Tony Greenstein takes apart the BBC’s Panorama programme Is Labour anti-Semitic? providing the Right wing, racist and Islamophobic background of its producer, John Ware and highlighting the tendentious biased techniques used in its production.
BBC’S WAR ON CORBYN
As John Pilger has long argued, the BBC is the most refined propaganda service in the world.1 Its reputation for ‘impartiality’ is what has helped make it so effective.
However, the BBC was born in the womb of the British state. In 1926 Lord Reith, its first director-general, banned the Archbishop of Canterbury from broadcasting an appeal for compromise in the General Strike.2 The ruling class was determined to defeat the unions and they did not want any such messages. At Orgreave during the miners’ Great Strike of 1984-85 the BBC deliberately reversed the order of its footage, showing miners throwing stones and police baton-charging them, so as to make it appear that the police were responding to miners’ violence rather than the miners responding to police brutality.3
For 20 years, despite commissioning it, the BBC refused to show The War Game on the horrors of nuclear war.4 Apparently it would “undermine morale” for people to see what would happen to them in a nuclear war. The BBC used MI5 to vet members of staff. Until The Daily Telegraph ferreted it out under the Freedom of Information Act it simply lied and denied that this was happening.5
It should not be a surprise then that the BBC has joined enthusiastically in the campaign to remove the only genuinely leftwing leader the Labour Party has ever had. That is the context for Panorama’s Is Labour Anti-Semitic? programme screened on July 10. The answer to this, of course, was never in doubt. For Panorama it really was a rhetorical question.
However, it needs to be said that Jeremy Corbyn and much of the Labour left have brought the ‘anti-Semitism’ problem on themselves. It was obvious from the start that this was a state-directed campaign of destabilisation that had nothing to do with anti-Jewish prejudice. You only had to look at the main protagonists – the Daily Mail and other Tory tabloids – anti-racists none. Then there was the evidence provided by the Al Jazeera programme The lobby.6 Anyone with any understanding of similar political destabilisation in South America must have known what the ruling class is capable of.
It was also obvious that the attempt to pervert the conclusions of the 1999 Macpherson inquiry into police racism – by suggesting that ‘victims’ of anti-Semitism would be the judge and jury in deciding the ‘guilt’ of their attackers – could only but help open the way for false claims. Corbyn and his director of strategy, Seumas Milne, both knew that supporters of Israel have a long history of equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Yet despite this Corbyn unilaterally accepted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism – truly Corbyn made a rod for his own back. This opened the doors to the excrescence of the ruling class, such as the presenter of ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic?’, John Ware.
One you concede your opponents’ arguments, you are left arguing over the extent of the ‘problem’. Corbyn’s promise to do better is like a man running upstairs on a downward escalator. However hard you run, you can never escape. This is a nightmare of Corbyn’s own making, because it should have been obvious from the start that the only solution acceptable to the Zionists was Corbyn’s own resignation.
Panorama went overboard on July 10 with an unrelenting barrage of propaganda. Allegations were treated as fact, however outlandish. There was no attempt to provide any background or context to those making the allegations nor was there any attempt by Ware to cross-examine them.
It is no wonder that the BBC has sent a standard response to all the many complaints it has received, refusing to answer any specific points. Indeed, so awful and one-sided was it that only the likes of Tom Watson, Labour’s racist deputy leader, could take any solace from it. You could not hang a cat on the ‘evidence’ provided. The programme did not even bother to hide its intention to mislead and deceive viewers.
The BBC’s interest in ‘anti-Semitism’ stands in sharp contrast to its studied disinterest in other forms of racism. Windrush has barely featured in its schedules, with just one investigatory programme.7There has been no attempt to discern what has happened and why, despite hundreds of black British citizens having been deported – some ending up dying penniless in the West Indies.
