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.

Weekend long read

This week we noted that the BBC’s coverage of the launch of the report compiled by Shami Chakrabarti following her inquiry into antisemitism within the UK Labour Party included yet more mainstreaming and amplification of the Livingstone Formulation. The Jewish Chronicle has an interesting interview with the author of the Labour Party’s report.Weekend Read

“She described being almost moved to tears by “heart-breaking conversations” she had with witnesses.

As the daughter of immigrants from Kolkata, the 47-year-old lawyer was shocked to discover the regularity with which people were subjected to the “Zio” slur, and likened its use to her experience of the word “Paki”.

Sitting at the head of a long oak dining table in her kitchen, Ms Chakrabarti said: “I thought I was switched on before I did this report. I grew up in north-west London, I lived in Golders Green, I went to LSE – antisemitism wasn’t new to me. But I hadn’t heard about the use of ‘Zio’ until I did this.”

Also this week we noted that the BBC’s serial avoidance of the topic of the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists came home to roost. A few days later the US House Committee On Foreign Affairs heard evidence on that topic from MEMRI’s Yigal Carmon which can be read here.

“According to the laws, the PA must provide prisoners with a monthly allowance during their incarceration and salaries or jobs upon their release. They are also entitled to exemptions from payments for education, health care, and professional training. Their years of imprisonment are calculated as years of seniority of service in PA institutions. It should be noted that whoever was imprisoned for five years or more is entitled to a job in a PA institution. Thus, the PA gives priority in job placement to people who were involved in terrorist activity. […]

The 2016 budget describes the PLO’s Institute for Care for the Families of Martyrs as the body “responsible for ensuring a dignified life to the families of all those martyred and wounded as a result of being participants or bystanders in the revolution.”

It is allocated just under $173 million ($172,534,733) for families of martyrs and the wounded within the homeland and outside it. The Institute’s operating expenses comes to about $1.5 million.

The budget also states that the Institute provides allowances “without discrimination” – in other words, also from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and so on.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said recently, on June 17, 2016, that “the government will continue to act together with the PLO institutions to improve the allowances of the families of the martyrs as soon as possible.””

Additional issues which receive no serious coverage in BBC reporting are the incitement and glorification of terror from official Palestinian bodies. In its articles on the recently released report from the Quartet in which those topics were highlighted, the BBC again played down the issue, preferring to focus audience attentions on Israeli settlements even as new examples of PA glorification of terrorism came to light.  Reports have since emerged claiming that the PA is to sever ties with the Quartet and Eylon Aslan-Levy writes on that subject at the Tower.

“What was in the Quartet report that so enraged the Palestinians? The document is hardly a pro-Israel message sheet. It fingers Israeli settlement construction—by which it also means building homes in East Jerusalem—as one of the main trends “severely undermining hopes for peace,” accuses Israel at length of “denying Palestinian development,” and says Israel’s restrictions to prevent Hamas acquiring war materiel are contributing to “humanitarian aid dependency.” Moreover, the tone is hardly friendly: Whenever the Quartet notes a positive step by Israel, it is immediately followed by a reservation and further criticism.

But crucially, the report is also scathing on the matter of Palestinian violence and specifically the question of incitement to violence and hatred. The report notes that Palestinian terrorists are “often glorified publicly as ‘heroic martyrs,’” that images of them with slogans encouraging violence are in wide circulation, that “some members of Fatah” have vocally supported and encouraged violence, that Fatah’s official social media has depicted these attackers favorably, and that Palestinian Authority leaders have failed to “consistently and clearly condemn specific terrorist attacks”—even naming “streets, squares and schools” after the perpetrators of terrorist attacks.” 

More promotion of the Livingstone Formulation from BBC News

An article published on the BBC News website’s ‘UK Politics’ page on June 30th under the title “Chief Rabbi condemns ‘offensive’ Corbyn anti-Semitism comments” also appeared on the website’s Middle East page.Corbyn statements art

The comments in question were made by Jeremy Corbyn at the launch of the report compiled by Shami Chakrabarti following her inquiry into the issue of antisemitism within the UK Labour Party. The BBC’s article noted the responses of the Chief Rabbi and his predecessor whilst also describing an incident which took place at the launch and summarising the report’s content.

