BBC’s Sackur touts ‘racist’ Israel in Hardtalk interview with Herzog

The April 21st/ 22nd edition of ‘Hardtalk’ featured an interview with the leader of the Israeli Labour party, Yitzhak (Isaac) Herzog. Readers in the UK can find the programme on BBC iPlayer here and a podcast of the programme is available here.Herzog on Hardtalk

As is not infrequently the case, viewers and listeners heard presenter Stephen Sackur promoting his own ideas about Israel in the form of ‘questions’ and even some belated election campaign advice to Herzog.

10:42: “I tell you what you could have done – and you talk about fear – what maybe you could have done to the Israeli people is say that if we do not negotiate a two state solution with the Palestinians, then there’s only one other realistic alternative: that is we have a bi-national state – a unitary state – which includes all of the Palestinians in the occupied territories as well as Israel proper and the result of that will be in the long run, we Jewish Israelis will be in a minority. So then we either accept that in a democracy or we run an apartheid state. But you never outlined the choice in those terms.”

04:39: “Are you telling me today that you believe Binyamin Netanyahu is in essence a racist?”

06:08: “What does it say about today’s Israel that the argument that you’ve just outlined – that Netanyahu used close to polling day – was so successful? What does that tell us about Israel today?”

21:00: “Before we end, let’s just address a bigger picture thought. Not so long ago the president of Israel, who is no peacenik – he’s a former…he is a Likudnik – Reuven Rivlin, he said Israel right now is a sick society. He was talking about the signs of a new racism and discrimination amongst some elements in Israeli Jewish society. And not so long ago the great writer Amos Oz – he said there is a real danger of Israel becoming an isolated ghetto. When you hear the words of Oz and Rivlin – the worries about where Israel is today – do you share them?”

One particular section of the interview was also promoted by the BBC on social media under the title “Isaac Herzog: Time to amend the nuclear deal with Iran” and with the following synopsis.Herzog on Hardtalk clip

“Isaac Herzog is chairman of the Labour party in Israel. His party has just lost in an election to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

He tells Stephen Sackur that there are no differences between Netanyahu and himself on the crux of the Iranian challenge to Israel.

Now is the time to amend the Iranian nuclear interim deal, Mr Herzog argues.”

In that clip Herzog says:

“On the crux of the challenge of the Iranian nuclear programme there is no difference [between Labour and Likud]. And I made it clear throughout the elections that there is no difference here: there is no coalition and opposition here. This is a matter of huge impact on the world peace, on Europe, on Britain too by the way and of course on the Middle East and the moderate forces in the Middle East and the security of Israel.”

Whilst Herzog’s stance on the P5+1’s framework agreement with Iran will not come as a revelation to those with a realistic understanding of the Israeli political scene, it does shine a spotlight on the framing chosen by the BBC in its presentation of the issue in recent weeks. That choice of framing has led to a failure to clarify to BBC audiences that concerns regarding the Iranian nuclear programme straddle the Israeli political spectrum and are not – as BBC audiences have been led to believe – the exclusive concern of the Israeli prime minister.

“Mr Netanyahu has repeatedly warned a deal with Iran could threaten Israel’s security.” (21/1/15 – link to source)

“Administration officials have been hitting back at Mr Netanyahu’s aggressive opposition to the nuclear deal they’re negotiating with Iran…”  (26/2/15)

“That issue – Iran and the Bomb – is one of the defining themes of Mr Netanyahu’s career …” (26/2/15)

“To his supporters Mr Netanyahu is something of a visionary on the topic, who has devoted much of his career to warning that the revolutionary regime in Tehran is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.” (2/3/15)

“Mr Netanyahu says the deal would be inadequate to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.” (2/3/15)  [links to sources of all of the above]

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that the framework deal poses a grave danger to the region.” (30/3/15 – link to source)

“When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the most vociferous sceptics, recently addressed the US Congress. he invoked the history of World War One [sic], and actions of wartime leaders which tragically paved the way to the Holocaust.” (30/3/15 – link to source)

“There was anger though from Israel, whose leader Benjamin Netanyahu has been a vocal critic of Iran and told President Obama the deal threatened the survival of Israel.” (3/4/15 – link to source)

“Mr Obama said he recognised the concerns raised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce critic of the deal…” (7/4/15 – link to source)

As readers are well aware, the BBC has consistently failed to provide its audiences with the background information necessary for them to understand why leaders from across the Israeli political scene (among many others) are concerned by the P5+1’s framework agreement with Iran. Herzog went on to say:

“And we presented – I presented – a full-fledged plan on how to deal with the agreement that’s supposed to be agreed upon by the end of June. Right now is the time to amend whatever needs to be amended and correct and upgrade and improve a lot of issues which are open and disturbing.”