There has been no witch-hunt of Theresa May – the home secretary responsible for the “hostile environment” policy (which, let us not forget, New Labour under Alan Johnson inaugurated).8 According to former head of the civil service Sir Bob Kerslake, it was seen by some Tory ministers as “almost reminiscent of Nazi Germany”.9
Can you imagine Panorama doing a programme on Tory attitudes to migrants and asking whether or not people thought that Theresa May was a racist? Has it even asked this question of Boris Johnson, given his well known remarks about black people being “piccaninnies” and having “water melon smiles”?10 Yet the question Ware repeatedly asked was ‘Is Labour anti-Semitic?’: the only form of racism the BBC and the Labour right is interested in is ‘anti-Semitism’.
The left bears a great deal of responsibility for this. In a racist society people will have racist ideas in their heads. To believe that you will eliminate racism by monitoring social media posts is crass. Racism is not about the ideas in people’s heads, but what happens in practice. That is why those on the Labour right who endorsed the “hostile environment” policy and thus Windrush are the same people who claim to be ‘concerned’ about Labour’s anti-Semitism.
British Jews live in a golden age. No British Jews have been subject to deportation or police violence – nor had their encampments evicted by hundreds of police thugs, as happened at Dale Farm in 2011 and happens continually to travellers. Anti-Semitism has become the false anti-racism of the right. That is why the BBC has fallen over itself to accommodate itself to an ‘anti-racism’ whose purpose is to uphold racism – in Israel. Given that Islamophobia is four times as prevalent as anti-Semitism, and that anti-gypsy feelings are over six times as common,11 the BBC’s concentration on anti-Semitism raises obvious questions.
At no time did Panorama even ask the question in the programme title: i.e. whether or not the Labour Party was “anti-Semitic”. This was taken as given – and no attempt was made to define what that question meant. For example, is the Corbyn leadership attempting to actually foster anti-Jewish hatred within the party or is anti-Semitic prejudice somehow ‘institutional’ (e.g. part of Labour’s standard procedures)?
I was braced for the bias that we have come to expect from the BBC, but even so the relentless exclusion by John Ware of any sliver of evidence that the case for Labour anti-Semitism might have been overegged was astonishing.
Just one example of Ware’s lies was when he claimed that, “Corbyn campaigned to allow a notoriously anti-Semitic preacher, Raed Salah, into Britain, who had called Jews the ‘germs of all time’ and blamed them for 9/11.”
This was a litany of falsehoods. Salah was already here and Corbyn campaigned against his deportation. The allegations of anti-Semitism against him were shown in court proceedings to be untrue. It was alleged that Salah had made a series of anti-Semitic statements in sermons and a poem, but in reality Theresa May was “determined to find a reason to exclude him, before the evidence against him had been verified”.12 This was despite the fact that she had been warned that the case against Salah was very weak.
All four charges were thrown out by the vice-president of the Upper Immigration Tribunal, Justice Mark Ockelton, who ruled that May “was misled as to the terms of the poem written by the appellant – a matter on which there is now no room for dispute”. May’s officials had relied on a version of Salah’s poem published in the Jerusalem Post in 2009, which the Zionist Community Security Trust had produced. The words ‘You Jews’ had been inserted into it to make it appear anti-Semitic.
According to David Hearst, writing on The Guardian’s Comment Is Free website, “The principal source for the decision to ban him, according to witnesses who testified in court for the home office, was a report compiled by the CST [Community Security Trust].”13
This is the same CST whose deputy director, Dave Rich, was one of two expert witnesses. Raed Salah wrote:
The evidence she [May] relied on (which included a poem of mine which had been doctored to make it appear anti-Jewish) was not, he [Justice Ockelton] concluded, a fair portrayal of my views. In reality, I reject any and every form of racism, including anti-Semitism.14
Salah went on to write, prophetically:
I have no doubt that, despite this, Israel’s cheerleaders in Britain will continue to smear my character. This is the price every Palestinian leader and campaigner is forced to pay.
John Ware is one of those “cheerleaders”. It seems that Ware got his information on this from Wikipedia!
