The BBC World Service, a Nazi analogy and George Clooney’s mum-in-law

h/t RL

This one may have to be filed under ‘you couldn’t make it up’.

On October 11th the BBC World Service’s radio programme ‘Weekend‘ was presented by Julian Worricker and, as usual, included two studio guests invited to “discuss and comment on themes and ideas of the week’s news, from the realms of politics, science, music and the arts”.Weekend 11 10

One of the items included in the programme (from 36:00 here for a limited period of time) was an interview with film director Vanessa Lapa about her film ‘The Decent One’, described as follows by the Jerusalem Post.

“Vanessa Lapa’s documentary portrait of SS chief Heinrich Himmler, The Decent One, is eerily fascinating. The movie is both a biography of Himmler and a history of Nazism, its soundtrack composed entirely (except for a brief interview in English at the beginning and the end, and background music) of excerpts from Himmler’s and his family’s letters and diaries. A few titles give historical context, but the words we hear are from these letters, read by actors.
Lapa, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, came into possession of these letters when her father bought them at auction so she could use them to make this film, which won the Best Israeli Documentary Award at this summer’s Jerusalem Film Festival.”

Following the conversation between Lapa and Worricker, the latter invited his studio guests to comment on what they had just heard with the first to speak being author and Economist correspondent Tim Judah. Worricker’s second guest – foreign editor of Al Hayat, Bariaa Alamuddin (aka George Clooney’s mother-in-law) – was then invited to comment too (from 49:04 in the link above).

Worricker: “Bariaa – what did you draw out of what you heard from Vanessa Lapa?”

Alamuddin: “Ah…quite a few things actually. Of course one always should look back at this with horror of course. The massacres and the Holocaust was a very bad point in the history of human beings. Nevertheless, it’s interesting the audience in Jerusalem – I’m sure there were no Palestinians in the attendance there – and what is something that I do not understand at all is where the Jews have suffered all this, how they can inflict on the Palestinians what they do. It’s something that must be in the psychic of every Jew and for them to elect people like Netanyahu or the rest of his cabinet and to…for them to go onto wars like the last Gaza war – I mean indeed since ’48 they must have killed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians – this is an aspect that I do not understand about the Holocaust. I love history…”

Worricker: “Hmm…”

Alamuddin: “…and I think any nation that does not look deep into its history is not a good thing. I talk to Germans a lot about this. Some of them have fatigue about this and indeed I haven’t met one German that celebrates what Hitler has done and nevertheless the younger generation does not really want to be blamed for what Hitler has done, so I understand in a way…”

Worricker: “Sure. Tim: come back on what you’ve just heard from Bariaa.”

Judah: “No, I don’t want to talk about that.”

Worricker: “No. I mean you brought it to the present day…ehm…and your view of what’s going on in the Middle East. I didn’t get into that with Vanessa Lapa obviously but that film, as I say, is being shown in Los Angeles; it starts…”

Alamuddin: “It’s a very valid point, Julian, the one I’m just bringing…”

Worricker: “Is it a valid point? Or…”

Judah: “Yes. I mean to a certain extent, yes. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it.”

Worricker: “I was going to invite you to [laughs] ….fair enough….if you want to leave it there…”

Clearly there are two issues arising from this broadcast, with one being a matter of accuracy. Bariaa Alamuddin claimed that “since ’48 they must have killed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians”. The word “they” refers to Jews: notably Alamuddin never used the word Israelis. 

The estimated number of Arab casualties – not just Palestinians – in all of the wars, riots, uprisings and operations since 1920 stands at less than one hundred thousand. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that 13,000 Palestinians and Israelis were killed between 1948 and 1996. Those figures do not distinguish between civilians and combatants but what is quite obvious is that the figures promoted by Alamuddin are blatantly exaggerated. 

Julian Worricker, however, made no attempt to correct Alamuddin’s inaccurate statement and thus allowed BBC audiences to be grossly misled.

The second issue is that of Alamuddin’s use of a thinly-veiled Nazi analogy. Alamuddin claims that the victims of Nazi persecution have become persecutors of the same order; conveniently erasing context, circumstance and, of course, the actions of Palestinians from her narrative. There is nothing original about Alamuddin’s prejudice: as Howard Jacobson noted in 2011 it has been around for years. 

