BBC R4’s ‘PM’ presents one-sided comment on MP’s suspension

The February 27th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ – presented by Evan Davis – included quite a lot of content relating to the suspension of Labour MP Chris Williamson following the emergence of footage of a speech he made to Momentum activists in Sheffield.

Nineteen seconds into the programme (available here) Davis told listeners that: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Davis: “The Labour MP Chris Williamson has just been suspended. We’ll talk to someone who defends him.”

At 02:48 listeners heard a news bulletin.

Newsreader: “In the past few minutes the Labour MP Chris Williamson has been suspended. He’d already apologised for saying his party gave too much ground in its handling of complaints of antisemitism. Mr Williamson said he deeply regretted the comments he made at a meeting of activists.”

Following a report from the BBC’s assistant political editor Norman Smith in which listeners were told that “Mr Williamson’s fate is being cited by some Labour MPs as a test case for the Labour leader to demonstrate he takes seriously the issue of antisemitism”, Evan Davis gave an overview of the story – from 5:23 – which included the following:

Davis: “But for Labour if Chris Williamson is a problem, then so must be his supporters and there are many of them, at least judging by the reaction on his Facebook page to his earlier apology.”

Listeners then heard four selected comments read out – all supporting Williamson and with one promoting a conspiracy theory.

Woman 1: “I’m beginning to think you’re the only Labour politician with any real integrity and the guts to stand up for truth and justice. Hashtag I stand with Chris Williamson.”

Woman 2: “I understand your reason for this but as far as I’m concerned what you said was right. Tom Watson is a huge disappointment. I voted for him once but never again.”

Woman 3: “Corbyn has met with the Board of Deputies and other Jewish groups to address the antisemitism issue. He has bent over backwards and every time it’s not enough. The fact of the matter is their plan is to destroy the Labour party. Chris has had the courage to speak out and should be commended.” [emphasis added]

Man: “Nothing to apologise for. There may well be some incidents of antisemitism by members but it is only a small minority. I don’t believe it to be widespread.”

Davis next brought in the BBC’s political correspondent Ian Watson to report on “what has been happening behind the scenes today”.

If listeners were expecting to hear a different perspective on the story than that reflected in those reactions from Williamson’s supporters – in accordance with BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – they would no doubt have been surprised when Davis then introduced (from 09:45) yet another commentator of the same stripe.

Davis: “Let us talk to Jenny Manson – co-chair of a group called Jewish Voice for Labour. Now that is an organisation that describes itself as an organisation of Jews with a socialist tradition who tend to be on the Left of the party and support Jeremy Corbyn.”

Listeners were then given to understand that the interview with Manson had been set up before the news of Williamson’s suspension broke.

Davis: “Jenny thank you very much for joining us. Obviously we’d planned to talk to you not knowing that Chris Williamson had been suspended but what’s your reaction to the suspension tonight?”

Following some technical problems, listeners heard Manson’s response.

Manson: “I’m very upset. I think that there is a terrible injustice happening to Chris Williamson. He is a remarkable anti-racist. At that meeting he may have spoke a bit outspoken. People speak like that when they’re speaking at a public meeting. What he said as far as I understand was that antisemitism is terrible but it is not a Labour party problem and that’s what Jewish Voice for Labour have been arguing for a long time now and many ordinary people…”

At that point Manson was cut off again and Davis brought in the newsreader to give another summary of the news while communication was being re-established.

11:57 Davis: “I really want to hear what she wants to say because many people in the Labour party obviously feel that Chris Williamson was out of order and was completely inflaming the situation.”

He then asked Manson to “finish your point about why it’s unfair”.

Manson: “Well as far as I understand it this is on the basis of a speech that Chris made in this last week. All that Chris was saying – and I’ve listened to the account and I’ve read the accounts – was that antisemitism is a terrible thing but that the Labour party hasn’t particularly got a problem of antisemitism and that’s my understanding. We’ve looked at this issue for the last few years very carefully at Jewish Voice for Labour. We’ve discovered that antisemitism is not greater in the Labour party than in other political parties…”

Davis then interrupted her to challenge that claim.

Davis: “Can I suggest though that there’s a sort of intensity of feeling that spills into antisemitism among some activists and some Labour members that is different to what you would find among average people in society, that Labour does have a problem and most…many people in Labour do regard it as a problem.”

