When the so-called Independent Press Standards Organisation screws up, it screws up royally.
Readers of Vox Political will be aware that I have lodged complaints against publications that are regulated by IPSO over two matters, both related to allegations of anti-Semitism against me.
The first is the libellous characterisation of me as a Holocaust denier (among other things) by The Sunday Times and other publications, on or shortly after February 4. That matter has been the subject of a lengthy negotiation that is still continuing.
The second involved The Spectator, as described in this article. There’s no need to click the link because I go into the matter in exhausting detail – for which I apologise in advance – below.
I got in touch with IPSO at the end of April, after approaching The Spectator and receiving no reply other than a standard, impersonal, “Thank you for your email, we read them all”.
Here’s what I had to say about the offending article:
‘It states: “Mike Sivier, author of the far-left Vox Political blog, has claimed there is a ‘conspiracy’ between Jews and those who defend them in the UK, saying: ‘We are being told that agents of a foreign country have infiltrated our institutions’. He was due to stand as a Labour candidate in council elections in 2017 but was suspended before the ballot took place.” This is not true.
‘The link on the word “saying” takes you – not to any Vox Political article such as this one (on which the allegations were originally based), but to the false and malicious Campaign Against Antisemitism smear piece that I debunked immediately after it came out, almost a year ago.
‘Let’s take the claims line by line.
‘“Mike Sivier, author of the far-left Vox Political blog, has claimed there is a ‘conspiracy’ between Jews and those who defend them in the UK.”
‘Take a look at my article and you’ll see that I was commenting on former Israeli embassy official Shai Masot’s attempt to conspire with members of UK political parties to achieve the wishes of the Israeli government. The example used in the Al-Jazeera documentary The Lobby was a plan to remove Alan Duncan, who has pro-Palestinian views, from his position as a Foreign Office minister. At one point in the documentary, Mr Masot even referred to what he was trying to do as a “conspiracy, yes?”
‘I make no mention of a “‘conspiracy’ between Jews and those who defend them in the UK” because it was a conspiracy by a member of the Israeli government. Israel and Jews are not the same thing.
‘In the documentary, Mr Masot mentions connections with other UK organisations including Labour Friends of Israel and its counterpart in the Conservative Party, and this led me to ask further – justified – questions about the role of such organisations in promoting the agenda of a foreign government.
‘“Saying: ‘We are being told that agents of a foreign country have infiltrated our institutions’.”
‘“We are being told” means I wasn’t asserting it – I was merely reporting what had been said elsewhere. “Agents of a foreign country” cannot be taken to refer to Jews as a racial or ethnic group. And the infiltration of “our institutions” was demonstrated in the documentary.
‘“He was due to stand as a Labour candidate in council elections in 2017 but was suspended before the ballot took place.”
‘The article fails to mention that I still stood as a candidate, and people still voted for me. Was it the author’s intention for readers to believe heroic whistle blowers forced Labour to stop me from standing at all? That would be a lie, but I see no attempt to clarify that this is not what happened. It also fails to mention the fact that my membership was suspended because the Campaign Against Antisemitism (or one of its readers), having failed to win support against me from Welsh Labour, sent a copy of its lying article to Labour headquarters in London, where an officer triggered my suspension in a knee-jerk reaction, having failed to check if there was even a prima facie case to answer.’
[The question of authorial intention is interesting as IPSO seems to have double-standards about it. The intention of the author of the Spectator piece seems above criticism, while my own intentions are considered to be dubious. No reason is given for either assumption.]
‘The CAA article was, it seems, written with the express intention of corruptly influencing the council election I was contesting, in flagrant breach of the Representation of the People Act, 1983.
‘All of the above information has been in the public domain for more than a year, and ‘Steerpike’ [the author of the Spectator piece. I understand this is in fact Paul Staines of the far-right Guido Fawkes blog] had plenty of opportunity to check it with me, as I can always be contacted via my website.
‘As the article is defamatory, The Spectator is guilty of libelling me.’
