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

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

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

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

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

Host Stephen Sackur jumped in:

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

Jacobson: “I don’t conflate it.”

Sackur: “Some do.”

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

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

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

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

 

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Weekend long read

1) At the Begin-Sadat center for Strategic Studies, Dr Alex Joffe examines the concept of ‘settler-colonialism’.

‘The settler-colonial argument against Israel posits that Zionism was an imperial tool of Britain (or, alternatively, that Zionism manipulated the British Empire); that Jews represent an alien population implanted into Palestine to usurp the land and displace the people; and that Israel has subjected Palestinians to “genocide,” real, figurative, and cultural.

According to this argument, Israel’s “settler colonialism” is a “structure, not an event,” and is accompanied by a “legacy of foundational violence” that extends back to the First Zionist Congress in 1897 or even before. With Zionism thus imbued with two forms of ineradicable original sin, violent opposition to Israel is legitimized and any forms of compromise, even negotiation, are “misguided and disingenuous because ‘dialogue’ does not tackle the asymmetrical status quo.”’

2) At the Tablet, Professor Richard Landes writes about “Europe’s Destructive Holocaust Shame“.

‘Of all the post-modern multi-narrative projects, re-centering and problematizing Christian European majority narratives promised quite an academic bounty. The Hebraic contribution could be used to challenge the self-absorbed narcissistic quality of the modern Western grand narrative that so grated on the post-modern sensibility. Certainly, given the abundance of evidence and subjects to explore, it was a promising avenue for research. And how appropriate for Germans to engage in that exploration of a culture which, in their self-destructive madness, their fathers had tried to exterminate.’

3) The Kohelet Forum has published a report documenting “The Scope of European and Multinational Business in the Occupied Territories”.

‘On March 24, 2016, at its 31st session, the UN General Assembly Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted Resolution 31/36, which instructed the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a “database” of business enterprises. The database will focus on one particular issue, which an earlier Council resolution claimed raises human rights issues: that “business enterprises have directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements.”

Such an activity—making blacklists of private organizations—is absolutely unprecedented for the HRC. And the current “research” program is focused on only one context: companies working in areas designated as being under Israeli civil jurisdiction in the West Bank under the Oslo Accords. […]

This report is designed to put the HRC’s “database” project in a global perspective. It examines business activity in support of settlement enterprises in occupied territories around the world. This study reveals that such business is ubiquitous and involves some of the world’s largest industrial, financial services, transport, and other major publicly traded companies. Such companies include Siemens, Crédit Agricole, BNP Paribas, Santander, Vodafone, Renault, Veolia, Trelleborg, Wärtsilä, and Turkish Airlines, to take just a few examples.’

4) A major study of antisemitism in Great Britain published this week by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) has received a lot of coverage including at UK Media Watch, the Times of Israel and the Jewish Chronicle.

‘Nearly half of people holding anti-Israel views across the political spectrum were revealed in the survey to also believe Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood.

Speaking at Tuesday night’s launch of the JPR survey, Dave Rich, Community Security Trust deputy director of communications, said the findings on left-wing antisemitism emerged after “prominent figures in Labour and Momentum repeatedly abused the memory of the Holocaust in pursuit of anti-Israel politics”.

Dr Rich said the poll findings – which are backed by CST – shattered the claim by some that antisemitism did not exist in Labour because it was an “anti-racist safe space”.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

BBC ignores UN SG’s admission of bias against Israel

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

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

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

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

 

 

Is a BBC WS claim about Israeli politicians true?

The August 16th edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 48:53 here) in which the BBC managed to shoehorn Israel into its coverage of last weekend’s shocking incidents in Virginia, USA.

Presenter Owen Bennett-Jones told worldwide listeners that:

“Video of the white supremacists in Charlottesville clearly shows them chanting openly antisemitic slogans, with organisers amongst other things complaining that President Trump allowed his daughter to marry a Jewish man.

While President Trump has come under a lot of flack from Jewish leaders and politicians in the US for his perceived hesitancy in condemning the groups, in Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu and most politicians have been rather more muted regarding what the president said. So why is that?”

The issue of whether or not it is appropriate for politicians from any country to comment on the internal affairs of another state is not discussed in this item and listeners are not given an answer to the question of why Bennett-Jones singled out Israeli politicians rather than those in any other nation. But is the claim regarding Israeli politicians made by Bennett-Jones accurate?

Earlier on the same day that this item was broadcast, the Times of Israel published an article titled “Israeli politicians reject Trump claim of two sides to Virginia hate march“.

““There aren’t two sides,” Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, said in a Wednesday statement.

