Two BBC programmes claim criticism of Israel brings accusations of antisemitism

h/t: DL, Amie

One annoying aspect of being an Israeli, or a person with family in Israel, at a time like this is having to listen to pundits (who it is quite safe to assume have never had to grab their children and rush to a bomb-shelter within seconds because of missile fire from terrorists) sitting safely in a studio thousands of miles away and pontificating about the rights and wrongs of a conflict upon which they apparently believe they are qualified to comment because they have read about it in the papers or watched it on television.Any Questions

This last weekend the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Any Questions?’ had on its panel the former (2000 – 2004) BBC director general Greg Dyke, former LibDem MP Susan Kramer, Harper’s Bazaar editor Justine Picardie and MEP Dan Hannan. In the section of the programme which related to the current hostilities (available here from around 33:13 or here on iPlayer), listeners heard the editor of a fashion magazine opine that life in Gaza “is like living in a big prison”. They also heard a British MEP describe the Gaza Strip as a “sealed concentration camp almost” and then add “I should say sealed refugee camp”. Most interestingly though, they got to hear the following remarks from the man who headed the BBC during most of the second Intifada before resigning his position in the wake of the Hutton Report.

Greg Dyke: “I have to say, I do find the Israeli response massively over the top. [applause] I look at…and I look at what’s been happening this week with horror. I also….the problem is, if you criticize Israel you are – by certain sections of the Jewish community around the world – immediately accused of being antisemitic – which I am not in any way. And we have got to overcome…and you have to look at why is the American response always so limited; why do the Americans actually….because they’re scared of the Jewish community and the Jewish vote in America. We somehow have got to separate the concept of antisemitism…and supporting an Israeli government that I think is not supportable or doing things that are not justifiable. [applause]“

Presenter Jonathan Dimbleby then says:

“Greg, as you will know, historically the BBC has come under great external pressure from the interest groups in this – very severe. At the moment the criticism seems to be coming principally not from the Israelis for the BBC coverage but from those who think that the Palestinians and those who live in Palestine are not being fairly, adequately represented with enough background information to form a clear judgement. Yet…is the BBC eternally locked in that or does the BBC have something to answer for?”

Dyke: “It’s incredibly difficult. I mean I was director general of the BBC for four years in a period of conflict. There was no doubt there was more pressure on me from the Israelis than any other state anywhere in the world. To the extent that in the end I stood up and said look I’m sorry – you cannot be the judge of impartiality. You are so one-sided in this you have got to leave it to us to be the judge of impartiality but we have got to be impartial and we have got to try to be impartial. I do find – I have to say – this week I have found every time the BB…eh…BBC news talks about Israel and then militant Palestinians, I find that a difficult…if I’d been director general this time, I’d be saying hang on – this is…is this not judgemental? We call one bunch a government and the other bunch we call militant Palestinians and the word militant implies somehow illegitimate.”

So, apparently the man who was at the helm whilst the BBC spread the lethal narratives of the ‘Jenin massacre’ that never was and the Al Dura story is more concerned about the risk of implying via terminology that a person who indiscriminately fires military grade missiles at civilians is “illegitimate” than he is with those acts themselves. One can only wonder if that ‘gem’ crops up in the Balen Report of 2004 which the BBC has spent ten years and hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money avoiding publishing.

Another programme broadcast by the BBC this last weekend was the July 27th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Weekend’ – available here for a limited period of time. It is worth listening to the programme in full in order to hear the context-free descriptions of the Gaza Strip from Chris Morris and Ian Pannell, including further promotion of Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demand to “lift the economic blockade” – described as a “smart demand” by Morris.WS Weekend

That programme also has two guests: one a woman in Paris called Vaiju Naravane – a novelist and former European bureau chief for the India’s Hindu newspaper, which apparently qualifies her to discuss the issue of this conflict although the fact that she describes Israeli towns and villages in Judea & Samaria as “colonies” is probably sufficient clue as to her political orientations. Right at the end of the programme she is given a platform to promote the following notions.

