"The Lobby," the four-part Al-Jazeera documentary that was blocked under heavy Israeli pressure shortly before its release, has been leaked online by the Chicago-based website Electronic Intifada, the French website Orient XXI and the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.
The series is an inside look over five months by an undercover reporter, armed with a hidden camera, at how the government and intelligence agencies of Israel work with U.S. domestic Jewish groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), The Israel Project and StandWithUs to spy on, smear and attack critics, especially American university students who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
It shows how the Israel lobby uses huge cash donations, often far above the U.S. legal limit, and flies hundreds of members of Congress to Israel for lavish and unpaid vacations at Israeli seaside resorts, bribing the American lawmakers to do Israel's bidding, including providing military aid such as the $38 billion (over 10 years) that was approved by Congress in 2016. It uncovers Israel's sleazy character assassination of academics, activists and journalists, its well-funded fake grassroots activism, its manipulation of press coverage, and its ham-fisted attempts to destroy marriages, personal relationships and careers.
The film highlights the efforts to discredit liberal Jews and Jewish organizations as tools of radical jihadists, referring, for example, to Jewish Voice for Peace as "Jewish Voice for Hamas" and claiming that many members of the organization are not actually Jewish. Israel recruits black South Africans into an Israeli front group called Stop Stealing My Apartheid, in a desperate effort to counter the reality of the apartheid state that Israel has constructed.
The series documents Israel's repeated and multifaceted interference in the internal affairs of the United States, including elections; efforts to discredit progressive groups such as Black Lives Matter that express sympathy for the Palestinians; and routine employment of Americans to spy on other Americans. Israel's behavior is unethical and perhaps illegal. But don't expect anyone in the establishment or either of the two ruling political parties to do anything about it. It is abundantly clear by the end of the series that they have been intimidated, discredited or bought off.
"Imagine if China was doing this, if Iran was doing this, if Russia was doing this?" Ali Abunimah, the author of "The Battle for Justice in Palestine" and co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, says in the film. "There would be uproar. You would have Congress going off to them. You would have hearings."
Those of us who denounce and expose the Israeli crimes committed against Palestinians are intimately familiar with the sordid and nefarious tactics of the Israel lobby. The power of the film series is that in dealing with the reporter--a young Oxford postgraduate, James Anthony Kleinfeld, who goes by the name Tony in the film and poses as a pro-Israel student -- major figures within the Israel lobby candidly explain and expose their massive covert campaign in the United States. There is no plausible deniability. And this is why Israel worked so hard to stop the film from being broadcast.
Clayton Swisher, who directed the series, wrote in the liberal Jewish newspaper, The Forward, that leaders from the Israel lobby met with the state of Qatar's registered agent and lobbyist, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz named Nick Muzin, to "see if he could use his ties with the Qataris to stop the airing." Qatar funds Al-Jazeera. Muzin told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that "he was discussing the issue with the Qataris and didn't think the film would broadcast in the near future." An anonymous source told Haaretz that "the Qatari emir himself helped make the decision" to spike the film.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates severed ties with Qatar in June 2017 and imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the Persian Gulf state. They accuse Doha of supporting terrorism and radical Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. The four states have issued a list of demands for re-establishing ties that include Qatar's shutting down Al-Jazeera, along with severing relations with Iran. Qatar has appealed to the United States to intercede and has, as part of this effort, reached out to the powerful Israel lobby in the United States for support. American Jewish leaders, including the former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, have met with the Qatari emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and have discussed with him what they describe as the network's "anti-Semitism." It is widely believed the series was sacrificed by Qatar in an effort to placate the Israel lobby and get its support for an end to the sanctions, although the blockade remains in force.
The series exposes how Israeli intelligence services monitor American critics of Israel and feeds real-time information about them to American Jewish organizations.
"We are for example in the process of creating a comprehensive picture of the campuses," Brig. Gen. Sima Vaknin-Gil, director general of Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs, tells a gathering of pro-Israel activists in the film. "If you want to defeat a phenomenon you must have the upper hand in terms of information and knowledge."
The Israeli government operates Israel Cyber Shield, a civil intelligence unit that collects and analyzes BDS activities and coordinates attacks against the BDS movement.
"We are giving them data -- for example, one day Sima's deputy is sending me a photo. Just a photo on Whatsapp," Sagi Balasha, who was CEO of the Israeli-American Council from 2011 to 2015, says when speaking on a Israeli-American Council panel. "It's written 'Boycott Israel' on the billboard."
He shows a picture of a roadside billboard that reads: "BOYCOTT ISRAEL UNTIL PALESTINIANS HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS. StopFundingApartheid.org."