John Ware was the reporter for the 2019 BBC Panorama documentary Is Labour Antisemitic? In Part 1 of this series he explained how The Forde Report, and Forde’s statements in a subsequent interview to Al Jazeera, are badly misleading people about his documentary. Part 2 critically reviewed Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn by the Electronic Intifada’s associate editor Asa Winstanley. Here, he critiques Al Jazeera’s The Labour Files series. For this article Ware put a series of allegations in writing to Al Jazeera who initially agreed to respond after seven days, but then declined to do so.
The thrust of Al Jazeera’s three-part series Labour Files, broadcast in the autumn of 2022 was that Britain was deprived of its first pro-Palestinian rights Prime Minister through a purge of Corbynites by right wing party officials and a pliant media (particularly Panorama) terminally damaging Corbyn’s lifelong anti-racist credentials by stoking the myth of an antisemitism crisis. This had bequeathed to Kier Starmer a party operating a ‘hierarchy of racism’ which cares more about tackling antisemitism than discrimination against other minorities with Starmer making Labour even more intolerant of dissent than at any time in its history. The series did not mince its words. It purported to ‘expose how (party) operatives’ had ‘secretly take(n) control of Britain’s Labour Party’, turning Labour into a ‘criminal conspiracy against its members’, that Starmer ‘leads a lawless party’ and that his ‘predecessor was undermined by a smear campaign from within.’ It dismisses antisemitism under Jeremy Corbyn as a ‘so-called’ crisis.
It’s a proposition that echoes to the World War 1 playbook of those German army generals who blamed the Jews and social democrat politicians in Berlin for Germany’s battlefield defeat.
This article challenges this ‘stab-in-the-back’ explanation for Corbyn’s downfall as an unsavoury myth fostered by journalism that is closer to what I call agenda journalism which – while purporting to tell the ‘true story’ of a highly contested issue (as in Labour’s antisemitism crisis) – seems incurious about the way things actually are while straining every sinew to land a point.
Of course, mainstream journalism often pursues agendas too, but unlike agenda journalism, the mainstream doesn’t – or certainly shouldn’t – ignore credible facts and plausible arguments that take the story in a different direction.
In support of the Al Jazeera series, the commentator Peter Oborne says ‘the British media needs to look deep into its soul’ for its coverage of the antisemitism crisis under Corbyn, crediting the series as a ‘landmark piece of journalism’ that will be looked back ‘in 10, 20, 30 years, as the turning point in the understanding of this issue and of the contemporary history of Britain, and the Middle East and the Labour Party.’
I argue it’s the other way around and that it is Al Jazeera who need to do some deep soul searching if it wishes to sustain an otherwise deserved reputation for mainstream journalism in its coverage of issues unrelated to the Middle East. The Labour Files is so one-sided that it has sustained Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in their revisionist version of the antisemitism crisis which they regard as largely manufactured in order to stop him becoming prime minister. The agenda journalism of those sympathetic to the sometimes brutal treatment of Corbyn by the mainstream media, has contributed little to the understanding of the crisis beyond showing just how deep the well of prejudice sank.
Part 1: The ‘Highest Standards of Journalism’?
So far, the Corbynites have lost many more defamation cases associated with defending Corbynism than they have won. Full disclosure: I took proceedings against three sets of Corbynites and won all three. In two cases, I had been falsely accused of deliberately misleading the public on BBC Panorama about the scale of antisemitism in Labour and the degree of interference by Corbyn and his office in disciplinary cases; in the third case, I was publicly accused by the anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Labour of being involved in ‘extreme far right politics’, widely understood to be synonymous with extreme politics and political parties descending from Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, through the National Front to the British National Party. I assume the Al Jazeera journalist Richard Sanders, who produced the second in Al Jazeera’s Labour Files series, has litigation by me in mind (amongst others) when he avows that the ‘one virtue’ of the ‘extremely well-funded campaign of lawfare waged against pro-Palestinian activists is that it forces on its targets the highest standards of journalism.’ By ‘highest standards’ I also assume Sanders has himself and Al Jazeera in mind. He has not been backwards in forefronting his own virtues for journalistic rigour as we shall see.
How to take his argument on ‘lawfare’ any more seriously than JVL’s ravings? There was nothing ‘well-funded’ about my ‘lawfare.’ I am owed £527,028.16 in costs and £90,000 in awarded damages by the third defendant I successfully sued – Paddy French, the Corbynite publisher of a website called ‘Press Gang’ purporting to ‘expose rogue journalism’ who launched a defamatory campaign ‘exposing’ my ‘dirty tricks’ to deliberately deceive two million viewers by knowingly exaggerating the scale of antisemitism in Labour. French eventually abandoned his truth defence in the face of my detailed responses to his claims but vowed to fight on with a defence of public interest, only to abandon that as well by not turning up in court. Yet one of French’s supporters, Justin Schlosberg, an activist for the anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), who also heads media studies at Birkbeck College described my proceedings against French and Wimborne Idriss and the JVL as part of ‘an assault on truth’ against ‘progressive political voices … and truth tellers’ and an example of a SLAPP action (strategic lawsuits against public participation). This is self-evidently untrue. SLAPPS are proceedings brought by the rich and powerful using their financial muscle to bludgeon an innocent party into submission. SLAPPS stop the truth being told by forcing a crippling financial price on the truth teller. In my case, the court found it was French who lied, and there’s been a high price to pay – not by him, but by me. I’m now having to raise the money to pay my legal costs while French so far has contributed not one penny to them despite a court cost order against him and funding from the wealthy musician Roger Waters. This may please French’s supporters, but there’s no honour here. For two years French boasted that he couldn’t wait to prove the truth of his allegations in the ‘forensic setting’ of a court, only to duck out of the trial at the last minute, remaining in his farmhouse in the south of France with the bogus claim that the legal system had deprived him of running a proper defence. For that, French was roundly condemned by the trial judge Mr Justice Knowles as having promoted a ‘knowing, deliberate and cynical distortion of what’ he ‘must have known to be true.’ So much for Justin Schlosberg’s ‘truth tellers.’ Birkbeck take note.
What about the claim by Al Jazeera’s Richard Sanders that this ‘campaign of lawfare waged against pro-Palestinian activists’ forced up ‘the highest standards of journalism’ achieved by him and his Al Jazeera colleagues?
Al Jazeera Rewrites the Corbyn Years
For ‘professional journalists’, says Sanders, ‘there was an alternative (to lawfare). We could lay out clearly, dispassionately, the bald facts – not with any hope it would stem the tidal wave of moral outrage directed towards Corbyn, but as a testament for posterity.’ This, said Sanders, was the approach ‘I took in my own (Al Jazeera) film on Labour’s antisemitism crisis’ which it claims told ‘the true story behind the Labour Party’s antisemitism crisis.’ Laying claim to the higher moral ground has been the defining feature of Sanders and the revisionist media.
I questioned the rigour of Al Jazeera’s journalism in Part 1 of this three-part Fathom series about how Corbynites and anti-Zionists have been trying to rewrite the history of the Corbyn years.
Getting ‘Interference’ Wrong
To recap: two Al Jazeera programmes produced by Sanders asserted that Panorama misled viewers by saying an email from a senior Corbyn adviser Seumas Milne showed that Corbyn’s office (LOTO – Leader of the Opposition’s Office) had interfered in a disciplinary case by pressurising officials to lift the suspension of one of Corbyn’s political allies. In his first programme, Sanders said his ‘investigation finds’ there was no interference. ‘Investigation’ is rather a grand word for Al Jazeera’s research. A clue to the fact that there had been interference, lay in the timeline of events which, by the time Al Jazeera broadcast, had been published. This timeline showed that Milne had interfered in the case in question from the outset by questioning the decision of party officials to suspend a Corbyn ally. That ally was Glyn Secker, general secretary of the anti-Zionist JVL, an organisation for which the ‘dispassionate’ Sanders says he has ‘a lot of admiration.’ A senior LOTO member’s confirmation of interference in this case, on tape to me, has put the matter beyond doubt.
Sanders has on several occasions disputed the evidence of interference by Corbyn’s office in antisemitism disciplinary cases in the face of well documented facts. For example, he and Oborne have insisted that allegations of Corbyn’s intervention in the Ken Livingstone case is the ‘precise opposite’ of ‘what was true’. He is, without doubt, wrong. Livingstone, readers will recall, asserted on BBC radio in April 2016 as a bald historical fact that Hitler had ‘supported Zionism’ whereas Nazi government policy of allowing German Jews to emigrate to Mandate Palestine in the 1930s was part of Hitler’s determination to make Germany ‘cleansed of Jews.’ It was, says Professor Francis Nicosia, widely recognised as the foremost authority on pre WW2 Nazi-Zionist diplomacy a policy that ‘meant neither the acceptance of Zionism as a positive force in Jewish life through the national rebirth of the Jewish people, nor of the related objective of an independent Jewish state in Palestine as the centre of that national rebirth.’ And yet documents and verbal testimony show there was an attempt at the highest level of the Labour party to get Livingstone off the hook.
