Looking beyond the BBC Berlin correspondent’s framing

On October 13th a report titled “Germany protest: Tens of thousands march against far right” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ page.

“More than 100,000 people have been marching in the German capital Berlin to protest against xenophobia and the increasing influence of the far right.

Rights groups organised the rally, as marchers held placards reading “Indivisible” and “United against racism”.

The BBC’s Jenny Hill in Berlin says even the organisers seemed surprised by the turnout.”

Readers found the following portrayal of the event:

“Marchers walked through central Berlin, rallying at the Brandenburg Gate.

Many said they were defending human rights and tolerance, particularly of migrants.

“I’m worried that we are not there for the others, and that we just don’t bother or care about loads of people who really need our help,” said one demonstrator.

“Nobody just comes because they are bored.”

One woman said: “There are so many people who believe they can abuse human rights and questions of equality and so on, and it’s time to say no, there are other people who just want to be open and open-minded.””

The BBC’s Berlin correspondent Jenny Hill added her own analysis:

“The mass protest – officially aimed at promoting an open society – was organised by hundreds of groups with different agendas and political affiliations.

But most of the participants were united by their concern about the influence of the far right on German politics and society.”

However, a report that appeared in the Jerusalem Post three days later suggests that the BBC’s Berlin correspondent seriously overlooked parts of the rally which were not quite so committed to tolerance and open-mindedness.

“Speakers urged the obliteration of the Jewish state and support for the BDS campaign against Israel.

The Jerusalem Post reviewed a video showing two speakers who called for the “liberation of all of Palestine 48” and “We must take a stand and boycott Israel. BDS.” The slogan to “liberate all of Palestine” refers to the founding of the Jewish state in 1948, and is widely considered a euphemism to cleanse Israel of Jews. […]

Demonstrators at the march hoisted symbols in support of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, according to observers and German media reports. 

The European Union and the US have designated the PFLP a terrorist group. 

The speakers who call for genocidal antisemitism against Israel and BDS delivered their talks under the banner of the pro-BDS and pro-PFLP organization International Alliance. […]

The Iranian-regime controlled Islamic Center of Hamburg was present at the march. The city-state of Hamburg’s intelligence agency monitors the Islamic Center of Hamburg because it is considered a threat to Hamburg’s democratic system. The Islamic Republic of Iran-dominated center in Hamburg plays a key role in the annual al-Quds Day rally in Berlin, calling for the elimination of Israel.

The Central Council of Muslims, which is an umbrella organization for groups with ties to the fascist Turkish Grey Wolves and anti-Western Islamic entities, participated in the march. 

The prominent German-Turkish lawyer and liberal Muslim Seyran Ates told BILD, “It is a very naïve idea of tolerance when one demonstrates with people on the street who do not want tolerance.”

The Palestinian NGO ‘Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network’ also took part in the rally.

“Palestinian and Palestine solidarity activists joined the mass #Unteilbar (“Indivisible”) demonstration in Berlin, Germany on 13 October, organizing a contingent in support of the Palestinian struggle against racism, colonialism and oppression and for the freedom of Palestinian political prisoners. […]

The Palestine bloc marched in a left/revolutionary group with the Internationalist Alliance, including the MLPD (Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany), Rebell youth organization, ATIF (Association of Turkish Workers in Germany) and many other groups.”

The people described as ‘political prisoners’ include of course the convicted terrorists who are supported by that NGO.

“Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network participated in the contingent, carrying signs and posters demanding freedom for all Palestinian prisoners. The protest action also came as part of the week of action for Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, the Arab Communist struggler for Palestine jailed in France for 34 years, with actions in cities across Europe, in Palestine, Lebanon and throughout the Arab world.

BDS Berlin activists marched for Palestine as part of the bloc, while organizers from Coup Pour Coup 31 in Toulouse, France, joined the protest in Berlin, carrying signs and posters for Georges Abdallah. Palestinian youth led the contingent, carrying the Palestinian flag high while carrying the group’s lead banner calling for Abdallah’s liberation.”

In other words, this ‘tolerance’ rally was allowed to become a stage for ‘protest action’ on behalf of a terrorist convicted for the murders of an American military attaché and an Israeli diplomat in Paris.

