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!”

BBC Music promotes falsehoods and BDS campaign website

h/t ML

BBC Music runs a webpage called ‘Music News LIVE’ which can be found on the BBC Music website or accessed via the BBC News website’s ‘Entertainment & Arts’ page.

The February 9th edition of ‘Music News LIVE’ – compiled by Paul Glynn – ran under the headline “Controversy over Radiohead gig in Israel“.

bbc-music-radiohead-main

A similar headline – linking to that page – appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Entertainment & Arts’ page.

bbc-music-radiohead-on-ea-pge

BBC audiences were told of a fictional “industry boycott” and mythical “industry rules” while a link was provided to a (misspelled) website which is part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.bbc-music-radiohead-1 

“Never ones to play by the industry rules, Radiohead have announced plans to play a gig in Tel Aviv, Israel on 19 July.

Many bands have been urged to avoid performing in Israel in protest of the country’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The NME notes, however, that guitarist Jonny Greenwood is married to Israeli artist Sharona Katan and recently released a collaborative album with Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur.

Former Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters last year joined a host of artists in writing an open letter on behalf of Artists for Palenstine UK [sic] urging British DJs The Chemical Brothers to pull out of a show in Israel.

The Radiohead announcement will be viewed by many as controversial – and it has already sparked conjecture online.”

That, of course, is not ‘music news’: it is amplification of a political campaign – which clearly compromises BBC impartiality while the promotion of the link to a site which is part of the BDS campaign fails to meet the corporation’s guidelines on “Online Links to Third Party Websites“.

bands

 

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.”

 

 

The BBC and the ‘apartheid’ smear

BBC audiences are no strangers to unchallenged multi-platform amplification of the ‘apartheid’ smear against Israel.mcdonalds-pic

For example, in November 2012, listeners to BBC Radio 4 were told that:

“The ..emm…country [Israel] is run on such apartheid lines it’s possible for the two sides to just literally not see each other.”

In April 2014 visitors to the BBC News website were told by the former BBC Middle East bureau chief that use of the word ‘apartheid’ made (and later walked back) by the US Secretary of State “adds legitimacy to the debate about whether there is an equivalence between the old South African regime and the situation on the West Bank”.

In May 2014 viewers of the BBC News Channel programme ‘Hardtalk‘ and visitors to the BBC News website heard a South African anti-Israel activist say:

“We have seen – I have seen – in Palestine what didn’t exist under apartheid in the worst days of apartheid.”

In January 2015 the BBC News website managed to shoehorn a ‘he said-she said’ version of the ‘apartheid’ trope into a news story:

“Harsh critics of Israel level the charge of apartheid – the system of state-sanctioned racial discrimination once practised by South Africa – against the Jewish state over its treatment of Palestinians and Israeli-Arab minority. Israel says the accusation is baseless and a part of efforts to demonise it.”

In March 2015 listeners to the BBC World Service were told that:

“…practically he [the Israeli prime minister] officially declared Israel as an apartheid state – a segregation state”

And:

“…this would be a long journey and a struggle against the system of apartheid that Netanyahu has created. And that means that we need not only Palestinian popular resistance on the ground but also boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel in the very same manner that was used against the system of apartheid in South Africa at one point in time.”

And that:

“…as Israel moves further into the open as an apartheid state, that clash with US values will become more apparent.”

In August 2015 the BBC World Service initiated a ‘discussion’ based on the ‘apartheid’ trope.

In September 2015 listeners to BBC Radio Wales were told that in relation to Israel they should:

“…remember the days of apartheid South Africa. People used to hold up these small examples of coexistence […] to gloss over the fundamental reality of institutionalized racism, of apartheid.”

In January 2016 visitors to a local page on the BBC News website found amplification of the claim from an anti-Israel group that “its campaign was similar to international boycotts of South Africa in the 1970s and 80s, when anti-apartheid activists tried to bring down white minority rule.”