The average viewer would assume that those making the allegations of anti-Semitism were ordinary members of the Labour Party with no connection with each other or grudge to bear, bar the fact that they were Jewish. It would no doubt come as a surprise to people to learn that all those making complaints were not only members of the same Zionist group, the Jewish Labour Movement – which had been refounded in 2015 specifically to oust Corbyn – but they were also JLM officers.15 This is what is called a ‘put-up job’. Those falsely accused of crimes usually call it a frame-up.
It is crystal-clear that the BBC deliberately hid the fact that those who were interviewed were officers in the JLM – a pro-Israel group, which is affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation. The BBC therefore engaged in a carefully calculated act of deception. Equally the BBC made no approaches to any anti-Zionist Jews or organisations such as the anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Labour.
Those making the allegations included the following JLM officers: Stephane Savary and Joe Goldberg (joint national vice-chairs); Izzy Lenga (international); Alex Richardson (membership); Adam Langleben (campaigns); Ella Rose (equalities) and former national director Rebecca Filer (political education); and Joshua Garfield (local government). Rachel Megan Barker and Phil Rosenberg are also members of the JLM. In other words, to call it a conspiracy would be an understatement.16 The JLM is quite open about its close connections with the Israeli embassy.17
Opening the programme was Ella Rose, who was quivering with emotion, as she spoke of her horrendous – but completely vague and unsubstantiated – allegations of anti-Semitism. The average viewer would not have dreamt that this fragrant innocent had featured in The lobby, where she was seen threatening violence against Jackie Walker, whom she boasted she could “take out” using her martial-arts skills. Nor was her work in the Israeli embassy or her role as director of the Jewish Labour Movement mentioned.
Quite remarkably none of those making allegations of anti-Semitism were even captioned. Viewers would have had no idea who many of them, were still less their background. Their heartfelt testimonies had been rehearsed many times to perfection in the BBC’s studios in order to inject the right amount of pathos.
Izzy Lenga, for instance, claimed that holocaust-denial was a staple of her Labour Party meetings. No detail was provided, such as which Constituency Labour Party she was talking about. This was an obvious lie – the idea that Labour meetings would debate whether the holocaust had happened or declare that Hitler did not go far enough is pure fiction. In John Ware’s Panorama Zionists were given carte blanche to make up any allegation they saw fit, without ever once being challenged.
Already the ‘evidence’ cited in the programme has begun to come apart at the seams. Ben Westerman, who had been sent by Labour to investigate complaints of anti-Semitism in Liverpool Riverside CLP, either misheard, misunderstood or lied when he said that he had been asked during one of the six interviews he conducted if he came from Israel (he implied that this was anti-Semitic). Unfortunately for Westerman, the interview in question was recorded. He was actually asked which branch of the Labour Party he was from, not whether he was from Israel!18
The programme began with footage of the Zionist ‘Enough is Enough’ demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament. The demonstration was called in the wake of the ‘mural affair’, which had remained dormant for seven years before being pulled out of a hat by Luciana Berger.19 There was no mention of the JVL counter-demonstration or indeed the curious fact that Norman Tebbit of the ‘cricket test’ and of the sectarian Democratic Unionist Party were present, offering their support. The BBC focused on a group of far-right Zionists, which included Jonathan Hoffman and Harry Markham of the fascist Young Herut.20
Ware interviewed Kat Buckingham, the person who ‘investigated’ Brighton and Hove Labour Party when it was suspended in July 2016. The left had won all the positions on the local executive at an AGM attended by around 600 members; and the right, led by former leader Warren Morgan (now of the ‘Funny Tinge’ party – i.e. Change UK), had made allegations of spitting (!) as a pretext to have the vote annulled. When video evidence emerged demonstrating that the allegations were bogus, Buckingham simply refused to look at it, because that might breach data protection laws!
The second ‘expert witness’ was none other than Alan Johnson.21Although he is not Jewish, he is the editor of Fathom,22 the journal of the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (Bicom) – the main pro-Zionist propaganda organisation in Britain.23Curiously Ware did not see fit to mention this. Perhaps Johnson was the only academic he could find.