The following are the facts: early in 2018 Livingstone was scheduled to appear before a second disciplinary panel for repeating that he stood by the truth of his Hitler comments. The previous April, he’d been sanctioned at his first disciplinary hearing by Labour’s National Constitutional Committee. Within minutes of the NCC suspending him for a further year, Livingstone had been asked by journalists if he was now going to apologise. He’d replied: ‘You can’t apologise for telling the truth.’
In February 2018 shortly before Livingstone was due to appear before a disciplinary panel for the second time, on Corbyn’s behalf, Seumas Milne and Corbyn’s Chief of Staff Karie Murphy privately sought to persuade Labour’s Director of Governance Emilie Oldknow, to try to get disciplinary proceedings against Livingstone dropped. It was explained to her that Livingstone was a ‘close personal friend of Jeremy and that his case was important to “the Left”.’  LOTO’s telephone call to Oldknow in a Tesco car park while she was on leave was despite Corbyn having publicly condemned Livingstone’s attempt to justify his comments about Hitler having supported Zionism as ‘grossly insensitive’ and stating that he’d ‘caused deep offence and hurt to the Jewish community.’ I asked Corbyn in writing if he could explain why ‘at your behest, Ms Murphy and Mr Milne asked the SMT (Senior Management Team) to explore ways of stopping the disciplinary process and of trying to persuade the General Secretary to agree to this?’ In his response Corbyn did not deny the accusation, saying only that party officials had ‘failed for months to open a new investigation into Livingstone.’  It was a prime example of the gap between Corbyn’s public mantra of ‘zero tolerance’ for antisemitism in his party, and his private tolerance of it when it came to political allies.
Getting Panorama Wrong
Did Sanders’s conviction that Corbyn and/or LOTO had not interfered in disciplinary cases explain his decision to excise from the BBC’s response to his ‘finding’ against Panorama on Al Jazeera, the most important part of the Corporation’s statement? In Sanders second Al Jazeera programme attacking the BBC, the audience was told only that the BBC had said it ‘stands by its reporting that members of Mr Corbyn’s office interfered in antisemitism disciplinary cases.’ The rest of the BBC’s response pointing out that the statutory EHRC investigation had established interference by LOTO in almost a third of disciplinary cases it had investigated – was removed. Sanders evidently believes he has a superior hold on the facts and has adjudged the EHRC report to be a ‘flimsy pamphlet’ despite its authorship by a team of specialist Equality Act lawyers. 
He prefers the 860-page leaked internal report compiled in the dying days of Corbyn’s leadership which placed the entire blame for the failed handling of the antisemitism crisis on ‘factional’ anti-Corbyn party officials. They included the seven ex-Labour party officials who’d blown the whistle on Panorama with first-hand accounts of how they’d been overwhelmed – several to the point of mental breakdown – by the tidal wave of antisemitism complaints that had hit them (1500 in 2016 alone), how Corbyn, LOTO and Corbynites on the NEC had sought to influence the outcome of disciplinary cases, and the rancorous climate that had developed inside the party since Corbyn became leader.
The leaked report took no obvious account of their evidence. The last 400 pages appear to have been thrashed out in about a week leaving little time for careful editorial review. Its authors did not interview any of the officials it accused, they discounted any suggestion of interference in disciplinary cases, and avoided comment on deficiencies in Corbyn’s leadership (‘Debate about the leadership’s handling of this issue is beyond the scope of this report…’) unlike the subsequent EHRC report. While highly critical of the ‘inadequate process for handling complaints’, the EHRC made multiple references to the ‘serious failings in leadership’ which it found ‘hard to reconcile’ with Corbyn’s oft repeated ‘commitment to a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism.’ The EHRC made clear where the ultimate blame for Labour’s antisemitism crisis lay: ‘It is hard not to conclude that antisemitism within the Labour Party could have been tackled more effectively if the leadership had chosen to do so.’  Sanders, however, regards the leaked internal report as ‘the absolute bible’ of what happened in the antisemitism crisis.
That is not to say the leaked report does not contain valuable historical information. It does. But Sanders flatters it as ‘far from being a crudely factional document’ and its authors ‘painfully honest and peculiarly artless.’ It is true, as Martin Forde KC observes in the report of his inquiry into the leaked report, that its authors were not ‘seeking to play down or obscure the scale of antisemitism.’  Indeed, to their credit they acknowledged the ‘scale of the (antisemitism) problem’ emphasising that their report ‘thoroughly disproves any suggestion that antisemitism … is all a “smear” or a “witch-hunt”’ and hoped their report ‘could help end the denialism amongst parts of the Party membership which has further hurt Jewish members and the Jewish community.’  Sanders makes no reference to this important finding about the scale of antisemitism under Corbyn by a report he otherwise regards as the ‘absolute bible’ of the crisis. Instead, The Labour Files asserts that the ‘true story’ of the Party’s ‘so-called’ antisemitism crisis shows it to have been largely a ‘smear’. This cherry picking speaks for itself.
What of Sanders’s claim that the ‘absolute bible’ was ‘far from factional’ in attributing blame for the crisis on right wing party officials including Panorama’s whistleblowers? The report was merciless in its criticism finding fault with practically everything they did. Here’s what Forde actually said: ‘We accept that the Leaked Report was itself a factional document with an agenda to advance…’ It was ‘unarguably a slanted document; it represents another front in the factional warfare which it describes and by its nature added nothing to the supposed “kindness” in politics that the Party purports to be moving towards.’ Forde also found that the leaked report’s ‘relatively young and inexperienced’ authors had approached some of the evidence with a ‘degree of conformation bias’, albeit without ‘a preconceived narrative.’
Even if Sanders considers those of Forde’s criticisms to have been unwarranted, for a journalist with a high self-regard for rigorous standards, his failure to engage with them is telling. Nor is there anything ‘dispassionate’ about the way Sanders claims to have laid out ‘the bald facts’ when fully endorsing the title of Asa Winstanley’s recent book ‘Weaponizing Antisemitism’ (reviewed in Part 2 of this series): ‘Antisemitism was clearly weaponised,’ asserts Sanders, quoting the Forde report as having concluded that ‘some anti-Corbyn elements of the party seized on antisemitism as a way to attack Jeremy Corbyn.’  Except that that was only the first part of Forde’s sentence and Sanders omits to mention the rest of it which went on to say that Corbynites had also ‘weaponised’ the issue by ‘failing to recognise the seriousness of antisemitism, its effect on Jewish communities and on the moral and political standing of the Party.’
It’s really difficult to see this span of selective quoting as the kind of ‘dispassionate’ journalism that Sanders obviously believes he, Oborne and Al Jazeera have pursued. To me it feels more like agenda journalism.
I have never said Panorama was flawless. The comments of one female Jewish victim of antisemitism became innocently mixed up in the editing giving the impression that as a university student she was on the receiving end of near daily abuse only from the Left which included comments like ‘Hitler was right.’ Not included in the clip of her interview was her comment that ‘Predictably a lot of it came from the far Right … neo-Nazi abuse.’ Odd as this might seem in hindsight (the only precise science known to man) I confess that no one spotted this in the edit, including me, and Al Jazeera were right to point out the error. I urged the BBC to publicly clarify the position and they agreed to without hesitation, subject to the wishes of the witness herself because she had suffered a lot of social media abuse.  But Sanders and Corbynites have made a meal of it, with Sanders accusing the BBC of ‘obvious disingenuousness’ because ‘the bald fact (is) she never attributed the appalling Hitler comments to Labour members.’  She did, though, attribute this kind of abuse also to the Left: ‘What absolutely baffled me, was at the same time, I was receiving … very similar and almost often the exact same tropes and anti-Semitic abuse … from the far Left.’ It’s also a fact that Labour party members have been expelled for Holocaust denial. Regrettable though this flaw was, it was certainly not big enough to undermine the programme as a whole.