In February 2016 visitors to another local page on the BBC News website found the following unqualified information:

“According to its website, Israel Apartheid Week takes place across 150 universities and cities and “aims to raise awareness about Israel’s ongoing settler-colonial project and apartheid policies over the Palestinian people”.”

In April 2016 a BBC News website backgrounder on antisemitism informed audiences that:

“The Palestine Solidarity Campaign says it opposes all racism, including anti-Jewish prejudice and the “the [sic] apartheid and Zionist nature of the Israeli state”…”

And in September 2016 listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard the unchallenged claim of:

“…an occupation that has transformed into a system of apartheid much worse that what prevailed in South Africa.”

Despite all that amplification (and more), not once in those four years has BBC Watch been able to document an explanation having been provided to BBC audiences as to why the ‘apartheid’ trope is false, why used by anti-Israel activists and what is the aim of that tactic.

As has been noted here before:

“As Norman Finkelstein (not one of the better known card-carrying Zionists) pointed out earlier this year [2012], the makers of those demands [the BDS campaign] have one end-game in their sights.

“They call it their three tiers… We want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever, because they know the result of implementing all three is what? What’s the result? You know and I know what’s the result: there’s no Israel.” […]

The methods used to try to bring about that end game include the delegitimisation of Israel: the attempt to paint a picture of a country so morally unacceptable that any ‘right-minded’ person cannot possibly tolerate its continued existence.

One way of doing that is to use the ‘apartheid’ trope. By deliberately employing rhetoric which the public associates with a universally morally unacceptable theme, the BDS movement aspires to brand Israel in the minds of the general public with the same stigma as the former racist regime in South Africa. 

Of course a close and factual examination of the situation immediately reveals that the use of the ‘apartheid’ trope in relation to Israel is utterly unfounded.  But sadly, many if not most members of the general public do not have sufficient knowledge of the facts to be able to assess the ‘apartheid’ trope for what it really is: a rhetorical tactic relying on the human mind’s natural tendency to make associations.”

But in addition to failing to provide its audiences with the context which would enable their understanding of why the false ‘apartheid’ smear is used, the BBC has for the most part also ignored the views of people who really did experience apartheid. A publication produced by ‘Africans for Peace’ provides some interesting insights from four South Africans who have visited Israel.

“In South Africa, I had frequently heard the description of Israel as an “apartheid state.” As a black man coming from South Africa, where we actually experienced apartheid, I realized that this was not apartheid. This was not the same situation.”

How does it make you feel that the BDS movement compares the situation of the Palestinian people with the plight of black people under apartheid?

It upsets me a lot! A lot! Because it’s misleading! The situation cannot be compared to apartheid because it’s not apartheid. Those people involved with the BDS movement need to go to Israel and the West Bank to see the situation for themselves.”

“Please – don’t steal the word “apartheid!” For black South Africans, apartheid was more than just systematic discrimination against our people. It was a project that aimed to rob a specific race of its history, culture, dignity, and humanity. Those who apply the term “apartheid” to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse are guilty of perpetuating that same theft, by denying the uniqueness of the racism and hatred that we faced, and which we have overcome with much blood and tears. While the challenges that face Israel and her neighbor Palestine may result in one group feeling discriminated against by the other, it is very different from the legally-blessed racism, based on the discredited idea of white supremacy, that once reigned in my country.”

“The reality is that the two situations are very different. I came to understand that the analogy of apartheid in Israel was an abuse of the memory of apartheid, just as it is possible to abuse the memory of the Holocaust or slavery in a similar manner.”

It is high time for the BBC to meet its public purpose remit and its commitment to ‘due impartiality’ by ensuring that its audiences are provided with fact-based information concerning the redundancy of the ‘apartheid’ trope the true aims of those who promote that tactical smear.  

