording, he declined to respond.
Few of these details as they relate to Panorama were teased out by Forde in his official report published in the summer of 2022 or in his subsequent interview with Al Jazeera streamed on You Tube in March this year. Instead, his report breathed new life into the unrelenting campaign by Corbyn sympathising media activists that the BBC had grievously misled the public by accusing LOTO of interfering in antisemitism disciplinary cases.
How Forde failed to distinguish the Secker Case from the post-Secker Cases
The paragraph in Forde’s report upon which our critics rely for this baseless campaign is C2.66 which said it was ‘entirely misleading to imply that … emails’ relating to disciplinary cases in March-April 2018 ‘in themselves were evidence of those LOTO staff members inserting themselves unbidden (my emphasis) into the disciplinary process for factional reasons.’
Yet in the case of Secker, LOTO staff members had ‘inserted themselves unbidden’ into the deliberations of the GLU just four hours and eighteen minutes after Secker’s suspension by objecting to it. First had come Schneider’s objection at 17.12, followed by ‘Seems to be a mistake’ – the message Corbyn’s Strategy and Communications director, Seumas Milne had sent Oldknow. Thereafter LOTO – at Corbyn’s behest – maintained the pressure culminating with Milne’s email on 10 March which began ‘I think to suspend this guy for anti-Semitism is really problematic.’
There can be no doubt at all that LOTO exerted the determining force that caused the GLU to lift Secker’s suspension. In C2.66, however, Forde appears to have been referring to a series of post-Secker disciplinary cases where he rightly found there had been no LOTO interference because in those cases the GLU had reversed the process: they had indeed pro-actively ‘bidden’ (as Forde might put it) LOTO’s views by urging LOTO to ‘insert themselves’ into future antisemitism cases to the extent of actually deciding their outcome. We avoided citing any of those cases in Panorama precisely because to do so would have been highly misleading. Yet Forde makes no distinction between Secker’s case and the GLU-LOTO reversal of roles that followed.
The reason for that reversal by the GLU was that Secker marked the climax of eighteen months of interference by LOTO and Corbynites on the NEC in disciplinary cases involving key Corbyn allies (both antisemitic and other categories). As the EHRC statutory investigation into Labour found, political interference by LOTO in antisemitism cases had been going on since 2016. In her submission to the EHRC, Emilie Oldknow paints a picture of active and regular LOTO interest in disciplinary cases against ‘supporters or friends’ of LOTO. There were, she wrote:
… regular meetings with LOTO staff including Seumas Milne, Karie Murphy and Amy Jackson (Corbyn’s political secretary) to discuss … disciplinary cases staffing matters and any other political issues … LOTO took an active interest in the complaints and would challenge recommendations to suspend or expel members on a regular basis … LOTO were blaming (GLU) staff for suspending people without their sign-off. In other words, there was an ‘informal’ approval arrangement for suspensions in place … this created an extremely pressurised environment to work in. 
LOTO’s ‘unbidden’ interference in Secker brought all this to a head. As an exasperated Oldknow later explained, for her and the GLU, Secker was the last straw. ‘We thought “You know what? If you [LOTO] want to make these decisions, then just make them and you take responsibility. Let’s not pretend we’re making them and that you’re not interfering.”’ 
In para C2.66, however, Forde appears to have lumped Panorama’s report about Secker with reports by other media outlets about the post-Secker antisemitism disciplinary cases in which, unlike Secker, email exchanges show clearly that LOTO’s advice was actively ‘bidden’ by the GLU because the GLU were at their wits end from interference by LOTO and some Corbynites on the NEC.
It may be that Forde muddled up Secker with these later cases because at para C2.49 of his report, he refers to Oldknow’s request on 9 March for LOTO’s ‘view’ on the merits of Secker’s suspension just as LOTO’s ‘views’ were subsequently sought by the GLU when they asked LOTO to decide the outcome of post Secker disciplinary cases. If that was Forde’s reasoning, it was clearly wrong because it ignores the fact that unlike those later cases, the only reason Oldknow had sought LOTO’s ‘views’ on 9 March on Secker in the first place was because of the pressure on the GLU from LOTO over the previous two days – including from Corbyn himself. Forde makes no mention of the fact that in the Secker case, LOTO’s intervention was unbidden at the outset on 7 March and at C2.49 his report focuses only on the fact that ‘GLU staff had asked for views’ on 9 March. 
How Corbynite activists have exploited Forde’s confusion
It was because Forde failed to make the crucial distinction between LOTO’s ‘unbidden’ interference in Secker and LOTO’s bidden involvement in post-Secker cases that his report gave our all too eager critics a field day when it was published in July 2022.  For example, the anti-mainstream media activist and JVL supporter Justin Schlosberg, trilled that Forde had provided proof of ‘a lie at the heart of Panorama.’ Quoting C2.66 Schlosberg wrote: ‘As the Forde report makes abundantly and repeatedly clear it was the staff in Labour’s compliance unit – including some of the former senior officials framed as whistle-blowers by Panorama – who not only requested but “insisted” on guidance from the leader’s office during this period. Indeed, the Forde report found that the “advice from two LOTO staff members which was subsequently criticised was, however requested insistently by the GLU and in our view provided in good faith.”’ 
These past four years Schlosberg seems to have become obsessed with the BBC (and with me) with over 100 tweets directed against us, which may have blinded him to the need to take a more forensic approach to the evidence. Since, however, he heads media studies at Birkbeck College, people are likely to have taken him seriously and yet he has paid no regard to the clear distinction between the Secker case (where LOTO’s view was sought by the GLU on 9 March only in response to LOTO’s unbidden intervention on 7 March within hours of Secker’s suspension), and the cases that followed Secker where LOTO’s advice was indeed ‘requested insistently’ by the GLU – not because they valued LOTO’s opinion, but because they were sick to death of being challenged.
Likewise, Novara Media’s impulsive Editor Aaron Bastani asserted: ‘There is even a clear rebuttal to the claim that GLU staff were prevented by the leader’s office from investigating antisemitism complaints, a central assertion in John Ware’s controversial Panorama documentary.’ His co-presenter Michael Walker asserted ‘It seems to me pretty cut and dried’ that Panorama ‘was misleading.’ Like several other media activists who also piled in, Schlosberg and Bastani have been long on high-minded criticism of Panorama and short on more scrupulous analysis. Former Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey also said that Forde had dealt a ‘devastating blow to the accuracy’ of the programme. And so on.
In none of the hundreds of tweets and articles by Schlosberg or Bastani or other similar alt-Left outlets can I recall an admission that some members of LOTO and the NEC dismissed or belittled the problem of antisemitism in Labour under Corbyn. Schlosberg has even ventured that Corbyn ‘did more to tackle actual antisemitism within the Labour movement than any other leader’ but was somehow ‘obstructed in doing so by his ideological opponents within the party.’
