Here’s how to write critically about Jewish Trump officials without evoking antisemitism

Cross posted by UK Media Watch

Last week, we posted about a Telegraph article focusing on newly appointed US-Middle East peace envoy Avi Berkowitz which, we argued, evoked an antisemitic trope.

Here are the relevant paragraphs from that Sept. 6th piece, written by Leila Molana-Allen (the Middle East correspondent for France 24 News).

The appointment [of Berkowitz] “demonstrates a lack of seriousness” in the administration’s approach to the peace plan and Mr Kushner’s complete dominance over the process, former Middle East advisor to the US defence department Jasmine El-Gamal told The Telegraph. “They are not even pretending otherwise by hiring a qualified person as an envoy.”

Others have raised concerns that Mr Berkowitz, like Mr Greenblatt before him and Mr Kushner, is a Zionist Jew, which may lead to a perception of bias in any peace negotiations with Palestinian officials.

This doesn’t need too much unpacking. The word “Zionist” before “Jew” is meaningless, as the overwhelming majority of diaspora Jews are Zionists, in the sense that they wish for Israel to continue existing. The journalist was legitimising unnamed critics who evidently believe there are too many Jews on Trump’s Middle East team, and that these officials, by virtue of their religious background, can’t be trusted to faithfully carry out their duties. This is a classic example of a news organisation – which, we should note, is normally very responsible on the issue of antisemitism – legtimising the dual loyalty charge, codified as antisemitic by the IHRA Working Definition.

Let’s turn now to another article, one published on Sept. 15th by Bel Trew at the Independent – a publication which, unlike the Telegraph, hasn’t always been so vigilant about preventing antisemitic narratives from being promoted.

Like the Telegraph piece, Trew’s article also raises the question of conflicts of interest against some Jewish members of Trump’s Mid-East team.

However, Trew raises the concerns in a completely different manner than Molana-Allen did at the Telegraph, noting not the religion of US Ambassador David Friedman and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (architect of the US peace plan), but, rather, their personal and financial ties to Israeli settlements, particularly the community of Beit El.

Trew highlights the fact that Friedman and Kushner’s family have given significant donations to Beit El. (She also adds that former US National Security Advisor John Bolton spoke at a fundraising event for the settlement.)

Trew makes her argument thusly:

And it is the unique relationship Trump’s cadres have with this settlement that is a keyhole to the overhaul in the US administration’s attitudes towards Israel’s policies in the Palestinian territories as a whole.

To be clear, we’re extremely skeptical that Friedman and Kushner’s ties to Beit El provide a “keyhole” to the shift in US policies towards Israel, as Trew’s explanation leaves out other important factors likely impacting US policy. It also fails to consider that Friedman’s and Kushner’s important roles may merely be a reflection of the president’s desired Mid-East policy, rather than representing a force driving it.

However, at least Trew’s argument doesn’t rest on the implicit assumption that the religious background of Friedman and Kushner (and Berkowitz) alone renders them biased – a toxic and racist charge that should have no place in mainstream British publications.

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How did BBC News report rare criticism of the PA from the UN?

Following a surge in violent attacks against Israelis in the autumn of 2015, the BBC began using this standard mantra:

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

As has been noted here repeatedly:

“…the BBC has consistently failed to provide its audiences with any serious reporting on the topic of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials. Readers are hence unable to judge for themselves whether or not what ‘Israel says’ is accurate.”

Neither – as we have also previously documented – have BBC audiences seen any comprehensive reporting on the issue of the incitement and glorification of terrorism found in Palestinian schoolbooks, official PA radio and TV children’s programmes and Hamas’ online children’s ‘magazine’.

Last week the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination published a report following a reportedly stormy review earlier in the month.

“The United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva expressed rare criticism over the Palestinian Authority’s hate speech in school textbooks and in its media, and voiced concern regarding the use of racist language by state officials.

The report was adopted on August 23 and became public last Thursday. The committee mentioned within the report the existence of hate speech “in certain media outlets, especially those controlled by Hamas, social media, public officials’ statements, and school curricula and textbooks, which fuels hatred and may incite violence, particularly hate speech against Israelis, which at times also fuels antisemitism.”

According to the report, the committee called on the Palestinian Authority to combat hate speech and incitement to violence, including on the Internet and by public figures, politicians and media officials, “and remove any derogatory comments and images from school curricula and textbooks that perpetuate prejudices and hatred.””