Towards the end of the BBC’s article readers found re-amplification of themes previously seen in BBC reporting on the issue of the antisemitism scandals which engulfed the Labour party earlier in the year.

Having already been informed that the inquiry was initiated following the suspension of Naz Shah MP and Ken Livingstone, readers were told that:

“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.”

That anodyne depiction of Shah’s Facebook post of course conceals from audiences the fact that what the MP was actually advocating was the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the Middle East. BBC audiences saw that same whitewashed portrayal in a would-be backgrounder titled “What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?” which appeared on the BBC News website on April 29th and which also appears as a link at the bottom of this latest article.

At the end of this article readers found an insert titled “Anti-Semitism and Zionism” in which the BBC informed them that:

“Zionism refers to the movement to create a Jewish state in the Middle East, corresponding to the historic land of Israel – anti-Zionism opposes that”.

No effort was made to clarify that political anti-Zionists are those who hold the opinion that the Jewish state should not exist – i.e. that Jews have no right to self-determination like other nations – and readers did not learn that various accepted definitions of antisemitsm describe such denial of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination as antisemitism.

Readers were then told that:

“Some say “Zionist” can be used as a coded attack on Jews, while others say the Israeli government and its supporters are deliberately confusing anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism to avoid criticism.”

In other words, once again (see ‘related articles’ below) the BBC has elected to amplify and mainstream the Livingstone Formulation.

Despite its own dismal record and the plethora of evidence showing that the BBC does not have the authority or the expertise – let alone the remit – to define antisemitism, it continues to co-opt itself to that role. The result is the kind of ‘blind reporting on the blind’ seen in this article and that clearly does not serve the interests of the corporation’s funding public as audience understanding of the issue of antisemitism within the Labour Party – and in general – continues to be compromised.

Related Articles:

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

BBC promotes the Livingstone formulation – again

Mainstreaming the Livingstone Formulation on BBC Radio 4

 

 

BBC ignores Abbas’ antisemitic libel in EU parliament speech

On June 23rd the Palestinian Authority president addressed the EU parliament and among his remarks was one in particular which – as is to be expected – made headlines at international media outlets.

 The New York Times reported:

“Echoing anti-Semitic claims that led to the mass killings of European Jews in medieval times, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority accused rabbis in Israel of calling on their government to poison the water used by Palestinians.

He made the unsubstantiated allegation during a speech to the European Parliament on Thursday.”

Reuters wrote:

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday accused Israeli rabbis of calling for the poisoning of Palestinian water, in what appeared to be an invocation of a widely debunked media report that recalled a medieval anti-Semitic libel.

Abbas’s remarks, in a speech to the European parliament, did not appear on the official transcript issued by his office, suggesting he may have spoken off the cuff as he condemned Israeli actions against Palestinians amid stalled peace talks.”

AFP reported:

“Israel accused the Palestinian president of libelling the Jewish people after he charged Thursday that rabbis had called for Palestinian wells to be poisoned.[…]

During a speech to the European Parliament, Abbas said, in apparently unscripted Arabic remarks, that recently “a number of rabbis in Israel made a clear declaration and asked their government to poison water to kill the Palestinians”.

He cited the accusation, without giving any source, as part of an attack against what he said was Israeli incitement against the Palestinians.”

The Washington Post ran the headline “Palestinian president uses anti-Semitic trope against Israel in E.U. speech“.

Abbas’ libel was based on a story invented by the PLO (which he of course also heads) that prompted false accusations days earlier from one of his government’s offices and was promoted on official PA TV.

“The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry revived the well-worn blood libel of Jews poisoning wells this week.

The PA’s Foreign Ministry released a statement on Sunday citing a supposed ruling by a “Rabbi Mlmad” authorizing Israelis to poison Palestinian wells.

The official PA website called the supposed ruling a crime against humanity, and said Israel is fully responsible for it and should arrest the rabbi for incitement.”

Two days after the Brussels speech, Abbas walked back his preposterous libel.

To date there has been no stand-alone BBC reporting on Abbas’ public promotion of that antisemitic blood libel or of his refusal to meet the Israeli president who was also in Brussels at the same time. The BBC News website’s ‘Parliaments‘ page includes an item headlined “Rivlin and Abbas address MEPs” but the page to which it links includes no mention of Abbas’ racist canard.

