BBC WS ‘Business Matters’ sails close to antisemitic trope

The lead story in the April 10th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Business Matters’ (which ostensibly provides listeners with “global business news”) was, for reasons unknown, the previous day’s general election in Israel.

Listeners first heard (from 1:07 here) some of the more sensible commentary concerning the election aired on BBC stations in recent weeks from the Jerusalem Post’s Knesset correspondent Lahav Harkov.

Referring to Netanyahu, at 5:32 presenter Roger Hearing asked her “why do they keep voting for him?” and – noting the absence of good foreign press reporting on the topic – Harkov responded by citing the fact that the Israeli economy is doing well, that unemployment is down and that international relations are thriving.

Hearing next briefly and superficially discussed aspects of Israel’s economy with one of his two guests before turning to the other – previously introduced as Ralph Silva of the Silva Network but with listeners having been given no indication of what makes a “Broadcasting Analyst Focused on Banking, Technology and Media” qualified to comment on the topic of Israel or the Middle East.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

[7:21] Hearing: “And…err…Ralph: I suppose the thing also, Israel’s slightly got pushed to the back of the news agenda with everything else that’s been happening in the world and even in the Middle East itself but it is still a very…a place that matters a great deal more that its size would indicate in political terms and of course Mr Netanyahu’s quite closely aligned to Donald Trump.”

Silva: “Well he is and I think that there are some concerns there, especially considering the election campaign. We’ve heard quite a bit about developments in the West Bank and pushing that process forward and making it more stable and more secure and with the US government such as it is, it’s basically in support of that so I think that while we haven’t seen a huge amount of developments in relation to the West Bank in the past couple of administrations, now the situation’s a bit different where they do have support especially from the US now. So I am a little bit concerned because there’s been a lot of rhetoric about the West Bank and about how aggressive they’re going to be in the West Bank and of course an aggressive move there could cause some problems. But I think it’s going to be a space to watch and I think we’re going to see a lot of developments in the next elec…in the next 4 to 5 years.”

With that commentary being as clear as mud, listeners would likely have taken away little more than the notion that some party – apparently either Israel or the US – is going to be “aggressive…in the West Bank”.

Hearing: “And of course there’s also Iran. Within the last few days they’ve advanced moves against Iran, making the Revolutionary Guard there an illegal organisation as far as – a terrorist organisation – as far as the US is concerned. And a lot of people see the moves towards Iran including the sanctions that have been put on – the economic sanctions – as being to some extent dictated by Israel or at least influenced by Israel.”

Silva: “Well certainly and if you listen to the press in the United States that’s exactly what is being said. It’s being said that Trump’s administration is supporting them and I think that there’s this new bravado going on because they feel that – the Israelis right now feel like they got a lot of backing right now and clearly they do. Ahm…and there’s been a lot of aggression and what we have to see is sort of a calming down and so I think after this election – during the election we saw that – but as soon as this election is decided I think we’re going to see a calming down of that. At least history has shown us that there is the calming down right after an election so that’s good news.”

Once again it is difficult to imagine how the BBC can claim that such commentary from a guest whose credentials concerning the Middle East were not clarified can possibly be said to contribute to audience understanding of the topic.

What listeners did hear however was the BBC sailing very close to an antisemitic trope by advancing the unsourced and facile notion that American policy on Iran is “dictated by Israel” rather than based on the US’s own considerations.

That, apparently, is the dismal level of ‘analysis’ that the BBC is capable of providing to its worldwide audiences.

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Weekend long read

1) Alan Mendoza of the HJS explains why “Israel has voted for a dose of reality when it comes to the peace process”.

“Israeli settlements are often cited as the cause of the peace roadblock, but these are a legacy issue from the 1967 Six Day War. They have not been the foundering point in any of the many failed peace deals that have fallen by the wayside. The principle of land swaps and abandonment of more isolated settlements as part of any agreement has been well established.

Rather, it is the 1948 issues of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem – which stem from the refusal of the Palestinians at a core level to accept the very existence of the Jewish state – that are responsible for the failure to progress peace.

Israeli voters have realised this, which is why this election was not fought on peace process grounds. Western observers have not.”

2) The ITIC reports on “The 6th Palestinian BDS Campaign Conference” in which BBC ‘frequent flyer’ Mustafa Barghouti participated.

“The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) held its sixth conference in al-Bireh (Ramallah) on March 16, 2019. Present were Palestinian BDS campaign activists; representatives from the PLO, Fatah and the National Initiative Movement (a leftist Palestinian organization headed by Mustafa Barghouti), and other representatives. Workshops were held at the conference dealing with various aspects of the BDS campaign. Workshop participants presented their recommendations to the conference plenary session. The conference organizers hoped for 1,000 participants but apparently fewer people attended. In addition, it is not clear if BDS representatives came from abroad. The conference was covered by the Arab and local Palestinian media, but apparently was not widely covered by the Western media.”

