Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism 2013

During the latter half of this week BBC Watch took part in the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism conference which was held in Jerusalem.  With some five hundred delegates from fifty countries and six different religions, one had the opportunity to hear first-hand of the situation in countries such as France, Hungary, Greece and many more –  both in the official sessions and informal discussions.  

The chilling accounts given by some representatives were often shocking and overwhelming, but there was also cause for optimism, not least due to the forum’s focus on action-based outcomes. 

One of the most inspiring aspects of the conference was the participation of delegates of different faiths – united by recognition of the need to fight racial hatred. Some of the speeches made by Muslim leaders from Albania, Britain and France can be viewed here. Particularly notable was the address by Imam Hassan Chalgoumy of France – unfortunately not yet translated into English, but with a short summary available here.

BBC Watch took part in the working group on antisemitism on the internet and in the media. The working group’s conclusions can be seen here and the report resulting from the working group’s last meeting in 2011 can be read here


An interview BBC audiences will not see

The video below (starting at 09:00) is from a recent episode of the ‘Understanding the World’ internet programme in which Rabbi David Kaufman talks to Israeli diplomat Ishmael Khaldi (author of the book ‘A Shepherd’s Journey: the story of Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat) about a wide variety of issues including the Arab community in Israel and anti-Israel activity in Britain, where Mr Khaldi is currently based.  

The interview can also be heard as a podcast here

The return of a BBC featured hunger striker

Readers no doubt remember that just three months ago BBC journalists produced several articles on the subject of Palestinian prisoners who were at the time on hunger strike.

Those BBC reports systematically omitted relevant information regarding the terrorist activities which were the cause of the men’s imprisonment. An article from February 18th 2103 merely stated:

“One, Samer Issawi, has been on an intermittent protest for 200 days and is said to be in a critical condition.

The three other hunger strikers are Tariq Qaadan, Jafar Ezzedine and Ayman Sharawna.”

Another report – by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell, dated February 28th 2013 stated:

“Two others, Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawna, are still on hunger strike and are being observed in hospital.”

As BBC Watch reported at the time:

“Ayman Sharawna, from Dura near Hebron, was also released under the Shalit deal in October 2011, by which time he had served ten years of a 38 year sentence for attempted murder and bomb-making. Sharawna is a member of the Hebron branch of Hamas and was rearrested on January 31st 2012 due to violating of the terms of his release by returning to Hamas activities. Shawarna was originally apprehended on May 10th 2002 when he and another terrorist planted an explosive device near a branch of Bank HaPoalim on HaAtzmaout Street in Be’er Sheva. The device malfunctioned, but despite that eighteen people were injured in the attack. Sharawna and his accomplice were caught fleeing the scene by members of the public and he was also found to have taken part in prior shooting attacks during the second Intifada.” 

In March Ayman Sharawna agreed to be exiled to the Gaza Strip for ten years in return for his release from prison. Two months on, he is to be found yet again engaged in activities with the terrorist organisation Hamas, as shown in footage obtained by Israel’s Channel 2 TV station. שראונה, כפי שנראה בסרטון

“In the clip, shown on Channel 2 News Tuesday (Hebrew), Sharawneh [also Sharawna] can be seen donning combat fatigues and lacing up his boots before taking up a rifle and joining a patrol of Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, along the Strip’s border with Israel.

“Our message to the occupiers is clear,” Sharawneh says to the camera. “We are here to protect our land.”

Sharawneh is shown joining a briefing with several heavily armed Hamas fighters and then posing as he aims a rifle from behind the cover of a tree.

“We will liberate al-Aksa (the Temple Mount) and the West Bank,” he continues. “All of Palestine, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river, will be liberated, and we will release our brothers, the prisoners.” “

Just as it did not trouble audiences with the details of his original engagement in terrorism, there is little reason to anticipate any reporting by the BBC on the subject of Sharawna’s latest activities. BBC licence fee payers, however, might be wondering why – yet again – they are not being told the whole story. 

Learning by rote with the BBC

‘Repetitio est mater studiorum’. So goes the old Latin proverb which alludes to the long recognised connection between repetition and learning.  

In an article entitled “John Kerry hails plan to boost Palestinian economy” which appeared in the Middle East section of the BBC News website on May 26th readers were told:

“Mr Kerry has called on Israel to prevent further settlement building where possible in the West Bank but has stopped short of calling for a total freeze.

