BBC’s ME editor ditches impartiality in portrayal of ‘international law’

h/t RM

When Jeremy Bowen was appointed to the post of Middle East editor in 2005, that role was described as follows:

“The challenge for our daily news coverage is to provide an appropriate balance between the reporting of a ‘spot news’ event and the analysis that might help set it in its context.

This challenge is particularly acute on the television news bulletins, where space is at a premium, and because the context is often disputed by the two sides in the conflict. To add more analysis to our output, our strategy is to support the coverage of our bureau correspondents with a Middle East editor. 

Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”

On February 15th a report by Jeremy Bowen concerning that day’s meeting between the US president and the Israeli prime minister was broadcast on BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’. Revisiting the ‘blank cheque’ theme he promoted days earlier on BBC 5 live radio, in that report, Bowen told viewers that:

“Before he was elected president Mr Trump seemed ready to give Israel a blank cheque on the Palestinians. Mr Netanyahu authorised thousands more homes for Jews in the occupied territories, in defiance of international law, within days of Mr Trump’s inauguration.” [emphasis added]

BBC audiences are used to reading and hearing the BBC narrative on international law which goes along the lines of:

“The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

In this case, Bowen not only did not bother with the qualification “Israel disputes this” but, despite his remit of “providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”, failed to inform viewers of the existence of alternative legal opinions on that issue.  

Moreover, when challenged on Twitter, Bowen appointed himself legal expert, ruling that alternative views to the narrative he chooses to promote are false.

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The BBC knows full well that the legal position on this issue is not unanimous. The backgrounder on ‘settlements’ that was first published in late December on the BBC News website states:

“Most of the international community, including the UN and the International Court of Justice, say the settlements are illegal.

The basis for this is the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention which forbids the transfer by an occupying power of its people into occupied territory.

However, Israel says the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply de jure to the West Bank because, it says, the territory is not technically occupied.

Israel says it is legally there as a result of a defensive war, and did not take control of the West Bank from a legitimate sovereign power.

It says the legal right of Jewish settlement there as recognised by the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine was preserved under the UN’s charter. […]

A UN Security Council resolution in December 2016 said settlements had “no legal validity and constitute[d] a flagrant violation under international law”. However, like previous resolutions on Israel, those adopted under Chapter VI of the UN Charter are not legally binding.”

Nevertheless, the man charged with enhancing BBC audience comprehension of ‘complex stories’ and providing information which would throw light on context that is ‘disputed’ obviously prefers to reduce this particular one to facile black and white.

This example raises an additional issue too. When the BBC covers stories concerning disputed territory in places such as Cyprus or in Western Sahara it does not find it necessary or appropriate to provide its audiences with an opinion on what is legal or illegal. The difference of course is that the BBC has not adopted a campaigning role in relation to those locations.  

 

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BBC’s ‘The Big Questions’ brings in pro-BDS NGOs to talk Israel trade

h/t SJ

The first discussion topic in the February 12th edition of BBC One’s “moral, ethical and religious” debate programme ‘The Big Questions’ was titled “should we trade with Israel now settlements are recognised?” and it was introduced by host Nicky Campbell as follows:big-questions-12-2

Campbell: “On Tuesday, Mrs May held talks at Downing Street with her opposite number in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Increasing trade and investment with Israel was high on the agenda. The day before, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, passed a bill legalising settlements on privately owned Palestinian land on the West Bank, in direct contradiction to a UN Security Council Resolution. Mrs May was clear that Britain opposes settlement activity and believes the two-state solution is the best way to bring peace to the region. Should we trade with Israel now the settlements have been recognised? Well, I’ve been doing debates on this issue for 30 years now. And it’s never that quiet. It’s very, very impassioned on both sides. We shall attempt to proceed in a civilised direction.” 

The programme is available here or to those in the UK here.

In addition to Ryvka Barnard – senior campaigns officer at ‘War on Want’ – panel guests included Kamel Hawwash of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Ibrahim Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain, Paul Charney of the Zionist Federation and Tom Wilson of the Henry Jackson Society.

Notably, audiences were not provided with background information concerning the rich history of anti-Israel campaigning by both ‘War on Want’ and the PSC, the antisemitism which has come to light in both those organisations.  Neither were audiences informed of the obviously relevant fact that both organisations support the boycott campaign (BDS) against Israel – which is actually the topic of this discussion. 

