BBC Radio 4 puff piece on an anti-Zionist

On October 15th BBC Radio 4 aired a half-hour long programme called “My Father’s Israel” that is described in its synopsis as follows:

“How a bitter dispute over Israel’s future split a country and divided a family. In June 1967, Israel had just won the Six Day War, defeating the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and occupying much new territory. Israelis sensed a transformation in their country’s destiny. Most were euphoric. A few were fearful. Two declarations drawn up in neighbouring Tel Aviv cafes and published on the same day symbolised this bitter divide.

One, now seen as hugely significant in shaping Israeli history, declared that ‘The Land of Israel is now in the hands of the Jewish people’. It was signed by more than fifty members of the country’s leading cultural and political elites. It encouraged the wave of settlements that would arise in the territories which Israel had recently occupied. The other declaration, concocted by two friends over an espresso, warned that the Israeli victory was a ‘fateful’ moment, and that holding onto occupied territories ‘will make us a nation of murderers and murdered’. It was signed by just 12 people.

These heretical views, published in a leading daily newspaper, prompted intense criticism and its signatories were called traitors to the Zionist cause. Some received threats of violence, amongst them Shimon Tzabar, who was one of the authors. In this programme, his son Rami explores what this moment of dramatic change meant for Israel, and for his family. He travels to Tel Aviv and talks to those involved in making the two declarations, as they recall the extraordinary atmosphere surrounding them.

This is also a personal story, as Rami discovers the consequences of his father’s passionate actions. After ostracism in Israel, his father went into exile in London (where Rami was born), and continued his campaigns with weapons of art, satire and unshakeable faith in his cause. The cost for the family was high.

Arguments still rage today about Israel’s actions and destiny – an argument within Israeli society, within the international community and among individuals. This programme reveals, in one dramatic story, the roots of that argument, and how it reverberated so strongly across a family’s life.”

Neither in the programme’s trailer, its synopsis nor in the programme itself are audiences informed of the relevant fact that the narrator and producer Rami Tzabar is a BBC employee.

The programme itself is likewise dogged by omission. At no point are listeners told that Shimon Tzabar – who is described as “playful, profound and …just a little bit annoying” – was a member of the Communist  Party of Israel (Maki). Later on, while in conversation with one of two of the featured co-signatories to Shimon Tzabar’s “declaration” – Moshe Machover (who was recently expelled from the UK Labour Party and is still doing the anti-Zionist rounds) – Rami Tzabar describes his father as a “naughty boy” and a “thorn in (the) side” of “the establishment” without bothering to mention his association with the extreme-left anti-Zionist group ‘Matzpen’.

Omission likewise plagues the programme’s portrayal of the event that led to Shimon Tzabar’s “declaration”. Listeners hear nothing of the background and context to the Six Day War or the Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria.

“Jerusalem – always hugely symbolic in the region – was a divided city between 1948 and ’67; the east controlled by Jordan, the west by Israel. But with victory the city was united once more.”

Neither does Rami Tzabar make any mention of the attacks launched upon Israelis before the Six Day War – for example from the Golan Heights – which are crucial to the understanding of his commentary at 14:32.

“What’s so surprising about the greater land of Israel petition is that these are not the people you tend to associate with the settlement movement today: the religious parties. These were poets, philosophers, artists, writers. Zionists, of course, but secular ones, many aligned with the centre left Labour movement. And though the settlement project would later be led by religious groups, then it was rooted in the elites of the political mainstream.”

While Shimon Tzabar is described by his son as an “exile”, a reading of his own writings later clarifies that his departure from Israel was self-imposed.

“At the beginning of December 1967 I left my wife and my son in Tel Aviv and embarked on a Turkish liner at Haifa and sailed to Marseilles. I had no intention of leaving Israel for good. I just wanted to do something, to carry on the fight against the occupation abroad and then to return home.”

Listeners even hear a cheap stereotype when Rami Tzabar describes his parents as being:

“…argumentative, of course, but that’s Israelis for you.”

Towards the end of the programme Rami Tzabar tells listeners that his father designed a “new flag” for Israel featuring a tank instead of the Star of David and that he was sued for copyright infringement after publishing a “Michelin guide to Israeli prisons”. Tzabar neglects to tell listeners that the full title of that booklet was “Guide to Israeli prisons, jails, concentration camps and torture chambers” or that in it, his father promoted Nazi analogies

Framed as a ‘family story’, this one-sided, romanticised account makes no effort to explain to Radio 4 listeners why Shimon Tzabar’s demand for immediate and unconditional withdrawal from the land taken during the Six Day War was so unpopular with a nation that had at the time been under existential threat throughout the nineteen years of its existence.

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BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ revisits antisemitism and anti-Zionism

As we know the BBC’s record on preventing, identifying – and correcting – antisemitic discourse in its own content is worryingly dismal. Likewise, the BBC has been unable to explain anti-Zionism to its audiences adequately and attempts to do so have been repeatedly marred by promotion of the Livingstone Formulation. Not surprisingly therefore, the BBC’s coverage of the issue of antisemitism in the ranks of the UK Labour party has also repeatedly been unsatisfactory and unhelpful to its funding public.