Upping the Ante: Forde’s interview with Al Jazeera
Last September, the BBC wrote to Forde asking him if he had intended to lump Panorama in with other media outlets who’d misreported non-interference as interference when the Secker case was so obviously distinct.
Over 5 pages, the BBC explained in painstaking forensic detail why, if that had been Forde’s intention, it would be wholly inaccurate, especially since interference over Secker had been the trigger for the exasperated Oldknow’s post-Secker handover of responsibility to LOTO for deciding the outcome of antisemitism cases.
The letter was signed by Panorama editor Karen Wightman after the BBC’s litigation team had carefully – and independently – reviewed Forde’s report and our evidence.
Wightman’s letter invited Forde to amend his report, or if he preferred, to add a rider noting the BBC ‘disputes any such characterisation of the programme (whether intended or not).’
To this day Forde has declined our requests to clarify whether in C2.66 he intended to make no distinction between Secker and the later cases when they are so obviously different, or, whether this imprecision was a drafting error.
He simply restated his rationale, again making no distinction between Secker and the cases that followed:
C2.65 makes it clear that we reviewed evidence which led us to the conclusion that GLU staff were requesting LOTO oversight. In C2.66 we criticise both LOTO and GLU staff for this interaction and we limit our criticism in this way: ‘it is entirely misleading, however, to imply that these emails in themselves (Forde’s emphasis) were evidence of those LOTO staff members inserting themselves unbidden into the disciplinary process for factional reasons.’
What did Forde mean by ‘emails in themselves’? It was delphic stuff but it certainly seemed to be a clue to the mystery of how he justified his criticism of Panorama, otherwise why would he have underlined the words? However, Forde was not prepared to enlighten me. ‘My colleagues on the Inquiry panel, and I, take the view that we should not engage on the substance of the Report’ he emailed me. 
Still, he reassured me he was at a ‘loss’ to understand why his report could be ‘construed as causing reputational damage to you or the Corporation.’  So, it was profoundly shocking to see him causing us significant reputational damage five months later when we discovered that he had ‘engaged on the substance’ of his report by giving an exclusive interview to Al Jazeera.
In fact, Forde ramped up his allegation that we’d misled our two million licence payer viewers. We learned that on camera he was now saying Panorama had been ‘objectively (my emphasis) entirely misleading’ over Secker. 
Forde Takes a New Tack: The Seumas Milne Email
No longer did Forde appear to be attributing this damning verdict to the erroneous reason apparent in C2.66 of his official report – his inference that we, like other outlets had ignored the fact that GLU staff had sought from LOTO ‘substantive input into disciplinary cases.’
Forde was now specifically – and it appeared – solely citing our ‘filleting’ of the email that Seumas Milne sent to Labour’s Head of Governance Emilie Oldknow on 10 March telling her why he considered it was ‘really problematic’ to suspend Secker. 
Forde was complaining that by only quoting the fact that Milne had called for a review of where anti-Zionism crossed into antisemitism in disciplinary cases, we’d ‘lost’ the email’s ‘context’ such that ‘a more sinister interpretation could be placed upon that email than was ever intended.’  What ‘sinister interpretation’? While Forde’s report had mentioned our reference to Milne’s email, he hadn’t described it as ‘sinister.’
Al Jazeera sought my response to Forde’s allegation. I hadn’t a clue what he meant by our editing having given the email a ‘sinister interpretation’, and nor did Al Jazeera do me the courtesy of explaining. In quoting only the last line of Milne’s email in which he called for a ‘review’ of where in future the line between anti-Zionism and antisemitism should be drawn, this seemed to us to be Milne’s key point: by suspending Secker for expressing his anti-Zionism in the way that he had, Milne considered the GLU were ‘muddling up political disputes with racism.’
Milne presumably wanted that review to prevent other anti-Zionists from being disciplined for the kind of language Secker had used because, unlike the GLU, Milne didn’t appear to regard it as problematic.
But whatever the merits of Milne’s argument about Secker’s comments, the evidence of LOTO wading ‘unbidden’ into the GLU’s business to get his suspension lifted, and of LOTO’s misleading denial that there had been any interference, is extremely weighty. And clearly Milne’s email was a key part of that evidence.
In fact, the role of the email in the ‘context’ of interference which, after all, was the focus of this brief programme section, could not be clearer. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the culmination of three days of LOTO pressure on the GLU to lift Secker’s suspension – including from Corbyn himself. Feeling she had no option, lifting the suspension is exactly what Emilie Oldknow did. A former LOTO member involved in the case with whom I recorded an interview has put the matter beyond doubt. This member told me, LOTO had ‘undoubtedly’ engaged in ‘proactive interference’ in two JVL disciplinary cases, one of them being Secker:
XX: And then, you know, on particular occasions – this case and the other case of Glynn Secker, which was the second one where I think they could say there was proactive interference….
JW: And in Secker, it’s quite clear from the emails that the first intervention came from Seumas (Milne).
XX: Yeah, I mean Secker is the second case where the intervention came from LOTO. ….and, again, I know that Jeremy said, ‘Why are they suspending Glynn Secker?’… those are two cases where undoubtedly, that was proactive intervention.’
In answer to Al Jazeera’s request for a response to Forde’s allegation that Panorama had misled viewers by making Milne’s email seem ‘sinister’ from editing out its ‘context’, I replied that I would, of course, respond (I always do) but could they first tell me what Forde actually meant so that I could address his point squarely?
Al Jazeera’s reply was dismissive, imperious even. I was told curtly that I’d had ‘more than enough information to enable you to provide a response.’ It’s standard courtesy (as well as standard BBC practice) to provide an individual with the basis for any criticism against them. It’s also standard to provide an approximate transmission date. Al Jazeera ignored both these requests. The producer was Richard Sanders who had previously made a number of documentaries for Channel 4. Whether this high-handed response was at his behest or that of his Al Jazeera boss in Doha, I can’t say.
In any case, while what Forde meant by Milne’s ‘lost context’ might have been blindingly obvious to Sanders, it certainly wasn’t to me. Al Jazeera’s refusal to explain, or give me a transmission date, might even have been a breach of S7.3 of Ofcom’s fairness code had the programme been broadcast. Ofcom requires contributors to be ‘given a clear explanation of why they were asked to contribute and when (if known) and where it is likely to be first broadcast.’ However, since Al Jazeera streamed the Forde interview on YouTube, their conduct falls outside the remit of the broadcast regulator’s rule book.
What is clear is that Sanders appears to have had a fixation about our Corbyn programme. Over the last three years he’s written and spoken extensively about it. He has also acknowledged that he is ‘fervently anti-Zionist’ and that he has a ‘lot of admiration’ for the JVL He is certainly a man of firm opinions about the line between anti Zionism and antisemitism being drawn too tightly.He is, of course, entitled to his view, but on what is it based?