3) At the FDD’s ‘Long War Journal’ Thomas Joscelyn explains the background to the US State Department’s designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organisation.

“The US government has previously sanctioned and designated the IRGC, IRGC officials and proxies, as well as the IRGC – Qods Force (IRGC – QF), using other executive branch measures. More than 900 “Iran-related individuals, entities, aircraft, and vessels” had already been sanctioned under the Trump administration for “human right abuses, censorship, ballistic missile program, malign cyber activities, support to terrorism, or associations with the Government of Iran,” according to State.

But the new designation technically goes beyond those past actions, as the entire IRGC will now be considered a FTO. It is the first time that part of a foreign government has been targeted with such a designation.”

4) The Fathom Journal has published a report titled “Institutionally Antisemitic Contemporary Left Antisemitism and the Crisis in the British Labour Party”.

“This major Fathom report finds the Labour Party is now ‘institutionally antisemitic’ as the term is defined in the Macpherson Report: ‘the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin.’ Citing over 130 examples of antisemitism or antisemitism denial in the party, our editor Professor Alan Johnson shows how Labour has failed to: understand contemporary antisemitism, prevent the party becoming host to three different forms of antisemitism, develop ‘appropriate and professional’ processes to deal with antisemitism and safeguard members, or eradicate the party’s culture of antisemitism denial and victim-blaming.

The report also places the party’s crisis in four larger contexts, which make the crisis much harder to resolve than has been assumed: the history of left antisemitism and the current fashion for dressing up that antisemitism as ‘anti-Zionism’; the increasing sway of a crude ‘two camps’ world-view; the sharp increase in far-Left influence over the party; and the political record of indulging antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism on the part of the leader, Jeremy Corbyn and some of his key advisors and supporters.”

 

BBC amends inaccurate claim about Entebbe hijacking

As documented here last week, a March 27th BBC News website report titled “Entebbe pilot Michel Bacos who stayed with hostages dies” informed readers that:

“The passengers were eventually split up. The non-Israelis were flown to Paris while the 94 Israeli passengers were held hostage.

Alongside the hostages were the Air France crew of 12.”

As noted here at the time, that portrayal of the “split up” of passengers is not accurate. The BBC’s own Raffi Berg accurately reported in June 2016 that:

“On the third day, the hijackers began calling people’s names and ordering them into a second, smaller, squalid room.

It became clear they were separating the Israeli and non-Israeli Jewish passengers from the rest, immediately evoking the horrors of the Nazi selections in World War Two when Jews were picked out to be sent to their deaths.”

Following a complaint from Mr Stephen Franklin (and others) the article was amended ten days after its initial publication and the above passage now reads:

“The passengers were eventually split up. The non-Israelis were flown to Paris while the 94 remaining passengers were forced to stay. The hijackers held all the Israeli passengers hostage as well two religious Jewish couples from the US and Belgium, according to eyewitness Ilan Hartuv.

Alongside the hostages were the Air France crew of 12.”

A footnote has also been appended to the article.

Related Articles:

Euphemism and inaccuracy in BBC News website Entebbe report

Euphemism and inaccuracy in BBC News website Entebbe report

On March 27th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Entebbe pilot Michel Bacos who stayed with hostages dies” on its ‘Europe’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

“Michel Bacos, the Air France captain hailed as a hero for refusing to abandon his passengers when Palestinian and German hijackers seized the plane in 1976, has died in France aged 95.”

Readers of the report were told that:

“After leaving Athens on 27 June 1976, the plane was seized by two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and two Germans from guerrilla group Revolutionary Cells. They forced Bacos and his crew to fly to Benghazi in Libya.

After refuelling it flew on to Entebbe where the hijackers were joined by at least three more Palestinian militants and Ugandan troops. Uganda’s leader, Idi Amin, was on the tarmac to welcome the hijackers. The hijackers demanded the release of 54 militants and a $5m ransom.” [emphasis added]

That euphemistic terminology has been seen in previous BBC reporting on Entebbe and as has been noted here in the past, among those so-called “militants” were of course convicted terrorists and criminals.

“Those whose release was demanded included 40 prisoners said to be held by Israel, among them Archbishop Hilarion Capuecci, serving a prison sentence imposed in December 1974 for arms smuggling [to Fatah], Mr Kozo Okamoto, the Japanese sentenced to life imprisonment after the 1972 Lod airport massacre, and Mrs Fatima Barnawi, serving a life sentence for placing a bomb [in a cinema] in 1967…”

The report went on:

“The passengers were eventually split up. The non-Israelis were flown to Paris while the 94 Israeli passengers were held hostage.

