BBC WS item on antisemitic NYT cartoon omits full background

The June 11th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item (from 45:05 here) introduced by presenter Razia Iqbal as follows:

Iqbal: “The New York Times newspaper has announced it will no longer publish daily political cartoons in its international editions. The decision was made after the publication of a cartoon earlier this year depicting the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Trump – a cartoon described and criticised by many as antisemitic.”

Listeners were not given a proper description of the cartoon and no effort was made to explain why it was antisemitic before part of a statement “defending the decision to do away with the daily cartoon” from a NYT editor was read out. Iqbal then introduced one of the paper’s cartoonists – Patrick Chappatte.

Iqbal: “Well let’s look at that controversy. This goes back to just April this year, Describe the cartoon for us.”

Having explained that the cartoon was syndicated, Chappatte gave the following description:

Chappatte: “So someone picked a cartoon from a colleague that was depicting Netanyahu on a leash with a blind Trump following. Netanyahu was depicted as a dog with a Star of David around the neck.”

The New York Times itself described the image as having:

“…included anti-Semitic tropes, depicting the Prime Minister of Israel as a guide dog with a Star of David collar leading the President of the United States, shown wearing a skullcap. The image was offensive, and it was an error of judgement to publish it.”

Once again BBC World Service listeners were not given any insight into why the image was offensive and exactly which antisemitic tropes it used. Chappatte continued:

Chappatte: “And to me that cartoon was problematic in many ways and I don’t think it should have been published in the New York Times but it looks like they did not realise that because someone picked it up and printed it. And that caused an instant outrage and controversy and a lot of furore, especially on social media but there was a lot of that on the Right-wing media: Fox News, Breitbart. Trump’s son retweeted the cartoon, Netanyahu’s son did as well. It was widely depicted as an antisemitic cartoon reminding of the worst things in history. I don’t think the cartoonist had an antisemitic intent but I think this was a poor cartoon that should not have been published.”

Obviously listeners were given the impression that objections to the cartoon came from the Right of the political map, but is that actually the case? As documented by CAMERA at the time (see ‘related articles’ below), one of the first Tweets on the topic came from a Left-wing site called The Jewish Worker. New York Times columnist Bret Stephens published an article on the story and criticism also came from Anshel Pfeffer of Ha’aretz, among many others.

Later in the interview listeners heard Chappatte opine that “media should stop being afraid of angry mobs” and:

Chappatte: “We need to learn to deal with social media. Twitter is a place for furore – not for debate – and very often the first, angriest voices, the most angry people, define the conversation…”

So to sum up, although BBC audiences around the world were not fully informed what the NYT cartoon depicted or why it was antisemitic, they were led to believe that objections to it came from predominantly Right-wing “angry mobs” of the kind that “define the conversation”.

Clearly the portrayal of this story heard by BBC World Service listeners was far from accurate, impartial or informative.

Related Articles:

New York Times Apes Der Sturmer With Anti-Semitic Cartoon (CAMERA)




Weekend long read

1) The potential designation of the Muslim Brotherhood – covered by the BBC at the end of last month – is the topic of a discussion held at the FDD available both as a transcript and on video.

“As the administration and Congress consider designating Muslim Brotherhood groups as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, FDD hosted a breakfast event on May 17 to discuss the options, criteria, and implications of any U.S. government actions. The conversation was be moderated by Nancy Youssef, national security correspondent at The Wall Street Journal, and featured Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at FDD; Samuel Tadros, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute; and Amy Hawthorne, deputy director for research at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).”

2) The ITIC reports on the demonstration held two weeks ago in London.

“On May 11, 2019, a demonstration and rally were held in central London to mark the Palestinian Nakba Day. The events were organized by several anti-Israeli organizations operating in Britain, whose objective is to demonize Israel and promote the BDS campaign. The Nakba Day events in London were attended by between 3,000 and 4,000 demonstrators. At the head of the demonstrators marched Ahed Tamimi, a young Palestinian woman from the village of Nabi Salih (near Ramallah), a serial provocateur who customarily clashes with IDF soldiers. Among the speakers was Zaher Birawi, a Hamas- and Muslim Brotherhood- affiliated operative who participates in organizing marches and flotillas to the Gaza Strip, and a member of the committee that prepared the return marches. Another speaker was Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Authority (PA) representative in Britain. The demonstrators carried signs and chanted slogans calling for the [so-called] “right of return” of the Palestinians, which means, according to Palestinian perception, the destruction of the nature of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.”