Stephen Sackur, however, was too focused on the niche topic of coalition building to take the opportunity presented by Herzog’s words to contribute to the BBC’s public purpose remit by clarifying to audiences worldwide exactly why two Israeli leaders with such different views on so many other issues see the same pitfalls in the framework agreement.   

 

No BBC reporting on weekend terror incidents

Late on the night of April 24th an incident took place at a checkpoint on Highway 1 leading into Jerusalem.

“Ali Said Abu Ranam, 16 years old from East Jerusalem, was shot dead after he attempted to stab a Border Police Officer with a butcher knife at a checkpoint near Ma’ale Adumim on Friday night.”No news

A police officer was wounded in rioting which followed the incident.

On April 25th another incident took place in Hebron.

“A Palestinian man stabbed an Israeli Border Police officer in the West Bank city of Hebron Saturday, inflicting moderate injuries. The alleged attacker, aged 20, was shot and wounded, and died of his injuries on the way to a hospital in Jerusalem.

Police said the officer, 19, was stabbed multiple times in the head, neck and chest at an army checkpoint near Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs. A second soldier shot the attacker.”

Later the same evening three more police officers were injured in another attack.

“Three Israeli police officers were injured Saturday evening when struck by a car on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem in what authorities suspect may have been a deliberate attack.

Magen David Adom paramedics said they treated a 20-year-old woman for moderate injuries, and a man and woman for minor injuries sustained after being struck by the vehicle. The three were taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment. […]

Emergency responders were forced to flee the scene after rocks and Molotov cocktails were thrown at them.”

A suspect was later arrested.

Police are also investigating a suspected fire-bombing of a bus on Route 443 on the evening of April 25th.

None of the above was deemed newsworthy by the BBC.

Related Articles:

More Palestinian Stabbings, Another NYT Headline Whitewash (CAMERA Snapshots) 

BBC reporting on Israeli aid to Nepal earthquake

Some social media commentators have incorrectly claimed that the BBC has failed to report on Israeli aid to Nepal in the wake of the devastating earthquake in that country. 

In a report titled “Nepal earthquake: Death toll passes 1,000” published on the BBC News website on April 25th the BBC included Israel in its list of countries described as having pledged aid.

Nepal quake 1

Similar phrasing appeared under the sub-heading ‘Offers of aid” in an article titled “Nepal earthquake: Rescue effort intensifies” which appeared on April 26th.

Nepal quake 2

However, by the time that second report was published an Israeli reconnaissance team had already set out on the twelve-hour journey to Nepal.

“An Israeli plane carrying an advance search and rescue team and emergency medical supplies took off for Nepal early Sunday morning, as the death toll in the wake of a massive earthquake that shook the region climbed toward 1,400, officials said.

The Israel Defense Forces plane carrying seven search and rescue crew members and supplies took off just after midnight, Israel’s Army Radio reported.”

In addition, a team of Magen David Adom paramedics departed for Nepal on the morning of Sunday, April 26th.  

“Some 15 paramedics flew out this morning, while the organization was examining the possibility of sending out a larger team that could remain in the country for a longer period of time. […]

After the strong quake hit the area, Magen David Adom decided to send a delegation of doctors and paramedics, in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross. The team set out in a special plane equipped with medicine, medical supplies and baby food. They intend to stop at the Chabad House in Kathmandu, where many Israelis –both adults and infants – took refuge.

The team should remain in the country for at least two weeks, but the exact duration of their stay will be determined by the number of wounded individuals.”

Later on Sunday a larger IDF team will also travel to Nepal.

