BBC’s Natalia Antelava shows how antisemitism can be reported accurately and impartially

We have on numerous occasions in the past criticized the BBC on these pages for its downplaying of antisemitism in the United Kingdom – see for example here, here and here.

It was therefore all the more refreshing to see three recent reports by Natalia Antelava in which the recent events in Donetsk involving a threatening letter distributed to the Jewish community by unknown persons were presented in a realistic and measured manner.

On April 18th Natalia Antelava produced a filmed report for BBC television news which also appeared on the BBC News website.  In that report she correctly pointed out that:

“….it doesn’t really matter who is behind this letter. What matters is the fact that someone has felt confident enough to write it and to distribute it…”

Ukraine 1

On April 19th another filmed report by Natalia Antelava also appeared on BBC television news and on the website. In that report too she pointed out that:

“….we still don’t know who the authors [of the letter] are but in a way it almost doesn’t matter. The very fact that someone has dared to write and distribute the letter is enough of a reason to worry.”

Ukraine 2

Natalia Antelava’s third report on the threats against the Jewish community in Donetsk is a written article titled “Ukraine crisis: Donetsk anti-Semitic leaflets stir old fears” which appeared on both the Europe and Middle East pages of the BBC News website on April 19th.

Ukraine 3

The clarity of vision and the ability to call a spade a spade as displayed by Natalia Antelava in these three reports stands in refreshing contrast to the BBC’s very patchy record on reporting antisemitism on its home turf.   

BBC News interviewee’s antisemitic slur goes unchallenged

Here is a clip (apologies for the sound quality) from a programme broadcast on the BBC News channel in the early hours (UK time) of April 2nd 2014 and sent to us via a reader. 

The identity of the interviewee apparently discussing the Palestinian Authority’s recent application to join assorted UN agencies is unknown to us – if readers recognise him, please tell us in the comments below – but his unchallenged employment of an antisemitic slur is notable.

“One thing which struck me when I used to work in Washington – when I used to work in Congress – is just how influential the Israeli lobby is. Now we all know that – how influential AIPAC is: a role model for lobbying and taking control of a foreign government effectively in terms of the US.”

Notably, the programme’s presenters have no comment to make regarding the claim that an American pro-Israel organisation has “effectively” taken “control” of a “foreign government” other than the female host’s “alright”.

BBC News channel April 2 2014 

The EUMC working definition of antisemitism includes the following:

“Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

Obviously BBC News presenters remain in dire need of a refresher course on anti-Jewish racism if the BBC is to avoid being party to the propagation of antisemtic slurs. 



Nazi analogies and ‘apartheid’ defamation on BBC World ‘Have Your Say’ Facebook account

Here are the BBC’s house rules for its ‘Have Your Say’ comments boards. They include the following:

“No defamatory comments. A defamatory comment is one that is capable of damaging the reputation of a person or organisation. If successfully sued you could be held liable for considerable damages and costs.”

“Do not incite people to commit any crime, including incitement of racial hatred.”

“Do not post messages that are unlawful, harassing, defamatory, abusive, threatening, harmful, obscene, profane, sexually oriented, homophobic or racially offensive.”

Here is a page (still available on the internet) from the BBC World ‘Have Your Say’ programme’s Facebook account which invites the public to comment under the heading “We’re live speaking to a cross-section of people in Israel, including the settler community. What would you like to ask them?“. The solicited responses – which have remained in public view since December 2012 – include those below.








The BBC’s editorial guidelines on “Moderation, Hosting, Escalation and User Management” state that:

“There must be a named individual in the relevant Division to take responsibility for user contributions, just as for BBC content. They should ensure that the space maintains appropriate overall standards of moderation, hosting and user management. “


“Every online space where user contributions are published must be moderated to remove illegal and inappropriate content, it must have appropriate user management, and it should normally have a host to provide a visible and active presence.”

Clearly the system defined in that guidance is not working sufficiently well if antisemitic Nazi analogies and defamatory ‘apartheid’ slurs remain on a BBC message board for over a year. 