Against that backdrop, parts of the September 11th edition of ‘Hardtalk‘ (broadcast both on television and BBC World Service radio) with the British writer Howard Jacobson were noteworthy.

From 08:38 in the video below the topic of conversation turned to antisemitism with Jacobson concluding:

“…it would be madness to suppose it’s [antisemitism] not there and it is here in this country in a particular guise.”

Host Stephen Sackur jumped in:

Sackur: “But maybe sometimes…well…maybe sometimes you see it in places where actually it is something else. And I’m thinking here about the conflation, some would say, the conflation of antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment or anti-Zionist sentiment.”

Jacobson: “I don’t conflate it.”

Sackur: “Some do.”

Jacobson: “Well there may be some who do. I mean a lot of people are accused of conflating it when they don’t. They are two separate things but that doesn’t mean that they are bound to be separate things. It is quite true that an anti-Zionist need not be an antisemite but that doesn’t mean that an anti-Zionist is never going to be an antisemite.”

Sackur: “But they are two distinct and different things. One is political and ideological. One is essentially about the hate of a people and a religion.”

Following Jacobson’s reply to that assertion, Sackur changed the subject, claiming that he had already “explored” the topic of Zionism in a previous interview with anti-Zionist Ilan Pappe which in fact took place over three years ago. Sackur then turned the conversation to the topic of antisemitism in the UK Labour party, claiming that “the Labour party has dealt with that”.

Howard Jacobson’s response and Sackur’s subsequent invocation of a controversial letter to the Guardian can be viewed below.

 

BBC contributor on ME links up with UK Hamas supporters

Next month an organisation linked to Hamas (which is of course proscribed by the EU and in part by the UK) will hold an event titled ‘Palestine, Britain and the Balfour Declaration 100 years on’ at the British Library in London.

“The 1917 Balfour Declaration is widely regarded as one of the most formative and far-reaching documents in the modern history of the Middle East. It was the cornerstone of the Zionist project to transform Arab Palestine into a ‘Jewish state’. The Declaration and subsequent events changed not only the demographic map of the region but also its political, social and military configuration as well.

Join Middle East Monitor on the 7th of October at the British Library in Central London to learn more about and discuss the declaration, how it came about, it’s [sic] legal standing and consequences, and to look at Britain’s role in the continued oppression of Palestinians.”

The fact that ‘Middle East Monitor’ (MEMO) is organising such an event comes as no surprise: it is after all the Hamas-linked outfit that invited Raed Salah to the UK in 2011 and it includes among its staff seasoned anti-Israel activists such as director Daud Abdullah (also connected to the PRC) and senior editor Ibrahim Hewitt of ‘Interpal‘. 

Neither is the line-up of speakers at this latest MEMO event much of an eye-opener: no-one familiar with the Hamas-sympathetic anti-Israel scene in the UK would be shocked to find names such as David Cronin, Clare Short and Peter Oborne on the list.

Nevertheless, one name on that list should raise eyebrows – not because he has unsurprisingly agreed to speak at an event run by a group known to be linked to Hamas but because the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist activist academic Avi Shlaim is also a fairly regular (but inevitably inadequately introduced) BBC contributor on Middle East affairs and has even in the past been consulted as an ‘expert’ at the later stages of the BBC complaints procedure.

Related Articles:

BBC College of Journalism “associations”

Where did Jeremy Bowen learn the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict? 

 

BBC report on UN SG’s Israel visit omits his statements on anti-Zionism

As readers may recall, back in July the BBC’s coverage of commemoration of the mass arrest of French Jews in World War II did not include any mention of the French president’s remarks concerning anti-Zionism.

Macron’s statement is of course in step with the IHRA working definition of antisemitism that was adopted in recent months by the British government and the EU parliament as well as in accord with the US State department’s definition. […] However, the BBC News website’s report on the ceremony made no mention whatsoever of the French president’s recognition of anti-Zionism as a manifestation of antisemitism.”

Moreover, several days later a regional BBC radio station described President Macron’s statement as a “very controversial claim” to its listeners.

During his recent visit to Israel the UN Secretary General told President Rivlin that:

“I do believe that […] those that call for the destruction of the State of Israel that that is a form of modern anti-Semitism”

Mr Guterres expressed the same view when he later met Prime Minister Netanyahu:

“…it is for me clear that to express that the right of existence of the state of Israel doesn’t exist or the wish to destroy the state of Israel is unacceptable form of modern than anti-Semitism.” 

Those portrayals of anti-Zionism – the denial of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in the land of Israel – as a modern form of antisemitism did not however appear in the BBC’s account of Mr Guterres’ visit.

“Earlier on Monday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin urged Mr Guterres to work to end what he called “the discrimination against Israel in some branches” of the UN.

Mr Guterres said the UN would “always be very frank in the dialogue with the State of Israel”, but also “very committed to make sure that anti-Semitism doesn’t prevail and that equality in the treatment of all states is fully respected”.”