Abbas speech on Parliaments page

Related Articles:

BBC News amplification for Abbas’ lies and incitement about ‘dead’ terrorist

 

Weekend long read

At the Weekly Standard, Willy Stern has a long article about Israel, Hizballah and what the next conflict might look like.Weekend Read

“Hezbollah has a nasty collection of more than 130,000 rockets, missiles, and mortars aimed at Israel. This is a bigger arsenal than all NATO countries (except the United States) combined. Why, a reasonable person might wonder, does Hezbollah need an offensive arsenal bigger than that of all Western Europe?”

The same topic naturally came under discussion at the recent Annual Herzliya Conference and the address given by the IDF’s head of military intelligence was covered by the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel.

“Halevy put particular emphasis on the threat of Hezbollah in Lebanon, as Israel prepares to mark 10 years since the Second Lebanon War next month.

Hezbollah is believed to have an arsenal of more than 100,000 missiles and rockets, along with weapons systems “that they never had before,” Halevy said.

The intelligence chief wouldn’t say the next round of violence with the Iran-backed terror group would result in mass casualties among Israel’s civilian population, but came close.

“In the Yom Kippur War, we had one person killed on the home front from a Syrian missile. The situation in the next conflict will be completely different,” he said.”

Jonathan Spyer offers some sober reflections on the previous round of conflict between Israel and Hizballah.

“From the perspective of a decade later, however, much of the euphoria of Hizballah and the despair on parts of the Israeli side seem exaggerated.  The results of the war from an Israeli perspective in 2016 are mixed.

The border has indeed been quieter since 2006 than at any time since the late 1960s.  This fact in itself says more about Hizballah’s true assessment following the damage suffered in 2006 than any al-Akhbar editorial excitedly proclaiming divine victory.

And of course Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah himself told a Lebanese TV channel shortly after the war that had the movement known of the scale of the IDF response, Hizballah would have never have carried out the kidnappings which sparked the war.

At the same time, Resolution 1701, which was intended to keep the Shia Islamist movement north of the Litani has failed. Hizballah has built an extensive new infrastructure south of the river since 2006, under the noses of UNIFIL and often with the collusion of the Lebanese Armed Forces.  And Hizballah has vastly increased its rocket and missile capacity.”

At Fathom, Professor Richard Landes discusses anti-Zionism and the ‘global progressive Left’.

“At one point, a contributor to our panel on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement called that movement ‘anti-Semitic’. The panelist next to me almost jumped out of his skin. Apparently, he found that statement offensive. He was in the wrong room, among those with whom ‘good people’ do not speak.”

Read the whole article here

BBC Trust rejects appeals on Willcox ‘Jewish hands’ complaints

Eighteen months after the original broadcast, the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee has now published its findings concerning complaints about remarks made by Tim Willcox during a broadcast from Paris after the terror attacks at the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Hypercacher supermarket in January 2015.Willcox

Readers will no doubt recall that in response to complaints, the BBC originally claimed that Willcox’s subsequent apology on Twitter sufficed. Having received a large number of complaints, the BBC then decided to consolidate them. Concurrently, additional complaints made to OFCOM were rejected.

In February 2015 the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit provisionally rejected the consolidated complaint, sparking condemnation from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. In May 2015 the ECU finalised its decision.

On June 16th 2016 the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee published the outcome of appeals against that decision. A summary can be found on page 4 and the full decision is on page 11 here.

Unsurprisingly, the ESC rejected all the appeals and the convoluted ‘rationale’ behind that decision raises issues in itself. [all emphasis added]

“The Committee noted the response from the Editor of the BBC News Channel:

“Given the apology by [the presenter] at the time, it is clear we accept that the question itself was somewhat clumsy, and the phrase ‘Jewish hands’ might not have been chosen in a scripted context, given the specific point behind the question was about Israel’s relations with the Palestinians. We note the earlier findings that this phrase, while clumsy and insufficiently specific, was not a breach of the BBC’s guidelines given the regular conflation of Israel and Jewish by critics of Israel’s policies, and the use by some of the phrase ‘Jewish state’ to describe Israel.” […]

The Committee did not uphold the points of appeal, for the following reasons:

