libel payouts were a small price to pay for smearing Corbyn and
By Jonathan Cook
September 06, 2021 -- "Information
- " --" - The Jewish Chronicle, a weekly newspaper that was saved from
liquidation last year by a consortium led by a former senior
adviser to Theresa May, has been exposed as having a quite
astonishing record of journalistic failings.
Over the past three years, the Independent Press Standards
Organisation (IPSO), the misnamed and feeble “press regulator”
created by the billionaire-owned corporate media, has found the
paper to have breached its code of practice on at least 28
occasions. The weekly has also lost, or been forced to settle,
at least four libel cases over the same period.
According to Brian Cathcart, a professor of journalism at
Kingston University in London, that means one in every four or
five editions of the Chronicle has broken either the law or the
IPSO code. He
describes that, rather generously, as a “collapse of
journalistic standards” at the paper.
IPSO, led by Lord Edward Faulks, a former Conservative
minister, has repeatedly failed to launch any kind of formal
investigation into this long-term pattern of rule and
law-breaking by the Jewish Chronicle. He has also dragged his
feet in responding to calls from a group of nine individuals
maligned by the paper that IPSO urgently needs to carry out an
inquiry into the paper’s editorial standards.
Consequently, IPSO has left itself in no position to take
action against the paper, even assuming it wished to. The “press
regulator” has not fined the Chronicle – one of its powers – or
imposed any other kind of sanction. It has not insisted on
special training to end the Chronicle’s systematic editorial
failings. And the paper’s editor, Stephen Pollard, has remained
And here one needs to ask why.
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Holding the line
Cathcart’s main explanation is that IPSO, as the creature of
the billionaire press, is there to “handle” complaints – in the
sense of making them go away – rather than seriously hold the
media to account or punish its transgressions.
IPSO has never fined or sanctioned any of its member
publications since it was created seven years ago by the owners
of the corporate media to avoid the establishment of a proper
regulatory body in the wake of the Levenson public inquiry into
media abuses such as the phone hacking scandal.
The bar for launching an investigation by IPSO was
intentionally set so high – failings must be shown to be
“serious and systematic” – that the “press regulator” and its
corporate media backers assumed they would plausibly be able to
argue that no paper ever reached it.
The Chronicle has put even this sham form of regulation to
the severest test.
Cathcart argues that IPSO’s job has been to hold the line. If
it tackled the Jewish Chronicle for its serial deceptions and
character assassinations, it would risk paving the way to
similar sanctions being imposed on Rupert Murdoch’s titles.
But there is an additional reason why IPSO is so loath to
crack down on the Chronicle’s systematic editorial failings. And
that is because, from the point of view of the British
establishment, those failings were necessary and encouraged.
It is important to highlight the context for the Chronicle’s
egregious transgressions of the editors’ code of practice and
libel laws. Those fabrications and deceptions were needed
because they lay at the heart of the establishment’s campaign to
be rid of former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
The Jewish Chronicle served as the chief attack dog on Corbyn
and the Labour left, in service of an establishment represented
by the Conservative party and the long-dominant right wing of
the Labour party.
Whereas the rest of the corporate media tried to discredit
Corbyn and the Labour left with a range of early, lamentable
claims – that he was scruffy, unpatriotic, sexist, a national
security threat, a former Soviet spy – the Jewish Chronicle’s
task was more complicated but far more effective.
The paper’s role was to breathe life into the claim that
Corbyn and his supporters were anti-semites, and the paper
managed it by maliciously conflating antisemitism and the left’s
criticisms of Israel as a racist, apartheid state that oppresses
Confess or you’re guilty
The Chronicle’s job was to initiate the antisemitism libels
and lies against Corbyn and his followers that served to feed
and rationalise the fears of prominent sections of the Jewish
community. Those fears could then be cited by the rest of the
corporate media as evidence that Labour was riding roughshod
over the Jewish community’s “sensitivities”. And in turn the
Labour left’s supposed indifference to Jewish sensitivities
could be attributed to its rampant antisemitism.
It culminated in the McCarthyite claim – now being enforced
by Corbyn’s successor as Labour leader, Keir Starmer – that to
deny Labour has some especial antisemitism problem, separate
from that found more generally in British society, is itself
proof of antisemitism. Once accused of antisemitism, as the
Labour left endlessly is, one is guilty by definition – the
choice is either to confess to antisemitism or be proven an
antisemite by denying the accusation.
Like a victim caught in quicksand, the more vigorously the
Labour left has rejected claims that the party is riddled with
antisemitism the more it has sunk into the mire created by the
Jewish Chronicle and others.
It is therefore hardly surprising that so many victims of the
Chronicle’s libels and code violations are Corbyn supporters
targeted in the antisemitism witch-hunt. Without these
deceptions, the antisemitism claims against the Labour party
would have looked even more preposterous than they did to anyone
familiar with the evidence.
For those interested, here are those four recent libel cases
that went against the Chronicle:
September 2019: “The Jewish Chronicle has
paid out £50,000 in libel damages to a UK charity [Interpal]
that provides aid to Palestinians after wrongly linking it to
February 2020: “The libel settlement comes
after a UK press regulator in December ruled that the paper’s
four articles about [Labour activist Audrey] White had been
‘significantly misleading’ and that the paper had engaged in
‘unacceptable’ obstruction of their investigation.”
October 2020: “Nada al Sanjari, a school
teacher and Labour councillor, was the subject of a number of
articles published by the newspaper in 2019 that claimed she was
one of several Momentum activists responsible for inviting
another activist who the Jewish Chronicle characterised as
anti-Semitic to a Labour Party event.”
