BBC article on antisemitism report recycles problematic backgrounder

Following the publication of the UK Parliament Home Affairs Select Committee report on antisemitism on October 16th, a relatively long article appeared on the UK politics page of the BBC News website under the headline “Jeremy Corbyn’s response to anti-Semitism in Labour criticised by MPs“.ha-select-comm-report-art

20.9% of the article’s 1,007 words are describe the report’s criticism of the response to antisemitism within the Labour Party while reactions to that criticism from Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Livingstone take up 14.3% of the word count.  The committee’s criticism of the failure of Twitter to combat antisemitism on its platform is described in 7.5% of the article’s word count and 4.5% describes the report’s criticism of the National Union of Students president.

Towards the end of the article, readers are given a superficial account of two aspects of the report.

“The report expressed concern about use of the word “Zionist”, saying “use of the word in an accusatory context should be considered inflammatory and potentially anti-Semitic”.”

In its conclusions the actual report states:

“‘Zionism’ as a concept remains a valid topic for academic and political debate, both within and outside Israel. The word ‘Zionist’ (or worse, ‘Zio’) as a term of abuse, however, has no place in a civilised society. It has been tarnished by its repeated use in antisemitic and aggressive contexts. Antisemites frequently use the word ‘Zionist’ when they are in fact referring to Jews, whether in Israel or elsewhere. Those claiming to be “anti-Zionist, not antisemitic”, should do so in the knowledge that 59% of British Jewish people consider themselves to be Zionists. If these individuals genuinely mean only to criticise the policies of the Government of Israel, and have no intention to offend British Jewish people, they should criticise “the Israeli Government”, and not “Zionists”. For the purposes of criminal or disciplinary investigations, use of the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ in an accusatory or abusive context should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic. This should be communicated by the Government and political parties to those responsible for determining whether or not an incident should be regarded as antisemitic.”

The BBC article also tells readers:

“But it [the report] did say free speech should be allowed on the Palestinian issue, saying it was not anti-Semitic to criticise actions of the Israeli government.”

However that is just part of the story – as Professor Alan Johnson notes at the Telegraph:

“The Committee is very clear about two things. First, criticism of Israel is absolutely acceptable. Second, vile demonisation and conspiracism, with its cartoons dripping in blood and its hook noses and its wild claims of global domination and its Nazi comparisons is not “criticism of Israel”.”

The report itself states:


Crucially, the IHRA definition of antisemitism recommended by the committee (which was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s 31 member countries earlier this year) includes the following example of a manifestation of antisemitism often prevalent among those active “on the Palestinian issue”:

“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.”ha-select-comm-art-related-reading

This BBC article twice offers readers the same ‘related article’ titled “What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?”.

As was noted here when that ‘backgrounder’ first appeared, its problematic aspects (which, regrettably, have not been addressed since publication) include promotion of the Livingstone Formulation.

We have in the past noted here the need for the BBC to work according to a recognised definition of antisemitism in order to prevent the appearance of antisemitic discourse in its own content as well as on its comments boards and social media chatrooms and such a proposal was included in BBC Watch’s submission to the DCMS public consultation on the renewal of the BBC’s charter.

In light of the Home Affairs Select Committee recommendation, it would of course be appropriate for the BBC and OFCOM to now adopt the IHRC working definition of antisemitism.


Weekend long read

1) At the Tablet, Tony Badran asks “why hasn’t the [US] administration done anything about Syria, and won’t?”.  

“Recently, portions of the strategic-communications façade erected by the administration have started to crumble, allowing interested analysts and members of the public to see the administration’s actual policy more clearly. In a recent interview, Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon revealed that in 2013, Iran told President Obama that if he were to strike the regime of Bashar Assad following the latter’s chemical-weapons attack, the Iranians would collapse the talks over their nuclear program. Obama canceled the strike, of course, and later reassured Iran that the United States would not touch Assad. Solomon’s reporting confirms a critical fact about Obama’s Iran and Syria policies: They are one and the same. Or, stated differently, Syria is part of the price for the president’s deal with Iran.”