Once again, that omission will not come as a surprise to those familiar with the BBC’s own failure to accurately explain to its audiences the meaning of anti-Zionism and the corporation’s repeated misrepresentation of that term.

Related Articles:

BBC ignores UN SG’s admission of bias against Israel

BBC News tries – and fails – to explain antisemitism and anti-Zionism

BBC Radio Ulster promotes ‘Zionism is racism’ and the ‘apartheid’ smear

BBC News’ side-lining of French president’s anti-Zionism statement is no surprise

Video: Why Anti-Zionism = Racism (UK Media Watch) 

 

 

BBC Radio Ulster promotes ‘Zionism is racism’ and the ‘apartheid’ smear

h/t B

On July 16th, at an event in Paris marking the 75th anniversary of the deportation of French Jews to Auschwitz, the French president Emmanuel Macron said:

“We will never surrender to the messages of hate; we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism.” 

Macron’s statement is of course in accord with the US State department’s definition of antisemitism and in step with the IHRA working definition of antisemitism that was adopted in recent months by the British government and the EU parliament. The IHRA definition includes the following in its possible manifestations of antisemitism:

 “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

And:

“Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

As was noted here at the time, BBC News website coverage of the ceremony made no mention whatsoever of the French president’s recognition of anti-Zionism as a manifestation of antisemitism.

However, two days later – on July 18th – BBC Radio Ulster’s daily phone-in show ‘Talkback‘ ran a 35 minute long programme with a title that signaled its tone:

“We debate the very controversial claim by the French president that anti-Zionism is simply another form of anti-Semitism” [emphasis added]

Presented by William Crawley, the programme’s studio guests were Unitarian minister Chris Hudson and Fiona Ferguson from the ‘People Before Profit Alliance’: a very small Irish Trotskyist political party which includes the following in its manifesto:

“We support the Palestinian struggle for liberation against Zionist occupation and oppression and back the international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Apartheid Israel.”

That relevant information was not communicated to listeners.

In addition, listeners heard the opinions of four callers – all of whom presented negative views of Israel.

The programme began with an introduction from Crawley:

Crawley: “At what point do you think a criticism of the State of Israel turns into antisemitism? Given the many centuries of abuse the Jewish people have experienced, particularly in Europe, the allegation of antisemitism is a very serious one. We often hear activists and campaigners pushing back against that allegation. There is a world of difference, they say, between being an anti-Zionist and being antisemitic.  That’s a distinction the French president Emmanuel Macron clearly doesn’t accept. He told the prime minister of Israel that France will never surrender to anti-Zionism because it is – and I quote – ‘a reinvention of antisemitism’. The French president’s words have travelled quickly around the world. Yesterday Senator Chuck Schumer who leads the Democrats in the US Senate applauded him for his comments.”

Listeners then head a recording of Senator Schumer speaking, which included the clearest presentation of the issue under discussion in the entire programme.

Schumer: “The idea that all other peoples can seek and defend their right to determination but the Jewish people cannot; that other nations have a right to exist but the Jewish State of Israel does not – that too is a modern form of antisemitism.”

Crawley continued, ignoring BBC style guide instructions on the use of the term ‘Palestine’:

“…in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.”

Crawley: “We know that the politics of Israel and Palestine is extremely contentious here with many active in campaigns on both sides of the debate. In a moment we will debate ourselves whether the French president is right to see no distinction whatsoever – no difference – between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. But first let’s try to understand the central tenets – the central ideas – at the heart of Zionism.”

Crawley then brought in a person he repeatedly addressed as ‘Yoel’ but who is in fact Yoav Peled. Not surprisingly, when Crawley asked “what is Zionism?” Peled’s answer included a strawman definition that is not adopted by Zionists.

Peled: “There is no one clear definition. If you define Zionism as support for whatever the Israeli government does, that’s one thing. And if you’re against that then certainly this is nothing to do with antisemitism. If you say that Zionism is recognizing the right of Jews to have a state of their own in that particular part of the Middle East, then the question is, is it justified given the fact that it came at the expense of the Palestinians? And there is a debate about that and I think it’s a legitimate political debate and neither side is necessarily racist against the other.”

Crawley’s conversation with Peled continued, touching on the history of Zionism, its ‘leaders’ and Jewish opponents to it. Crucially though, the ostensibly neutral academic brought in to explain “the central tenets” of Zionism and provide what Crawley termed “historical backdrop” did so from one very clear side of the political spectrum.

Crawley’s studio guests were then brought into the conversation with no particular surprises in their positions. However, listeners did hear a series of mostly inadequately challenged allegations about Israel and Zionism that are worthy of note – including repeated promotion of the ‘Zionism is racism’ canard and the ‘apartheid’ smear. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

07:43 – Ferguson: “For me Zionism is ahm….it’s ahm… […] it’s an exclusionary right-wing ideology. It’s political and it oppresses or opposes those that don’t come from a Jewish background. It’s racist and it has led to… […] it’s racist and it has led to appalling treatment of Palestinians and so anti-Zionism is the opposition to that. […] Opposition to a racist state and opposition to the racism of Semitism [sic] are what are synonymous here – not anti-Zionism.”