“When neo-Nazis march in Charlottesville and scream slogans against Jews and in support of white supremacy, the condemnation has to be unambiguous. They represent hate and evil. Anyone who believes in the human spirit must stand against them without fear.” […]

Tzipi Livni, a former justice minister and No. 2 in the opposition Zionist Union faction, also rejected Trump’s assertion.

“When it comes to racism, anti-Semitism and Nazism, there are never two equal sides. There’s good and there’s evil. Period,” she said in a Wednesday statement. […]

…Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked […] urged that the neo-Nazis face prosecution.

“The neo-Nazis in the United States should be prosecuted,” she said Tuesday. Allowing them to march violently through American streets “was not the intention of the American Constitution. A democratic state does not have to tolerate such phenomena.”

On Sunday [Naftali] Bennett, who heads the Jewish Home party, condemned the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and called on US leaders to denounce its “displays of anti-Semitism.”

“The unhindered waving of Nazi flags and symbols in the US is not only offensive towards the Jewish community and other minorities, it also disrespects the millions of American soldiers who sacrificed their lives in order to protect the US and entire world from the Nazis,” he said in a statement

“The leaders of the US must condemn and denounce the displays of anti-Semitism seen over the past few days,” he added.”

In addition to those decidedly not “muted” statements, the Israeli prime minister put out a tweet condemning the racism and, despite members of the Knesset currently being on holiday, a number of other politicians from a range of parties likewise made their views on the matter clear – including Michael Oren, Zahava Galon, Revital Swid, Ksenia Svetlova, Manuel Trachtenburg, Avi Gabbai, Yehuda Glick, Yitzhak Herzog, Dov Hanin, Shelly Yechimovich, Amir Peretz, Meirav Michaeli, Ayelet Nachmias-Verbin, Miki Rosental, Nachman Shai, Itzik Shmuli and Tamar Zandberg – who even went on American TV two days before this ‘Newshour’ programme was aired to talk about the issue.

And yet, the BBC apparently came to the bizarre conclusion that it was accurate to describe the responses from those Israeli politicians and others as “muted”.

Another interesting aspect of this item comes in Bennett-Jones’ introduction of his interviewee. [emphasis added]

“Ruthie Blum is a Trump voter living in Tel Aviv and a conservative commentator too with a number of publications including the Jerusalem Post.”

Seeing as in the past the BBC has on countless occasions failed to comply with its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by refraining from clarifying the “particular viewpoint” of interviewees,  that detailed introduction is noteworthy.

What does the BBC tell audiences about the first Zionist Congress?

August 29th will mark the 120th anniversary of the first Zionist Congress in Basel. So what information can BBC audiences find online concerning that historic event and its background? The answer to that question is very little.

Still available online is an undated page in a backgrounder called “A History of Conflict” that appears to have been published over a decade ago. Titled “First Zionist Congress“, that backgrounder (a version of which also appears in Turkish) provides the following information:

“The First Zionist Congress met in Basle [sic], Switzerland, to discuss the ideas set out in Theodor Herzl’s 1896 book Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State). Herzl, a Jewish journalist and writer living in Vienna, wanted Jews to have their own state – primarily as a response to European anti-Semitism.

The Congress issued the Basle [sic] Programme to establish a “home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured by public law” and set up the World Zionist Organisation to work for that end.

A few Zionist immigrants had already started arriving in the area before 1897. By 1903 there were some 25,000 of them, mostly from Eastern Europe. They lived alongside about half a million Arab residents in what was then part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. A second wave of about 40,000 immigrants arrived in the region between 1904 and 1914.”

Another piece of BBC content still available to audiences is an item in the BBC World Service archive dating from 1997 which is titled “Theodor Herzl and the Jewish State“.

“Basel, Switzerland was the venue for the first Zionist Congress in 1897. It was called to campaign for a land which Jews could call their own, and where they could be safe from persecution.”

The unidentified presenter of that programme rightly tells listeners that:

“What spurred Herzl on was antisemitism. The Jewish State was to be a refuge from it.”

Bernard Wasserstein is then heard saying:

“He tried to find the most realistic solution and the most realistic solution as he saw it was not integration in states which did not want to have Jews as integrated elements. It was not the dissolution of Jews in an international socialist revolutionary movement. No; he saw the separating out of the Jews in a state of their own through which they could become part of the modern world.”

Presenter: “They weren’t part of the modern world where antisemitism was worst; in eastern Europe.”

The next contributor is Noah Lucas.

“The Jews had been impoverished and viciously persecuted. The persecution of the Jews was pretty endemic in eastern Europe. Of course in today’s terms, following the Holocaust, the extent of persecution and its severity was really almost trivial. I mean you’re talking about scores – sometimes at most hundreds – of Jews perhaps being killed in the entire continent. But nevertheless; persecution and impoverishment and cruel official antisemitism very often in the case of Russia.”