“A delegation numbering 260 medical and rescue crew members will depart on Sunday night (26 April) for Kathmandu. The delegation will focus on establishing a field hospital which will be operational within 12 hours, with the capability of treating 200 wounded a day. It will have two operating rooms, four intensive-care rooms, 80 hospital beds and specialists in neonatal and adult care. The team will include dozens of army physicians in the regular army and the reserves. Col. Dr. Tarif Bader, the army’s deputy chief medical officer, will be in charge of the field hospital.”

In addition to the field hospital, a search and rescue team will work in the affected area.Oketz

“Three large search and rescue teams will divide up into smaller crews and scour ruins to search for survivors. A command and control team will oversee the entire effort, and link up to local authorities. “At the moment, we are set to take off at 22:00 for Kathmandu,” Laredo added. […]

Rescuers are bringing with them cutting equipment, electronic devices to help find trapped victims, generators, lighting equipment, and more. […]

Three IDF Oketz K9 dogs and their handlers will also board one of the planes to Nepal.”

So, whilst the BBC’s description of the pledge of aid from Israel is accurate, it of course does not reflect the fact that practical steps have already been taken to turn that promise into action.

Related Articles:

Which country is absent from the BBC’s list of international aid efforts in the Philippines?

 

No BBC report on latest missile attack from Gaza Strip

With the BBC having sent at least two of its Jerusalem Bureau staff to cover the story of migrants and refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean (Quentin Sommerville has been reporting from Libya and Yolande Knell from Sicily), coverage of events in Israel has been decidedly sparse over the past two weeks.No news

One significant incident – which did not even receive coverage in the form of an agency-based report on the BBC News website – occurred on the evening of April 23rd when a missile was fired from the Gaza Strip for the first time since December.

“Sirens went off sounded in the city of Sderot and in other Gaza-bordering communities just before 10 P.M. on Thursday, and residents of the area reported hearing several explosions shortly after. Security services are scouring the area in an attempt to locate the precise landing site.

“We heard the siren, grabbed our child and rushed to the safe room,” said Adi Betan Meiri, a resident of Sderot. “At first we thought it was a false alarm, probably because the rain had messed up the siren. Then we heard a loud explosion. The child was very scared, as were we. We closed the steel shutter which had been open for months.””

Fortunately, the missile did not land in a residential area.

“The projectile exploded harmlessly in an open, uninhabited area, the IDF said, adding that security forces were searching for its remnants.

In response, the IDF struck a terror target in northern Gaza to the earlier rocket attack, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said on Thursday shortly before midnight.

It was not immediately clear which organization launched the attack. The assessment within the army is that a small Gazan terror group, not Hamas, fired the rocket.”

Expanding on that latter topic, Y-Net reported:

“In recent days Hamas has executed a wave of arrests of Salafists in the Strip, following a series of explosions across Gaza. Hamas’ security forces have searched relentlessly for those responsible but the identity of the mastermind behind the attacks remains unclear.

 According to Salafi sources, 13 of their members were arrested, and it is possible the rocket fire on Israel tonight was intended to embarrass Hamas over the arrests.”

The BBC has also not reported on that recent wave of explosions in the Gaza Strip – including one near the UNRWA headquarters.

Readers may recall that at the beginning of April the BBC gave multi-platform promotion to Khaled Masha’al’s bizarre claim that there are no Jihadist groups in the Gaza Strip. Five days after that interview with Jeremy Bowen was broadcast, Hamas reportedly arrested an ISIS-linked Salafist.

“Gaza’s Hamas-run security services have arrested a radical Salafist sheikh, accusing him of membership in the Islamic State (IS) group, a security source said on Monday.

“Adnan Khader Mayat from the Bureij refugee camp (in central Gaza) was arrested as part of an investigation,” the source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity and without giving further details.

Sources close to the Salafists said Mayat had been arrested on Sunday “by the Hamas government security services who fight mujahedeen who belong to the Salafist movement.””

Despite the fact that the BBC has a permanent office in the Gaza Strip, internal Palestinian affairs continue to be severely under-reported. That fact obviously not only detracts from audience understanding of Palestinian politics and society but also hampers their ability to comprehend Israeli responses to the attacks on its civilian population by assorted factions operating in the Gaza Strip.