Manson’s response included the claim that “in 50 years as a member of the Labour party, at meetings I’ve never met it [antisemitism] and that’s a very, very common statement”. She went on to claim that “there seems to be problems on social media” and – having pointed out that she doesn’t ‘do’ social media – to claim that” it often turns out not to be a Labour party member. Some people infiltrated websites and pretended to be Corbyn supporters”.

She went on to promote a blatant falsehood: [emphasis in bold added]

Manson: “But a lot of groups within the Jewish community do not consider it’s a major problem, including for example the Haredi Jews who have written letters supporting Jeremy Corbyn and who I speak to quite frequently who’ve met antisemitism all their lives but not from people in the Labour party.”

Davis did not bother to clarify to listeners that Manson was apparently referring to the tiny, fringe anti-Zionist sect Neturei Karta and that over 85% of British Jews “see antisemitism as having significantly infiltrated all levels of the [Labour] party”.

Proposing that “you have a different threshold for antisemitism than other people”, Davis then brought up the Naz Shah story which Manson dismissed as “a joke made by an American Jew” before coming up with her own erroneous definition of antisemtism.

Manson: “Antisemitism broadly is hatred of Jews […] it’s hatred of Jews with – I’m told by lawyers I’ve talked to about it – with a sense of impending violence. Something very, very nasty. And it’s being stretched to be criticisms of Israel that people don’t like, criticism of Zionism that people don’t like and in some cases just quick unthinking talk.”

Failing to challenge that inaccurate definition of antisemitism – and to remind listeners that there is one accepted definition used by their own government – Davis tried to put the point that stereotypes of Jews are tolerated in a way that stereotypes about other groups of people are not. However the broadcast again ran into technical difficulties and the item was brought to a close.

As we see the producers of ‘PM’ apparently thought it satisfactory to provide audiences with an entirely one-sided view of this story based on comments on Facebook from Chris Williamson’s supporters and a representative of a tiny, extremist political group which in no way represents mainstream Jewish opinion in the UK.

That point was made by several listeners on Twitter.

One Radio 4 journalist – Chris Wimpress – responded with the claim that no-one else was available.

However, as Davis made clear at the beginning of his conversation with Manson, the interview with the JVL co-chair had in fact been planned in advance.

Related Articles:

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BBC R4 ‘Today’ listeners hear an esoteric item on antisemitism

BBC Radio 4 fails to clarify a commentator’s ‘particular viewpoint’

 

BBC portrayal of the AMIA bombing omits significant information

An article headlined “Argentina’s Chief Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich attacked during break-in” was posted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on February 26th with the billing “Israel condemns attack on Argentina’s chief rabbi”.

“Argentina’s Chief Rabbi has been taken to hospital after being beaten in a night-time attack at his home in the capital Buenos Aires. […]

In a statement, Amia – a Jewish cultural centre – said the attackers stole money and told Mr Davidovich: “We know that you are the Amia Rabbi.””

The final paragraph in that report reads as follows:

“In 1994, the Amia building was targeted in a bomb attack that killed 85 people and remains the country’s deadliest terrorist incident. Much of the evidence was subsequently lost or contaminated and no-one has been convicted in connection with the bombing.”

While those two sentences are in themselves accurate, is that really all the BBC has to tell its audiences about the AMIA bombing?

No mention of the Interpol red notices for four Iranian officials that remain in effect. No mention of the indictment of Argentina’s former president and foreign minister on charges of covering up Iranian involvement in the AMIA bombing. And no mention of the murder of the special prosecutor for the investigation into the bombing, Alberto Nisman.

That’s quite some omission, even by BBC standards.

Related Articles:

The Amia Attack: Terrorism, Cover-Up and The Implications For Iran  (CAMERA)

BBC News’ Iranian ‘hardliners’ and ‘moderates’ myth on view again

In recent days the BBC News website had published two reports pertaining to the resignation (apparently no longer relevant) of Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif.

Mohammad Javad Zarif: Iran’s foreign minister submits resignation” originally appeared on the evening of February 25th.

Iran president ‘has not accepted foreign minister’s resignation’” was published on February 26th and its headline has since been amended.

Both those reports include repeated framing of Zarif as someone who represents a “more moderate” Iran and is different from that country’s “hardliners”.