  • whilst some of the audience clearly found it both harmful and offensive to conflate Jewish and Israeli, the perspective was clearly attributed to critics of Israel
  • it was posited neither as the presenter’s view nor as a valid position. The presenter’s remarks were positing a reason the perpetrators might have used or others might use to try to justify or legitimise their actions in making Jews a target of the attack. The Committee did not accept the suggestion that the presenter had been seeking to hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the State of Israel
  • while it is abhorrent to murder Parisian Jews as a response to the actions of the State of Israel, and the actions of the State of Israel cannot be used to excuse or legitimise the events in Paris or to connect Parisian Jews to the State, it is evidently a justification used by those who perpetrate such acts of violence
  • physical attacks in Paris on Jewish people and their institutions during the war in Gaza a few months prior to the January massacres are evidence that the presenter’s observation was factually based
  • there have been comments by Jewish community leaders in France and the UK acknowledging that the war in Gaza was the motivation for anti-Semitic attacks […]
  • the conflation of Jewish and Israeli was duly accurate and editorially justified in this particular instance: it was clearly attributed, well-sourced, based on sound evidence, and was adequate and appropriate to the output.The Committee acknowledged the sensitivity of the subject matter and the genuine offence felt by some listeners. However, Trustees considered it important to note that the Editorial Guidelines permit the legitimate use of challenging material and allow reporters and presenters, where appropriate, to raise difficult issues in accordance with generally accepted standards. Trustees considered that, although the presenter had acknowledged that some viewers may have been offended by his choice of language, for which he had apologised promptly, given all the circumstances, his phraseology did not breach the Harm and Offence Guidelines.The Committee concluded that the BBC had demonstrated a clear editorial purpose in positing a connection between Jews “being the targets now” and “many critics of Israel’s policy” who would “suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands”.”

In other words, the BBC Trust appears to be claiming that because anti-Israel activists – and murderous antisemites – use the terms ‘Israel’ and ‘Jewish’ interchangeably, it is legitimate for it to adopt the same language and that the use of such language is legitimate according to its editorial guidelines. One can of course only speculate whether or not the BBC would find it similarly appropriate to adopt and amplify the language of ‘justification’ used by those perpetrating acts of violence against, for example, the gay community.

The ESC likewise rejected appeals concerning the inadequacy of Willcox’s Twitter apology and the absence of any apology broadcast on the station which aired the remarks.

“The Committee noted the response from the Editor of the BBC News Channel:

“It is important to note that far from failing to recognise the issue, action was taken soon after the interview took place with [the presenter] accepting that the question he posed had been poorly phrased. He gave a clear apology the following morning via the social media network Twitter… This apology was also provided to media organisations by the BBC Press Office.”

The Committed noted the decision of the Editorial Complaints Unit at Stage 2 that the Twitter apology was sufficient because the presenter’s comments did not constitute a serious breach of editorial standards which would require a formal public correction and apology.

The Committee concluded that as the presenter’s comments had not breached the Editorial Guidelines on Harm and Offence, the Twitter apology for the poor phrasing and its wider circulation in the media via the BBC Press Office, was adequate and appropriate.”BBC Trust

Notably, this is not the first time that the self-regulating BBC Trust has rejected appeals concerning remarks made by this reporter, despite their having been flagged up by expert bodies dealing with antisemitism: the CST and the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.

It is of course also remarkable that the BBC Trust (along with OFCOM, as cited in this document) is apparently convinced that it possesses the authority and expertise to make judgements what is – or in this case, what is not – antisemitic discourse. And that despite the fact that both OFCOM and the BBC have yet to inform their funding public which accepted definition of antisemitism – if any – they use as the basis for such decisions. 

 

 

 

 

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

At the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism held in May 2015, one of the many issues identified was the necessity for media organisations to adopt standard accepted definitions of antisemitism such as the EUMC Working Definition or the US State Department definition.

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.pic BBC

Among the proposals included in BBC Watch’s submission to the DCMS public consultation on the renewal of the BBC’s charter was the following:

“The need for the BBC to work according to an accepted definition of antisemitism in order to ensure that complaints are handled uniformly, objectively and accountably is obvious. In addition, the absence of adoption of an accepted definition of antisemitism means that […] public funding is likely to be wasted on dealing with complaints from the general public which, if a definition were available, might not have been submitted.