Alongside the hostages were the Air France crew of 12.”

However that portrayal of the “split up” of passengers is not accurate. As the BBC’s own Raffi Berg accurately reported in June 2016:

“On the third day, the hijackers began calling people’s names and ordering them into a second, smaller, squalid room.

It became clear they were separating the Israeli and non-Israeli Jewish passengers from the rest, immediately evoking the horrors of the Nazi selections in World War Two when Jews were picked out to be sent to their deaths.”

Forty-three years after the hijacking and Operation Yonatan, not only can the BBC still not get the details right but its 2007 conspiracy theory promoting article on that subject is still available online.

BBC R4 presenter floats ranking racism

Last month we documented one of many examples of BBC reporting on antisemitism in which an antisemitic statement was inaccurately and misleadingly described as “comments about Israel” and insufficient effort was made to explain why the statement was considered antisemitic. We observed at the time that:

“…as long as the BBC continues to report such stories while avoiding referencing the accepted definition of antisemitism, it cannot give its audiences an accurate and informative account of events.”

On March 12th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme witnessed another such example in the introduction to an item relating to US politics (from 2:51:23 here) by presenter Justin Webb. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Webb: “President Trump limps from crisis to crisis but his opponents, the Democrats, seem themselves to be in a mess. They won control of the House of Representatives last autumn and they sent some very high-profile new faces to Washington, among them the Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Well it hasn’t turned out though to be such plain sailing for her or the others. She is now accused of being antisemitic after she suggested that Jewish Americans have an allegiance to Israel.”

Leaving aside the fact that criticism of the comments made by Ilhan Omar in late February has focused on the antisemitic nature of the dual loyalty charge found in her statements rather than on the congresswoman herself and so Webb’s claim that “she is now accused of being antisemitic” does not reflect that criticism, no effort was made to explain to listeners that the claim that “Jewish Americans have an allegiance to Israel” – or as Omar actually put it “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country” – is categorised as a manifestation of antisemitism according to the IHRA working definition:

“Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”

Without that essential information, listeners would obviously not be in a position to understand this story fully. Webb continued:

Webb: “And that has prompted some very deep soul-searching as the party works out how it’s going to get rid of President Trump in the presidential elections. I’ve been hearing from the Democratic supporting polling expert John Zogby.”

After Zogby had spoken about “the demographic battle within the party between an old guard versus a new group of Young Turks that represent really millennials and Generation Z”, Justin Webb came up with the following bizarre question.

Webb: “The party’s having a big row about antisemitism and it’s fair to say to the surprise, I think, of some Democrats who really thought it wasn’t going to be the issue that it is. If…if the party decided to say to its supporters ‘look, we think that antisemitism is a bit like the way some of our people might regard anti-white racism; that actually it’s a different order of racism, it’s not as important, it’s still bad but it’s not as important as some other forms of racism’, what impact do you think that would have?”

We have been unable to find any evidence of such a suggestion having been put forward by the Democratic party (and indeed Zogby’s response was “you won’t see it happen”) so why Webb found it appropriate to float the grotesque notion of more important and less important types of racism is unclear.

Unsurprisingly, Webb failed to challenge Zogby when he came up with the inadequately explained claim that some people within the Democratic party are confusing antisemitism with “opposition to Israeli policies”.

Zogby: “By the same token to confuse antisemitism with Israeli policies and opposition to Israeli policies is a very difficult road to go down and by some establishment figures within the Democratic party, we saw how dangerous that gets. And that is one of the key points within this demographic revolution. Younger people let’s just say don’t have the automatic admiration for Israel. They know a post-intifada Israel and they know Israel as a foreign country.”

Webb went on to ask Zogby what would happen “if the Democratic party moved in the direction of being much more critical of Israel than it has been in the past, never mind the antisemitism issue”. Zogby replied that while some Jewish voters “would move away”, the numbers could be “more than made up…by energising millennials and energising non-whites”.

After a final question concerning the presidential election, Webb closed the item.

Following the broadcast the Jewish Chronicle contacted the BBC for comment and was told that “Justin is the first to admit he should have phrased his question better”. Apparently a BBC representative also said that “Mr Webb accepted the question needed to be better phrased because “the audience will not have been as familiar with the state of American politics as he and John Zogby are””. 

For years we have watched the BBC fail to provide the accurate and impartial reporting which would help its audiences understand antisemitism related stories in the UK. As we see, that serial failure is now being replicated in stories relating to US politics – not least because the BBC still does not work according to the accepted definition of antisemitism and because BBC staff too often appear to have forgotten that it is their job to inform audiences rather than subject them to esoteric insider chats that show off their own ‘familiarity’ with a topic. 