Article 1:

“He has served as Iran’s ambassador to the UN and became foreign minister in 2013 after President Hassan Rouhani was elected promising a more moderate, outward-looking Iran.”

“Mr Zarif has been under pressure at home from hardliners since the US withdrew from the Iranian nuclear pact, which binds Iran to limit its nuclear activities.”

The article includes analysis from the BBC’s chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet:

“But he’s under huge pressure from hardliners who never liked or trusted his negotiations with the West.”  

“…is this the exit of the US-educated diplomat who became the smiling face of Iran’s new engagement with the world?”

Article 2:

“His role negotiating the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers exposed him to sharp criticism from hardliners.”

The article includes analysis from BBC Persian’s Kasra Naji:

“The fact is that Iranian hardliners resent him for agreeing to dismantle much of the country’s nuclear programme.”

“Mr Zarif, most observers agree, has put up a robust defence of Iran on the world stage in spite of the fact that many of Iran’s positions, actions and behaviours – with which he has had little to do – have been indefensible.” [emphasis added]

Leaving aside the fact that the JCPOA negotiations could not have been conducted or finalised without the agreement of Iran’s Supreme Leader, is the BBC’s framing of Javad Zarif as someone inherently different to Iran’s “hardliners” actually accurate?

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change recently published a report by Kasra Aarabi based on analysis of speeches made by Iranian leaders perceived by some in the West as either ‘hardliners’ or ‘moderates’ – including Javad Zarif.

“The 2015 international nuclear deal did not alter Iran’s anti-US stance. The previous US administration’s signing of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran was seen as a stepping stone to better relations between Iran and the world. Yet despite the deal, anti-US sentiment—and anti-Western sentiment in general—continues to abound in the rhetoric of Iran’s leaders. For both Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, both of whom were involved in the negotiations, 60 per cent of their speeches featured explicit anti-US rhetoric.”

“…when the West speaks of moderates in the regime, it often overlooks the fact that all figures in the establishment are committed to Islamism and are vehemently opposed to liberal, secular values. This includes officials the West perceives as moderate, such as Zarif.”

“This research shows that although Rouhani and Zarif were willing to negotiate with the five permanent United Nations (UN) Security Council members plus Germany (P5+1) and the European Union (EU), at home their position towards the West did not shift—certainly not when it came to what they said in public. Antipathy towards the West might have been expected after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in May 2018, but it was not a new feature of Rouhani’s discourse. Even while his government was negotiating the deal, he was repeating the same positions at home.”

“The anti-US rhetoric maintained by figures such as Rafsanjani, Rouhani and Zarif indicates that these individuals were never ideologically moderate, even though their actions—such as the negotiation of the nuclear deal—were perceived as moderate by Western counterparts. When it comes to policymaking, this is a vital lesson to learn. What sets these figures apart from the hard-line ideologues of the regime, such as Ahmadinejad, is that they understand that an unhealthy Iranian economy constrains the state’s ability to function. This, in turn, damages the implementation of Iran’s ideological objectives, both at home and overseas, as laid out in the constitution. […] These figures are more pragmatic ideologues than moderates or reformists.”

As regular readers know, the BBC has nevertheless been promoting the notion of Iranian ‘hardliners’ and ‘moderates’ for many years.

While the BBC is not alone in having bought into the myth of ‘moderates’ and ‘reformists’ within the Iranian political establishment, one would of course expect that a media organisation obliged to provide its funding public with accurate and impartial information which will enable audiences to “engage fully with issues across…the world” could and would do considerably better.

Related Articles:

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The BBC ‘expert’ contributor and the UK Hizballah designation

Here are some tweets from a person obviously not pleased by the British Home Secretary’s decision to classify Hizballah as a terrorist group.

If the name of the writer of those Tweets sounds familiar, that may be because Sharmine Narwani – formerly of Oxford University’s St Anthony’s College – has appeared in BBC content in the past and some of her contributions are still available online.

As was noted here in 2013:

“In addition to some aggressive anti-Americanism, Narwani peddles anti-Israel, pro Assad,  pro-Iranian regime and pro-Hizballah rhetoric.  As well as having blogged at the Huffington Post – until her pro-Assad stance apparently became too much – Narwani has written for the Guardian and the pro-Hizballah/pro-Assad Lebanese outlet Al Akhbar English.