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Antisemitic trope on BBC comments board – again

BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ still busy ‘contextualising’ antisemitism

Here is a series of Tweets sent from the BBC ‘Newsnight’ account to two hundred and three thousand followers on February 8th:

Newsnight twitter

Here is the interview which is being promoted in those Tweets:

Clearly ‘Newsnight staff still don’t get it.

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Helen Grady does real journalism on BBC WS ‘Assignment’

Helen Grady does real journalism on BBC WS ‘Assignment’

Last month we noted here the miserable decision by the BBC 2 ‘Newsnight’ production team to provide a platform to Alain Soral (described in this recent article by the Independent’s John Lichfield as “a virulently anti-semitic French intellectual, light years to the right of the Marine Le Pen and the National Front”) as part of its coverage of the quenelle/Anelka/Dieudonne story.

Newsnight’s tepid and misleading description of Soral as a “writer and film-maker” and the unhindered airing of his antisemitic conspiracy theories did nothing to enhance audience understanding of the issues at hand. 

Hence, it is all the more refreshing to be able to note a recent BBC World Service programme in the ‘Assignment’ series which actually does provide a lot of background material which will help BBC audiences reach informed opinions. Helen Grady’s interesting and informative report – titled “Dieudonne: France’s Most Dangerous Comedian?” – makes fascinating listening for anyone trying to understand the popularity of Dieudonne and how that phenomenon fits into the picture of contemporary politics and antisemitism in France. It is available here or here on BBC iPlayer. 

Assignment BBC WS

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BBC ties itself in Neturei Karta knots

As was noted by a commenter on this thread, a BBC News website UK page report from January 26th concerning the visit to London by the leader of the far-Right, openly antisemitic Hungarian party Jobbik included a photograph of several individuals belonging to the extremist Neturei Karta sect and the statement “Members of the Jewish community also joined the protest against Jobbik”. The original wording of the article can be seen here and the photograph here.

On January 28th the photograph was removed and a footnote was added to the amended article.

footnote Jobbik art

That amendment was apparently prompted by Neturei Karta itself, which took pains to explain on its Facebook account that in fact the protesters were demonstrating in support of Jobbik rather than against. NK facebook

“Members of Neturei Karta were demonstrating against the strident and aggressive actions of the Zionists against Jobbick [sic]and Mr. Vona, The Rabbis of NK were carrying a banner with a clear message: ”Authentic Jewry is Against Zionist Aggression”. 

The BBC ignored the banner and totally distorting our message. They stated that the Rabbis were there to demonstrate against Mr. Vona and Jobbick. That is totally false.

I have lodged a complaint with the BBC and await the outcome.”

Those familiar with the activities of Neturei Karta will of course not be surprised by this latest display of support for yet another antisemitic cause.

Also on January 28th an article titled “Israel jails anti-Zionist for offering to spy for Iran” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. 

In that article a reasonable short description is given of the Neturei Karta sect to which the convicted man belongs.

“Bergel belongs to the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect which is vehemently opposed to the State of Israel’s existence.”

The report ends:NK art ME pge

“Neturei Karta members have travelled to Iran in the past. In 2006, there was outrage in Israel when a delegation hugged then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a conference questioning the historical truth of Holocaust.”

That anaemic and misleading description of course hinders BBC audience understanding of the fact that criticism of Iran’s Holocaust denying ‘conference‘ and Neturei Karta’s participation in it (rather than merely of hugs with the Iranian president) was expressed by many others besides Israel, including the US State Department and the president of the German parliament – as reported by the BBC itself at the time.

When this article originally appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page it was accompanied by two links to ‘related articles’. One of those links was to a 2009 BBC report about a visit by members of Neturei Karta to the Gaza Strip in which Hamas’ antisemitism is downplayed .

“Mr Haniya welcomed them, saying Hamas rejects Zionist ideology, not Jews.

“We feel your suffering, we cry your cry,” the Associated Press quoted Rabbi Yisroel Weiss as saying.

“It is your land, it is occupied, illegitimately and unjustly by people who stole it, kidnapped the name of Judaism and our identity.” ” [..]

“Mr Haniya described the men as “heroes”, according to Palestinian media reports.

