Investigative report highlights BBC’s NGO impartiality fail

Over the past fourteen months we have documented several cases in which the BBC has amplified the messaging of what it labels an “Israeli activist group” but failed to comply with its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing audiences of the agenda and ideology that lies behind the political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’.BtS written

BBC editorial guidelines flouted in promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’ booklet

Another breach of editorial guidelines in yet more BBC promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’

The context of the BBC’s promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’

BBC’s ME Editor gives unchallenged amplification to Palestinian defamation

What the BBC World Service edited out of a ‘Boston Calling’ report

Last week Channel 10’s investigative journalism programme ‘HaMakor’ presented an interesting report on ‘Breaking the Silence’ in which the issue of the reliability of the NGO’s ‘testimonies’ was examined.

Our colleague Gidon Shaviv has now translated the results of that investigation in an article titled “Breaking the Silence Gets Failing Grade in Channel 10’s Fact-Check“.

 The findings of Channel 10’s investigation show that the BBC’s repeated unquestioning and uncritical amplification of ‘Breaking the Silence’ is not conducive to meeting its public purposes and yet again underscore the urgent need for the corporation to adhere to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality when quoting and promoting that – or any other – political NGO. 

A media story the BBC ignored surfaces again

Back in 2013 we noted the BBC’s silence concerning restrictions on foreign journalists introduced by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Information and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Journalist’s Syndicate (PJS). Khaled Abu Toameh reported at the time that:PJS

“The new decision is directed primarily against Israeli journalists who cover Palestinian affairs. […]

The Palestinian Journalist’s Syndicate has long been opposed to “normalization” with Israel, and bans its members from holding meetings with Israeli colleagues. Some Palestinian journalists who defied the ban were recently expelled from the syndicate.”

In February 2016 the PJS went a step further and decided “to boycott any Palestinian official who gives an interview to Israeli reporters or media organizations”. Despite its logical, long-standing interest in the topic of press freedom, the BBC similarly refrained from reporting that story.

Our colleague Tamar Sternthal of CAMERA has now published an article concerning one of the instigators of this latest PJS boycott, titled “‘Rigorous Neutrality’?: Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate’s Nasser Abu Baker Moonlights For AFP”.

“Objectivity is a difficult goal to achieve. The mere unavoidable organisation of facts can influence a reader’s judgement. However, this does not prevent us from pursuing our policy of rigorous neutrality. According to its remit, AFP is independent of the French government and all other economic or political interests.” So state the lofty principles enshrined in “Agence France Presse’s Values.”

How, then, does one explain the fact that Nasser Abu Baker, the chairman of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, the leading force for the boycott of Israeli journalists and media, also writes for the influential French news agency? […]

According to an Israeli journalist who frequently reports from the Palestinian areas, Abu Baker “is without a doubt among the leaders in the boycott movement against Israeli journalists.” The Israeli, who refused to be named because of his ongoing work in Palestinian-controlled territory, maintained that Abu Baker “carries out a witch hunt against Palestinian journalists who don’t abide by this policy” by harassing and smearing them.

Indeed, when he was deputy chairman of the syndicate, Abu Baker recently threatened:

“I call upon all male and female colleagues/journalists to boycott any Palestinian official, regardless of how senior he/she is, who conducts an interview with Israeli journalists and Israeli media…this poisonous media whose only goal is to broadcast dissent and incite against our people. Their media, which is directed by their government, is one of the tools of the occupation. Therefore, the time has come for a comprehensive boycott of their media. The Syndicate will have a clear position on this and I plead with all the journalists to abide. We will publish the name of any official who gives an interview to their media from this moment.” 

Read the whole report here.

 

 

 

 

BBC Watch London community event on video

The BBC Watch community event held at Kinloss Shul on November 10th can be found in full on video here.

Also available are separate videos of the talks given at the event:

Dr Denis MacEoin speaking about the media in the Middle East:

Lesley Klaff speaking about how media coverage of Israel affects attitudes towards British Jews:

Jonathan Turner on the topic of the legal aspects of the BBC’s charter and how the complaints system can be used effectively:

Hadar Sela outlining BBC Watch’s submission to the public consultation on the subject of charter review:

Related Articles:

BBC Watch submission to the DCMS BBC Charter Review consultation

 

Thank you from BBC Watch

After a very busy week on the road in the UK, BBC Watch is now getting back to normal.