2) The Times of Israel has an interesting interview with Professor Monika Schwarz-Friesel on the topic of antisemitism on the internet and in European discourse.Weekend Read

“A psychologist, linguist and professor of cognitive science at the Technical University of Berlin, Schwarz-Friesel is one of the most quoted experts on anti-Semitism in both international academic literature and the German media.

In her numerous publications she analyzes and exposes new manifestations of old anti-Semitic sentiments — disguised though they might be — employing much of the same Jew-hatred that has been shaping European discourse throughout the years, even when officially outlawed.

These analyses are evidence that recent anti-Israeli tropes demonizing the Jewish state are actually work-arounds of old anti-Semitic sentiments that have been with us for two millennia.”

3) The CST has produced a handy guide to definitions of antisemitism currently in use.

4) Rabbi Jonathan Sacks gave an address titled “The Mutating Virus: Understanding Antisemitism” at a conference at the European Parliament last month.  

“Antisemitism is not about Jews. It is about anti-Semites. It is about people who cannot accept responsibility for their own failures and have instead to blame someone else. Historically, if you were a Christian at the time of the Crusades, or a German after the First World War, and saw that the world hadn’t turned out the way you believed it would, you blamed the Jews. That is what is happening today. And I cannot begin to say how dangerous it is. Not just to Jews but to everyone who values freedom, compassion and humanity.”

5) Adam Bienkov reports on the Momentum view of the British media – including the BBC.

“There must be a “socialist” solution to media ownership in the UK, Unite’s chief of staff insisted last night.

Speaking at a Momentum meeting on “Jeremy Corbyn and media bias,” Andrew Murray said there had to be a “change in ownership” away from the “tax exiles and ne’er-do-wells” who currently own most newspapers and broadcast media. […]

He added that any socialist solution to media bias against Corbyn must include the BBC.

“[There is] a narrow clique at the top of the BBC increasingly controlled and appointed by government,” which needed to be removed, he insisted.

Murray singled out the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg for criticism.” […]

A representative from the Corbyn-supporting ‘Media Response Unit’ called for Momentum to engage in mass complaints against the broadcaster.

“We’re building an army at Momentum so let’s use it,” he told the meeting. 



BBC Radio 4 fails to clarify the agenda of the BDS campaign and the PSC

The September 18th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday‘ included an item (from 11:54 here) described as follows in the synopsis:sunday-18-9-bod-ujs

“Jewish students fight the movement for sanctions against Israel”.

Presenter Edward Stourton introduced the item with a specious portrayal of the purpose of the BDS campaign.

“Most universities begin the new academic year around this time. The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Union of Jewish Students are marking the moment by sending round advice on how to combat the activities of the Boycott, Disinvestment [sic] Sanctions movement – or BDS – which, in the words of its website, urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law. We’re joined by Joel Salmon, the Board of Deputies Parliamentary Officer, and Ben Jamal who next month will take up the post of director of the Palestinian [sic] Solidarity Campaign.” [emphasis added]

The majority of listeners would of course lack the knowledge needed to appreciate just how inaccurate and misleading Stourton’s portrayal is because the BBC consistently refrains from informing its audiences that what the BDS campaign really seeks to achieve is the demise of the Jewish state. Moreover, the corporation has even shrugged off the responsibility to clarify the BDS agenda in its frequent amplification of that campaign.

In addition, listeners to this item were not informed of the “particular viewpoint” of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality demand before they heard the fallacious framing of the BDS campaign from Ben Jamal, who previously headed the PSC’s Richmond and Kingston branch.

“…I think what we’d also all want students to do is to engage in and to be involved in discussion and activism around human rights and issues of social and international justice.”

“And I think boycott – as I understand it – is a non-violent tactic that throughout history has been used by those defending human rights and fighting against oppression.”