“Our problem is with the occupation, that stems from the Zionist ideology and its desire to disperse all the Palestinians,” he said.

“Those religious figures that express their objection to the siege, the aggression and the crimes – we can’t help but respect them and for their beliefs and their culture.” “

The other link was to a BBC article from December 2006 concerning Neturei Karta’s participation in the Iranian Holocaust denial event. NK GMJ b

“A handful of Orthodox Jews have attended Iran’s controversial conference questioning the Nazi genocide of the Jews – not because they deny the Holocaust but because they object to using it as justification for the existence of Israel.” […]

“Rabbi Friedman told BBC Radio 4′s PM programme that he was not in Tehran to debate whether the Holocaust happened or not, but to look at its lessons.

He says the Holocaust was being used to legitimise the suffering of other peoples and he wanted to break what he called a taboo on discussing it.

The main thing, he argued, was not Jewish suffering in the past but the use of the Holocaust as a “tool of commercial, military and media power”.”

In addition to promoting and amplifying the views of a miniscule extremist sect dedicated to the destruction of a UN member state (and affording the title of Rabbi to a man whose rabbinical qualifications are at best unclear), that article also includes reader comments; some in the style shown below.  

comment d NK Iran art

comment a NK Iran art

 Several hours later those two ‘related articles’ links were removed from the Middle East page and the report now stands alone.Neturei Karta visiting the tomb of Imad Mughniyeh, Beirut March 2012

It would appear that Neturei Karta presents something of a conundrum for the BBC. Its description of the London demonstrators as “members of the Jewish community” clearly indicates that it does not adequately comprehend the fact that Neturei Karta has a negligible number of followers who have no contact with mainstream Jewish communities. On the other hand, the temptation to amplify the views of a handful of anti-Zionist Jews – and thereby downplay the antisemitic aspects of many an anti-Israel demonstration, meeting or conference – is apparently irresistible.

Now that members of Neturei Karta have made their support for European fascists (rather than ‘just’ Middle East ones) known directly to the BBC, perhaps the penny will finally drop.

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Rinse and repeat: BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ enabling Roger Waters’ hogwash

h/t J

On January 1st 2014 the BBC World News programme ‘Hardtalk chose to broadcast a re-run of an interview with Roger Waters which was originally aired in September 2013 and has now been shown a total of a dozen times. 

At around six minutes into the programme, presenter Stephen Sackur says:

“And perhaps the strongest reaction you’ve got is from people who see some of the imagery – and in particular the imagery on that inflatable pig, which is a central part of the show…” 

Waters interrupts:

“Here we go..”

Sackur: “..see it as anti-Israeli and some say antisemitic.”

Waters: “Well this is…has become an old chestnut now because this whole question of this particular pig which appears in the second half of the show when I am playing the part of a fascist demagogue – or any kind of extremist demagogue if you like – is satire and it’s recognized as being that. This record has been out there with the lyrics that are contained in the work, which are part of the narrative, for – as you say – since 1979. So, the use of different symbols on the pig – which include the Star of David, the crucifix, crescent and star, the dollar sign, the hammer and sickle and all kinds of other symbols that ..emm..I felt were relevant when we were designing the show – have been there as part of the show since 2010.”

However, an Israeli who attended Waters’ show in July 2013 had a different experience:

“I came to the concert because I really like his music, without any connection to his political stance toward Israel,” says Alon Onfus Asif, an Israeli living in Belgium. “And I had a lot of fun, until I noticed the Star of David, on the inflatable pig. That was the only religious-national symbol which appeared among other symbols for fascism, dictatorships and oppression of people. 

See if you can find any other religious-national symbols in this footage from the show.

Here is what Waters told ‘Billboard’ in December 2013: [emphasis added]

“Waters says a new set of pigs were built for the South America leg of the tour and the Star of David was one of the symbols added to them. “Since then, because of the complaints from some of the Jewish community, we’ve added a crucifix and star-crescent,” Waters says.”

In other words, the claim made by Waters in the September 2013 interview with Sackur – according to which the symbols of Christianity and Islam were presented alongside the Star of David on the inflatable pig from the very beginning of the tour – was apparently not verified by the Hardtalk production team before the initial or numerous repeat broadcasts of this programme. 

