Shai Masot, then a senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London, was secretly filmed saying he wanted to “take down” Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan. The footage was recorded back in October 2016 as part of an Al-Jazeera investigation; the incident featured in last weekend’s Mail On Sunday. The Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, has apologised for the incident, saying “this was not the embassy or government's view”.
The fallout has included the usual copious amounts of spin: Young Dave’s former spinner Craig Oliver went on The Andy Marr Show (tm) to denounce the story as “a ‘classic piece of mischief-making’ by the Mail on Sunday”, although no mischief was involved, and it wasn’t the MoS doing the investigating. Labour’s Emily Thornberry was unimpressed, calling Masot’s comments “extremely disturbing”.
So far, so routine, but with anything critical of Israel, there is with the certainty of night following day the subsequent appearance of someone prepared to shout “Anti-Semitism” at those making the criticisms. Thus it was that the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog went in with both feet on Al-Jazeera.
This duty was delegated to newly anointed teaboy Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, who first tried to rubbish the Shai Masot story, claiming “Al-Jazeera Over-Eggs Israeli Conspiracy Sting” (there had been no accusation of conspiracy, but hey ho), declaring “Al-Jazeera Jumps The Shark”. Wickham was full value for his nickname.
Alex Wickham - far more unpleasant than he looks
The spin included “Was it a ‘plot’ to ‘take down’ a Tory minister? No. Maria Strizzolo was a very junior aide. The truth is MPs and journalists have far tastier conversations with friends at London embassies all the time”. That would be why Ms Strizzolo has since resigned from the Civil Service. The matter was indeed serious - as Wickham has now shown.
Because yesterday he was back, this time not merely to dismiss the Al-Jazeera investigation, but to play the “Anti-Semitism” card. In a post titled “Al-Jazeera Defends Jackie Walker”, which is reproduced in full here, Wickham states “Well there goes the credibility of Al-Jazeera’s investigation into the ‘Israeli lobby’ and British Jews. Their new episode aired today defends Jackie Walker, who was famously suspended by Labour for saying that ‘Jews’ were the ‘chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade’”.
There is more: “Even the Corbynistas do not contest that Walker’s conduct has been unacceptable - Corbyn’s Labour have kicked her out. But Al-Jazeera journalists incredibly say she was a victim of an Israeli conspiracy … Al-Jazeera also quote Electronic Intifada, a virulently anti-Semitic pro-Palestine website”. Where does one start with that lot?
But start we must. So here are a few of the problems with Wickham’s whoppers.
One, the post carries no citation whatever, which is always suspicious (the Al-Jazeera transcript can be seen HERE).
Two, Zelo Street is not going to go into the Jackie Walker controversy, save to say that the Al-Jazeera investigation does not defend her. It discusses the origins of the latest controversy surrounding her, and leaves it at that.
Three, “Corbyn’s Labour” have not “kicked her out” - she was suspended (if the Fawkes rabble need clarification on that point, they should ask their pal Simon Danczuk).
Four, only one Al-Jazeera journalist (singular) is quoted - Patrick Strickland - and he makes no accusation of conspiracy (this makes two Wickham “conspiracy” claims that have been shown to be false).
Five, Electronic Intifada has been accused of anti-Semitism, but the claim has not been convincingly stood up. EI is merely advocating for the Palestinian cause. It is also critical of the Israeli Government. Neither of these qualifies as anti-Semitism.
Six, if the matter is so trivial, then why has Shai Masot now resigned from the service of the Israeli Government (see HERE)?
Fawkes blog Christmas lunch 2014: Wickham (2nd left) embraces Simon Carr (2nd right), the author of the anti-Semitic attacks on Ed Miliband
And Seven, I have to remind The Great Guido - not for the first time - that the Fawkes blog has no room to call “Anti-Semitism” on others, after the vicious smears involving anti-Semitic tropes which they used on Ed Miliband when he was Labour leader (see HERE). The smears were authored by the Fawkes blog’s former Parliamentary sketch writer Simon Carr, whom Wickham could be seen embracing at the Fawkes Christmas lunch the December after those smears were published.
Alex Wickham was not christened “Billy Liar” for nothing. He once again demonstrates why he is, like the rest of the Fawkes mob, not fit to be called a “journalist”, and never will be.
Finally, why The Great Guido has seen fit to try and trivialise the clear misbehaviour of an Israeli official, and attempt to smear a respected broadcaster, when there was no apparent need for them to do so, I will leave for others to decide. Another fine mess, once again.