Having recommended amendments to Palestinian legislation:

“…the committee called to ensure that these laws are not used to “intimidate, harass, arrest, detain and prosecute journalists, human rights defenders and political opponents for exercising their right to freedom of opinion and expression.”

The committee requested that the Palestinians will submit information about the implementation of its recommendations within a year.”

As regular readers know, BBC coverage of internal Palestinian affairs is very limited and the last time the BBC News website published a report relating to an NGO’s allegations of torture by the PA security forces was in October 2018.

So what have BBC audiences heard about this rare criticism of the Palestinian Authority from a UN committee?  The answer to that is – predictably – nothing at all.

Related Articles:

Impartiality fail from BBC’s Barbara Plett

Revisiting BBC reporting on Palestinian social media incitement

 

 

 

 

 

A new CST report on UK Labour’s antisemitism crisis

The Community Security Trust (CST) has – together with the data science company Signify – released a report concerning “The online networks behind the Labour Party’s antisemitism crisis”.

“The problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party over the past four years has been fuelled by a flow of antisemitic tweets and posts on social media, carried out in the name of the Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Many of these tweets use hateful language to attack Jewish Labour MPs or other people who raise concerns about antisemitism; other tweets claim that any mention of antisemitism is part of a conspiracy to ‘smear’ Corbyn and Labour. […]

This report analyses the behaviour of Labour supporting Twitter accounts, networks and alternative media sites to discover whether (and if so, how) antisemitic narratives have taken root in Labour-supporting online circles. Using up to four years’ worth of tweets, it finds that there is no separation online between generic pro-Labour Twitter accounts and campaigns, and abusive Twitter accounts that claim to act in support of Labour in order to shut down allegations of antisemitism against the party.”

The report states:

“Over the last three years, the Community Security Trust (CST) has recorded a year-on year increase in the number of antisemitic incidents reported in the UK. In 2018, the months in which CST recorded the highest monthly antisemitic incident totals correlated to periods when political and media debate over allegations of antisemitism in Labour was at its most intense. […] Data collected for this report shows that Jeremy Corbyn’s time as Labour leader has seen the baseline level for national online coverage and engagement, across all media, of Labour, antisemitism and related issues, reach a level unprecedented in recent years.”

It shows how:

“…networks of Labour-supporting Twitter accounts endorse or spread the idea that allegations of antisemitism against Labour are a fake smear campaign; allegations that sometimes stray into wider conspiracy theories about a shadowy Israeli, Zionist or Jewish lobby. […]

Underpinning all of this is a network of alternative media sites that have risen to prominence as supporters of the Corbyn leadership and have become influential voices on the left. These websites consistently claim that antisemitism is being weaponised as a smear. […]

The allegation that Jews invent false accusations of antisemitism to prevent people from criticising Israel was named The Livingstone Formulation by the academic Dr. David Hirsh, after Ken Livingstone had written in 2006 that “for far too long the accusation of anti-Semitism has been used against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government, as I have been.””

Readers are no doubt aware that the BBC has repeatedly promoted the Livingstone Formulation in its reporting on the UK Labour party over the past three years. It has also long promoted another theme to which the CST report refers: the notion of a ‘Jewish lobby’ and/or an ‘Israel lobby’.  

Among the ‘alternative media sites’ named in the CST’s report is ‘Electronic Intifada’ and one of the people named in the report is contributor Asa Winstanley. Another is ‘The Canary’, the editor of which – Kerry-Anne Mendoza – has been a contributor to BBC programmes such as ‘Question Time’, ‘Newsnight’ and political shows.

One of many topics mentioned in the report is “the antisemitic mural that Jeremy Corbyn was criticised over, after it emerged in 2018 that Corbyn had posted a message of support on the Facebook page of the artist”. Readers may recall that at the time the BBC refrained from informing its audiences that the mural was antisemitic.

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 again purports to explain antisemitism

The purpose of the Livingstone Formulation was described by the person who named it, David Hirsch, as follows:

“the use of the Livingstone Formulation is intended to make sure that the raising of the issue of anti-Semitism, when related to ‘criticism of Israel,’ remains or becomes a commonsense indicator of ‘Zionist’ bad faith and a faux pas in polite antiracist company.”