BBC’s Berlin correspondent: Jews “displeased the Nazis”

h/t LO

The January 15th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Six O’Clock News’, presented by Charles Carroll, included a short item (from around 26:00) about the Guelph Treasure.

Six Oclock News 15 1 14

Carroll introduces the item:

“A German mediation panel has started hearing evidence in a dispute about the ownership of a vast collection of medieval religious art, believed to be worth hundreds of millions of pounds. The Guelph Treasure is currently housed at the state-founded Bode Museum in Berlin. But the heirs of Jewish art dealers who owned it in the 1930s say they sold it to the Nazis under duress. Israel has taken the unusual step of writing to the German government to say it’s watching the matter closely. Our correspondent Steve Evans has been to see the treasures in the darkened vault where they’re on display.”

Steve Evans has been the BBC’s Berlin correspondent since September 2010. He tells listeners: Picture of Stephen Evans

“These works are without doubt stunning. Here in the Bode Museum in Berlin are the most ornate gold and silver-work crucifixes. There’s a magnificent twelfth-century carving of a church here with engravings of the apostles and of Christ on the cross, all in ivory and pearl and domed in gold.

In 1671 these treasures passed from the church in Germany to the Duke of Brunswick-Luneberg whose family kept them for nearly three centuries. Then, in 1929, a group of Jewish art dealers bought them. Four years later the Nazis came to power and Goering, the founder of the Gestapo, decided he wanted these treasures for the Nazi Reich.

In the atmosphere of terror at the time, the art dealers sold their treasures: a forced sale say their descendants today. It was a time when Jews, who displeased the Nazis, risked their lives. Now an official commission will decide if these treasures can stay here.”

There are perhaps two ways of reading that miserable sentence. Were one being charitable, it could be interpreted as intending to say that Jews who did something to incur the displeasure of the Nazis risked their lives. Clearly that was not the case: Jews were persecuted and exterminated en-masse not because of anything they had done or said, but purely and simply because they were Jews.

But when one actually listens to Evans’ report, one notes that he pauses after the word ‘Jews’ and again after the word ‘Nazis’, thus clearly indicating that his intention is to convey to listeners that in general, Nazis were “displeased” by Jews.

Steve (Stephen) Evans’ statement is not merely a reduction of the famous British understatement to the absurd. The crass description of a racist, persecutory, genocidal regime as “displeased” and the inversion of action and reaction in that sentence – which makes Jews the active party who “displeased” the passive Nazis – is both historically ridiculous and offensive.

BBC editors and correspondents – and especially one based in Berlin for over three years already – should know a lot better.


BBC Watch has received the following e-mail from Mr Evans:


I don’t normally spot your website but on a slow day I came across it.  Can I say that what you write about me and my piece is drivel.  It reveals a level of historical knowledge and awareness that would shame any moderately intelligent fifteen year old with half an interest in the events of the last century. The works were sold in 1935 – the same year as the Nuremberg Laws – so there was no systematic murder of Jews by the state at that time.  What there was, rather, was widespread persecution.  As I pointed out:  any Jew who displeased Nazis risked extreme violence.  Feel free to incorporate my views in your “analysis” – though somehow I suspect you won’t!

Stephen Evans

Berlin Correspondent, BBC

So once again, as noted above, Steve Evans is suggesting a connection between what Jews did – “displeased Nazis”- and the risk of “extreme violence” against them and is apparently unwilling to acknowledge that in fact, racist attitudes towards Jews as a group – rather than anything specific individuals did or did not do – were the basis for both “widespread persecution” and “extreme violence”. 





BBC pussyfooting around antisemitism again

A January 10th obituary for Amiri Baraka which appeared in the Entertainment & Arts section of the BBC News website includes the following paragraph: Baraka

“In 2002, as poet laureate of New Jersey, Baraka drew accusations of anti-Semitism over his poem Somebody Blew Up America, which referenced the 11 September 2001 attacks.”