“Forget Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial is old hat. The new strategy – it showed its hand in Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children, and surfaced again in Channel 4’s recent series The Promise – is to depict the Holocaust in all its horror in order that Jews can be charged (“You, of all people”) with failing to live up to it. By this logic the Holocaust becomes an educational experience from which Jews were ethically obliged to graduate summa cum laude, Israel being the proof that they didn’t. “Jews know more than anyone that killing civilians is wrong,” resounds an unmistakably authorial voice in The Promise. Thus are Jews doubly damned: to the Holocaust itself and to the moral wasteland of having found no humanising redemption in its horrors.”

The EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism includes the following:

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

Alamuddin, as mentioned above, did not even bother to use the word ‘Israeli’: like MP David Ward before her, she exclusively used the word Jews, suggesting that – as also defined in the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism – she has no compunction about:

“Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”

Worricker’s failed – and not particularly convincing – attempts to get Tim Judah to respond to Alamuddin’s obviously offensive remarks do not of course excuse either his own dithering inaction or the BBC’s promotion and amplification of racist statements and inaccurate ‘statistics’. No less problematic is the fact that those statements have been left standing in the recorded version of the programme currently available on BBC iPlayer. 

BBC interviewee’s support for Greta Berlin’s antisemitic videos

As readers will no doubt remember, the BBC World Service saw fit to broadcast an interview with Gilad Atzmon on its ‘Weekend’ programme on October 14th 2012, in which the host Julian Worricker declared himself to be “intrigued” by the proudly antisemitic, Holocaust-denying jazz musician. Worricker even posted a photo of himself and Atzmon on the BBC World Service’s Facebook wall. 

Atzmon has not been shy about adding his voice to the fray which ensued after Greta Berlin of the ‘Free Gaza Movement’ posted a video claiming that “Zionists operated the concentration camps” on the organisation’s official Twitter account.

(If you have not been keeping up with that rather tangled chain of events, it is documented here – part 1 – and here – part 2 – by Avi Mayer and is well worth reading in full.)

The Greta Berlin story broke on September 30th: two weeks before Atzmon’s World Service interview. By October 7th, Atzmon had come out in support of Berlin and her posting of the video, writing on his own blog:

“A few days ago Greta Berlin had been subject to a vile Israeli and Zionist smear campaign following her facebook post containing the following message: “Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews”. ” …

“Zionists and Hasbara agents were very quick to slander Berlin. They tagged her as an ‘anti Semite’ and a ‘Holocaust denier’. But clearly there is no Holocaust denial in Berlin’s message..” ….

 “The meaning of it all is pretty simple. As I disclose in my latest book The Wandering Who, there is a devastating continuum between hard core Zionism, Israeli Hasbara and the Jewish so-called ‘left’. Unfortunately, some Palestinians also operate as Sabbath Goyim. And they better be exposed [sic].”

In other words, Atzmon regards attempts by those in the world of pro-Palestinian activism to clean up their movement’s act and dissociate it from racism and Holocaust denial as a “Zionist plot”. 

That information was available to BBC researchers and to Julian Worricker – who claimed during the interview to have read “both critics and supporters” of Atzmon – a full week before the programme was broadcast. 

And yet, despite Atzmon’s infamous history and his open support for a woman who promoted antisemitic material on the internet (including a 1943 Nazi propaganda film), Worricker elected to go ahead with the interview, not only failing to challenge any of Atzmon’s bizarre statements, but also with the dumbed-down presentation of his guest as a mere “controversial public critic of Israel”.

The employment of racism and Holocaust denial in order to delegitimize a nation for political ends does not fall into the category of ‘criticism’ and Atzmon’s rantings go far beyond Worricker’s theme of “music and politics”. 

More recently, on October 19th, Atzmon published another predictably odious piece – entitled “Jewish Domination? Occupation More Likely” and cross-posted at ‘Countercurrents‘ – in which he wrote of those opposing antisemitism and Holocaust denial:

“The recent attack on Free Gaza’s Greta Berlin and Colonel Ann Wright suggests that we have crossed a red line — Jewish domination within the Palestinian solidarity movement belongs to the past. We are now, it seems, under Zionist occupation, and we are subject to all the symptoms of Israeli abuse and Zionist brutality. The expulsions, the exclusions and the cleansings that are inherent within Zionism, Israeli and Jewish politics, are now alive and kicking within the Palestinian solidarity movement itself. ” ….

“The message here is clear – some elements within the Palestinian solidarity movement have obviously adopted the most repellent and brutal Zionist symptoms, and we are now engaged, caught up in, and beset by a sinister series of expulsions, purges, crude witch hunts, exclusions, smears, character defamations and cleansings.”