Lesley Klaff describes it as:

“…the practice of responding to claims of contemporary antisemitism by alleging that those making the claim are only doing so to prevent Israel from being criticised; in other words, they are ‘playing the antisemitism card.’”

As has been noted here before, the BBC has been promoting that device for over three years – for example: 

Mainstreaming the Livingstone Formulation on BBC Radio 4

BBC promotes the Livingstone formulation – again

More promotion of the Livingstone Formulation from BBC News

BBC News ‘explanation’ of antisemitism promotes the Livingstone Formulation

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part two

BBC R4 report on antisemitism in the US uses the Livingstone Formulation

Another BBC antisemitism backgrounder promotes Livingstone Formulation

Concurrently, the BBC continues to ignore the fact that anti-Zionism in the form of denial of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination has been defined as antisemitism under the IHRA working definition which has been adopted by numerous countries, more than 130 UK local councils, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the judiciary – but not the BBC.

On July 24th the BBC’s domestic radio station – Radio 4 – aired yet another discussion of antisemitism (which it still does not spell properly) on its ‘Moral Maze’ programme presented by Michael Buerk.

The synopsis to that programme begins by mentioning “the anti-Semitism crisis engulfing the Labour party” (obviously a topic which might be of interest to domestic BBC audiences) and goes on to cite statements and polls concerning antisemitism in Europe before promoting the Livingstone Formulation:

“Less clear cut is the relationship between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. There is an argument about where the line is, and who has the right to draw it. Since Zionism has at its heart a belief in the Jewish right to self-determination, many Jews believe that those who oppose the state of Israel are anti-Semites. Others – many Jews included – don’t think that anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic, and argue that saying so is merely a way of ignoring Palestinian grievances. Anti-Semitism may be the oldest ethnic hatred, but is it just another form of racism? Or is it a distinct and uniquely pernicious prejudice which must be understood in the context of centuries of violent oppression, dehumanisation and genocide? Anti-Semitism: what is it? what isn’t it? and how can it be defeated?” [emphasis added]

In his introduction Michael Buerk described the first of the two questions to be discussed as:

“…where do you draw the line between criticism of Israel and prejudice against Jews? Between antisemitism and anti-Zionism?”

The programme’s panel included Melanie PhillipsMona SiddiquiTim Stanley and Matthew Taylor. The ‘witnesses’ were Julia Neuberger, Adam Sutcliffe, John Inge and ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’ member Robert Cohen who has previously appeared in similar Radio 4 content in which the BBC fruitlessly ‘discussed’ issues already addressed by expert bodies, while failing to inform its audiences of the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism that have already answered the question of whether anti-Zionism is an expression of antisemitism.

This programme was no better and did little to contribute to audience understanding of the issue of antisemitism in British society in general or in the Labour party – not least because falsehoods such as the portrayal of Israel as a “settler colonialist project” and the claim that Israel is “besieging Gaza” were inadequately challenged.

Despite its own dismal record and the plethora of evidence illustrating that the BBC does not have the authority or the expertise – let alone the remit – to define antisemitism, it continues to insist on producing content purporting to inform its audiences on that issue.

Related Articles:

In which the BBC asks ‘is Zionism wrong?’

 

 

 

BBC’s ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic?’ documentary maker in conversation

In the latest episode of his podcast series British journalist Jonny Gould talks to John Ware about his documentary “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” which was aired on BBC One’s ‘Panorama’ earlier this month.

“…the [Labour party] press operation is frankly inept…it’s difficult to take some of their stuff seriously.”

“None of them [the Labour party leadership] would submit to questioning. It’s impossible to interrogate them because any communication is conducted…by e-mail, by written answers…it’s not an ideal way to get to the bottom of something…”

“…the Labour party’s relationship to the truth on some of these issues is not what it should be, has not been what it should be.”

The podcast is available here or in additional formats here.

Weekend long read

1) At Mosaic magazine Professor Eugene Kontorovich explains “The Many Incoherences and Hypocrisies of International Law on Jerusalem”.

“Under the uti possidetis principle, then, Israel’s borders at the moment of independence are quite clear: the borders of Mandatory Palestine. Those borders include all of Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria as well. The UN, in its thousands of resolutions to the contrary, flagrantly ignores that principle.