The Jerusalem Post reports that organisers of the event were aware of the presence of anti-Israel participants in the rally:

“A spokeswoman for Indivisible, Theresa Hartmann, told the Berlin-based paper B.Z that the event’s organizers rejects hatred of Israel and that the anti-Israel agitators “did not speak on the official stage but the organization has responsibility for what took place at our demonstration.”

She said Indivisible distances itself from the anti-Jewish state speeches because its departs from the “joint consensus” of the demonstration.” 

The BBC’s Berlin correspondent however did not report that part of the story and so BBC audiences – along with the ‘historical record’ – saw the event framed exclusively as one which defended human rights, tolerance, equality and open-mindedness.

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BBC’s Berlin correspondent: Jews “displeased the Nazis”

h/t LO

The January 15th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Six O’Clock News’, presented by Charles Carroll, included a short item (from around 26:00) about the Guelph Treasure.

Six Oclock News 15 1 14

Carroll introduces the item:

“A German mediation panel has started hearing evidence in a dispute about the ownership of a vast collection of medieval religious art, believed to be worth hundreds of millions of pounds. The Guelph Treasure is currently housed at the state-founded Bode Museum in Berlin. But the heirs of Jewish art dealers who owned it in the 1930s say they sold it to the Nazis under duress. Israel has taken the unusual step of writing to the German government to say it’s watching the matter closely. Our correspondent Steve Evans has been to see the treasures in the darkened vault where they’re on display.”

Steve Evans has been the BBC’s Berlin correspondent since September 2010. He tells listeners: Picture of Stephen Evans

“These works are without doubt stunning. Here in the Bode Museum in Berlin are the most ornate gold and silver-work crucifixes. There’s a magnificent twelfth-century carving of a church here with engravings of the apostles and of Christ on the cross, all in ivory and pearl and domed in gold.

In 1671 these treasures passed from the church in Germany to the Duke of Brunswick-Luneberg whose family kept them for nearly three centuries. Then, in 1929, a group of Jewish art dealers bought them. Four years later the Nazis came to power and Goering, the founder of the Gestapo, decided he wanted these treasures for the Nazi Reich.

In the atmosphere of terror at the time, the art dealers sold their treasures: a forced sale say their descendants today. It was a time when Jews, who displeased the Nazis, risked their lives. Now an official commission will decide if these treasures can stay here.”

There are perhaps two ways of reading that miserable sentence. Were one being charitable, it could be interpreted as intending to say that Jews who did something to incur the displeasure of the Nazis risked their lives. Clearly that was not the case: Jews were persecuted and exterminated en-masse not because of anything they had done or said, but purely and simply because they were Jews.

But when one actually listens to Evans’ report, one notes that he pauses after the word ‘Jews’ and again after the word ‘Nazis’, thus clearly indicating that his intention is to convey to listeners that in general, Nazis were “displeased” by Jews.

Steve (Stephen) Evans’ statement is not merely a reduction of the famous British understatement to the absurd. The crass description of a racist, persecutory, genocidal regime as “displeased” and the inversion of action and reaction in that sentence – which makes Jews the active party who “displeased” the passive Nazis – is both historically ridiculous and offensive.

BBC editors and correspondents – and especially one based in Berlin for over three years already – should know a lot better.

Update:

BBC Watch has received the following e-mail from Mr Evans:

Greetings,

I don’t normally spot your website but on a slow day I came across it.  Can I say that what you write about me and my piece is drivel.  It reveals a level of historical knowledge and awareness that would shame any moderately intelligent fifteen year old with half an interest in the events of the last century. The works were sold in 1935 – the same year as the Nuremberg Laws – so there was no systematic murder of Jews by the state at that time.  What there was, rather, was widespread persecution.  As I pointed out:  any Jew who displeased Nazis risked extreme violence.  Feel free to incorporate my views in your “analysis” – though somehow I suspect you won’t!

Stephen Evans

Berlin Correspondent, BBC

So once again, as noted above, Steve Evans is suggesting a connection between what Jews did – “displeased Nazis”- and the risk of “extreme violence” against them and is apparently unwilling to acknowledge that in fact, racist attitudes towards Jews as a group – rather than anything specific individuals did or did not do – were the basis for both “widespread persecution” and “extreme violence”.