Compared to some previous editions of the programme in which Israel related topics were discussed, this one was noteworthy for the fact that baseless anti-Israel propaganda and Nazi analogies promoted by some speakers were in several cases – though not all – challenged by the host, panel members or members of the audience. 

However, as can be seen from the transcript below, historical context was frequently lacking with, for example, uninformed viewers remaining none the wiser with regard to the fact that the final status negotiations concerning Area C have yet to come about because the Palestinians chose to launch the second Intifada or the fact that Israel came to control Judea & Samaria because Jordan chose to attack once again in 1967. Similarly, viewers were given a monchrome impression of ‘international law’ which was not challenged by the host. [emphasis in bold added]

Transcript:

Campbell: “Now, Ryvka from War on Want, many would say, ‘Are you serious? Come on! We have trade deals with Saudi Arabia, with China, with Russia, with the United Arab Emirates, some of the worst human rights abusers on the planet – none of them a democracy like Israel is. How can you possibly justify this?'”

Barnard (WoW): “Well, I think there’s a major issue with the UK. The UK should be putting human rights and international law at the centre of all of its trade negotiations with all countries.”

Campbell: “Should we stop trading with all those countries?”

Barnard: “I think it’s a question to be brought up. I think we can’t talk about trade without talking about human rights and international law. That’s why it’s important for the UK to take action right now, move beyond words and suspend its trade relations with Israel because of its systematic violations of international law.”

Campbell: “If we stop trading with countries with human rights abuses, at a time when we need friends, we’d go out of business.”

Barnard: “I think what happens when you continue trading with human rights-abusing regimes like Israel, you’re basically incentivising human rights abuse and you are giving a green light to say that violations of international law, doing things like building settlements, demolishing Palestinian homes, is OK. You know, we might say on the side, we don’t like it when you do that, as Theresa May did, but incentivising them with trade and especially things like the arms trade – the UK Government has approved over £100 million worth of arms exports to Israel in 2016 alone – those arms are used in violence against Palestinians. So it’s a real double standard to say ‘no settlements’ on one hand but then to be giving arms to the country that is building them.”

Campbell: “You refer to Israel. Paul, good morning Paul; chairman of the Zionist Federation, former tank commander with the IDF. There’s a couple of things I need to ask you and then we’ll throw it out. I want to hear from the audience, because, of course, hands going up already. But Ryvka referred to, in unequivocal terms there, Israel as a human rights abuser. How would you respond to what she said there?”

Charney (ZF): “Well, that needs to be qualified. Israel, certainly by Freedom House, is recognised as the only free country in the Middle East. It has a very strong democracy. It has a Supreme Court which is not subservient to the executive. It will look at this legislation and it will decide whether it’s legal or not. There is a huge social housing crisis amongst the Palestinians and amongst the Israelis and these towns that are expanding need to expand. So, it is a controversial issue and you can disagree, but the same time, if the UK disagreed with every country, with every political decision, certainly it wouldn’t be dealing with China, it wouldn’t be dealing with India over Kashmir, it wouldn’t be dealing with Turkey over Northern Cyprus, and the opposite would be true. It’s not like Spain would cease dealing with the UK over Gibraltar, or Argentina would cease dealing with the UK over the Falkland Islands. What we need is to understand to put this into perspective, that the settlements are an issue but they’re one issue, since 1967, that needs to be dealt with in the much larger framework of a peace agreement which the Palestinians require and when they want to build a home in a state for themselves more than they want to destroy and boycott Israel. When that priority changes then peace can be achieved.”

Campbell: “Let’s go to the audience first. Right behind Paul. Good morning. Your microphone is coming! This gentleman here.”

Audience Member 1: “We’re in an age where Trump wants to build walls and impose travel bans and impose restrictions on people based on their religion or identity and, surely, what we want to be doing is reaching out to countries, reaching out to different communities…

Campbell: “Israel for example?”

Audience Member 1: “…and to Israel…and to engage and to challenge, constructively, and to say this is wrong but also to say, we recognise you are a democracy, we want to work with you. We want to build those trade links, build those partnerships, improve relationships for all the peoples in the world, rather than being isolationist.”