The response to our four events held in London and Manchester last week was way beyond expectation and we would like to thank the hundreds of people who attended them, our host in Parliament Mike Freer MP and our wonderful speakers Baroness Deech, Professor Richard Landes, Dr Denis MacEoin, Lesley Klaff and Jonathan Turner. London 2

The high participation in all the events indicates just how relevant the topic of the BBC’s coverage of Israel is to the British community and it was a pleasure to meet so many BBC Watch readers and supporters from far and wide in person.

Special thanks go to the many individuals and organisations who volunteered their help in organising the events: without them, they simply could not have taken place.

Security was of course a big part of the organisation of the events and we are grateful to the wonderful Community Security Trust and the police for taking such professional care of that aspect.

Sincere thanks go to Murray Freedman for artwork and design, Sharna Kinsley and Nizza Fluss for photography, Tony Jacobs and Richard Galber for security, Jenny Scott and Nadine Dobrik for organisation, Ellie Bar-On; first-aider and computer operation and Ambrosine Shitrit and Rachel Dobrik of Campaign for Truth for logistics and organisation.

Thanks too to the community of Northwood Synagogue and the Zionist Central Council in Manchester for hosting us.  Unfortunately, a very tight schedule meant that we were not able to accept the additional invitations from many other communities in the UK this time around.  

We are grateful for the many offers of help with hospitality and transport and special thanks go to Sharon Lagnado for a very wet and windy drive up the M1.

An especially big thank-you goes to Sharon Klaff of Campaign for Truth who was instrumental in organising the first two events in London and whose boundless energies and meticulous attention to detail made them such a success.

BBC Watch on the road

Throughout the coming week BBC Watch will be on the road in the UK with events in London and Manchester.pic BBC

“Studies by groups such as the Community Security Trust and the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism following last year’s Gaza conflict highlighted the inescapable connection between media coverage of a war thousands of miles away and antisemitic incidents in Britain.

In July this year, Prime Minister David Cameron made a speech outlining the government’s five-year strategy for dealing with extremism. In it he raised issues including the promotion of conspiracy theories relating to Israel and Jews, and the dissemination of antisemitic tropes.

With its unparalleled outreach and worldwide influence, the BBC has an obvious obligation to exercise responsibility regarding these issues.

The upcoming review of the BBC’s charter presents a once-in-a-decade opportunity to address the question of whether that obligation is being met, and to examine the wider effects of BBC coverage of Israel, Jews and antisemitism on community cohesion in
Britain.”

We would of course be delighted to meet as many of our UK-based readers as possible at those events – registration details are available here.

Upcoming events for BBC Watchers in the UK

CAMERA and BBC Watch are delighted to invite readers to two events which we will be hosting next month in the UK.pic BBC

On November 10th, at 19:30 at a venue in north London, we will hold a discussion on the impact of BBC coverage of Israel on attitudes towards Jews in the UK. The panel will feature a prominent keynote speaker together with lecturer and writer Denis MacEoin, Jonathan Turner of UK Lawyers for Israel, law lecturer Lesley Klaff and BBC Watch’s managing editor Hadar Sela.

“The upcoming review of the BBC Charter presents a once in a decade opportunity to address issues relating to BBC coverage of Israel, Jews and anti-Semitism and to examine the wider effects on community cohesion in the UK. 

Prime Minister David Cameron’s July speech outlining his government’s 5 year strategy dealing with extremism in the UK raised issues including conspiracy theories relating to Israel, Jews and antisemitic tropes.

With its unparalleled outreach and worldwide influence, the publicly funded BBC has an obvious obligation to exercise responsibility regarding those issues, amongst others, but does it live up to that expectation and how does its self-regulating complaints system fair when dealing with matters flagged up by its funding public?”

Advance registration is required – details can be found here.

On November 12th at 19:30 we will be holding a discussion on the same topic at a venue in Manchester, hosted by the Zionist Central Council.

For details of that event and booking, please contact zcc.man@zen.co.uk

Looking forward to meeting our UK-based readers at both events. 

CAMERA Panel on UK Media, European Antisemitism

With antisemitic violence on the rise in Europe, CAMERA convened a panel discussion in Jerusalem on March 1 entitled “Framing Israel: Framing Jews: Examining the effects of UK media coverage of Israel on EuropeanEvent 1 3 15 antisemitism.” In light of recent polling which indicates that over 80 percent of British Jews believe that biased coverage of Israel incites antisemitism, the panelists explored how UK media coverage of Israel influences attitudes towards Jews in Europe and fuels extremism.