08:37 – Ferguson: “…there are two ways that we can interpret Zionism, the first one being that one set of people have a divine right to an area of land over others and should be able to take that back regardless of the detriment or the persecution of the people who live there. That is wrong, I think. Second […] it’s full support for the Israeli state. I think that the Israeli state is racist. I think that it’s an apartheid state and therefore I think that even the second definition is wrong.”

12:20 – Ferguson: “I think that it is the State of Israel which is racist in this case. […] I think that if one group of peoples is being given a divine right to exist over another and despite […] the detriment that it causes to the other, then yes; that is racist.”

15:41 – Ferguson: “To oppose the racist record of a state cannot in itself be racist. That’s an oxymoron. Israel has carried out some of the worst human rights atrocities that we have seen in history but most notably in the last ten years, thousands of people within the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been murdered.  Their homes have been bulldozed. Notably, Rachel Corrie – an American activist – was trapped and murdered and crushed under the bulldozer operated by an Israeli official who was destroying the home of a Palestinian – which they do systematically in order….”

Corrie’s death was of course an accident and the Ferguson’s claim that the bulldozer was “destroying the home of a Palestinian” is contradicted by the findings of the court that ruled on the case. William Crawley did not however bother to inform listeners of those facts.

18:02 – Connor (caller): “I have been in Palestine. I have been in the West Bank. I have been in Ramallah, Jericho. I’ve seen first-hand the disgusting treatment of the Palestinians. […] It is apartheid; the only apartheid and everyone knows this. […] It’s [Israel] completely ignoring the right of those of the Palestinian Jews [sic].”

19:26 – Connor (caller): “The Palestinians have been there for generation after generation. The Law of Return in Israel allows any Jew in the world to go and live in Israel and occupy land belonging to Palestinians […] occupy land, throw people out of their homes. I’ve seen this first-hand. I’ve seen bulldozers. I’ve seen families getting put out of their home to accommodate settlers from foreign countries who are being put….and they’re being paid £14,000 a year by the Israeli state to occupy and take over territory…”

Those blatant falsehoods were not challenged.

21:34: Hudson: “When I opposed apartheid in South Africa I didn’t call for the destruction of the South African state. […]

Crawley: “Did you call for the destruction of white domination?”

Hudson: “Absolutely.”

Crawley: “That by analogy is what Fiona is saying. She’s not calling for the destruction of Israel but she is calling for the dismantling of a power system that prejudices in favour of Jews.”

Listeners heard falsehoods concerning the rights of Arab Israelis that the presenter was clearly unable to correct because he is insufficiently informed.

22:10: Crawley: “So every Palestinian living in Israel is allowed to vote?”

Hudson: “To my knowledge they are, yes.”

Ferguson: “They’re not. There are two judiciary systems as well so depending whether you’re a Palestinian or a Jew, you’re treated by the law differently.”

Husdon: “You’re talking about Israeli Arabs?”

Ferguson: “Well exactly. That’s exactly the point, isn’t it, because there are full citizens who are Palestinians living within the State of Israel who are under a different judicial system. That’s apartheid.”

Crawley: “Are they allowed to vote on equal terms?”

Feruguson: “It depends. They’re…apparently they are. What you’ll hear is that they are and what the State of Israel will tell you that they are but actually in reality it doesn’t happen. It’s just something that is…ehm….the system is either fiddled with in a way…”

Those inaccurate allegations clearly materially misled listeners and were even later repeated.

24:15 – Ferguson: “But if we’re talking about the existence of the political structures as we referred to earlier of Israel, which are racist, which are prejudiced, which are apartheid – and by the way, Chris, you’re one of a minority nowadays that doesn’t accept it is apartheid. Desmond Tutu who, let’s be honest, has more experience on this topic than either of us […] calls it apartheid. The UN in a report at the end of last year has accepted that Israel is an apartheid state. Should an apartheid state in itself – the structures of the state – be allowed to exist? Of course not.”

25:05 – Crawley: “You accept the right of the State of Israel to exist as a democracy?”

Ferguson: “But the State of Israel is not a democracy.”

Crawley:[…] But do you accept the right of this state to exist as a democracy?”

Ferguson: “I don’t see how that can be answered because a) Israel is not a democracy as it is and b)…no, of course it’s not a democracy…I mean people…it’s not a democracy. Can I explain why it is not a democracy? Because there are two judicial systems for different people who live within there. There are 1.7 million Palestinians who live within Israel who are not afforded the same rights as Israelis. It’s not a democratic state.”