Palestinian officials want all settlement activity in the West Bank to stop before they return to negotiations with Israel.

Israel says it will not accept any preconditions for talks.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Other contentious issues include borders, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees.”

The same five sentences appeared in almost exactly the same form and order – albeit with other statements interspersed – in another BBC article published two days earlier on May 24th.

“Mr Kerry called on Israel to prevent further settlement building where possible in the West Bank but stopped short of calling for a total freeze. […]

Palestinian officials want all settlement activity in the West Bank to stop before they return to negotiations with Israel.

Israel says it will not accept any preconditions for talks. […]

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

The main issues to be addressed in a peace agreement include borders, the future of Jewish settlements, the status of Jerusalem and fate of Palestinian refugees.”

So just how frequently are BBC News website readers exposed to the repetition of the narrative whereby “Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law”? In addition to the two articles above, during the last four weeks alone that same message appeared in articles published on May 16th, May 9th, May 7th and April 30th: six times (at least) in four weeks. 

And yet, not once in any of those articles was the slightest attempt made to inform readers of the wider aspects of the issue beyond that trite slogan or to present alternative views on the subject or even to inform BBC audiences of the fact that there are opposing views to it which come from non-Israelis.  

One might almost think that the BBC does not want readers to be able to make up their own minds on the subject or to have informed opinions – preferring instead that they diligently learn the party line by rote. 


BBC’s Yolande Knell goes campaigning

The BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell appears to have launched something of a campaign. On the Middle East page of the BBC News website we find two items by Knell relating to the same subject.

Knell Cliff Hotel

One item is a written article entitled “Israeli court considers landmark property law cases” dated May 22nd 2013, whilst the other is a filmed report with the same title from May 26th 2013 which was broadcast on BBC television news programmes.  

Knell Cliff Hotel 2

Both of Knell’s reports rely heavily upon the emotionally laden testimony of Mr Ali Ayyad. The filmed report opens with Knell saying to Ayyad:

“So this was all of your father’s building from 1954?”

The written report also stresses the same point:

“The large building, erected by his father in 1954, was originally for residential use. It was converted into a hotel in the 1960s, and for many years Mr Ayyad was the manager.

“This is where I met my wife and many of my long-time friends. My daughters came here after they were born. We lived on the third floor. It was not just a home, it was a way of life,” he recalls.”

But one very important factor is overlooked by Knell in her story and that is that history did not begin in 1954 – or indeed in 1948. 

Ali Ayyad’s father, Abdel Hadi Ayyad – did indeed build in 1954 the house in Abu Dis which became known as the Cliff Hotel after its extension in 1964. Mr Ayyad senior – who died in 1978 – held Jordanian citizenship (and according to one Palestinian source was an officer in the Jordanian army) and never registered as a resident of Jerusalem after 1967. He has around a dozen heirs, four of whom live in Jordan, three in Kuwait, three in Palestinian Authority controlled areas, one in Norway and one in the United Kingdom. 

In the protocol one of the many court cases over the years on the subject of the Cliff Hotel, it is stated that in 2008 the heirs accepted the fact that the building lies within Israeli territory. 

Knell Cliff Hotel 3

Hence, Knell’s claim that “[t]he Israeli authorities now say that his building – which is close to the 1949 armistice line – falls within the boundaries of Jerusalem” [emphasis added] is at best disingenuous. Equally problematic is the fact that Knell suggests to readers that the issue of absenteeism revolves around Ali Ayyad – rather than his deceased father, as is actually the case.

“Since 2003, the owners have faced several further attempts by Israeli authorities to seize the building. They are currently classed as “absentees” and the Custodian of Absentee Property controls the hotel.

“It’s absurd. It’s a subject I keep thinking about. How can the law find somebody absent when he or she very much exists? I have to keep pinching myself to show I’m present,” Mr Ayyad says.”

In this report Knell continues the BBC practice of quoting functionaries from political NGOs without making their affiliations and political motivations clear to audiences.

“There has not been systematic use of the Absentee Property Law but there is sporadic use and as a result there have been contradictory court verdicts. That’s why this is going to the Supreme Court,” says Israeli lawyer Daniel Seidemann.”

