BBC again ignores the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism

A common feature of accepted definitions of antisemitism is their recognition of the denial of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination as a form of antisemitism.

For example:

The US State Department definition of antisemitism:

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist”.

The EUMC working definition of antisemitism (used in the UK by the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism and in the College of Policing Hate Crime Operational Guidance (2014))

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

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definitionof antisemitism:

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

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC does not currently use any of those accepted definitions (including when addressing relevant complaints). However – and notwithstanding its own record – the corporation has in the past produced content purporting to inform its audiences on the topics of antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

Another production in that genre was aired on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Beyond Belief’ on November 28th with the synopsis stating:beyond-belief-28-11

“A new term of abuse has emerged on social media, Zio, a shortened form of Zionist. Meanwhile the evidence suggests that anti Semitism is on the rise in Britain. There have been high profile cases of politicians who have been disciplined for anti Semitic comments. There appears to be some confusion even within the Jewish community over what Zionism means, whether a distinction should be drawn between anti Semitism and anti Zionism and what the relationship is between Judaism and Zionism. Ernie Rea brings together three Jews to discuss these issues.”

In his very similar introduction, host Ernie Rea likewise alleged that there is “confusion over what Zionism means” and asked “is there any distinction between antisemitism and anti-Zionism?”, claiming that “there are different views even within the Jewish community”.

In other words, the BBC continues to fruitlessly ‘discuss’ issues previously addressed by expert bodies, while failing to inform its audiences of the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism which have already answered the question of whether anti-Zionism – ie the denial of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination – is an expression of antisemitism.

Another notable feature of this programme was its misleading portrayal of the Palestinian people as entirely passive actors.

At around 11:50 listeners (the majority of whom will not of course be familiar with the relevant history) heard Ernie Rea say: [emphasis added]

“Well let’s move on. We’ve mentioned Balfour I think twice. 1917 – he declared in the Balfour Declaration that there should be a homeland for the Jewish people. It opened up the possibility for the first time of a homeland for the Jewish people. Subsequent to that we had the rise of the Nazis in Germany. We had the Holocaust with six million Jews losing their lives and then at the end of that there was a State of Israel declared in 1948 with – it has to be said – pretty dire consequences for the Palestinians.”

Later on – from around 18:27 – listeners heard guest Robert Cohen say:

“…what the Jewish community in Britain needs to understand is that Zionism is not…is not a project that was…that could be carried out in all innocence without it having a catastrophic effect on another people. So if you want to pursue the idea that Zionism is part of Judaism then you end up saying that Judaism is responsible for some very terrible things that have happened to another group of people in the land that we call holy.”

And from around 23:50 listeners heard Cohen claim that Zionism is different from “other nationalisms” because:

“It involved mass migrations. It had to involve transfers of people from Europe back to Palestine and you were only going to get a Jewish majority if the indigenous Arab Palestinian people became displaced one way or another.”

Beyond the fact that no effort was made by the programme’s host to make listeners aware of the hundreds of thousands of Jews displaced from Arab and Muslim lands who found refuge in Israel, it is remarkable that throughout this programme, Zionism is portrayed as a movement which brought “dire consequences” and a “catastrophic effect” on “displaced” Palestinians with absolutely no context offered concerning the part played by Arab nations in those events.

Obviously such a context-free and inaccurate portrayal of historic events does not meet the BBC’s remit of enhancing “UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.

Related Articles:

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

BBC article on antisemitism report recycles problematic backgrounder

More promotion of the Livingstone Formulation from BBC News

BBC’s double standards on terrorism highlighted again

Last month the BBC marked the anniversary of the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris with a series of reports on multiple platforms.

Some of those reports focused on the stories of victims and survivors of the attacks.

Bataclan terror attack: Family of British victim speak a year on” BBC News website, November 7th, 2016.

“The family of the only British victim of the Paris nightclub attack a year ago have told of seeing the terror incident unfold in “real time”.”

‘A changed man’: One year on from surviving the Paris terror attacks” BBC Radio 5 live & BBC News website, November 12th, 2016.

