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.  

Related Articles:

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

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

The BBC must tell its audiences how it defines antisemitism

The BBC and the need for a definition of antisemitism

BBC again ignores the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism

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

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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.  

Related Articles:

BBC News drops Associated Press, expands links with AFP

BBC Music again covers a BDS story without explaining that campaign’s agenda

On July 12th a link to an article by BBC Music’s Mark Savage appeared on both the Middle East and Entertainment and Arts pages of the BBC News website under the heading “Radiohead continue to defend Israel gig”.

That link leads to an article headlined “Radiohead on Israel gig: “Playing a country isn’t the same as endorsing its government”” which opens:

“Thom Yorke has continued to defend Radiohead’s decision to play a concert in Israel.”

BBC Music has been promoting this story since February when it also amplified (albeit with inaccuracies) the efforts of supporters of the BDS campaign calling themselves ‘Artists for Palestine UK’ – including Roger Waters – to get Radiohead to cancel their upcoming concert in Israel. Fifty-five words of this 642 word report are similarly dedicated to amplification of that group including – once again – a link to its website.

“In April, the group were [sic] petitioned by Artists For Palestine, who asked them to reconsider performing in a country “where a system of apartheid has been imposed on the Palestinian people”.”

A further 54 words describe a “protest” by a small number of BDS campaign supporters in Scotland at a recent Radiohead show.

One hundred and sixty-seven words (26%) of the article and a link are dedicated to amplification of efforts by Ken Loach to persuade Radiohead to cancel their Tel Aviv appearance. That generous exposure is perhaps more comprehensible when seen in the context of the BBC’s decision last month to mark Loach’s birthday with a Tweet and a re-promoted blogpost highlighting his “strong ties to the BBC”.

“On Tuesday, filmmaker Ken Loach wrote an open letter, accusing Radiohead of ignoring “human rights violations”. […]

“None of us want to see them make the mistake of appearing to endorse or cover up Israeli oppression. If they go to Tel Aviv, they may never live it down.”

Loach continued: “I don’t know who is advising Radiohead, but their stubborn refusal to engage with the many critics of their ill-advised concert in Tel Aviv suggests to me that they only want to hear one side – the one that supports apartheid.””

With a total of 276 words assigned to amplification of those protesting Radiohead’s show in Israel and 256 words allotted to a member of the band’s reaction to those calls, the article’s remaining 110 words are devoted to BBC supplied background to the story.

As usual in BBC content relating to this topic, that ‘background’ does not however include an explanation of the BDS campaign’s aims and agenda and Mark Savage does not provide any factual information that would enable audiences to put the unchallenged allegations – such as “human rights violations”, “oppression” and “apartheid” – made by the showcased BDS supporters into their correct context.

“The band have [sic] repeatedly been urged to call off the show as part of a cultural boycott over Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. […]

Radiohead have performed in Israel eight times – most recently in 2000 – but next week’s show is the first time they’ve visited since the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement began in 2005.”

As readers may recall, two years ago the BBC claimed that it is not its job to inform audiences what the BDS campaign is actually all about when reporting on related stories. More recently, the BBC has taken to bizarrely describing that campaign to eradicate Jewish self-determination as a “human rights group”.

Clearly though, BBC audiences cannot make up their own minds about Radiohead’s response to calls to join the boycott against Israel if they are not given the full information concerning that boycott campaign’s ultimate aim.

Related Articles:

BBC Music promotes falsehoods and BDS campaign website

Scottish BDS activists who protest Radiohead also promote Holocaust denial (UK Media Watch)

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke responds to Ken Loach’s pro-BDS op-ed in the Indy (UK Media Watch)

BBC Radio 4 provides a stage for anti-Israel activist’s agitprop and defamation 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At ‘The Long War Journal’ Thomas Joscelyn takes a look at two recent US investigations concerning Hizballah. The article is particularly interesting for those who recall BBC reporting on related topics – see for example here, here and here.

“On June 8, the Department of Justice (DOJ) made an announcement that deserves more attention. Two alleged Hizballah operatives had been arrested inside the United States after carrying out various missions on behalf of the Iranian-sponsored terrorist organization. The plots took the men around the globe, from Thailand to Panama and even into the heart of New York City.