Related Articles:

BBC reporting on Labour antisemitism again falls short

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

BBC R4 ‘Today’ listeners hear an esoteric item on antisemitism

 

 

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

If the BBC was making a report about homophobic remarks or racist comments directed at black or Asian people it would be unlikely to solicit a contribution from a person promoting the view that criticism of such statements was intended to “shut down legitimate debate”.

That, however, is exactly what listeners to the March 4th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘World at One’ heard in an item by Gary O’Donoghue which was introduced by presenter Sarah Montague (from 25:03 here) using a rather curious claim. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Montague: “Now then, Labour isn’t the only Left of centre political party having to weather accusations of antisemitism at the moment. In the United States Democrats are having to counter claims that the leftward shift of their party is leading to antisemitic attitudes among some of their new members of Congress. Republicans have been trying to make the most of their political difficulties. From Washington, here’s our correspondent Gary O’Donoghue.”

Using an archive recording of former US president Harry Truman that includes the phrase “the problem of Israel”, O’Donoghue began by noting the longstanding Jewish American support for the Democratic party before asking “So what’s wrong?”. Listeners then heard from a person subsequently identified as Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times.

Weisman: “I think that the Labour party of Britain right now is what the Democratic party dreads and is desperate to avoid.”

O’Donoghue explained:

“…it’s the antisemitism label he’s talking about when he says the Democrats are desperate to avoid Labour’s mistakes in Britain. But why would a party that gets 75% of Jewish American votes risk being called antisemitic?”

Listeners then heard the phrase “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby” read out before O’Donoghue explained:

O’Donoghue: “A Tweet from a new young progressive Democrat elected to the House of Representatives called Ilhan Omar – one of the first two Muslim women ever to sit in Congress. She was talking about the influence of AIPAC – the American Israel Political Action Committee – a powerful lobbying group. The Benjamins is slang for $100 bills carrying, as they do, the face of Benjamin Franklin.”

O’Donoghue then brought in Deborah Lipstadt to explain further.

Lipstatdt: “When you say ‘it’s all about the Benjamins, baby’, that’s using a trope. Whether she was conscious of it or not – she says she was not conscious of it so I don’t know – American politics is infused with money. So if you say only this is about money, again, how come only this and not everything else?”

O’Donoghue went on to tell listeners that Lipstadt “says money is just one of a whole range of tropes that constitute antisemitism” before another recording was heard.

O’Donoghue: “Enter Rashida Tlaib; fellow Muslim freshman in Congress and […] someone else facing accusations of antisemitsm. In her case it was criticisms of fellow Democrats for not backing the so-called BDS movement which promotes boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.”

As ever in BBC content, listeners heard no further explanation of the anti-Israel BDS campaign and its aims before O’Donoghue went on:

O’Donoghue: “And yes, it was a Tweet.

‘They forgot what country they represent. This is the US where boycotting is a right and a part of our historical fight for freedom and equality.’

That, say her critics, manifests another antisemitic trope: that Jews have split loyalties.”

Listeners then heard the BBC’s idea of ‘balance’: promotion of what is known in the UK as the Livingstone Formulation.

O’Donoghue: “But Yousef Munayyer of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights says antisemitism allegations are used to shut down legitimate debate.”

In breach of editorial guidelines stipulating that the “particular viewpoint” of contributors should be made clear, O’Donoghue did not bother to inform his audience of the fact that Munayyer is himself a supporter of BDS and that the organisation he represents mobilises anti-Israel BDS campaigns. Lacking that obviously relevant information, listeners then heard from Munayyer:

Munayyer: “It weaponises one form of bigotry and one form of oppression to help defend and enable another. It is important to be able to say, you know, in one voice that we oppose antisemitism. We also oppose what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians.”

And so we see once again that the BBC’s interpretation of impartiality leads it to amplify claims from inadequately introduced anti-Israel campaigners which actually hinder audience understanding of the issue of antisemitism.

O’Donoghue’s report continued with comment from a representative of a Jewish organisation linked to the Democratic party before he went on:

O’Donoghue: “But it’s not just two members of Congress. Others on the Left face similar allegations. Most recently leaders of the Women’s March organisation have been heavily criticised over their connections to Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, who many regard as overtly antisemitic.”

Failing to provide his British listeners with anything more informative than that tepid portrayal of Farrakhan’s long-standing record of antisemitism and additional forms of bigotry, O’Donoghue brought in Deborah Lidstadt once again before closing his report.

O’Donoghue: “It’s not of course just a problem for the Left. Far-Right white supremacists trade in the same antisemitic ideas. But the Democratic leadership are conscious that a new, younger, more Left-leaning party base could drive a wedge between them and Jewish Americans, already wooed by Republican policies such as pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.”

Remarkably, although there was no room in O’Donoghue’s portrayal of antisemitism in the United States for the no less relevant issue of Islamist antisemitism, he did find the space for promotion of false balance in the form of the Livingstone Formulation – just as has been seen so often in BBC coverage of antisemitism in the UK Labour party.

