As has often been noted here, for years the BBC has reported stories relating to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) without adequately clarifying to its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state. Moreover, in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such crucial background information “not our role“.
So did BBC audiences see any improvement in 2017?
In February BBC One’s “moral, ethical and religious” debate programme ‘The Big Questions’ aired a discussion billed “should we trade with Israel now settlements are recognised?” which included contributors from controversial organisations that support the BDS anti-Israel campaign – without audiences being informed of that fact.
In March the BBC News website reported a story about a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign denied entry to Israel but – despite the obvious relevance to the story – failed to inform audiences what the BDS campaign aspires to achieve.
In April BBC Two audiences were given an airbrushed account of the aim of the BDS campaign and visitors to the BBC News website were told that it is “a human rights organisation”.
In May the BBC News website recycled the myth that BDS is a “human rights” campaign and later the same month failed to mention the role of a BDS group in bringing about the banning of a film in Lebanon .
In June listeners to BBC World Service radio also heard gross misrepresentation of the BDS campaign’s aims:
“…the end goal is always hopefully to get a peaceful resolution where Israelis and Palestinians and all Arab countries are living in peace; are living in justice.”
In October the BBC News website recycled two reports from 2015 – both featuring a prominent BDS campaigner – as ‘explanatory’ items.
In November listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard the Palestinian representative in the UK bemoaning the fact that the British government does not support BDS as part of the corporation’s Balfour Declaration centenary programming and in December BBC World Service radio audiences heard Mustafa Barghouti promoting the BDS campaign.
BDS campaigners and supporters showcased by the BBC in 2017 without audiences being told of their links to that campaign and without explanation of its political agenda include Ahdaf Soueif, the UJFP, Diana Buttu, Omar Baddar, Stephen Kinnock and Saree Makdisi.
One story in particular received generous coverage from the BBC throughout much of 2017. In February visitors to both the BBC Music website and the BBC News website were told of “Controversy over Radiohead gig in Israel” in a report that promoted a fictional “industry boycott” and mythical “industry rules” while providing a link to a (misspelled) website which is part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
In July readers of the BBC News website saw another article about the Radiohead show in Tel Aviv that failed to clarify the BDS campaign’s aims and BBC World Service radio audiences also heard a report on the same subject. In September BBC Radio 5 live returned to the story, once again without clarification of what the BDS campaign aspires to achieve.
On no occasion throughout 2017 were audiences told in the BBC’s own words that the BDS campaign is opposed to Jews having the basic human right to self-determination in their own country and that denial of Israel’s right to exist is considered – including by the UN Secretary General and according to the definition adopted by the UK government – to be a form of antisemitism. That obviously hinders the ability of audiences to put the BDS campaign’s claim to be a non-racist human rights organisation into its appropriate context and affects their view of criticism of the campaign from other sources.
In contrast, as we see above, the BBC continues to provide a generous platform for supporters of the BDS campaign – identified as such or not – to promote their messaging.