Speakers on the panel included Professor Robert S. Wistrich, Neuberger Chair of Modern European and Jewish History at the Hebrew University Jerusalem, Head of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism and author of A Lethal Obsession: Antisemitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (2010); Lucille Cohen, former President of the Zionist Central Council and the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and representative to the Board of Deputies of British Jews; Adam Levick, managing editor of UK Media Watch(formerly CiF Watch), a CAMERA affiliate and Hadar Sela, managing editor of BBC Watch, a CAMERA affiliate.

Readers can watch the video of the event here.

Media and Israel: Friday night long reads and listens

Adam Levick – managing editor of our sister site UK Media Watch (formerly CiF Watch) – recently spoke with Judy Lash Balint on her Voice of Israel radio show. Readers can listen to the interview here.Adam on VoI

Those interested in joining us in Jerusalem this coming Sunday for our event titled ‘Framing Israel, Framing Jews’ can still register here.

On a related note, writers Ben Judah and Josh Glancy have an interesting interview in Tablet with novelist Howard Jacobson.

“Jewish north London starts just three miles up the road, but conceptually you could not be further from its prim suburbs. Jacobson doesn’t belong there. In that world, the rise of anti-Semitism is the talk of the Shabbat dinner table. People mutter that since the Gaza war last summer there has been “something in the air.” They check property prices in Herzliya with increasing regularity, just in case they need a bolt-hole. […]

“Israel has become the pretext [for anti-Semitism] not because I choose it to be, but because they have,” he says in his gruff but melodious north Manchester accent, still with him despite decades of living in London. “All the unsayable things, all the things they know they can’t say about Jews in a post-Holocaust liberal society, they can say again now. Israel has desacralized the subject. It’s a space in which everything is allowed again.”

The difficulty all British Jews face with growing anti-Zionism is how to interpret it. What is legitimate criticism and what is something else? Sometimes it is clear when the line has been crossed, such as when swastikas and the Magen David start appearing on placards together. But other times it is far less clear, woven into a complex mix of genuine and excessive outrage. Jacobson’s strength on this issue is his ability to sort the anti-Semitic wheat from the anti-Israel chaff. Like many secular Jews he is clearly uncomfortable with the Bennettist millenarian nationalism that has grown in influence there. But he thinks “everyone’s always banging on about that.” Instead the war he chooses to wage is against anti-Zionism; the language, the sophistries, and the double standards. In recent years he has become England’s anti-Zionism code-reader-in-chief.”

Read the whole article here.

 

BBC contributors on the ‘flood libel’ bandwagon

Readers who follow our colleagues at CAMERA will know that they recently exposed a fabricated story by AFP’s Yahia (or Yahya) Hassouna in which it was claimed that Israel had deliberately flooded areas of the Gaza Strip by opening dams. The same fictitious story was also promoted by Al Jazeera, the Daily Mail and Russia Today, among others.

“In the video, Ead Zino, a resident of Al-Maghraqa, accuses Israel: “Every four years there is a war but here in Maghraqa every year there is a flood. This water comes from Israel. This is political. All Israel wants is to destroy us.”

 In addition, AFP’s caption at the beginning of the video is “Gaza village flooded as Israel opens dam gates.”

AFP did not include any Israeli voice to refute the false charge.

 Regarding the claim that Israel opened dams, thereby flooding Gaza, a spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) told CAMERA:

‘The claim is entirely false, and southern Israel does not have any dams. Due to the recent rain, streams were flooded throughout the region with no connection to actions taken by the State of Israel.

Prior to the storm, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories allowed the transfer of four water pumps belonging to the Palestinian Water Authority from Israel into Gaza to supplement the 13 pumps already in the Gaza Strip in dealing with any potential flooding throughout the area.’ “

That same malicious ‘flood libelwas also promoted on social media.

Abu Warda 3

Abu Warda 2

Abu Warda 1

Readers may recall that Dr Bassel Abu Warda of Shifa hospital was one of numerous Gaza Strip-based doctors given BBC airtime and column space last summer – ostensibly in order to provide audiences with a supposedly authoritative and objective view of the conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Another person who promoted the false flooding story on Twitter was Human Rights Watch’s MENA director Sarah Leah Whitson.

Whitson tweet

As regular readers know, Human Rights Watch is one of the NGOs most promoted and quoted by the BBC – including on the topic of the Gaza Strip.

It is always worth bearing in mind that – as cases like this one show – people from whom the BBC sources content may have an underlying political agenda.  That, of course, is why the BBC has editorial guidelines which instruct its staff that “we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint”. Unfortunately, adherence to that guideline is highly selective