She also appears to have something of an affinity with antisemitic conspiracy theorists, writing for the ‘Veterans Today‘ website – which has links, via its editor, to Iran’s Press TV – and its sister site ‘Veterans News Now’ as well as – according to her Twitter account – recently appearing on Rense Radio.”

As we see the person variously portrayed by the BBC as a “Middle East expert”, a “journalist” and a “political commentator” is also a dab hand at offensive racist slurs.

Related Articles:

BBC guest ‘expert’ is ‘Veterans Today’, ‘Rense’ contributor

 

 

BBC R4 ‘Today’ listeners hear an esoteric item on antisemitism

The February 23rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 49:14 here) concerning the UK Labour party. Presenter Nick Robinson introduced the item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Robinson: “Compare and contrast the following reactions to the resignations of nine Labour MPs in the past week alone. ‘There is now brutality in the Labour party. Racist bullies are responsible for driving one – Luciana Berger – out of the party and it needs to change if more are not to follow.’ That was the reaction of the party’s deputy leader Tom Watson. In contrast: ‘there is no place for harshness and bullying in the party and to tell you the truth, I don’t believe it exists on a wide scale’. That was the response of the leader Jeremy Corbyn. So who is right? And how can the party’s divisions on bullying, on antisemitism and indeed over Europe now be bridged?

Robinson discussed that topic with two labour MPs – the first of whom he introduced as “Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North, a vocal supporter of Jeremy Corbyn”. However – despite the BBC’s obligation to provide “…news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues…” and notwithstanding Robinson’s challenges to some of his interviewee’s talking points – the interview quickly descended into an esoteric conversation that most listeners would have had great difficulty following.

Robinson: “Chris […] what would you say is the scale of bullying and scale of antisemitism in the Labour party?

Williamson: “Well I’ve never witnessed any bullying and – I’ve got to say like Chuka Umunna – never seen any examples of antisemitism. That’s not to say that neither of those things exist but the truth is that the Labour party has a proud tradition of standing up for social justice, fighting racism in all its forms, right back from the early 1930s when we stood – the Labour party – with the Jewish community in Cable Street against Oswald Mosely’s fascists, to being the backbone of the anti-Nazi League in the 1970s.”

Robinson: “It’s a curious formula to say that you’ve never witnessed any antisemitism. You yourself apologised for signing a petition opposing a ban on a musician who blamed the Grenfell Tower disaster on so-called ‘Jerusalemites’. So far from not witnessing it, you accidentally – you apologised for it – went along with it.”

Williamson: “That’s very, very unfair. Look I didn’t know that the individual concerned had made those remarks and actually deleted the Tweet within 12 minutes of actually posting when it was brought to my attention.”

The unnamed “musician” is Gilad Atzmon who – despite being an antisemite who promotes conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial – used to be quite a regular fixture on the BBC. Williamson did indeed delete his Tweet promoting a petition defending Atzmon and made an apology based on what was described in the New Statesman as “a claim that for many stretches credulity”.  

Robinson however did not bother to provide listeners with the details of that story or to ask Williamson how he ‘accidentally’ managed to sign a petition supporting an antisemite without bothering to do any background research. He went on:

Robinson: “What about when you defended a man who’d said Jewish Trump fanatics were to blame for antisemitism allegations in the Labour party? You defended that man. He was a member of the National Executive Committee.”

Williamson: “He…well…well you’re trying to pick out isolated examples here Nick to try to imply that there is a major problem.”

Robinson: “No, I’m asking you to justify the fact that you said you’ve never seen something when in your own personal case you have twice faced allegations of going along with antisemitism.”

Again Robinson did not provide listeners with the details of the example he used or even the name of “that man” – Peter Willsman – so that they could check out the story and judge Williamson’s responses for themselves.

Williamson: “Allegations are one thing – aren’t they? – but just because somebody makes an allegation doesn’t make it true. If you actually go down that road you’re then very much into the McCarthyite witch hunt era, aren’t you?”

Robinson: “Is John McDonnell responsible for a McCarthyite witch hunt when he says ‘we’ve got to be quicker, we’ve got to be fiercer in dealing with antisemitism’? Is he a McCarthyite?

Williamson: “Well let me quote you what a Jewish journalist…”

Robinson: “No, I’d like you to respond to Mr McDonnell.”