 

BBC’s Knell relegates impartiality to the bench in campaigning football report

On October 13th a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Fifa urged to give red card to Israeli settlement clubs“.knell-fifa-art

Knell opens her piece with an account of some pre-planned agitprop which took place on the eve of Yom Kippur.

“A dozen Palestinian boys dressed in football kit and carrying balls, march towards a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli police and soldiers come to block the way as they approach the gates of Maale Adumim, where some 40,000 Israelis live, to the east of Jerusalem.

Surrounded by journalists, protest organiser, Fadi Quran, tells a senior officer that the children want to play a game in the local football stadium.

“You know exactly why they can’t come in,” says the officer.

“Is it because they’re Palestinian?” Mr Quran asks.

“No, no, because you need a permit,” the officer replies.

“Well, people in the world are watching and I think it’s important to know you have segregation,” says Mr Quran.”

Were it not for reports like this one from a member of the pre-conscripted press pack, “people in the world” would of course know nothing about the exploitation of a dozen boys for a campaign which has nothing to do with sport and everything to do with the political campaign of delegitimisation of Israel.

But despite the BBC’s decision to use its world-wide reach to put wind in the sails of this particular political campaign, its editorial standards concerning accuracy and impartiality should at least ensure that audiences would be told the whole story. That, however, is not the case in Knell’s report.

The ‘star’ of Knell’s account of the event is the man she tepidly describes as “protest organiser” Fadi Quran. BBC audiences receive no information concerning Quran’s affiliations and are not told, for example, which organisation – if any – he represents, who funded the boys’ transport to Ma’ale Adumim or who paid for the identical T-shirts they and Quran are seen wearing in the photographs which accompany the article.avaaz-logo

A closer look at those T-shirts and the accompanying placards shows that they bear the Avaaz logo and that would come as no surprise had BBC audiences been informed that American citizen Fadi Quran is a “senior campaigner” for Avaaz. A former employee of Al Haq, Quran is also a “policy member” at Al Shabaka and a “Popular Struggle community organizer”.

Obviously that information is critical to audience understanding of the wider story behind the agitprop she describes, but Yolande Knell refrains from providing it to her audience. She goes on to ostensibly provide readers with the background to that “small protest” but similarly fails to inform them that the meeting to which she refers is the fruit of a long-standing Palestinian campaign to use FIFA to delegitimise Israel.

“The small protest is soon over but it has symbolic significance ahead of this week’s meeting of the council of world football’s governing body, Fifa, in Switzerland.

It is due to discuss whether teams from settlements, including Maale Adumim, should be barred from the Israeli Football Association (IFA).”

Knell’s reporting once again falls short of editorial standards of impartiality when she presents a one-sided portrayal of ‘settlements’ while failing to inform readers that all those communities are located in Area C which – according to the Oslo Accords, to which the Palestinians were willing signatories – is to have its final status determined through negotiations.

“Settlements are built on land captured and occupied by Israel in 1967, which the Palestinians want for a future, independent state. The international community sees them as “illegal” and “an obstacle to peace”, but Israel strongly disagrees.”

As readers are no doubt aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality require clarification of the “particular viewpoint” of outside contributors but Knell makes do with the inadequate term “advocacy group” when describing the political NGO Human Rights Watch which has long been involved in lawfare campaigns against Israel.

“The advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggests the IFA should be made to move all Fifa-sanctioned matches inside the internationally-recognised boundaries of Israel.

“By holding games on stolen land, Fifa is tarnishing the beautiful game of football,” says Sari Bashi, HRW’s country director for Israel and Palestine.

report by the group notes that some settlement playing fields are built on privately-owned Palestinian land, and that West Bank Palestinians, apart from labourers with permits, are not allowed to enter settlements and use their services.”

The HRW report to which Knell provides readers with a link was already given context-free and partial promotion on the BBC World Service last month.  Significantly, the HRW country director quoted by Knell has also found it appropriate to give an interview on the same topic to the BDS campaign’s South Africa branch.