On May 18, nearly a month after I submitted my complaint, I received the following from an IPSO representative who shall remain nameless to save them embarrassment:
‘When IPSO receives a complaint, the Executive staff review it first to decide whether the complaint falls within our remit, and whether it raises a possible breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice. We have read your complaint carefully, and have decided that it does not raise a possible breach of the Editors’ Code.
‘You said the article breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) because it said you had claimed there was “a ‘conspiracy’ between Jews and those who defend them in the UK”.
‘Your blog post stated as follows:
‘It’s like a game of aggressive-Zionist join-the-dots now; Shai Masot leads to Labour Friends of Israel, and from there on to the Jewish Labour Movement and who knows where.
‘This Writer has to wonder whether this conspiracy – and it is a conspiracy, have no doubt about that – would have been rumbled if, for example, people like myself hadn’t objected to the claims of anti-Semitism when they were levelled at Naz Shah, Ken Livingstone and Jeremy Corbyn last summer”.
‘It went on to state that:
‘And now we have the Al-Jazeera investigation …that revealed Shai Masot and his little network of … I think they’re being called “infiltrators”. It is time to root out every last one of these operators”
‘It then described a number of figures that needed to be “pulled in and checked out”, before concluding:
‘The issues here are serious. We are being told that agents of a foreign country have infiltrated our institutions and undermined our foreign policy with false accusations against our politicians and political figures.
‘As the extract below shows, the trail leads back at least as far as Mark Regev – and he is Israel’s ambassador to the UK.
‘At the very least, this is a major diplomatic incident.
‘We noted your position that the words “we are being told”, made clear that you were not asserting the claims of a conspiracy as fact. However, you did earlier in the blog refer to the existence of a conspiracy, and later referred to it as a “major diplomatic incident”. In these circumstances, considered it was not misleading for the Spectator to refer to you as having claimed that there was a conspiracy, as a matter of fact. In addition, the magazine quoted directly from your blog post, making clear the precise basis on which it was claiming that you had said there was a conspiracy between Jews and those that defend them in the UK. For these reasons, we considered that the article was not a misleading summary of your blog post. This aspect of the complaint did not raise a possible breach of Clause 1.
‘You also said the article was inaccurate because it failed to mention that you stood as an election candidate, and that people still voted for you. The article did not claim you had not stood in the election; it simply reported that you had been suspended from the Labour Party before the ballot. The article was not inaccurate in the manner alleged, and this aspect of your complaint did not raise a possible breach of Clause 1.’
I responded (almost) immediately, pointing out the holes in IPSO’s argument, which were many. Read for yourself:
‘Thank you for your email of May 18, notifying me of the IPSO Executive’s decision on my complaint – a decision which proceeds from several false assumptions and is therefore unacceptable.
‘In the light of this catalogue of errors, I must indeed ask that your Executive’s decision to reject my complaint be reviewed by IPSO’s Complaints Committee. In fact, I demand it.’
On Friday (June 8) I finally received a reply. One would have expected a well-considered reply that tackled all the issues I had raised. Instead – well, see for yourself:
‘The Committee agreed the following decision:
‘You said that the article was inaccurate, as your blog did not state that there was a conspiracy between Jewish people and members of UK political parties, but a representative of the Israeli government. You said that the article had conflated an Israeli conspiracy with a Jewish conspiracy, and that this was inaccurate.
‘However, your blog stated that “Shai Masot leads to Labour Friends of Israel, and from there on to the Jewish Labour Movement and who knows where,” going on to state, “I was warned off, you know. Good friends told me to be very careful of what I was saying, because the people I was accusing are “very dangerous indeed.”
‘Where your blog specifically referenced Jewish groups in relation to the “conspiracy” you believed there to be in UK politics, the publication was entitled to characterise this as a conspiracy “between Jews and those who defend them in the UK.” There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
‘For these reasons, and the reasons already provided by IPSO’s Executive, the Committee decided that your complaint did not raise a possible breach of the Code. As such, it declined to re-open your complaint.’
I have responded as follows:
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