BBC WS ‘Newshour’ inaccurately portrays Israeli legislation

The final item in the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on July 17th was introduced by presenter Razia Iqbal (from 48:53 here) as follows:

Iqbal: “Now, Parliament in Israel has passed a law that could see groups critical of the government prevented from entering Israeli schools and speaking with pupils. The amendment to the education act grants new powers to the education minister Naftali Bennett – head of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party – to order schools to bar certain groups from giving lectures to students.” [emphasis added]

So is Iqbal’s portrayal of the story accurate?

First of all the legislation which passed its third reading in the Knesset on July 17th is an amendment to an existing law – the 1953 Law of State Education. The legislation adds a clause to the second section of that law in which the objectives of state education are defined. The new clause adds the objective “to educate to significant service in the Israel Defence Force or to civilian national service…” and goes on to state:

“The minister [of education] will establish rules in order to prevent activity in an educational institution on the part of an individual or organization who is not part of the educational system whose activity grossly contradicts the mission of the state educational system outlined in sub-clause (a) and rules to prevent activity in an educational institution of an outside party which initiates legal processes outside Israel against IDF soldiers for activity that they undertook as part of their service.”

Obviously the reference to “the minister” does not mean merely the current minister named by Razia Iqbal and the amendment does not relate to “groups critical of the government” as she inaccurately claims.

Razia Iqbal then went on to introduce MK Sharren Haskel who was allowed to say six sentences before Iqbal jumped in with the following portrayal of a foreign funded political NGO regularly quoted and promoted in BBC content:

Iqbal: “Let’s deal with one of the organisations that’s going to be affected by this law – it’s called ‘Breaking the Silence’ and it’s made up of Israeli citizens, veteran combatants, who have served in the IDF and they endeavor to stimulate public debate and going into schools and talking about what life is like for a soldier working in the occupied territories, they want to convey that as an issue of debating, so why is it that you are stopping that from taking place?”

Iqbal of course did not clarify to BBC audiences that much if not most of the activity of ‘Breaking the Silence’ takes place outside Israel and is not designed to “stimulate public debate”. When her interviewee noted that information promoted by the NGO has been proven false, Iqbal interrupted her.

Iqbal: “There is a member of the Knesset who belongs to the Zionist Union, Shelly Yachimovich, and she says that her two children grew up in Tel Aviv, they were exposed to all sorts of pluralistic views at school, including lectures by ‘Breaking the Silence’ and her two children served significant service in the IDF and they were officers. She doesn’t seem to think that ‘Breaking the Silence’ is a dangerous group. What is it that you are so afraid of?”

After Haskel had clarified that she doesn’t think the group is dangerous either and that there is no limitation on their activities outside of schools, Iqbal continued on the same theme.

Iqbal: “There are other Knesset members in addition to the one that I quoted to you who are saying that this law is dangerous, that the education system is not the property of a minister. Surely schools should be allowed to make decisions about which groups they allow in?”

With Iqbal focusing audience attentions primarily on ‘Breaking the Silence’, listeners did not get to hear that the legislation would apply to other groups as well.  

Clearly Iqbal’s introductory portrayal of this domestic Israeli story gave inaccurate and misleading impressions of the legislation to listeners, which the rest of the item did nothing to dispel. 

 

 

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