Knell goes on to promote an old but unsupported claim:

“To underscore the inequalities, the Palestinian boys leaving the demonstration at Maale Adumim continue to chant: “Infantino, let us play.”

Some come from nearby Bedouin communities, which have lost access to their land due to settlement expansion, and have pending demolition orders against their homes.” [emphasis added]

As has previously been documented here, the Jahalin tribe’s claims of ownership of the said land have been examined – and rejected – in courts of law.

Knell similarly amplifies a specific political narrative when she promotes – as fact – the notion of “Israeli restrictions” on Palestinian footballers without any mention of the very relevant context of the links of some of those players to terrorist organisations.

“…a monitoring committee was set up, headed by the Fifa official Tokyo Sexwale, a South African politician and former anti-apartheid activist.

It was asked to address Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players and visiting teams, alleged racism and discrimination, and the clubs based in settlements, all of which play in Israel’s lower leagues.”football-terrorist

And of course Knell’s portrayal of the topic of Palestinian football does not extend to telling her audiences that one team saw fit to ‘honour’ a terrorist who murdered two Israelis in Jerusalem only this week.

BBC audiences are of course no strangers to Yolande Knell’s signature blend of journalism and activism and this latest report provides yet another example of her serial amplification of political narratives and campaigns in the guise of ‘news’. And yet, the BBC remains silent on the issue of Knell’s repeated compromise of its supposed editorial standards of impartiality.

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BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC News’ bizarre ‘Newsbeat’ backgrounder on Syria

An article which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 5th was billed as follows:

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The link leads to a backgrounder produced by BBC News for ‘Newsbeat‘ – and hence specifically tailored for younger audiences – which is titled “How the history books will remember Syria in 2016“.

The backgrounder – headed “Newsbeat Explains” – may well raise eyebrows both for what it does tell those ‘younger audiences’ and what it does not. No mention is made, for example, of the fact that the vast majority of casualties in the Syrian civil war have died at the hands of the Syrian regime or of issues such as the barrel bombs, the use of chemical weapons against civilians or the siege and starvation policy employed by Bashar al Assad. Apparently ‘Newsbeat’ does not consider those points worthy of the history books: a section headed “It’s hard to know exactly how many people have been killed in Syria” does not even try to inform audiences about such issues.

syria-art-cataclysm-number-killed

Readers are told that the root of the conflict in Syria goes back to “March 2003 when Britain and America and other countries decided to invade Iraq” and that the ‘Arab Spring’ can be attributed to the “economic crash of 2007/08”. The oppressive nature of the Syrian regime pre-March 2011 is severely whitewashed.

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In a section concerning Syrian refugees audiences are told that Britain is characterised by “endemic racism” and in a section about the “international players” in Syria, readers are bizarrely informed that:

syria-art-cataclysm-israel

It is of course remarkable that the dubious notion that “Israeli security” is a prime factor behind US intervention in Syria (such as it is) was included in this BBC backgrounder without any concrete evidence being provided to back up that statement. Given that the information comes from an academic – Tim Jacoby – with a record of supporting anti-Israel boycotts and delegitimisation, the BBC’s amplification of that entirely unsupported claim obviously requires explanation.

 

BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

For some time now the Palestinian Authority’s Jibril Rajoub has been exploiting sport as a means of delegitimising Israel for political ends. In recent years he has, among other things, tried to get Israel expelled from the International Olympic community, threatened legal action against sponsors of the Jerusalem Marathon and pressured UEFA to disallow Israel’s hosting of a tournament. As president of the Palestinian Football Association, last year Rajoub turned his attentions to FIFA and the BBC produced a series of reports amplifying his campaign to get Israel suspended from world football.Connolly FIFA filmed

BBC frames anti-Israel delegitimisation campaign as a sports story

Wind in the sails of Jibril Rajoub’s anti-Israel campaign from BBC WS WHYS

Kevin Connolly continues the BBC’s amplification of anti-Israel delegitimisation

This week (as civilians in Syria continue to have their human rights violated by being killed en masse) one of the BBC’s most quoted and promoted NGOs found time to publish a report which yet again highlights both the links between the agendas of some so-called human rights organisations and anti-Israel campaigning – as well as the media’s relationship with such groups.

