Inaccurate framing of Corbyn remarks continues on BBC Radio 4

As we saw previously when, on August 28th, the New Statesman published an interview with the former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks in which he addressed comments made by the current UK Labour party leader in 2013, listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard inaccurate framing of that story repeatedly promoted by the BBC political correspondent Tom Barton.

The same editorial policy was evident in the news bulletin heard by listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ on August 28th (from 02:30 here). [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Newsreader: “Labour has reacted angrily to allegations by the former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks that Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic. Lord Sacks also described comments about a group of British Zionists made by Mr Corbyn before he became Labour leader as the most offensive by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell in the 1960s. Here’s our political correspondent Tom Barton.”

Barton: “Lord Sacks was referring to a speech Jeremy Corbyn gave in 2013 in which he spoke about a group of Zionists who, he claimed, didn’t understand English irony. The former Chief Rabbi told the New Statesman that was the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech in 1968. He said the comments implied Jews were not fully British and described Jeremy Corbyn as an antisemite. Labour said comparing its leader with the race-baiting Enoch Powell was absurd and offensive. The party added that Mr Corbyn had used the word Zionist in the accurate political sense to describe a particular group of pro-Israel activists and not as a synonym or code for Jewish people.”

As noted here previously, by the time Barton was presenting that report he had been provided with a transcript of edited parts of Corbyn’s speech which showed that he was not talking about “a particular group” of people but about British Zionist Jews. He had also been told by the man who recorded Corbyn’s 2013 speech that as far as he knew, he was the only ‘pro-Israel activist’ present. Nevertheless – and even as it was obvious that Rabbi Lord Sacks’ comments were based on the fact that he did not buy into the notion that Corbyn was referring to a “particular group” present at a particular event – Barton continued to amplify the team Corbyn framing which hinders audience understanding of those comments.

Later on in the same programme (from 22:00 here) listeners heard an item described in its synopsis as follows:

“We discuss the latest row over Jeremy Corbyn – the former Chief Rabbi has described some of the Labour leader’s remarks as the most offensive made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech.”

Presenter Chris Mason began by playing a recording of part of Powell’s 1968 ‘rivers of blood’ speech followed by a recording from the 2013 speech by the person he described as “the then obscure Labour back bencher Jeremy Corbyn”. Listeners next heard a reading of some of Lord Sacks’ related comments including:

“It was divisive, hateful and like Powell’s speech it undermines the existence of an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien.”

Declaring that “we’re going to explore both sides of the argument”, Mason went on to introduce his first contributor as “Jewish, a journalist and a member of the Labour Party”. He did not however inform listeners of the relevant fact that Michael Segalov is a Corbyn supporter and apparently a member of Momentum.

After Segalov had tried to persuade listeners that Corbyn’s 2013 comments were “a joke he tried to make” he absurdly went on to claim that:

Segalov: “They came – let’s be clear – at a time when Israel-Palestine wasn’t at the heart of political debate in this country.”

Segalov added:

Segalov [24:10]: “…I don’t think Jeremy would have used those words today but to compare them and to conflate them with, you know, the real abhorrent racism that’s expressed in the ‘rivers of blood’ speech is frankly [a] disservice to that racism that really existed then.”

Sidestepping that signposting of antisemitism as not ‘real’ racism, Mason asked:

Mason: “What about that other point in the line from Jeremy Corbyn? Yes, there was the argument about the use of the word Zionist but there was also that line about English irony – and ultimately belonging – casting in the eyes of some Jewish people as outsiders; as somehow not properly English or British.”

Listeners again heard Segalov try to present Corbyn’s remarks as a joke fallen flat – “it wasn’t funny” and “it was clumsy language” – before he went on to claim that “he wasn’t casting an aspersion on all Jewish people”.

Mason did not bother to clarify to listeners that Corbyn’s reference to “Zionists” in fact describes the majority of British Jews before Segalov was given a platform from which to promote the claim that there is a need to “draw distinct lines between Judaism and Jewishness”.