26:04 – Kaitlin (caller): “This thing about Israel being a democratic state. You know, that phrase is trotted out and it’s rarely questioned […]. I just want to give you two examples in which Israel is not a democratic state. One are the thousands of Palestinians including men, women and children, who are imprisoned without trial – effectively interned and left to rot in jail for years and many of them having been tortured by the way. The second example is the West Bank. Now Israel has complete control over the West Bank and yet the people there, who live effectively under military occupation, don’t have any vote. They have no right to vote for the parliament – the Jewish parliament – which actually controls their lives.”

Notably Crawly made no attempt to clarify the context of terrorism in relation to administrative detention or to inform listeners that Palestinians living under PA rule in Areas A and B vote for their own legislative council. Neither did he clarify that the Israeli Knesset is not “Jewish”.

28:14 – Michael (caller): “I was in Israel in 1985. […] I also experienced teenage soldiers – Israeli soldiers – bullying elderly men who were coming from the very north end of the country through the blazing sun to work in the south and making them sit in the sun for 3 or 4 hours extra at a checkpoint for no reason. And I noticed this. That’s just bullying.”

Crawley: “So what you’ve got, you’ve got evidence in your mind of bullying, intimidation, inappropriate behavior by Israeli forces.”

32:06 – Crawley: “But there are those on the other side […] who say it’s a manufactured majority because the right of return is not being granted to Palestinians and if it was, you would no longer have a Jewish majority in the State of Israel. So it’s a manufactured majority – that’s the allegation.”

33:24 – Ferguson: “I just want to pick up on the last comment […] about the displacement of 6.5 million Jews – sorry: of Palestinians – and their right to return. It wasn’t just something that happened and is now something that we get over and can swipe under the carpet. These Palestinians still do not have the right to return to that area of land. Never mind that Jewish people – regardless of where they came from, regardless of their background – are welcomed, encouraged to come along and often – as Connor rightly said, our caller – given subsidies to do so and allowed to buy land. Palestinians are not allowed to do so. The treatment of one peoples above another in that way is racist and I believe the State of Israel is apartheid as a result of that.”

The false claim of “6.5 million” displaced Palestinians was not challenged.

The editorial decisions behind the making of a programme with this subject matter by a regional BBC station are of course worthy of discussion. The fact that listeners were materially misled because the presenter was insufficiently informed to be able to effectively challenge inaccurate claims and falsehoods from an unbalanced field of contributors is obvious. The fact that the programme’s producers clearly had no qualms about facilitating the non-stop promotion of delegitimisation of Israel by means of politically motivated smears and falsehoods should be a serious cause for concern.

However, this programme did fulfil one useful function: it – albeit inadvertently – proved the point made by the French president.

Resources:

BBC Radio Ulster contact details

‘Talkback’ contact details   

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News’ side-lining of French president’s anti-Zionism statement is no surprise

At the July 16th event in Paris marking the 75th anniversary of the deportation of French Jews to Auschwitz, the French president made a significant statement.

“French president Emmanuel Macron on Sunday condemned anti-Zionism as a new form of anti-Semitism, in what observers said was an unprecedented statement from the leader of France in support of the Jewish state.

“We will never surrender to the messages of hate; we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism,” Macron said an event in Paris marking the mass deportation of French Jews during World War II. He was directly addressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who attended the event.” [emphasis added]

Macron’s statement is of course in step with the IHRA working definition of antisemitism that was adopted in recent months by the British government and the EU parliament as well as in accord with the US State department’s definition. His words were reported by numerous media outlets including the Independent, the Times, the Washington Post and the New York Times.

However, the BBC News website’s report on the ceremony made no mention whatsoever of the French president’s recognition of anti-Zionism as a manifestation of antisemitism.

Should we be surprised at the omission of that statement from the BBC’s coverage of the event? Not really.

Last April – despite the fact that it still does not work according to an accepted definition of antisemitism – the BBC considered itself sufficiently qualified to produce a backgrounder titled “What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?“.

As was noted here at the time, that article promoted the Livingstone Formulation, failed to inform readers what anti-Zionism actually means and focused on promoting the inaccurate and misleading notion that anti-Zionism is the same thing as expressing criticism of the policies and actions of the Israeli government while advancing the ‘Zionism is racism’ canard. Subsequent BBC reporting again amplified similar themes.

The BBC’s funding public should therefore not be overly surprised that a statement from the French president that contrasts starkly with the BBC’s repeated woolly misrepresentations of anti-Zionism and spotlights the corporation’s calculated disregard for accepted definitions of antisemitism was sidelined by BBC News.  

Related Articles:

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IHRA adopts working definition of antisemitism: when will the BBC?

The BBC must tell its audiences how it defines antisemitism

The BBC and the need for a definition of antisemitism

BBC again ignores the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism

BBC News tries – and fails – to explain antisemitism and anti-Zionism

BBC News website passes off anti-Israel hate fest as ‘academic conference’

Tucked away on the ‘Hampshire & Isle of Wight’ regional page in the ‘England’ section of the BBC News website’s UK page is an article published on March 31st 2017 under the headline “‘Chilling repression’ leads to Southampton conference move“.

The BBC website’s visitors are told that:

“An academic conference which raises legal questions about the state of Israel has got under way at the third attempt.