The Human Rights Watch report is titled “Israel/Palestine: FIFA Sponsoring Games on Seized Land” and sub-headed “Israeli Settlement Football Clubs Contribute to Human Rights Violations”. The flimsy arguments behind HRW’s claim that playing football in Area C is a violation of human rights have already been dismantled by Professor Eugene Kontorovich.

“The football-as-human rights-violation arguments against Israel are tendentious and prove too much. So those campaigning against Israel rely principally on a lawyerly claim about FIFA’s rules: The clubs “clearly violate FIFA’s statutes, according to which clubs from one member association cannot play on the territory of another member association without its and FIFA’s consent,” the members claim.

The problem is nothing in the FIFA statutes that equates “territory” with sovereign territory. Indeed, that would be impossible, since many FIFA members are not sovereign states at all. Instead, territory, as is often the case in international texts, means jurisdiction.

This is because the FIFA is not a border demarcation body. That is why FIFA clearly separates any question of sovereign statehood and territory from FIFA membership by not requiring that member federations be recognized states (i.e. Hong Kong, American Samoa, Faroe Islands, Northern Ireland, etc.). The claim that the acceptance of the Palestinian soccer federation into FIFA constituted a recognition of Palestine as a state and a recognition of its maximal border claims is unsupportable. FIFA membership does not imply statehood, nor has FIFA ever taken a position on preexisting border disputes.”

Nevertheless, as noted in a comment on a previous post (thanks to D), the BBC World Service found HRW’s political campaigning worthy of inclusion in some of its summaries of world news on September 26th.ws-hrw-amplification-news-26-9

Listeners to this news summary were told (at 01:47) that:

“…Human Rights Watch is calling on world football’s governing body to force the relocation of six Israeli football clubs located in West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law. The campaign group says that FIFA is breaking its own rules.”

Those who tuned in to a later news bulletin were informed (at 01:45) that:

“…Human Rights Watch has called on world football’s governing body FIFA to force the relocation of six Israeli football clubs based in West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law. The Israeli authorities say it’s not up to FIFA to rule on political questions.”

As usual, no attempt was made to conform to editorial guidelines on impartiality by clarifying to audiences the existence of legal opinions which contradict that well-worn BBC mantra on the alleged illegality of Israeli communities in Area C and parts of Jerusalem. Moreover, despite those same editorial guidelines, no effort was made to clarify the “particular viewpoint” of HRW in relation to Israel and listeners were therefore unable to assess the group’s claims in the appropriate context.

Although this latest example of unchallenged BBC amplification of HRW’s politicised agenda is entirely predictable, it is of course extremely disturbing to see it being promoted in supposedly factual news bulletins.

Related Articles:

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Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2015

BBC’s mantra on ‘international law’ becomes even less impartial

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 two

As was documented in part one of this post, on September 7th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard a rare explanation of why some forms of anti-Zionism are antisemitism from professor of history and Holocaust studies Yehuda Bauer.oz-clip

The following week, on September 13th, viewers of BBC’s Two’s ‘Newsnight’ saw Israeli author Amos Oz make the same point in an interview with Kirsty Wark.

A clip from the programme was also posted on the BBC News website and a written article about the interview appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘World’ page on September 14th under the title “Amos Oz: Saying Israel should not exist is anti-Semitic“.

“One of Israel’s great living writers, Amos Oz, says people who say Israel should not exist are anti-Semitic.

Speaking in an interview with BBC Newsnight, he said strong criticism of Israel is legitimate, but to argue there should be no Israel “that’s where anti-Zionism becomes anti-Semitism”.” […]

“In recent months, the Labour Party in the UK has been embroiled in a row over anti-Semitism, and whether the party has a problem on the issue.