July 2021: “The publication falsely accused
[Marc] Wadsworth, in an article on its website in March, of
being part of a group of current and ex-Labour members targeting
Jewish activists in the party.”
It is not hard to spot the theme of all these smears, and
many others, which suggest that those in solidarity with
Palestinians under Israeli oppression,
including Jews, are antisemites or guilty of supporting
Saved from liquidation
Remember, the 28 IPSO code violations – media euphemism for
fabrications and deceptions – are only the tip of the iceberg.
It is almost certain that many of those maligned by the
Chronicle did not have the time, energy or resources to pursue
the weekly paper either through the pointless IPSO “regulation”
process or through extremely costly law courts.
And remember too that IPSO found against the Chronicle for
breaching its code at least 28 times, even though that code was
designed to give IPSO’s member publications every possible
benefit of the doubt. IPSO has no incentive to highlight its
members’ failings, especially when it was set up to provide the
government with a pretext for not creating a truly independent
The reality is that the 180-year-old Jewish Chronicle, or JC
as it has remodelled itself, would have gone out of business
some time ago had it not been twice saved from liquidation by
powerful, establishment figures.
It avoided closure in 2019 after it was
bailed out by “community-minded individuals, families and
charitable trusts” following massive losses. The identities of
those donors were not disclosed.
At the time Stephen Pollard highlighted his paper’s crucial
role: “There’s certainly been a huge need for the journalism
that the JC does in especially looking at the anti-Semitism in
the Labour party and elsewhere.”
Consortium of investors
Then only a year later the Chronicle had to be
rescued again, this time by a shadowy consortium of
investors who promised to pump in millions to keep the paper
afloat and reimburse those who had donated the previous year.
Why these financiers appear so committed to a paper with
proven systematic editorial failings, and which continues to be
headed by the same editor who has overseen those serious
failings for years, was underscored at the time by Alan Jacobs,
the paper’s departing chairman.
observed that the donors who bailed out the paper in 2019
“can be proud that their combined generosity allowed the JC to
survive long enough to help to see off Jeremy Corbyn and
friends, one of the greatest threats to face British Jewry in
the JC’s existence.”
Corbyn had lost the general election to a Conservative party
led by Boris Johnson later that same year.
The public face of last year’s consortium was Sir Robbie
Gibb, a former BBC executive and a longtime ally of figures on
the Conservative right. He served as Theresa May’s spin doctor
when she was prime minister. He was also an early adviser to GB
News, a recent attempt to replicate the overtly rightwing Fox
News channel in the UK.
Other visible consortium members are associated with the
antisemitism campaign against Corbyn. They include former
rightwing Labour MP John Woodcock, who
cited antisemitism as his reason for quitting the party
after it had begun investigating him for sending inappropriate
messages to a female staff member.
Another is Jonathan Sacerdoti, a regular “analyst” on the
BBC, ITV and Ch4 who previously served as a spokesperson for the
Campaign Against Antisemitism, a
lobby group set up back in 2014 specifically to discredit
critics of Israel as antisemites.
And then there is John Ware, a former Sun
journalist turned BBC reporter who fronted probably the single
most damaging programme on Corbyn. An hour-long Panorama
“special” accusing Labour of antisemitism was deeply flawed,
misleading and failed to acknowledge that several unnamed
figures it interviewed were also pro-Israel lobbyists.
It would probably be unwise for me to say more about Ware or
his publicly stated views on Muslims, shared by the Jewish
Chronicle, because he has recently become
litigious. He apparently has deep pockets, helping to fund
both the rescue of the Chronicle and law suits against critics.
But the exceptional indulgence of the Jewish Chronicle, both
by IPSO and prominent figures in broadcasting, and the paper’s
continuing credibility as a source of news for the wider
corporate media, indicates how the antisemitism narrative about
Labour served, and continues to serve, the British
Represented politically by the Conservative party and the
Labour right, that establishment was able to reassert its cosy
parliamentary duopoly by ousting any meaningful challenge from
the Labour left. With Corbyn gone, the threat of real politics
has disappeared. We are back to one-party, corporate rule under
the guise of two parties.
Which is why IPSO cannot take any meaningful action against
the Jewish Chronicle. To do so would pull the rug from under the
antisemitism narrative that destroyed Corbyn and is now being
used by his successor, Starmer, to
purge Labour of the remnants of the left and to distance the
party as far as possible from any
lingering signs of
Exposure of the Jewish
Chronicle as an editorial wrecking ball aimed at the left would
show just how much the paper and the antisemitism narrative it
bolstered were key to the Conservative party’s successful
smearing of Corbyn that helped to keep him out of Number 10. It
would highlight the enduring collusion between the corporate
media and the political elite.
And it would indicate
that corporate media is not really an exercise in capitalist,
free-market economics, where profitable outlets drive out those
that are unpopular. Rather loss-making corporate media such as
the Jewish Chronicle are a price the establishment is only too
happy to bear as long as those publications fulfil a more
important purpose: ensuring that the political and economic
climate remains favourable to the ruling class.
The Jewish Chronicle
has played its part in destroying Corbyn and the left. Now it
will continue that role by policing the public discourse and
ensuring that no one like Corbyn ever gets near power again.
Those libel payouts were a small price to pay.
is a Nazareth- based journalist and winner of the Martha
Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. No one pays him
to write these blog posts. If you appreciated it, please
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