This conclusion is not affected by the UN General Assembly’s partition proposal, adopted as Resolution 181 in November 1947, that provided for the formation in Palestine of two states, Jewish and Arab, with the city of Jerusalem designated a separate internationally-administered entity (the corpus separatum). That is not only because the UN proposal was a non-binding recommendation, but because, having been rejected by the Arabs, it was never implemented and did not in fact result in a partition of the Mandate. Uti possidetis goes by the prior administrative borders as they were, not as they might at various times have been imagined to be.”

2) MEMRI documents the broader background to a speech from a senior Hamas figure which was recently ignored by the BBC: “Hamas Official Fathi Hamad’s Speech Was No Exception”.

“After a July 12, 2019 speech by Hamas political bureau member Fathi Hammad urging Palestinians to kill Jews all over the world sparked outrage, Hamas issued a clarification stating that his statements did not reflect the movement’s official positions and that Hamas’s struggle is against the occupation, not against Jews around the world or the Jewish faith.

However, MEMRI publications from the past two years show that statements by Hamas members and officials, and content published by Hamas’s official media, have been rife with antisemitism. […]

It should be mentioned that all of these statements were made after Hamas published its May 1, 2017 policy document aimed at presenting the movement as pragmatic, democratic, and tolerant. This document was also aimed at distancing the movement from the antisemitic statements that appear in its charter (although it does not supersede the charter), by stating that Hamas does not fight the Jews as such, but only the Zionist occupation.”

3) The ITIC takes a look at a topic serially under reported by the BBC – “Summer Camps in the Gaza Strip”.

“In the past UNRWA organized and funded some of the summer activities for the children in the Gaza Strip. However, in recent years UNRWA suspended its activities because of financial problems. The vacuum was filled by Hamas and the PIJ, which increased their summer camp activities accordingly. In the past Hamas summer camps were organized by the ministries of education and the interior. However, in recent years, with the formal addition of military training to the high school curriculum (“al-Futuwwa”), organizing the summer camps was turned over to the military wings of Hamas and the PIJ (to continue al-Futuwwa training). Apparently the transition had a direct influence on the summer camps’ programs and more emphasis is currently placed on indoctrination and paramilitary training. […]

Hamas’ summer camps are expected to open on July 20, 2019. The camps, called Pioneers of Liberation, are supervised by Hamas’ military wing, and their theme is “Going to Jerusalem”.”

4) Jonathan Spyer analyses the Iraqi prime minister’s announcement of the integration of Shia militias into the Iraqi security forces. 

“The Shia militias are the main instrument of Iranian policy on Iraqi soil.  Not all groups involved in the 150,000 strong PMU are Iran-linked, but the largest and most consequential groupings are.  These include the Badr organization, led by Hadi al-Ameri,  Ktaeb Hizballah, headed by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Asaib ahl-al Haq, and Hizballah al-Nujaba.

All the above mentioned groupings are franchises of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). All were established by and are controlled by Iran, answering directly to the IRGC’s Qods Force and its leader, General Qassem Soleimani. […]

The militias are powerful players – politically, militarily and economically.  Prime Minister Adel Abd al Mehdi, meanwhile, is a weak figure with no real power base of its own.  Iraq is not a country ruled by law.  The prime minister as a result simply possesses no coercive mechanism for imposing his will on the Shia militias.  He can order their dissolution if he so wishes.  The result will be the further enmeshing and fusing of the militias with the official bodies of the state – without the ceding by the latter of their own vital chain of command.  This chain of command leads to Qassem Soleimani, and thence to the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.”

 

A story about Labour and antisemitism that the BBC chose to ignore

Since the BBC One ‘Panorama’ documentary about antisemitism in the UK Labour party was aired last week the BBC has produced a considerable amount of multi-platform follow-up content on that topic.

One recent story which the BBC has however not covered is the reaction to a Labour MP’s meeting with a member of the Jordanian parliament.

“A senior member of the UK Labour Party met last week in London with a Jordanian lawmaker who has voiced support for terror attacks against Israelis and called for tearing up the peace deal between his country and Israel.

Yahya al-Saud, a member of Jordan’s House of Representatives, posted a picture to his Facebook account Thursday of himself with Labour MP Fabian Hamilton outside the Houses of Parliament. […]

According to al-Saud, he and other members of the Jordanian parliament’s Palestine Committee met with Hamilton at the House of Commons, where they discussed stopping Israel’s “racist” practices toward the Palestinians, as well other aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. […]

The Jordanian MP has on a number of occasions backed violence against Israel, including suicide bombings, and said the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement “has brought nothing but disasters to the Jordanian people.”