Both men are naturalized U.S. citizens. And they are both accused of performing surveillance on prospective targets for Hizballah’s highly secretive external operations wing, known as the Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO). […]

Hizballah’s Islamic Jihad Organization first gained infamy in the 1980s, when it orchestrated various attacks on Americans and Europeans in Lebanon and elsewhere. In some ways, the IJO could be credited with launching the modern jihadist war against the U.S., pioneering the use of near-simultaneous suicide bombings. Such tactics would later be adopted by Sunni jihadists, including al Qaeda, with devastating effects.”

2) At the Algemeiner, Ben Cohen takes a look at the ‘Shia Corridor’.

“If you haven’t encountered the term “Shia corridor” yet, chances are that you will in the coming weeks, particularly if the ongoing confrontation between the US and Iran in Syria intensifies. […]

Iran’s goal to become the dominant power in the Islamic world involves more than religious or ideological influence. It requires the boots of Iran and its proxies on the ground — as demonstrated already in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. It requires that Iran has easy, uninterrupted access to all those parts of the region where it exercises political control.”

3) At the Fathom Journal, Dave Rich has an article titled “Islamic State and Islamist politics in the UK: why ‘not in my name’ is not enough”.

“It is true that there are many and varied reasons why western Muslims have volunteered to join IS. Family and friendship networks play a role, as does a desire for identity, belonging and adventure. Grievances large and small, real and imagined, can also motivate recruits. However, none of these factors, alone or combined, can answer one simple question: if IS ‘has nothing to do with Islam’, as John Kerry remarked after Paris, why is it only Muslims who join?”

4) At Ynet, Ben Dror Yemini discusses EU funding for demonisation of Israel.

“About a year ago, the Ramallah-based Popular Art Center staged a musical performance for “the Palestinian martyrs,” titled “No to laying down guns.” There is nothing new here. This is the “education to peace” that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared in his meeting with US President Donald Trump. Abbas declared, and the European Union is paying in funding for the center. The more interesting thing is that the grant was given as part of a special project for “increasing Palestinian public awareness of EU core values.” […]

Furthermore, dozens of Palestinians NGOs which support the BDS movement have the support of European countries, the European Union and other foundations. Do European taxpayers know that their money is funding anti-Semitic incitement and encouragement of terrorism? Probably not. But the EU knows. A parliamentary question on the issue was submitted at the European Parliament, and the NGO Monitor organization sent a letter to the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, specifying the activities the EU funds were used for. The Delegation of the European Union to Israel said in response that the EU was against incitement and anti-Semitism, and that funding was only provided for the goals defined in the projects.”

5) David Hirch has made a film about a topic the BBC has consistently failed to report accurately: antisemitism in the UK Labour Party.

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ inverts history in Manchester

h/t MS

Almost 24 hours after the horrific terror attack in Manchester, on May 23rd  the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ was broadcast from Albert Square in that city.

The programme included a discussion (from 34:15 here) between presenter Ritula Shah and local interviewees. After one interviewee had described Manchester as a “resilient city”, Shah turned to historian Michala Hulme of MMU (from 38:10). [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Shah: “Michala Hulme: resilient – but every city has its tensions. I imagine that Manchester is no exception.”

Hulme: “Yes; I think if we go back historically there have been tensions within Manchester. However, I don’t want to reiterate what everybody’s already said but Manchester, you know, is a tolerant city. We’re a multi-cultural city…”

Shah [interrupts]: “But, but just remind us of the kind of tensions that have riven the city in the past. I think we’ve seen Jewish riots in the 1940s. There’ve been all sorts of incidents where communities in Manchester – I mean Manchester is no exception – but have pitted one against the other.”

Hulme: “I think in most major big cities if we go back through history, you know, if we go back to the Victorian times for example you have got a lot of different cultures coming together and, you know, and they have to work together and they have to get along and they’ve got different beliefs. And so I think yeah; there has been tensions in the past but we’ve moved on. That was 250 years ago, you know, 200 years ago. So we have moved on since then but, you know, something needs to be done. People are angry.”

If Hulme the historian seems to be somewhat at a loss regarding Shah’s specific claim of “Jewish riots in the 1940s”, that should not come as much of a surprise. We too have been unable to find any record of rioting by Jews in Manchester during that decade.

Records do however show that in early August 1947, during a bank holiday, rioting against Jews took place over a number of days in Manchester, Salford and additional towns and cities. In an article published by the New Statesman, Daniel Trilling described the events:

“On Sunday afternoon the trouble reached Manchester. Small groups of men began breaking the windows of shops in Cheetham Hill, an area just north of the city centre which had been home to a Jewish community since the early 19th century. The pubs closed early that day because there was a shortage of beer, and by the evening the mob’s numbers had swelled to several hundred. Most were on foot but others drove through the area, throwing bricks from moving cars.

