Al Jazeera Admits to Planting Undercover Reporter in U.S. pro-Israel Organizations

A new documentary will 'reveal how the Israel lobby in America works,' says Al Jazeera's director of investigative reporting

An employee walks inside the office of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network in Jerusalem on June 13, 2017.
An employee walks inside the office of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network in Jerusalem on June 13, 2017. Ronen Zvolon / Reuters

Al Jazeera, the Qatari-owned international news network, publicly admitted on Monday that it had installed an undercover reporter inside pro-Israel organizations last year in Washington, D.C., and that it is planning to air a documentary film based on the reporter's work. 

The announcement came shortly after a British government regulation agency said Monday it is rejecting complaints against an earlier documentary broadcast by Al Jazeera, in which an undercover reporter joined pro-Israel organizations in the United Kingdom. The British government regulator, Ofcom, said that the network's reporting, which led to the resignation of an Israeli diplomat who was filmed plotting to "take down" British officials critical of Israel's policies, was not anti-Semitic. 

In its decision, Ofcom concluded that the program was not anti-Semitic, but rather, "a serious investigative documentary which explored the actions of the Israeli Embassy and, in particular, its then Senior Political Officer Shai Masot and his links to several political organizations that promote a pro-Israel viewpoint." 

Following the announcement, the director of investigative reporting at Al Jazeera, Clayton Swisher, said during an interview on the network's main Arabic channel that "at the same time we had an undercover [reporter] in Britain, we also had an undercover in the United States." He explained that the network did not want to broadcast materials gathered in Washington before the regulator in Britain released its verdict on the network's reporting in Britain.

Swisher also said that "at the very same time [as the London investigation] we had an undercover operative working in tandem in Washington. With this U.K. verdict and vindication past us, we can soon reveal how the Israel lobby in America works through the eyes of an undercover reporter," while discussing the subject with online publication The Intercept.

A number of pro-Israel organizations in Washington have suspected Al Jazeera's placement of an undercover reporter within their ranks since late 2016 when the network began showcasing its investigative materials from Britain. 

In January 2017, journalist Armin Rosen published an article in Tablet Magazine about a British-born pro-Israel activist who volunteered at a number of Washington-based organizations and socialized with other activists before vanishing, without leaving any traces of his whereabouts at the same time that Al Jazeera's British report first went to broadcast. 

According to Rosen's report, the undercover "activist," identified as Antoine Kleinfeld, was in fact a British citizen named James Anthony Kleinfeld, who was active in pro-Palestinian groups in the U.K. before adopting a new name and going undercover for the Al Jazeera documentary.

In his interview with The Intercept on Monday, Al Jazeera's director of investigative reporting did not comment on the identity of the undercover reporter hired by the network to report in the United States. He did state that "I hear the U.S. is having problems with foreign interference these days, so I see no reason why the U.S. establishment won’t take our findings in America as seriously as the British did, unless of course Israel is somehow off limits from that debate."