“The smell of a firework or the sight of blood can take Michael O’Connor back to the night when 89 people lost their lives in the Bataclan terror attack in Paris.”

The Bataclan attacks remembered”  BBC Radio 4 & BBC News website, November 10th, 2016.

‘Grandson thinks rocket took away daddy after Bataclan attack’” BBC Radio 5 live & BBC News website, November 11th, 2016.

British Bataclan survivor writes letter a year on from Paris attacks” Newsbeat, November 11th, 2016.

“On 13 November 2015, terrorists tried to kill me. Whilst they did not succeed in ending my life, my life has been changed forever.”

Bataclan terror attack: Survivor returns to concert hall” BBC News website, November 13th, 2016.

“A survivor of last year’s Bataclan terror attack in Paris, Stephane Toutlouyan, explains why he returned to the concert-hall to relive the night.”

Other reports focused on commemoration of the attacks in France, including the reopening of the Bataclan Theatre.

Paris attacks: France state of emergency to be extended – PM Valls” BBC News website, November 13th, 2016

“France’s state of emergency imposed after last year’s terror attacks in Paris is likely to be extended, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has told the BBC.”

Paris attacks: Bataclan reopens, but wounds are not closed” BBC News website, November 13th, 2016.

“France is commemorating its worst terrorist attack on home soil since World War Two. The attacks by so-called Islamic State, on the night of 13 November last year, left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.”

Paris attacks: Sting prepares for Bataclan concert” BBC News website, November 12th, 2016.

“Sting and his band rehearse for their concert which will reopen the Bataclan hall in Paris for the first time since last year’s terror attack.”

Sting tribute for Bataclan victims” BBC News website, November 13th, 2016.

“Pop star Sting played a concert to mark the reopening of Paris’ Bataclan venue, a year after the terrorist attack there.”editorial-guidelines

As can be seen above, despite its own guidelines on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism‘, the BBC was able to accurately and appropriately describe the November 2015 attacks in Paris as acts of terror.

In contrast, not only do BBC audiences not get to hear the stories of Israeli victims and survivors of attacks but the corporation continues its editorial policy of refraining from using the words ‘terror’, terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’ in its reporting from Israel.  

Related Articles:

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

Compare and contrast: BBC News personalisation of victims of terror

Comparing BBC personalisation of victims of terror in Paris, Brussels and Israel

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

One to listen out for on BBC Radio 4

The webpage for the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Beyond Belief’ includes a section relating to upcoming broadcasts which at the moment shows the next two scheduled episodes.

beyond-belief-upcoming

Promotion of the programme to be aired at 16:30 UK time this coming Monday, November 28th, does not currently provide any details of the topic to be discussed, instead giving the general description “Discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today’s world”.

That programme will apparently include a discussion on the topic of Zionism and anti-Zionism. The invited guests apparently include Dr Yaakov Wise, journalist Jessica Elgot and Robert Cohen who describes himself as follows:

“Robert Cohen lives in North Yorkshire in Britain and began writing on Israel-Palestine in 2011. His work has been regulary [sic] published at Mondoweiss, Tikkun Daily and Jews for Justice for Palestinians. Writing from the Edge broadens Robert’s remit to wider issues of Jewish interest from a British perspective.  Expect some radically dissseting [sic] views on Isreal [sic], commentary on Jewish-Christian interfaith issues and life as the Jewish husband of a Church of England vicar.”

And:

Post Zionist Jew? Well, I do think as a response to 2,000 years of European oppression of Jews, Zionism has proved itself to be, at the very least, disappointing. It’s created more problems than the one it set out to resolve. For the future of Jews and Judaism we could with a new big idea.

Luckily, I’ve got one. And it turns out to be a very old idea.

Anti-Zionist Jew? Yes, certainly. When Zionism becomes an ideology that’s used to justify atrocities against another people, then I’m anti-Zionist.”

 

BBC reports on Lebanese presidential election omit relevant information

October 31st saw the appearance of two BBC News website reports concerning the long-awaited election of a president in Lebanon.aoun-art-1

A report currently going under the headline “Lebanon: Michel Aoun elected president, ending two-year stalemate” underwent a series of amendments throughout the day but all versions of the article informed readers that:

“Mr Aoun was backed by the powerful Shia Islamist group, Hezbollah.

