February 9th saw the publication of the Report of the All-Party Parliamentary inquiry into Antisemitism which was commissioned by John Mann MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.
In the view of this writer, the report is not without issues and perhaps one of the more obvious is the absence of clarification of the connections of boycott campaigns against shops in the UK to the parent body behind those individual actions – the BDS movement. The resulting failure to identify the antisemitic aims of the BDS movement as a whole as well as those it inspires in individual cases of harassment of retailers constitutes a serious omission from this report.
As readers who have already had a chance to read the publication will be aware, several references are made to the BBC. In the chapter titled ‘Traditional and Social Media’ (page 49 onwards), section 151 includes the following:
“…there was an overwhelming consensus amongst those that submitted evidence or gave personal testimony at the regional meetings we held, that the media, and in particular the BBC, had a role to play in whipping up anger through emotive content in the news and analysis that was broadcast. There was certainly a significant focus on the conflict. Using various analytical tools, Dr Ben Gidley found that there had been particularly intense coverage of protests and demonstrations against Israel and the conflict in general when compared to other countries and conflicts. He argued that the excessive focus on Israel in the media allows for inappropriate language to be used, although we discuss this in a later section.” [emphasis added]
Section 154 notes:
“An antisemitic trope about Jewish control of politicians referenced by a BBC journalist”.
The chapter titled ‘The Role of the Media’ appears from page 78 onwards.
Part five of the report is titled ‘Addressing Antisemitic Discourse’. Under the sub-heading ‘Accusations of Dual Loyalty and Malign Influence’ (page 104 onwards), section 376 notes that:
“References to and interest in the ‘Jewish lobby’ was not only a feature of political debate.[…] We were warned however of “the capacity of this sort of article to generate troubling stereotypes” given a reference to ‘the Jewish lobby’ was made when the article was discussed on the BBC News Channel. We note that the language used to collectively describe Jews was raised again in this regard in early 2015.”
The appended footnotes show that the first instance cited refers to a statement made by the BBC’s ‘political advisor’ on November 8th 2014 and that the second instance refers to the remarks made by Tim Willcox in Paris on January 11th 2015.
There is, of course, a case for differentiating between these two statements broadcast by the BBC. Whilst the first one definitely did tap into the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope (with Tim Willcox later adding another age-old stereotype about ‘rich Jews’), the second one was different in that it held European Jews collectively responsible for the perceived actions of Israel. However, it is interesting to note that the report goes on to state:
“Leading figures and commentators in public life must be clear that it is inaccurate to use the term ‘Jewish lobby’ which used in this context is antisemitic and that there is nothing disreputable about the existence of an Israel lobby. Sadly, antisemitic stereotypes of Jewish influence and dual loyalty, albeit not as prolific as in other periods of modern British history, were used during Operation Protective Edge and afterwards and as Professor Feldman put it, emerged “from all points of the political spectrum”.”
It worth remembering that complaints made by members of the public about the first of those comments were dismissed by the BBC, whilst complaints made about the second statement were dismissed by Ofcom and are currently pending investigation by the BBC’s ECU.
The references to BBC content in this report (which relates to a defined period of time) do not of course provide a comprehensive picture of the issue of antisemitic discourse in BBC content and on the corporation’s public message boards. Nevertheless, the BBC should obviously be very concerned by the fact that it appears at all in this report.