One may gauge the gravity of this problem from an article by Clayton Swisher, the Head of Al Jazeera’s investigative unit which produced the two documentaries along with many other award-winning programmes on diverse topics of worldwide interest. Swisher writes with justifiable pride about the team of committed journalists he has built up since 2007, “striving to challenge conventional wisdom rather than report the obvious”.
He describes how the team’s production of the UK edition of The Lobby caused pro-Israeli activists to bring complaints, leading to an extensive investigation by Ofcom. However, the investigation cleared Al Jazeera of any foul play, including anti-Semitism, and found that the team’s work yielded “a serious investigative documentary” that was in the public interest.
The purpose of the American documentary was likewise to determine whether the Israeli government was funding or involved in lobbying efforts in the U.S. under the guise of a domestic lobbying group. Asa Winstanley has provided advance information on some of the film’s revelations which include the neocon ‘Foundation for the Defense of Democracies’ (FDD) acting as an agent for the Israeli government, a number of lobby groups working with Israel to spy on American citizens and covert efforts to smear and intimidate Americans seen as too critical of Israel. The FDD gets funding from Sheldon Adelson, the staunchly pro-Israeli billionaire and number one donor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and has close ties to the United Arab Emirates.
However, this has brought forth a furious reaction in the USA, including a spate of articles by right-wing pro-Israel news sites, harshly attacking Al Jazeera’s work on pretexts that include “professional espionage on American soil”, and putting pressure on the Qataris to stop the airing. These same elements are now lobbying Congress to pressure the Department of Justice to require Al Jazeera to register as “foreign agents” under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), which would for all practical purposes cripple Al Jazeera and its ability to interview US officials and bring guests on air. This is ironic; according to Winstanley’s revelations, the self-same FDD ought to be registered as a foreign agent on account of its work for the Israeli Government.