Al Jazeera has been cleared of breaching impartiality rules by media regulator Ofcom after complaints about its four-part documentary about pro-Israel groups in the UK, which aired earlier this year.
The Qatar-based network said it had been “vindicated” this week after regulators did not uphold four complaints about the documentary, which was called ‘The Lobby’.
Based on covert reporting by a journalist posing as a pro-Israel activist, the documentary exposed how an Israeli diplomat sought to set up political groups in the UK and even discussed “taking down” pro-Palestinian ministers and MPs.
The filming resulted in an immediate apology from Israel’s ambassador, the removal of the diplomat in question, statements of “serious concern” made by the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, and an inquiry into undue influence by foreign agents by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
Pro-Israel campaigners in the UK alleged, however, that Al Jazeera was guilty of anti-Semitism, infringement of privacy, unfair editing and bias. Ofcom rejected all four counts, saying Al Jazeera was not in breach of the Code of Conduct.
“It was the view of some complainants that ‘The Lobby’ fuelled harmful stereotypes about Jewish people controlling or seeking to control powerful organisations,” the regulator said. “These complainants considered this was anti-Semitic and offensive.”
It added: “We considered that the allegations in the programme were not made on the grounds that any of the particular individuals concerned were Jewish and noted that no claims were made relating to their faith.
“We did not consider that the programme portrayed any negative stereotypes of Jewish people as controlling or seeking to control the media or governments.
“Rather, it was our view that these individuals featured in the programme in the context of its investigation into the alleged activities of a foreign state – the state of Israel acting through its UK embassy – and their association with it.”
Ofcom added: “Complainants considered that the programme only took a one-sided view on this matter. However, we considered that the viewpoint of the Israeli government was included in the programme in a number of linked ways.”
Al Jazeera said: “We feel vindicated by the rulings and ever more committed to exposing human rights violations by anyone – regardless of geography, religion, or the power of their lobbies.”