Audience Member 2: “You keep saying it’s a democracy. It’s not a democracy. It’s a democracy similar to what South Africa was in the apartheid time. You know, so many people are disenfranchised, they don’t have any say in the running of Israel and they keep saying it is a democracy. The Palestinians…”

Campbell: “It has women’s rights, it has trades-union rights, it has Gay rights. That is one angle on it.”

Audience Member 2: “It’s the biggest concentration camp in the world. It’s almost a prison.”

Campbell:  “OK, let’s get a…Paul, do you want to respond to that? I need to be very careful bringing the points back and forth, so that it is fair.”

Charney: “You have to be very careful with the terminology that you use, and that’s hugely harmful for what is recognised internationally as a democracy. As we said, we have all the minorities as heads of Supreme Court, as doctors, as heads of hospitals, heads of universities. Minorities from across the board; Arab, Druze, Christian. And this is recognised across the Middle East as a beacon for what could be seen as a free country that all the rest of the countries around can look and see this is what we want to have. This is the beacon. This is your ultimate.

Campbell: “Gentlemen there, first of all, there is a point you made, the first speaker, so what’s your name?”

Audience Member 1: “Leon.”

Campbell: “The point Leon made I want to put to you, Professor Hawwash, which is an interesting and many would think a very significant one. First of all, good morning. How are you?

Audience Member 3: “Good morning. Very well, thank you. I mean, I’m just shocked that you have reduced the Palestinian question and the crisis in the Middle East to a housing problem. I think you said that it’s a housing problem that exists for Israelis and Palestinians and you are expanding these towns because there is a housing crisis that needs to be addressed. It’s the continued colonisation of Palestine. You’re demolishing houses. You are chasing and removing, and let’s call it out for what it is. It’s ethnic cleansing going on in these areas that have gone on for decades.”

Campbell: “OK, I’m going to put that point to Tom. OK, go on Leon, come back on it.”

Audience Member 1: “I think it’s really important to have a debate but we need to be so careful with our language because we want to have a civilised debate here and using words like ‘concentration camps’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ is really offensive, not just to Jews but to all people who have actually suffered that extreme genocide and persecution. So please don’t use language like ‘concentration camps’ because it is not concentration camp.”

Audience Member 2: “Well, it’s a fact, isn’t it? It is a fact. All these people have been disenfranchised. I mean, the building settlements, Palestinian houses are being demolished.”

Campbell: “Professor Harwwash, let me put a point to you that Leon did make, that trade means links, means diplomacy, means influence. It means you can make progress. OK, Zimbabwe. We have sanctions on Zimbabwe. We have absolutely zero influence there. We cannot help the people who are suffering egregiously at the hands of Mugabe and his thugs. The only way we get to Zimbabwe is through the back channels of South Africa, and that’s difficult enough. Would you want to create a situation where we have no influence, no trading links with Israel?

Kamel Hawwash (PSC): “You said you have been covering this topic for 30 years and during this period the number of settlers in the West Bank has increased by something like 100,000, to now 600-700,000 people. It will reach a million unless we do something to stop it, because if people really are interested in peace, you need to look at the situation of the Palestinians, who didn’t choose to be occupied, to have their land taken, to have another state created in our homeland – and I speak as a Palestinian. We didn’t choose any of that. So what this is about is the rights of the Palestinian people. Paul talked about housing, building houses. It’s just ludicrous. These houses are built for only one type of person: a Jewish Israeli. Not for Palestinians. If Israel was serious about solving the housing crisis, why doesn’t it open up the settlements out to Palestinians? Even better, not build on someone else’s land.”

Campbell: “Paul?”

Charney (ZF): “It’s never been Palestinian land. You’ve never had a state and we want to help you create a safe, but prior to ’67 it was owned by the Jordanians and the Jordanians would not allow you to own your own land. And prior to that the British and prior to that it was the Ottomans. This land is called ‘disputed’ for that very fact. We want to help you.”

Hawwash: “Do we Palestinians exist as a people?”

Charney: “We want to help you.”

Hawwash: “Do we Palestinians exist as a people, do you think? Do you recognise us as a people?”