He has also called to “liberate our holy places from the plundering Jews” and said he is “a slave to whoever takes me to Palestine as a fighter,” according to the Middle East Media Research Institute watchdog.”

Following criticism, including from some of his constituents, Mr Hamilton later claimed that ‘he was not aware of Yahya al-Saud’s “appalling and Anti-Semitic remarks” when he met him and other Jordanian lawmakers in London’. One trusts that the same goes for the Jordanian MP’s misogyny and history of brawling.

However a no less interesting part of this story concerns the background to that meeting. One of the photographs posted by al Saud shows him (second from the left) meeting the British MP (third from the left).

Second from the right in that photo is Zaher Birawi and the explanation for that is found in the Jordanian media. [emphasis added]

“MP Yahya Saud, who leads a parliamentary delegation to London, on Tuesday said that Jordan is paying the price of defending the Palestinian cause and safeguarding the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem

The delegation met with Palestinian and Arab community leaders and representatives of media institutions, with the presence of Jordanian Deputy Ambassador to the UK Daifallah Fayez, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

During the meeting, which was organised by the European Communication Forum and the Palestinian British Forum, Saud said that Jordanians stand behind their Hashemite leadership in rejection of the so-called “deal of the century”, adding that they sternly reject turning Jordan into an “alternative homeland” for Palestinians.” 

And:

“MP Yahya al-Sa’ud told the meeting that all Jordanians stand united behind His Majesty King Abdullah II in his rejection of the so-called “deal of the century” and any proposals to make Jordan a substitute homeland for the Palestinians. 

The meeting figured high on the Hashemite custodianship over Muslim and Christian shrines in occupied Jerusalem. The meeting was organized by the Europal Forum in cooperation with the Palestinian-British Forum.”

While we do not know whether or not the Jordanian delegation similarly brought up the topic of “the Hashemite custodianship over Muslim and Christian shrines” in Jerusalem with the MPs and member of the House of Lords that they also met in London, it does seem highly likely.

Had the BBC reported this story it could have performed a useful public service by informing MPs and the public alike that, although Jordan has been trying for some time to promote the notion that it holds custodianship of Christian sites in Jerusalem, as recently documented by our colleagues at CAMERA Arabic that is not the case.

Another service the UK’s public broadcaster could have provided by investigating this story would be to apprise British politicians such as Mr Hamilton of the background to the groups which apparently set up his meeting with the Jordanian MP about whom he now says he was under informed.

The link between the ‘Palestinian Forum in Britain’ – described as “one of the components of the Hamas support network in the UK” – and ‘the EuroPal Forum’ is Zaher Birawi. As previously noted on these pages in connection to his role in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’:

“…in addition to playing a role in convoys and flotillas,  Zaher Birawi was also involved in the organisation of the 2012 ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ and was previously director of the UK-based Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) – an organisation banned in Israel due to its Hamas affiliations.

More recently Birawi has been active in the role of chairman of the London-based EuroPal Forum – an organisation which appears to have replaced the Council for European Palestinian Relations (also banned by Israel) which became defunct after its director – Arafat Shoukri , who was also involved with the Palestinian Return Center – left the UK for Qatar (and a job with Al Jazeera) around 2014.”

The UK Labour party’s connections to Hamas-linked organisations such as the ‘Palestinian Forum in Britain’ and the ‘Palestinian Return Centre’ (with which Fabian Hamilton met in December 2017) caused some British commentators to ask “when is Labour going to take action in relation to its own extremism problem?” long before Jeremy Corbyn was elected as party leader.

Some in-depth reporting on that meeting on Parliament premises between British politicians and the Jordanian delegation could have contributed significantly to the understanding of the BBC’s funding public as to how the Labour party’s antisemitism crisis was – and continues to be – incubated as well as how foreign interest groups with links to a terrorist organisation have access to their lawmakers. 

Related Articles:

Sky, AFP, Reuters (in Arabic) declare Jordan guardian of Jerusalem’s Christian holy sites  (UK Media Watch)

BBC One’s ‘Panorama’ on Labour antisemitism raises another issue

 

A Hamas ‘Great Return March’ speech the BBC is unlikely to report

Back in May 2017 BBC audiences were told that Hamas had abandoned “anti-Jewish language” with the publication of a new policy document.