That scenario is of course all too familiar. Between June 14th and July 8th 2014 (the beginning of Operation Protective Edge), two hundred and eighty-eight missiles hit Israeli territory. Not only did the BBC fail to adequately report on those attacks (which were mostly carried out by groups other than Hamas) at the time, but it has subsequently also managed to erase them from its accounts of the causes of last summer’s conflict.  

Related Articles:

The BBC News website’s Middle East priorities: missile ignored, football fight reported

Missile from Gaza not news for the BBC but Israeli response gets headlines

The BBC policy underlying reporting on the Armenian Genocide

Ahead of the centenary commemorations of the Armenian Genocide on April 24th, a number of related reports have appeared on the BBC News website’s Europe page, including:

Armenia mass killing remembered 100 years on” Mark Lowen (filmed)

Armenian tragedy still raw in Turkey 100 years on” Mark Lowen

Germany struggles with Armenia genocide debate” Damien McGuinness

Armenian killings were genocide – German president

Armenia marks centenary of ‘mass killings’ by Ottoman Turks

Armenian mass killings: Iranian author’s diary in animation” (filmed)

The written reports include an insert – most with a link to the BBC’s recently updated backgrounder titled “Q&A: Armenian genocide dispute“.

Insert Armenian Genocide

Some insight into the BBC’s approach to its own presentation of the Armenian Genocide can be gleaned from the link to a BBC Trust ESC ruling from 2008 included in the footnote to that Q&A article.

“…as there is no consensus over the account of the event, even amongst the international community, and taking into account that there was no admission by the Turkish State that this was genocide, it is appropriate that the BBC continues to report this event accurately by stating the facts as they are known, which includes the views of the various sides to the argument without taking a position.”

Under the sub-heading “Who recognises it as genocide and who does not?” the Q&A article states:

“Argentina, Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, Russia and Uruguay are among more than 20 countries which have formally recognised genocide against the Armenians.

The European Parliament and the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities have also done so.

The UK, US and Israel are among those that use different terminology to describe the events.”

Whilst Israel has yet to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, it has sent an official delegation to the centenary commemoration ceremonies and in January of this year President Reuven Rivlin raised the issue in his speech at the UN General Assembly on the occasion of Holocaust Memorial Day.

“Rivlin recalled quoting the words of Avshalom Feinberg, a leading member of Nili, the Jewish underground, which cooperated with the Allies during World War I.

In 1915, when Armenians were being massacred by Turks, Feinberg wrote: “My teeth have been ground down with worry, whose turn is next? When I walked on the blessed and holy ground on my way up to Jerusalem, I asked myself if we are living in our modern era, in 1915, or in the days of Titus or Nebuchadnezzar? Did I, a Jew, forget that I am a Jew? I also asked myself if I have the right to weep ‘over the tragedy of my people’ only, and whether the Prophet Jeremiah did not shed tears of blood for the Armenians as well?” In New York, Rivlin told those gathered at the UN that when Feinberg had written those words 100 years ago – “100 years of hesitation and denial” – nobody in the land of Israel at the time had denied that the massacre that had taken place.

“The residents of Jerusalem, my parents and the members of my family,” Rivlin said then, “saw the Armenian refugees arriving by the thousands – starving, piteous survivors of calamity. In Jerusalem they found shelter and their descendants continue to live there to this day.””

Avshalom Feinberg was of course not the only member of Nili to witness the Armenian Genocide. In his memoir Eitan Belkind noted that he compiled a report for the British Authorities on the subject of the atrocities he had witnessed during his travels in Mesopotamia and elsewhere.

“As soon as we found horses to ride and soldiers to accompany us, Jacob Baker went on his way to Mosul, I set out to my region, along the River Khabur. At night before departure we heard terrible, heart-rending female screams. The Armenian camp was one kilometer away from our house. The screaming continued all night. We asked what was happening, they told us that children were being taken from their mothers to live in dormitories and continue their education. However in the morning when we set off and crossed the bridge across Euphrates, I was shocked to see the river red with blood and beheaded corpses of children floating on the water. The scene was horrible, as there was nothing we could do. 