Presenter: “In western Europe, by contrast, the spread of liberal ideas had enabled Jews to advance in society as never before. But this inspired antisemitism in those who saw them as rivals or just too pushy.”

Later on (10:46) the presenter tells listeners:

“And it didn’t seem to occur to Herzl that the Arabs living in Palestine could possibly object to his plans.”

Lucas: “He saw the Jews as people who would bring beauty and light to the country. They would build and there would be an economy in which everybody there would thrive and everybody would be brothers and there was no sense of an impending conflict with the indigenous population of the country. This was a very typical attitude of course. The Palestinians living there were some half a million perhaps in number. They had no national consciousness at that time. They didn’t themselves exert a claim to statehood in Palestine as it was. Palestine was a political vacuum in that sense.”

Other than those two items, members of the BBC’s audience would have difficulty finding any available information concerning the birth of political Zionism and its context. Given the way in which Zionism and the birth of Israel are often presented in contemporary BBC coverage, accurate and impartial information on that topic is clearly lacking.

 

 

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

h/t B

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

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

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

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

And:

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

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

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

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

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

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

That relevant information was not communicated to listeners.

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

The programme began with an introduction from Crawley:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those blatant falsehoods were not challenged.

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

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

Hudson: “Absolutely.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources:

BBC Radio Ulster contact details

‘Talkback’ contact details   

 

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part one

When Britain’s media regulatory authority OFCOM suspended and later revoked the licence of a local radio station in the UK last month, the BBC News website provided audiences with an accurate and comprehensive explanation of the reasoning behind that decision in two articles titled “Sheffield-based radio station Iman FM suspended over ‘terror talks’” and “Sheffield-based radio station Iman FM loses licence“.

“A community radio station has had its licence revoked for broadcasting more than 25 hours of lectures by an alleged al-Qaeda leader.

Sheffield-based Iman FM’s licence had already been suspended by Ofcom for playing the lectures by radical American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. […]

“We have strict rules prohibiting harmful content in programmes likely to incite crime,” the Ofcom spokesperson added. […]

It followed “extremely serious breaches of the Broadcasting Code, after it aired material likely to incite or encourage the commission of crime or to lead to disorder”, said Ofcom. […]

In 2011 the United Nations Security Council described Awlaki as a “leader, recruiter and trainer for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”.

His sermons are thought to have inspired terrorist attacks including the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris in 2015 in which 12 people died and the 2009 Fort Hood shootings, in which 13 US soldiers were killed.”

That standard of clear and informative reporting was not however in evidence on August 6th when the BBC News website published a report now titled “Al Jazeera: Israel seeks to shut offices and take network off air“. [emphasis added]

Version 1

“Israel is seeking to close Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera’s offices in the country and revoke its journalists’ media credentials.

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara alleged that the channel supported terrorism, and said both its Arabic and English-language channels would be taken off air.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuses the broadcaster of “incitement”. […]

Mr Netanyahu had accused the pan-Arab TV channel of fuelling a recent crisis around a holy site in Jerusalem known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount. […]

The Israeli prime minister vowed in late July to “expel Al Jazeera” for its reporting of the issue, which he said had incited violence. […]

Israel has however frequently accused it [Al Jazeera] of being biased in reporting the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

The BBC’s report refrained from providing its audiences with any examples of the kind of Al Jazeera material that has prompted such ‘allegations’ and ‘accusations’ past and present.

Readers were not informed, for example, that two days after the terror attack that sparked the recent violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere, Al Jazeera aired an interview with the deputy head of the banned northern Islamic Movement in which – as documented by MEMRI – he was given an unchallenged platform to promote pernicious incitement.

“Kamal Khatib: 22 years ago, we said that the Al-Aqsa Mosque was in danger. At the time, we said that throughout the excavations, the occupation used chemical substances that have a long-term effect. These substances could eat away at the rocks and pillars, but its effect would not show immediately, and afterwards they would be able to claim that the cracks in Al-Aqsa [walls]… It has happened. There are fissures and sinkholes in some places. [Their plan was that] they would be able to claim that it was the working of nature. It seems… Actually, I shouldn’t say “seems”…

Interviewer: Sorry to interrupt you, Sheikh, but did [Israel] do it now, when the mosque was closed? Did it execute this secret scheme?