“It also says Hamas’s struggle is not with Jews but with “occupying Zionist aggressors”. The 1988 charter was condemned for its anti-Jewish language.

The text is seen as an effort by Hamas, which rules Gaza, to soften its image.

“The document gives us a chance to connect with the outside world,” spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.

“To the world, our message is: Hamas is not radical. We are a pragmatic and civilized movement. We do not hate the Jews. We only fight who occupies our lands and kills our people. […]

For years there has been criticism of Hamas over the language of its charter, in particular articles which were branded anti-Semitic.

The charter speaks of the need to fight “warmongering Jews” and cites a hadith – a report of what the Prophet Muhammad said or approved – that declares “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews)”.

It also refers to the “Jews’ usurpation of Palestine” and accuses Jews of controlling the world’s media and of being behind the French Revolution, secret societies and of controlling imperialist countries.”

The same messaging was repeated in another report a week later and several months after that BBC audiences were inaccurately informed by the corporation’s chief international correspondent that Hamas had “made some changes to that charter”. The BBC refused to correct that error.

On July 12th MEMRI translated a speech made by Hamas’ Fathi Hamad.

“Hamas Political Bureau member Fathi Hammad said in a Friday, July 12, 2019 speech at a March of Return rally that aired on Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas-Gaza) that Israel has until the following Friday (July 19) to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip and implement its understandings with Hamas, lest the Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and all over the world use the “many methods and means” that are “up their sleeves” to “powerfully explode” in Israel’s face. He said that, contrary to what Israel thinks, the Gazans are not rational, and that if they die, they will do so honorably while cutting off the heads of Jews and killing them with explosive belts, which he said Hamas has been actively manufacturing in factories. Calling on the seven million Palestinians abroad, whom he said have been “warming up” and “preparing,” Hammad said: “Enough warming up… We must attack every Jew on planet Earth and slaughter and kill them.” Hammad also encouraged Palestinians in the West Bank to purchase knives in order to cut the necks of Jews, saying that knives only cost five shekels. He added: “We will die while exploding and cutting the necks and legs of the Jews. We will lacerate them and tear them to pieces, Allah willing!” [emphasis added]

While Hamad is no stranger to violent and antisemitic rhetoric, this time some Hamas officials tried to distance the movement from part his statements, despite their being not not vastly different from many others made by Hamas officials in the past.

BBC audiences, however, will no doubt continue to see the corporation’s standard tepid description of Hamas as a “militant group” and portrayal of the ‘Great Return March‘ as “protests”. 

 

 

 

BBC One’s ‘Panorama’ on Labour antisemitism raises another issue

The edition of ‘Panorama’ titled “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” which was aired on BBC One on July 10th (available here on iPlayer or here) swiftly garnered reactions from the Labour party itself – which described it as an “authored polemic” – and its supporters as well as from bodies such as the Chief Rabbi, the JLC and CST and the Board of Deputies of British Jews along with many others.

There is, however, something more to be said about the core topic addressed by John Ware.

At 08:58 Ware told viewers that: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Ware: “Before Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader in 2015, complaints in the party about antisemitism were rare. […] After Mr Corbyn became leader, party membership surged, some attracted by his decades of radical Left activism.

Interviewee: “So there’s an increase in members from a particular perspective and they brought with them a particular world view which unfortunately allowed breathing space for antisemitism to arise.”

That “world view” of course existed in British society long before Corbyn’s election to the party leadership in September 2015 and it was described later on in the film (from 10:21) as follows by Dr Dave Rich.

Rich: “Many people on the Left they define themselves by being anti-racist and actually they define the Right as being racist. So in their world they can’t be antisemitic because they are Left-wing.”

Ware: “For Jeremy Corbyn and those who share his world view, part of being anti-racist is near unconditional support for the Palestinian cause. Yet the campaign for Palestinian rights can blind some anti-racists to another kind of racism against Jews.”

Rich: “If you look back at the kind of antisemitism that existed in the 1930s – Jews using their money, Jews controlling governments – instead you started to see the same ideas were being directed towards Israel. These kinds of ideas are much more acceptable on the Left and in pro-Palestinian campaigning circles because they talk about Israel; they don’t talk about Jews. But actually underneath the surface, it’s the same ideas.”