His candidacy was blocked by the rival, Sunni-dominated Future Movement until a deal was struck earlier this month.”

An additional report by Carine Torbey titled “Lebanon: Will new president end political crisis?” portrays the story of the 30 month-long failure to elect a president as follows:

“For almost two-and-a-half years, Lebanon – politically split along sectarian fault lines – has been without a president.aoun-art-2

Michel Aoun, Christian leader and founder of the Free Patriotic Movement, and for a long time one of the main contenders, has since 2006 been an ally of the Iranian-backed Shia party, Hezbollah – formerly a bitter political opponent of Mr Aoun.

That alliance was sufficient to make him persona non grata for the main Sunni political group in the country, the Future Movement, led by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and with strong links to Saudi Arabia.

A standoff, which became known as the “presidential vacuum”, ensued, effectively paralysing the country since May 2014.

On Monday, Mr Aoun was finally elected to the presidency with, remarkably, the support of the Future Movement.”

BBC audiences would therefore be likely to go away with the impression that the Future Movement is responsible for the fact that Lebanon was without a president for nearly two and a half years.

Just days before, listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ and BBC World Service radio’s ‘The Essential’ had heard a BBC journalist visiting Lebanon – James Longman – suggest that the inability to elect a president was linked to corruption.

“The contempt for this country’s politicians is palpable. Unable to elect a president for over two years, they’re widely considered to be corrupt businessmen sharing the spoils of government contracts which rarely benefit the population.”

Back in August 2015, Carine Torbey portrayed the same issue as follows:

“The 27th parliamentary session to elect a president in August was as ill-fated as the previous 26.

Lebanon is caught in deep political divisions mirroring the regional fault lines. The MPs who are deeply allied to one player or another in the region, have been unable to decide on a president, a mainly ceremonial role, reserved for a Christian in a sectarian power-sharing system.”

And readers may recall that in June of this year, BBC Monitoring produced a backgrounder on the topic of the failed attempts to elect a president which similarly refrained from informing BBC audiences of the fact that the parliamentary sessions aimed at dong so were repeatedly boycotted by Hizballah and its allies – as Yalibnan reported in April:

“Since Sulaiman ended his presidential term in May 2014, Hezbollah and most of its March 8 allies boycotted 38 parliamentary sessions that were allocated for electing a president

Without a two-thirds quorum, parliament sessions led to bickering, as Iran-backed Hezbollah insisted that it would only participate if it received solid guarantees that its candidate, Aoun, would be elected.”

In September Yalibnan reported that: 

“Hezbollah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem (usually referred to as No. 2) admitted on Sunday that it his party is behind the obstruction of Lebanon presidential election when [he] called on The Future Movement to “end its hesitation” and agree to back Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun’s presidential bid claiming that Hezbollah’s MPs would immediately end their boycott of the electoral sessions in order to vote for Aoun. […]

The Lebanese parliament failed again September 8th and for the 44th time in a row to elect a president to replace Michel Suleiman whose term ended on May 25, 2014.

As in the past sessions the parliament was unable to reach a quorum because the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group and its ally MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc MPs boycotted the session, because they could not reportedly guarantee Aoun’s election as a president.”

The BBC’s failure to report on those two and a half years of Hizballah arm-twisting does not only leave its audience lacking relevant background concerning the process of the election of the Lebanese president but also affects their ability to comprehend the context to Aoun’s stances and policies – some of which were already revealed in his first address as president.

“For the untrained ear, President Michel Aoun’s inaugural speech sounded like a mishmash of old chewed slogans about Lebanese “national unity”, harmony and patriotism. But between the lines, Aoun loaded his speech with code words that gave away the nation’s policy under his tenure.