In 2016, Sanders said that whilst he is ‘prepared to accept there are antisemites on the left’ he didn’t consider Ken Livingstone’s comments about German Zionists colluding with Hitler were antisemitic: ‘I just don’t think he’s antisemitic … do you really think for a moment Ken is antisemitic?’; he appeared to sympathise with the then NUS President Malia Bouattia after she was accused of antisemitism by referring to ‘Zionist-led media outlets’, Birmingham University as ‘something of a Zionist outpost’ and the Prevent anti-extremist strategy being due to the ‘Zionist lobby.’ Sanders stated that like him, Bouattia was just ‘fervently anti-Zionist’ and he suggested that criticism around her election as president had a ‘very very strong whiff of racism.’ For her part, Bouattia said she had not been ‘talking about the media as a whole, or repeating despicable antisemitic prejudice’ but in any case would ‘revise’ her language ‘to ensure there is no room for confusion.’ 
Sanders has also asserted that Israel is a ‘fundamentally, inherently, racist, oppressive state… I’m sorry – it simply is! The circumstances of its creation make it inevitably so’; he has described Zionism as ‘the belief that one ethnic group had a God-given right to displace another ethnic group from territory they had occupied for centuries’; he has said that he regards Israel as having behaved ‘in a way that is considerably worse than apartheid South Africa – when did the South Africans ever imprison 1.4m people, 40% of them children – and indiscriminately bombard them with high explosives?’ He has also dismissed the IHRA definition of antisemitism because it ‘so obviously, so brazenly deprives the Palestinian people’ of the ‘right’ [to criticise Israel as a ‘racist endeavour’] …’I’m sorry, it is… a racist ethno-state’.
Sanders has also said that ‘Israel has never shown the slightest interest in seriously negotiating with the Palestinians’ – which, while certainly true of the Netanyahu government today, could not seriously be said of Israeli governments led by Yitzak Rabin (1992-95), Ehud Barak (1999-01) and Ehud Olmert (2006-09). Because of Al Jazeera’s refusal to enlighten me as to what Martin Forde KC actually meant, I wrote directly to Forde to ask him to tell me.
‘Deserves a Detailed Response’: Forde’s Promises
Forde replied almost by return that my email ‘deserves a detailed response’ and that he would ‘endeavour’ to give me one over the weekend. He also said that the quotes from his interview I’d been given – presumably by Sanders as the producer – had ‘not been contextualised. The full interview, depending on the editing, should reveal that I actually stated that we had both done our conscientious best but had looked at different material, as I recall.’
That echoed the reassurance Forde had given me and the BBC in Autumn 2022 when he wrote that there was nothing in his report that could be ‘construed as causing reputational damage to you or the Corporation’. Forde had also said: ‘I have no control over how others choose to interpret or over-interpret certain words and phrases in the Report.’
Nonetheless, the weekend came and went without the response to my request for clarification of Forde’s criticisms that he had acknowledged I deserved. Instead, four days later I received more questions, this time from a London based outlet called Middle East Eye co-founded and edited by a former Guardian foreign leader writer David Hearst and owned by a Dutch national Jamal Awn Jamal Bessasso reported to be a former Al Jazeera executive in Qatar. MEE told me Sanders was writing an article for them about his interview with Forde. Al Jazeera and MEE were evidently working closely together. It was clear from MEE’s questions that Al Jazeera had given them more detail about Forde’s criticisms of Panorama than Al Jazeera had given me. In the event, both the article and interview were released on the same day.
MEE assured me Forde had said that his comment about Panorama being ‘objectively entirely misleading’ was merely his ‘highly qualified … opinion’. I was also assured that Forde could now ‘understand’ why I and the BBC ‘felt’ his ‘conclusions undermined the integrity of the programme’, but he was ‘not attacking the programme as a whole.’ So tortuous were these caveats that I was sceptical.
Sure enough, to my main question: why Forde thought our editing of the Milne email was ‘objectively entirely misleading’, answer came there none. And when it became clear that Forde was not going to give me any answers he’d said my questions deserved, which would have allowed me to directly address his criticisms, I became uneasy. When I saw the interview streamed by Al Jazeera on You tube, my instinct proved right.
I and my BBC colleagues were now being accused of ‘objectively entirely misleading’ two million viewers because we hadn’t quoted those parts of Milne’s email saying Secker was a ‘Jewish activist, the son of a Holocaust survivor’, and that ‘something’s going wrong’ if the Labour party was ‘more than occasionally’ disciplining ‘Jewish members for antisemitism’. At least, that’s how it appeared because in the interview as streamed, Forde didn’t actually utter those words, or explain why ‘fileting’ them out of Milne’s email, as he put it, had rendered Panorama ‘objectively entirely misleading’. Instead, Forde was shown saying that he felt ‘vindicated’ in his attack on the BBC after seeing a clip from a previous Al Jazeera programme produced by Sanders of Corbyn’s former spokesman James Schneider highlighting those omitted words.
Schneider had also tweeted that the ‘full email’ does not show ‘unwarranted meddling.’ This was pinhead dancing by Schneider. The reality is that the ‘full email’ was the climax of persistent attempts by LOTO members initiated by both Schneider and Milne challenging Secker’s suspension, buttressed by Corbyn and pursued at Corbyn’s request by his adviser Andrew Murray. Furthermore, Milne’s opening words were: ‘I think to suspend this guy for anti-Semitism is really problematic.’
Nevertheless, like LOTO, in his earlier programme Sanders had also dismissed any suggestion of interference on the basis of Labour’s Head of Governance Emilie Oldknow having sought Milne’s ‘view’ of the merits of Secker’s suspension on 9 March – without mentioning either that Oldknow had only sought this because Milne had intervened in the case from 7 March, or that other LOTO members, including Corbyn himself, had also become involved – all these interventions ‘unbidden’ by Oldknow and her GLU staff. Sanders rather grandly described this as a ‘finding’ by ‘our investigation’ even though the full sequence of events had been public knowledge for two and a half years.
So it would appear that Forde’s allegation that Panorama had been ‘objectively entirely misleading’ was based on Schneider’s criticism that we’d omitted from Milne’s ‘full email’ his reference to Secker as a ‘Jewish activist, the son of a Holocaust survivor’ and the need for a ‘review’ because ‘something’ was ‘going wrong’ if Labour ‘more than occasionally’ disciplined ‘Jewish members for antisemitism.’
Except that by that stage of Labour’s antisemitism crisis, Labour had only ‘occasionally’ disciplined Jewish anti-Zionists. Very occasionally in fact. Secker was only the fourth that I can recall.
Nor was Secker the ‘son of a Holocaust survivor’.Milne had got that wrong too although Secker is, was (and remains) as Milne put it, a ‘leading member of Jewish Voices (sic) for Labour and long-term Middle East rights activist…’ – a reference to the anti-Zionist JVL which, as noted above, opposes ‘attempts to widen the definition of antisemitism beyond its meaning of hostility towards, or discrimination against, Jews as Jews.’