Daniel Seidemann is the founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem and Ir Amim

Knell devotes a considerable portion of her written article to the subject of the Israeli Absentee Property Law. Significantly – especially in this case – she makes no effort to inform readers of the fact that during the 19 year Jordanian occupation of Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem (the later annexation of which was not recognized by the international community), there existed a body called the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property which was established to handle property seized from Jews during the War of Independence.

“During the war of independence, the mandatory Jordanian legions conquered the area of Judea and Samaria, and in 1950 annexed the area. In the aftermath of the Jordanian occupation of the area, the appointed Jordanian governor published proclamation 55, declaring all residents of Israel as “enemies” of the state. This declaration enabled the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act, 1939, to the property of Israelis in the area.

According to the act, a Jordanian custodian was appointed to manage enemy property including all the “Jewish Lands”. In turn the authorities of the Jordanian Kingdom used the lands for various purposes, including leasing and renting the land to the citizens.”

After the Six Day War and the subsequent end of the Jordanian occupation, property previously administered by the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property was transferred to the administration of the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property, but the fact that the Jordanian authorities had frequently leased or sold Jewish-owned land to Jordanian citizens further complicated the legal situation. 

In Abu Dis – as is acknowledged even by Palestinian organisations – some 598 dunams of land are actually Jewish-owned. 

During the years 1920-30 the ‘Agudat HaDayarim’ Jewish Cooperative Society was established in Jerusalem in order to establish Jewish neighborhoods outside of the Old City for its members. The Society had over 210 members, from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds including Persians, Iraqis and Yemenites.  In 1928 the Aguda purchased 598 dunams of land in the area known today as Abu Dis – due to its proximity to the city centre – in order to build a ‘Garden Community’ (homes with agricultural plots). Although it acquired a legal title to the area, the Arab revolts of 1929 and 1936-9 prevented the Aguda from establishing the new community.  

The War of Independence resulted in the Jewish-owned lands in Abu Dis coming under the control of the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property. After the Six Day War and the subsequent reunification of Jerusalem, most of the Jewish-owned land in Abu Dis (some 540 dunams) remained outside of the city’s municipal boundaries and part of modern Abu Dis is built upon that land. Some 60 dunams of the land originally owned by ‘Agudat HaDayarim’ in Abu Dis does fall within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries. 

Of course the BBC (strangely, for an organisation committed to accuracy) does not make a practice of informing its audiences about the subject of Jewish-owned lands in what it terms “the West Bank”, but the Jewish-owned lands in Abu Dis certainly should have been part of Yolande Knell’s research before she elected to co-opt the BBC to Ali Ayyad’s prolific media campaign.

2013 Global Forum on Antisemitism – NGO Monitor report

As we mentioned last week, the 2013 Global Forum on Antisemitism will be held between May 28th and 30th in Jerusalem. NGO Monitor has prepared an interesting paper for the occasion on the subject of the use of anti-Semitic themes and imagery by NGOs. 

With members of NGOs (sometimes identified as such and sometimes not) often being quoted and promoted by the BBC, the subject is of course especially relevant.

The report can be read here or in pdf format here


BBC trumpets Hizballah narrative of ‘resistance’

“Bitter taste”. That was the curious choice of wording used to headline a May 23rd article about Hizballah by BBC diplomatic/defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the Middle East page of the BBC News website.

Marcus Hizb 1

A click on the link leads to a report titled “Europe’s stance on Hezbollah hardens” which is illustrated with an image equally bizarrely captioned:

“Hezbollah’s embrace of Assad regime during the bitter Syrian conflict has hardened European hearts against it” [emphasis added]

The use of such emotion-orientated language may well cause readers to wonder if they are reading about reactions to a candidate in a phone-in TV talent contest rather than evidence-based assessments of an international terror organization.

Disappointingly for any readers seeking accurate information on the subject of Hizballah, Marcus chooses to perpetuate the myth of a separate ‘military wing’ to that organization. 

“The British government is pushing its European partners to designate the military wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist entity. This comes in the wake of the organisation’s role in an attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria and the recent conviction of a Hezbollah operative in Cyprus.”

“Up to now, only Britain and the Netherlands have placed the military wing of Hezbollah on their national terrorism blacklists. Germany now seems more willing to designate Hezbollah’s military arm, and this has given some impetus to the British move.”