The three-day meeting opened in Cork, Republic of Ireland, after two failed efforts to hold it in Southampton.

The organisers, two professors from the University of Southampton, accused their employer of blocking the event in 2015 and 2016.”

Later on, readers find the following:

“Ahead of the cancelled 2015 conference, the pro-Israel The Zionist Federation UK garnered more than 6,700 signatures opposing its staging, while a counter-petition signed by more than 800 academics urged the university to resist the pressure.

The university said it withdrew permission for the event because “the safety of staff, students and visitors could not be guaranteed”.

A second conference due to be held in 2016 was cancelled when the university imposed conditions including a £25,000 fee to cover policing and security costs.

In April 2016, professors Oren Ben-Dor and Suleiman Sharkh lost a High Court case in which they had argued that the cancellations put “academic freedom” at stake.””

Readers are also provided with quotes from one of the organisers and a link to a nine year-old BBC article by Jeremy Bowen is promoted:

“Prof Sharkh said on Friday there were no demonstrators outside the conference in Cork.

He said the move from Southampton reflected a “chilling repression of academic freedom when it comes to critique of Israeli state policy”.

The conference’s keynote speaker, Prof Richard Falk, has previously said Israel’s actions in the Palestinian Occupied Territories possessed characteristics of colonialism and apartheid.

BBC audiences were not however informed of Richard Falk’s antisemitism, his long record of anti-Israel campaigning, his promotion of conspiracy theories, his support for Hamas and more.

Neither were they told that one of only two pro-Israel speakers at the event (out of around 40) withdrew his participation. 

“Founder and senior editor of Britain Israel Communications and Research Center (BICOM), Professor Alan Johnson, said that he will not be attending the “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Exceptionalism and Responsibility” conference in Cork, Ireland later this month due to controversial author Richard Falk’s participation. […]

“The organizers have issued an invitation to Richard Falk to give a keynote speech… by inviting a speaker who espouses antisemitic conspiracy theories the conference is now objectively an attempt to normalize antisemitism and I cannot attend such an event,” he added.”

So what exactly went on at the event the BBC would have its audiences believe was an “academic conference”?

“The claim that Zionism is based only on “blood and might” and seeks to do away with the “meek” Jew came from the first speaker, Dr. Hatem Bazian, professor of Near Eastern studies at University of California Berkeley. Bazian accused Zionists of adopting “a racist, genocidal and exclusive world view” and claimed they had “embarked on a national project of settler colonialism.” […]

Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, a prominent researcher on the Palestinian right of return, told a hugely supportive audience that the only barrier to such a move was what he described as Israeli “apartheid.” […]

Displaying maps and graphics of population densities in Israel, the civil engineer accused the state of perpetrating “the most comprehensive ethnic cleansing operation in history.”  […]

On the opening day of the conference, Richard Falk, professor of international law at Princeton and former UN special rapporteur, described the foundation of the state as “the most successful terror campaign in history.” […]

Meanwhile Prof. Yosefa Loshitzky from the London University School of Oriental and African studies provoked major controversy when she used the Nazi term “untermensch,” meaning sub-human in English, when outlining what she alleged were Israel’s “crimes against humanity.””

One of the people who attended the event noted that:

“The words of the Passover Seder were scrolled out on screen to show how the Zionist paranoia and desire to be hated is deeply connected to the Jewish need to have an enemy to sustain its identity.”

And:

“We were told (in a particularly poor “academic paper” even by the standards of this conference) that the end of times were here environmentally and our days were numbered unless we stopped Israel in its tracks. Why you might ask? WARFARE (threatening the whole Middle East – Iraq, Syria) was shouted, followed by “9/11″. This passed without remark. Indeed in the question period, John McGuire, Professor Emeritus from UCC continued the theme of Israel’s involvement in all things nefarious by connecting Shannon Airport, US troops passing through and CIA torture. This opened the floor for Joel Kovel to take the floor again to expand on his 9/11 theories. Did we know that when the towers were burning there were 5 mysterious “painters” cheering in the shadows? Arrested at the time but soon “disappeared off the face of the earth”? “Mossad” was shouted by audience members and “academic ecosocialist” speaker alike. “

Also present at the event was David Collier – see his reports here, here and here.

The three days of defamation and delegitimisation of Israel seen in Cork should come as a surprise to no-one: the event’s activist organisers had made it clear well in advance that their intent was to question the very existence of Israel and their motive political rather than academic.

“This conference will be the first of its kind and constitutes a ground-breaking historical event on the road towards justice and enduring peace in historic Palestine. It is unique because, while most attention today is directed at Israel’s actions in the 1967 Occupied Territories, the conference seeks to expand the debate surrounding the nature of the State of Israel and the legal and political reality within it.

The conference will raise questions that link the suffering in historic Palestine to the manner of Israel’s foundation and its nature. It aims to generate a debate on legitimacy, exceptionalism and responsibility under international law as provoked by the nature of the Israeli state. It will also examine how international law could be deployed, expanded, and even re-imagined, in order to achieve peace and reconciliation based on justice.”