Charney: “Absolutely. And you should have a state and you should live alongside us and you should…”

Hawwash: “Right, so why don’t you put pressure on the Israeli government?”

Charney: “…put down your arms and stop glorifying terrorists.”

Campbell: “Wait, wait! Let me intervene right there. So, Tom, is this not the situation now, with the settlements having been legitimised in the Knesset? Does that not put a…someone mentioned a wall just now; does that not put a massive wall up to the possibility of a two state solution? Massively counter-productive.”

Wilson (HJS): “This is a proposed law. We’ll see if it gets through the Supreme Court, because Israel does have quite strong checks and balances on its democracy. I think it’s very concerning that we think the presence of Jewish people in the West Bank in some way negates there being able to be a Palestinian state. Why is it assumed this Palestinian state has to be Jew-free? Why couldn’t Palestinian state have a Jewish minority, just as Israel has an Arab and Muslim minority? I don’t think we can criminalise an entire community just because they’ve ended up on the wrong side of an Armistice line. The fact is, as we’ve said, there are about half a million people there, they are not going anywhere so it’s better that we learn for the two sides to be able to accept a minority within one another’s countries.”

Campbell: “Ryvka, do you want to come back on that?”

Barnard (WoW): “Yes, I think it’s important for us to recognise that the settlements, like people have referred to, it’s been a policy of the state of Israel for decades now and the reason why settlements exist in the West Bank is not because they ended up on the wrong side of the Armistice line. It’s a policy of expansion and colonisation, as somebody has mentioned. And it’s against international law – and that’s undisputed. And it’s against UK policy.

Campbell: “Would you boycott…as a consumer, would you boycott products from Israel?”

Barnard: “Absolutely.”

Campbell: “How do you feel when you use Google, because they have a major research and development centre in Israel? How do you feel about that?”

Barnard: “It think it’s less about an individual consumer, though. People should make…”

Campbell: “You just said you definitely would do that. If you had a list of choices would you radically transform your habits and stop using Google?”

Barnard: “I think the important thing is for the UK Government to take action in line with its own policy. So the UK foreign policy recognises settlements as illegal under international law. It’s important for the UK to act on that policy. You know, we talked a little bit about engagement and you raised the question of whether the UK would have more influence through engagement. If viewers remember Margaret Thatcher’s days in relation with South Africa, the policy was constructive engagement. Now, in retrospect, it’s recognised that that actually prolonged apartheid and that actually allowed apartheid to deepen. Constructive engagement as a policy was rubbished after apartheid fell finally, because of economic pressure like sanctions. So I think it’s important for us to recognise that as an important tool that the UK Government has and it is time again to move beyond words and condemnation and into action.”

Campbell: “Paul? And then we’ll come to more from the audience in a second. Paul, just come back on that.”

Charney (ZF): “Yes, I just like to bring something constructive into it, and the blame game is not going to get us to a peace deal and I’d like to see the Palestinian Authority take more control over its own people and over the peace process and be wanting a Palestinian state more than it wants to destroy and denigrate an Israeli state. I think there is goodwill around the world and in Israel to help you do that. But you must remember that with all the wars that came in, that Israel had to defend itself. It has given back the Sinai. It has given back Gaza. It is ready to concede…”

Campbell: “What about the gentleman’s point that a proportion of our audience…a proportion of our audience…I’m just going to put that to him…a proportion of our audience will be wondering, and it’s the point represented by that gentleman: taking land from people, land that is not yours. How do you respond to that?”

Charney: “Firstly, this is disputed territory with Palestinians living on it and Jews living on it. Please allow me to speak. Please allow me to speak.”

Hawwash (PSC): “No, it isn’t disputed territory. It is occupied. It’s illegally occupied.”

Charney: “When the Israelis left Gaza, every inch of Gaza, all the Palestinian land, gave it back and said ‘Create a state! We are leaving you greenhouses. We are leaving you businesses’, what was created was a mini terrorist state with only the development of bombs and warfare. The problem is that if Israel does the same thing immediately and retracts from the West Bank, we’re going to have the same extremist ideology coming out of there. We cannot trust and rely without a strong security presence. We cannot trust and rely on these states like Hamas to automatically become democratic and allow Gays and Christians to flourish. That’s not happening.”