Related Articles:

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One-staters get BBC WS platform for promotion of BDS, ‘resistance’ and ‘apartheid’ trope

 

BBC R4’s ‘PM’ presents one-sided comment on MP’s suspension

The February 27th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ – presented by Evan Davis – included quite a lot of content relating to the suspension of Labour MP Chris Williamson following the emergence of footage of a speech he made to Momentum activists in Sheffield.

Nineteen seconds into the programme (available here) Davis told listeners that: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Davis: “The Labour MP Chris Williamson has just been suspended. We’ll talk to someone who defends him.”

At 02:48 listeners heard a news bulletin.

Newsreader: “In the past few minutes the Labour MP Chris Williamson has been suspended. He’d already apologised for saying his party gave too much ground in its handling of complaints of antisemitism. Mr Williamson said he deeply regretted the comments he made at a meeting of activists.”

Following a report from the BBC’s assistant political editor Norman Smith in which listeners were told that “Mr Williamson’s fate is being cited by some Labour MPs as a test case for the Labour leader to demonstrate he takes seriously the issue of antisemitism”, Evan Davis gave an overview of the story – from 5:23 – which included the following:

Davis: “But for Labour if Chris Williamson is a problem, then so must be his supporters and there are many of them, at least judging by the reaction on his Facebook page to his earlier apology.”

Listeners then heard four selected comments read out – all supporting Williamson and with one promoting a conspiracy theory.

Woman 1: “I’m beginning to think you’re the only Labour politician with any real integrity and the guts to stand up for truth and justice. Hashtag I stand with Chris Williamson.”

Woman 2: “I understand your reason for this but as far as I’m concerned what you said was right. Tom Watson is a huge disappointment. I voted for him once but never again.”

Woman 3: “Corbyn has met with the Board of Deputies and other Jewish groups to address the antisemitism issue. He has bent over backwards and every time it’s not enough. The fact of the matter is their plan is to destroy the Labour party. Chris has had the courage to speak out and should be commended.” [emphasis added]

Man: “Nothing to apologise for. There may well be some incidents of antisemitism by members but it is only a small minority. I don’t believe it to be widespread.”

Davis next brought in the BBC’s political correspondent Ian Watson to report on “what has been happening behind the scenes today”.

If listeners were expecting to hear a different perspective on the story than that reflected in those reactions from Williamson’s supporters – in accordance with BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – they would no doubt have been surprised when Davis then introduced (from 09:45) yet another commentator of the same stripe.

Davis: “Let us talk to Jenny Manson – co-chair of a group called Jewish Voice for Labour. Now that is an organisation that describes itself as an organisation of Jews with a socialist tradition who tend to be on the Left of the party and support Jeremy Corbyn.”

Listeners were then given to understand that the interview with Manson had been set up before the news of Williamson’s suspension broke.

Davis: “Jenny thank you very much for joining us. Obviously we’d planned to talk to you not knowing that Chris Williamson had been suspended but what’s your reaction to the suspension tonight?”

Following some technical problems, listeners heard Manson’s response.

Manson: “I’m very upset. I think that there is a terrible injustice happening to Chris Williamson. He is a remarkable anti-racist. At that meeting he may have spoke a bit outspoken. People speak like that when they’re speaking at a public meeting. What he said as far as I understand was that antisemitism is terrible but it is not a Labour party problem and that’s what Jewish Voice for Labour have been arguing for a long time now and many ordinary people…”

At that point Manson was cut off again and Davis brought in the newsreader to give another summary of the news while communication was being re-established.

11:57 Davis: “I really want to hear what she wants to say because many people in the Labour party obviously feel that Chris Williamson was out of order and was completely inflaming the situation.”

He then asked Manson to “finish your point about why it’s unfair”.

Manson: “Well as far as I understand it this is on the basis of a speech that Chris made in this last week. All that Chris was saying – and I’ve listened to the account and I’ve read the accounts – was that antisemitism is a terrible thing but that the Labour party hasn’t particularly got a problem of antisemitism and that’s my understanding. We’ve looked at this issue for the last few years very carefully at Jewish Voice for Labour. We’ve discovered that antisemitism is not greater in the Labour party than in other political parties…”

Davis then interrupted her to challenge that claim.

Davis: “Can I suggest though that there’s a sort of intensity of feeling that spills into antisemitism among some activists and some Labour members that is different to what you would find among average people in society, that Labour does have a problem and most…many people in Labour do regard it as a problem.”

Manson’s response included the claim that “in 50 years as a member of the Labour party, at meetings I’ve never met it [antisemitism] and that’s a very, very common statement”. She went on to claim that “there seems to be problems on social media” and – having pointed out that she doesn’t ‘do’ social media – to claim that” it often turns out not to be a Labour party member. Some people infiltrated websites and pretended to be Corbyn supporters”.