Like this writer, many readers of that article will probably remain confused as to why a poem about the 9/11 attacks should prompt “accusations” of anti-Semitism and why the BBC does not offer any further explanation to that cryptic statement.

Fortunately, Sohrab Ahmari of the WSJ comes to the rescue. 

“Amiri Baraka, New Jersey’s controversial one-time poet laureate, died yesterday, aged 79. The poet, essayist, and playwright’s body of work will be remembered, if at all, as among the least humane in the history of American letters. An early 9/11 denier—a notorious 2002 poem suggested Jews were responsible for the attacks—Baraka embraced many of the last century’s worst ideologies.  […]

And he hated Jews. “Smile, jew. / Dance, jew. / Tell me you love me, jew. . . . / I got the extermination blues, jewboys. / I got the hitler syndrome figured,” Baraka wrote in a poem published in 1969.

Baraka’s bigotry reached its apotheosis in 2002, with the publication and performance of his 9/11 poem, “Somebody Blew Up America.” The opening reads: “They say its some terrorist, some barbaric A Rab, in Afghanistan It wasn’t our American terrorists It wasn’t the Klan or the Skin heads Or the them that blows up n— Churches, or reincarnates us on Death Row It wasn’t Trent Lott Or David Duke or Giuliani Or Schundler, Helms retiring . . . ”

In the “verses” that follow, the poet asks questions like: “Who killed Malcolm, Kennedy & his Brother Who killed Dr King, Who would want such a thing? Are they linked to the murder of Lincoln?” Then, near the end, he wonders: “Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers To stay home that day Why did [former Israeli prime minister Ariel] Sharon stay away?” “

Read the rest of Sohrab Ahmari’s article here.

So why – once again – is the BBC being so coy about antisemitism?


BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ joins ‘Newsnight’ in breach of editorial guidelines

The BBC’s coverage of the request by the French government to ban shows by the ‘comedian’ Dieudonne on the grounds of threat to public order continued on January 8th on Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme. Readers will no doubt recall that the same subject was covered the previous evening on BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ and on Radio 4′s ‘The World Tonight’. 

The relevant edition of the ‘Today’ programme is available here and the item concerned begins from around 2:22:50. Presenter Sarah Montague opens the report:

“The French president Francois Hollande has written to local authorities in France urging them to ban the controversial comedian Dieudonne on public order grounds. He has six convictions for hate speech against Jews. Here’s the president explaining his move.”

The programme than cuts to a recording of President Hollande, after which Montague continues:

“Well a number of French cities have now banned the comedian and although Dieudonne has vowed to appeal against those bans. His close friend Alain Soral told ‘Newsnight’ last night that Dieudonne’s words had been taken out of context; that he’s anti-establishment, not antisemitic.”

Once again, no attempt is made to comply with the BBC editorial guidelines which state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

No mention is made of Soral’s past membership of the Far-Right Front National or of his collaboration with Dieudonne in the ‘Anti-Zionist List’ in the 2009 European elections. His photographed neo-Nazi ‘quenelle’ salute at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial is likewise concealed from Radio 4 listeners.

The part of the ‘Newsnight’ interview repeated on the ‘Today’ programme is one of its milder passages.

AS: “I don’t think you’ve quite understood that Dieudonne is a comedian. He performs comedy, he does sketches. So if you take one phrase from a sketch you won’t understand. You need to ask the people who have seen his entire show which lasts an hour and a half. Then you’ll see that his very diverse audience, which reflects the whole of French public opinion, has never thought that he’s antisemitic.”

Montague then moves on to speak to the French philosopher Bernard Henri Levy. That part of the interview was also promoted as a podcast which can be heard here.

One listener who apparently found the interview with Bernard Henri Levy interesting was the ‘Newsnight’ editor Ian Katz. 

Katz tweet 1

Katz tweet 2

That soon prompted the following reply:

Katz tweet reply

To which Katz answered:

Katz tweet 3

In other words, the editor of the BBC’s flagship news programme is in no doubt that the denial of national rights to the Jewish people is not an expression of racism.

Well that does explain a lot, doesn’t it?

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BBC Sport amplifies Anelka excuses, downplays antisemitism