In fact, the 2004 designation of Hizballah as a terrorist organization by the Netherlands rightly makes no distinction between its ‘military’ and ‘political’ wings, as shown on page 19 of the General Intelligence and Security Service Report for that year.

“Investigations have shown that Hezbollah’s terrorist wing, the Hezbollah External Security Organisation, has been directly and indirectly involved in terrorist acts. It can also be concluded that Hezbollah’s political and terrorist wings are controlled by one co-ordinating council. This means that there is indeed a link between these parts of the organisation. The Netherlands has changed its policy and no longer makes a distinction between the political and terrorist Hezbollah branches. The Netherlands informed the relevant EU bodies of its findings. “

Of course Hizballah itself is perfectly aware of the potential effects of designation upon the organisation as a whole, as expressed by Hassan Nasrallah in 2005.

“[EU designation] would dry up the sources of finance, end moral, political and material support, stifle voices, whether they are the voices of the resistance or the voices which support the resistance, pressure states which protect the resistance in one way and another, and pressure the Lebanese state, Iran and Iraq, but especially the Lebanese state, in order to classify it as a state which supports terrorism.”

Bizarrely, the BBC’s diplomatic/defence correspondent only now seems to have discovered the fact that Hizballah is an Iranian franchise – a fact which has been obvious to most other people with any knowledge of the Middle East for years.

“Hezbollah seems to have thrown in its hand with President Assad, confirming the views of many of its critics that it is playing out a wider game plan inspired by Tehran.”

The outstanding feature of Marcus’ article, however, is its adoption of the lexicon and narrative of the terrorists he writes about. [emphasis added]

“The British move to list Hezbollah’s military wing comes as the image of the Lebanese organisation – long hailed in the region as one of the principal resistance forces against Israel – is coming under strain.”

Marcus does not take the trouble to explain to his readers what lies behind the romantic-sounding propaganda slogan “resistance”, as laid out in Hizballah’s original 1985 “open letter”.

“We see in Israel the vanguard of the United States in our Islamic world. It is the hated enemy that must be fought until the hated ones get what they deserve. This enemy is the greatest danger to our future generations and to the destiny of our lands, particularly as it glorifies the ideas of settlement and expansion, initiated in Palestine, and yearning outward to the extension of the Great Israel, from the Euphrates to the Nile. 

Women are seen watching Nasrallah at an event marking Resistance and Liberation Day, May 25, 2013.

Women are seen watching Nasrallah at an event marking Resistance and Liberation Day, May 25, 2013. Photo: REUTERS

Our primary assumption in our fight against Israel states that the Zionist entity is aggressive from its inception, and built on lands wrested from their owners, at the expense of the rights of the Muslim people. Therefore our struggle will end only when this entity is obliterated. We recognize no treaty with it, no cease fire, and no peace agreements, whether separate or consolidated. 

We vigorously condemn all plans for negotiation with Israel, and regard all negotiators as enemies, for the reason that such negotiation is nothing but the recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist occupation of Palestine. Therefore we oppose and reject the Camp David Agreements, the proposals of King Fahd, the Fez and Reagan plan, Brezhnev’s and the French-Egyptian proposals, and all other programs that include the recognition (even the implied recognition) of the Zionist entity.” [emphasis added]

Neither did the revised 2009 Hizballah “manifesto” demonstrate any change in its attitudes towards Israel:

“Similarly, twenty-four years of organizational development and political integration have not led to any shift in Hizbollah’s fervent opposition to any negotiated agreement between Israel and the Arab world. The group continues in its “absolute refusal to [accept] the very principle of the choice of settlement with the Zionist entity, which is based on recognizing the legitimacy and existence of this entity and giving up to it the lands it usurped from Arab and Islamic Palestine.” “

The move by EU countries to finally designate Hizballah as a terrorist organization is, of course, both necessary and long overdue. Whilst Jonathan Marcus’ analysis of the reasons behind that shift may be useful, the fact that he is apparently unable to avoid the temptation of adopting and promoting the terrorist organisation’s own narrative with regard to the euphemism of “resistance” does not enhance BBC audience’s understanding of Hizballah or the basis for its designation. 

