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.