Kamal Khatib: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I fear – I am almost convinced – that the goal of Israel in closing the mosque was not just to search for weapons, as the [Israelis] claimed. They know that there are no weapons inside the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Neither were readers told, for example, that in 2008 Al Jazeera threw a birthday party for the convicted terrorist Samir Kuntar (for which it later apologised) or that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Yusuf al Qaradawi has a regular Al Jazeera slot from which he has been inciting against Jews – and others – for years.

While failing to provide readers with any such examples, the BBC’s article does however report various Al Jazeera statements on the story, even amplifying the unquestioned claim that the network is “independent” despite the fact that it does not report on the autocratic regime that is the source of its funding.

“Al Jazeera has condemned the decision. […]

An Al Jazeera official in the Qatari capital Doha told AFP that the channel “deplores this action from a state that is called the only democratic state in the Middle East, and considers what it has done is dangerous”. […]

The Al Jazeera official defended its coverage, saying it was “professional and objective”.

The network’s editor in Jerusalem has accused Mr Netanyahu of collusion with his autocratic Arab neighbours in an attack on free and independent media.”

Obviously in order to understand this story properly, BBC audiences needed to be provided with information concerning the kind of material broadcast by Al Jazeera that has sparked the objections – just as they were in the case of the Sheffield radio station. The BBC News website failed to provide that essential background information but did other BBC platforms do any better? That question will be answered in part two of this post.

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Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part two

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Unsurprisingly to anyone familiar with the BBC’s record, its coverage of the latest events connected to Temple Mount has not included providing audiences with an objective view of past and present use of that site as a central factor in Palestinian incitement. Petra Marquardt-Bigman discusses “The media’s deadly silence on Al-Aqsa incitement“.

“Yet, even if you follow the news on the Middle East diligently, chances are you know very little about the vile incitement that Muslims are used to hearing there [al Aqsa mosque]. The mainstream media are largely ignoring it, even though reporting about it would make it much easier to understand why anything to do with the Al Aqsa mosque inflames Muslim religious passions – and violence – so easily.”

2) Relatedly, at the Tablet, Liel Leibovitz writes about last Friday’s terror attack in Halamish.

“…the murder was entirely foreseeable, the direct result of Palestinian officialdom’s torrent of incitement regarding al-Aqsa. When the Israeli government placed metal detectors at the entrance to the holy compound after three Palestinian terrorists killed two Israeli police officers there earlier this month, the Palestinian leadership mobilized to portray the preventative security measure as an Israeli attempt to take the holy site away from Islam itself. Never mind that, ever since it reunited Jerusalem in June of 1967, the Jewish state has gone out of its way to award the Waqf, the Muslim religious body that administers the site, complete autonomy, going as far as to bar Jews from praying at the site we, too, consider holy lest we offend the sentiments of the irate Imams. Never mind that the response came after a bloody Palestinian terror attack, which, one would think, is the sort of action that desecrates the site’s holiness much more than a thousand metal detectors ever would. Mahmoud Abbas and his cronies have spent all week hysterically yowling that the Jews were marching on al-Aqsa, and al-Abed, 19 and impressionable, listened.” 

3) The Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Katz records his impressions after a recent visit to Temple Mount.

“…the Mount was empty. There were some tourists – one Chinese group, and another from Europe – but almost no Muslims were there. One who was there, wearing a gray jalabiya and holding an umbrella to shield himself from the sun, whizzed by on an electric wheelchair. Another Arab man, a representative of the Wakf identifiable by the walkie-talkie he held in each hand, eyed Jewish visitors suspiciously, but didn’t follow.

He couldn’t – there were too many police officers. Four walked in front, four in the back and three on each side. Two carried cameras, filming the entire visit in case they would need to arrest and charge one of the visitors for violating the long list of rules posted at the entrance. There, Jews and foreigners alike go through metal detectors and have their bags and identity cards inspected before being allowed to ascend the Mount.

One tourist, for example, had come to the Temple Mount after doing some shopping at the nearby Arab shuk. The guard found a wooden cross and a rosary in her bag. Those had to be left in a locker, since religious paraphernalia – at least those that are not Islamic – are not allowed on the compound.

The identity of the Jewish visitors is also carefully scrutinized. Identity cards are collected, names are punched into a computer, and if something suspicious comes up, the visitor is taken aside for further questioning.”

4) As regular readers know, the BBC does not as a rule cover internal Palestinian affairs and so the absence of any reporting on a new PA law comes as no surprise. Khaled Abu Toameh explains the “new Palestinian law combating information technology (IT) crimes”.

“The controversial Cyber Crime Law, signed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on July 11, permits the imprisonment of Palestinians for “liking” or sharing published material on the internet.

Critics say the law paves the way for the emergence of a “police state” in PA-controlled territories in the West Bank. They also argue that the law aims to silence criticism of Abbas and the PA leadership.