Clearly the compilation of such a definition is neither within the role nor the expertise of the BBC and common sense would dictate that the definition adopted by Britain’s public broadcaster should be the one already used by the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism and the College of Policing Hate Crime Operational Guidance (2014) – i.e. the EUMC Working Definition. That definition was also recommended to media organisations as an industry standard by the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in May 2015.”

Last week the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) – of which the United Kingdom is a memberadopted a working definition of antisemitism.  

“IHRA Chair, Ambassador Mihnea Constantinescu, stated:

“All IHRA Member Countries share concern that incidents of antisemitism are steadily rising and agree that IHRA’s Member Countries and indeed IHRA’s experts need political tools with which to fight this scourge. IHRA’s 31 member countries- 24 of which are EU member countries- are committed to the Stockholm Declaration and thereby to fighting the evil of antisemitism through coordinated international political action.”

The IHRA Chair continued: “By adopting this working definition, the IHRA is setting an example of responsible conduct for other international fora and hopes to inspire them also to take action on a legally binding working definition.””

The text of the IHRA working definition can be found here. Like the EUMC working definition, it too is suitable for use by Britain’s national broadcaster. It is worth bearing in mind that should the proposal concerning the transfer of final adjudication on complaints concerning BBC content to OFCOM as outlined in the recent White Paper be implemented, the adoption of a uniform definition of antisemitism by both the BBC and OFCOM will clearly be crucial.  

 

BBC Trending ignores antisemitic Tweets from featured selfie snapper

On May 18th BBC Trending published an article titled “Muslim woman’s cheeky selfie with anti-Islam group goes viral“.Trending art belgium

“When hijab-wearing Zakia Belkhiri saw members of a far-right anti-Islam group protesting outside an Islamic lifestyle event she was attending in Belgium she responded like a true Millennial.

The 22-year-old took out her phone and snapped a series of selfies with members of Vlaams Belang – a far-right nationalist group who some have described as “openly anti-Muslim”. […] 

Ms Belkhiri told BBC Trending that she took the photos “to show that things can be different. And that we can live together, not next to each other but with each other.” […]

She also added that she doesn’t think a selfie can be a form of protest; “this wasn’t a protest at all, this was just to share joy and peace.””

The article’s author seemed to be particularly captivated by the story, which was also promoted by additional media outlets.

Trending author belgium selfie

However, some social media users pointed out that Ms Belkhiri’s Twitter account included messaging (since deleted) rather less representative of “joy and peace” or coexistence.

Belgium selfie story Trending 2012 tweet

There has to date been no response from BBC Trending.

Update:

BBC Trending has now published a follow-up article titled  “Anti-Semitic statements of ‘joy and peace’ selfie star“.

BBC Radio 4 promotes Nazi analogy in a discussion on antisemitism

BBC Radio 4’s programme ‘The Briefing Room’ describes itself as follows:

“Series looking at important issues in the news. Presented by David Aaronovitch.”

The May 19th edition of that programme (available here) purported to address an issue which has indeed recently been making headlines in the UK.Briefing Room R4

“Labour activists, councillors, an MP and a former Mayor of London have all been suspended for comments which many regard as anti-Jewish. But why might a left of centre, progressive, pro-minority party have a problem with Anti-Semitism?”

Serious discussion of that topic would obviously not be enhanced by having one-third of the invited panel taken up by a person who subscribes to the view that it is no more than a “scam to smear Labour activists” and who has in the past collaborated with notorious propagators of conspiracy theories in order to promote her anti-Israel propaganda.

Nevertheless, the programme’s production team saw fit to give Kerry-Anne Mendoza a platform – and the results were entirely predictable. Having presented her ‘credentials’ (“half of my family are Jewish”) Mendoza went on to address:

“…the comparison – which I completely understand why it’s offensive – the comparison of Israel to Nazism or the atrocities of the Third Reich. I say well; what evidence is there for that?”

Listeners then heard the following:

“And so, well, what other state in the world do I know of in the present day who’s [sic] been behind the forced sterilization of Jewish women? That would be Israel. It was applying Depo-Provera – long term contraceptive injections – to Ethiopian Jewish women. I think that’s an anti-Semitic act. I think it has horrific echoes…eh…of some of the atrocities – not all of them – some of the atrocities perpetrated by the Third Reich and I think it’s right to call that out. I would call that out in any state, anywhere in the world where Jewish women or any other group of women were subject to forcible sterilization to prevent some sort of racial dilution which was the theory behind that process.”