Campbell: “Kamel, Professor Hawwash, I will be with you. You will have the next voice on the front row, and Ibrahim will be in as well. And Tom will be back. First off though, more audience comments. Leon, you’ve had a good say. Let me go to the gentleman at the back. Good morning.”

Audience Member 4: “It is important to realise, I believe, after the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union, and other factors coming into the 21st-century, that Britain is no longer the global player in the world that it was in the post-colonial period after 1945 at the end of the Second World War.”

Campbell: “So what should we do?”

Audience Member 4: “The diminishing power, I believe, you know, we haven’t got a responsibility to police the world in the same way and we haven’t got the capability.”

Campbell: “So what do we do about Israel?”

Audience Member 4: “We shouldn’t boycott them in any sense at all because in respect of trading with places like Dubai, trading with places like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, even trading with Pakistan…”

Campbell: “Where there is a blasphemy law.”

Audience Member 4: “…Israel is democratic and free, as the gentleman said.”

Campbell: “A point made earlier on and expressed well by yourself as well. Go on.”

Audience Member 5: “Good morning, Nicky. This question is about trade. My concern is that the Brexit vote will lead to our leaders, Prime Minister May and others, only giving criticisms of countries that are abusing human rights behind their hands, whispering it instead of saying it forcefully.”

Campbell: “Because we need friends?”

Audience Member 5: “Because we need friends. So I worry that that ethical foreign policy that Robin Cook wished for is not going to happen because we are in no position to criticise others.”

Campbell: “Realpolitik. Is there such a thing as an ethical foreign policy?”

Audience Member 5: “I think there should be.”

Campbell: “Professor Hawwash, you pointed at Paul. You wanted to come back.”

Hawwash (PSC): “Yes, in the age of Trump, it seems that trade trumps human rights and that is something we should all oppose and oppose very strongly. Paul talked about the Palestinians should take more control of their people and so on. Well I’ll just give you an example. Under the Oslo Accord, an area called Area C, which is the most fertile part of Palestine, is currently under Israeli security and administrative control. It was to be passed over. It isn’t being passed over. In fact Naftali Bennett – and a number of Israeli ministers – say it should be annexed. They actually have no interest in a Palestinian state emerging. Naftali Bennett only yesterday advising Prime Minister Netanyahu, who’s going to Washington next week, said “Two words you should not use. You should not utter two words, ‘Palestinian’ and ‘state'”. So if there is no Palestinian state, I would very much like to hear from Paul and others what the solution is where there are almost an equal number of Palestinians and Jewish people in that land”

Campbell: “Tom, what’s the solution and how strategically important do you believe Israel is to this country?”

Wilson (HJS): “It is very strategically important in terms of…you know, we’ve got a growing hi-tech economy in Israel certainly, and things like counterterror. But that is by-the-by and I think that the issue here is the moral issue; is the issue of human rights. I think we are being very selective in how we are talking about human rights. I mean, War on Want is being particularly selective with their targeting of Israel for boycotts. They say they care about international law. I don’t hear them calling for boycotts of other countries with similar issues. And on the issue of Palestinian human rights, it seems that many people in this audience are more angry about the building of Jewish houses in the West Bank than they are about the abuse of Palestinian rights by Palestinians. If your starting point is Palestinian human rights why don’t you call out the Palestinian Authority for its extra-judicial killings of Palestinians, for torture of Palestinians, for harassment of journalists and for detention without trial? And yet we hear silence on all of this. The focus is exclusively on finding reasons to boycott and demonise the world’s only Jewish state.”

Hawwash (PSC): “We are talking about Palestinian rights and freedom. What the other side is talking about is simply sustaining the status quo. The status quo has led us to a situation where there is a lot of unhappiness and anger and abuse of the Palestinians by the Israeli state. We need to be free for there to be peace in Palestine.”

Campbell: “Ibrahim Mogra, from the Muslim Council of Britain, do you recognise Israel’s right to exist?”

