BBC ‘Newshour’ presenter Donnison decides an Israeli’s identity

According to a study carried out last year by the Israel Democracy Institute just 14% of the Arab citizens of Israel define their primary identity as Palestinian. However, even in the contemporary era of race and gender self-identification, one BBC World Service radio presenter appears to have granted himself the prerogative of deciding how Israel’s Arab citizens should be defined.

On June 3rd an edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an interview with the Program Director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Presenter Jon Donnison introduced the item (from 19:34 here) as follows:

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Donnison: “To Germany now and at the Jewish Museum in Berlin a kippa – the skullcap worn by many religious Jewish men – has gone on display. Nothing too unusual about that you might think but this is a specific kippa. It was worn by a young secular Palestinian Israeli man Adam Armoush in Berlin who put it on to show solidarity with his Jewish friends. Things went badly though. He was violently set upon in the street by a Syrian refugee in an anti-Semitic attack. Video footage of the attack went viral on social media and led to widespread demonstrations with thousands of people of all faiths or none wearing kippot in support of Adam Armoush. His kippa is going on display in the Jewish Museum’s new ‘rapid response’ gallery which aims to highlight contemporary issues in the news.”

As Adam Armoush explained in interviews given to German and Israeli media after the attack, the reason he walked down that Berlin street wearing a kippa was not the one given by Donnison.

“The 21-year-old victim of an anti-Semitic attack on the streets of Berlin has told German media that, despite the fact that he was wearing a traditional Jewish skullcap, he was not Jewish, but an Israeli Arab wearing the kippa as an experiment.

“I’m not Jewish, I’m an Israeli, I grew up in Israel in an Arab family,” the man told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. 

He was conducting what he termed an “experiment” in response to a warning from a friend that wearing a kippa in Germany was unsafe, saying he refused to believe this. […]

Armoush told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that he himself is an Israeli Arab, not Jewish, and that he wore the skullcap to make a point to a friend who said it was risky to do so in Germany.

“I was saying it’s really safe and I wanted to prove it, but it ended like that,” he said.”

The BBC itself reported at the time that:

“In a twist to the story, the Israeli victim later told German media that he had grown up in an Arab family in Israel and was not himself Jewish. He had been given the kippah a few days before by a friend from Israel who had told him it was dangerous to wear one in Berlin and he wanted to see if that was true.”

In addition to Donnison’s inaccurate portrayal of the reason why Armoush wore the kippa, he presented the subsequent rallies in Germany as being “in support of Adam Armoush” when in fact they were advertised as having a broader aim:

“As a sign against anti-Semitism, people in several German cities have taken to the streets with the traditional Jewish headgear, the Kippa. Jews and non-Jews gathered on Wednesday in Berlin, Cologne, Erfurt, Magdeburg and Potsdam for solidarity rallies.”

And despite there being no record of Adam Armoush having self-identified as a “Palestinian” in the various interviews he gave to the media, Jon Donnison took it upon himself to portray him as such to BBC World Service radio listeners.

All that in just one hundred and thirty-seven words.  

 

 

 

 

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