First, according to Aoun, Lebanon will stay diplomatically neutral, thus giving Iran the advantage over Saudi Arabia. Second, Lebanon will sponsor “resistance” to “liberate” Israeli-occupied Lebanese territory. Third, Lebanon will “fight terrorism preemptively” inside Syria, and — in coordination with Assad — will deport Syrian refugees. […]

Right after giving Iran what it wanted, President Aoun delivered what Hezbollah wanted. “In the conflict with Israel, we will not spare any effort or resistance to liberate what remains of occupied Lebanese land,” Aoun said, thus trashing UNSC Resolution 1701, which calls for diplomatic resolution for disputed border territory between Lebanon and Israel.”

Since Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon over 16 years ago, the myth of “occupied Lebanese land” in the Mount Dov area has of course been used by Hizballah as an excuse for defying UN resolutions demanding its disarmament – despite the fact that the claim has been rejected by the UN.  

“In 2005, then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan rejected the Lebanese government’s claim that Shebaa Farms was Lebanese territory in a report (.pdf) to the Security Council:

‘The continually asserted position of the Government of Lebanon that the Blue Line is not valid in the Shab’a farms area is not compatible with Security Council resolutions. The Council has recognized the Blue Line as valid for purposes of confirming Israel’s withdrawal pursuant to resolution 425 (1978). The Government of Lebanon should heed the Council’s repeated calls for the parties to respect the Blue Line in its entirety.'”

Obviously the BBC has not made sufficient effort to provide its audience with the full range of information required to meet its remit of enabling understanding of this particular issue.

Related Articles:

Dumbing down ME politics with BBC Monitoring

Hizballah official admits what BBC Monitoring didn’t tell

 

BBC R4 programme on UNESCO omits negation of Jewish heritage

A programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on September 26th under the title “UNESCO: 70 Years of Peacekeeping” purported to explore that UN agency’s role in promoting peace.r4-unesco-prog

“The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage in Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali and Syria has been condemned as a war crime by UNESCO – the ‘intellectual’ agency of the United Nations. But aside from issuing statements, what can this organisation achieve?

Culture writer Charlotte Higgins explores the UN’s peacekeeping agency, established 70 years ago to build peace through education, science and culture. Its founders knew that a safer world could not be engineered through economics or politics alone. With optimism and purpose, they called on countries to pull together to inspire hearts and minds.

Today, UNESCO is best known for World Heritage, which promotes a sense of collective identity. Yet with attacks on ancient sites now at the frontline of conflicts, UNESCO’s soft power is in the spotlight.

“I know that we don’t have an army, we cannot deploy troops,” says Director General Irina Bokova, “I wish we could have a stronger way of doing something.”

Charlotte navigates UNESCO HQ in Paris, a modernist expression of post war ambition. Here, members of staff can recite the ringing first sentence of UNESCO’s constitution by heart: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” Even so, UNESCO struggles to keep its 195 member states around the table, most notably with the United States – the biggest contributor to the budget – withholding payment since Palestine joined. As the geopolitical situation mutates and fragments, Charlotte asks whether the intellectual peacekeepers can keep up.”

The topic of the US withholding of funds to UNESCO is addressed at 23:39:

Higgins: “In recent years, however, the US has stopped paying its bill but UNESCO doesn’t want to lose its presence at the table.”

Interviewee: “In US law, if any UN body allows Palestine as a member state, it doesn’t leave that organization but there’s an automatic cut. So in November 2011 when UNESCO allows Palestine as a member, the US cuts off its dues, which is almost one quarter of UNESCO’s budget.”

That description omits a relevant aspect of the US legislation which was reported by the BBC itself at the time:

“A US law passed in the 1990s bars giving funding to any UN body that admits the Palestinians as full members before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is reached.” [emphasis added]

Although this programme purports to examine UNESCO’s role in promoting peace, it notably omits any reference whatsoever to a topic which the BBC has to date consistently refrained from reporting.

 UNESCO’s ‘rebranding’ of Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron as ‘Palestinian’ sites (along with other attempts to politicise cultural and religious sites in the region and erase Jewish heritage) is clearly an example of the way in which political pressures undermine that UN body’s founding constitution.

Despite the BBC being supposedly committed to enhancing audience understanding of international issues, that aspect of UNESCO’s record is completely absent from this programme. 