The new law comes on the heels of the PA’s recent decision to block more than 20 Palestinian websites accused of publishing comments and articles critical of the PA leadership.

The law was approved by Abbas himself, without review by the Palestinian parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The PLC has been paralyzed for the past decade, as a result of the power struggle between Abbas’s PA and Hamas — the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip.

In the absence of parliamentary life, Abbas and his senior officials and advisors have felt free to pass their own laws to serve their interests and promote their personal and political agendas.”

5) At Mosaic magazine, Liam Hoare and David Hirsh briefly discuss “How the UK’s Labor Party, and Its Intelligentsia, Came to Accept Anti-Semitism“.

“[Y]ou can be sure that Labor would not have allowed somebody to become its leader with a history of anti-black or misogynist politics, for example. . . . The Labor party is not yet institutionally anti-Semitic, but people [in the party] don’t want to hear about [anti-Semitism]. What Corbyn has done is he has allowed the whole thing to be treated as if it’s just a few bad apples in the barrel, and if you find the bad apple, just kick it out, when you should ask what it is about the barrel that makes the apples go bad.” 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BBC again ignores the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism

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Accuracy trumped by politics in BBC report on Israeli PM’s Paris visit

On July 16th an article titled “Netanyahu in Paris to commemorate Vel d’Hiv deportation of Jews” appeared on the BBC News website’s Europe and Middle East pages. However, the version of that report which is currently available is markedly different from its earlier editions.

The article originally opened as follows:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Paris to commemorate the victims of a mass arrest of Jews in Nazi-occupied France in 1942.

More than 13,000 Jews were rounded up and detained at a cycling stadium, the Velodrome d’Hiver, before being deported to Nazi death camps.

Mr Netanyahu will also hold direct talks for the first time with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The visit has been criticised by some groups as politicising a tragedy.” [emphasis added]

About an hour after publication, that latter sentence was amended to read:

“The visit has drawn consternation from critics of the Israeli PM.” 

BBC website visitors who read the article’s first two versions were later told that:

“Mr Netanyahu’s attendance at the commemoration ceremony has not been welcomed by everyone in France.”

That statement was replaced in version 3 by the following:

“The visit has drawn consternation from critics of the Israeli PM.

Some in France have criticised Mr Netanyahu’s attendance at the commemoration ceremony arguing it was becoming too politicised.”

Readers of the first three versions of the report were next informed that:

“Elie Barnav, a former French ambassador to Israel, told AFP news agency: “The presence of Netanyahu makes me a little uneasy.

“This story has nothing to do with Israel.””

Obviously the BBC did not copy/paste the AFP report it recycled properly because the person concerned is actually called Elie Barnavi rather than ‘Barnav’.

Clearly too, the BBC did not bother to check the original AFP article in French because had it done so, it would know that Mr Barnavi is in fact “l’ancien ambassadeur d’Israël en France” – the former Israeli ambassador to France – (2000 to 2002) rather than “a former French ambassador to Israel” as was inaccurately claimed in the English language version of that AFP report.

As regular readers know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state that:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

It would therefore have been appropriate for readers to have been informed of Mr Barnavi’s links to political groups of a particular stripe – which are far more relevant in the context of his comments than his time spent in the diplomatic service.

“Within months of being sent off to Paris by Prime Minister Ehud Barak, he found himself with a new boss: Ariel Sharon. Barnavi, a Peace Now activist, wondered what to do. Many French Jews expected him to resign.”

Similarly, when the BBC decided to promote the view of a tiny fringe French group also quoted in the AFP article (including a link to its website) it should have clarified to readers that UJFP supports the anti-Israel BDS campaign.

“The Union of French Jews for Peace (UJFP) described the decision to invite Mr Netanyahu as “shocking” and “unacceptable”.”

BBC Watch contacted the BBC News website raising those issues and subsequently the article was amended yet again to correct the inaccurate reporting of Mr Barnavi’s name and former position. The tepid and unhelpful description “a pro-Palestinian organisation” was added to the sentence promoting the UJFP.

No footnote was added to advise BBC audiences who had read the earlier versions of the report of the inaccuracies in its first three editions.

Obviously the BBC was far more concerned with amplifying politically motivated criticism of the Israeli prime minister’s Paris visit (at the invitation of the French president: a point strangely absent from the BBC’s account of the story) than it was in ensuring that audiences were provided with accurate and impartial information.

Eventually – some six and a half hours after its original appearance – the article was amended once again and the sections amplifying politically motivated criticism of the Israeli PM’s participation in the ceremony that was its subject matter were completely removed.  

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