After three days riding, I reached Aram- Naharaim where I witnessed a terrible tragedy. There were two camps next to each other, one Armenian and one Circassian. The Circassians were “busy” with exterminating the Armenians. There were also Arab sheikhs, who selected beautiful Armenian girls as their wives. Two women approached me and gave their photos to me. Should I ever get to Aleppo and find their families (whether their families were alive, was a question), the women asked me to send their greetings to whomever I find there. 

The Circassian officer seeing me talk to the two Armenian women ordered me to leave but I stayed to see what would happen to the Armenians. The Circassian soldiers ordered the Armenians to gather dry grass and pile it into a tall pyramid, then they tied up all the Armenians who were there, almost 5000 souls, their hands tied together and put them in a circle around the pile of grass and set it afire in a blaze, which rose up to the heaven together with the screams of the wretched people, who were being burned to death. I fled from the place I could not stand this horrifying sight. I rode as fast as I could, wishing to get as far from the place as possible. After two hours of crazy gallop I could still hear creams of the poor victims until they died out. In two days I returned to that place and saw the burned bodies of thousands people. 

I approached the Sandjer Mountains where Yezidim lived. At the foot of the mountain, on my way to the city Urfa in the north, I witnessed several mass-exterminations of the Armenians. People were wretched, desperate to madness. In one of the houses I saw an Armenian woman cooking her own child’s body in a pot. All the roads were strewn with the corpses of murdered Armenians.”

Whist travelling from Constantinople (Istanbul) to Haifa via Anatolia in 1915, Sarah Aaronsohn saw scenes similar to those later witnessed and described in his diaries by her brother Aaron in July of the following year as he travelled from Damascus to Constantinople. In November 1916 Aaron Aaronsohn sent a memorandum describing the atrocities to the British authorities and an edited (by the British) version of that memorandum is to be found in the Foreign Office records.

That report of course joins the many others from the time documenting the atrocities against the Armenian people. As we see, however, the BBC is still waiting for an “admission by the Turkish State that this was genocide”.

 

BBC responds to complaints about Jeremy Bowen’s ‘Today’ interview

Members of the public who contacted the BBC regarding a claim made by Jeremy Bowen during an interview in the April 14th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme have informed us of the receipt of the following template response from different members of staff at the BBC Complaints department.BBC brick wall

“Thanks for contacting us.

We have raised your concerns with the production team who have provided the following response;

“Thank you for taking the time to contacting us [sic], I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy Jeremy Bowen’s contribution to the programme’s items on persecution of Christians on 14 April.

His interview was an analysis of the situation of Christians in Middle Eastern countries, he talked about the various threats and how Christians in various parts of region feel.

He also set this in an historical context, saying Christians had been leaving the Middle East for many years, and that this is why there are communities in South America.

At the end of the interview, after he mentioned Egypt and Lebanon, he said “Palestinian Christians feel threatened not just from extreme Islam but by what the Israeli government might be doing”. He was describing the mood of Palestinian Christians, not the policies of the government of Israel.

Jeremy is the BBC’s Middle East Editor, he has extensive experience of reporting on the ground and his analysis is based on that.”

Rest assured your feedback is very important to us and as such we have placed your concerns on an overnight report. This is a document which is made available to senior staff, programme editors and news teams across the BBC and means your comments can be seen quickly and can be consulted in future broadcasting and policy decisions.

Thanks again for getting in touch.”

Were we to take the ‘Today’ programme production team’s claim that Bowen “was describing the mood of Palestinian Christians, not the policies of the government of Israel” at face value, we would of course have to note that Bowen did not clarify that intention to listeners. Having mentioned the very real threats to Middle East Christians posed by “extreme Islam”, in the same breath he went on to cite “what the Israeli government might be doing” – thus leading listeners towards the mistaken belief that Palestinian Christians do have reason to “feel threatened” by unspecified Israeli government actions just as much as they have cause to fear Islamist extremists.

As readers are no doubt aware, this is the third recent response (see related articles below) from the BBC relating to content produced by its Middle East editor in the last few weeks and it is no more satisfactory than its predecessors.