Related Articles:

BBC promotion of PA narrative on Jewish heritage sites

 

 

BBC radio marks Peres’ death with Palestinian propaganda – part two

Following his afternoon appearance on the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’, Mustafa Barghouti was back again on BBC radio on the evening of September 28th.

BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ – presented by Razia Iqbal – included an item (from 35:36 here) concerning the death earlier in the day of Israel’s ninth president Shimon Peres. Listeners heard one minute of recordings of statements by the Israeli prime minister and the leader of the opposition and Iqbal read short statements from the US President and Secretary of State as well as the Pope before introducing her next contributor.peres-the-world-tonight-r4-28-9

Iqbal: “Let’s get the perspective from a Palestinian now. Dr Mustafa Barghouti is a Palestinian legislator.”

Barghouti: “Well I believe of course it’s a sad moment for his family, for his colleagues but one has to say the political opinion about this person; I think to me he represents a very controversial figure. From one side when you compare him today with the leaders of Israel like Netanyahu, Lieberman and Bennett – who are extreme racists rejecting any possibility for peace – of course he looks moderate in comparison to them. But on the other hand one cannot forget that he was the father of settlement policies in the West Bank: the same settlement activities that are killing today the potential and possibility for peace. And he was personally, in my opinion, responsible for the flaws of Oslo Agreement which he orchestrated – the biggest of which was that the agreement was concluded without freezing or stopping settlement activities as we were demanding in Madrid. Instead of one hundred eleven thousand settlers then, we already have now 700 thousand settlers. So one wonders was it just a mistake or an intentional policy? Specially that I didn’t see Shimon Peres unfortunately advocate or call for the recognition of the Palestinian state although he kept talking about two state solution.”

Iqbal: “He did – in the run up to the Oslo Agreement – persuade Israel that the Palestine Liberation Organisation – the PLO, under Yasser Arafat – was the organisation that Israel should and could do business with.”

Barghouti: “That’s true but at the same time he made the PLO pay a very high price for that. He was very smart. He was even devious in this manner because he recognised the need of the PLO to get recognised as a partner. But in exchange he pushed the PLO to recognise Israel without demanding the recognition of Israel of a Palestinian state. I remember talking to Yasser Arafat at the very last weeks of his life and he told me something. We were sitting alone and he was in a very bad mood because he was being besieged and frustrated completely with the whole Oslo process and he said to me ‘we fell into a trap; they created a trap for us’. And I think that’s what it was. When we criticised Oslo in ’93/’94 few people listened to us but today, after 23 years, what do we have? More occupation and an occupation that will become 50 years next year – the longest in human history – and an occupation that has transformed into a system of apartheid much worse that what prevailed in South Africa.”

Iqbal: “When you talk about Shimon Peres being devious, here was a man who for the rest of the world was somebody who deserved to win the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Yasser Arafat.”

Barghouti: “Yes I know. They won peace prize – they won Nobel Peace prize with Itzhak Rabin for concluding the Oslo Agreement. I don’t want to sound ridiculous but at that time I said they deserved not the Nobel Prize but they deserved the Oscar because it was more of a show – a performance – rather than a change of reality. And the results today – 23 years after – are very clear. We still have the occupation, worse than any time before. We still have the settlement activities going at a speed that is unprecedented. We have fragmented Palestinian territories and everybody sees a process of assassination of the possibility of two state solution. This of course worries me at all a lot but at the same time it will not make us lose hope but it makes us more determined as Palestinians to demand our rights in a clear manner. We want real freedom. We want freedom from occupation and not an adjusted situation of occupation.”

Iqbal: “Legislator Dr Mustafa Barghouti with a Palestinian view of Shimon Peres.”

That propaganda rant – rich with inaccuracy and blatant falsehoods completely unchallenged by Razia Iqbal – went on for almost four and a half minutes. In other words, the producers of this programme found it editorially justifiable to allocate 77% of a five minute and 41 second item supposedly about a recently deceased Israeli statesman to “a Palestinian view” which contributed nothing whatsoever to audience understanding of the Oslo Accords, their sabotage by Palestinian terrorism or the reality of the situation today.  