3) At the INSS Oded Eran discusses “Concerns for Jordan’s Stability”.

“In the first years after the outbreak of the Arab Spring, the common assessment was that the Hashemite Kingdom was able to cope with the challenges it confronted, despite the various internal and external political pressures, including the demographic pressure created by the wave of refugees from Syria. However, cracks in this image of stability have begun to emerge, and there are increasing indications that the developments in the country could lead to a serious undermining of the regime, with long term strategic ramifications. The destabilization process could, for example, be sparked by protracted mass demonstrations, some of them violent, a loss of control over the situation by security forces, and a loss of the palace’s control over parliamentary decisions.”

4) Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld examines “Antisemitic Cartoons in the Anti-Israel Media” at BESA.

“Media that frequently incite against Israel often slip into publishing antisemitic cartoons.  A case in point is a recent cartoon in The New York Times that dehumanized Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu by depicting him as a dog. Antisemitic cartoons have appeared in the British Independent and Guardian, the German Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Italian Il Manifesto, the Swedish Dagens Nyheter, the Dutch Volkskrant, and all three leading Norwegian dailies.”

BBC WS ‘The Fifth Floor’ highlights cartoonist known for antisemitic imagery

The day after the French president described the terror attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris in which four people were murdered as “an appalling antisemitic act”, the BBC World Service’s ‘Fifth Floor’ decided it would be  good idea to highlight the work of a Jordanian cartoonist known for his antisemitic imagery.5th floor

Presenter David Amanour’s introduction to the item broadcast on January 10th (available here from 01:00) was as follows:

“We start this week with the world of satire and the drawings that can provoke both roaring laughter and fury. The events in France this week highlighted the dangers facing political cartoonists around the world. Today we’re focusing our attentions on the Middle East and the challenges cartoonists face there. With me here in the studio is Abdirahim Saeed of BBC Arabic and Turkish journalist with the BBC, Seref Isler.”

Readers can judge for themselves whether or not the item fulfilled its stated goal but they will no doubt notice that a character created by the first cartoonist highlighted in the programme – the long since deceased “famous Palestinian cartoonist” Naji al Ali – is used to amplify a context-free narrative.

Abdirahim Saeed: “He’s got a stock of iconic characters that still live on and are still relevant in today’s world; in today’s politics in the Middle East.”

David Amanor: “Characters like?”

AS: “Characters like Handala. It’s like Ali always mentioned that it’s based on him. Handala is supposedly a ten year-old kid, barefooted, downtrodden but still hopeful of one day returning to his homeland where he was – according to the Palestinian narrative – they were obviously put into exile and expelled from their land. […] So it’s not just commentary – a running commentary on Palestinian affairs but it’s actually a running commentary on what’s happening in the Arab world…”

There is of course a significant difference between cartoons as “running commentary” or satire and the use of images to create or reinforce an inaccurate politically motivated narrative.

The second cartoonist highlighted by Saeed is introduced as follows:

DA: “Let’s talk about sensitivities then. A Jordanian cartoonist Emad Hajjaj – has he been upsetting people? I mean how would you describe his cartoons?”

SA: “I mean a bit like Ali Naja again. I mean he’s a brilliant commentary for what’s happening in Jordan in his own country but also across the Middle East…”

Here are two examples of that “brilliant commentary” from Emad (also Imad) Hajjaj from the time of Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9.

Hajjaj cartoon 1

Hajjaj cartoon 2

As anyone who knows even a little about cartoons in the Middle East will be aware, the use of antisemitic themes and imagery is very common and long-established. That fact, however, was not communicated to BBC audiences in the Fifth Floor’s discussion of Middle East cartoonists.