Soon the streets were covered in broken glass and stones and the crowd moved on to bigger targets, tearing down the canopy of the Great Synagogue on Cheetham Hill Road and surrounding a Jewish wedding party at the Assembly Hall. They shouted abuse at the terrified guests until one in the morning.

The next day, Lever said, “Cheetham Hill Road looked much as it had looked seven years before, when the German bombers had pounded the city for 12 hours. All premises belonging to Jews for the length of a mile down the street had gaping windows and the pavements were littered with glass.””

As we see, BBC Radio 4’s listeners have been given an inaccurate impression of a seventy year-old event in the history of their own country and a correction clearly needs to be made.

Resources:

‘The World Tonight’ on Twitter

BBC Radio 4 contact details

 

BBC News website plays along with the ‘softer’ Hamas spin

On May 6th the BBC News website published an article titled “Hamas chooses Ismail Haniya as new leader” on its Middle East page.

Readers are told that:

“Mr Haniya is seen as a pragmatist who will try to ease Hamas’s international isolation.” 

However, audiences are not informed by whom exactly the new Hamas political bureau leader is regarded as “a pragmatist” and neither are they given any insight into Haniyeh’s record of decidedly unrealistic statements that the people who have suffered under his rule for the past decade might well find less than practical and sensible.

“The armed resistance and the armed struggle are the path and the strategic choice for liberating the Palestinian land, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river, and for the expulsion of the invaders and usurpers [Israel]… We won’t relinquish one inch of the land of Palestine.” (Haniyeh, December 2011)

“Brothers and sisters, we were told [during the Gaza War] that if we wanted the war to stop and the siege to be lifted, and if we wanted the red carpet to be rolled out, so that we could reach the White House and other places, we would have to recognize Israel, to curse the resistance, and to release [Gilad] Shalit. We said, from the very heart of the siege, from under the ruins, from the places being bombarded by the F-16 planes… We said then, and I say to you now, in the capital of south Tunisia: We will never ever recognize Israel.” (Haniyeh, January 2012)

“…the resistance will continue until all Palestinian land, including al-Quds (Jerusalem), has been liberated and all the refugees have returned.”

“[The] gun is our only response to [the] Zionist regime. In time we have come to understand that we can obtain our goals only through fighting and armed resistance and no compromise should be made with the enemy.” (Haniyeh, February 2012)

“We think that the path of negotiations and peace talks has reached a dead end. The resistance (i.e., terror campaign, 2000-2005), which liberated Gaza [in 2005] and protected Gaza, can liberate the West Bank and the rest of the Palestinian lands, Allah willing. The liberator of Gaza, with the help of Allah, can liberate Jerusalem, the West Bank and the rest of Palestine (i.e., Israel).” (Haniyeh, May 2014)

“Gaza is part of Palestine and there will be no Palestinian state without Gaza and there will be no state without whole Palestine.” (Haniyeh, March 2017

The BBC’s article links Haniyeh’s unsurprising nomination to the document released by Hamas several days earlier, portraying both events as an attempt to “soften its image” but failing to adequately clarify to readers why neither does any such thing.

“The group published a new policy document this week regarded as an attempt to soften its image. […]

This week, Hamas published its first new policy document since its founding charter.

It declares for the first time a willingness to accept an interim Palestinian state within pre-1967 boundaries, without recognising Israel. […]

The new document stresses it does not mean that Hamas now recognises Israel’s right to exist or that it no longer advocates violence against Israel.”

Readers are told that the Hamas Charter – which a photo caption correctly describes as not being replaced by the new document – includes “anti-Jewish language”.

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

Although the phrase “anti-Jewish language” was also seen in an earlier report on the topic of the new Hamas document, there it was clarified what that means.

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

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

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

No such explanation appears in this latest report.

While journalists at the BBC News website (in contrast to some of their colleagues) clearly understand that Hamas’ latest moves are no more than an attempt to embellish its image for various outside audiences, that its original antisemitic charter still stands and that no significant changes have been made to Hamas policy, curiously they apparently still find it appropriate to provide a platform for the spin of a ‘softer’ Hamas and refrain from informing audiences in clear terms that Ismail Haniyeh is no different to – and no more ‘pragmatic’ than – his predecessor.