Related articles:

BBC radio marks Peres’ death with Palestinian propaganda – part one

 

One to listen out for on BBC Radio 4

At 8 p.m. UK time on Wednesday September 28th, BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a programme that no doubt is of interest to many of our readers.

Titled “Reporting Terror: A Dangerous Game“, the programme is presented by the BBC’s security correspondent Gordon Corera (who has visited that topic in the past) and the synopsis reads as follows:r4-corera-prog-terror

“A string of terrorist attacks in France and Germany dominated the news agenda in summer 2016. Now, some journalists are asking if their approach needs to change. More than 30 years after Margaret Thatcher famously coined the phrase “the oxygen of publicity” when referring to media coverage of the IRA, the French newspaper Le Monde has pledged to stop publishing photographs of terrorists in an attempt to deny them “posthumous glorification”. So should media outlets in the UK and Europe change the way in which they cover terrorism?

The BBC’s Security Correspondent, Gordon Corera, and an expert panel of journalists and editors from the UK, France and Germany debate the topic at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.

They discuss the different considerations journalists have both when reporting live on mass casualty attacks, and on reporting the aftermath. Should the media treat terrorist killings differently to other types of murder? And what’s the balance to be struck between reporting terrorism whilst suppressing terrorist propaganda?

Panellists:

Sir Simon Jenkins, Columnist, The Guardian; Editor, The Times (1990-92)

Jonathan Munro, Head of Newsgathering, BBC

Fatima Manji, News Correspondent, Channel 4 News

Amil Khan, Media consultant; Advisor to Syrian Opposition Coalition (2013-14); Middle East Correspondent, Reuters (2003-06)

Sophie Desjardin, Head, French Service, Euronews

Dr Peter Busch, Senior Lecturer, Department of War Studies, King’s College London; Senior Broadcast Journalist, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen”

Related Articles:

BBC R4 programme on terror and the media rebrands PFLP terrorists

 

 

 

 

BBC R4 ‘Today’ presenter startled by Gaza fact

The September 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today’ included an interview (from 01:46:26 here) in which presenter Sarah Montague discussed the question ‘are more black people now being shot by police in the US?’ with the Guardian’s Gary Younge.today-24-9

At around 01:48:57 Younge made the following statement:

“…a black man’s life expectancy in DC is lower than a man’s life expectancy on the Gaza Strip…”

Montague interjected incredulously:

“Seriously? Sorry, but that is an…a startling statistic – if it’s true.”

Younge: “Absolutely. According to CIA figures about life expectancy in the Gaza Strip and the government figures on black life expectancy in DC, that was certainly true last time I looked.”

So was Montague’s scepticism justified?

According to a study published by Georgetown University in 2016:

“While life expectancy has improved for all populations in the city, Black residents do not fare as well as other racial groups. For example, White males in the District are expected to live almost 15 years longer than Black males (83.2, 68.8, respectively). White females in the District are expected to live approximately 9 years longer than Black females (85.2, 76.2, respectively).”

According to the CIA World Factbook, male life expectancy in the Gaza Strip is 72.3 years (est 2016) – i.e. 3.5 years higher than for Black males in DC – and the Gaza Strip is placed 110th out of 224 countries in terms of general life expectancy; above countries including Turkey, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Egypt. Moreover, according to the World Bank, male life expectancy in the PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip rose by over four years in the period between 1990 and 2014.

Given the style and framing of BBC reporting from the Gaza Strip over the years, it is not overly surprising to see that Sarah Montague was ‘startled’ by what was obviously for her counter-intuitive information. Her reaction does however demonstrate the effect that narrative-driven reporting has on shaping audience ‘common knowledge’.  

BBC Radio 4 fails to clarify the agenda of the BDS campaign and the PSC

The September 18th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday‘ included an item (from 11:54 here) described as follows in the synopsis:sunday-18-9-bod-ujs

“Jewish students fight the movement for sanctions against Israel”.

Presenter Edward Stourton introduced the item with a specious portrayal of the purpose of the BDS campaign.