I would be very interested to hear whether Julian Worricker really thinks that anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial constitute “criticism” of Israel (or anything else) and if he still stands by the decision to give air-time to a man who thinks they have a place in the pro-Palestinian movement. Mr Worricker is invited to contribute his thoughts to the discussion in the comments below. 

BBC World Service hosts antisemite Gilad Atzmon

Gilad Atzmon is a Jazz musician, an ex-pat Israeli and, in his own words, an “ex-Jew”. He is also an anti-Semite who promotes conspiracy theories and supports Holocaust deniers.

Don’t take my word for it, though. 

Here is Tony Greenstein – not exactly a “Lover of Zion” – congratulating the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (also not known for their Zionism) for dissociating itself from Gilad Atzmon in 2011 after , as Greenstein puts it, “Atzmon himself [h]as openly embraced the politics of holocaust denial question the existence of Auschwitz as a death camp”.

Here is a recent article from 972 Magazine referring to Atzmon’s book ‘The Wandering Jew':

“Atzmon is a Holocaust denier; he has previously asked “if the Nazis ran a death factory in Auschwitz-Birkenau, why would the Jewish prisoners join them at the end of the war?” In this book […..]  Atzmon writes on page 179 “we, for instance, can envisage a horrific situation in which an Israeli so-called ‘pre-emptive’ nuclear attack on Iran that escalates into a disastrous nuclear war, in which tens of millions of people perish. I guess that amongst the survivors of such a nightmare scenario, some may be bold enough to argue that ‘Hitler might have been right after all.’ On page 27 he argues “Throughout the centuries, some Jewish bankers have gathered the reputation of backers and financers of wars and even one communist revolution.””

Here is Nick Lowles of the anti-racist, anti-fascist campaign ‘HOPE not hate’ writing about Atzmon and here is the Community Security Trust discussing his visit to Exeter University in November 2011. Andy Newman, a British Trade Unionist and contributor to ‘Socialist Unity’, wrote about the Left’s need to distance itself from Gilad Atzmon in the Guardian in September 2011.

Alternatively, one could take a look at some of the words of Atzmon himself (all sources in the link):

“To regard Hitler as the ultimate evil is nothing but surrendering to the Zio-centric discourse. To regard Hitler as the wickedest man and the Third Reich as the embodiment of evilness is to let Israel off the hook. To compare Olmert to Hitler is to provide Israel and Olmert with a metaphorical moral shield. It maintains Hitler at the lead and allows Olmert to stay in the tail. We should never compare Israel to Nazi Germany. As far as evilness is concerned, we should now let Israel take the lead.”

“The question of whether there was a mass homicide with gas or ‘just’ a mass death toll due to total abuse in horrendous conditions is no doubt a crucial historical question. The fact that such a major historical chapter less than seven decades ago is scholarly [sic] inaccessible undermines the entire historical endeavour. …Furthermore, unless one approves and repeats the official Holocaust narrative, one may find oneself locked behind bars. This happened lately to three rightwing history revisionists who dared to suspect the official Auschwitz narrative. ….I can see these three outlaws :[David] Irving, [Ernest] Zundel and [Germar] Rudolf, the three rightwing historical revisionists who happen to be locked behind bars. …While left academics are mainly concerned with signalling out Holocaust deniers telling us what is right and who is wrong, it is the revisionists who engage themselves in detailed archive work as well as forensic scrutiny…. If history shapes the future, we need to liberate our perspective of the past, rather than arresting revisionists, we simply need many more of them.”

“We must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously…. American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elder of Zion’ are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy. So far they are doing pretty well for themselves at least.”

“The Protocols is widely considered a forgery. It is a manual for a prospective new member of the “Elders”, describing how they will run the world through control of the media and finance, replacing the traditional social order with one based on mass manipulation. Though the book is considered a hoax by most experts and regarded as a vile anti-Semitic text, it is impossible to ignore its prophetic qualities and its capacity to describe both the century unfolding and the political reality in which we live.”

Most reasonable people would probably avoid putting up a photograph of themselves together with such an obviously racist Holocaust denier on their organisation’s Facebook wall. They would also not gratify his repulsive views with a sympathetic radio interview.

 Not so the BBC World Service’s Julian Worricker, who was ‘intrigued’ by his interviewee Atzmon on October 14th 2012. 

The BBC World Service would not dream of promoting David Duke or a member of Combat 18, even if they also happened to be rather good at tap dancing.  So the question is; why can the BBC either not identify Gilad Atzmon for what he really is or justify giving him air-time if it does?