Williamson: “Well yeah I am gonna respond with this comment actually and it’s a comment from a Jewish journalist and I think if you’d just do me the courtesy of listening for a moment Nick, I think you’ll find it highly significant. He wrote on the 21st of July last year ‘Expect a group of high-profile right-wing MPs and councillors or members to resign from the Labour party in protest. Don’t fall for this. In reality this will be just another attempt to sabotage Labour, possibly setting up a new moderate splinter party in the process, using false claims of antisemitism as their totemic issue’.”

The anonymous journalist that Williamson claims is Jewish is Asa Winstanley – a known anti-Israel activist and a contributor to the extremist siteElectronic Intifada’ and the Hamas linked, London-based outfit MEMO. Significantly, Williamson omitted part of the Tweets he ‘quoted’.

With listeners not told who that “Jewish journalist” is and not made aware of his long record of anti-Israel activity and his stance concerning antisemitism in the Labour party, they would of course be unable to judge Williamson’s response.  

Robinson: “So do you agree the claims are false?”

Williamson: “Now that is a Jewish journalist and I would also refer you to…”

Robinson: “I was asking for your view Mr Williamson.”

Williamson: “I would also refer you to the letter that was signed by over two hundred prominent Jewish members of the party who say in an open letter that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn…”

Robinson: “Can you tell me your view. You’re only quoting other people’s views.”

Williamson: “Let me just answer in my own way…that Labour and Jeremy Corbyn are a crucial ally in the fight against racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism.”

That letter cited by Williamson naturally appeared in the Guardian and its signatories include numerous anti-Israel campaigners who conveniently deny the existence of antisemitism in his party. Again, without that essential background information, listeners would be unable to judge Williamson’s response for themselves.

The interview came to an end shortly after that with Robinson again citing Labour MPs:

Robinson: “So Tom Watson is wrong…Tom Watson is wrong when he talks about racist bullies. John McDonnell is wrong when he says the party’s not dealing with antisemitism quickly enough or fiercely enough. They’re all wrong.”

Williamson: “Well I don’t…no…I’m not saying that. I mean I do think there was delays in the…err…dealing with the complaints that have been made but I think it’s important to put those into context as well. Labour is the biggest party in western Europe now and there were a number of complaints. Around a third of them however were deemed not to have sufficient evidence – potentially malicious complaints being made about antisemitism – and obviously the Labour party does need to deal with that and there was a bit of a delay but look, there is no place for antisemitism in the Labour party.”

Williamson’s framing of the topic under discussion in this item is based on the fallacy that if an anonymous “Jewish journalist” and unnamed “prominent Jewish members of the party” say so, then allegations of antisemitism can’t possibly be true.

With Nick Robinson having made no effort to unpack that sophism or to explain to listeners what sort of political milieu the little known fringe activists invoked by Williamson inhabit, this item clearly did the exact opposite of helping audiences to “engage fully” with the issue of antisemitism in the UK Labour party.

Related Articles:

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Usual mantras in BBC News report on Hizballah designation

A report titled “Hezbollah to be added to UK list of terrorist organisations” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘UK’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on the afternoon of February 25th.

“The UK Parliament is set to pass new rules classifying Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

Parts of the Lebanese organisation have been proscribed since 2001, with its military wing banned since 2008.

UK authorities say they are no longer able to distinguish between the group’s military and political wings.

The changes are expected to take force from Friday, after which supporting Hezbollah will be an offence carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Hezbollah – translated as the Party of God – is a Shia Islamist political, military and social organisation that wields considerable power in Lebanon.”

Once again BBC audiences saw the terror group described as being “backed by Iran”.

“The group, which is backed by Iran, has sent thousands of its fighters to Syria to support forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in battles against predominantly Sunni Muslim rebel forces and the jihadist Islamic State group.”

That euphemistic portrayal obviously does not contribute to audience understanding of the fact that Iran funds its proxy in Lebanon to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Later on readers found another statement seen frequently in previous BBC content.

“Hezbollah was formed as a resistance movement during the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon in the early 1980s.”

The origins of Hizballah actually pre-date the First Lebanon War of June 1982. As the FDD’s Tony Badran has written:

“The big bang theory of Hezbollah that puts the Israeli occupation at the alpha point is based not in fact but in legend​—​it’s an Israel-centric myth that makes the Jewish state Hezbollah’s motivation and prime mover. In reality, the story of Hezbollah’s origins is a story about Iran, featuring the anti-shah revolutionaries active in Lebanon in the 1970s, years before Israel’s intervention.”