“Oh I think it’s a huge challenge [covering the story in the Gaza Strip]. I mean this is bigger than anything we faced in the Balkans in the 1990s for instance. […] and we’re not talking also about the essentials of the problem. I mean when France was occupied during the Second World War there were people who were planting bombs and there were people who were undertaking terrorist acts in order to get rid of the Germans from here and they were hailed as heroes. Now the same thing is not being applied to Hamas. I have no sympathies for Hamas because I think they’re extremists and all that. But at the same time you cannot in any moral sense have the kind of occupation – the way in which these people – this 1.4 million population is living in 140 square meters [sic] of territory without any kind of access and this is going on year after year after year and Israel’s demand seems to me to be submit, don’t do anything, don’t hit back and we’ll be OK with you but we will not remove the blockades, we will not remove the restrictions we place on your life. Now what sort of an argument is that?”

The other guest on that programme was Robert Fox – formerly a BBC defence correspondent and currently an occasional BBC contributor. Notably, Fox came up with the same claim promoted by Greg Dyke the day before.

“One of the difficulties that I’m having is that every time you criticize Israel… somebody of my position who’s been at the game for 47 years….ah, but you’re being antisemitic. That is a confusion of language. It’s a monstrosity… [..] This is a debate. There is an argument on all sides because what the criticism of Israel…what Israel is doing – and it’s a fundamental of international law – it is disproportion.”

So there we go: two ‘cultured’ BBC radio programmes in one weekend – both of which include promotion of the notion that it is not possible to criticize Israel without being accused of antisemitism – with one of the speakers making his own none-too-veiled insinuations based on the ‘Jewish power’ trope and another who – through her claim that Hamas is like the French Resistance and her comparison of Israel’s non-existent occupation of Gaza with that of Germany in France in WWII  – using a Nazi analogy.

Could it get more surreal than that?  

 

 

 

Unhindered promotion of PSC speaker’s propaganda by BBC News

The next time the opaquely funded, Hamas supporting, Palestine Solidarity Campaign complains about supposed BBC bias in favour of Israel (and let’s face it – that won’t take long), it may be worth reminding them of an item which appeared on BBC television news on July 26th and was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “London rally will ‘boost morale of Palestinians in Gaza’“.PSC demo London al Helou

In that report on a rally held on the same date in London (at which antisemitic imagery and messaging were in open use, although there is no reporting on that in this item), presenter Keith Doyle interviewed Yousef al Helou – currently a Reuters Journalist Fellow at Oxford University. Doyle made no effort whatsoever to counter the inaccuracies, falsehoods and propaganda spouted by al Helou, who claims not to be a Hamas supporter but all the same seems to have no qualms about doing a speaking tour for the PSC which does support and enable that terrorist organisation.

Doyle: “This is one of a number of protests and rallies taking place throughout the UK. Organisers estimate around 15 thousand people are taking part in this protest outside the Israeli Embassy. It’s just moving off now but one of those people who is here at this protest is Yousef al Helou. You’re a journalist from Gaza; your family are there – have you been in touch with them?”

Al Helou: “Yes I am. I was born in Gaza. I grew up in Gaza which is known to be the world’s largest open-air prison. I’m in touch with my family and of course I’m very worried about them. I’m stressed out. I’m exhausted. I couldn’t sleep for the past three weeks trying just to stay awake. I didn’t want to hear bad news about my family. My house has sustained damage as a result of an Israeli airstrike. I’ve lost 12 members of my extended family. I live in the eastern part of Gaza where a Shuja’iya quarter was entirely flattened. The situation is miserable, very dangerous. There are no red lines. Hospitals were attacked, paramedics, journalists, mosques, churches, cemeteries. The ICRC is trying its best to work. People are outraged from the silence of the international community and they want to see of course an [unintelligible] court.”

Doyle; “Can a rally like this – can this do anything to help?”

Al Helou: “At least it will boost the morale of the Palestinians inside Gaza. They know now that they are not alone. ‘Cos the Palestinian cause is a just cause; it’s a universal issue.”

Doyle: “But it does take two sides to make peace and rockets are still going into Israeli territory.”

Al Helou: “Israel decided to wage this war on Gaza without any evidence that Hamas has killed the three Jewish settlers. And the people of Gaza have suffered enough. Three wars in less than six years. My seven years old daughter now she’s experiencing the third war in her age. People of course on both sides want peace but who has started the aggression? It was Israel.”

Doyle: “Well certainly the people here – feelings are running very high at this rally here this afternoon. As you can see behind me it’s just moving on now. By the time those talks get underway in Paris this rally will be passing Downing Street.”

That barrage of uncorrected falsehoods and context-free distortions was brought to millions in the UK  – at a time when antisemitic attacks are on the rise in the UK – by the media organization which claims to adhere to standards of accuracy and impartiality. 