“…this is the tactic for example that Gandhi used to oppose Britain’s violation of rights in India. It’s the tactic that Martin Luther King used to oppose segregation and it’s the tactic that Nelson Mandela used to defend the rights of black South Africans. I take Gandhi’s framing of boycott. In a way it’s a form of dialogue. It’s a way of saying to someone ‘I respect your humanity but I will not cooperate or give my political or economic support to what you are doing’.”

The uninformed listener would hence not be capable of putting Jamal’s portrayal of the specific BoD/UJS handout which is the subject of the item into its appropriate context or understanding that the undertone of the Livingstone Formulation that portrayal includes is not apparently by chance.

“One of the concerns I’ve got at the leaflet or pamphlet that’s been produced is it’s part of an attempt I think to reframe a tactic of boycott as something that is inherently divisive, hostile or at worst extremist or even quasi-violent.”

“I think my concern is this is an attempt to frame any advocacy of boycott or any criticism of Israel as inherently hostile.”

Clearly the predictable absence of adequate explanation of the BDS campaign’s true agenda in this item once again undermined the BBC’s public purpose remit of enhancing audience awareness and understanding of the issue in general and certainly did nothing to contribute to the general public’s comprehension of the very serious problem of antisemitism on the campuses of UK universities.

Weekend long read

1) At the JCPA, Yoni Ben Mehachem takes a look at a topic much neglected by the BBC: Fatah’s internal politics.Weekend Read

“The succession battle in the Palestinian Authority has become very elemental since Mahmoud Abbas rejected the request of four Arab states – Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – to mend fences with his bitter rival Muhammad Dahlan. Some of those states want to see Dahlan as the next PA chairman.

Although some in Fatah view Abbas’ rejection of the Arab request as an act of “political suicide,” Abbas does not show signs of stress. At the urging of Egypt and Jordan, which fear Hamas, he called off the elections in the territories and consented to a return to Fatah by some of Dahlan’s people. As far as Abbas is concerned, he has complied with most of Egypt and Jordan’s requests. Yet, still, he is not prepared to countenance Muhammad Dahlan.”

2) The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff reports on another Palestinian succession battle likewise ignored by the BBC to date.

“Many people consider Haniyeh the leading candidate to succeed incumbent Khaled Mashaal, 60, primarily because of where he lives — Gaza. Running against him is Moussa Abu Marzouk, 65, who already was the head of the political wing (1992-7), is now Mashaal’s deputy (along with Haniyeh), and is considered a close associate of groups belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood’s global network.

There is a third candidate, too, well known to every Hamas activist in Gaza, the West Bank, and abroad. His name is Khaled Mashaal.

As Palestinian commentators point out, Hamas’s constitution prevents Mashaal being re-elected again. But anything is possible when it comes to Mashaal (Abu al-Walid), who has held the post for 20 years. Hamas may have a hard time saying goodbye to him, almost as hard as Mashaal would have in saying goodbye to the job. As head of Hamas’s political wing, he enjoys extraordinary status not only among the Palestinians but also throughout the Middle East and the Muslim states. He and his relatives are believed to have accrued considerable property and wealth in Qatar.

Will he be prepared to step down? Quite a few experts doubt it.

And quite a few experts question whether the Hamas election process is going to much resemble democracy in the first place.”

3) At the Washington Post Professor Eugene Kontorovich writes about “Why the U.N.’s Israel obsession should worry even people who don’t care about Israel”.

“Everyone knows the U.N. spends a disproportionate time on Israel, but the data reveal that even within resolutions, it uses a unique legal vocabulary for the Jewish state. The scale of the difference is quite striking. […]

Since 1967, General Assembly resolutions have referred to Israeli-held territories as “occupied” 2,342 times, while the territories mentioned above are referred to as “occupied” a mere 16 times combined… Similarly, Security Council resolutions refer to the disputed territories in the Israeli-Arab conflict as “occupied” 31 times, but only a total of five times in reference to all seven other conflicts combined.”

4) Fathom has an interesting article titled “Othering Zionism: theoretical affinities between Islamists and the Anti-Zionist Left”.