BBC report on the rocket that wasn’t

On May 26th 2013 the BBC published an article on the Middle East page of its BBC News website under the title “‘Rocket fired’ from southern Lebanon towards Israel” and quoting Lebanese “media and security sources”. 

metulla rocket art

The BBC article was published at 22:26 GMT – about half an hour after initial reports of an explosion having been heard in the vicinity of Metulla came to light shortly before midnight. Later in the day the IDF confirmed that no missile had fallen in Israeli territory, but the BBC report has not been updated to reflect that fact. 

Former BBC Arabic reporter Ali Hashem – now with the Hizballah-linked Al Mayadeen network – tweeted the following at 23:48 local time on May 26th

tweets metulla hashem

Metulla – founded in 1896 – is of course not a “settlement”. But of course to Hizballah supporters such as this former BBC employee, it too is illegitimate – as we see from a translation of Hashem’s second Tweet.

translation hashem tweet 2

All too often the BBC has failed to report on missile fire directed at Israeli civilians in the region surrounding the Gaza Strip or, more recently, in the Golan Heights. Curiously, in this case it appears to have somewhat jumped the gun. 


Metulla, with south Lebanon in the background

BBC still flogging the ‘settlements’ horse

An article entitled “ ‘Hard decisions’ needed for Middle East peace – Kerry appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website on May 24th 2013. 

Kerry art

The article – which ostensibly reports on the subject of the recent visit to the region by US Secretary of State John Kerry – devotes a considerable amount of space to promoting the habitual BBC mantras of ‘settlements as an obstacle to peace’ and ‘settlements are illegal under international law’. However, the telegram-style clichés repeated in this article, as in countless others, not only fall short of contributing to BBC audiences’ gaining comprehensive understanding of the issues at stake, but actively prevent them from doing so.

“The last round of direct talks between the two sides broke down two years ago over the issue of settlements.”

This pro forma statement is so well-worn that BBC editors have apparently not noticed that it is no longer accurate even from the point of view of its time-scale. The Palestinian Authority refused to continue direct negotiations in late September 2010 – two years and eight months ago. The statement fails to inform readers that prior to that break-down in talks, a ten-month freeze on construction had been implemented by Israel in order to encourage the renewal of discussions, but the Palestinian Authority failed to come to the negotiating table for nine of those ten months and then used the end of the construction freeze on September 26th 2010 as a pretext to refuse to continue talks.

“Mr Kerry called on Israel to prevent further settlement building where possible in the West Bank but stopped short of calling for a total freeze.”

This statement misleads BBC audiences by implying through the use of the phrase “further settlement building” that new towns and villages are being constructed in Judea & Samaria and by failing to make clear that in fact the issue is building within the municipal boundaries of existing communities. 

“Palestinian officials want all settlement activity in the West Bank to stop before they return to negotiations with Israel.

Israel says it will not accept any preconditions for talks.

Last week the Israeli government took steps to authorise four Jewish settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

As usual, the BBC conceals from its audiences the fact that there are differing legal opinions on the subject. 

“The main issues to be addressed in a peace agreement include borders, the future of Jewish settlements, the status of Jerusalem and fate of Palestinian refugees.”

Note the repeated use of the term “Jewish settlements” rather than ‘Israeli’. Communities in Judea & Samaria were built under the auspices of successive Israeli governments – all of which were democratically elected by the entire spectrum of the Israeli people – including the 20% or so who are not Jewish.  

An average reader of this article would go away convinced that building in communities in Judea & Samaria is the main issue preventing a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. So let’s take a look at just some of what the BBC has to airbrush out of its ‘peace process’ narrative, as presented in this article and many others, in order to promote that chimera to its audiences. 

1. The Palestinian Authority’s insistence on the ‘right of return’ for refugees: a scenario which would bring about the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

2. The Palestinian Authority’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

3. The fact that Mahmoud Abbas does not hold a legitimate democratically elected mandate to sign any agreement on behalf of the Palestinian people.

4. The fact that part of the territory intended to be a Palestinian state is not controlled by the Palestinian Authority, but by a terrorist organization at war with Israel.

5. The fact that the ‘international community’ seems to be entirely at ease with the deliberate suspension of the rights of the Palestinian people to elect their leaders and representatives in order to keep the Palestinian Authority on ‘life support’ by postponing a Hamas take-over of the PA.

6. The fact that the Palestinian Authority engages in daily delegitimisation of Israel, incitement against the Israeli people and glorification of terror.