 

 

 

BBC News website whitewashes attack on Israeli footballers

An article titled “Pro-Palestinian protest halts Maccabi Haifa match” appeared on the Europe and Middle East pages of the BBC News website on July 24th.Maccabi Haifa art

The BBC’s version of events is as follows:

“Pro-Palestinian protesters have disrupted a football match in Austria between the Israeli club Maccabi Haifa and French team Lille.

The pre-season friendly in Bischofshofen was stopped close to the final whistle when protesters waving Palestinian flags stormed the pitch.

It seems that no-one was seriously hurt in the incident.”

Readers might wonder why the BBC found it necessary to point out that no-one was seriously hurt if the disruption only involved “protesters waving Palestinian flags”. The answer to that conundrum is that rather more than just flag waving went on. The Daily Telegraph reported:

“Pro-Palestinian protesters invaded the pitch and physically attacked Maccabi Haifa players towards the end of a preseason match against French side Lille in Austria on Wednesday”

Ynet reported:

“Anti-Israel protesters invaded the pitch late Wednesday in Bischofshofen, near Salzburg, in a pre-season friendly late Wednesday between Maccabi Haifa and French side Lille, and physically confronted Israeli players towards the end of a the training match.

Police said Thursday the disturbance was the work of locals, most of them of Turkish origin, whose identities were known.

The Austria Press Agency cited Maccabi as saying team members Idan Vered und Dekel Keinan were physically accosted before police broke up the melee. […]

The rioting fans tried to attack Yossi Benayoun, the national team captain, as well as other members of the squad. One player was spat on, while the coach entered the pitch to protect his players.

None of the players were injured. They walked to the dressing rooms as security forces cleared the protesters. One player, defender Samuel Scheimann, claimed at least one of the rioters was armed with a pocket knife.”

That is a rather different picture to the one presented by the BBC article – and particularly interesting because the image later added to this BBC report clearly shows one of the ‘protesters’ kicking an Israeli player, but that part of the story is not reflected in the text. The Daily Mail has similar images, as well as a picture suggesting that the BBC’s euphemistically termed “Pro-Palestinian protesters” would be more accurately described as anti-Israel.

photo credit: Daily Mail

photo credit: Daily Mail

photo credit: Daily Mail

photo credit: Daily Mail

The article goes on:

“Israel launched a military offensive on 8 July, with the declared objective of stopping rocket fire from Gaza.

At least 649 Palestinians and 32 Israeli soldiers, plus three Israeli civilians, have been killed in the past 15 days of fighting, officials say.”

Once again, the BBC fails to inform readers of the sources of its Palestinian casualty figures and of the fact that they have not been independently verified by the BBC.

 

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Paul Adams amplifies Nazi analogy in coverage of Gaza ground op

One of several BBC journalists ‘parachuted in’ to the region recently in order to cover Operation Protective Shield is Paul Adams – usually based in London as a World Affairs correspondent.OP PE Adams vers 1

On July 18th the BBC News website published an article by Adams initially titled “Gaza casualties mount amid Israeli ground campaign” but later renamed “Hospital on Gaza conflict’s front line”. In his fourth paragraph Adams adheres to what has been standard BBC practice since the beginning of its reporting on this operation: the quotation and promotion of figures supplied by the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza without any qualifying statement regarding the fact that they have not been independently verified by the BBC and with no attempt made to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualty figures.

“But a new phase of operations inevitably brought a new wave of casualties – more than 20 dead, according to Gaza’s ministry of health. Among them at least three more children.”

Depending on the time at which Adams wrote those words, he should of course have pointed out to BBC audiences that at least fourteen terrorists were among the casualties on the first day of Israel’s ground operation.

A considerable proportion of Adams’ report relates to the Wafa rehabilitation hospital in the Shuja’iyeh neighbourhood of Gaza City which, incidentally, also accommodated members of the International Solidarity Movement with the staff’s knowledge and consent, although Adams refrains from mentioning that fact. 

“I found the patients and staff from the Wafa rehabilitation hospital sheltering in a Gaza City clinic.

The Wafa has been hit repeatedly in the past week. It’s close to the border and very close to some of the latest Israeli military activity.

Basman al-Ashi, the hospital’s executive director, said everything seemed quiet on Thursday night, until shelling intensified in the hours before troops entered the Gaza Strip.