Nevertheless, the BBC News website elected to inaccurately pass off a patently political event as an “academic conference”, to portray delegitimisation and defamation of Israel and Jews as “critique of Israeli state policy”, to depict Richard Falk as a benign academic and to steer audiences towards the view that the event’s organisers suffer “chilling repression”.  

How all that got past the supposed BBC editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality is anyone’s guess.

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Weekend long read

1) Writing at ‘Foreign Affairs’, the former Israeli Minister of Defence Moshe Ya’alon lays out his views on making peace between Israel and the Palestinians.Weekend Read  

“When news first broke about the Oslo Accords, I supported the agreement and the “land for peace” formula on which it was based, because, both then and now, I revere the preservation of life more than the acquisition of land. Like many Israelis, I believed in the idea that territorial concessions might be the key to achieving peace. But over time, I became disillusioned.

My awakening came after I was appointed the head of Israel’s military intelligence in 1995, shortly before the signing of the Oslo II agreement. In that position, I had the opportunity to see all aspects of Palestinian politics up close. What I learned was shocking—and I learned it not by uncovering secret Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) decisions but just by following Palestinian media, Palestinian educational curricula, and Palestinian leadership statements. The evidence was overwhelming: rather than preparing the younger generations of his community for a historic reconciliation with Israel, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat was feeding his people a steady diet of hatred and vitriol toward Israel.”

2) At the Tower, former MK Einat Wilf writes about “The Intersectional Power of Zionism”.

“But Zionism is as much a revolution in Jewish life as a continuation of it. In the immediate aftermath of the Roman exile, the Judeans might have conceived of their return to Judea as a forthcoming possibility. But by the 19th century, the idea of return was sublimated into a Messianic wish, expressed in ritual and prayer. One day, a descendant of King David would arise and lead the Jewish people out of a fragile existence into a life of dignified sovereignty in a land of their own. It was a passive hope that mandated no action.

Zionism was a rebellion against this Jewish passivity. To the Jewish people, Zionism carried the message that they need not wait for the Messiah. Rather, they should be their own Messiahs. Zionism, born of the enlightenment, embodied the idea of human agency. Rather than wait for God or Messiah to bring about their salvation, Zionism called upon the Jewish people to be the vehicles of their own redemption. Zionism demonstrated that, even when dealt some of the worst cards in history, humans were active agents, capable of changing the course of their private and collective futures.”

3) At the Times (£), Michael Gove MP discusses anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

“Antisemitism has moved from hatred of Jews on religious or racial grounds to hostility towards the proudest expression of Jewish identity we now have — the Jewish state.

No other democracy is on the receiving end of a campaign calling for its people to be shunned and their labour to be blacklisted. The Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions movement is a growing force on our streets and campuses. Its campaigners argue that we should ignore ideas from Jewish thinkers if those thinkers come from Israel and treat Jewish commerce as a criminal enterprise if that business is carried on in Israel.

This is antisemitism, impure and simple. It is the latest recrudescence of the age-old demand that the Jew can only live on terms set by others. Once Jews had to live in the ghetto, now they cannot live in their historic home. […]

Antizionism is not a brave anti-colonial and anti-racist stance, it is simply antisemitism minding its manners so it can sit in a seminar room. And as such it deserves to be called out, confronted and opposed.”

4) At the Jewish News/Times of Israel, Ronnie Fraser writes: “The first step in defeating anti-Semitism is to define it”.

“When Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, announced that her government was to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism she said that the ‘first step in defeating anti-Semitism is to define it clearly, to remove any doubt about what is unacceptable, so that no one can plead ignorance or hide behind any kind of excuse.’ This should mean the end of people saying ‘I am not an anti-Semite because I say am not’ or that ‘I am not an anti-Semite because my family stood up to Oswald Mosely and his Blackshirts in the 1930s’.

It should also mean that organisations such as the trade unions or the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) will have to reconsider what they mean when they say they oppose anti-Semitism. The PSC condemned the use of the EUMC definition of anti-Semitism; the forerunner of the IHRA definition, by saying it denied their right to challenge ‘the racism of the Israeli state’ which freedom of speech of course allows them to, as is their right, but they can no longer truthfully say that they condemn anti-Semitism.”

BBC News reports new UK definition of antisemitism – without the definition

Together with many other media outlets, on the morning of December 12th the BBC News website’s UK page reported the landmark decision of the British government to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism which was compiled earlier this year.  

The BBC’s report – titled “Anti-Semitism: Official definition ‘will fight hatred’” – opens:antisemitism-def-art-main

“The government plans to adopt an international definition of anti-Semitism to help tackle hatred towards Jews.

Police, councils, universities and public bodies can adopt the wording, Theresa May will say in a speech later.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which the UK belongs to, created the definition.

It calls anti-Semitism a “perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.””

Just two paragraphs later some of that information is repeated:

“The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance hopes its definition, agreed this year, will be adopted globally.

It defines anti-Semitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.”

It adds: “Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.””