Mogra (MCB): “Within internationally recognised borders, yes. I think we have brought Israel into our embrace far more than I would have liked to see. They are participants in the football Euro competitions. They are participants in the Eurovision Song Contest and we don’t even share a border with them. So in response to your point about isolating Israel, we have actually remained in at least cultural and political contact with them. The important thing here is international law has to be applied equally across the board. It is not about Israel, whether it’s Saudi Arabia, Pakistan was mentioned, the Gulf states were mentioned, China. Whichever state it is, if we as human beings [who] subscribe to international law, fail to apply the UN resolutions equally across the board, what are we showing to the world? That democracy is selective. That powerful nations will pick on the weaker nations. That self-interest and national interest will trump all the other global interests. So the question here is are we applying the same yardstick to measure all the different behaviours of government? We have gone into Iraq, we’ve gone into Libya because their leaders – corrupt and dictatorial as they were – flaunted UN security resolutions. How many resolutions has Israel overlooked over time? As long as…”

Campbell: “We’ve got to leave it there because we have other things to debate, but your point came across loud and clear. Not that everybody watching is going to agree with it. It’s a perilous line, this debate, always, but I think that was pretty calm. Do you reckon? Do you reckon? Everyone? Yes? OK, let’s do the next one!”

Revisiting the BBC’s amplification of an NGO’s PR

The Guardian reports that the head of Oxfam GB has described the NGO’s 2014 campaign against the Israeli company SodaStream as having ‘backfired’.

“In a candid presentation to an audience of charity professionals on 14 December, Goldring said Oxfam had made high-stakes misjudgments […] in the row over the involvement of its then celebrity ambassador, Scarlett Johansson with a company operating in an Israeli settlement on the West Bank.

The Johansson furore had cost Oxfam America “literally thousands” of donors, Goldring revealed. […]

In the Johansson case, after a protracted stand-off, the actor ended her eight-year association with Oxfam over its criticism of her for endorsing fizzy drinks company SodaStream, which at the time had a factory in an Israeli settlement.

Goldring […] told a seminar on campaigning for less popular causes that in mishandling the Johansson affair, Oxfam turned what should have been a point of principle into “something of a PR disaster”.

Oxfam’s error, said Goldring, was letting the controversy drag on so that Johansson could eventually seize the initiative. “The judgment was when to be proactive, when to be forceful, and when to be balanced and reflective,” he said. “We got that wrong.”Today Connolly

As readers may recall, the BBC also played a very “proactive” role at the time, promoting Oxfam’s PR messaging (together with that of fellow BDS campaigners, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign) on a variety of platforms including the BBC News website, BBC Radio 4 and BBC television channels.

BBC News recycles second-hand SodaStream slur, fails to explain BDS

BBC’s ‘Today’ programme ‘should know better’ than to engage in covert promotion of the PSC’s agenda

BBC displays its campaigning colours in SodaStream story coverage 

Oxfam’s Ben Phillips on BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’

BBC One serves up BDS at Breakfast

As was noted here at the time:

“As its coverage of this story shows, the BBC has abandoned its role as a provider of news and information regarding the anti-Israel BDS movement and emphatically tied its colours to the campaigning mast.”

 

 

Geographical inaccuracy in BBC’s ‘Planet Earth II’

h/t SP

The BBC is of course deservedly renowned worldwide for its consistently high quality nature programmes and the new series ‘Planet Earth II’ currently being shown on BBC One has been highly acclaimed.planet-earth-mountains

The episode titled ‘Mountains’ included footage showing baby Nubian Ibex in the Ramon Crater in southern Israel which seemed to capture the imagination of many viewers in the UK.

However, in some of the programme’s accompanying material promoted by the BBC, the location in which that footage was shot was inaccurately described as being in the ‘Arabian Peninsula’.

ibex-2

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That geographical inaccuracy then received further promotion – for example in the Sun:

“When a red fox started to hunt baby Nubian Ibexes on the edge of a mountain in the Arabian Peninsula, viewers of Planet Earth Two knew which team they were cheering.”

The Arabian Peninsula of course comprises the states of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates – but not Israel. 

BBC’s Nicky Campbell materially misleads on Jewish self-determination

Following its written and audio items relating to antisemitism and anti-Zionism, the BBC took the same topic to its British audience’s television screens. The May 1st edition of BBC One’s “moral, ethical and religious discussion series” titled ‘The Big Questions’ purported to address the question “Is anti-Zionism anti-Semitic?”.