With artillery rounds hitting the hospital once more, Basman decided to evacuate everyone.”

Leaflet distributed in Gaza Strip 16/7/14

Leaflet distributed in Gaza Strip 16/7/14

In fact, the hospital’s staff were directly alerted to the need to evacuate the premises by the IDF on the evening of July 15th –47 hours before the ground operation commenced – even according to B’Tselem.  General warnings were also issued to residents of that neighbourhood and others on the morning of July 16th. Contrary to the impression which readers receive from Adams’ report, the actual reason for the evacuation warning was the presence of terrorist infrastructure located near to the hospital.

Perhaps unwittingly, Adams provides evidence of the practice of locating weapons stores and missile launchers in the vicinity of medical facilities and other civilian structures when he goes on to write:

“As he recalled the scene, surrounded by his evacuated patients, two deafening salvoes of rockets took off from somewhere very close by – rockets fired by fighters from Hamas or one of the other armed factions.” [emphasis added]

No attempt is of course made by Adams to clarify to BBC audiences the legal significance of the practice he witnessed and he later goes on to deliberately mislead audiences by writing:

“Israel says rockets have been fired from Basman al-Ashi’s hospital, a charge his staff deny completely.”

Significantly, he does not ask the hospital’s director about the actual situation – i.e. that areas near the hospital have been used for the purposes of terrorism.

Adams does, however, take the opportunity to promote and amplify the hospital director’s use of a Nazi analogy.Op pe Adams vers 2

“Basman’s eyes closed for a moment in weary resignation, but opened wide in defiance when I suggested the actions of Hamas might simply make matters worse.

“It’s a very natural response for the Palestinians to respond, to defend themselves,” he insisted.

Israel, he said, had made “a concentration camp of 1.8 million people”.

“No air. No land. No sea. You’re trying to tell the people what? I’m putting you in prison and I want you to obey, eat, sleep and that’s it. We’re human.” ” [emphasis added]

One of the definitions of antisemitism according to the EUMC working definition is:

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

Even if that is what an executive director of a Gaza hospital with close links to the ISM actually said, there is no justification and no excuse for the BBC’s amplification and propagation of Nazi analogies.

It would have been helpful to BBC audiences’ understanding of the reality of the situation had Adams bothered to explain to readers that – contrary to al Ashi’s inaccurate claim – Israeli policy concerning the Gaza Strip is the result of the terrorism perpetrated by Hamas and other groups rather than the other way round. However, it is perfectly clear that Paul Adams did not set out in this article to provide BBC audiences with accurate and impartial information which really would enhance their “understanding of international issues“.   

Paris synagogue attacks ignored by BBC

This is a screenshot of the BBC News website’s Europe page on the morning of July 14th 2014: Europe page 14 7 This is what happened in Paris the evening before:

“Media reports said that hundreds of Jews were trapped inside a synagogue in the area and police units were sent to rescue them.

A person in the synagogue told Israel’s Channel 2 news that protesters hurled stones and bricks at the building, “like it was an intifada.”

Riot police dispersed the group, with two members of the Jewish community and six officers slightly injured in the ensuing scuffle, the source said. […]

A second synagogue was also attacked.[…]

Prime Minister Manuel Valls condemned the attempted synagogue stormings “in the strongest possible terms”.

“Such acts targeting places of worship are unacceptable,” he said in a statement.

“I am profoundly shocked and revolted. This aggression towards the Jewish community has taken an absolutely unacceptable turn,” Joel Mergei, president of the Israelite Central Consistory of France, told AFP.”

In contrast, the BBC did elect to report on what it bizarrely termed a protest “against the BBC’s coverage of the conflict in the Middle East – and the conflict itself” in Manchester on July 12th. Obviously the BBC has not yet come to terms with the fact that the current upsurge of violence in the Gaza Strip and Israel is not the conflict in the Middle East.  That may perhaps be explained by the fact that BBC journalists apparently read (and saw fit to link to) the website of a pro-Assad supposed ‘anti-war’ organization which could not be bothered to rally itself on behalf of the 170,000 dead, 680,000 injured and five million refugees in Syria.

“A second rally was organised by the Stop the War Coalition in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens, in protest at what the group says is “the brutal intensification of violence” at hands of the Israelis. […]

More than 20 anti-war protests were planned around the country over the weekend, according to Stop the War Coalition’s website.” 

