In which BBC News helps an MP’s falsehood on its way to becoming an accepted ‘fact’

As we noted here in an earlier post, there was nothing ‘right’ or ‘honourable’ about the numerous utterances of inaccurate anti-Israel propaganda voiced by some of the members of the British parliament during the Commons debate on the issue of recognition of a Palestinian state lastEcho Chambers heading Monday.

One of those claims in particular has gained quite a lot of media attention, making it worth charting its progress – and the BBC’s provision of backwind – as it proceeds on its way towards becoming yet another component in the ‘accepted narrative’ about Israel based on falsehood.

A report titled “UK Palestine statehood vote: Symbol or stumble?” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 16th. The item was written by the Echo Chambers team which purports to bring audiences “A review of the best commentary on and around the world…”.

Under the heading “Today’s must-read”, audiences are given a round-up of reactions in the American media to the UK parliament’s vote which includes the following passage:

Echo Chambers para

Regrettably, the MP for Croydon South is the one who made himself “look a fool” because the supposed reason for his about-turn; the thing which he claimed “has outraged me more than anything else in my political life” (and what a sheltered political life Sir Richard must lead) never actually happened.

Israel did not carry out any such “annexation of 950 acres of the West Bank just a few months ago”. The event to which Sir Richard refers in fact involved the determination of the status of an area of land situated in the Gush Etzion district of Area C which, after a process which went on for several years, was finally determined not to be privately owned and hence was declared state land.

It would of course not be in the least bit surprising were it to transpire that Sir Richard Ottaway’s embarrassing mistake was the result of uncritical reading of the BBC News report on the topic at the time – which, by the way, has since been amended to remove the misleading and inaccurate term ‘expropriate’.

But despite the fact that no such “annexation” took place, the BBC now amplifies that inaccurate claim by showcasing the writing of a journalist from the New Yorker who (like the political editor of the Guardian before him) obviously did not bother to examine the veracity of Ottaway’s statement before making his own pronunciation that “it should be a wake-up call” for “Israel’s supporters”. Mind you, John Cassidy also saw fit to link to the virulently anti-Israel blog ‘Mondoweiss’ in his article in the New Yorker, so perhaps his reluctance to confine himself to the facts should not come as much of a surprise.

Cassidy art New Yorker

When the media uncritically amplifies other members of the media promoting inaccurate statements by politicians who obviously make no effort to authenticate things they have read in other media reports which are often based on information provided to journalists by political NGOs, it can hardly be surprising that “world public opinion” is superficial and skewed. 

The “wake-up call” which the much publicized statements of Sir Richard Ottaway and others among his colleagues did provide this week, however, is to all those who previously presumed that British lawmakers actually bother to apprise themselves of the facts about issues upon which they voice opinions and subsequently vote.   

7 comments on “In which BBC News helps an MP’s falsehood on its way to becoming an accepted ‘fact’

  1. Dear Sir Richard
    Perhaps before you embrace the mantle of embarrassment over your support for Israel, you should read the linked article. Any embarrassment you do feel is rather because of the shallowness of your support for Israel, given that you found it acceptable to do a volte face based in a media report from the BBC, well known for being institutionally anti Israel. Of course you do know that the Balen report commissioned to look into its anti Semitic stance is now stored unpublished in the bowels of the Beeb unobtainable by the likes of you and me. Ever ask why? Or maybe you also never heard of this little BBC secret?
    I trust you will scroll through this great resource to appraise yourself exactly of
    why you should always refer to source material before uttering an opinion.
    I remain yours disappointed
    Sharon Klaff

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Her is just another one of those flouncing “It’s all about me” chinless gits populating the House of Commons sewer. A quick Google trawl for mentions of his name is highly instructive.

  3. What I find depressing is the fact that no-one stood up to correct his use of the term “annexation”. Where, for instance, are our brilliant Jewish lawyer MPs who had a great opportunity to take the fight to the usual Labour suspects – after all we have known for years what Corbyn, Slaughter, Burden etc. would say. Time after time Labour MPs stood up to repeat the same mantra as though they were reading from a script.
    I have just finished reading Anthony Julius’ History of Anti-Semitism in England “Trials of The Diaspora”. This is his final paragraph:

    “Across these eight chapters, I have mostly been engaged in the explication of nonsense – pernicious nonsense, at that. Has there been any merit in the exercise? I hope so; I have committed a great deal of time to it. There is some value in studying anti-Semitism, if only as an instance of how ideas become effective forces in history. And while nonsense is just nonsense, the academic study of nonsense can be scholarship. But in such a case, to study is to immerse oneself in muck. Anti-Semitism is a sewer. This is my second book on the subject and I intend it to be my last.”

  4. Never mind Jewish Lawyer MPs: The next day Andrew Duncan MP launched a tirade on the BBC about Israel’s criminal theft of land, its defiance of clear international law under which the settlements were illegal, and pronouncing that Israel should be forced to admit their illegality as a starting point before even being allowed to enter into any negotiations. Anyone who endorsed settlements was an extremist, an attitude which should be placed on the same level as racism and antisemitism (ironic from someone who in the next breath spoke of the powerful financial lobby that held the USA in hock).
    But how did Ambassador Taub, himself a brilliant lawyer respond when interviewed immediately thereafter? He did not refute the illegality claim when asked. His response was that in his decades of involvement in negotiations, settlements were never the issue. Good point as far as it goes, but why not tackle the illegality issue? I can’t second guess diplomatic tactics, but to me this just made his valid but limited response seem evasive.

  5. Thanks for bringing Ottoway’s misinformation to our attention. I was not aware of this particular falsehood. But I was already in despair that so many of the blatant falsehoods s were being peddled by the MPs, canards which we in our complacent echo chambers here thought we had refuted for any thinking person. It is one thing to argue with ignorant callow BDSers outside Tescos, but these are our lawmakers!

    And when Matthew Offord did offer well researched counterarguments, he was accused by Mr Leigh MP of reading from an Israeli gvt information sheet!

    As you say: those who previously presumed that British lawmakers actually bother to apprise themselves of the facts about issues upon which they voice opinions.
    But then I recalled Brass Eye and realised it was ever thus:
    “David Amess, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Basildon, was fooled into filming an elaborate video warning against the dangers of a fictional Eastern European drug called Cake, and he also asked a question about it in Parliament2
    “Labour MP Syd Rapson related that paedophiles were using “an area of internet the size of Ireland” Other MPs made equally bizarre statements:

  6. It might help the MPs if they acknowledged some familiarity with the expulsion in 1948 of 865,000 Mizrachi refugee Jews from the Muslim states in order to make them Jew free, the same requirement of the Palestinian Arabs. The settlement alarm is silly because final determinations are established through negotiation. What is settled today can be unsettled tomorrow. Most Arabs dwell in houses and should be grateful for any legal structures the Jews are forced to give up after negotiations. The Arabs should be silent about expressing their concerns about settlements. It may prove a gift which, as in Gaza, they may be determined to demolish.

  7. Pingback: Multi-platform BBC propagation of Alan Duncan’s ugly stereotypes and incitement | BBC Watch

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