It was the sheer duplicity and dishonesty of those on the programme which struck me. In particular Sam Matthews, Labour’s witchfinder general, was a good actor, but that is all. Those who have had dealings with him know that he was an inveterate leaker – malicious and extremely hostile to anyone on the left. Anti-Zionism to him is the equivalent of anti-Semitism.
In The Jewish Chronicle this week Matthews claims that he was driven to the brink of suicide because he was being “asked to do things I’m fundamentally not comfortable with” by Labour officers in relation to allegations of anti-Semitism.24 He did not specify what they were. I have no doubt that this is just another piece of acting designed to elicit sympathy. In fact Matthews’ treatment of Carl Sargeant – the Welsh minister who was suspended from Labour and did actually commit suicide – has been mentioned as a contributory factor in what happened at Sargeant’s inquest.25
Mike Creighton also figured prominently in the programme. He has been around for decades in the party, though he has now retired. I have personal knowledge of just how incompetent he was through a legal action I brought against Labour.
So useless was he that when I made a ‘subject access request’ in 2016, a bundle of documents arrived (albeit a few weeks late). However, as no records were apparently kept of his having sent off anything to me, a further bundle was sent several months later. What was worse – they were sent to an address I had not lived in for two decades (it was where I lived when I was suspended from Labour for my part in the poll tax rebellion)! The reason his lawyers gave for the confusion that resulted was Creighton’s incompetence. I believe them!
What the programme did not even hint at was that far from these conscientious staff members seeking to root out anti-Semitism, what actually took place was a witch-hunt by Blairites at Labour’s HQ of members suspected of being Corbyn supporters. Thousands Daily Telegtaspjwere suspended and barred from voting.
My own experiences are an example. In March 2016 I was informed by letter that I had been suspended “for remarks you are alleged to have made”. No further information was provided and, despite repeated emails to the compliance unit, no details were forthcoming.
The next month I found out that I had been suspended as part of the fake anti-Semitism witch-hunt, when The Daily Telegraph and The Times printed stories detailing my ‘crimes’.26 I had compared Israel’s marriage laws to the Nazi Nuremburg laws and said that Israel was waiting for the holocaust victims to die, so that it could save money! If I was anti-Semitic, then so was Hannah Arendt, a refugee from Nazi Germany, who has also pointed to the discriminatory nature of Israel’s marriage laws. Likewise the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, which published an article entitled ‘Israel is waiting for its holocaust survivors to die’, was also anti-Semitic!27
If ever there was a reporter unfit to present a documentary on racism then it is John Ware – an Islamophobe and all-round reactionary.
Arzu Merali has documented how Ware’s 2005 Panorama programme, ‘A question of leadership’, attracted over 600 complaints protesting about its hostile and one-sided nature.28 One senior ex-Panorama journalist described the programme as “the most disgusting Panorama that I have ever seen. The presenter was acting like a prosecuting attorney, not a journalist.” The documentary, which dubbed all Muslims as “extremist”, was called “McCarthyite” by The Guardian’s Arzu Merali.29
Ware does not so much investigate as substitute his own prejudices for what is normally called reporting. He termed Ken Livingstone’s description of Hitler ‘supporting’ Zionism a “cranky” version of history. Since when is it a presenter’s job to pass judgement on a particular view of history? Livingstone’s phrasing was certainly clumsy, but the Nazis’ collaboration with German Zionists is a historical fact. One wonders what Ware would call the memo that the German Zionist Federation sent unsolicited, on June 21 1933, to Hitler. It can be found in Lucy Dawidowicz’s Holocaust reader:
On the foundation of the new state, which has established the principle of race … fruitful activity for the fatherland is possible. Our acknowledgement of Jewish nationality provides for a clear and sincere relationship to the German people and its national and racial realities …
Zionist historian David Cesarani wrote in The final solution; “The efforts of the Gestapo are oriented to promoting Zionism as much as possible and lending support to its efforts to promote emigration” (p96). Maybe Cesarani was also a ‘crank’. Or perhaps the crank is Ware?