Surreal.  Related Articles: BBC again dithering (impartially, of course) over antisemitism

BBC’s James Reynolds reports from Jerusalem

In addition to the BBC’s ‘parachuting in’ of Christian Fraser from Paris, further back up for its Jerusalem Bureau’s coverage of recent events in the region came from the corporation’s correspondent in Istanbul, James Reynolds.

On July 4th Reynolds produced two filmed reports for BBC television news about the funeral of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, both of which were also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

Both those reports appeared two days before it was announced that six suspects had been arrested by the police on July 6th on suspicion of having carried out the kidnapping and murder. 

The first report – titled “Palestinian teenager funeral: ‘We can hear explosions’” – is presented on the website with a synopsis which includes the following statement:Reynolds 1

“The family of Mohammad Abu Khdair believe he was abducted and killed in revenge for the murders of three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found in the West Bank earlier this week.”

Yet again, no effort was made to inform BBC audiences that at that time that synopsis was written, no arrests had been made and so the identity of the killers and their motive was still a matter for speculation.  

Reynolds tells viewers:

“This is the funeral procession for 16 year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir. He…his body has just been taken along this road. The women are towards the end of the procession and if we just have a look around here, the men are in front. They’ve been about 400 meters in front. They’re heading right towards here. But we can hear – I don’t know if you can hear it in the background – some explosions. We can see some people throwing stones just over there, down towards the end. That gives us an indication that there may be clashes at the moment between some protestors and mourners and the Israeli police. We’re just gonna stay here for safety’s sake and keep an eye on what’s going on down the hill. We can see already one Palestinian ambulance is making its way down the street and there’s a real sense of anger among these Palestinians here. They say that they want justice for 16 year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir. They want those who kidnapped, who abducted him, to be brought to trial.”

At the time that Reynolds made those statements there was no reason to suppose or evidence to suggest that the Israeli authorities were not doing their utmost to solve this crime and bring the perpetrators to trial, but Reynolds nevertheless ‘contextualised’ the riots in Jerusalem’s streets with the insinuation that they were the product of a failing system of justice, and in his second report the background to that insinuation became clearer.

Beyond his speculative narration of “clashes” – in fact violent rioting – which he could not see, and his amateurish report of “explosions” – most likely riot-control measures – Reynolds had nothing to actually tell audiences. Notably, what he could see – the black and white Jihadist flags which were in ample evidence at the funeral procession – were not explained to viewers either in this report or the subsequent one.

Reynolds 1 flags

Reynolds’ second report on the same topic appeared several hours later. The synopsis to the BBC News website’s version of that report – titled “Crowds flock to Jerusalem funeral for Palestinian teenager” – again promoted what was at that stage evidence-free speculation, but at least this time the ongoing police investigation got a brief mention.

“Mohammad Abu Khdair’s family believe he was killed in revenge for the murders of three young Israelis in June, but police have yet to establish a motive.”

Reynolds opened his report by saying:

“Palestinian mourners clear the way for the coffin of Muhammed Abu Khdeir. At least seventy Palestinian children have been killed in the past five years. But the abduction and killing of this teenager so soon after the killing of three Israeli teenagers stands out.”

Reynolds did not inform viewers of the source of his cited numbers, how that source defines “children” or whether or not they were involved in violent rioting or terrorism when they were killed. He continued:

“Muhammed – here taking a selfie – was a sixteen year-old with a fashionable hair-cut. On Wednesday, before dawn, he was abducted and killed. Israel says its investigation continues. His family says that this is the moment of his kidnapping. They argue that these CCTV pictures show a group of Israelis throwing Muhammed into their car across the road. You can’t make out the teenager in the pictures, so it’s hard to verify the footage.”

One of course also cannot determine from that footage the identity of the abductors either, but that is not pointed out to audiences.Reynolds 2

“Muhammed’s father Hussain went over CCTV pictures with me. He follows three Israeli families this week in mourning a teenage son.

Three Israeli teenagers were killed. Do you have any sympathy with their parents who are going through what you’re going through?”

Father: “I don’t have anything to do with them. I don’t know how they were killed but we do know who killed my son.”

