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January 22, 2020 5:16 pm

Producer of BBC Expose of Labour Antisemitism Sues Party for Libel

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Dec. 3, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Lisi Niesner.

The journalist who produced a television expose of UK Labour antisemitism is suing the party for libeling him in statements made after the broadcast.

The Guardian reported that veteran reporter John Ware, who helmed and presented “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” for BBC Panorama, shocking audiences with its revelations, officially took legal action on Wednesday, and five whistleblowers who appeared on the program were also planning to do so.

Both Labour and Ware’s solicitor declined to comment on the news, with Labour saying it was an “ongoing legal battle,” and Mark Lewis of Patron Law stating, “It would not be appropriate to comment at this stage.”

Labour was resoundingly defeated in December’s general elections, losing some seats the party had held for decades. Its head, Jeremy Corbyn, who the overwhelming majority of British Jews believe is personally antisemitic, declared he would step down from the leadership post.

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The electoral loss was partially attributed to the antisemitic scandals that have wracked the party in recent years.

Ware’s expose detailed many of these scandals: They included former London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s false claim that Zionists collaborated with Hitler, for which he was only temporarily suspended; activist Jackie Walker’s assertion that the Jews controlled the trans-Atlantic slave trade; and a general atmosphere of antisemitic attitudes toward Israel and its Jewish supporters.

The program also included the testimonies of many Labour members, Jewish and non-Jewish, some of them near tears, describing an atmosphere of intense antisemitic racism in the party.

One said, “The antisemitic abuse I received was what I was subjected to every single day. Telling me Hitler was right. Telling me Hitler did not go far enough. In Labour party meetings, we’ve seen people engage in Holocaust denial, and that’s terrifying for Jewish members.”

“I do not think the Labour party is a safe space for Jewish people anymore,” she declared.

Labour said in response, “The Panorama program and the BBC have engaged in deliberate and malicious representations designed to mislead the public,” a statement many saw as libelous.

UK broadcast regulator Ofcom rejected Labour’s claims, saying, “We assessed complaints from viewers who felt that this program was factually inaccurate and biased. In our view, the program was duly impartial.”

The Guardian reported shortly after that Ware had taken a considerable amount of abuse over the program, with Ware describing it as “a bit like going out in a gale.”

Social media trolls referred to Ware as “the BBC’s Islamophobe-in-chief” and a “far-right journalist” after the program aired.

“It does hurt, of course, if people call me an Islamophobe, or say I am far-right,” Ware commented. “I hate that, but they are entitled to their opinion. The thing I really don’t like is seeing they are basing these opinions on false facts.”

“The Labour party reaction last week did not terribly surprise me,” he noted.

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