Under pressure from abroad, the government of Qatar has shelved an important Al Jazeera film. The TV network's investigative unit went undercover for months in the US to expose the pro-Israel Lobby. My colleagues and I at the Electronic Intifada have just released the very first clips from the film.
Despite the unit's director, Clayton Swisher, promising ten months ago that it would be broadcast "soon", the four-part film has yet to see the light of day. The film in question is a follow up to "The Lobby", which Al Jazeera broadcast last year after six months of undercover work in Britain's pro-Israel groups. That film exposed how Shai Masot, an Israeli Embassy operative, was plotting to "take down" British government ministers and MPs deemed to be critical of Israel.
The then Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, made a statement in the House of Commons about the issue; Masot was expelled from the country; and a civil servant involved in the plot was forced to step down. However, what was exposed by "The Lobby" was just the tip of the iceberg.
Although the headlines focused on the embassy's activities targeting members of the Conservative government, most of the film concentrated on Masot's work to infiltrate the Labour Party. He attempted to establish and run a "Young Labour Friends of Israel" group. This effort failed, in part because the person he recruited to run it turned out to be Al Jazeera's undercover reporter, "Robin".
Nevertheless, Masot was successful in infiltrating the Labour Party's conference in 2016, by bringing along a delegation of "young activists" from Israel. This group, from the Israeli Labour Party, was presented as having been invited by the Jewish Labour Movement, which itself is supposed to be the representative group for left-wing Jews with the Labour Party in Britain.
In reality, though, the delegation was the initiative of the embassy agent Masot. The JLM's director, Ella Rose, admitted as much in unused sections of a transcript from the film obtained by the Electronic Intifada.
One Israeli member of the delegation described herself in the film as a former "intelligence officer, a spy," and stated that Masot was "the head of the delegation." In the transcript, Rose clarified that although it had been Masot's idea, "he couldn't own it" in public. At that time, Rose herself had only recently left a job at the Israeli Embassy in London.
Despite its intimate ties to the embassy, the JLM is still very much accepted as the UK Labour Party's only official Jewish affiliate. Meanwhile, the genuinely left-wing Jewish Voice for Labour's emergence over the past year has been kept at arm's length by party leader Jeremy Corbyn, even as he embraces the same JLM which openly expresses "solidarity" with right-wing MPs in the party who are trying to overthrow him by defaming him as an "anti-Semite".
At the same time that Al Jazeera was running an undercover journalist in Britain, it had a second working undercover in the US. Word of the US filming got out. In March, Clayton Swisher wrote about how his team had approached the film's pro-Israel Lobby subjects for comment before broadcast. Hardly any of them replied, but there was a fierce push back from the Lobby. This included political efforts to have Al Jazeera registered as a "foreign agent" in the same way that Russia's RT has been listed, should the Qatari network go ahead and broadcast the film.
Noah Pollack of the Committee for Israel smearedAl Jazeera's undercover work as "a well-funded, professional espionage operation carried out by Qatar on American soil." Such smears are very much a case of projection: the pro-Israel Lobby on both sides of the Atlantic has very clear links to the state of Israel. These groups are acting not only to promote Israeli interests, but also to spy on and sabotage British and American citizens who are active in grassroots organisations working in solidarity to highlight Israel's human rights abuses against the Palestinians, and to otherwise influence the democratic process in both Washington and London.
Envious of the support that the Palestinians have been able to rally from grassroots organisations around the word, Israel has tried to manufacture what it calls an "anti-delegitimisation network". In reality, this is a reactionary astroturfing operation, aimed at fabricating an image of popular support for Israel.
Such minimal successes as it has had can only ever be a matter of delaying the inevitable. As a settler-colonial movement, Zionism has no basis of popular support. Instead, it relies on support from power elites among corporations, lawmakers and governments. Jeremy Corbyn represents their worst nightmare; a possible future Prime Minister in a powerful Western European country no longer entirely subservient to their demands. The same goes for figures like Bernie Sanders in the US.
It is understandable why Qatar has felt the pressure not to broadcast "The Lobby – US". The country is under a blockade from America's puppets in regional dictatorships, notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The tiny Gulf State has been trying to get back into Washington's good books but, in doing so, it is only proving its critics right; Al Jazeera, once a unique bastion of free speech in the region, is ultimately in hock to the ruling monarchy's foreign policy.
Ironically, one of the pro-Israel Lobby's social media organisations proclaims proudly the George Orwell maxim, "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." The government of Qatar should turn this approach against the Lobby in Washington, and ignore the pro-Israel pressure by allowing Al Jazeera's journalists to do their jobs. "The Lobby — US" should be broadcast in full without delay.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.