WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has claimed the whistleblowing site is being smeared by a "Jewish" conspiracy, according to a report in the latest issue of Private Eye by editor Ian Hislop.
Hislop says that Assange called him on 16th February, to complain about a Private Eye article linking the whistleblowing site to Israel Shamir, a Russian journalist with a history of anti-semitism, including Holocaust denial.
"He said that I and Private Eye should be ashamed of ourselves for joining in the international conspiracy to smear WikiLeaks," writes Hislop in the piece. "The piece was an obvious attempt to deprive him and his organisation of Jewish support and donations."
Hislop alleges Assange went on to claim that the Private Eye article was "part of a conspiracy led by the Guardian which included journalist David Leigh, editor Alan Rusbridger and John Kampfner from Index on Censorship - all of whom 'are Jewish'".
"I pointed out that Rusbridger is not actually Jewish," writes Hislop, "but Assange insisted that he was 'sort of Jewish' because he was related to David Leigh (they are brothers-in-law)."
"When I doubted whether his Jewish conspiracy would stand up against the facts, Assange suddenly conceded the point. 'Forget the Jewish thing'."
Assange responded to the allegations with a statement from WikiLeaks claiming that Hislop's article was "based on falsehoods spread by opponents and calculated to undermine WikiLeaks strong Jewish support".
According to Assange, "Hislop has distorted, invented or misremembered almost every significant claim and phrase. In particular, 'Jewish conspiracy' is completely false, in spirit and in word.
"It is serious and upsetting. Rather than correct a smear, Mr Hislop has attempted, perhaps not surprisingly, to justify one smear with another in the same direction.
"WikiLeaks promotes the ideal of 'scientific journalism' - where the underlaying evidence of all articles is available to the reader precisely in order to avoid these type of distortions. We treasure our strong Jewish support and staff, just as we treasure the support from pan-Arab democracy activists and others who share our hope for a just world."
WikiLeaks later released a further statement denying that Israel Shamir is, as The Eye had claimed, an "Assange intimate", and explaining the Russian's role in helping release WikiLeaks' cache of 250,000 US diplomatic cables in his country's media:
"Shamir was able to search through a limited portion of the cables with a view to writing articles for a range of Russian media. The media that subsequently employed him did so of their own accord and with no intervention or instruction by WikiLeaks.
"We do not have editorial control over the of hundreds of journalists and publications based on our materials and it would be wrong for us to seek to do so. We do not approve or endorse the the writings of the world's media. We disagree with many of the approaches taken in analyzing our material."