Related Articles:

How will the BBC report Hamas’ upcoming botoxed manifesto?

Revisiting Jeremy Bowen’s facilitation of Hamas PR

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part one: website

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part two: World Service radio

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part three: BBC Radio 4

 

 

Former BBC interviewee on antisemitism resurfaces on Holocaust denial list

Via the CST we learn of the compilation by an Israeli government department of a list of social media accounts promoting Holocaust denial.   

“On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, anti-Semitism on the Internet is thriving, completely undeterred. The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs published today (Sunday) worrisome information regarding Holocaust denial on social networks on the internet, including a list of the most virulently anti-Semitic Holocaust deniers, which was determined in turn by the number of their posts, the number of their followers, the frequency with which they posted and “virility” of the various accounts. […]

According to data provided by Ministry of the Diaspora, over 7,500 tweets purporting denial and ridicule of the Holocaust have been posted on Twitter in English over this past month, and more than seven million visitors have been exposed to them. The average number of followers garnered by anti-Semitic posters is 4,500, a number indicating that the networks of incitement are rapidly expanding.”

Number seven on that list of antisemitic Holocaust deniers is Alain Soral and number eight is Dieudonné.

Readers may recall that in early January 2014 both BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ and BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ covered a story that was portrayed by the then ‘Newsnight’ presenter Jeremy Paxman as follows:

“Now a French comedian has managed to short-circuit his country’s professed commitment to free speech. President Francois Holland, with support from both Right and Left, today encouraged local authorities to ban performances by Dieudonné M’bala-M’bala – usually known just as “Dieudonné”. It’s being done on grounds of public order because his alleged antisemitism has tested to destruction Voltaire’s supposed belief that ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ “

The ‘Newsnight’ item included an interview with a man introduced by Paxman as “the French writer and film-maker Alain Soral” and “a close friend of Monsieur Dieudonné” who “helped him popularise the infamous quenelle gesture”.

On BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, Sarah Montague introduced recycled sections of that interview thus:

“Well a number of French cities have now banned the comedian and although Dieudonné has vowed to appeal against those bans. His close friend Alain Soral told ‘Newsnight’ last night that Dieudonne’s words had been taken out of context; that he’s anti-establishment, not antisemitic.”

As was noted here at the time, in spite of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, no effort was made to inform audiences of the far-right background and political agenda of the interviewee selected to supposedly enhance their understanding of the story.

The BBC’s funding public never did find out why in the first place ‘Newsnight’ editors considered the airing of Soral’s antisemitic conspiracy theories and whitewashing of the racism of his ‘close friend’ to be of any contribution to the public’s understanding of the issue under discussion.

Nearly two years after his ‘Newsnight’ interview, Soral was convicted by a French criminal court in a case relating to antisemitism and Dieudonné also since been convicted on similar charges. Nevertheless, in a 2015 report on one case , BBC News found it appropriate to inform audiences that the latter “insists he is not anti-Semitic” and as recently as April 2017 visitors to the BBC News website were informed that:

“…on one issue Alain Soral undoubtedly has a point: speech is being policed with increasing zeal in France.” 

It of course comes as no surprise whatsoever to find Soral – together with his associate  – on a list of antisemitic Holocaust denying social media accounts. What is still chilling, however, is that the BBC even considered inviting him to appear as a commentator on antisemitism.

Related Articles:

BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ breaches editorial guidelines, fudges on antisemitism

BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ joins ‘Newsnight’ in breach of editorial guidelines

BBC Sport amplifies Anelka excuses, downplays antisemitism

BBC again dithering (impartially, of course) over antisemitism

BBC interviewee selected to comment on antisemitism story convicted of antisemitism

 

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part one: website

Last week we asked “How will the BBC report Hamas’ upcoming botoxed manifesto?” and the answers to that question emerged on May 1st and 2nd after Hamas launched its new document in Qatar.

On the evening of May 1st the BBC News website published a report titled “New Hamas policy document ‘aims to soften image’“. The caption to the image at the top of the article correctly informed readers that:

“Hamas officials say the new document does not replace the group’s 1988 charter”.

In the body of the report itself, that point was further clarified: [emphasis added]

“The new document, which Hamas says does not replace the charter, accepts the establishment of a Palestinian state within territories occupied by Israel in 1967 as a stage towards the “liberation” of all of historic Palestine west of the River Jordan.

This is an apparent shift in Hamas’s stated position, which previously rejected any territorial compromise.