Of course that statement from the father is inaccurate: at the time it was made, no-one had been arrested for the murder of his son and the case still has to be tried and proved in a court of law before it can be concluded that his son’s killers’ identities are known. However, it is known how the three Israeli teens were killed. Reynolds did not clarify those facts to BBC audiences. He continued:

“Naftali Frenkel – on the left of this poster – was one of the three Israeli teenagers found dead on Monday. Naftali’s family wants justice for them and also for Muhammed, the seventeen year-old Palestinian.”

The report then cuts to footage of Yishai Frenkel – Naftali’s uncle – speaking.

“Let’s put it very simple. A murder is a murder. When we read in the Bible ‘thou shalt not kill’, it doesn’t say a Jew or an Arab or a Christian. A murder is a murder and a killer – regardless of motive – should be brought to justice.”

Reynolds continued:

“But Palestinians at Muhammed’s funeral don’t trust Israeli justice. They want Israel to leave Palestinian towns and cities so that they can build a state and a justice system of their own.”

Reynolds’ advancement of the idea that the urge to “build a state and a justice system of their own” is what fuels the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is of course simplistic to the point of ridiculous. Notably, he failed to inform audiences that the vast majority of Palestinians already have their own justice system in PA controlled areas and that those living in Jerusalem like the Abu Khdeir family are protected by the same justice system as their neighbours of all other ethnicities – as the arrest of six suspects four days after the crime was committed clearly indicates. Remarkably too, Reynold’s phrasing signposts to audiences that neighbourhoods of Jerusalem fall into the category of “Palestinian towns and cities” even though their status is to be determined in negotiations between the parties concerned.

Reynolds concluded:

“This week has shown Israelis – and now Palestinians – that their children, their teenagers, are often the most vulnerable. The young pay the price for the conflict waged by adults. This week has left parents on each side more frightened and more angry. Israelis and Palestinians share suffering, but not necessarily understanding.”

Four heinous murders have indeed been committed within the space of three weeks by extremists on both sides of the divide. In one of those cases suspects have now been arrested and – despite Reynolds’ insinuations – will now go through the judicial process necessary to determine their guilt. In the other three cases, the two main suspects are still on the run after nearly four weeks – obviously supported and helped by others. 

Those facts – along with numerous others related to these incidents such as the celebrations of the kidnappings of the three Israeli teenagers on the Palestinian street – do not fit into the BBC’s favoured Middle East narrative, but unless they are reported, the corporation will continue to fail to meet its obligation to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”. 

The Israeli police also made another statement on the same day that the arrests of those suspected of murdering Muhammed Abu Khdeir was announced. That statement also related to a teenager murdered at the beginning of May, apparently out of ‘nationalistic’ motives. Shelly Dadon’s story was not reported by the BBC at the time and it does not appear on the BBC News website over four hours after details of the murder were released.  

BBC ties itself in knots over antisemitism yet again

Readers may recall that in early April we noted the following antisemitic slur made by guest Alpesh Patel during a BBC News broadcast.BBC News pic

“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.”

As was also noted at the time, the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism includes the definition below:

“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.”

Viewer Mr Stephen Franklin complained to the BBC about that broadcast and the reply he received included the following:

“I understand you were unhappy with comments made which you felt were anti Semetic [sic] about an Israeli [sic] lobby group.

Nothing is included in our broadcasts with the intention of causing offence and we are sorry if you felt this way.

However, the comments were made by contributor to the programme, Alpesh Patel and were his own views which aren’t representative of the BBC.

It’s also worth noting that across our News broadcasts a range of guests and contributors feature ensuring a wide range of views and opinion are included.

However, I can assure you we appreciate your feedback and your complaint has been registered on our audience log. This log is made available to all members of the BBC, including the News teams and senior BBC management and ensures your comments and others we receive are considered across the BBC.”

Hang on there: is the BBC really claiming that if a contributor appearing on one of its programmes makes racist remarks that is alright because his or her views “aren’t representative of the BBC”? Such a claim clearly has very far-reaching implications as far as all BBC content is concerned and certainly BBC editorial guidelines would suggest otherwise.

Obviously, Mr Franklin was not satisfied with that response and so he contacted the BBC again, with the relevant sections of the reply he received reading as follows:

“Thanks for getting back in touch regarding the BBC News Channel. We apologise for the delay in replying. We appreciate our correspondents expect a quick response and we’re sorry you‘ve had to wait on this occasion.

We raised your concerns with the relevant editorial staff at BBC News.