“The political alliances between Islamist organisations and the anti-Zionist Left rests on an underlying theoretical compatibility, argues Sapan Maini-Thompson. He examines their shared ideological schema in which Jews appear only as alien, racist, colonial interlopers in the region while Islamist and even anti-Semitic ‘resistance’ movements are coded as authentic and so progressive.”

5) At the Tower, Professor Gerald Steinberg reflects on the fifteen years since the Durban Conference.

“For many observers, the “Durban Strategy” marked the coming-out party for a “new anti-Semitism.” Unlike more traditional forms of anti-Semitism, which were by nature more overtly religious or racial in their blatant discrimination towards Jews, new anti-Semitism conceals the millennia-old hatred in a contemporary package, one better suited for a 21st-century audience. This anti-Semitism exploits the language of universal human rights and civil society, with NGOs publishing false and distorted allegations regarding Israel, and creating and maintaining double standards that apply only to a single country. New anti-Semitism goes well beyond any notion of legitimate criticism of Israel and its policies, and instead promulgates hateful vilification of the country, its people, and its Jewish character.”

BBC current affairs revisits antisemitism and anti-Zionism – part two

As was documented in part one of this post, on September 7th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard a rare explanation of why some forms of anti-Zionism are antisemitism from professor of history and Holocaust studies Yehuda Bauer.oz-clip

The following week, on September 13th, viewers of BBC’s Two’s ‘Newsnight’ saw Israeli author Amos Oz make the same point in an interview with Kirsty Wark.

A clip from the programme was also posted on the BBC News website and a written article about the interview appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘World’ page on September 14th under the title “Amos Oz: Saying Israel should not exist is anti-Semitic“.

“One of Israel’s great living writers, Amos Oz, says people who say Israel should not exist are anti-Semitic.

Speaking in an interview with BBC Newsnight, he said strong criticism of Israel is legitimate, but to argue there should be no Israel “that’s where anti-Zionism becomes anti-Semitism”.” […]

“In recent months, the Labour Party in the UK has been embroiled in a row over anti-Semitism, and whether the party has a problem on the issue.

Oz told Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark: “I can tell you exactly where I draw the line. If people call Israel nasty, I to some degree agree. If people call Israel the devil incarnated, I think they are obsessed – they are mad. But this is still legitimate.”

“But if they carry on saying that therefore there should be no Israel, that’s where anti-Zionism becomes anti-Semitism, because none of them ever said after Hitler that Germany should cease to exist, or after Stalin that there should be no Russia.”

“Saying that Israel should cease to exist, or should not have come into being, this is crossing the line.””

One can of course disagree with some of the analogies chosen by Amos Oz but nevertheless, it is worth noting that BBC audiences rarely see the connection between anti-Zionism and antisemitism explained and that in contemporary Britain it is far from rare to hear people “saying that Israel should cease to exist”.oz-written

The subject of BDS was also raised in the ‘Newsnight’ interview and in the written article.

“In February 2015, hundreds of UK artists signed a letter announcing they would take part in a cultural boycott of Israel. They said they would not accept professional invitations to Israel, or take any funding from organisations linked to the government.

Other prominent artists – including writer JK Rowling and historian Simon Schama – later criticised the move as “divisive and discriminatory”.

Oz told Newsnight he believes cultural boycotts of Israel are counter-productive.”

As has been documented here on many occasions, despite its frequent promotion of the BDS campaign the BBC has to date failed to inform its audiences of its full agenda and that it is in fact one of those voices “saying that there should be no Israel”.  Hence, BBC audiences would be unlikely to understand the link between the BDS campaign and the form of antisemitism explained by Amoz Oz – and earlier by Yehuda Bauer – in these two rare interviews.

Regrettably, the BBC did not make the most of the opportunity to clarify that point to its audiences and thereby contribute to meeting its remit of building “a global understanding of international issues”.