What followed is perhaps best described as tabloid television; various pre-selected participants engaged in repugnant defamation of Israel by means of populist slurs such as ‘ethnic cleansing’, ‘colonisation’ and ‘apartheid’ and promoted falsehoods such as the baseless allegation that Israel ‘burnt’ Palestinian children with white phosphorus.

Of course nothing other than that was to be expected given the records and ideologies of some of the people the BBC chose to invite to the programme such as MPAC UK’s Raza Nadim, Tony Greenstein, Daphna Baram and Moshe Machover. Without doubt the programme’s producers got entirely predictable results.

One particularly notable feature of the programme, however, came not from the invited guests but from the show’s presenter Nicky Campbell who twice introduced the following theme into the discussion.

“Benjamin Netanyahu – the prime minister – he wanted to pass this law saying Israel is the nation-state of one people only – the Jewish people – and no other people. If any other country in the world said that, people would be jumping up and down saying that’s racist.”

The bill to which Campbell refers was in fact first proposed by the Kadima party’s Avi Dichter in 2011 and additional versions were subsequently proposed by several other members of the Knesset – including Netanyahu. In 2013 the then Minister of Justice, Tsipi Livni, commissioned Professor Ruth Gavison to examine the issue and compile recommendations. To date the bill has not passed a preliminary reading.

Campbell’s twice stated claim is based on partial representation of the Israeli prime minister’s words during a debate in the Knesset in 2014.

““Ladies and gentlemen, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people and the Jewish people alone,” Netanyahu said, with rights for its non-Jewish minority. He added, however, that critics of his bill want a Palestinian national state which would be empty of Jews, but that Israel should be a bi-national state.

He outlined the general principles of his draft of the “Jewish state” bill, echoing elements of Israel’s Declaration of Independence and Basic Laws: “The land of Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and the site of the state of Israel’s establishment. The state of Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people and it embodies the right of self-determination. The right to exercise self-determination in the state of Israel is exclusive to the Jewish people. The state of Israel is a democratic state, and it executes the rights of all of its citizens according to the law.””

Campbell not only claims that the proposal to enshrine Jewish self-determination in Israeli law is “racist” but also implies that no “other country in the world” has done such a thing. That of course is an inaccurate claim – as Professor Eugene Kontorovich pointed out in 2014 – and one which materially misleads BBC audiences.

“Seven EU states have constitutional “nationhood” provisions, which typically speak of the state as being the national home and locus of self-determination for the country’s majority ethnic group. This is even the case in places like the Baltics, with large and alienated minority populations.

For example, the Latvian constitution opens by invoking the “unwavering will of the Latvian nation to have its own State and its inalienable right of self-determination in order to guarantee the existence and development of the Latvian nation, its language and culture throughout the centuries.” It continues by defining Latvian “identify” as “shaped by Latvian and Liv traditions, Latvian folk wisdom, the Latvian language, universal human and Christian values.”

Or consider the Slovak constitution, which opens with the words, “We the Slovak nation,” and lays claim to “the natural right of nations to self-determination.” Only then does it note the “members of national minorities and ethnic groups living on the territory of the Slovak Republic,” which are not part of the “We” exercising national self-determination.”

There are numerous additional examples of nation-states but of course BBC audiences do not hear presenters claim that the enshrinement of Japanese, Egyptian or French self-determination in those countries’ laws is “racist”.

Obviously then the BBC, Nicky Campbell and the Mentorn Media production team need to explain why they got this so wrong and to clarify their error to audiences.

Related Articles:

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

BBC’s Jeremy Bowen misrepresents a CST statement

Resources:

‘The Big Questions’ – Twitter account

‘The Big Questions’ – Facebook  

One to watch on BBC One

Via the BBC Media Centre we learn that a programme titled “Never Again: Fear And Faith In Paris” will be broadcast on BBC One on Tuesday, April 26th at 22:45. Matsa

“The end of April marks the Jewish Passover festival, when Jews remember the Israelites escaping slavery in ancient Egypt. This documentary will explore a much more recent phenomenon, the decision of 8,000 Jews to leave France in 2014, concerned about terror attacks and rising anti-Semitism in the country.