She went on to promote a blatant falsehood: [emphasis in bold added]

Manson: “But a lot of groups within the Jewish community do not consider it’s a major problem, including for example the Haredi Jews who have written letters supporting Jeremy Corbyn and who I speak to quite frequently who’ve met antisemitism all their lives but not from people in the Labour party.”

Davis did not bother to clarify to listeners that Manson was apparently referring to the tiny, fringe anti-Zionist sect Neturei Karta and that over 85% of British Jews “see antisemitism as having significantly infiltrated all levels of the [Labour] party”.

Proposing that “you have a different threshold for antisemitism than other people”, Davis then brought up the Naz Shah story which Manson dismissed as “a joke made by an American Jew” before coming up with her own erroneous definition of antisemtism.

Manson: “Antisemitism broadly is hatred of Jews […] it’s hatred of Jews with – I’m told by lawyers I’ve talked to about it – with a sense of impending violence. Something very, very nasty. And it’s being stretched to be criticisms of Israel that people don’t like, criticism of Zionism that people don’t like and in some cases just quick unthinking talk.”

Failing to challenge that inaccurate definition of antisemitism – and to remind listeners that there is one accepted definition used by their own government – Davis tried to put the point that stereotypes of Jews are tolerated in a way that stereotypes about other groups of people are not. However the broadcast again ran into technical difficulties and the item was brought to a close.

As we see the producers of ‘PM’ apparently thought it satisfactory to provide audiences with an entirely one-sided view of this story based on comments on Facebook from Chris Williamson’s supporters and a representative of a tiny, extremist political group which in no way represents mainstream Jewish opinion in the UK.

That point was made by several listeners on Twitter.

One Radio 4 journalist – Chris Wimpress – responded with the claim that no-one else was available.

However, as Davis made clear at the beginning of his conversation with Manson, the interview with the JVL co-chair had in fact been planned in advance.

Related Articles:

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BBC R4 ‘Today’ listeners hear an esoteric item on antisemitism

BBC Radio 4 fails to clarify a commentator’s ‘particular viewpoint’

 

BBC R4 ‘Today’ listeners hear an esoteric item on antisemitism

The February 23rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 49:14 here) concerning the UK Labour party. Presenter Nick Robinson introduced the item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Robinson: “Compare and contrast the following reactions to the resignations of nine Labour MPs in the past week alone. ‘There is now brutality in the Labour party. Racist bullies are responsible for driving one – Luciana Berger – out of the party and it needs to change if more are not to follow.’ That was the reaction of the party’s deputy leader Tom Watson. In contrast: ‘there is no place for harshness and bullying in the party and to tell you the truth, I don’t believe it exists on a wide scale’. That was the response of the leader Jeremy Corbyn. So who is right? And how can the party’s divisions on bullying, on antisemitism and indeed over Europe now be bridged?

Robinson discussed that topic with two labour MPs – the first of whom he introduced as “Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North, a vocal supporter of Jeremy Corbyn”. However – despite the BBC’s obligation to provide “…news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues…” and notwithstanding Robinson’s challenges to some of his interviewee’s talking points – the interview quickly descended into an esoteric conversation that most listeners would have had great difficulty following.

Robinson: “Chris […] what would you say is the scale of bullying and scale of antisemitism in the Labour party?

Williamson: “Well I’ve never witnessed any bullying and – I’ve got to say like Chuka Umunna – never seen any examples of antisemitism. That’s not to say that neither of those things exist but the truth is that the Labour party has a proud tradition of standing up for social justice, fighting racism in all its forms, right back from the early 1930s when we stood – the Labour party – with the Jewish community in Cable Street against Oswald Mosely’s fascists, to being the backbone of the anti-Nazi League in the 1970s.”

Robinson: “It’s a curious formula to say that you’ve never witnessed any antisemitism. You yourself apologised for signing a petition opposing a ban on a musician who blamed the Grenfell Tower disaster on so-called ‘Jerusalemites’. So far from not witnessing it, you accidentally – you apologised for it – went along with it.”

Williamson: “That’s very, very unfair. Look I didn’t know that the individual concerned had made those remarks and actually deleted the Tweet within 12 minutes of actually posting when it was brought to my attention.”

The unnamed “musician” is Gilad Atzmon who – despite being an antisemite who promotes conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial – used to be quite a regular fixture on the BBC. Williamson did indeed delete his Tweet promoting a petition defending Atzmon and made an apology based on what was described in the New Statesman as “a claim that for many stretches credulity”.  