“Most universities begin the new academic year around this time. The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Union of Jewish Students are marking the moment by sending round advice on how to combat the activities of the Boycott, Disinvestment [sic] Sanctions movement – or BDS – which, in the words of its website, urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law. We’re joined by Joel Salmon, the Board of Deputies Parliamentary Officer, and Ben Jamal who next month will take up the post of director of the Palestinian [sic] Solidarity Campaign.” [emphasis added]

The majority of listeners would of course lack the knowledge needed to appreciate just how inaccurate and misleading Stourton’s portrayal is because the BBC consistently refrains from informing its audiences that what the BDS campaign really seeks to achieve is the demise of the Jewish state. Moreover, the corporation has even shrugged off the responsibility to clarify the BDS agenda in its frequent amplification of that campaign.

In addition, listeners to this item were not informed of the “particular viewpoint” of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality demand before they heard the fallacious framing of the BDS campaign from Ben Jamal, who previously headed the PSC’s Richmond and Kingston branch.

“…I think what we’d also all want students to do is to engage in and to be involved in discussion and activism around human rights and issues of social and international justice.”

“And I think boycott – as I understand it – is a non-violent tactic that throughout history has been used by those defending human rights and fighting against oppression.”

“…this is the tactic for example that Gandhi used to oppose Britain’s violation of rights in India. It’s the tactic that Martin Luther King used to oppose segregation and it’s the tactic that Nelson Mandela used to defend the rights of black South Africans. I take Gandhi’s framing of boycott. In a way it’s a form of dialogue. It’s a way of saying to someone ‘I respect your humanity but I will not cooperate or give my political or economic support to what you are doing’.”

The uninformed listener would hence not be capable of putting Jamal’s portrayal of the specific BoD/UJS handout which is the subject of the item into its appropriate context or understanding that the undertone of the Livingstone Formulation that portrayal includes is not apparently by chance.

“One of the concerns I’ve got at the leaflet or pamphlet that’s been produced is it’s part of an attempt I think to reframe a tactic of boycott as something that is inherently divisive, hostile or at worst extremist or even quasi-violent.”

“I think my concern is this is an attempt to frame any advocacy of boycott or any criticism of Israel as inherently hostile.”

Clearly the predictable absence of adequate explanation of the BDS campaign’s true agenda in this item once again undermined the BBC’s public purpose remit of enhancing audience awareness and understanding of the issue in general and certainly did nothing to contribute to the general public’s comprehension of the very serious problem of antisemitism on the campuses of UK universities.

BBC current affairs revisits antisemitism and anti-Zionism – part one

Readers may recall that earlier this year, as antisemitism scandals plagued the UK Labour Party, the BBC produced a distinctly unhelpful backgrounder titled “What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?“. At the time we noted that:antizionism art

“One might of course argue that the BBC’s public purpose remit – which includes “sustaining citizenship and civil society” and “promoting education and learning” – should have gone some way towards both preventing the appearance of antisemitic discourse in its own content and helping raise the British public’s awareness of antisemitism, thereby ensuring that ideologies such as those which have brought the Labour party into disrepute of late would be relegated to the status they deserve rather than becoming so commonplace within a mainstream British political party.”

With those scandals showing no sign of subsiding, earlier this month the BBC revisted the topic in two separate interviews. Given that discussion of antisemitism and anti-Zionism in Britain quite frequently boils down to non-Jews telling Jews what antisemitism is (or more often – what it is not), it was refreshing to see BBC audiences provided with a chance to hear Jewish Israeli voices.

The September 7th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an interview (from 02:44:10 here) with Professor Yehuda Bauer which was introduced as follows by presenter – and former BBC political editor – Nick Robinson. [all emphasis in bold added]

NR: “When does criticism of Israel amount to antisemitism? – if it ever does. That’s the question that’s been asked ever since Ken Livingstone – a regular and robust critic of the State of Israel – was suspended from the party for claiming that Hitler had supported Zionism before he went mad. Zionism, of course: the movement which led to the creation of a national home for the Jewish people. This week Mr Livingstone quoted a pamphlet from the Holocaust Memorial in Israel – Yad Vashem – in his defence.”