Related articles:

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

BBC current affairs revisits antisemitism and anti-Zionism – part one

BBC current affairs revisits antisemitism and anti-Zionism – part one

Readers may recall that earlier this year, as antisemitism scandals plagued the UK Labour Party, the BBC produced a distinctly unhelpful backgrounder titled “What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?“. At the time we noted that:antizionism art

“One might of course argue that the BBC’s public purpose remit – which includes “sustaining citizenship and civil society” and “promoting education and learning” – should have gone some way towards both preventing the appearance of antisemitic discourse in its own content and helping raise the British public’s awareness of antisemitism, thereby ensuring that ideologies such as those which have brought the Labour party into disrepute of late would be relegated to the status they deserve rather than becoming so commonplace within a mainstream British political party.”

With those scandals showing no sign of subsiding, earlier this month the BBC revisted the topic in two separate interviews. Given that discussion of antisemitism and anti-Zionism in Britain quite frequently boils down to non-Jews telling Jews what antisemitism is (or more often – what it is not), it was refreshing to see BBC audiences provided with a chance to hear Jewish Israeli voices.

The September 7th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an interview (from 02:44:10 here) with Professor Yehuda Bauer which was introduced as follows by presenter – and former BBC political editor – Nick Robinson. [all emphasis in bold added]

NR: “When does criticism of Israel amount to antisemitism? – if it ever does. That’s the question that’s been asked ever since Ken Livingstone – a regular and robust critic of the State of Israel – was suspended from the party for claiming that Hitler had supported Zionism before he went mad. Zionism, of course: the movement which led to the creation of a national home for the Jewish people. This week Mr Livingstone quoted a pamphlet from the Holocaust Memorial in Israel – Yad Vashem – in his defence.”

The “question” of course precedes Livingstone’s original remarks but those unfamiliar with that latter story can find more details here. Robinson continued:

“Well Yehudi [sic] Bauer is in London at the moment. He’s chair of the Yad Vashem Institute and professor emeritus of history and Holocaust studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Good morning to you Professor. […] Let’s begin with Ken Livingstone’s words if we can and then we’ll widen our discussion. He says – Mr Livingstone – if you go to the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem in Israel, one of the pamphlets they sell to tourists there is one that talks about the deal done between Hitler and the Zionists in the 1930s, so it must be true, he says.

Yehuda Bauer replied:

“Well, I don’t want to relate to the person who said it but to the content of the things. You see what happened was that when the Nazis got to power the idea was to expel or deport or in some ways get rid of all the Jews in Germany – not only deny them citizenship but actually expel them. So they should go anywhere possible. And that was supported by the Nazi party. The Zionist movement at that time wanted to rescue the Jews of Germany and wanted to get as many out of there as possible. So a deal was struck in August 1933 – which lasted for about five and a half years – to export goods from Germany with the people who bought them in Germany, to Palestine. This is part of an effort of German Jews to leave Germany because of the policies of the Nazi government. “

Robinson: “But if Hitler, as it were, and other Nazis wanted Jews to move to what was going to become Israel, is it right to then say ‘ah well, he was supporting Zionism’?”

Bauer: “No he wasn’t. In fact the Nazi foreign office – as anyone who has studied the material knows – opposed Zionism radically. When the British government supported a partition of Palestine between Arab and Jewish states in 1937, 38, 39, all German diplomats in the world got instructions to oppose any kind of Jewish state in Palestine. There was a contradiction in the policies of the Nazis. On the one hand they wanted to get rid of all the Jews and on the other hand, to one of the major places where they could go at the time, they opposed the establishment of a Jewish state.”

Robinson: “OK.”

Bauer: “In other words, they were violently anti-Zionist but to get rid of the Jews was the priority…”

Robinson [interrupts] “OK but that…”

Bauer: “For Jews this was an essential way in order to rescue people from Germany.”

Listeners then heard the following post-factual framing of Bauer’s explanation:today-7-9-bauer

Robinson:  “That’s the history, as it were, and historians can debate it and discuss…”

Bauer: “No, no – that’s a fact.”

Robinson: “OK, understood. But why I was putting it that way is I wanted to take you one stage further and then say if people challenge those facts – as you call them – does that then make them antisemitic – or in effect racist – rather than people who just don’t understand the history properly?”