Related Articles:

BBC responds to complaints about Jeremy Bowen’s interview with Khaled Masha’al

BBC responds to complaint about Jeremy Bowen’s ‘Holocaust card’ Tweet

No BBC coverage of Amnesty International’s antisemitism vote

On April 21st the Jewish Chronicle reported that Amnesty International had rejected a motion to tackle rising antisemitism in Britain at its annual conference.

“The motion was tabled by Amnesty member Andrew Thorpe-Apps in March who said it was defeated at the International AGM on Sunday by 468 votes to 461.

Mr Thorpe Apps said: “It was the only resolution to be defeated during the whole conference.”

Amnesty International UK press officer Neil Durkin said: “After a really interesting debate where everyone condemned discrimination against all ethnic and religious groups, our membership decided not to pass this resolution calling for a campaign with a single focus.”

However, Amnesty International has not ruled out ‘single focus’ campaigns in the past, as the BBC has previously reported and the JC goes on to point out:

“In April 2012 the charity published a report into discrimination against Muslims.

The report titled Choice and Prejudice Discrimination against Muslims in Europe said:

“The aim of this report is to focus on discrimination on grounds of religion or belief and to illustrate some of its consequences on Muslims in Europe.””

NGO Monitor likewise notes that:AI report

“…AIUK [Amnesty International UK] has initiated “single focus” campaigns frequently in the past, for instance, approving “overwhelmingly” a 2010 resolution on Sinti and Roma Communities, and stating: “Within the last year widespread discrimination and violence against Sinti and Roma communities has intensified in a number of European countries, which Amnesty International has published within respective country reports.””

At the time of writing we have found no coverage of this story on the BBC News website, despite the fact that Amnesty International is one of the NGOs most frequently uncritically quoted and promoted by the BBC and AIUK has been provided with a BBC platform for fundraising. 

No BBC reporting on last week’s fatal terror attack in Jerusalem

Israel’s Remembrance Day (Yom HaZikaron) commemorates not only those who fell defending the State of Israel, but also the civilian victims of war and terrorism. The most recent of those is twenty-five year-old Shalom Yochai Sherki who was killed when a Palestinian driver from Anata rammed his vehicle into a bus stop at French Hill in Jerusalem on April 15th.BBC News logo 2

“A Palestinian driver deliberately rammed his car into a Jerusalem bus stop this week and killed an Israeli man in a “horrible attack,” Israel Police chief Yohanan Danino said Saturday.[…]

He ruled out initial suggestions that it had been an accident.

Shalom Yohai Sherki, 25, and Shira Klein, 20, were seriously injured in the attack on the bus stop in East Jerusalem.

Sherki, the son of prominent rabbi Ouri Sherki who is well known in the city’s francophone community, died of his injuries on Thursday morning and was buried later that day.

The driver, Khaled Koutineh, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, was also injured and arrested by the police.”

The second victim is still undergoing treatment in hospital and the perpetrator has since admitted that the attack was deliberate.

That terror attack joins the numerous others which were also not reported by the BBC.

Also on April 15th, the Israeli security forces announced the arrests of twenty-nine Hamas activists.

“Security forces arrested 29 suspected Hamas members in the West Bank city of Nablus overnight Tuesday, including some who have been imprisoned in Israel in the past.

Among those detained were senior members of the Palestinian terror group, the army said.

The operation, carried out by the Shin Bet security service, the IDF, and the Israel Police, came amid concern that the activists were preparing to carry out attacks against Israeli targets.

The suspects were to be questioned by the Shin Bet.

The army noted an increase in Hamas activity in the West Bank and said members of the group have been acting on the instructions and funding of its leaders abroad.”

The subject of the Hamas terror cells in Palestinian Authority administered areas which are controlled and funded by Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip and abroad – and threaten not only Israeli civilians but also the PA itself – is one which the BBC has largely managed to avoid in past months.  

Clearly BBC audiences’ understanding of events in both Israel and the PA controlled areas is not enhanced by the absence of any serious reporting on this topic.

BBC WS radio interview with writer conceals anti-Israel activism

Sadly, there is nothing novel about context-free BBC promotion of the Anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) and its proponents. But whilst that political crusade to bring about the demise of Jewish self-determination by means of delegitimisation and demonization is not infrequently directly or indirectly amplified in BBC programming, the corporation inevitably refrains from informing its audiences exactly for what its ‘one-stater’ supporters are campaigning.