He is a relic of the days of empire and the belief that we have to civilise the natives. He wrote of his “horror” that “some migrants to this country had brought with them a lot more than just their possessions”. They did not understand democracy and dissent.30One can only wonder where they got their misapprehensions on these questions from! Britain’s former colonies were not exactly models of democracy.
Racism oozes out of everything Ware writes. He describes Islam as an “ideology”, which is the argument of Tommy Robinson and the far right. Since we are told by Britain’s chief rabbi that Judaism and Zionism are intertwined, does not the same apply to Judaism?31
Ware writes of western civilisation being “based on Christianity, which enshrines individualism and freedom”. One can only wonder whether the victims of Torquemada would have agreed. Perhaps Martin Luther’s fulmination that “the Jews are our misfortune” is part of Ware’s civilisation?32 Julius Streicher emblazoned this on the masthead of the Nazi paper Der Sturmer.
Ware is of the opinion that the alternative to British values is “a diffuse mush with nothing particularly special to defend at all”. Islamophobia is just “powerful ammunition” for discrediting Prevent. But it is in the final paragraph that we understand Ware’s motivation when he lambasts the Tories, who “risk letting in a Labour leader whose entire political career has been stimulated by disdain for the west, appeasement of extremism, and who would barely understand what fighting for the revival of British values is really all about”.
This is the man who the BBC believed was the most suitable person to present a programme on ‘Labour anti-Semitism’. The Muslim Council of Britain got it right when they described Ware as “an agenda-driven, pro-Israeli polemicist”.33
Writing in The Jewish Chronicle, Ware demonstrated that not only is he an ‘expert’ on Islam, but he is also well briefed on Zionism. He opined that “any suggestion that ethnic cleansing was a principal war aim by the Jews in 1948 … is highly contested. The Jews had accepted the UN partition plan. The Arabs had not.” After all, “The Arabs’ war aim was the destruction of the Jews’ emergent state, fuelled by a religious jihad. Survival was the Jews’ war aim.”34 You will note that Ware is incapable of making any distinction between Zionists, Israelis and Jews. Ware is clearly unaware of the Israeli ‘New Historians’, such as Benny Morris or Ilan Pappé – otherwise he would not have written such junk.
In the same article Ware makes his own views crystal-clear: “So deeply into Labour’s left has anti-Zionism morphed into anti-Semitism – itself a Corbyn legacy – that Jewish Labour members are avoiding meetings.”
Self-evidently then, when Ware embarked on the Panoramaprogramme his mind had long been made up. Even New Labour’s David Blunkett once castigated Ware and Panorama’s ‘The asylum game’, which he presented, for having “repeated unchallenged” the claims of “the rightwing anti-immigration pressure group, Migration Watch”.35
In another article for The Jewish Chronicle Ware defends the notorious Islamophobe, Douglas Murray, associate director of the Henry Jackson Society36 and board member of the far-right Gatestone Institute. Gaby Hinsliffe in a review of Murray’s The strange death of Europe described how “The rightwing journalist and commentator cites Enoch Powell and wants to protect white Christian Europe from ‘outsiders’.”37
Murray wrote that he considered the term ‘Islamophobia’ to be “a meaningless idea – a crock”. He also explained the difference between anti-Semitism and what he termed authentic Islamophobia: “The former is entirely irrational, the latter reactive.” In line with this, Ware blames Muslim radicals, “who have brought it on their fellow Muslims – by their promotion of Islam as a political ideology”.