Bauer: “Well you see criticism of any Israeli government’s policies is certainly not antisemitism. If I criticise any kind of British government – for instance during the Thatcher period – that doesn’t make me an anti-British person.”

Robinson: “So when does it become antisemitism?”

Bauer: “It becomes antisemitism the moment people say ‘well 1948 – the establishment of a Jewish state – was a mistake’. Mistakes have to be corrected and the only way to correct that so-called mistake would be to annihilate Israel – which means actually that the people who advocate such views are on the verge of being genocidal – intentionally or unintentionally – genocidal propagandists.”

Robinson: “But isn’t it possible for me – or anybody else – to argue that I do think it was a mistake to create the State of Israel but I might have no intention at all of wiping it off the map or indeed persecuting the Jewish people?”

Bauer: “No; if you oppose the policies of the present or any past or future Israeli government – whether that’s towards the Palestinians or anything else – that’s certainly not antisemitism. Antisemitism begins the moment you say the Jews have no right to have a separate political existence as a people.”

Robinson: “Yehudi [sic] Bauer; your talk is tonight in London. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.”

It is of course impossible to determine whether or not that interview succeeded in fulfilling its apparent purpose of helping BBC Radio 4 audiences to understand the inaccuracy of Ken Livingstone’s claims but certainly that purpose was not helped by Nick Robinson’s introduction of post-factual framing.

Nevertheless, it is very rare for BBC audiences to hear a clear and concise explanation of why some forms of anti-Zionism are expressions of antisemitism and surprisingly – as we will see in part two of this post – they heard another such explanation just a week later.

Related articles:

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


Weekend long read


1) At Engage, Sarah Brown reviews a new book titled “The Left’s Jewish Problem” by the CST’s Dave Rich.Weekend Read

“Many of today’s familiar anti-Israel tropes began to circulate in the late 1950s and 1960s. The PLO compared Zionism to Nazism and the Algerian National Liberation Front blamed Israel’s creation on the monopoly of finance and media held by ‘magnate Jews’. Rich explains in detail how another trope – the comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa – gained so much traction. Surprisingly, the Young Liberals play a major part in this story. The relationship between this group and the wider Liberal Party was bizarrely disjunctive in the 1960s. Their vice-chairman Bernard Greaves, for example, ‘dismiss[ed] Parliament as a hindrance to “the revolutionary transformation of society”’.

Some members flirted with Communism and others engaged in violent direct action as part of their campaign against apartheid. Among the key players was Peter Hellyer, Vice-Chairman of the Young Liberals. Through his campaigning he made connections with Palestinian and other Arab activists and this political environment exposed him to Soviet and Egyptian anti-Zionist – and antisemitic – propaganda. As Rich explains, the Soviet Union was a particularly important vector for anti-Zionist discourse. Examining these 1960s networks, and the way ideas circulated within them (rather like tracing the transmission of a virus) helps explain not just the preoccupations of today’s left but the precise arguments and images they instinctively reach for.”

2) Nick Cohen’s review of the same book can be found here.

“Anti-fascism died when Islamist utopianism annihilated socialist utopianism. At a pro-Palestinian rally in the 20th century, you would hear dreams of a future where the Arab and Jewish working classes would unite in a common homeland. By contrast, at a pro-Palestinian rally led by Corbyn in 2002, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood handed out newspapers instructing marchers that man was on Earth to serve God, and Muslims and non-Muslims could not be treated equally in an Islamic state. All of a sudden, and without anything resembling a debate, the loudest voices in the British and world left were on the side of men whose prejudices, not only against Jews, but against women, homosexuals, secular societies, and human rights, combined the worst theology of the seventh century with the worst ideology of the 20th.”

3) Not unrelatedly, Jamie Palmer examines the question of “Why Doesn’t the Western Left Listen to Palestinians?”.