Leaving aside Mendoza’s medically ignorant and obviously inaccurate portrayal of (temporary) contraception as “sterilization” (a procedure designed to be permanent), the fact is that her completely baseless slander – which has unfortunately appeared in BBC content before – was disproved in a report published by Israel’s State Comptroller in January of this year.

“There is no evidence that Ethiopian women who immigrated to Israel were required to take birth-control shots against their will, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira wrote this week in a letter obtained by Haaretz.

Shapira wrote that he had concluded his investigation into the allegations, which surfaced in December 2012, and that “no evidence could be found for the claims raised that shots to prevent pregnancy were administered to Ethiopian women under pressure or threats, overt or covert, or in any way that was improper.””

So how did the programme’s host David Aaronovitch react to that very transparent promotion of a Nazi analogy based on what is known to be a blatant lie? He allowed her to continue unchallenged.

KAM: “Do I think it’s helpful for people to go around willy-nilly attempting to bait Jewish people by calling them Nazis? Absolutely not. But do I think there is some evidential case for saying there are echoes here of some of the worst behaviour that we have committed in Europe? Yes I do. Ahm…and actually that was an opinion that was actually [laughs] given to me originally by a Jewish Israeli. I was reporting from Gaza during Operation protective Edge. I was there and witnessing it. Do I think it’s wholly comparable? No – but I don’t think any situation is. But to dismiss out of hand those concerns as intrinsically anti-Semitic – I would disagree with.”

Listeners do not get an answer to the curious question of how Mendoza managed to find “a Jewish Israeli” in the Gaza Strip nine years after all the people answering that description were evacuated from the territory, but they do get to hear David Aaronovitch pass the buck to David Hirsh.

DA: “David, how do you respond to that?”

DH: “Well, I think we need to talk about what the Nazis did. The Nazis created a racial categorization of human beings. They created an industrial network in order to round up, identify and gas and murder all of the Jews of Europe. Now, Kerry-Anne’s story about…ehm…one incident in which some people were given long-term contraception is a really good example of how particular incidents are used to kind of demonise Israel. The claim that there was a campaign to stop black people from breeding in Israel is just appalling actually. It’s not true, when in fact black people have been brought and rescued and brought to Israel and are part of Israeli society – a half of Israeli society….

KAM: “But they are not brought and rescued by Israel. They’ve been treated abysmally…”

At that point Aaronovitch interrupts and redirects the discussion elsewhere.

The question which must be asked about this particular segment of the programme (which includes additional material no less worthy of comment) is what impression the average listener would have taken away. On the basis of past evidence one can well assume that the BBC’s response to any complaint on this issue would be to claim that Mendoza’s allegations were rebutted by David Hirsh.

However, listeners would not have understood from David Hirsch’s response that an official investigation had taken place or that it found no evidence of the administration of Depo-Provera to Ethiopian women against their will. In fact, Hirsch’s reference to “one incident in which some people were given long-term contraception” would have prompted the average listener to go away with the mistaken idea that there is a factual basis to Mendoza’s deliberate smears. Moreover, the BBC itself – in the form of its presenter – made no effort to ensure that audiences were made aware of the facts behind that slander and actually left listeners to make up their own inadequately informed minds with regard to who is telling the truth – Mendoza or Hirsh. 

Any serious examination of the question of “why might a left of centre, progressive, pro-minority party have a problem with Anti-Semitism?” would necessarily include recognition of the fact that a major contributing factor to that phenomenon is the deliberate demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel by far-Left activists.Briefing room tweet

In other words, by failing to adequately challenge Mendoza’s mendacious propaganda, this programme – which is also being promoted by the BBC on social media as a podcast – lent a helping hand to the spread of the blight of anti-Jewish racism it purported to discuss.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell regurgitates Ha’aretz slurs

Three year old allegations from BBC’s Yolande Knell shown to be untrue

Times of London revives anti-Israel smear over Ethiopian blood donations (UK Media Watch)

Email suggests Times of London journo misrepresented museum exhibit he reviewed (UK Media Watch)

Resources:

BBC Radio 4 contact details