Oborne and Sanders have also accused the BBC of ‘implicitly’ branding two women, both members of the anti-Zionist JVL as ‘sort of brazen liars’ when we have said no such thing.  They base this on the fact that we haven’t accepted that one of our seven whistleblowers – Ben Westerman, who is Jewish – made what they insist was a false accusation against one of the women, Rica Bird by asking him: ‘are you from Israel?’. Westerman told Panorama the comment was made at the conclusion of his interview in 2016 with two women whose names he could not remember and we were therefore unaware they were Jewish anti-Zionists. After transmission, Bird said Westerman must have been referring to her when she accompanied her friend Helen Marks for questioning by him during his NEC authorised investigation into allegations of antisemitism, abusive comments and intimidation by Momentum supporters in Liverpool’s Riverside CLP. A tape of the interview does not show Westerman having been asked that specific question about Israel. It does, though, show Bird asking him: ‘I’m just curious about, just, like what branch are you in?’ After she presses the point, Westerman responds that whilst she’s welcome to ask, the question was not relevant, to which Bird responds: ‘Just thought it might be interesting.’ Why Bird just thought where Westerman hailed from ‘might be interesting’ is unclear. She has since said she was simply being ‘comradely, friendly.’ In any case, having sensed the two women realised he was Jewish, might Westerman have extrapolated from Bird’s question ‘where are you from?’ that behind it lay a ‘where are you really from?’ type question to see if he was from Israel? Given that the tape contains no such question, of course this must be possible. The limits of acceptable anti-Zionism had dominated the 45-minute interview Westerman had just concluded with Marks because she’d said on the radio: ‘The rise of anti-Semitism is hardly surprising because of the actions of the Israeli government.’ Westerman had asked her: ‘Can you see how that might be perceived by some as a complicity of Jewish people in the actions of…’ to which she replied: ‘It might be perceived, it might be perceived, people, yeah it’s quite possible, it might be, but on the other hand it might not be perceived, there might be very many people who would agree with that statement.’ The recent Chakrabarti Report had discouraged holding Jewish people responsible for the actions of the Israeli government, or as supporters of Zionism, bringing antisemitism on themselves, so Marks was then asked if she would make that statement again? She replied ‘Yes, because I don’t think that’s what I did say.’ Westerman then quoted back to Marks, her verbatim showing that is indeed what she had said: ‘I’m just quoting verbatim – “that it’s hardly … the rise in anti-Semitism is hardly surprising given the, given the actions of the Israeli…Israeli government”’.
So, of course, it’s possible that Westerman thought he’d heard something which he had been said but wasn’t. It’s also not impossible that his recollection was correct. Before the JVL revealed a tape existed of the interview (not something Westerman had mentioned, nor I believe, knew, or anyway recalled) his evidence to me was that the comment ‘are you from Israel?’ was said as the women were leaving. And the tape does appear to shut off abruptly just prior to that point. So, the question ‘are you from Israel?’ as a follow up to Bird asking where he was from is not inconsistent with his account. The tape also shows Marks having misremembered that she had blamed the rise of antisemitism on the Israeli government. The bottom line is that the tape is not definitive in supporting either Westerman’s or the two women’s memory and it is precisely because it cannot be ruled out that Westerman’s recollection has erred that I have conspicuously avoided accusing either woman of lying. Nor do I believe Westerman has lied. Having spoken to him for many hours, it’s hard to imagine he would have said something he did not believe was true but misremembered. He came across as a carful witness and a patently honest man. Labour’s internal leaked report into the handling of complaints commends him on his ‘diligence.’  However, supporters of Marks and Bird (since expelled from Labour) have had no difficulty convicting Westerman of having been a ’flagrant liar.’  Al Jazeera also appear to have closed their minds to the possibility of Westerman having been correct, perhaps because they regard it as another Panorama ‘Gotcha!’ moment. We have tried to be faithful to the evidence whilst Al Jazeera, it seems to me, has been faithful to its agenda.
Sanders has said the BBC ‘needs to answer the broader, very serious questions raised by Al Jazeera about the Panorama film.’ This again is patently untrue. All of the ‘questions raised by Al Jazeera’ have been answered and rebutted in swathes of forensic detail, whether he and Al Jazeera accept them or not – save for one: that Keir Starmer ‘ignored’ Labour’s legal advice in choosing to settle defamation proceedings against Corbyn’s Labour party brought by me and the seven ex-party officials who blew the whistle about life under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership on Panorama. Corbyn’s office had accused me of having ‘flouted journalistic ethics’ by ‘knowingly’ promoting ‘falsehoods … by fabricating facts’ while the whistleblowers had ‘deliberately’ delayed disciplinary cases ‘acting in bad faith’ because they had ‘personal and political axes to grind’. Plainly, alleging that persons of good standing had set out to deceive the public is a very seriously defamatory allegation, especially against a BBC journalist on such a politically charged issue as the failure of the leader of the Opposition to deal with growing antisemitism in his party.
I wasn’t prepared to allow this to go unchallenged without a withdrawal and an apology from Corbyn’s Labour party. It was jet fuel on the funeral pyre that Corbynistas were preparing for Panorama.
Getting Starmer’s Decision Wrong
The legal advice to Starmer that he could have successfully defended Labour against our claims was ‘the most unambiguous legal advice I’ve ever seen’ declared Peter Oborne on Al Jazeera. He described himself as Al Jazeera’s ‘expert commentator’ and told them he was highly experienced in such litigation matters.  ‘I’ve seen lots of legal bits of advice in my inglorious career’ drawled Oborne presenting himself as a seasoned veteran of litigation. ‘It was about as adamant that they had a very strong case as for anything I can imagine.’ Instead of defending the case, said Oborne, Starmer had settled in order to ‘renounce Corbyn and all his works, and part of that renunciation is to accept that the case from the BBC whistle-blowers was valid and give into it.’ 
Oborne is not a lawyer and is less of an expert than he would have us believe. Labour’s legal advice did not say Starmer could have defended the party’s allegations against me and the whistleblowers as true for the obvious reason that they were not. The party’s solicitors argued instead that they had a ‘complete defence’ under what’s called ‘Reply to Attack’ which affords qualified privilege in certain circumstances when a defendant replies to a public attack on their reputation, proportionately to the attack on them, even if that reply is not necessarily true. 
We argued that the defamatory allegations against us were issued by Corbyn’s office two hours and twenty minutes before the programme aired. In other words, Corbyn’s office had got its retaliation in first, or as the BBC put it at the time, ‘The Labour Party is criticising a programme they have not seen.’ Labour’s legal advice argued they were replying to ‘the BBC’s advance publicity for its programme.’  How successful their ‘Reply to Attack’ defence would actually have been at trial is anyone’s guess. Yet Oborne spoke as if a Corbyn victory was almost certain had the case gone the distance. Of course, it was not remotely certain. You roll the dice once litigation gets to court but we were all geared up to go. Our lawyers – Mark Lewis and William Bennett KC – were equally confident we would prevail and both lawyers put their money where their mouth was by offering to act under a Contingency Fee Arrangement, meaning they were prepared to risk forgoing potentially several hundred thousand pounds in fees because they judged it was so unlikely that we’d lose. What is clear is that so far, the number of Corbyn supporters who’ve successfully defended defamation claims against them, presumably on the advice they’ve been given, has been dwarfed by their opponents who’ve also acted on different legal advice! Al Jazeera also mischievously reported that I had ‘demanded more than $150,000 (£116,000) in damages whereas I was acting solely on what I was advised should be the opening settlement offer, whilst actually settling for a small fraction because for me it was never about the money but correcting the record. Again, Al Jazeera made no mention of that.
To me and my BBC colleagues, Al Jazeera’s fixation with Panorama has bordered on the obsessive. Sanders’s first programme made countless references to the BBC and to Panorama. Some were replicated on social media, and trawled over again in a podcast. Even the podcast commentator admitted, ‘Now I recognise it is a bit odd spending this much time critiquing a programme, you could say a rival programme. But remember, this documentary is released a few months before a national election. It makes an indelible mark on the minds of voters and it’s no stretch to say may have affected the course of political history in Britain.’ It’s more than a ‘stretch.’ Polling shows that Corbyn’s multiple leadership deficiencies are what led to Labour losing their fourth consecutive election and ending up with their fewest number of seats since 1935. Last March Al Jazeera’s ‘Investigative Unit’ made its second programme focusing on Panorama which included Sanders’ interview with Martin Forde KC, the bulk of it highlighting the barrister’s allegation that our programme had been ‘objectively entirely misleading.’ I showed in Part 1 of this Fathom series how Forde’s case buckled under scrutiny. He never even offered the BBC the courtesy of a right of response. It was his report that had the effect of misleading the public, not Panorama, because its references to the programme were either poorly drafted or poorly researched.
Far from the BBC not having answered the ‘questions raised by Al Jazeera’ as both Sanders and Oborne have often maintained, it is Al Jazeera who have some serious questions to answer about their own journalistic probity. Yet unlike the BBC, Al Jazeera have declined to address any of my questions which I formally submitted in writing to them, well in advance of this publication, despite Al Jazeera having asked for an extension of the deadline I set them, a concession to which I readily agreed. In his fixation with the BBC, Sanders has accused the Corporation of having ‘maintained silence’ on the ‘very specific allegations’ Al Jazeera ‘has levelled at the programme … apparently trusting that the rest of the media – wary of having its own record examined – will maintain omerta on the subject.’ Yet again, the opposite is the case. It just might be that the mainstream media’s ‘omerta’ is not out of fear for their own journalism surviving scrutiny, but because they’re ‘wary’ of Al Jazeera’s journalism, seeing its tone and content as redolent with an agenda.