“The Holocaust, the Six Day War, and the PLO terror campaign of the 1970s are receding in living memory. Subsequent generations grew up watching television news reports of Israeli tanks pounding Beirut in the early 80s and stone-throwers confronting armed soldiers during the first intifada. The Left has tended to understand these images and events using an anti-imperialist and post-colonial lens that ennobles victimhood and romanticizes violent struggle.

The upshot has been the infantilization of a people whose suffering is perceived to be somehow apolitical. What Palestinians do or say is simply an expression of enraged frustration and an inevitable consequence of oppression. If Palestinian public figures incite the murder of Jews in unequivocal terms, it is to be expected, if not exactly justified. If Palestinian politics and society are dysfunctional, it is because they are laboring under occupation. If Palestinians denounce the peace process, it is because they are tired of Israeli intransigence.

It is seldom allowed that Palestinians are thinking, speaking, and acting of their own volition or in pursuit of a counter-productive and racist agenda, which does not align with the Left’s expectations and assumptions. Behind the Left’s generalities, the specifics of what this-or-that Palestinian official, newspaper, or terrorist said are therefore irrelevant. Israel is the occupying power, ergo only Israel and Israelis are capable of moral responsibility and deserving of censure.”

4) Professor Eugene Kontorovich has published a new paper titled “Unsettled: A Global Study of Settlements in Occupied Territories”.

“…international law scholars, like lawyers generally, do not try to tease legal rules out of one particular case, but try to discern the pattern in the entire set of cases. Making law from one case risks serious error.

Yet that is exactly what happens with Art. 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the provision that, loosely speaking, restricts settlements in occupied territory. The provision itself is quite obscure and has never been applied in any war crimes case. Thus, looking at state practice would be particularly useful to understand the scope of its meaning.

Yet scholars and humanitarian groups have only sought to understand its meaning through the lens of one case, that of Israel. If there were no other situations to look at, this would be understandable. But, as I show in my new research paper, settlement activity is fairly ubiquitous in occupations of contiguous territory. Yet state practice in these other situations has not been used to inform an understanding of the meaning of Art. 49(6).”

A link to the paper can be found here



Dual-loyalty slur and conspiracy theory go unchallenged on BBC Radio 4

h/t JG

The August 9th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ included an item (from 23:05 here) concerning the US elections which focused on the story of a letter from a group of former national security officials stating that they would not vote for Donald Trump. Presenter Martha Kearney interviewed one of the letter’s signatories – former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden – before moving on to speak to another interviewee (from 28:35) who was introduced as follows:World at One 9 8

MK: “Well listening to that was Dr Michael Sheuer who was a CIA officer for 22 years and has endorsed Donald Trump for presidency.”

From around 32:28, listeners heard the following:

Michael Sheuer: “The people that signed that letter, ma’am, if you go down the list they’re the ones who want America to be intervening everywhere around the world. They’re the new world order people. You know; is that what Bush called it? The new world order I guess; yeah. They’re the ones who brought us all of these unnecessary wars. If you go down the list there’s also about 30 people who prize the interests of Israel more than the interests of the United States and that’s the real rub for a lot of them.”

Martha Kearney: “Mmm…”

Michael Sheuer: “That’s a real rub for the Republicans: that America is no longer going to get involved fighting Israel’s wars.”

Without challenging the dual loyalty slur with antisemitic roots or the “fighting Israel’s wars” falsehood, Kearney then wrapped up the item as follows: “Dr Michael Sheuer – many thanks for joining us.”

It takes less than ten minutes on the internet to get the measure of Michael Sheuer’s ideologies. His habit of blaming Israel for terrorism in America, his promotion of the notion of an ‘Israel lobby’ and his unfounded claim that “[t]he Israel-firsters started the Iraq war” are amply advertised online.

We do not of course know whether or not the ‘World at One’ production team bothered to invest any time in researching – even on Wikipedia – the person they chose to ask for an interview. What we do know is that when Sheuer went predictably off-topic and introduced his pet subject of Israel into the conversation, his slurs and conspiracy theories went entirely unchallenged, with the result that Radio 4 listeners were misled.