Readers are told that:

“Mr Javid’s Israeli counterpart Gilad Erdan welcomed the decision on Twitter and called on the EU to follow suit.”

The Ministry of Public Security which Mr Erdan currently heads is not the equivalent of the UK Home Office and is not the body which designates terror organisations. In Israel that function is the responsibility of the Minister of Defence.

The report also promotes some debatable interpretations of the Home Secretary’s decision from the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent.

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC has spent years cultivating the myth of separate ‘wings’ of Hizballah and downplaying the fact that it is a terrorist organisation through use of euphemisms such as “Lebanese Shia group” or “Lebanese political and military group”.

While we may now expect to see less of the notion of different ‘wings’ of Hizballah in BBC content, it is unlikely that the UK government’s decision to proscribe the whole organisation as a terrorist entity will prompt the BBC to abandon its use of unhelpful terminology such as the phrase “militant group” – as seen in this latest report.

Related Articles:

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BBC News gives anodyne portrayal of new Lebanese government

BBC News promotes Hizballah’s lexicon and a false narrative

 

BBC ‘Global Questions’ from Jerusalem rescheduled

Readers may recall that last November the BBC invited members of the public to take part in an edition of ‘Global Questions’ to be broadcast from Jerusalem the following month. That broadcast was however subsequently cancelled.

Now the BBC is advertising that event – and another in Arabic – once again.

“Global Questions is your chance to put questions to a high-level panel of politicians and decision makers. Moderated by Zeinab Badawi, one of the BBC’s most respected journalists, the discussion is shaped by questions from the audience.

The Future for the Israelis and Palestinians

The Middle East awaits President Trump’s much vaunted peace plan – billed as the ‘deal of the century’. But the Palestinians say it was dangerously provocative to declare the disputed city of Jerusalem as the capital, and to move the American Embassy there. A quarter of a century on from the Oslo Accords, what chance is there now of the ‘two-state solution’, where an independent Palestinian state sits alongside Israel?

Having marked the 70th anniversary of its creation, Global Questions travels to Israel to ask what the next 70 years might bring.

Ever since its birth, the country has been mired in conflict with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbours. Is further conflict inevitable or could there be a lasting peace that allows the next generation to live without war

BBC Global Questions will record a debate in English on Wednesday 27 February followed by a debate in Arabic on Thursday 28 February. You are welcome to join one or both programmes.

On the panel:
Naftali Bennett Israel’s Minister of Education
Diana Buttu Palestinian lawyer and former PLO spokesperson
Jake Walles Former US ambassador and peace negotiator
Jawad Anani Former Deputy PM of Jordan”

Registration and further details here.

Related Articles:

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Diana Buttu is at it again, Harvard Edition  (CAMERA)

Countering Propaganda: Focus on Diana Buttu  (CAMERA)

 

 

 

New BBC report on ‘White Helmets’ again amplifies falsehoods

Readers may recall that last July the BBC News website amplified conspiracy theories cooked up by the Syrian and Russian regimes in two reports relating to the rescue of members of the ‘White Helmets’.

BBC promotes what it described in April as ‘conspiracy theories’

BBC News website readers get yet another dose of Assad’s propaganda

“Members of the BBC’s funding public may well be asking themselves why – yet again – their public service broadcaster is generously amplifying conspiracy theories no different from those put out by the regime-controlled news agencies of Syria and Russia.”

On February 21st an article by Catrin Nye appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘UK’ page under the headline “UK rehomes some 100 Syria White Helmets and family members”.

The article is based on a filmed report by Nye shown on BBC television channels and a link is included. In that film Nye correctly tells viewers (from 2:35) that the White Helmets:

“…operate in rebel areas. When the Syrian regime and its allies falsely linked them to Al Qaeda they became targets for the Syrian regime…”

Nevertheless, later on in the written article, readers are provided with a link to one of the BBC’s reports from last July in which 30% of the word count was given over to amplification of that falsehood from the Assad regime.

“Khalil was one of 422 volunteers and family members who had to be rescued by the Israel Defense Forces following a request from the US, UK and other European nations, after they became trapped following a military offensive in July 2018.”

The BBC’s public purpose remit includes the obligation to “accurately and authentically” portray people of “different cultures” in the United Kingdom with the aim of contributing to “social cohesion”.