Robinson however did not bother to provide listeners with the details of that story or to ask Williamson how he ‘accidentally’ managed to sign a petition supporting an antisemite without bothering to do any background research. He went on:

Robinson: “What about when you defended a man who’d said Jewish Trump fanatics were to blame for antisemitism allegations in the Labour party? You defended that man. He was a member of the National Executive Committee.”

Williamson: “He…well…well you’re trying to pick out isolated examples here Nick to try to imply that there is a major problem.”

Robinson: “No, I’m asking you to justify the fact that you said you’ve never seen something when in your own personal case you have twice faced allegations of going along with antisemitism.”

Again Robinson did not provide listeners with the details of the example he used or even the name of “that man” – Peter Willsman – so that they could check out the story and judge Williamson’s responses for themselves.

Williamson: “Allegations are one thing – aren’t they? – but just because somebody makes an allegation doesn’t make it true. If you actually go down that road you’re then very much into the McCarthyite witch hunt era, aren’t you?”

Robinson: “Is John McDonnell responsible for a McCarthyite witch hunt when he says ‘we’ve got to be quicker, we’ve got to be fiercer in dealing with antisemitism’? Is he a McCarthyite?

Williamson: “Well let me quote you what a Jewish journalist…”

Robinson: “No, I’d like you to respond to Mr McDonnell.”

Williamson: “Well yeah I am gonna respond with this comment actually and it’s a comment from a Jewish journalist and I think if you’d just do me the courtesy of listening for a moment Nick, I think you’ll find it highly significant. He wrote on the 21st of July last year ‘Expect a group of high-profile right-wing MPs and councillors or members to resign from the Labour party in protest. Don’t fall for this. In reality this will be just another attempt to sabotage Labour, possibly setting up a new moderate splinter party in the process, using false claims of antisemitism as their totemic issue’.”

The anonymous journalist that Williamson claims is Jewish is Asa Winstanley – a known anti-Israel activist and a contributor to the extremist siteElectronic Intifada’ and the Hamas linked, London-based outfit MEMO. Significantly, Williamson omitted part of the Tweets he ‘quoted’.

With listeners not told who that “Jewish journalist” is and not made aware of his long record of anti-Israel activity and his stance concerning antisemitism in the Labour party, they would of course be unable to judge Williamson’s response.  

Robinson: “So do you agree the claims are false?”

Williamson: “Now that is a Jewish journalist and I would also refer you to…”

Robinson: “I was asking for your view Mr Williamson.”

Williamson: “I would also refer you to the letter that was signed by over two hundred prominent Jewish members of the party who say in an open letter that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn…”

Robinson: “Can you tell me your view. You’re only quoting other people’s views.”

Williamson: “Let me just answer in my own way…that Labour and Jeremy Corbyn are a crucial ally in the fight against racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism.”

That letter cited by Williamson naturally appeared in the Guardian and its signatories include numerous anti-Israel campaigners who conveniently deny the existence of antisemitism in his party. Again, without that essential background information, listeners would be unable to judge Williamson’s response for themselves.

The interview came to an end shortly after that with Robinson again citing Labour MPs:

Robinson: “So Tom Watson is wrong…Tom Watson is wrong when he talks about racist bullies. John McDonnell is wrong when he says the party’s not dealing with antisemitism quickly enough or fiercely enough. They’re all wrong.”

Williamson: “Well I don’t…no…I’m not saying that. I mean I do think there was delays in the…err…dealing with the complaints that have been made but I think it’s important to put those into context as well. Labour is the biggest party in western Europe now and there were a number of complaints. Around a third of them however were deemed not to have sufficient evidence – potentially malicious complaints being made about antisemitism – and obviously the Labour party does need to deal with that and there was a bit of a delay but look, there is no place for antisemitism in the Labour party.”

Williamson’s framing of the topic under discussion in this item is based on the fallacy that if an anonymous “Jewish journalist” and unnamed “prominent Jewish members of the party” say so, then allegations of antisemitism can’t possibly be true.

With Nick Robinson having made no effort to unpack that sophism or to explain to listeners what sort of political milieu the little known fringe activists invoked by Williamson inhabit, this item clearly did the exact opposite of helping audiences to “engage fully” with the issue of antisemitism in the UK Labour party.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 fails to clarify a commentator’s ‘particular viewpoint’

Guardian letter claims Corbyn is an “ally in the fight against antisemitism” (UK Media Watch)

 

 

Where did BBC News get its Essex University story quotes?

h/t M

Last week two reports relating to the same story appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Essex’ page:

February 21st: “Anti-semitism row in Essex University student society vote

February 22nd: “Anti-Semitism: University of Essex suspends worker amid row

The story was portrayed in the first report as follows:

“More than 200 students have voted against forming a new Jewish society, raising fears of anti-semitism.

The national Union of Jewish Students (UJS) said it was “shocking” there were objections to the new society at the University of Essex’s students union.