The “question” of course precedes Livingstone’s original remarks but those unfamiliar with that latter story can find more details here. Robinson continued:

“Well Yehudi [sic] Bauer is in London at the moment. He’s chair of the Yad Vashem Institute and professor emeritus of history and Holocaust studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Good morning to you Professor. […] Let’s begin with Ken Livingstone’s words if we can and then we’ll widen our discussion. He says – Mr Livingstone – if you go to the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem in Israel, one of the pamphlets they sell to tourists there is one that talks about the deal done between Hitler and the Zionists in the 1930s, so it must be true, he says.

Yehuda Bauer replied:

“Well, I don’t want to relate to the person who said it but to the content of the things. You see what happened was that when the Nazis got to power the idea was to expel or deport or in some ways get rid of all the Jews in Germany – not only deny them citizenship but actually expel them. So they should go anywhere possible. And that was supported by the Nazi party. The Zionist movement at that time wanted to rescue the Jews of Germany and wanted to get as many out of there as possible. So a deal was struck in August 1933 – which lasted for about five and a half years – to export goods from Germany with the people who bought them in Germany, to Palestine. This is part of an effort of German Jews to leave Germany because of the policies of the Nazi government. “

Robinson: “But if Hitler, as it were, and other Nazis wanted Jews to move to what was going to become Israel, is it right to then say ‘ah well, he was supporting Zionism’?”

Bauer: “No he wasn’t. In fact the Nazi foreign office – as anyone who has studied the material knows – opposed Zionism radically. When the British government supported a partition of Palestine between Arab and Jewish states in 1937, 38, 39, all German diplomats in the world got instructions to oppose any kind of Jewish state in Palestine. There was a contradiction in the policies of the Nazis. On the one hand they wanted to get rid of all the Jews and on the other hand, to one of the major places where they could go at the time, they opposed the establishment of a Jewish state.”

Robinson: “OK.”

Bauer: “In other words, they were violently anti-Zionist but to get rid of the Jews was the priority…”

Robinson [interrupts] “OK but that…”

Bauer: “For Jews this was an essential way in order to rescue people from Germany.”

Listeners then heard the following post-factual framing of Bauer’s explanation:today-7-9-bauer

Robinson:  “That’s the history, as it were, and historians can debate it and discuss…”

Bauer: “No, no – that’s a fact.”

Robinson: “OK, understood. But why I was putting it that way is I wanted to take you one stage further and then say if people challenge those facts – as you call them – does that then make them antisemitic – or in effect racist – rather than people who just don’t understand the history properly?”

Bauer: “Well you see criticism of any Israeli government’s policies is certainly not antisemitism. If I criticise any kind of British government – for instance during the Thatcher period – that doesn’t make me an anti-British person.”

Robinson: “So when does it become antisemitism?”

Bauer: “It becomes antisemitism the moment people say ‘well 1948 – the establishment of a Jewish state – was a mistake’. Mistakes have to be corrected and the only way to correct that so-called mistake would be to annihilate Israel – which means actually that the people who advocate such views are on the verge of being genocidal – intentionally or unintentionally – genocidal propagandists.”

Robinson: “But isn’t it possible for me – or anybody else – to argue that I do think it was a mistake to create the State of Israel but I might have no intention at all of wiping it off the map or indeed persecuting the Jewish people?”

Bauer: “No; if you oppose the policies of the present or any past or future Israeli government – whether that’s towards the Palestinians or anything else – that’s certainly not antisemitism. Antisemitism begins the moment you say the Jews have no right to have a separate political existence as a people.”

Robinson: “Yehudi [sic] Bauer; your talk is tonight in London. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.”

It is of course impossible to determine whether or not that interview succeeded in fulfilling its apparent purpose of helping BBC Radio 4 audiences to understand the inaccuracy of Ken Livingstone’s claims but certainly that purpose was not helped by Nick Robinson’s introduction of post-factual framing.

Nevertheless, it is very rare for BBC audiences to hear a clear and concise explanation of why some forms of anti-Zionism are expressions of antisemitism and surprisingly – as we will see in part two of this post – they heard another such explanation just a week later.

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