“With pressure imposed by the international community through a BDS campaign a la anti-Apartheid campaign which brought Apartheid South Africa to an end, we believe that Israel itself can be transformed into a secular democratic state after the return of 6 million Palestinian refugees who were ethnically cleansed in 1948, a state for ALL of its citizens…therefore, we think that one of the major tools of the struggle towards a secular democratic state is BDS.” Haider Eid, 2009

“So BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state…I view the BDS movement as a long-term project with radically transformative potential… the success of the BDS movement is tied directly to our success in humanizing Palestinians and discrediting Zionism as a legitimate way of regarding the world.” Ahmed Moor, 2010

“BDS represents three words that will help bring about the defeat of Zionist Israel and victory for Palestine.” Ronnie Kasrils, 2009

Concurrently, the BBC also often falls short of its own Editorial Guidelines on impartiality by failing to clarify that interviewees are involved with the BDS campaign and/or additional anti-Israel political activities. Such was the case on April 17th when the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outlook’ interviewed Dervla Murphy – correctly introduced by presenter Matthew Bannister as a travel writer, but with no mention made of her equally relevant anti-Israel political activities.Outlook 17 4

The programme’s synopsis – which is similar to the verbal introduction – reads:

“In 1963, Dervla Murphy left her tiny village of Lismore in Ireland to fulfil a childhood ambition to cycle all the way to India. It was the first of many epic journeys on a shoestring which she turned into best-selling books. Now in her eighties, Dervla has been to destinations as far apart as Siberia, Peru, Cameroon and Tibet. Her latest book tells of spending months living in Israeli settlements and refugee camps in the Palestinian territories.”

Most of the interview (available from 09:15 here) relates to other topics but from 19:28 listeners heard the following:

Bannister: “What took you to Israel and the Palestinian territories? I think you’ve been back there in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011. You’ve even lived in a refugee camp. What took you to that part of the world?”

Murphy: “Well I suppose that is a bit like the impulse that sent me to the north of Ireland and then of course it became much more complicated because, you know, I realized that our world – the West if you like – we really bear a lot of the guilt for how the Palestinians are ill-treated. So I mean it’s one hell of a mess.”

Bannister: “What did you think that your contribution was going to be to the debate because so many words have been spoken and written about that area? What did you feel when you set out to live there for long periods of time that you would be able to add?”

Murphy: “Well I didn’t think that I would be able to add anything in the way of information or insights; anything like that. But why I wrote the two books is because friends said to me ‘well yes; there are hundreds – thousands probably – of really, really good well-researched, well-written books on this theme but if you write a book on the same theme – just your own experiences – it’s possible that you will be able to reach a readership that is not interested in the problems’. I mean the world is so full of problems [laughs]. But, you know, that because they happen to like my travel books, they would read it and therefore the understanding would be widened.”

Bannister: “I understand”.

In other words, the political aims behind Murphy’s book promoted in this programme are clearly of prime importance and of course some insight into those motivations would have helped listeners put the unchallenged simplistic claim that “Palestinians are ill-treated” into its appropriate context.

“In all the countries I’ve visited,” she told me, “that is the only one where I felt it was my actual duty as a writer not to be neutral. Not to play this game of… we must look at this, look at that. We must only look at the fact that the Palestinians are treated utterly outrageously.” But each side, she says, must relinquish a dream in return for peace: the one-state solution is the only answer. “The Palestinians have to give up any notion of having their own separate, independent state, just as the Israelis have to give up having their Jewish-only state… In a sense that’s a good beginning: they both have to give up.”

As one reviewer of Murphy’s previous book about the Gaza Strip put it:

“…it is evident that this is not a travel book at all. The genre has a tendency towards self-indulgence, but there is at least a convention that the reader goes on a psychological, spiritual or political journey with the author as he or she is changed by the otherness of the experience of being somewhere else. There is none of that here. This is a travelogue entirely without a journey. Dervla Murphy has decided what she thinks about the Israel-Palestine conflict long before she sets foot in Gaza and everything she experiences merely reinforces her view that Zionism is a colonial disease that lives only to spread its poison.”