BBC discovers that MP’s “Israel” Facebook posts were antisemitic

Placement of a pay-walled article in a newspaper read by less than 5% of the population midweek was probably not the best advice ever given to a British politician apparently seeking to reassure Israelis but nevertheless, on July 18th the Labour MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah, had an article published in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz under the title “My Understanding of anti-Semitism Was Lacking“.

The same sentiment was voiced by Shah in an interview with Becky Milligan on BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ on the same day (from 29:11 here) and that interview prompted articles at additional outlets including the Independent, the Jewish Chronicle and on the BBC News website’s UK politics and ‘Leeds & West Yorkshire’ pages.

The BBC’s promotion of the radio interview included a choice of language that – given its past approach to the same story – was remarkable.

Naz Shah tweet WaO 1

Naz Shah tweet WaO 2

Naz Shah art Leeds pge 18 7

As readers may recall, when the story of Naz Shah’s offensive social media posts broke in April, the BBC refrained from informing its audiences that their content was antisemitic.

Naz Shah art main

In subsequent related articles, the corporation likewise gave audiences an anodyne description of just one of Shah’s controversial Facebook posts while ignoring the others.

“It follows the suspension of Bradford West MP Naz Shah after it emerged she had once suggested, among other things, that Israel should be moved to the United States.” (BBC News website, 29/04/2016)

“Ms Shah, the MP for Bradford West, was suspended after social media posts emerged in which she suggested Israel should be moved to the United States.” (BBC News website, 30/06/2016)

“Ms Shah was stripped of the parliamentary whip in April over comments about Israel she made online, including one suggesting Israel should be moved to the United States.” (BBC News website, 05/07/2016)

However, now that Naz Shah has herself acknowledged her use of antisemitic discourse, the BBC has redefined those Facebook posts and is suddenly able to tell its audiences that they were in fact antisemitic.

So what happened here? Did the BBC really not know that before Shah’s admission? If not, then the fact that the corporation does not work according to an accepted definition of antisemitism has clearly once again failed audiences. If, on the other hand, the BBC was able to identify the antisemitic discourse in Shah’s posts back in April but nevertheless refrained from describing them accurately, then audiences have been similarly sold short.

One cannot of course imagine that the corporation would wait until the writer of a homophobic or anti-black racist social media post defined them as such in his or her own words before it got round to telling its audiences exactly why such posts were offensive. 

Weekend long read

Earlier this week we noted that the BBC’s coverage of the new Israeli NGO transparency law did not provide audiences with the range of accurate and impartial information needed for proper understanding of the issue. Among the issues arising was the report’s lack of any mention of similar legislation in other countries. At the Tablet, Professor Eugene Kontorovich discusses that topic.Weekend Read

“A major talking point of the law’s critics is that it has “no democratic parallel,” and that it puts Israel in the category of non-democratic regimes like Russia, and even sets it on the road to fascism. But if these claims are true, there is little hope for democracy in the U.S., which has had similar rules for decades, and imposed new ones a few years ago without a peep of international objection.”

We have often remarked here on the BBC’s absurd tendency to promote the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as the Middle East conflict (it even has a sparse webpage with that title composed of material exclusively from the last Gaza conflict) and the concurrent practice of labelling reports about that particular conflict “Mid-East crisis” or “Middle East crisis“. The Times of Israel has an interesting interview with Shadi Hamid of Brookings which relates to that issue.

“In conversation with The Times of Israel, the expert explains that he believes that even if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were somehow miraculously resolved tomorrow with a two-state solution, the Middle East would still be “a bloody dangerous place.”

“It feels like Israel-Palestine has almost become an afterthought for how we talk about the Middle East nowadays,” says Hamid. “It isn’t the central conflict in the region. Many of us thought it was, particularly in the pre-Arab Spring period.”

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the key to resolving the ongoing problems, or making peace, in the Middle East,” he concludes.”

The UK-based Campaign Against Antisemitism had produced a guide titled “Recognising Antisemitism” which some BBC journalists and other employees might find helpful.