To the mainstream Jewish Labour Movement, (and to many others) confronting antisemitism so narrowly is illusory. It is widely accepted that anti-Zionism has sometimes served as a cover for anti-Jewish bigotry, and its more inflammatory expressions can also create a climate in which antisemitism becomes more acceptable. 
The Secker case brought this divide to a head: the GLU regarded as inflammatory Secker’s posts suggesting that Zionism was analogous to Tolkien’s Dark Lord, and by speculating that Israel might be buying ISIS oil in a cynical attempt to stoke up antisemitism to distract from their abuse of Palestinian rights. It would appear that LOTO regarded Secker’s posts as acceptable.
But whatever the merits of that debate, I struggle to see how Panorama not getting into it has any relevance to whether ‘objectively’ (as Forde might put it) Corbyn’s office had pressurised the GLU into lifting Secker’s suspension which was the sole focus of this brief section of our programme. Or even why Forde believes omitting those extracts from Milne’s email about Secker being a Jewish anti-Zionist gave it a more ‘sinister interpretation … than was ever intended’. No doubt Forde believes he has good reason for saying this, but he hasn’t yet explained what he means by ‘sinister’ beyond saying we ‘fileted’ the mail which ‘meant the context was lost.’ But the ‘context’ of our programme was whether there had been interference by LOTO of which Milne was a very senior member and whose email opened with the words: ‘I think to suspend this guy for anti-Semitism is really problematic.’
Perhaps the lost ‘context’ that Forde considered made Milne’s email seem sinister, was a belief that Milne was merely asking the GLU if they’d considered the case thoroughly because to accuse a Jew of antisemitism is a strong thing. If so, a simple request is certainly not how the GLU interpreted Milne’s email. Matthews spoke for the entire GLU when he told Panorama they took it as an ‘instruction’ to lift Secker’s suspension (which they then did) and to hold a review into where in future the GLU should draw the line between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. As devil’s advocate in the programme, I could not have put the counter point to Matthews more fairly: ‘But it’s (Milne’s email) framed as a suggestion?’ I ventured, to which Matthews responded firmly: ‘Yes, it’s all framed as a suggestion but … this is not some junior staff at the Leader’s office, this is Seumas Milne, Director of Communications, part of Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle … he is probably one of, if not the most influential person within the Leader’s office and in that context, when he says I think we need to review this process going forward, that isn’t a suggestion, that’s him instructing what he expects to happen, without needing to say it.’ Matthews is surely right.
It’s because Forde has never explained precisely what he meant when he said we had given the Milne email a ‘sinister’ meaning, that we’ve never been able to properly respond to the actual point he’s making. We can’t read his mind!
In any case, our sequence in which Milne’s email featured was not about the rights and wrongs of Secker’s suspension which we didn’t have the space to do justice to anyway – we had so much other ground to cover. It was squarely focused on the credibility of LOTO’s emphatic denial that they ever interfered in disciplinary cases.
And if indeed Forde’s criticism of our editing of Milne’s email is because we omitted his reference to Secker being Jewish, that would be odd because in the same email, Milne also acknowledged there were ‘a very small number of Jewish people who can adopt antisemitic attitudes.’ Neither Forde, nor Schneider, Secker or Sanders have ever complained about us ‘fileting’ out that particular ‘context’ in the programme! The GLU certainly felt Secker’s social messaging was redolent with problematic ‘attitudes’, including that Jews exercise malevolent power.
Secker emphatically denies this and says none of the GLU’s allegations were ever put to him by the GLU. He is right about that but only because LOTO forced his suspension to be lifted and the case against him dropped. The allegations would have been shown to Secker by the GLU had LOTO’s intervention not caused his suspension to be lifted because they formed part of the case the GLU was compiling against him.I have seen the material that the GLU were assembling in support of their case for suspension. It exists.
What about Forde’s assurance prior to his interview being streamed that he was ‘not attacking the programme as a whole’? He could have fooled me! According to Middle East Eye he told Al Jazeera he regarded Panorama as ‘infamous.’ Forde also told Al Jazeera that his criticism of Panorama related not just to the Milne email – but ‘a limited number of (other) emails (plural) in a limited period.”
Again, I have no idea what Forde is talking about. His report makes no mention of ‘emails’ (plural) in Panorama. What other emails is he referring to? After Al Jazeera aired, I again wrote to Forde to ask him, and to provide me with his evidence; he again said he would ‘endeavour to respond’, and yet again, he failed to do so.Whether his conduct is in any way antithetical to the Bar Standards Board’s 181-page Code of Conduct is not for me to say but it seems to me to be bad form. Neither Sanders nor MEE offered me or the BBC a right to respond to this mysterious new charge. At the BBC it would be unthinkable to treat a respondent in this way.
The Myth about ‘Pressure’
Al Jazeera also accused the BBC of putting ‘pressure’ on Forde to get him to align his report more favourably with Panorama – a charge he dignified with his suggestion that I was limbering up to issue legal proceedings unless he did so. The suggestion is ludicrous.
When last autumn, Forde failed to provide a substantive response to the BBC’s letter inviting him to clarify his criticism of Panorama, I emailed him with half a dozen questions. ‘I was a little taken aback,’ Forde told Al Jazeera. He said my ‘tone was more like a letter before action, you know that I might see in litigation … quite aggressive … the kind of thing you get in a cease-and-desist letter.’
Forde based this on my request for answers by 4 pm. the following day. Yet Forde knew I was planning to write a newspaper article because my email said, ‘I intend to set out my reasons as to why I consider your conclusion in respect of Panorama to have been erroneous in an article for the Jewish Chronicle to be published later this week.’ My email was also copied to the JC’s editor. I therefore think it must have been clear to Forde from my email that the 4pm deadline was a newspaper deadline, not a legal one. I sent several subsequent emails. None of them had even a hint that I was contemplating legal action.
In the BBC’s letter to Forde, he was courteously and respectfully invited to ‘give consideration’ to adding a clarification to his report that he wasn’t accusing Panorama of being ‘one of the media outlets which misled the public and/or (that) any such claim is strongly disputed by Panorama,’ bearing in mind that Forde never gave us the opportunity to respond in the first place.
On Al Jazeera, Forde appears offended by this, interpreting it as an attempt to ‘make it more in line with their [Panorama’s] conclusions, and that wasn’t something I was prepared to do.’ This was unworthy of Forde, for it suggests we were trying to manipulate the truth which, of course, we were not. To paraphrase Forde himself, we regard his report, as it relates to Panorama, as ‘objectively entirely misleading.’ Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters and Al Jazeera have had a field day because of it. As a straightforward matter of fairness, we had every right to ask Forde to record our view that we disagreed with his criticism, and the reasons why. Were we supposed just to accept his verdict, even though it was quite clearly untrue?