Some students said they were against society proposals to “explore zionism” and celebrate the Israeli national day. […]

…some students have said they did not object to the society in principle but to its proposals to promote the Israeli national day and explore Zionism, which they argue are political rather than religious topics.

One student who wished to remain anonymous said: “Unfortunately this manifesto excludes a huge proportion of the Jewish community and implies that all Jews support the Israeli state. Judaism should not be conflated with Israel.””

Omitted from the BBC’s account of the story – but reported by other media outlets including the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Jewish Chronicle – is the involvement of the university’s Amnesty International group in the outcome of the vote. The Jewish Chronicle reported:

“Last night, UJS issued a further statement after it was revealed that one group which had urged students to vote against the establishment of the JSoc was the university’s Amnesty International Society.

“The Jewish Society is seeking ratification in Essex, which is very important for Jewish representation in Essex, as we have not had a Jewish Society in Essex for many years”, the statement from the Amnesty Society said.

“Unfortunately, there is something very problematic and upsetting written in their manifesto. The society has written it will celebrate Israel national day, which is nothing to do with Judaism. It is a day where 700,000 Palestinians were illegally expelled from their homes and ethnically cleansed from historic Palestine.

The group said it was “against this”, adding: “Until the society is politically neutral like every other religious society we will take a stance on this. So we urge you to please vote no until they are politically neutral.”

The statement went on to claim: “We support a Jewish society that represents all Jews no matter where they lie on the political spectrum. Unfortunately this manifesto excludes a huge proportion of the Jewish community and implies that all Jews support the Israeli state. Judaism should not be conflated with Israel, as this is problematic with the rights of all in Palestine.””

Those quotes identified by the Jewish Chronicle as coming from the university’s Amnesty International group statement are remarkably similar to the ones appearing without attribution in the BBC’s report.

While the BBC is usually more than willing to quote and promote the political NGO Amnesty International, in this case it appears to have curiously chosen to erase the organisation’s link to the story.  

Related Articles:

No BBC coverage of Amnesty International’s antisemitism vote

BBC News website buries Oxford University Labour Club story

Big BBC yawn at anti-Israel incidents in UK universities

BBC reporting on Labour antisemitism again falls short

BBC Radio 4’s February 21st ‘Midnight News’ included (from 00:28 and then from 11:33 here) an item on a story concerning the UK Labour party.

Newsreader: “Labour has suspended Derek Hatton only days after he was allowed back into the party. Tweets about Israel are understood to be the reason for the decision.” [emphasis added]

Newsreader: “Labour has suspended the former leader [sic] of Liverpool City Council, Derek Hatton, just two days after he was provisionally readmitted to the party. The outspoken Left-winger was expelled more than 30 years ago because of involvement with a far-Left group.”

The story was ‘explained’ by the BBC’s political correspondent Jonathan Blake as follows:

Blake: “Derek Hatton’s suspension is thought to relate to a Tweet posted in 2012 which one Labour MP said implied that every Jew was responsible for the actions of the Israeli government.”

Not only did listeners not hear what Hatton’s Tweet said but they were not told that according to the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel” is a manifestation of antisemitism.

A report on the same story published on the BBC News website’s UK Politics page on February 20th – “Derek Hatton suspended by Labour days after being readmitted” – similarly failed to explain to readers why the Tweet is problematic and likewise gave the misleading impression that the issue is “comments…about Israel” rather than antisemitism.

“The ex-deputy leader of Liverpool council’s membership was provisionally approved on Monday, more than 30 years after he was expelled from the party.

But senior Labour figures have since complained about the move and comments the ex-Militant man made about Israel.

In a tweet in 2012, he urged “Jewish people with any sense of humanity” to condemn Israel’s “ruthless murdering”.” [emphasis added]

Obviously as long as the BBC continues to report such stories while avoiding referencing the accepted definition of antisemitism, it cannot give its audiences an accurate and informative account of events.

The same report closed with what was apparently intended to be background information:

“Mr Hatton posted the 2012 message during “Operation Pillar of Defence” a week-long offensive by the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza.

According to a UNHCR report, 174 Palestinians were killed during the operation, and hundreds were injured.

At the time, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said “of course Israel has the right to self-defence and attacks against Israel must end, but the international community would also expect Israel to show restraint”.”

Notably readers saw no mention of the highly relevant context of the months of terror attacks which preceded that “week-long offensive”. Equally remarkable is the BBC’s portrayal of casualties in that conflict as exclusively Palestinian (despite the fact that six Israelis – two soldiers and four civilians – were also killed) and its failure to clarify that 60% of the Palestinians killed were operatives of terror groups.

Once again we see that BBC reporting on the issue of antisemitism in the UK Labour party falls short of providing its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK…”.