FILE PHOTO: Al Jazeera. Pro-Israel groups receive letters from Al Jazeera seeking response for 'lobby' documentary רונן זבולון / REUTERS

Pro-Israel Groups Receive Letters From Al Jazeera Seeking Response for 'Lobby' Documentary

Last year, the Qatari-owned network planted an undercover reporter inside pro-Israel groups in Washington. Now, those groups were given three weeks to respond to the contents of an upcoming documentary on 'the Israel lobby in America'

A number of pro-Israel organizations in the United States received letters from Al Jazeera on Friday, informing them their employees will appear on the Qatari-owned network's upcoming documentary on the Israel lobby in Washington.

The letters gave the organizations three weeks to respond to the contents of the upcoming report, but did not indicate when the report would be broadcast. 

Four sources within the pro-Israel circles in Washington, all of whom asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter, told Haaretz that the letters came as a surprise to those who received them.

Al Jazeera publicly admitted in October it had planted an undercover reporter inside leading pro-Israel organizations in the United States. Ever since then, though, the story has not made any headlines, and some in the Jewish community were under the impression it might not be broadcast at all. 

Following the letters' arrival on Friday, the sources in the pro-Israel community offered two dueling interpretations of the new development. Some said the letters indicate that the film will be broadcast within the next weeks, possibly around the time of the annual AIPAC conference in early March. Others believed the opposite was true, claiming that the Qatari government was pressuring Al Jazeera not to air the report, and that the letters are the result of an internal debate within the network about the documentary. 

Haaretz revealed last October that the reporter working undercover for Al Jazeera managed to do internship work at the Israel Project and had some access to that organization's donor files. The undercover reporter also had contacts with a number of low-level staffers at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, some of whom had attended parties at a luxury apartment he rented in downtown D.C.

His work for Al Jazeera was first reported in 2017 by Armin Rosen in Tablet Magazine. 

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In recent months, leaders for a number of right-wing Jewish organizations in the United States had visited Qatar and met with its emir. All of those leaders had asked the emir to change Al Jazeera's negative coverage of Israel and its spreading of anti-Semitic content. Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani was asked by Haaretz about those requests during an event in Washington last week, and replied that Qatar's constitution forbids the government from interfering in Al Jazeera's work. 

Thani also said that complaints about Al Jazeera's coverage should be addressed not to the Qatari government, but to official media regulators. He mentioned that in Britain last year the local media regulating body, Ofcom, investigated complaints about Al Jazeera's documentary "The Lobby," on the Israel lobby in the United Kingdom, and denied the allegations that it was misleading or anti-Semitic. 

One senior official in a pro-Israel organization called the Al Jazeera documentary a "wake-up call." According to the official, Al Jazeera invested tens of thousands of dollars in the project.

"They rented an apartment for him that cost more than $5,000 a month," the official said. "We don't know what kind of recording equipment was placed inside that apartment, and what kind of equipment he took with him to meetings in offices all around town, but I assume it was of the highest quality. This is not just a television report, it's closer to state-sponsored espionage."

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