The Guardian’s Owen Jones has said he finds it ‘extraordinary’ that the BBC ‘would approach and tell an investigator – I mean, we’re talking about a barrister with decades of experience – to amend a report.’’  Coming from the author of a book which powerfully exposed class hatred, including from the liberal middle classes, flattering an establishment figure like a Kings Counsel, technically appointed by the monarch to be one of ‘His Majesty’s Counsel’, seems oddly reverential. The ‘detailed response’ to which Forde said my questions ‘deserve an answer’ before transmission, never materialised; nor did his promised ‘endeavour’ to address them when I reminded him after transmission. But why not? Whilst Forde’s inquiry had no legal standing, served as it was by a legal secretariat, it had a quasi-judicial aura. His comments to Al Jazeera will be treated by many as official commentary on the Forde inquiry and taken as seriously as the report itself. They should not be.
Forde’s interview on Al Jazeera was the finale to a series of three previous programmes called ‘The Labour Files.’  A good chunk of programme 2 which was produced by Richard Sanders focused on Panorama. All three programmes, asserted as fact that Corbyn was ‘undermined by a smear campaign from within’ Labour and that his successor, Keir Starmer ‘leads a lawless party’ – a pretty bold claim for a mainstream current affairs programme to make about a former Director of Public Prosecutions without rock solid proof.  To me and many others the Labour Files series smacked of pure agenda journalism, but Forde made no criticism of it. Rather, he told Sanders on camera that he was ‘fascinated’ by the series.
Forde’s ‘Hierarchy of Racism’
In his report, Forde also referred to a ‘perceived Hierarchy of racism’ due to Labour’s focus on antisemitism. I understand that Starmer’s office has privately criticised Forde for this, regarding him as having gone ‘off-piste’ by expanding his remit. That seems unfair. Forde’s terms of reference did include reporting on ‘the structure, culture and practices of the Labour Party organisation…’ In any case, Forde told Al Jazeera that ‘anti-black racism (and) Islamophobia isn’t taken as seriously as antisemitism’ adding an important caveat: ‘That’s the perception that came through.’  It’s a ‘perception’ that’s been seized by Corbyn supporters.
That perception came from party members who gave evidence to Forde’s inquiry. Perhaps it was that ‘perception’ that emboldened Labour MP Diane Abbott to engage by letter in an unseemly competition over which ethnic minority has been most victimised by racism. Ms Abbott denied that Jews and Travellers and Irish people had experienced racism in the way that black people had because, she wrote, unlike black people, they were never ‘required to sit at the back of the bus’. They were, of course, herded onto trains and transported to death camps. But by comparison to being required to sit at the back of the bus, that – apparently – wasn’t real racism. Confronted, she apologised and withdrew her comments.
Despite Forde caveating the existence of a hierarchy of racism within Labour as a ‘perception’, Al Jazeera in its Labour Files series, referred to a hierarchy as if its existence was an established fact, whereas a ‘perception’ is all it might be. Certainly that ‘perception’ sits oddly with the reality suggested by Labour’s latest official complaints statistics, but Forde made no mention of that.
In the first two months of this year, (latest figures available at publication) the number of allegations of antisemitism (47.83 per cent of all complaints) that the party has had to deal with is still 11 times greater than complaints of Islamophobia (4.35 per cent) and approaching 4 times greater than Afrophobia or anti-black racism (13.04 per cent). Is it really likely that Muslim and black members are so much less willing to complain than Jews? Still, for Al Jazeera, the idea of a hierarchy with Jews at the top of it makes for a fitting climax.
I am told that Labour leadership and Forde have fallen out badly. In his Al Jazeera interview, Forde did not disguise his chagrin at not having had any serious engagement with the Labour leadership, particularly over his concern that a ‘Hierarchy of racism’ might exist. ‘I’ve had very limited communication with the General Secretary David Evans … other than that, I’m not speaking to anybody within the party machinery’, Forde told Al Jazeera. Corbyn has jumped on that bandwagon saying he is ‘deeply alarmed at this.’ This is some chutzpah! According to Forde’s report, Corbyn himself ‘never engaged’ with Forde’s ‘requests to speak to him’ in the first place. The Labour party has, in fact, published Forde’s findings and highlighted his 165 recommendations to tackle racist and discriminatory attitudes in the party. ‘We have taken steps to change the culture of the party’ says Starmer. ‘This work is underway.’ Forde has not been invited to speak at the NEC as he had expected to be, there has been no big press conference, and no Today programme interview.
Forde and the JVL
But there’s another, and perhaps deeper reason for the bust-up between Forde and Starmer’s office. In his report, Forde recommends that the stridently anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Labour be involved in educating party members about antisemitism, even though the JVL’s output suggests many of its members don’t accept the legitimacy of Israel and some seem to viscerally hate the place. The JVL has also supported high profile denialists and organisations banned by Labour who think the antisemitism crisis has been largely a ‘scam’, ‘weaponised’, ‘manufactured’ or ‘constructed’.
Nonetheless, Forde is understood to have pressed for the JVL to be formally included in the ‘Action Plan’ that the Equality Commission required the Labour party by law to introduce to improve antisemitism training in order to bring the Party into compliance with the Equality Act. The Commission had found Labour responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination against Jewish members. Forde’s proposal would have meant the JVL working alongside the Jewish Labour Movement, and other mainstream Jewish community organisations like the Board of Deputes and Jewish Leadership Council. It was explained to Forde that if the JVL was included in the Action Plan, the other Jewish organisations would drop out, there would be no Action Plan, and the Party would remain in breach of the Equality Act. I am told Forde was stubbornly resistant. ‘It was like talking to Teflon’ a Labour source said. The legal imperative was explained
over and over and over again, and the reason why it had to be done, and how we would have failed getting out of special measures, been subject to the unlawful act notice. Can you imagine – if you’ve got 4000 members (and supporters) of the JLM, and you’ve got a few hundred at most of JVL, the idea that they would be involved in training is absolutely ludicrous.
But this argument was ‘just bouncing off him. He’s not stupid but he wouldn’t get it.’For me, Forde’s determination to involve JVL suggests that even after two years of evidence gathering, some of the fundamentals of the crisis that convulsed Labour, have still eluded him.
Starmer’s office regard the JVL as being at the heart of Labour’s antisemitism problem for drawing the definition of antisemitism too narrowly, giving free reign to the more inflammatory analogies that the Israel-Palestine conflict provokes, and generally breathing life into the unique propensity of the antisemitism virus to mutate and spike into the rest of the world’s woes. The JVL categorically reject that charge and bitterly resent it.