What is surprising is that if the BBC and Panorama were seriously interested in racism in British political parties – and the same goes for the Equalities and Human Rights Council, which has launched an investigation into Labour ‘anti-Semitism’ – then there is plenty of scope for a programme about the Tory Party. More than half of Conservative members questioned for a new poll believe Islam is a threat to British life.38
Socialist Worker gives the example of how, in 1987, Ware tried to discredit former army intelligence officer Colin Wallace on Panorama. Wallace – part of a black propaganda ‘psy ops’ unit in Northern Ireland – had exposed a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign against Labour prime minister Harold Wilson. “Ware claimed Wallace was a fantasist. But as investigative journalist Paul Foot wrote, Ware’s own report was riddled with obvious errors.”39
As Robin Ramsay of the Lobster magazine explained, Colin Wallace, who was framed for the murder of a man in Arundel (and later cleared), was subject to a concerted attempt at discrediting him. He was portrayed as a fantasist. But for Paul Foot’s investigation this would have stuck.
In 2015 Ware produced a precursor to the last week’s Panorama programme when he claimed that a Corbyn victory would lead to leftwing “thuggery and intimidation”.
The Socialist Worker article noted that Ware has produced a number of films attacking Muslims and Palestinians. One suggested that the Palestinian charity, Interpal, funded terrorism. Others have targeted the Muslim Council of Britain and Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend). Interpal has recently successfully sued the Daily Mail and recovered £120,000 for alleging it funds terrorism.40 Ware’s recent attacks on Mend accuse it of anti-Semitism due to its members’ criticisms of Israel.
One of the most curious aspects of Panorama was how anyone on Corbyn’s side appeared not as themselves, but with vertical lines or a grid effect superimposed on them. The effect was to make Corbyn and others appear as aliens – disembodied, not really human. This was not done with members of the JLM or members of staff: just people like Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker. This kind of cheap and tawdry special effects is symptomatic. The aim was clearly to introduce the subliminal message that they are ‘the enemy’.
In my view, Corbyn should have ‘interfered’ far more often with the work of the witch-hunters. It is the right of the Labour leader to prevent the attempts of Labour’s Blairite staff to use ‘anti-Semitism’ as a means of suspending or expelling socialists.
However, given that Corbyn denies having done any such thing, one can only marvel at how Panorama and Ware edited one such email to give a completely erroneous impression.41 According to Ware, an email from Seumas Milne to Labour staff read: “… something’s going wrong, and we’re muddling up political disputes with racism … I think going forward we need to review where and how we’re drawing the line.”
In fact Milne was responding to a request from a former Labour staff member for a view on a complaint. Milne wrote, having identified the subject of the complaint, Glyn Secker, as a “Jewish activist, the son of holocaust survivor”: “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.”
The degree of Ware’s dishonesty is staggering. The BBC is responding to the sheer volume of complaints with a standard response. It is important that people do not accept this and continue putting in their complaints.
- See www.youtube.com/watch?v=hY7o2KkfI8U&feature=youtu.be.↩︎
- ‘The war game’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_Game.↩︎
- NEC members: www.jewishlabour.uk/national_executive_committee.↩︎
- ‘Jewish Labour Movement worked with Israeli embassy spy’ Electronic Intifada April 12 2018.↩︎
- Johnny Begg’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/photo.php.↩︎
- Alan Johnson Fathom: http://fathomjournal.org/author/alan-johnson.↩︎
- www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/01/activist-who-derides-critics-as-zio-scum-re-admitted-to-labour-i; www.thetimes.co.uk/article/labour-welcomes-back-blogger-who-compares-israelis-to-nazis-r0r8b99zz.↩︎
- ‘Martin Luther and anti-Semitism’:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_and_antisemitism.↩︎
- ‘John Ware’s uncharitable Panorama in the service of Israel’, August 2 2006.↩︎
- ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s gold standard code on anti-Semitism is far from black and white’, August 2 2018.↩︎
- ‘Blunkett savages BBC in asylum row’ The Guardian July 24 2003.↩︎
- ‘Why the I-word has closed down debate on extremism’ Jewish Chronicle July 26 2013.↩︎
- See www.thecanary.co/trending/2019/07/11/last-night-the-bbc-edited-a-labour-email-and-broadcast-the-hit-job-to-millions.
This article first appeared in Weekly Worker – https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1260/bbcs-war-on-corbyn/