Part 2: Scenes from the Construction of the ‘Stab in the Back’ Myth
Damian McCarthy: Al Jazeera’s ‘Anti-Racist’
One of Al Jazeera’s key witnesses in programme 1 of The Labour Files was a barrister disbarred for dishonesty because he fabricated client letters. With a straight face, to camera, Damian McCarthy referred to himself as a ‘proud anti-racist.’ What Al Jazeera didn’t reveal was either the fact that McCarthy had been disbarred, or that his social media shows him to have hidden behind a pseudonymous twitter handle called ‘Truth and Justice’ (@1sowordoftruth) that spewed out inflammatory hate filled posts like: ‘Jews are gassing people in Gaza. Yes you read that correctly’; ‘Zionists worked hand in hand with Nazis to send innocent Jews to their deaths. Zionists then worked to establish the racist state of Israel’; on the death of the last Chief Rabbi, the scholarly Jonathan Sacks was cast as a ‘horrible racist and supporter of apartheid. He’s now with others who supported fascism’; his successor Chief Rabbi Mirvis was also accused of being a ‘racist and white suoremist (sic).’ 
All this evidence of McCarthy’s own racism was completely omitted by Al Jazeera. Was that because they didn’t see anything antisemitic in his anti-Zionist tirades? Or was it because Al Jazeera didn’t ‘just do their homework’ – a discipline Sanders commends as a ‘good idea’ for mainstream journalists to do because, according to him ‘most don’t.’  Asking Al Jazeera if they had done their own ‘homework’ on McCarthy was one of my questions which they declined to answer.
McCarthy featured extensively in programme 1 of The Labour Files. Its title was The Purge and it claimed to show how Labour Party ‘officials set about silencing, excluding and expelling its own members in a ruthless campaign to destroy the chances of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Britain’s prime minister.’ Sanders did not produce that programme, but he did produce programme 2 called The Crisis purporting to ‘uncover the true story behind the “crisis of anti-Semitism” that engulfed the British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.’ His programme used a brief teaser clip of McCarthy in its opening.
What does relying on a witness like McCarthy (now expelled by Labour) say about the credibility of the many other witnesses interviewed on Al Jazeera over four hours of television in The Labour Files series? Not a single witness was cross examined about its thesis that Corbyn was deprived of the premiership by an orchestrated smear campaign and replaced by Starmer, who was accused of leading a ‘lawless party.’
Peter Oborne: Al Jazeera’s Uncertain ‘Expert’
Amongst the 28 interview clips from Al Jazeera’s ‘expert commentator’ Peter Oborne was this one protesting at the mainstream media’s treatment of Corbyn: ‘Suddenly he (Corbyn) becomes Labour leader. And the media combines to tell the world that this man is not an anti-racist. He is actually a racist.’ Few more so than Oborne himself. He has swung giddily this way and that way on Corbyn’s approach to antisemitism.
Back in 2016 when writing for the Daily Mail, Oborne said: ‘The Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is not an anti-Semite. I have no trouble believing him when he says he is opposed to racism of every kind.’ By March 2018, Oborne had done a 180 degree turn. Now Corbyn’s politics were ‘detestable’, he had exhibited ‘shameful antisemitism’ for which he had made ‘weaselly attempt(s) at an apology’, he was ‘unfit for public office’, he was ‘unworthy to be an MP’. In August 2019, as Britain headed for a general election, that was still Oborne’s view: Corbyn had ‘hopelessly failed to tackle the noxious virus of antisemitism’, he was ‘spineless, tepid and destined to be damned by history.’ Today, as associate editor of the Qatar-based Middle East Eye, Oborne has come full circle back to where he started in 2016 albeit with a commendable touch of mea culpa: he says he didn’t ‘properly investigate those claims’ and that The Labour Files has ‘blown a hole in the British media’s Corbyn narrative’. 
Since transmission a year ago, some pretty sizeable holes have appeared in Al Jazeera’s journalism. No doubt Oborne would argue that owning up to his oscillations over Corbyn’s fitness for office qualifies him better than most to lecture other journalists about what constitutes fair and balanced journalism. However, I have yet to hear him express any reservations about Al Jazeera’s journalism. The reverse. He thinks The Labour Files is a ‘landmark piece of journalism.’
In 2009, Oborne presented a Dispatches programme for Channel 4 called Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby. The late David Cesarani, a widely admired specialist in Jewish history, observed that having reiterated ‘the received wisdom that the accusation of antisemitism is used to muzzle Israel’s critics … within minutes of the programme finishing, the comments page of the C4 website carried crude anti-Jewish invective.’ Oborne himself disavowed any imputation of conspiracy by emphasising ‘It is important to say what we did not find. There is no conspiracy, and nothing resembling a conspiracy.’
The caveat was important but sat oddly with the programme’s portrayal of the lobbying and funding of pro-Israel organisations in the UK as somehow uniquely mysterious and effective. Oborne took what some regarded as a one-sided approach to a complicated story, but this paled in comparison to Al Jazeera’s series called ‘The Lobby’ transmitted in January 2017. Oborne was not responsible for the programme but he did make his debut as an ‘expert commentator’ for Al Jazeera in which he seemed to give credence to the suggestion that Labour Friends of Israel was actually being ‘run from Tel Aviv, that’s troubling.’ Had that been true, it would indeed have been ‘troubling’ but it wasn’t true. 
‘Robin’: Al Jazeera’s Undercover Reporter
Posing as a pro-Israeli activist, Al Jazeera claimed its undercover reporter, who they called ‘Robin’, ‘exposes Israel’s clandestine activities – in London, a city that’s become a major battleground’ over the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement. Save in one important respect, it’s hard to exaggerate the underwhelming significance of what Al Jazeera found. Over four episodes, Shai Masot, an Israeli employee at the London embassy was secretly filmed working closely with members of Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement. So far so unremarkable. An embassy’s task is to win friends and influence people. The fact that an embassy employee was doing this in parallel with UK based Jewish organisations opposed to BDS is no different from the legitimate activities of other embassies collaborating with UK based supporters to defend their country and promote its interests – unless, it would appear, that lobbying is in support of the world’s only Jewish state to protect it against a boycott of Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions, pension funds to divest from the Israeli state and companies, ending military trade and free-trade agreements, as well as suspending Israel’s membership in international forums such as UN bodies and FIFA.  No other state is subject to such a wide range of sanctions, not even Iran or North Korea.
Al Jazeera was on firmer ground when they filmed Masot saying he wanted to ‘take down’ British MPs critical of Israel, especially when he expressed a preference for the then deputy foreign minister Alan Duncan. Clearly an employee of a foreign embassy plotting to ‘take down’ a British government minister is a very legitimate story.
Shai Masot: Al Jazeera’s Mr Big (who wasn’t)
The more so when Al Jazeera portrayed Masot as an agent of the ‘secretive’ Ministry of Strategic Affairs in Tel Aviv which had been set up to counter the BDS campaign. The picture of the MSA cloaked in Mossad-like mystique, handling from Israel a UK based ‘agent’ passing himself off as a ‘senior political officer’ at the Israeli embassy, colluding with UK based Jewish organisations was disturbing and Oborne had no doubt about what was going on: ‘This is clearly a deliberate attempt by a foreign government to interfere in the workings of British democracy and to secure the destruction of the career of a minister in the British government.’
Except that Masot was not a ‘senior’ political officer or a diplomat, neither employed by, nor answerable to, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs which anyway doesn’t employ Israelis based overseas. Nor is a professional diplomat likely to have made such a fool of himself by talking loosely about ‘taking down’ a British minister to others. And it seems that Masot was not a diplomat. According to Ha’aretz, he was an Israeli living in London who ‘used his political connections to … wangle a position as a local employee’ at a time when the embassy had been chronically short staffed, He was ranked a ‘political adviser to the Deputy Ambassador’ of Israel’s London embassy. With this ‘grand title’ for what was essentially a ‘political dogsbody’ he was said to have ‘got ideas above his paygrade.’ Masot is reported to have moved to London from Israel after trying his hand at politics as a parliamentary assistant to a Likud MP, then failing to get onto the Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic cadets’ course. Nonetheless, Al Jazeera and the Electronic Intifada’s Asa Winstanley have made much of the fact that Masot was scheduled to accompany the Israeli Minister in charge of the MSA Gilad Erdan on a visit to London to a parliamentary lunch. As for the MSA itself, no doubt it does employ ex Israeli intelligence personnel. The state has a sizeable intelligence community for obvious reasons. However, there is nothing terribly odd about a sovereign state setting up a ministry like the MSA to counter a global campaign aimed at delegitimising its very existence and which seeks to impose a uniquely draconian set of trade, cultural and sporting sanctions isolating that state from the rest of the world – unless, apparently, that state is the world’s only Jewish state.