They explained that paper reviewers feature in order to give their own take on the stories of the day. On this occasion Alpesh Patel reflected on his own experience having worked in Washington while discussing a story on a Palestinian push for UN recognition. Mr Patel acknowledged that his comments on the conflict would garner attention on social media, given the divisive nature of the subject. That said, it is clearly inaccurate to say that AIPAC controls the US government and we accept the assertion should have been challenged.

We hope this goes some way in addressing your concerns.”

So now the BBC obfuscates the issue of the racist slur by trying to suggest that the real issue at stake is the “divisive nature” of the topic of the PA push for UN recognition. That subject certainly is one for debate, but it was perfectly possible for Alpesh Patel to take part in the discussion without the casual introduction of that racist slur and one imagines that the majority of licence fee payers would prefer to see the BBC taking a much more robust stance against the introduction of racist slurs of any type into debates which are part of its content.  

The problem is, of course, that the BBC relates to this as an issue of accuracy alone, refusing to recognise the statement’s antisemitic nature and – yet again –  bizarrely affording itself the authority to decide what is and what is not racist.

The more technical question which arises from this exchange of correspondence is how the BBC intends to inform audiences that Patel’s factually inaccurate racist slur “should have been challenged” and whether Mr Patel (or others) will be invited back to offer any other racist ‘reflections’ concerning additional ethnic groups.

Related Articles:

The numbers behind BBC promotion of the ‘Israel lobby’

BBC again dithering (impartially, of course) over antisemitism

BBC pussyfooting around antisemitism again

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ featured in CST report on antisemitic discourse

 

 

 

 

BBC Persian spins results of ADL poll on antisemitism

On May 13th the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released the results of a worldwide poll on antisemitism. Readers can view the executive summary here and the interactive site here.

Three days later, BBC Persian’s Hossein Bastani came up with an interesting take on one aspect of the poll’s results which was promoted to visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Defying perceptions: Iranians ‘least anti-Semitic people in Middle East'”.

ADL poll on ME pge

Bastani’s article opens:

“A perhaps surprising result emerged from a recent opinion poll by an international organisation that fights anti-Semitism – that Iranians are the least anti-Semitic people in the Middle East and North Africa (with the exclusion of Israel).

According to the poll commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Iranian respondents scored the lowest (56%) in terms of holding negative views about Jewish people, while in other countries of the region, the figure ranges from 69% in Turkey to 93% in the Palestinian territories.”

What Bastani neglects to clarify to readers is that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) emerged as the most antisemitic region in the world according to the ADL poll, so whilst Iran did indeed poll lowest in that region with ‘only’ 56% holding antisemitic attitudes, it still came much higher than the average in any other region of the world.

ADL poll regional stats

Bastani then devotes five paragraphs to explaining to readers that “Iranian conservatives” do use what he terms “anti-Jewish propaganda” and, in line with previous BBC coverage (see ‘related articles’ below), implies a difference of attitude between the current Iranian president and his predecessor. In his next four paragraphs Bastani deflects audience attention from the supposed subject matter of his article – a poll on antisemitism – to the topic of criticism of the Israeli government.ADL poll Bastani art

“On the other hand, among those Iranians who are critical of the ruling conservatives, there are many who hold negative views of the Israeli government for different reasons.

For instance, they disagree with Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians and oppose its stance on Iran’s nuclear programme.”

Bastani’s concludes that the poll shows that “a large part” (actually less than half: 44%) of the Iranian population is not influenced by the attitudes of its conservative leaders. However, he does not make any attempt to seriously address the issue of the 56% which, according to his theory, is influenced by those attitudes.

“Yet despite such criticisms, the recent ADL poll shows that a large part of Iran’s population is not influenced by the negative narratives presented by the country’s conservatives about Jewish people.

One may even conclude that because of their distrust of the ruling conservatives, many Iranians may simply reject “whatever” the regime says, including its propaganda regarding Jews.”

Finally, Bastani cherry-picks one particular poll question result in order to drive home a take-away point.

“Perhaps the most significant aspect of the recent opinion poll is the very low percentage of respondents in Iran who agree with the statement that “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.”

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, where the ruling conservatives have been denying the Holocaust for a long time, only 18% of the respondents believe that the above statement is “probably true”.

This figure is particularly noteworthy when compared to 22% who agreed with the same statement in the United States.”

