Al Jazeera planted undercover reporter in US pro-Israel groups

Qatar-owned news network to air documentary showing how Israel lobby works in America, following vindication by UK watchdog over British expose

The Jerusalem office of Qatar-based news network and TV channel Al-Jazeera on July 31, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
The Jerusalem office of Qatar-based news network and TV channel Al-Jazeera on July 31, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)

An al-Jazeera editor acknowledged planting an undercover reporter inside pro-Israel organizations last year in Washington, DC.

Clayton Swisher, the Qatar-owned news network’s head of investigative reporting, made the revelation Monday in an interview on al-Jazeera’s main Arabic channel. He said a documentary will be aired based on the reporter’s work.

Earlier in the day, the United Kingdom official media watchdog rejected complaints against an earlier al-Jazeera documentary that exposed an Israeli embassy official attempting to influence British lawmakers. Ofcom said the network’s reporting, which led to the resignation of Shai Masot, who was filmed plotting to “take down” British lawmakers seen as unfriendly to Israel, was not anti-Semitic.

Rather, Ofcom concluded, the program was “a serious investigative documentary which explored the actions of the Israeli Embassy and, in particular, its then Senior Political Officer Shai Masot and his links to several political organizations that promote a pro-Israel viewpoint.”

Following the announcement, Swisher said that at the same time al-Jazeera had an undercover reporter in Britain, it also had one in Washington, DC. He said the network held off on broadcasting its reporting from the US capital until hearing Ofcom’s verdict.

“With this UK verdict and vindication past us, we can soon reveal how the Israel lobby in America works through the eyes of an undercover reporter,” he told The Intercept. “I hear the US is having problems with foreign interference these days, so I see no reason why the US establishment won’t take our findings in America as seriously as the British did, unless of course Israel is somehow off limits from that debate.”

Since al-Jazeera began airing its UK investigation, a number of pro-Israel organizations have voiced suspicions that they were infiltrated by an undercover reporter from the network. In January, a Tablet article named the reporter as James Anthony Kleinfeld, a British citizen active in British pro-Palestinian groups.

Al-Jazeera has yet to comment on the reporter’s identity.

Israel in August took steps toward revoking al-Jazeera’s press credentials, but subsequently backed down. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic relations and travel with Qatar over its alleged support for terrorism and ties with Iran. They demanded the closure of al-Jazeera.

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