Jewish Chronicle to pay damages over anti-Semitism libel

21 February 2020 — The Electronic Intifada

Asa Winstanley

Liverpool Labour activist Audrey White.

The Jewish Chronicle on Thursday apologized to a Labour activist for libeling her over “anti-Semitism.”

The UK newspaper admitted on its website it had published “allegations about Mrs Audrey White” which were “untrue.”

It said it had agreed to pay White a sum in damages plus her legal costs.

White on Friday told The Electronic Intifada that it was “a concrete victory for Riverside” – the Liverpool Labour Party group to which she belongs – “and every one of us under attack and vilified by this newspaper.”

Asked to comment on the amount of damages, she would only say it was a substantial sum.

A series of articles by the paper’s reporter Lee Harpin last year had put White at “the center of bullying claims against Jewish MP Dame Louise Ellman” – then the member of Parliament for the Liverpool Riverside constituency.

Ellman is still the chairperson of Israeli embassy front group Labour Friends of Israel, despite quitting as a Labour MP in October.

The libel settlement comes after a UK press regulator in December ruled that the paper’s four articles about White had been “significantly misleading” and that the paper had engaged in “unacceptable” obstruction of their investigation.

As part of the settlement, White said, the paper had agreed to delete all four articles from their website. They had all been removed as of Friday morning.

Lies about “Labour anti-Semitism”

White told The Electronic Intifada that the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the regulator, had told her it was their longest ever adjudication process with a newspaper.

She said she had fought the case not for herself but for the wider left, who have been constantly attacked over the last five years by unsubstantiated allegations of anti-Semitism.

She highlighted the case of Jackie Walker, the Black Jewish anti-Zionist expelled from Labour last year on false charges.

White said of the libel damages that she would “spend the money on the movement” and that she would organize a film showing in Liverpool during Labour conference in September.

The Jewish Chronicle has been at the forefront of reporting on exaggerated and fabricated allegations of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party over the last five years.

It also has a long record of anti-Palestinian reporting.

In August last year, it was forced to pay $60,000 in libel damages to InterPal, a British charity which aids Palestinians.

Financial crisis

The paper had falsely attacked the charity with insinuations of “terrorist” activity.

Such payouts cannot be helping The Jewish Chronicle with a recent financial crisis.

Last year it was reported that the paper had required a major cash injection by “community-minded individuals” to avoid closure.

And earlier this month the weekly title announced it would be merging with the Jewish News “to secure the financial future of both newspapers.”

But the merger would require even more funding to proceed, the papers said in the statement. Job cuts seem likely.

According to their most recent accounts, the group that owns the Jewish Chronicle’s newspaper and website operates at a loss of more than $2 million, while the News has liabilities of more than $1.9 million.

Both figures were even greater than in the previous financial year.

The Jewish Chronicle has been contacted for comment.

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