He neglects to inform readers however that whereas in the Americas, 77% of people have heard of the Holocaust, in the MENA region only 38% have heard of it and only 8% believe the historical account.

ADL poll Holocaust

The actual poll data for Iran shows that 30% of Iranians have heard of the Holocaust, 67% have not and 3% do not know. Of those who replied that they had heard of the Holocaust, 6% think it is a myth and did not happen, 57% think it did happen but that the number of Jews who died has been greatly exaggerated, 19% think that the Holocaust happened and that the historic accounts are fair and 18% don’t know.

By contrast, in the United States, 89% of those polled had heard of the Holocaust and 10% had not. Of those who have heard of the Holocaust, 1% think it is a myth and did not happen, 6% think it did happen but that the number of Jews who died has been greatly exaggerated, 89% think that the Holocaust happened and that the historic accounts are fair and 4% don’t know.

Bastani’s transparent attempt to paint Iran as a country with more liberal attitudes towards the Holocaust than the United States is therefore inaccurate, misleading and redundant.

Related Articles:

Bang goes the BBC diplomatic correspondent’s theory of ‘moderated’ Iranian Holocaust denial

BBC’s Marcus promotes ‘moderated’ Iranian Holocaust denial

BBC takes a stroll down the tabloid journalism side of the street

BBC presents airbrushed picture of Rouhani NBC interview

BBC continues to portray a ‘moderate’ Iranian regime

 

BBC again dithering (impartially, of course) over antisemitism

On May 4th the Europe page of the BBC News website featured an article with the interestingly punctuated title of “Belgium ban for ‘anti-Semitic’ meeting in Anderlecht“.Laurent Louis art

That choice of punctuation is of course BBC code for ‘some people say it’s antisemitic but we’re not sure’.

The report relates to the cancelling by the Belgian authorities of a proposed convention, promoted as the “First European Congress of Dissent”, in Anderlecht, Belgium. The event, which was organized by Belgian MP Laurent Louis, was supposed to have included appearances by several figures from the French far-right, including – as the BBC article notes – Dieudonne M’bala M’bala and Alain Sorel, whom the BBC forgot to mention despite having promoted him on Newsnight and Radio 4 as recently as four months ago.

The BBC article includes repetitions of its now five month-old tepid portrayal of the ‘quenelle’ gesture, even devoting a side-box to the topic with a link to an article which was already problematic when first published last December. Notably, whilst quoting the Football Association (not exactly the most qualified authority one could choose to quote on the subject of antisemitism), the BBC continues to ignore the views of professionals who specialise in the topic.

“Described as an inverted Nazi salute, the quenelle is claimed by Dieudonne to be an anti-establishment symbol.

Earlier this year, French footballer Nicolas Anelka was fined and banned by the Football Association for using the sign during a televised match. An independent FA panel decided the gesture was “strongly associated with anti-Semitism”.”

side box quenelle

The BBC report ‘balances’ its reporting of statements made by Belgian officials and an anti-racist organization on the subject of the convention by quoting a Facebook post from its organiser.

“Writing on his Facebook page, Laurent Louis said it was laughable that his movement “Debout Les Belges!” (Stand up, Belgians!) was seen as anti-Semitic, simply because its members had adopted Dieudonne’s trademark “quenelle” gesture.”

However, the BBC refrains from informing audiences that Louis’ repeated use of the quenelle is just the tip of the iceberg of his history of antisemtism and extremism, which includes making that gesture in the Belgian parliament, Holocaust denial and analogies and accusing Zionists of having “set up and financed” the Holocaust. Last year Louis was photographed at a pro-Assad rally trampling an Israeli flag and holding a portrait of Bashar al Assad and a Hizballah flag, telling Syrian TV that “Europe is being used in the conflict [against Syria] as a tool in the hands of Israel, the rogue state”.

Laurent Louis with Hizb flag

So, once again, the BBC whitewashes and downplays the antisemitism of European extremists and continues to promote to BBC audiences the notion that an antisemitic gesture might actually be something else.

Not only is it abundantly clear that this policy fails to meet the BBC’s obligation to “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”, but it is also remarkable that with regard to antisemitism specifically, the BBC appears to be extraordinarily and inexplicably reluctant to accept the principle that the targets of such racism should play any part in defining it.

Related Articles:

BBC Sport amplifies Anelka excuses, downplays antisemitism

BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ breaches editorial guidelines, fudges on antisemitism

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

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

 

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.