Like Al Jazeera’s The Lobby series, The Labour Files depicted Israel as a controlling force in British Jewish life. Yet whilst the majority of British Jews are Zionists, they are also bitterly divided over Israel. What the viewer wouldn’t have known is that Al Jazeera had a unique opportunity to show this but chose not to. So successful was ‘Robin’s’ subterfuge as a Zionist activist wanting to help the JLM combat BDS, that he got himself invited to a JLM summer barbecue which he covertly filmed. ‘Much of the small talk turns to the Israeli embassy’ says Al Jazeera’s commentary, building the picture of the JLM as a de facto extension of the Israel government. Various speeches were shown promoting the JLM – except the one that would have exploded any suggestion that here was a bunch of right-wing, messianic-settler supporting Zionists, indifferent to the vicissitudes of Palestinians living under permanent occupation in the West Bank. Left on the cutting room floor was a rant by a senior JLM officer Adam Langleben against the then Israeli government: ‘It was the night that Shimon Peres died’ Langleben told me. ‘We found out that he’d died at around 10pm. What do we do to mark the passing of Shimon Peres – as a peace activist rather than a member of the Israeli Labour party? This guy “Robin” starts talking to me and I basically go on a massive rant about the current Israeli government. I accused Benjamin Netanyahu of being a warmonger, I was really nasty about the Israeli government, but I also explained how I was still a Zionist. All of that was filmed by “Robin”’. All filmed but not a frame used.
Luke Stanger: Al Jazeera’s Moustachioed Villain
So, when Al Jazeera returned to the fray in support of Jeremy Corbyn in the autumn of 2022 with The Labour Files series, it was no surprise to see a complete absence of cross examination of any witnesses, including Damian McCarthy, the barrister disbarred for dishonesty who was a star witness in Programme 1 of the series.
In few Labour strongholds during Labour’s civil war over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership
was the atmosphere more noxious than in the Brighton and Hove Labour party. And, as with any war, there have been casualties.
A young labour party member called Luke Stanger spent much of the Corbyn years exposing antisemitism in Brighton and Hove. The vengeance that has been brought on Stanger by Corbynites as a political opponent – and magnified by Al Jazeera – in my opinion crossed a line. To me, it is unthinkable that any other mainstream channel would stoop so low.
Programme 1 portrayed Stanger as so driven by his desire to name and shame Corbyn supporters he regarded as antisemitic, that he had been involved in compiling a dossier sent to McCarthy’s stepfather in 2020 which contained the most hideous death threats to McCarthy’s family, along with examples of McCarthy’s antisemitic social media posts. Worse, McCarthy claimed on Al Jazeera that the dossier had so distressed his step-father, it led to his death a month later. Stanger had neither compiled nor sent the dossier, but Al Jazeera destroyed his reputation, he lost his job and his mental health, already fragile, has suffered severely and he’s had difficulty finding work ever since.
Besides examples of McCarthy’s antisemitic tweets, the dossier also included posts of what McCarthy rightly described as ‘horrendous … awful’ screenshots of death threats to his parents. The dossier was addressed to McCarthy’s employer who happened to be his stepfather. Fighting back the tears, McCarthy told Al Jazeera that the dossier put ‘evil into our lives’ and ‘caused my pa to die.’
The dossier was, in fact, sent, not by Stanger but by Jonathan Hoffman, a Zionist activist who has been convicted of disorderly behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. The clip about the dossier that McCarthy said had caused ‘my pa to die’ came directly after commentary about Stanger thereby suggesting that not just Hoffman but also Stanger had been responsible for his stepfather’s death. That is certainly how some on social media interpreted the programme’s meaning. Here’s a sample: ‘Luke Stanger needs to be placed in a Crown Court dock and told to tell the truth or face the consequences’ … ‘Stanger should be prosecuted for his threatening behaviour’ … ‘Stanger danger is very real’ … ‘Why hasn’t Luke Stanger been locked up yet?’ and so on. Asa Winstanley also tweeted that McCarthy’s ‘father’ had ‘died not long after’ being ‘harassed … by anti-Palestinian activist Luke Stanger.’ Stanger was summarily fired from his job caring for disabled passengers at Gatwick airport.
The death threats in the dossier sent to McCarthy’s step-father were indeed ‘horrendous … awful’ because they advocated the ‘beheading’ of McCarthy’s ‘entire family’ and digging up his deceased mother’s grave in order to ‘skull f*** her’. However, it’s clear from Stanger’s private social media correspondence that I have seen, that not only did Stanger not send the dossier, he hadn’t even seen its contents before Hoffman sent it. Indeed, the evidence shows that Stanger had no idea the dossier contained the death threats and was utterly appalled when he discovered they had been included, something he only learned when he sat down to watch the programme. 
It seems entirely possible that Al Jazeera was in a position to know that Stanger would have wanted nothing to do with the death threats, however much he reviled McCarthy.
That’s because Al Jazeera’s major claim for The Labour Files is that its ‘investigative unit’ had been leaked 450 giga bytes of Labour’s disciplinary files going back years  – ‘…the largest leak of documents in British political history’ as the series repeatedly trumpeted. This raises a further question about the programme’s basic journalistic propriety: in July 2021 – a year before Al Jazeera’s Labour Files – McCarthy had complained to the Labour party that Stanger had harassed him by including the death threats in the dossier. The complaint appears to have been dismissed after Stanger’s written statement that not only had he ‘no knowledge or responsibility’ for the death threats, but that he also ‘consider(ed) (them) to be deplorable and inexcusable’.  If this letter was amongst the 450 giga bytes of disciplinary files leaked to Al Jazeera, why – as a matter of the most fundamental fairness – didn’t the programme include Stanger’s denial and revulsion at them on transmission? If they didn’t have access to the file on McCarthy’s complaint, did McCarthy not tell them it had been rejected and if not, why not? And if McCarthy didn’t tell Al Jazeera, one might reasonably ask why Al Jazeera hadn’t discovered this for themselves by doing their ‘homework’ on the man’s credibility as a witness? Once again, all of these questions were put by me to Al Jazeera, and none of them answered.
It gets yet worse. Horrendous though those death threats were, it’s questionable as to how seriously we should take McCarthy’s claim that the ‘evil’ they’d put into his family’s life had, in fact, caused his ‘Pa to die’. That’s because Al Jazeera also omitted the highly salient fact that the person who had brought these ‘horrendous … awful’ death threats into the public domain in the first place, was neither Stanger nor Hoffman, but none other than Al Jazeera’s star witness, McCarthy himself. The threats had originally been sent to McCarthy in December 2017 by someone called Phil Fisher, prompting McCarthy to share the screenshots on his Facebook page with thousands of others in various FB groups including the Labour Party Forum and Supporting Democratic Socialism. McCarthy had presumably done this to advertise to fellow anti-Zionists how extreme Fisher’s Zionism was. It’s clear that McCarthy wanted everyone to see his response, bizarre and rambling thought it was: ‘I have been threatened and abused by supporters of Israel who live in the UK. See screenshots below.’ (my emphasis) McCarthy then absurdly suggested that ‘security services such as the CIA, MI5 and Mossad’ might be behind Fisher and told his Facebook circle that his attack demonstrated that ‘Israel is so closely associated with child abuse and paedophilia.’ 
Hoffman insists the death threats were entirely incidental to his purpose in sending the dossier. Nor had he included them in order to cause distress to McCarthy’s stepfather. Hoffman says he had no idea McCarthy’s stepfather and employer were one and the same person and the fact that the latter’s name was not McCarthy but ‘John Howell’ is corroborative of that. It was McCarthy’s response to these death threats, wreathed in conspiratorial invective about Israel being ‘closely associated with child abuse and paedophilia’, and him being the victim of ‘Mossad, MI5 and the CIA’ that Hoffman was seeking to highlight to McCarthy’s employer – not the death threats themselves – along with McCarthy’s other antisemitic posts. One might have hoped Al Jazeera’s ‘Investigative Unit’, would have worked that out for themselves, irrespective of their animus to Hoffman and Stanger.
Why any reputable TV channel would indulge a witness like Damian McCarthy who is so obviously unreliable is beyond me. McCarthy’s twitter handle ‘@1swordoftruth’ was suspended in November 2020. Since October 2020, a twitter handle ‘We are the Opposition’ (@OppositionWe) has been sending out similarly venomous tweets that also associates opponents of Corbyn with paedophilia.  Keir Starmer is regularly targeted with abuse for example: ‘Starmer’s a repetitive, scripted, devious cnt’.  Starmer’s supporters are also dismissed as ‘cnts’ and ‘ponces’. McCarthy has not responded to a tweet directly accusing him of masquerading as @OppositionWe. Instead, a journalist who tweeted that accusation asking @OppositionWe what triggered his poisonous fulminations received this reply: ‘Mainly your Mum. She’s too fat for me and too rough.’  McCarthy declined to confirm or deny to me that @OppositionWe was his twitter handle. Like Al Jazeera he declined to respond to any questions at all about his conduct.