Quite how the BBC thinks its repeated amplification of a totalitarian regime’s falsehoods concerning these new UK residents contributes to social cohesion is of course a mystery.

Where did BBC News get its Essex University story quotes?

h/t M

Last week two reports relating to the same story appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Essex’ page:

February 21st: “Anti-semitism row in Essex University student society vote

February 22nd: “Anti-Semitism: University of Essex suspends worker amid row

The story was portrayed in the first report as follows:

“More than 200 students have voted against forming a new Jewish society, raising fears of anti-semitism.

The national Union of Jewish Students (UJS) said it was “shocking” there were objections to the new society at the University of Essex’s students union.

Some students said they were against society proposals to “explore zionism” and celebrate the Israeli national day. […]

…some students have said they did not object to the society in principle but to its proposals to promote the Israeli national day and explore Zionism, which they argue are political rather than religious topics.

One student who wished to remain anonymous said: “Unfortunately this manifesto excludes a huge proportion of the Jewish community and implies that all Jews support the Israeli state. Judaism should not be conflated with Israel.””

Omitted from the BBC’s account of the story – but reported by other media outlets including the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Jewish Chronicle – is the involvement of the university’s Amnesty International group in the outcome of the vote. The Jewish Chronicle reported:

“Last night, UJS issued a further statement after it was revealed that one group which had urged students to vote against the establishment of the JSoc was the university’s Amnesty International Society.

“The Jewish Society is seeking ratification in Essex, which is very important for Jewish representation in Essex, as we have not had a Jewish Society in Essex for many years”, the statement from the Amnesty Society said.

“Unfortunately, there is something very problematic and upsetting written in their manifesto. The society has written it will celebrate Israel national day, which is nothing to do with Judaism. It is a day where 700,000 Palestinians were illegally expelled from their homes and ethnically cleansed from historic Palestine.

The group said it was “against this”, adding: “Until the society is politically neutral like every other religious society we will take a stance on this. So we urge you to please vote no until they are politically neutral.”

The statement went on to claim: “We support a Jewish society that represents all Jews no matter where they lie on the political spectrum. Unfortunately this manifesto excludes a huge proportion of the Jewish community and implies that all Jews support the Israeli state. Judaism should not be conflated with Israel, as this is problematic with the rights of all in Palestine.””

Those quotes identified by the Jewish Chronicle as coming from the university’s Amnesty International group statement are remarkably similar to the ones appearing without attribution in the BBC’s report.

While the BBC is usually more than willing to quote and promote the political NGO Amnesty International, in this case it appears to have curiously chosen to erase the organisation’s link to the story.  

Related Articles:

No BBC coverage of Amnesty International’s antisemitism vote

BBC News website buries Oxford University Labour Club story

Big BBC yawn at anti-Israel incidents in UK universities

BBC world affairs editor’s holiday snaps exclude Hizballah

h/t ML

The February 23rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included – apropos of nothing – a report from Beirut by world affairs editor John Simpson.

Co-presenter Nick Robinson introduced that space filler (from 16:18 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Robinson: “A civil war in the Middle East that risks destabilising the entire region. For years it was Lebanon and not Syria that merited that description. Today’s Lebanon – fragile but stable – is a very different country to that which our world affairs editor John Simpson reported on in the 1980s and 90s. He’s been back, more than 30 years after reporting on its conflict.”

The first part of the item is taken up by Simpson’s old war stories. After listeners discover that he is actually in Beirut on a family holiday, Simpson moves on to describing a “shopping area” and “a pleasant little café” before closing:

Simpson: “All these years later Lebanon still seems immensely fragile. Syria and its civil war is less than 50 miles away and Syria itself, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran are all inclined to interfere here and act like bullies. But the one thing everyone tells you is that the Lebanese themselves have learned their lesson. 15 years of ferocious civil war have left a terrible scar. Better to get on with your fellow citizens of whatever religion and make money than fall out with them and risk a fresh round of destructive horror.”

Remarkably the BBC world affairs editor’s holiday snapshots from “peaceful” Lebanon include no mention whatsoever of the heavily armed, foreign funded and directed, sectarian, theocratic terrorist group that dominates the country while threatening the neighbouring one described by Simpson as being “inclined to interfere…and act like bullies”.