So here we have yet another example of the BBC’s casual mainstreaming of anti-Israel political activism by means of context-free promotion of its inadequately introduced proponents and their activities. We learn that the BBC apparently has no qualms about giving free promotion to a book designed to spread the propaganda of a campaign seeking to destroy a sovereign state and thus deny self-determination to a specific group of people. We might of course ponder the question of whether the corporation would be similarly eager to add its weight to the promotion of a campaign to revoke the basic rights of any other group of people. 

 

 

BBC responds to complaint about Jeremy Bowen’s ‘Holocaust card’ Tweet

Readers no doubt recall the Tweet below which was sent by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen whilst he was covering the Israeli prime minister’s speech to the US Congress on March 3rd 2015.

Bowen tweets speech 1

A member of the public who made a complaint on that matter has received a response from the Complaints Director at the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit – Richard Hutt – which includes the following:

“You have said that this was profoundly offensive and served to trivialise the Holocaust. Reviewing the tweet it did not seem to me that Mr Bowen was referring to the Holocaust as a mere political card to be played, but rather suggesting this is what Mr Netanyahu was doing. I would accept that this is a fine distinction, and one which the medium may not be best suited to convey. However, the sense I took from it was that Mr Bowen felt Mr Netanyahu had introduced the Holocaust in reference to Iran as a means of influencing the decisions of America’s policy makers about that country. Earlier in Mr Netanyahu’s speech he had drawn direct parallels between Iran and Nazi Germany and in his acknowledgement of Elie Wiesel he returned to that comparison – referring to “dark and murderous regimes” and saying that:

And I wish I could promise you, Elie, that the lessons of history have been learned. I can only urge the leaders of the world not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

The characterisation of those references and that comparison (between Iran now and Nazi Germany in 1938) as the playing of a card does not itself serve to demean the Holocaust or reduce it to a political tool. In fact, accusing another of doing so might suggest quite the opposite.

Some who complained about the tweet have said that it offers evidence of bias, and that the facts regarding Iran support Mr Netanyahu’s decision to bring the holocaust [sic] into the discussion. I appreciate that it might be argued that the denial of the Holocaust by some in Iran, coupled with their belligerence regarding Israel, makes Mr Netanyahu’s reference appropriate. Conversely, some have pointed to profound differences between Iran now and the Nazi state in 1938. It is not, however, for me to pass judgement on the extent to which this reference was apposite, but only on whether Mr Bowen’s characterisation of it amounted to a breach of the BBC’s standards. I cannot say I think it was. The BBC’s guidelines do not prevent correspondents from using their judgement in characterising events and offering their knowledge and experience to offer informed perspectives on them – and this, it seemed to me, was what happened here.

I would accept that this might have been better worded. However, this was not an in-depth article but a single tweet, one of many published over the course of a live event, and the necessary brevity of that format makes extra background impossible – a limitation which I think audiences understand and a context in which it must be judged. I don’t think anyone would look to the tweet for a full understanding of the nuances of the situation in Iran or the speech as a whole but rather a (live) shorthand summary of one aspect of it, as analysed by Mr Bowen. His analysis reflected his particular interpretation of Mr Netanyahu’s comments but as I say such interpretation is allowed and indeed expected of correspondents, particularly from their own Twitter accounts. I don’t therefore believe this amounted to bias.

The BBC’s guidelines do not promise that content will never offend. They do however require that where it might, some editorial justification exists. In this case, I think the informed analysis I describe above would offer that justification, and as I say I do not think this served to belittle the Holocaust in any way. While I recognise and regret that you found this offensive I do not believe it is in breach of the BBC’s standards.”

As was noted here at the time:

“The accepted definition of the idiom ‘play the card’ is to exploit a specific issue for political advantage. In other words, Bowen is accusing Netanyahu of cynically making use of the memory of six million murdered Jews for his own political gain and his use of the words “once again” indicates that Bowen is of the opinion that this is a regular practice on the part of the Israeli prime minister.”

The BBC, it seems, would have us believe that is an ‘informed perspective’ which has “editorial justification”.

Related Articles:

BBC audiences get Israeli PM’s Congress speech through the Bowen filter – part one

Commentary on BBC ME editor’s ‘Holocaust card’ Tweet widens