However, Jon Lansman, the Jewish founder of Momentum whose campaign successfully got Corbyn elected leader also considers the JVL more a part of the antisemitism problem than a solution to inoculating Labour against the virus. ‘Neither the vast majority of individual members of JVL nor the organisation itself can really be said to be part of the Jewish community,’ Lansman has said. ‘I’m afraid I regard JVL as part of the problem and not part of the solution to antisemitism in the Labour Party.’ The JVL’s recent delphic dance over David Miller, the discredited sociology professor fired from Bristol University, explains why. Responding to Miller’s incendiary posts about Jews being ‘over-represented’ in Europe and America, ‘in positions of cultural, economic and political power’, and being ‘in a position to discriminate against actually marginalised groups’ and their ‘imaginary Judeophobia’, the JVL said only that their former ally had ‘crossed a line’. Few in the JVL’s comments slot could bring themselves to describe his blatantly antisemitic comments as just that. ‘What David Miller may have had in his head when he wrote that tweet is unknowable’ was the best that the JVL’s Naomi Wimborne Idrissi could muster.  So it’s easy to see why Starmer’s office and Labour’s mainstream Jewish affiliate, the JLM, were ‘dumbfounded’ by Forde’s recommendation that JVL become partners in educating members about antisemitism. They ask what could JVL possibly contribute when their definition of antisemitism is a distant galaxy away from Labour’s mainstream Jewish membership?
Al Jazeera, by contrast, would appear to think it is Starmer’s refusal to embrace the JVL as antisemitism educators that is at the heart of the party’s continuing factional divide – judging by the multiple clips of JVL interviewees.
Despite spending two years immersed in Labour’s antisemitism crisis, it is this recommendation by Forde that has mostly undermined confidence and trust in parts of his report at Labour HQ and with the JLM. To tell Al Jazeera, as did Forde, that ‘it is not automatically antisemitic … to express a criticism of government policies in Israel’ is simply to recite a hollow JVL mantra. Who but a few diehards think that criticising Israel is ‘automatically antisemitic’? Richard Sanders repeats the stunningly obvious mantra: ‘Jewish people – have to be allowed to be dissidents on the issue of Israel.’ They do of course, but even when that dissent continues to deny or downplay the problem of antisemitism under Corbyn? Or spills into conspiracist theories of the kind that suggest German Zionists were actively in cahoots with Hitler, or Israel or Mossad involvement in ISIS?
What is at stake in this seemingly arcane dispute over my documentary is society’s ability to grasp that antisemitism can come ‘dressed up’ as anti-Zionism these days and how, in the Labour Party, it did exactly that. We are sometimes faced not with ‘criticism’ of Israel, which is completely legitimate, as it is for any nation state, but rather with the obsessive demonisation of Israel that often explicitly or implicitly, consciously or unconsciously, is reliant on the enduring power of a series of classic antisemitic tropes about the all-powerful, all-manipulative and malign Jew, and which denies the right of the Jewish state, and only the Jewish state, to exist.
This kind of antisemitic anti-Zionism breathes life into the world’s most potent, hydra-headed racist virus, the variant most resistant to efforts to suppress it. Having endured for some three millennia, antisemitism is racism‘s most hardy strain. It really is ‘built into our world’ as the CST’s Dave Rich writes in his latest book Everyday Hate. As he put it to me, it is the soil beneath our feet. To recognise that, and combat it, denialism about antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism must end.
 p. 33 The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014-2019: ‘… some former LOTO staff have alleged that GLU deliberately failed to act on antisemitism cases in order to damage the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn.’
 LOTO written response to Panorama (re the Glyn Secker case, 5 July 2019: ‘The Leader’s Office did not intervene. These former disaffected employees sought the view of staff in Leader’s Office, which was complied with in good faith. Jeremy Corbyn was not involved and was not asked to express a view.’
See also transcript of tape denying interference in any disciplinary cases: Margaret Hodge, Amy Jackson (JC political secretary) Jeremy Corbyn in the week beginning 25 Feb 2019:
MH: … it’s sort of how you handle, it’s actually what you’re doing with the evidence, so in a way I know you’re speeding up the process, I know you’ve got more people, I know I understand all that but it’s, it’s actually the view that people are taking and rumour has it that too much is being vetted by here before it goes to the NCC.
AJ: Nothing. Nothing at all. That’s so depressing that people think that. That is no way would we ever allow that. No way. No way.
JC: It doesn’t come here. I do not see the cases before they go to the NCC.
AJ: When. Yeah. When it’s disputes, we don’t, we just, we don’t have anything to do with it.
JC: The first time I would see a case is when it gets to the NCC.
AJ: Put it this way, I don’t even know who’s on the NCC, uh.
MH: So, I’m not.
AJ: Uh, people, I think people definitely have done that, I think not in this office, but I think that has happened in the past.
AJ: Yeah. Exactly.
JC: So, I don’t sort of offer an opinion on a complaint. I just say it’s gone to the General Secretary.
AJ: We don’t know, they wouldn’t share it with us if we asked Southside they wouldn’t.
JC: In the same way when you’re leader of the council you got something you would send it to the chief executive, yeah.
MH: Yeah, I mean, you know I would, I wouldn’t do it, I’m very careful on things like that.
JC: Yeah, you send it to the appropriate authority.
Matthews text to Schneider at 12.28 on 070319: ‘We’re about to suspend 3 members from those documents. Tony Gratrex, Greta Berlin and Glyn Secker. Names obviously not for briefing.’ Schneider 12.31: ‘Thanks.’
Secker FB post 1 July 2016: ‘Jeremy is quite right, as uk Jew I have no control, over Israel’s oil, the revenues of which enabled them to finance their weapons of war. The piece was published in November 2015. Since then oil fields have been bombed and so the trade has probably dried up, but through no choice by Israel.’
 Full text email Milne to Oldknow 10 March 2018: ‘I think to suspend this guy for anti-Semitism is really problematic. None of the posts can be identified as anti-Semitic in the terms of the definition we have adopted as a party or the guidance in the Chakrabarti report. Several of them quite clearly relate to political arguments within the Jewish community, between Jewish Labour activists and between Jewish Zionists and Jewish anti-Zionists. That includes the heckling of the JLM speaker (obviously the issue of heckling is another matter, but separate from anti-semitism). Add to that that this member is a Jewish activist, the son of a Holocaust survivor, a leading member of Jewish Voices for Labour and long-term Middle East rights activist – and it’s pretty clear that we’re misidentifying political arguments for anti-Semitism. Of course there are a very small number of Jewish people who can adopt anti-semitic attitudes/language – just as there are a very small number of black people who use anti-black racist tropes – and that should be called out. But if we’re more than very occasionally using disciplinary action against Jewish members for anti-Semitism, something’s going wrong, and we’re muddling up political disputes with racism. Quite apart from this specific case, I think going forward we need to review where and how we’re drawing the line if we’re going to have clear and defensible processes.’
 BBC letter to Martin Forde KC dated 8 September 2022.
 Labour Party response to John Ware written questions, 5 July 2019, and LOTO denial reported by JW in Panorama as per script:
WARE PIECE TO CAMERA Mr Corbyn and his office have repeatedly said that when party members are accused of anti-Semitism they don’t interfere with the disciplinary process.