The BBC’s article also includes ‘analysis’ by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly. 

Kerry art analysis

Connolly states: 

“When the basic principles of the two-state solution were first enunciated in 1967, America’s 69-year-old Secretary of State was 23. William Hague, a senior partner in the international search for peace, had not yet turned seven. The core of the issue and the depths of mutual suspicion and hostility between Israel and the Palestinians are not much changed.

Mr Kerry’s predecessor Hillary Clinton came to Israel only five times in four years; Mr Kerry’s already been four times in as many months. If there is any glimmer of private hope to explain that burst of diplomatic energy there is no sign of it in the public domain.

Israel still wants security guarantees and Palestinians are reluctant to talk until there is some kind of halt to Israel’s building of Jewish settlements on the territory it occupies on the West Bank of the River Jordan. Israel shows no sign of satisfying that requirement for now.” 

There’s Connolly once again implying that new communities are being built in Judea & Samaria as we read – rather than housing units in existing towns and villages – and using the term “Jewish settlements” instead of Israeli. But note Connolly’s first paragraph in that ‘analysis’. The opaquely phrased claim that “the basic principles of the two-state solution were first enunciated in 1967”, followed by the use of the term “hostility between Israel and the Palestinians” deliberately airbrushes out aspects of the conflict which are vital in contributing to readers’ understanding of it.

Connolly’s reference to 1967 presumably means the Khartoum conference, but to interpret the results of that as enunciating “the basic principles of the two state solution” (whereby, according to its accepted definition, the State of Israel and a Palestinian state exist peacefully side by side) is a pretty far stretch – and one which not only downplays Arab countries’ involvement in the conflict, but ignores the third attempt by Arab states to annihilate Israel six years later. 

“The Arab Heads of State have agreed to unite their political efforts at the international and diplomatic level to eliminate the effects of the aggression and to ensure the withdrawal of the aggressive Israeli forces from the Arab lands which have been occupied since the aggression of June 5. This will be done within the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.” [emphasis added]

The BBC systematically sells its audiences short by failing to contribute to their understanding of why the peace process has failed to make any significant progress through the repeated airbrushing out of the picture of factors of considerably graver consequence than the subject of building in “settlements”. That practice not only seriously damages the BBC’s reputation for accuracy and impartiality, but also fails to meet the requirements of the “public purposes” set out in the BBC’s charter. 

It is high time the BBC made some (apparently) ‘hard’ decisions of its own regarding its seeming unwillingness to meet its obligation to inform audiences accurately rather than making do with the incessant promotion of a specific political narrative. One place to start, for example, would be an in-depth feature on the subject of the Palestinian Authority’s glorification of terror and the effects of that on the chances for peace. 

A BBC commissioned popularity contest

I have to admit that the perceived value of – and financial justification for – a superficial poll recently carried out on behalf of the BBC World Service escapes this writer completely. Nevertheless, the BBC saw fit to promote its results on the BBC News website as though they were of some significance.  

Visitors to the UK page of the website could ponder the question Why has the UK gone up in people’s estimations? and those reading the Europe or Middle East pages would learn that “Germany most popular country in the world“. Except the headline writer got it wrong: those polled were not asked which country they liked best, but whether they perceived a country’s “influence in the world” as being generally positive or negative. 

Neither of those articles bothers readers too much with the survey’s methodology. To learn more about that, we have to the pollster’s website where we see that the BBC’s statement that “more than 26,000 people were surveyed internationally for the poll” in fact means that people were polled in just twenty-five countries. 

“In total 26,299 citizens in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone between December 10, 2012 and April 9, 2013.”

We also learn that those polled were only asked for their opinions on sixteen countries and the European Union. Nobody asked them for their opinions on the positive or negative global influence of – for example – Sudan, Syria or Somalia and we will never know if in fact New Zealand is actually the “most popular country in the world”.  

Question wording

The BBC article states:

“Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and Iran came out worst in terms of how they are viewed globally.”

Given that among the countries in which people were polled we find the country deemed the most antisemitic in Europe along with Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey, it would be very surprising if Israel did not come out badly in this particular pageant. 

Israel poll

Obviously, no meaningful conclusions whatsoever can be drawn from this BBC World Service  exercise, but what would make it more interesting would be to find out how many of the poll’s responders define themselves as regular consumers of BBC content.