Press Standards watchdog must rein in pro-Zionist abuses by the once-venerable Jewish Chronicle

London:When talk of Zionism first made the rounds in the late nineteenth century, the Jewish Chronicle (JC), which had by then already been publishing for a half century, was firmly opposed to the new ethnic-nationalist movement.

This changed abruptly in 1906, when L.J. Greenberg, an advertising agent, and Jacobus Kann, a Dutch banker, raised the funds to purchase the paper to reverse course: to use the JC as a vehicle for promoting Zionism.

Today, one hundred and fifteen years later, the paper behaves as an overt propaganda arm of the Israeli state, smearing anyone it sees as a threat to the dominance of the Israeli narrative in British society and beyond.

I am among nine people targeted by the JC who have joined together in an attempt to rein in its abuses by holding the UK’s principal media watchdog, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), to its own mandate. IPSO’s regulations not only deal with individual breaches of its journalistic code, but also stipulate that any paper guilty of systemic breaches must be investigated.

And the JC‘s record is breathtaking: in just the past three years, IPSO has made thirty-one judgments against the paper as a result of nine complaints, and admitted libel in four court cases. In all of these, Israel was the context, implicitly or explicitly.

Yet the spectre of more IPSO judgments or expensive libel suits has not moderated the JC’s behaviour. Indeed, its history of libel settlements suggests that it considers such suits to be an acceptable, and even expected, cost of smearing anyone shining light on Israel’s crimes. The damage done to individuals is largely indelible, regardless of whether the paper is ultimately forced to issue a correction and/or pay damages.

Tweets by Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard, equating criticism of Israel and Zionism with antisemitism.
The Jewish Chronicle citing statistics from the UK Zionist organization Community Service Trust, to spin “hatred of Israel” as “hatred of Jews”.

In short: Rather than a deterrent, for the JC the courts seem to have become a place to “purchase” the right to libel someone.

IPSO does not address libel. It does address accuracy and the like, but has a reputation for siding with its client papers: it is predicated on at least the appearance of a conflict of interest, being paid for by the very papers it ostensibly regulates.

My own experience with IPSO is telling, and suggests that the true number of JC violations should easily have been double the thirty-one cited here. Although IPSO ruled in my favor on four points, its logic in dismissing three others is so extraordinary as to be worth summarizing:

  1. The JC labelled me a Hate Speaker in one headline, with those two words stated as simple fact, not in quotes or italics. Yet IPSO ruled that the JC had not failed to separate fact from opinion.
  2. The JC falsely attributed to me, as my beliefs, words that I was explicitly quoting from various historical sources. Yet IPSO ruled that the JC had not been inaccurate in reporting the quotes as mine, since I had in fact uttered the words — despite supplying a video proving that in the talk at issue, I had even stated that I disagreed with those sources I was quoting.
  3. Perhaps the most farcical ruling involved a JC article claiming that “the Quakers” did not want me to speak at a particular (non-Quaker) institution. Not only was this pure invention, but the Meeting House it cited had already complained in vain to the JC about precisely these false statements — and had even written to IPSO itself to refute the falsehoods made in its name in my specific case at issue. Instead, IPSO accepted the JC‘s extraordinary argument-by-seance: it quoted the opinion of a living individual (unknown to us) that a particular man who died in the late 1700s, and was a Quaker, had he been alive today would, in her opinion, have agreed with her that I should be blocked from speaking. Therefore…

Nonetheless, IPSO’s inglorious history should not excuse it from accountability now. And so after UK Councillor Jo Bird won an IPSO case against the JC, she decided to hold the watchdog to its word: that it investigate persistent or systemic problems with member papers. Given that the JC has racked up thirty-one IPSO breaches involving nine people, and four serious libel defeats, all in a three-year period, its problems have by any reasonable standard long passed the threshold of “systemic”.

The following open letter to IPSO Chairman Lord Faulks, signed by nine people who have won IPSO rulings or libel suits against the JC, is in support of Councillor Bird’s request to examine the journalistic integrity of the paper.

Dear Lord Faulks,

We welcome IPSO’s agreement to consider Jo Bird’s proposal for a Standards Investigation into the Jewish Chronicle and we urge you to launch such an investigation without delay. With 28 recorded breaches of the Editors’ Code and four libel defeats in just three years, it is clear that the paper’s editorial standards are shockingly low and IPSO’s actions to date have made no difference.

We have all either seen our complaints to IPSO about the Jewish Chronicle’s bad journalism upheld or secured admissions of libel from the paper. Unless standards there improve there will be more victims, while readers will continue to be misled.

IPSO’s regulations say a Standards Investigation can take place where there is evidence of ‘serious and systemic breaches of the code’. The seriousness of the breaches by the Jewish Chronicle is attested to in IPSO’s own rulings while the sheer number of breaches and libel defeats – taking place at a small publication that appears only weekly – proves the problem is systemic.

We would be grateful if you would circulate this letter to all IPSO board members and to senior management.


Jo Bird
John Davies
Ibrahim Hewitt, Interpal
Jenny Lennox
Kal Ross
Mike Sivier
Thomas Suárez
Marc Wadsworth
Audrey White

IPSO rulings and libel rulings against the Jewish Chronicle within the past three years:

  1. Mike Sivier – July 2018, IPSO ruling, 1 breach, inaccuracy
    2. Thomas Suárez – March 2019, IPSO ruling, 4 breaches, significant inaccuracies, failure to correct
    3. Interpal – August 2019, Legal Settlement, Libel admitted, damages agreed
    4. Audrey White – November 2019, IPSO ruling, 10 breaches, significant inaccuracies, failure to correct, drawn to attention of Standards Dept
    5. Jenny Lennox – December 2019, IPSO ruling, 2 breaches, significant inaccuracies
    6. John Davies – January 2020, IPSO ruling, 1 breach, significantly misleading
    7. Nada al-Sanjari – September 2020, Legal Settlement, Libel admitted, damages agreed
    8. Shahrar Ali – September 2020, IPSO ruling, 5 breaches, significant inaccuracies, failure to distinguish fact from comment, failure to correct
    9. Gerald Downing – December 2020, IPSO ruling, 3 breaches, significant inaccuracy
    10. Audrey White – December 2020, Legal Settlement, Libel admitted, damages agreed
    11. Kal Ross – May 2021, IPSO ruling, 4 breaches, significant inaccuracy and failure to correct
    12. Marc Wadsworth – May 2021, Legal Settlement, Libel admitted, damages agreed
    13. Jo Bird – July 2021, IPSO ruling, 1 breach, significant inaccuracy

Thomas Suárez’s book State of Terror was described by Ilan Pappé as “the first comprehensive and structured analysis of the violence and terror employed by the Zionist movement and later the state of Israel against the people of Palestine.” A Juilliard-trained violinist who has performed around the world, he is a former faculty member of Palestine’s National Conservatory of Music.

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