In all Al Jazeera spent almost 12 minutes targeting Stanger, culminating in the death threats sequence. In the build-up, he was portrayed by Corbyn supporters as a kind of high-level operative engaged in a conspiracy by leading UK Zionists to undermine Corbyn on behalf of a foreign state – Israel. 
In his social media efforts to expose antisemitism in Labour in Brighton and Hove, Stanger was depicted as having mercilessly harassed three middle aged female Corbyn supporters with abusive tweets and it is true that Stanger’s tweets were often belligerent. ‘Now, this isn’t the language of political discourse, and nobody could argue that it is, but that’s the kind of language that Luke Stanger uses’ said Anne Mitchell ex-Executive Committee member of Hove CLP. Her friend, the CLP’s ex Treasurer Rebecca Massey was also interviewed about Stanger. So, what kind of language did Mitchell and Massey use against him?
Both Mitchell and Massey’s social media accounts show their messaging to have been pure poison by comparison. Here’s a flavour (Massey): ‘It is all too easy to imagine Stanger as the “Heil Hitler” mobster. Block the piece of shit. Report him to Police…’; and, ‘he’s a useful idiot bleating out “antisemite” like a Dalek gone wrong …’; she described him as a ‘useful fool …’; and ‘If Hove was a village’, Stanger would be ‘the idiot’; she often portrayed him horribly as a ‘serial abuser’ of women …’; she referred to him as ‘Lurkey’ needing to ‘to take a rest from abusing women;’ over a picture of Stanger clasping the shoulder of a friend, she wrote: ‘Hmm. Have you watched #LabourFiles? You like abusers?’
Mitchell describes Stanger as ‘this utter imbecile … this stupid imbecile’; she too falsely suggested he was some kind of sexual deviant referring to him as an ‘obsessive online stalker and abuser of countless women …’; he was a ‘serial abuser of numerous women …’; he ‘has never given a thought for the women he’s relentlessly abused over the years, aided and abetted by apartheid supporting racists in @UKLabour …’
On and on Mitchell and Massey went. But none of their vituperation was shown on Al Jazeera or even alluded to. Instead, both women were portrayed as restrained civil tongued activists. Stanger was in early 20s; Mitchell and Massey were late middle-aged women, seasoned activists both. They’ve both been expelled by Labour, but Stanger has paid a much higher price, deprived of his livelihood as a consequence of the way Al Jazeera’s journalism unjustly smeared him. I asked Al Jazeera why they had not disclosed Mitchell and Masey’s social messaging. Once again, they did not respond.
Al Jazeera’s destruction of Luke Stanger’s reputation without reference to his protagonists’ grotesque portrayal of him as a deviant, imbecilic mobster, the channel’s apparent disregard for McCarthy as an unreliable witness, and the evidence that not only separated Stanger from the awful death threats sent to McCarthy’s late stepfather, but showed he was repulsed by them, was reprehensible. In my opinion, it is another example of agenda journalism, not the mainstream where Al Jazeera purports to swim.
The Labour Files’s section on Stanger seems intended to show that in the battle for control of Brighton and Hove Labour party, Corbyn-supporting anti-Zionists were the innocent victims of oppressive and abusive Zionists whilst completely ignoring the oppression and abuse heaped by anti-Zionists on a single young Zionist opponent of Corbyn, less than half their age. Yet Oborne cast as an expert commentator on all things fair and true in journalism, hails The Labour Files as a ‘landmark piece of journalism’ that will be looked back ‘in 10, 20, 30 years, as the turning point in the understanding of this issue and of the contemporary history of Britain, and the Middle East and the Labour Party’.  He and Sanders complain bitterly that the series has been largely ignored by the mainstream media because the ‘media is not interested in telling the truth anymore’. 
The series has indeed been largely ignored. To their chagrin, Sanders and Oborne have had to contend with admiring fringe agenda-driven podcasts from the likes of Alexi Sayle (‘I just tell the Board of Deputies to go and fuck themselves’) and streaming platforms like ‘Palestine Deep Dive’ hosted by an ex Al Jazeera journalist (and ex UN adviser) Mark Seddon, and ‘Not the Andrew Marr Show’ hosted by Crispin Flintoff, who was expelled from Labour last year. Rather than the mainstream media being uninterested in the ‘truth’, it might just be that it doesn’t entirely trust Al Jazeera to have told it.
The Commentators: Aaran Bastani and Justin Schlosberg
Like Sanders and Oborne, activists in the alt-Left media have also been long on lecturing the BBC about journalistic propriety. Foremost amongst them has been Aaran Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media and the JVL’s Justin Schlosberg teaching the next generation of British journalists in his role as head of media studies at Birkbeck College.
The irony of their sermons is rich. Bastani has boasted that Novara Media is a rare example of a UK media outlet that ‘cares about the truth, care(s) about facts.’ He asserts: ‘When we’ve run pieces, talking about Panorama, talking about John Ware, we’ve had so many communications from him. I don’t want to go into detail about them, but we have.’ This is completely untrue. I have complained only once to Novara Media and that was back in May 2020 when they ran the first of many articles and programmes they’ve streamed over the last three years, mostly attempting to show that the real problem with antisemitism in the Labour Party was created by the very people who exposed it on Panorama!  My complaint related to the way they misrepresented my response to an allegation about Panorama’s whistle-blowers. It was alleged that in the ten months between April 2017-February 2018, ‘there was not a single antisemitism case’ handled by Panorama’s whistle-blowers, neither suspending anyone, initiating an investigation or rejecting someone’s membership.
I told Novara’s ‘Head of Articles’ Charlotte England by email that I knew this allegation to be ‘demonstrably untrue’ because I had ‘in my possession … letters sent within this 10-month period to Labour party members notifying them both of suspension and Notice(s) of Investigation’. Novara told its readers that they had not ‘received a reply at the time of publishing.’ This was disingenuous. They had received my reply only 17 minutes after their deadline but for the next two days ignored my earnest pleas that they include it, easily done because Novara Media is an online outlet. By the time Novara did update the article to say I had responded, much of the damage was done. Readers would have assumed I had no evidence rebutting the allegation. Even when Novara did add the update, they still stuck to their line that I hadn’t disproved the allegation because I had ‘not include(d) any documentary evidence that proved his claim’ without in the same sentence pointing out that I had told them I had the documents in my possession! At no stage had Novara asked me to share the documents with them and in any case why would they expect me to do so?  The documents were obviously confidential. I assume they thought I was lying but it’s an example of how agenda journalism seems to strain every sinew in pursuit of a point. But whatever you want to call this kind of journalism, it was not an example of a media outlet that puts a premium on ‘facts and truth’ as Aaron Bastani claims.
Throughout this argument over the mainstream media’s coverage of of Corbyn, BBC, Richard Sanders, Peter Oborne and Justin Schlosberg have had a lot to say about the importance of fair and rigorous journalism. Somehow that acute moral imperative appeared to desert them in their opening salvo against Panorama in 2020.
An article co-authored by this trio for Open Democracy accurately reported: ‘Ofcom (the broadcasting regulator) also rejected complaints against the programme [i.e. Panorama: JW], judging it to have been “duly impartial.”’ Omitted, however, was the highly relevant fact that Ofcom’s rejection had just been challenged in the high court by one of the three authors, Justin Schlosberg, and that his challenge had been roundly dismissed as hopeless. The judge said it came ‘nowhere near reaching’ the required evidential threshold. 
An earlier draft of their Open Democracy article which was passed to me revealed that they’d struck out any reference to the challenge to Ofcom’s verdict. The draft shows a strike through the line referring to the challenge with the tracking note: ‘Peter suggests we cut.’ So it was cut. But why would journalists ‘interested’ in just ‘telling the truth’ withhold from the public the fact that one of them had just been humiliated in the courts trying to prove his case against the programme? Was it because the BBC and Ofcom had roundly defeated Schlosberg’s challenge, blowing the £25,900 he’d sought from his Crowdfunders who’d parted with their money in good faith to fund the litigation? The published article made no reference to Schlosberg’s challenge against Ofcom or that fact that it had failed decisively, or even that it had failed at all.
Sanders meanwhile, has said that even the anti-Zionist Jews he admires in the JVL are ‘effectively’ being told that they ‘cannot speak’ unless they ‘share’ both the mainstream Jewish Labour Movement and ‘Starmer’s view of the state of Israel.’  Beyond knowing that Starmer is a Zionist, I don’t know what his view of Israel actually is, but I can imagine that like the vast majority of Jews in the JLM, he abhors the right-wing Netanyahu government with anti-Arab racists in his cabinet and its ‘reforms’ that have precipitated so much civil unrest because they risk turning the world’s only Jewish state from a democracy to an autocracy more closely resembling its neighbours.