If one wishes to understand why antisemitism is still so sociably acceptable in the UK in the 21st century that it is not a barrier to becoming a member of – or even a leading figure in – one of Britain’s most prominent political parties, one cannot ignore the country’s biggest and most influential media organisation.

For example, among the images seen during the above section of the programme was this one, apparently from a demonstration in London:

The picture used on that banner – and the falsehood behind it – is a product of inaccurate and irresponsible BBC reporting.

Long before Jeremy Corbyn took over the Labour party leadership the BBC was whitewashing the antisemitism of British politicians and facilitating the spread of antisemitic discourse on its message boards. Over six years ago the BBC was already promoting the notion that “it’s very difficult to criticize the Israeli government without in turn being told you’re antisemitic and some people would say that Jews see antisemitism everywhere” and that was not a one-off case by any means. In its various ‘backgrounders’ supposedly explaining antisemitism to its audiences, the BBC has repeatedly promoted the Livingstone Formulation.

The BBC has hosted known antisemites and Holocaust deniers and provided often offensive anti-Israel campaigners with an unhindered platform from which to promote falsehoods. It has whitewashed antisemitism in British society from sport to charities and academia and has promoted antisemitic stereotypes. BBC audiences have been repeatedly exposed to antisemitic tropes concerning ‘the Jewish lobby’ or ‘the Israel lobby’ and stereotypes about ‘rich Jews’ even from BBC staff and contributors. And of course the BBC has failed to respond appropriately to complaints from the general public concerning antisemitism in its own content.

Since the issue of antisemitism in the Labour party became prominent, the BBC has repeatedly shown itself to be incapable of reporting on that topic accurately, impartially and in a manner which provides the British public with the full range of information.

So while John Ware’s Panorama documentary about institutional antisemitism in the Labour party is obviously a very welcome step in informing the British public about the anti-Jewish racism in their society, it is also necessary for the BBC to put its own house in order by undertaking a serious examination of its own coverage of – and contributions to – that worrying phenomenon.

Related Articles:

One to watch on BBC One

Jeremy Corbyn’s Antisemitism Crisis: a Timeline  (CAMERA)

BBC News not sure whether Corbyn controversy mural antisemitic or not

Reviewing BBC R4’s ‘World at One’ background on the Labour Party story

 

 

One to watch on BBC One

On Wednesday July 10th, at 9 p.m. UK time, BBC One will air an edition of ‘Panorama’ titled “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?”.

“Panorama goes inside the anti-Semitism crisis gripping Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. With exclusive interviews from key insiders and access to confidential communications and documents, this is the story of how the crises developed. Reporter John Ware reveals the evasions and contradictions at the heart of the political party which leader Jeremy Corbyn says has anti-racism at its very core.”

Reactions from the Labour party have already been forthcoming.

“A row has broken out in the senior ranks of the Labour party after it emerged it was trying to use non-disclosure agreements against former staffers who contributed to what is expected to be a critical documentary about Jeremy Corbyn’s team and antisemitism. […]

The split was triggered by Labour’s response to an approach from the BBC about allegations it will feature in a Panorama programme to be broadcast on Wednesday. The film has been made by the veteran investigative journalist John Ware and it is expected it will use leaked documents and interviews with insiders to revive claims that advisers working for Corbyn intervened in antisemitism disciplinary cases in such a way as to favour some of those accused.

According to the Sunday Times, up to half a dozen former Labour staffers spoke to Panorama despite having signed NDAs with the party. Some of them have received letters from Labour’s lawyers saying they could face legal action for breaking their NDA obligations.”

And:

“The Labour Party is reportedly in fresh turmoil as fresh allegations are about to air on the BBC that key aides of Jeremy Corbyn tried to protect leftwingers accused of antisemtism.

The Sunday Times reported today that leading allies of the Labour leader have demanded he remove his chief of staff, Karie Murphy, and director of communictions and strategy, Seamas Milne. […]

But another Labour source told the paper the party was preparing to complain about the programme. “Rather than investigating antisemitism in the Labour Party in a balanced and impartial way, Panorama appears to have predetermined its outcome and created a programme to fit a one-sided narrative.””

As one Labour MP put it: