Jewish Chronicle lied in reports on “Labour anti-Semitism”
|Asa Winstanley 2 December 2019|
The UK’s main press regulator has reprimanded The Jewish Chronicle for “significantly misleading” claims in reports about supposed anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
The Independent Press Standards Organization also called the newspaper’s obstruction of the investigation into a series of articles published this year “unacceptable.”
In a ruling on Friday, the press body upheld a complaint by a Labour activist named in the articles.
Audrey White is a trade unionist from Liverpool and a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn – a veteran Palestine solidarity campaigner.
The paper smeared her as being behind a “hard-left plot” and of being at “the center of bullying claims against Jewish MP Dame Louise Ellman” – then the member of Parliament for White’s Liverpool Riverside constituency.
White told The Electronic Intifada that the ruling was a damning indictment of the paper. It “reveals the origins of the false narrative that Louise Ellman was forced out of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party because she was bullied in our constituency meetings,” she said.
Labour members had no disagreement with Ellman “because of her religion, but we had real differences regarding her political views. These vile attempts to discredit party members should be exposed.”
Louise Ellman, the chairperson of Labour Friends of Israel, has for years helped drive a witch hunt against Corbyn and the party grassroots over “Labour anti-Semitism.”
White said that The Jewish Chronicle’s “falsified account of our constituency meeting fed into the narrative that Riverside CLP was anti-Semitic and that we drove a Jewish MP out of the Labour Party.”
She said that “this lie was repeated over and over again by all the mainstream media. If anyone had any decency they would admit they were wrong.”
In a now widely discredited episode of Panorama, the BBC in July put Ellman’s claims at the center of a film which portrayed Labour as an anti-Semitic party.
Ellman, for years a leading Israel lobbyist, quit Labour in October, claiming that party leader Jeremy Corbyn “is not fit to serve as our prime minister.”
The press regulator found that The Jewish Chronicle’s claim White had “repeatedly interrupted” Ellman at a local party meeting was “significantly misleading.”
In fact, the ruling acknowledges, White had only spoken in response “to an open invitation to ask questions.”
The paper’s claim that White had received a “number of formal warnings from the party over allegations of bullying” was also found to be “significantly misleading.”
But only one of the four articles ruled inaccurate had been deleted from the paper’s website as of midday on Monday. A copy of the inaccurate deleted article can be read in an online archive.
On Friday, The Jewish Chronicle published the ruling, as required.
However, the newspaper does not appear to have apologized or corrected the misleading articles, two of which remain online. One appeared in print.
The regulator also found the paper had broken its rules by refusing to correct its inaccurate and misleading claims about White multiple times, despite being informed about them.
The press regulator strongly reprimanded The Jewish Chronicle for obstructing its investigation of White’s complaint.
The ruling says the newspaper failed “on a number of occasions, to answer questions put to it” and delayed giving responses.
It slammed the paper’s conduct as “unacceptable.”
The Jewish Chronicle’s editor did not reply to a request for comment emailed to him on Friday.
The paper has a longstanding record of smears, libels and attacks against Palestinians, the Palestine solidarity movement and the wider left.
In August, it was forced to pay $60,000 in libel damages to InterPal, a British charity which aids Palestinians.
Lee Harpin, the journalist responsible for the Chronicle’s misleading stories about White, was arrested and questioned by police in 2015 over his alleged role in illegally tapping individual’s phones while he was an editor at The Mirror.
Prosecutors later decided not to pursue charges against the paper’s editors even though The Mirror admitted criminal activity had taken place.