We will hear from the families most affected, and explore the reasons behind the rise in anti-Semitism. With insight from those who live in the notorious Paris suburbs, often accused of being a breeding ground for anti-Semitism, and from Lassana Bathily, a Muslim from the suburbs who saved Jewish lives during the kosher supermarket attack in 2015.

Many French Jews are coming to London, and one synagogue has been transformed recently by French arrivals, with their congregation in a few years becoming 90 percent French. Is the climate for Jews any better in Britain?”

One to watch out for on BBC One

The BBC’s Easter weekend schedule includes a programme titled “In The Footsteps Of Judas” which will be shown on BBC One at 09:00 local time on Friday, March 25th.In the footsteps of Judas

“To mark Good Friday this one-hour documentary sees one of Britain’s best-loved vicars, Kate Bottley, re-open the case against the Bible’s most notorious villain – Judas Iscariot.

Kate’s journey takes her from her parish in Nottingham to Jerusalem, where she pieces together the events leading up to the Crucifixion. Why did Judas betray his Master at his most desperate hour? And on a day when we remember that Jesus died for all our sins, is Judas excluded from that forgiveness?

A number of leading theological experts contribute to Kate’s investigation, as she visits the Upper Room of the Last Supper; Gethsemane – the scene of Judas’ treacherous kiss; and the Field of Blood, where, according to Christian tradition, Judas hanged himself.

Ultimately, Kate demonstrates why Judas matters and why he is central to our understanding of the Christian message today.”

Hopefully the programme will avoid politics – not least because, after her first ever visit to Jerusalem, Ms Bottley appears to have come away with some very clichéd and inaccurate impressions.

“But it [Jerusalem] was a place that also broke my heart – because here is a place that the three main religions share a site, Jews Christians and Muslims – one of the holiest places for those three religions and yet they literally and metaphorically miss each other in the street. You know we share a geography there we share a commonality there, even the same god some would argue, and yet Jerusalem is a place that is completely divided. And that’s really sad because if we can’t get it together there where can we get it together?” 

BBC continues to mainstream extremist group

h/t Sussex Friends of Israel

The January 31st edition of BBC One’s “moral, ethical and religious debate” programme ‘The Big Questions’ included a revival of the ‘Mossad stole my shoe’ story from last year.

The inventor of that story, Asghar Bukhari, has apparently since relocated to the UAE but the organization he previously headed – MPACUK – was represented on this BBC programme by a former assistant to the controversial ex-MP for Bradford East – who is apparently not averse to doing a bit of fund-raising for extremists in his spare time.

As readers can see in the clip from the full programme below, Raza Nadim obviously still buys into that story and unfortunately host Nicky Campbell only adds credence to the outlandish conspiracy theory.  

Of course what is really disturbing about this programme is that fact that even after the spotlight placed on MPACUK’s long-known racism and extremism by Bukhari’s ridiculous claim and despite the UK government’s recognition of conspiracy theories and antisemitism as precursors to extremism, the BBC still continues to provide a platform for an organization flagged up in the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism a decade ago (from paragraph 140, page 29, here) and included on a list of proscribed organisations holding “racist or fascist views” by the National Union of Students.

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Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK spokesman: “Zionists are most vile animals to walk the earth”  (UK Media Watch)

BBC One comes up trumps with documentary on Ethiopian Jews

It is always a pleasure to be able to document some good BBC reporting on an Israel-related story – especially when the subject matter has been the topic of less than satisfactory journalism in the past.Saving the Forgotten Jews

On December 13th BBC One screened a documentary titled “Saving the Forgotten Jews“.

“In the 1980s and 1990s a Manchester textiles merchant, a Mossad spy and a seasoned diplomat saved the forgotten Ethiopian Jewish community in two unprecedented and record-breaking airlifts. Flying out of Sudan and war-torn Ethiopia, they went undercover and negotiated with dictators to save the forgotten Jews in peril.”

The Jewish News reports:

“Describing the rescue mission as “impressive and admirable”, producer Richard Pearson said he was intrigued by “how far people would go in rescuing others at a time when East Africa was not the top of people’s agendas.”

He added: “It’s a very poignant story given the severe refugee issues we are witnessing at the moment.””

The programme is available in the UK on iPlayer or here.