But Starmer also knows how easily the impassioned anti-Zionism espoused by the likes of JVL and Al Jazeera breathes life into antisemitism, whilst Al Jazeera and the Corbynite alt-media believe far too little life has been breathed into their journalism on this subject. ‘The Labour Files’ is ‘clearly not going to get any amplification from the mainstream media’ sighs a despondent Sanders. ‘The British media seem to be paying no attention to this at all’ sighed a dejected ex-Al Jazeera journalist Mark Seddon, hosting Sanders and Oborne on his TV streaming platform, Palestine Deep Dive. ‘This is a collapse in the principles and standards which the great media figures of the last century, great journalists have always stood for,’ declared the maverick ex Tory commentator Peter Oborne, now rather revered by Corbynites. ‘We stand up for the underdog and we challenge power.’ He thinks the British media needs to ‘look deep into its soul’. Oborne, having looked deeply into his own soul since joining Middle East Eye, now finds that ‘it wasn’t Corbyn who was slack at dealing with the antisemitism issue’ after all.
Andrew Murray Breaks Ranks
What does seem clear is that Jeremy Corbyn underestimated the true scale of Labour’s antisemitism problem by failing to dispassionately interrogate the anguish and insecurity it triggered within the mainstream Jewish community. Don’t take it from me but from a few of those who worked closely with Corbyn himself and tried hard to get him into Number Ten. Certainly, some of the criticism of Corbyn was well over the top (Oborne’s in 2018 for a start!) – that’s what political opponents do. But antisemitism ‘constructed … manufactured … concocted’ as Asa Winstanley has it, or even just ‘dramatically overstated’ as Corbyn puts it? Not according to Andrew Murray who left the Communist Party of Britain and become one of Corbyn’s closest advisers. Murray earned the grudging respect of some in the Jewish Labour Movement (as did his daughter Laura) because over time they both demonstrated a clear grasp of the nuances of antisemitism on the Left. ‘I saw too much evidence of antisemitic attitudes, sometimes inadvertent ones,’ he says. ‘When 85 per cent of Jewish people feel there is a problem, there is a problem, no avoiding it.’ Corbynism, he says, was not defeated by ‘conspiracies in the common sense of the world. It was defeated by the class enemy, and its own mistakes contributed to that significantly.’ And one of its biggest failures was ‘a simple failure to listen’ to the mainstream Jewish community and other non-partisan players with no axe to grind.  Or, as another prominent former Corbyn supporter, the commentator Paul Mason recently put it: ‘Corbynism destroyed itself.’ He was commenting on the latest attempt to rewrite history, yet another activist agenda driven piece of journalism, a documentary aptly called ‘The Big Lie.’
At the heart this argument over which of us – the BBC or Al Jazeera and its disciples – has got closer to the truth of the antisemitism crisis lies another truth, which turns out to be just about the only one we do agree on: the argument is fundamentally about the definition of antisemitism. Where we disagree is the point at which anti-Zionism kindles the many anti-Jewish tropes that have incomprehensibly smouldered since ancient times. Either you are someone who instinctively senses when words and actions arouse within a Jew a reminder that their painful history of ‘otherness’ persists, or you’re not. When it comes to criticising Israel, either you are someone who strives to make your case, passionately, vehemently if that is how you feel, but using language that avoids pressing those buttons. The same applies to anti Muslim prejudice and the trick is to ask yourself: how would you feel if you were them? Finding the right language is not difficult.
Al Jazeera’s Labour Files fails that test. For implicit in its overarching narrative is that Jeremy Corbyn could have become Britain’s first non-Zionist prime minister -but for the ‘stab in the back’ by Jews in concert with right wing party ‘operatives’.
It kindles those antisemitic embers because it completely ignores Jeremy Corbyn’s multiple leadership flaws. He started out as the most reluctant leadership candidate in Labour’s history. When told by colleagues in 2015 that he’d won a place on the leadership ballot, Corbyn replied: ‘You’d better make fucking sure I don’t get elected.’ Perhaps deep down he knew his limitations, even if those doubts receded as he warmed to the adulation of ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ chants that sometimes greeted him.
The ’stab in the back’ version of history turns truth on its head. It embodies the myth that the antisemitism crisis was concocted, cynically weaponised, or anyway exaggerated for the preeminent purpose of denying Corbyn office. It is a repellent delusion, and it has poisoned Left wing politics for a generation. Corbyn lost the 2019 election because he was not seen as a credible leader. In so far as Labour’s antisemitism crisis contributed to that failure, Corbyn’s worthy public condemnations about the evil of antisemitism and the need for zero tolerance, failed to convince the decent people of this country that he was capable of delivering an antidote to this resilient virus, just as he failed to convince the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The electorate may not have been conscious of all the virus’s contemporary variants, but they knew it was again resurgent and they also knew from history how contagious it can be. They simply didn’t want to be responsible for enabling its proliferation.
 Judgment by Mrs Justice Steyn after a trial of preliminary issues Ware v Wimborne Idriss and JVL 21 August 2021.
 Paddy French crowdfunder 24 June 2022: ‘This case provides a unique opportunity for the issue of anti-Semitism in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to be explored in a forensic setting’.
 The Labour Files programme 2, pre title commentary: ‘In Episode Two, the true story behind the Labour Party’s antisemitism crisis’.
 ‘The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014–2019’ p. 441.
 Richard Sanders: ‘I have a lot of admiration for them. And I think they are very brave people who have been treated appallingly.’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv0a0Oqthf8
 John Ware interview with ex LOTO member: 2 September 2022.
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.’
 Professor Francis Nicosia, Zionism and Anti-Semitism, Cambridge University Press, 2008
 Written evidence of Emilie Oldknow submitted to the statutory investigation into Labour by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on 2 August 2019.
 Response from James Schneider on behalf of Jeremy Corbyn 8 September 2020.
 Al Jazeera response included only the line ‘The BBC told us it stands by its reporting that members of Mr Corbyn’s office interfered in antisemitism disciplinary cases.’ Al Jazeera omitted the rest of the BBC’s response: ‘… as confirmed by the findings of the formal investigation carried out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission under the terms of the Equality Act, and also by the inquiry commissioned by the Labour Party chaired by Martin Forde KC whose report found such interference “most notably in relation to cases which involved allies of Jeremy Corbyn.” We also note that last October Mr Forde wrote to our reporter John Ware to say he was “at a loss” to understand why his report could be “construed as causing reputational damage to you or the Corporation.”’
 Forde report p. 98: ‘Enquiries of the Party reveal that in 2016 there were over 5,000 unresolved complaints in the disciplinary process, of which almost 3 in 10 were allegations of antisemitism.’ https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/The-Forde-Report.pdf
 Forde report, p. 15: ‘The Leaked Report’s relatively young and inexperienced authors were left to compile the Leaked Report with seemingly very little supervision from more senior staff … The final draft of some 460 pages was circulated to senior staff too late to be comprehensively reviewed in advance of the EHRC deadline. On 22 March 2020, the eve of the deadline, the Party’s external legal team advised against submitting the Leaked ed Report to the EHRC, and that advice was accepted. Following that decision, senior staff authorised the authors to continue working on the Leaked Report so that it could be used for internal purposes. On 29 March 2020, a penultimate 851-page version, and then a final 860-page version were prepared.’
 Forde report Op Cit. p. 15.
 The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014–2019, p. 11.
 The Forde Report Op Cit p. 25.
 Forde report Op Cit. p. 21.
 Forde report Op Cit. A4.8.
 Transcript of Westerman interview with Helen Marks, 13 November 2016: https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/app/uploads/2019/09/APPENDIX-9-%E2%80%93-Labour-Party-Compliance-Unit-interview-with-Helen-Marks-Riverside-CLP.pdf
 Episode 3 Podcast, The Labour Files: https://www.ajiunit.com/investigation/the-labour-files/
 The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019, p.232.
 For example: https://twitter.com/shornKOOMINS/status/1636348524244631555
 John Ware & Panorama Whistleblowers Statements In Open Court, 22 July 2020.
 The Labour Files Programme 2.
 Howe & Co letter to Patron Law, 23 December 2019.
 Patron Law letter to Howe & Co, 29 January 2020.
 Howe & Co letter to Patron Law, 29 June 2020
 Al Jazeera Podcast, Episode 3. https://www.ajiunit.com/investigation/the-labour-files/
The Labour Files Programme 1. Damian McCarthy: ‘I am (sighs) not an anti-Semite. I absolutely detest that allegation. It is completely an utterly untruthful. I’m an antiracist. I’m proud to be an antiracist.’
 Evidence from Gnasher Jew supplied on 21 November 2022; see also https://www.thejc.com/news/news/secret-hate-account-of-key-al-jazeera-documentary-witness-7yXAHeLWsg6VLN13OJu84j
 Peter Oborne, Part 4 The Lobby: ‘If you were trying to fool the British people, by setting up a front organisation which masquerades or says that it is genuine friends of Israel, but actually is run from Tel Aviv, that’s troubling. Just imagine it as being sort of apparently spontaneous pro-Iranian organisation in Britain and it turned out that it was run from Tehran or inspired by Tehran. That would be outrageous.’