The document says this does not, however, mean Hamas recognises Israel’s right to exist in any part of the land or that it no longer advocates violence against Israel.”

On the morning of May 2nd an article by Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “How much of a shift is the new Hamas policy document?“. The caption to the image at the top of that report told BBC audiences that:

“The founding charter has not been repealed – but the policy document marks a tonal change”.

However, the fact that this new document does not replace Hamas’ charter was not adequately clarified in the article itself and indeed readers may well have gone away with the mistaken impression that it does just that.

“There have long been reports of possible changes to the 1988 founding charter of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, best known by its acronym, Hamas.

Three decades ago, it was referring to itself as part of the Muslim Brotherhood and laying out its aim to obliterate Israel, creating an Islamic state on “every inch” of historic Palestine.

In its 36 articles, the 1988 document often uses anti-Semitic rhetoric to describe its struggle as a confrontation between Muslims and Jews.

Now, after years of internal wrangling, Hamas has produced a new policy document, which softens some of its stated positions and uses more measured language.”

The article goes on to portray the new document as follows:

“There is nothing so dramatic as recognition of Israel.

In fact, Hamas restates the Palestinians’ claim to all the land “from the River Jordan in the East to the Mediterranean Sea in the West”.

However, the new document does formally accept the creation of a Palestinian state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – what are known as pre-1967 lines.

This idea has been the basis for previous rounds of peace talks with Israel.”

The implication that Hamas policy is now in line with the principles underpinning years of negotiations between Israel and the PLO is of course inaccurate and misleading. The principles laid down in the Oslo Accords include negotiations on ‘final status’ issues intended to bring the conflict to an end: not to act as an interim agreement for implementation until Israel is eradicated at a later stage.

Knell also told her readers that Hamas has altered its infamously antisemitic position:

“At a press conference in Doha, where he lives in exile, the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal also stressed a change in approach to the Jewish faith.

“Hamas believes our struggle is against the Zionist occupation, the Zionist enterprise. It’s not a struggle against Jews or Judaism,” he said.”

She did not however clarify that denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination in their own state – which is precisely what a ‘struggle’ against ‘the Zionist enterprise’ is – is one manifestation of antisemitism.

Knell also played down the new document’s renewed committal to terrorism:

“They make clear that Hamas remains committed to what it calls “armed resistance” against Israel.”

As we see from these two reports, the BBC clearly understands that this new document does not replace the Hamas Charter from 1988. That makes it all the more difficult to explain the inaccurate reporting heard by listeners to BBC radio which will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

How will the BBC report Hamas’ upcoming botoxed manifesto?

Revisiting Jeremy Bowen’s facilitation of Hamas PR

Weekend long read

1) The Fathom journal carries a useful essay by Paul Bogdanor.

“In this meticulous rebuttal of the former Mayor of London’s charge that ‘you had right up until the start of the second world war real collaboration [between Nazis and Zionists]’, Paul Bogdanor, author of Kasztner’s Crime, points to Ken Livingstone’s ‘mutilations of the historical record and of the very sources he cites’ and the politically reactionary character of Livingstone’s version of history which ‘equates persecutors and rescuers, aggressors and victims, the powerful and the powerless, oppressors and the oppressed.’”

2) The COGAT website has a backgrounder on the subject of payments to terrorists by the Palestinian National Fund(PNF) – a topic serially avoided by BBC journalists.

“The Palestine National Fund, whose sources of income and expenses are partially known, has become the primary funder of the Commission for Prisoners’ Affairs since 2014. The PNF began its funding of the commission after criticism was raised to the Palestinian Authority (PA) by key players in the international community regarding the activity of the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs. The international community’s claim was that the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs should not allocate money from its budget to fund the welfare of terror operatives, as a reward for carrying out security offenses and at the expense of all Palestinians.  

Following pressure from the international community, the Palestinian Authority decided to subordinate the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs to the PNF and changed its name to the Commission for Prisoners’ Affairs. It is clear that this new commission is similar to the ministry—in terms of managers, offices and even contains a nearly identical budget that stands at close to half a billion NIS per year. This new commission is a similar replica of the ministry, but with a new name.”

3) The BBC’s recent copious coverage of the hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners organised by Marwan Barghouti informed audiences that the strikers are protesting “detention conditions” and “conditions in Israeli jails” without clarifying what those conditions are. COGAT also has a backgrounder on that topic.