Indeed, Labour insists that any suggestion they do is ‘categorically untrue’
But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
In an email Mr Corbyn’s Director of Communications, Seumas Milne asked for a review of the disciplinary process into anti-Semitic complaints. There was a risk, he said, of ‘muddling up political disputes with racism.’
The Labour Party told us this was not a request for any kind of formal ‘review’ to take place.
JW: ‘How did you interpret that email from Mister Milne?
SM: The same way that all staff in Labour’s Head Office did, which is that this was the Leader’s office, requesting to be er, involved directly in the disciplinary process … this is not a helpful suggestion, it is an instruction, it is the Leader’s office saying…
JW: But it’s framed as a suggestion.
SM: Yes, it’s all framed as a suggestion but … this is not some junior staff at the Leader’s office, this is Seamus Milne, Director of Communications, part of Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle… he is probably one of, if not the most influential person within the Leader’s office and in that context, when he says I think we need to review this process going forward, that isn’t a suggestion, that’s him instructing what he expects to happen, without needing to say it.’
’The Leader’s Office did not intervene. These former disaffected employees sought the view of staff in the Leader’s Office, which was compiled with in good faith. These disaffected former officials include those who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively undermine it, and have both personal and political axes to grind.’
 BBC letter to Martin Forde KC, dated 8 September 2022.
Para 2.53: ‘In this instance GLU staff had asked for views from within LOTO on a particular case. Those views were given together with comments on the lack of clarity in the party’s approach to antisemitism more broadly. This appears to us to be reasonable. Indeed, it does not appear that GLU staff were themselves convinced of a cast iron case for suspension.’ https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/The-Forde-Report.pdf
 Schlosberg quotes C2.66:’Indeed, the Forde report found that the “advice from two Loto [leader of the opposition] staff members which was subsequently criticised was, however, requested insistently by the GLU [governance and legal unit] and in our view provided in good faith.”’
 Email Martin Forde to John Ware 10 October 2022.
 Email Martin Forde to John Ware 10 October 2022.
Dear Mr Ware,
I refer to our recent email correspondence.
As I confirmed earlier, I am due to appear before the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party to present the findings of the Forde Inquiry (Inquiry) and answer any questions the Committee may have about our Report (Report). I do not have a date for that, as yet, but expect one to be confirmed shortly.
In the meantime, my colleagues on the Inquiry panel, and I, take the view that we should not engage on the substance of the Report. Suffice to say for present purposes that we conducted a very thorough and careful forensic process, during which we heard and considered a wide range of evidence, both oral and written, and were able to form firm views about credibility by which we all stand.
 Taped interview JW and ex LOTO member, 2 September 2022.
 Email Al Jazeera to JW 7 March 2023: ‘Dear Mr Ware, We confirm receipt of your email below. Our initial letter dated 28 February provided you with more than enough information to enable you to provide a response. If you wish to provide such a response we would invite you to do so by return. Regards Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.’
 Email JW to Martin Forde, 8 March 2023: ‘However, in your interview with Al Jazeera, you now appear to base your “entirely misleading” charge on a different point, namely that by “filleting” Seumas Milne’s email about Secker, its “context was lost, and a more sinister interpretation could be placed upon that email than was ever intended.” What is the context that you consider was lost? For the avoidance of doubt, I do not accept that a more sinister interpretation could be made.’
 Email Martin Forde to JW and Mark Lewis, 8 March 2023.
 Email Martin Forde to Karen Wightman and JW, 11 October 2023.
 Email Middle East Eye to JW 13 March 2023: ‘Dear Mr Ware, I am a journalist at Middle East Eye. We understand that Al Jazeera will shortly run an interview with Martin Forde KC in which he discusses correspondence with the BBC and yourself last year regarding his criticism of the Panorama episode entitled Is Labour Anti-Semitic? in his report for the Labour Party last year. We plan to run a story on this interview by Richard Sanders, who you may be aware worked on Al Jazeera’s The Labour Files series, and would like to include your responses to the following points made by Mr Forde…’
 MEE email to JW 13 March, 2023: ‘We understand that Mr Forde said that his view of Panorama’s use of the quote was “highly qualified” and “an opinion”. He said he could “understand that they felt those conclusions undermined the integrity of the programme.” He said he was not attacking the programme as a whole.’
 @schneiderhome: ‘Clip from #LabourFiles exposes how John Ware’s Panorama presented words from Seumas Milne’s email to suggest Corbyn’s team’s unwarranted meddling in antisemitism cases.
At 17.12, Corbyn’s Head of Strategic Communications James Schneider texted the head of the Disputes Team, Sam Matthews: ‘Why Glyn Secker? Barely appears (in the Palestine Live blog). What about David Birkett? Holocaust denial on p124 of part two’
At 17.55, Corbyn’s Director of Strategy Seumas Milne messaged Corbyn’s Chief of Staff
Karie Murphy, the General Secretary Iain McNicol and Emilie Oldknow: ‘A Jewish activist called Glyn Secker has been suspended for antisemitism on the basis of the fb Palestine live story. Seems to be a mistake as there’s nothing on him in the dossier. Can you check if there’s something else? Otherwise needs urgent rethink.’
At 16.56, Corbyn’s Stakeholder Manager Laura Murray, emailed Matthews: ‘Can we please
get the details of Glyn Secker’s suspension? Will keep totally confidential of course.’
At 09.45, Matthews replied to Murray: ‘We’ve sent details of Mr Secker’s suspension to
Karie and Seumas – we’re currently awaiting a response from them.’
At 11.15, Corbyn’s Senior Adviser Andrew Murray (Laura’s father) emailed Milne and Murphy: ‘Is it OK for me to view the allegations against Glyn Secker? Jeremy has asked me to look into it urgently.’
At 11.32, Matthews sent Oldknow and GLU head John Stolliday the draft questions they
intended to put to Mr Secker: ‘I’ll be sending over a full report on the Palestine Live dossier in the next hour to raise with LOTO. In the meantime, we’re ready to send the attached letter with screenshots and questions to Secker. Just need the go-ahead from LOTO on this one in particular.’
Oldknow then sent this evidence against Secker to Milne and Murphy CC’d to
McNicol. Our understanding is that by now the GLU had discovered Facebook a post by Secker in which he gave credence to the antisemitic conspiracy theory that Israel was in cahoots with ISIS.
Oldknow wrote: ’See attached. We would normally suspend with this. View?’
At 17.43 (Andrew) Murray texted Oldknow: ‘Glyn Secker suspension is going to be a car crash I’m afraid.’
Murray again flatly rejected Secker’s suspension the following month when the
GLU presented him and other LOTO colleagues with another FB post in which he again suggested Israel was colluding with ISIS. Murray has said he wasn’t aware at the time that this was new evidence. He has made it clear he regards allegations of Israel being in cahoots with Israel as ‘absurd.’
