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With Panorama's Hatchet Job on Labour Antisemitism BBC has become the Tory's attack dog

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Score-settling may make for lively TV, but it is execrable journalism.

As a public service broadcaster, the BBC is subject to an editorial policy requiring it to be impartial. Its guidelines also state that audiences should not be able to infer "the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on 'controversial subjects' in any other area."

But the fact that Panorama made no attempt at even-handedness or fairness in its programme on Labour should have come as no surprise. The man in charge of the investigation was John Ware, a former Sun journalist. He cannot be considered dispassionate either about Corbyn or the prospects of Labour defeating the Conservative Party at a general election, which may be just around the corner.

Strident supporter of Israel

Two years ago, Ware wrote a lengthy article for a right-wing magazine warning of the danger of Corbyn reaching power. He was a politician, wrote Ware, "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".

Shortly after Corbyn's leadership election victory in 2015, Ware headed a Panorama documentary that sought to malign the new leader.

Ware is also a strident supporter of Israel and of its state ideology, Zionism. In a 2005 edition of Panorama he suggested that Muslims in Britain who spoke out about Israel's crimes against Palestinians were "extremists".

In an article in the Jewish Chronicle last year Ware concluded that anti-Zionism had "morphed into anti-Semitism itself a Corbyn legacy".

But that claim that criticism of Israel is equivalent to antisemitism needed to be interrogated rather than, as it was, assumed to be true by the Panorama special. It lies at the heart of both the split between the right and left wings of Labour, and the divisions within Labour's Jewish membership.

'Witch-hunt against Muslims'

Equally disturbing is Ware's apparent view that some kinds of racism matter far more than others. This appears to be what he means by "British values".

While he has repeatedly expressed concern about criticism of Israel, and has himself conflated it with antisemitism, his work has shown an apparent indulgence of Islamophobia. Over nearly two decades Ware has produced reports for the BBC that have antagonised Britain's Muslim community.

In 2003 David Blunkett, Labour's home secretary of the time and no ally of Corbyn's, compared a programme by Ware on asylum seekers to the notoriously racist hate speech of Enoch Powell back in the 1960s.

Two years later the Muslim Council of Britain accused a Panorama documentary headed by Ware of amounting to a "witch-hunt against British Muslims".

Islamophobia 'rational'

In 2013 Ware claimed that Islamophobia, or what he called the "I-word", was stopping people though not himself, it seems from talking about Muslim "extremism". Ware argued that Islamophobia, unlike antisemitism, was rational and justified or in his words, hatred of Muslims was simply "reactive".

He wrote in the Jewish Chronicle newspaper: "It is surely Muslim radicals who have brought it [anti-Muslim bigotry] on their fellow Muslims by their promotion of Islam as a political ideology, and by invoking Islamophobia to close down criticism of this ideology."

Imagine how that would sound if one replaces "radical Muslims", "political Islam" and "Islamophobia" with the equivalents of "Israel zealots", "hardline Zionism" and "anti-semitism". Let's try it:

"It is surely Israel zealots who have brought it [anti-Jewish bigotry] on their fellow Jews by their promotion of hardline Zionism as a political ideology, and by invoking anti-semitism to close down criticism of this ideology."

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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