Oz told Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark: “I can tell you exactly where I draw the line. If people call Israel nasty, I to some degree agree. If people call Israel the devil incarnated, I think they are obsessed – they are mad. But this is still legitimate.”

“But if they carry on saying that therefore there should be no Israel, that’s where anti-Zionism becomes anti-Semitism, because none of them ever said after Hitler that Germany should cease to exist, or after Stalin that there should be no Russia.”

“Saying that Israel should cease to exist, or should not have come into being, this is crossing the line.””

One can of course disagree with some of the analogies chosen by Amos Oz but nevertheless, it is worth noting that BBC audiences rarely see the connection between anti-Zionism and antisemitism explained and that in contemporary Britain it is far from rare to hear people “saying that Israel should cease to exist”.oz-written

The subject of BDS was also raised in the ‘Newsnight’ interview and in the written article.

“In February 2015, hundreds of UK artists signed a letter announcing they would take part in a cultural boycott of Israel. They said they would not accept professional invitations to Israel, or take any funding from organisations linked to the government.

Other prominent artists – including writer JK Rowling and historian Simon Schama – later criticised the move as “divisive and discriminatory”.

Oz told Newsnight he believes cultural boycotts of Israel are counter-productive.”

As has been documented here on many occasions, despite its frequent promotion of the BDS campaign the BBC has to date failed to inform its audiences of its full agenda and that it is in fact one of those voices “saying that there should be no Israel”.  Hence, BBC audiences would be unlikely to understand the link between the BDS campaign and the form of antisemitism explained by Amoz Oz – and earlier by Yehuda Bauer – in these two rare interviews.

Regrettably, the BBC did not make the most of the opportunity to clarify that point to its audiences and thereby contribute to meeting its remit of building “a global understanding of international issues”.

Related articles:

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

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

BBC failure to adhere to editorial guidelines highlighted by ‘War on Want’ story

In an article titled “War on Want chief quits amid claims of anti-semitism” the Times informs us that:

John Hilary, 'War on Want' (photo: Twitter)

John Hilary, ‘War on Want’ (photo: Twitter)

“The head of a controversial charity is leaving without a job to go to amid investigations by the Charity Commission into the organisation’s “campaigning and political activities”.

John Hilary, executive director of War on Want, will step down next month after growing controversy about the charity’s work against Israel. War on Want funds Israeli Apartheid Week, an event at universities that Jewish Human Rights Watch has accused of “targeting and harassing Jewish students and inviting anti-semitic speakers to campuses”. […]

British law says an organisation cannot be a charity if its purposes are political, but War on Want explicitly says it is a “political organisation” that believes in “justice, not charity”. […]

The Charity Commission said it had received complaints about War on Want, “particularly in respect of its campaigning and political activities”, and would be publishing an “operational case report” into the charity, a rare procedure that is carried out only when there is “significant public interest in the issues involved” or “lessons that other charities can learn” from it.”WoW 1

Readers who are familiar with the record of the self-described political NGO ‘War on Want’ will perhaps not be surprised by news of the Charity Commission’s investigation. It is however worth remembering that despite its long history of controversial activity, the BBC has engaged in fundraising from which that NGO has benefited, has provided a platform for the promotion of the political agenda of a member of its staff – sometimes without informing audiences of her affiliations as editorial guidelines demand – and earlier this year brought in John Hilary himself as a contributor to a debate on the issue of boycotts without adequate clarification of his organisation’s political agenda.

The BBC’s own editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

The ‘War on Want’ example once again highlights the need for consistent adherence to those guidelines, which are currently all too frequently ignored.

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BBC promoted NGO supplying props for ‘Israel Apartheid Week’

BBC R4’s ‘Moral Maze’ sidesteps the moral issues behind the BDS campaign