 Most of the exchanges between LOTO and the GLU over Secker between 7-10 March 20128 were published in April 2020 in the Labour party’s leaked internal report: The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014-2019, https://cryptome.org/2020/04/Labour-Antisemitism-Report.pdf
Mr Corbyn and his office have repeatedly said that when party members are accused of anti semitism, they don’t interfere in the disciplinary process. Indeed, the Labour Party said any such suggestion is categorically untrue.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case. In an email Mr. Corbyn’s Director of Communications Seumas Milne asked for a review of the disciplinary process into antisemitic complaints. There was a risk he said of ‘muddling up political disputes with racism.’
ARCHIVE PANORAMA – SAM MATTHEWS SYNC
JW: How did you interpret that email from Mr. Milne?
SM: The same way that all staff in Labour’s head office did which is that this was the leader’s office requesting to be in involved directly in the disciplinary process.
ARCHIVE PANORAMA COMMENTARY Our investigation finds that communications director Seamus Milne is specifically asked for his ‘view’ by Emilie Oldknow, an Executive Director who oversees the Disputes Team.
Milne is also referring to a very specific case.
James Schneider worked alongside Milne and has the full email that Matthews referred to in the Panorama programme.
ARCHIVE AL JAZERRA – SCHNEIDER SYNC
‘….this member is a Jewish activist the son of a Holocaust survivor. If we’re more than very occasionally using disciplinary action against Jewish members for antisemitism, something’s going wrong. And we’re muddling up political disputes with racism. Quite apart from this specific case. I think going forward we need to review where and how we’re drawing the line if we’re going to have clear and defensible processes.’
So how this is used is just the (italicised) bit.
So these 10 word…. ….the great irony is that this is totally correct. And is borne out as being totally correct, because the Labour Party has actually again and again, disciplined Jewish people disproportionately for antisemitism, because it has been muddling up political disputes with racism, political disputes within the Jewish community.’
 Tony Greenstein suspended April 2016, Jackie Walker suspended September 2016; Moshe Machover, suspended October 2017.
 Secker email to Daniel Johnson, Editor of The Article, 25 November 2011: ‘… I am not the son of a Holocaust survivor. To make such an attribution is not only false, it is exploitative and offensive…’
Secker email to Daniel Johnson, Editor of The Article, 25 November 2011: ‘None of Ware’s allegations featured in GLU’s investigations, not during the March 2018 investigation nor at any other time’.
JW email to Forde, 20 March 2023. 15:21: ‘I note Middle East Eye reports you as having told Al Jazeera that your ‘highly qualified … opinion’ of Panorama related to ‘a limited number of emails in a limited period’. Where in your report do you criticise Panorama’s use of ‘emails’ plural – and if so which ones, and on what basis? (This was not put to us by Al Jazeera)’.
Forde response, 20 March 2023. 3:50 PM: ‘I acknowledge your email. I will endeavour to respond by close of business on Wednesday, although I have professional commitments today, tomorrow and Wednesday and so it may be Thursday. Kind Regards, Martin’.
JW email to Forde 20 March. 5:07:28 PM: ‘OK. I’m happy to come to your chambers (or wherever) if that suits, for a 2-way, as you did with Al Jazeera. That would certainly be fairer both to me and in terms of clarifying any loose ends that might arise from a written response. Let me know if that appeals. John’
Forde response to JW 20 March. 5:40 PM: ‘Ok. Less might get lost in translation! I’ll think about it and get back to you. M’
While the media showed little interest in reporting his findings Forde did receive pressure from Britain’s national broadcaster to alter his report.
In July 2019, the BBC’s main current affairs programme Panorama, released a documentary fiercely critical of Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism within the party.
Forde said Panorama’s use of internal Labour Party emails was entirely misleading.
‘The document I’m holding is an email from Karen Whiteman who’s the editor of Panorama.
“I would be grateful if you would consider amending your report in respect of your references to Panorama so that it more fairly reflects what the programme actually said.”
I also received emails from John Ware who the lead reporter for that documentary.’
John Ware’s email said: ‘Your report has done significant damage to my reputation and to that of the Corporation for journalistic integrity. May I ask you to respond by 4pm tomorrow 11th of October.’
‘I was a little taken aback. The tone was more like a letter before action, you know that I might see in litigation. I just came in with a completely open mind. Which I’m sure Mr. Ware would say he did too. And he went where his evidence took him. And that’s what journalists do. I felt I had a fuller picture because I interviewed not only some of the participants in the programme. I also interviewed those who hadn’t participated in the programme from the alternative faction as their often seen (i.e. he means JVL) and I would like to think that that as I’ve been a barrister now – I think I’m in my 38th year – that I would have a degree of forensic skill and an ability to try and assess credibility and consistency because that’s what lawyers look for. Labour racism report author rejected BBC request to remove criticism of Panorama.’
See also Forde on C4, 18 May 2023: ’… I chose my words quite carefully. What I said was that there seemed to be a perception of a hierarchy of racism, and a perception that the sort of “Me Too” complaints and complaints of antisemitism were prioritised and that complaints in other areas, other types of racism, either took overly long, or were difficult to make.’ https://twitter.com/serenabarksing/status/1659275894442061847
‘The Forde report also describes a ‘hierarchy of racism’. ….The party’s more recent steps to address the problems with antisemitism, for example, have not been matched by a commitment to tackle other forms of racism.’ This is expressed as a finding by Forde. It is not. The sentence is prefaced by Forde by the words ‘Many staff felt that specific problems were only dealt with when it was politically expedient and/or essential to do so, and that the Party’s more recent steps to address the problem with antisemitism, for example, have not been matched by a commitment to tackle other forms of racism…’ More: ‘To be clear, the evidence received pointed to a perception that some protected characteristics were regarded by the Party more highly than others. Equally this meant some were less highly regarded.’
‘The hierarchy of racism identified in the Forde Report means that those accused of antisemitism are suspended while issues that concern Muslims are overlooked.’
 NEC Complaints and Disciplinary Sub-Committee – Statistics (March 2023. https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/202303-Disciplinary-Report.pdf
 Forde report sE9: ‘We recognise the key role of JLM as a longstanding affiliate of the Party and welcome the impetus they have provided in setting up antisemitism education; but as we say in paragraph E9.2, we have our criticisms of the form, that education has taken. (“The sessions were largely didactic, top down and one dimensional – with little participation beyond the people presenting. This does not provide a space in which difficult issues such as attitudes towards Israel can safely be explored in a nuanced way, and does not encourage deep reflection, the importance of which was emphasised by the participants at our roundtable meeting. As explained above we do not consider that such training is in accordance with best practice, or the recommendations received from our roundtable meeting. Improvements are needed.”) However, we do recognise that there are other voices amongst Jewish communities and Jewish members of the Party. Hence we are disappointed that there has been a refusal to engage at all with Jewish Voice for Labour’s proposals for antisemitism education and the CLPs are, as we are told, not even allowed to enlist their help.’
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