 Confidential source.
 Asa Winstanley book promotional film: https://www.orbooks.com/catalog/weaponising-anti-semitism/
 Alan Langleben, note to JW, 24 June 2022.
 Luke Stanger, WhatsApp to confidential source, 27 September 2022.
 Luke Stanger letter to Labour party in response to complaint from Damian McCarthy, 13 July 2021.
 https://twitter.com/oppositionwe?lang=en-GB “Joined October 2020”
 Tweet dated 7 April 2023 has been deleted, although other McCarthy tweets referring to ‘cnts’ are still live.
 Tweet @OppositionWe 19:13 14/04/2023.
 Email to McCarthy 6 September 2023:
Dear Mr McCarthy,
I refer to Programme 1 in Al Jazeera’s The Labour Files series transmitted on 23 September 2022 and your role in it. May I ask you to respond to the following questions (in bold) so that I may accommodate your responses in an article I am preparing that references the programme:
- During the preparation of Al Jazeera’s “Labour Files” series, did you at any stage inform any member of the production team that you had used the twitter handle @1swordoftruth?
- Alternatively, to your knowledge, was the producer/researcher(s) aware of this fact?
- Is @OppositionWe also your twitter handle? I have reason to believe it is, but seek your comment.
- In July 2021 (or thereabouts) you made an official complaint to the Labour Party about Luke Stanger. You referred to a dossier containing grotesque comments about your family which Jonathan Hoffman sent to your employer, John Howell in April 2020. Mr Stanger was asked if he had:
- i) Created the dossier
- ii) Sent the dossier to any employee of Nationwide Employment Lawyers Ltd
iii) If he was aware that the dossier contained the following statements about your mother and Mr Howell’s wife:
- “Even if she [Mr McCarthy’s mother] is dead (which I hope she is) we can still dig her up and skull fuck her.”
- “I support the beheading of your entire family.”
Were you aware that in his response to those three questions, Mr Stanger had written the following to the Labour party (on 16 July 2021) :
15-16-17: “… The dossier was sent by Jonathan Hoffman, formerly a senior figure in the Board of Deputies. I had no involvement in the dossier’s creation nor its contents. The dossier sent by Jonathan Hoffman is exhibited in items 13-18. Jonathan Hoffman harbours many views that I passionately disagree with, as a left-winger. However, we have worked together on occasions, through our mutual involvement in Labour Against Antisemitism, (LAAS) who Jonathan Hoffman is a consultant to, and I am a periodic/occasional volunteer for.
19-20: I have never attempted to make contact with Mr John Howell. I had no prior awareness of Mr Howell being Mr McCarthy’s Father-in-Law, until I read your email.
21: Jonathan Hoffman’s dossier contained no such statements. I have no knowledge or responsibility for these statements which I consider to be deplorable and inexcusable. It is noteworthy that Mr McCarthy last year reported me to Sussex Police on the basis of having made such statements. Sussex Police dismissed the matter when they discovered that I had never made such vile statements.”
- If you were aware…
- i) of Mr Stanger disowning the death threats in the dossier as “deplorable and inexcusable” and “vile”
- ii) his denial that he had sent the dossier or had any involvement in its creation
iii) his denial that he ever attempted to contact John Howell
- iv) his denial that Mr McCarthy was in any way related to Mr Howell
… did you at any stage make any of the above clear to any member of the Al Jazeera production team, and if so what, and to whom?
Please acknowledge receipt of this email. If you wish to respond, may I ask you to do so by close of play on 12 September.
 ‘Who is backing Luke Stanger?’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=Fbvucx2sWr8&t=664s
Rebecca Massey: ‘Pamela (Fitzpatrick) has raised a very important question as to who is paying for this (letter from Mishcon de Reya to “Not the Andrew Marr Show”). I have looked at Luke Stanger’s twitter feed this morning where he said I have instructed my lawyers and they will be sending a letter. Now this person as far as I know has had a little job at McDonalds, he’s now working on the floor at Gatwick airport, he doesn’t come from a wealthy family as far as I know, so there is a very big question about: who is funding this? And I had a little think about what has happened to him along the way. Because the abuse that I was receiving online became intolerable I reported Luke Stanger a number of times to Sussex Police. My understanding from the Police is that he was interviewed by the Police. He was told the distress he was causing his victims. And just stop. But of course, it went on, it went on. And eventually the final time I reported further abuse to the Police, Luke Stanger had a solicitor, a man called Daniel Berke write a letter to Sussex Police on his behalf pointing out why in the solicitor’s view he hadn’t crossed the sort of legal threshold. So, I looked up Daniel Berke and he works for a solicitor’s firm in Manchester. And from what I can find from googling him, he is the Chair of the Zionist Central Council of Greater Manchester. And he is a director of UK Lawyers for Israel. So some solicitor in Manchester wrote to Sussex Police on behalf of Luke Stanger. As you’ve mentioned we’ve now got the involvement of a massive law firm, Mischon de Reya and it was also shown in the Al Jazeera programme, the letter that Mischon de Reya had written, I believe once Luke Stanger had been expelled by the Labour Party and I think that letter was to aid his, the expulsion not being carried out – I may have the timeline wrong there. We have Luke Akehurst, director of “We Believe in Israel” writing letters for him. We have my MP and Stanger’s MP Peter Kyle writing a reference for Stanger; Peter Kyle is Vice Chair of Labour Friends of Israel; I would also say, like Pamela, I’ve got other documents including letters from my MP that were not touched on in the programme but I’ve seen them; erm; I also know that Stanger is close to Sussex Friends of Israel, he’s posted on his twitter when he was taken on a holiday to Israel – and what word seems to keep popping up? I mean, it’s not my word. It’s actuality. And the word is Israel. So in the interests of transparency, if Mishcon de Reya are watching this: do tell us, do tell us – who’s paying your bills? Maybe it is Luke Stanger. Maybe he’s got an inheritance tucked away that we don’t know about. If you want transparency, tell us!’
Crispin Flintoff: Right, that’s a good point. That’s what Pamela was saying isn’t it Pamela …’
 Anne Mitchell (Executive Cttee, Hove Constituency Labour Party 2017-18): ‘I’m one of many women who’s been on the receiving end of Luke Stanger’s abuse over the years. He started pretty much kind of constantly and relentlessly writing abusive tweets about me, he uses words like ‘crazed, deranged, repellent rant, rancid, grandma … you filthy racist grandma … this kind of language. Now, this isn’t the language of political discourse and nobody could argue that it is, but that’s the kind of language that Luke Stanger uses.’
 Massey 21 March 2020.
 Massey 21 May 2020.
 Massey 11 June 2020.
 Massey 24 Nov 2020.
 Massey 22 Feb 2021.
 Massey: ‘Steve Smith Here’s a puzzle. The likes of Lurkey has hundreds of complaints in a big fat file in disputes. The complaints are for blatant racism, repeated abuse and harassment of members, stalking etc..’ Circa 20 July 2019.
 Massey 15 July 2020.
 Massey Circa 31 October 2022.
 Mitchell 20 May 2022.
 Mitchell 1 June 2020.
 Mitchell 2 June 2020.
 Mitchell 1 Oct (or thereabouts) 2022.
 The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014-2019, p.285. ‘From 1 April 2017 to 19 February 2018, a period of over ten months, there was not a single antisemitism case that went through GLU’s designed processes and received action (a suspension, NOI or membership rejection)’.
 JW email to Novara Media Head of Articles Charlotte England, 15.49. 190523.
 Email from Charlotte England 17 May 2020, at 13:56. She had merely asked: ‘How do you know this evidence exists? What is this evidence?’
 Judgement: THE QUEEN on the application of JUSTIN SCHLOSBERG Claimant versus OFCOM Defendant BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION Interested Party 10 June 2020.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv0a0Oqthf8; Sanders:’I have a lot of admiration for them. And I think they are very brave people who have been treated appallingly.’
 Confidential source 1 July 2023.
 Richard Sanders: ‘You know, aren’t we … in fact, we’re talking about Zionism here, that that is what the conversation should be about. And that is, that is where we have the great blind spot and we’re unable to have a frank conversation. And the great advantage of the conversation about antisemitism is while we’re talking about that, we’re not talking about Zionism.’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FE2sCVAfFU
Also: ‘This is a debate that has been couched entirely in terms of self-definition and self-determination. The IHRA definition so obviously, so brazenly deprives the Palestinian people of that right, it is quite extraordinary that that point is never made. And it’s reflective of the fact that in this debate, Palestinian voices have been absolutely excluded and side-lined in a way that again, I’m sorry, is simply racist.’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv0a0Oqthf8