“As of March 2017, there are 6,100 security prisoners in Israeli jails, most of them between the ages of 18 and 25. According to the definition, security prisoners in Israel are those convicted of an offense that involves harm to the State of Israel or a nationalistic motive. Over 2,000 are serving their sentences for being directly responsible for the murder of Israelis.  […]

Security prisoners in Israel are entitled to a number of  basic rights, as well as receiving additional benefits. Under the basic conditions, inmates are entitled to meet with an attorney (within a professional framework), receive medical treatment, religious rights, basic living conditions (such as hot water, showers and sanitation), proper ventilation and electric infrastructure. They also receive regular visits from the Red Cross and education as well.  

Apart from these basic conditions, security prisoners in Israel’s are entitled to receive newspapers, send and receive letters and read and keep their own books. Prisoners are even permitted to buy goods from the prison’s canteen, which is run by the inmates themselves. If that is not enough, relatives of prisoners can deposit money for them at the post office’s bank. As a part of the living conditions, prisoners receive family visitations, television watching hours and even electrical appliances, such as kettles and mosquito killers.”

4) With the BBC not infrequently providing amplification for the apartheid smear against Israel, an interview with the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation to Israel and the PA published by Ynet is of interest.

“The Red Cross was very familiar with the regime that prevailed in South Africa during the apartheid period, and we are responding to all those who raise their claim of apartheid against Israel: No, there is no apartheid here, no regime of superiority of race, of denial of basic human rights to a group of people because of their alleged racial inferiority. There is a bloody national conflict, whose most prominent and tragic characteristic is its continuation over the years, decades-long, and there is a state of occupation. Not apartheid.”

BBC: ‘Israel is deeply controversial’ and BDS is a ‘human rights’ group

For years the BBC has reported stories relating to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) without adequately clarifying to its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.  Moreover, in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such crucial background information “not our role“.

Nevertheless, one might have expected that in two reports specifically relating to the issue of support for the BDS campaign from student unions in British universities, the corporation would have made an effort to get the facts right.

On April 27th BBC Two’s current affairs programme ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ included a report by Jon Ironmonger (available here or here) about a Charity Commission investigation into 17 student unions that have endorsed the BDS campaign.

Having told audiences that Israel is “one subject” that “bitterly divides” students, Ironmonger went on to inform them that:

“The Jewish state of Israel is deeply controversial; accused of wide-ranging human rights abuses against the Palestinian people and provoking anger around the world.”

He of course provided no evidence for that “human rights abuses” smear.

Audiences were later told that: [emphasis added]

“Students’ unions in increasing numbers have been voting to adopt strict anti-Israel policies under the banner of a global movement called BDS – Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. […]

BDS pressures Israel to end the occupation of Arab lands by calling for the boycott of Israeli companies and institutions.”

Obviously the use of such partisan terminology to describe disputed territory is not consistent with supposed BBC editorial standards of impartiality.

That report included two appearances by Sai Eglert who was described on screen as a “student teacher” and portrayed by Ironmonger as “a member of the Palestine Society at SOAS”. Viewers were not told that Eglert – who has appeared in BBC content before – is a BDS supporter and anti-Israel campaigner.

While interviewing a Jewish student about his experiences, Ironmonger appeared to question the existence of antisemitism at some UK universities.

“What’s fueling this antisemitism – if you like – on campus?” [emphasis added]

In addition to the filmed report, Ironmonger also produced a written article which was published on the BBC News website’s UK page on April 27th under the headline “Concerns raised over students’ unions’ anti-Israel stance“.

The portrayal of the BDS campaign in that article was no better. 

“Seventeen student bodies have endorsed the BDS movement – which calls for an international boycott of Israel over the way it treats Palestinians. […]

The BDS – which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – describes itself as a human rights organisation and criticises Israel for its human rights record.

It says it stands for “freedom, justice and equality”, saying it is “inclusive and categorically opposes as a matter of principle all forms of racism” – including anti-Semitism.”

Had audiences been told in the BBC’s own words that the BDS campaign is opposed to Jews having the basic human right to self-determination in their own country and that denial of Israel’s right to exist is considered – including by the UN Secretary General and according to the definition adopted by the UK government – to be a form of antisemitism, they would have been able to put the BDS campaign’s claim to be a non-racist human rights organisation into its correct context.

The subject matter of Jon Ironmonger’s two reports is important and serious. It is therefore all the more regrettable that BBC audiences were not provided with the full range of information critical for proper understanding of this story.