Later on readers are informed that:

“Conservative MP and special envoy for post-holocaust issues, Sir Eric Pickles, told the BBC that the new definition “catches up with modern anti-Semitism”.

“I think it’s important not to conflate Jewish people with Israel,” he said. “That actually is the point in the definition.””

However, nowhere in this report are BBC audiences provided with a link to the IHRA definition of antisemitism which is its subject matter. The BBC’s funding public therefore remains unaware that it includes clauses relating to Israel, including one recently brought up on these pages.

Notably, the last four paragraphs of the BBC’s report relate to the UK Labour party and while failing to inform readers of criticism of the Chakrabarti Report – including its refusal to provide a definition of antisemitism – the BBC did insert a link to a previous BBC report which amplifies the Livingstone Formulation.

“Labour, which has faced accusations that it has failed to tackle anti-Semitism in its own membership, welcomed the move.

A spokesman for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said hatred towards Jews was “as repugnant and unacceptable as any other form of racism”.

Earlier this year Baroness Chakrabarti, the former director of civil liberties group Liberty, chaired an inquiry into anti-Semitism in the party.

It found the party was not overrun by anti-Semitism or other forms of racism, but there was an “occasionally toxic atmosphere”.”antisemitism-def-art-pic-2

Remarkably too – although it is not infrequently the case in BBC content – both the images chosen to illustrate this article portray members of a stream which is a minority within the British Jewish community.

Update:

Some fourteen hours after its initial publication, a link to the IHRA definition has now been added to the BBC’s report. 

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BBC News tries – and fails – to explain antisemitism and anti-Zionism

BBC again ignores the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism

A common feature of accepted definitions of antisemitism is their recognition of the denial of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination as a form of antisemitism.

For example:

The US State Department definition of antisemitism:

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist”.

The EUMC working definition of antisemitism (used in the UK by the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism and in the College of Policing Hate Crime Operational Guidance (2014))

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definitionof antisemitism:

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC does not currently use any of those accepted definitions (including when addressing relevant complaints). However – and notwithstanding its own record – the corporation has in the past produced content purporting to inform its audiences on the topics of antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

Another production in that genre was aired on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Beyond Belief’ on November 28th with the synopsis stating:beyond-belief-28-11

“A new term of abuse has emerged on social media, Zio, a shortened form of Zionist. Meanwhile the evidence suggests that anti Semitism is on the rise in Britain. There have been high profile cases of politicians who have been disciplined for anti Semitic comments. There appears to be some confusion even within the Jewish community over what Zionism means, whether a distinction should be drawn between anti Semitism and anti Zionism and what the relationship is between Judaism and Zionism. Ernie Rea brings together three Jews to discuss these issues.”

In his very similar introduction, host Ernie Rea likewise alleged that there is “confusion over what Zionism means” and asked “is there any distinction between antisemitism and anti-Zionism?”, claiming that “there are different views even within the Jewish community”.

In other words, the BBC continues to fruitlessly ‘discuss’ issues previously addressed by expert bodies, while failing to inform its audiences of the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism which have already answered the question of whether anti-Zionism – ie the denial of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination – is an expression of antisemitism.

Another notable feature of this programme was its misleading portrayal of the Palestinian people as entirely passive actors.

At around 11:50 listeners (the majority of whom will not of course be familiar with the relevant history) heard Ernie Rea say: [emphasis added]

“Well let’s move on. We’ve mentioned Balfour I think twice. 1917 – he declared in the Balfour Declaration that there should be a homeland for the Jewish people. It opened up the possibility for the first time of a homeland for the Jewish people. Subsequent to that we had the rise of the Nazis in Germany. We had the Holocaust with six million Jews losing their lives and then at the end of that there was a State of Israel declared in 1948 with – it has to be said – pretty dire consequences for the Palestinians.”

Later on – from around 18:27 – listeners heard guest Robert Cohen say:

“…what the Jewish community in Britain needs to understand is that Zionism is not…is not a project that was…that could be carried out in all innocence without it having a catastrophic effect on another people. So if you want to pursue the idea that Zionism is part of Judaism then you end up saying that Judaism is responsible for some very terrible things that have happened to another group of people in the land that we call holy.”

And from around 23:50 listeners heard Cohen claim that Zionism is different from “other nationalisms” because:

“It involved mass migrations. It had to involve transfers of people from Europe back to Palestine and you were only going to get a Jewish majority if the indigenous Arab Palestinian people became displaced one way or another.”

Beyond the fact that no effort was made by the programme’s host to make listeners aware of the hundreds of thousands of Jews displaced from Arab and Muslim lands who found refuge in Israel, it is remarkable that throughout this programme, Zionism is portrayed as a movement which brought “dire consequences” and a “catastrophic effect” on “displaced” Palestinians with absolutely no context offered concerning the part played by Arab nations in those events.

Obviously such a context-free and inaccurate portrayal of historic events does not meet the BBC’s remit of enhancing “UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.

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More promotion of the Livingstone Formulation from BBC News