Segalov: “And it sometimes feels that people on both sides are responsible because we don’t really draw those lines. There are people in the Labour Party, on the Left, who fail to do those things. They conflate Judaism and Zionism. But frankly many of our Jewish leaders do the same thing too. Rabbi Sacks does that in his interview to some extent. Look at our current Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis who wrote in the Telegraph a few years ago and saying those things are one and the same Judaism and Zionism. I mean we deserve better; Jewish people deserve better and Palestinian people do too.”

In the article cited (not for the first time) by Segalov, Ephraim Mirvis wrote:

“Zionism is a belief in the right to Jewish self-determination in a land that has been at the centre of the Jewish world for more than 3,000 years. One can no more separate it from Judaism than separate the City of London from Great Britain.

Open a Jewish daily prayer book used in any part of the world and Zionism will leap out at you. The innumerable references to the land of Israel are inescapable and demonstrative. Throughout our collective history we have yearned for a chance to determine our own future, to revive an ancient language and return to rejoice in our love for this tiny sliver of land. Zionism is a movement celebrated by people right across the political spectrum, all over the world, and requires no endorsement or otherwise of the particular policies of any Israeli Government at any time.” 

Listeners heard Segalov go on to claim that in order to “deal with” the issue of antisemitism in the British Labour Party there “has to be a concerted effort by the Jewish community and by the Labour Party” before again promoting the notion that there needs to be a conversation held “in the Jewish community and the Labour Party too: one that says  we need to tackle antisemitism whenever it raises its ugly head but also says Judaism is a religion, Zionism and Israel are in politics” and going on to claim that Rabbi Sacks “conflated those two things”. Segalov proceeded to refer to another part of Lord Sacks’ New Statesman interview which has nothing to do with the Labour antisemitism story, asserting “that level of ignorance does no service to debate”.

Radio 4 listeners next heard Mason read out a Labour Party statement in which it was once again claimed that “Jeremy Corbyn described a particular group of pro-Israel activists as Zionists in the accurate political sense – not as a synonym or code for Jewish people”.

The second contributor to this item was Jonathan Goldstein of the Jewish Leadership Council who was first asked by Mason:

Mason: “Was Lord Sacks exaggerating?”

Two of Mason’s three subsequent questions presented clear signposting to listeners.

Mason: “Yeah but being precise about this intervention tonight and that comparison with the ‘rivers of blood’ speech.”

Mason: “In specific terms though, is the comparison with the ‘rivers of blood’ speech fair? Not least because Enoch Powell was a shadow minister at the time; he knew his message would be heard by a national audience and he knew it has a capacity to offend. Mr Corbyn didn’t.”

Unless the BBC’s domestic audiences are given both an accurate portrayal of the content and circumstances of Corbyn’s 2013 speech and a critical view of his supporters’ statements after it came to light, they will clearly not be able to “engage fully” with that issue or understand the ensuing criticism of the Labour leader.

However, as Radio 4’s reporting of this latest story shows, the BBC’s funding public continues to be denied that full range of information.

Related Articles:

BBC’s political correspondent continues to push Labour framing

BBC R4 news reporting of Corbyn ‘irony’ story to domestic audiences

Guardian op-ed challenges the ‘rigid’ Yom Ha’atzmaut ‘orthodoxy’ that Israel should exist

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Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part one

On the early evening of August 13th members of the BBC’s domestic audience listening to BBC Radio 4 heard reports about the UK Labour Party leader’s participation in an event in Tunisia in 2014 that had been the subject of a report in a British newspaper three days earlier.

Listeners to Radio 4’s ‘PM‘ heard presenter Chris Mason introduce an item (from 36:15 here) with the inaccurate claim that the story was about antisemitism. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Mason: “Jeremy Corbyn has been talking about antisemitism. Our correspondent Jonathan Blake is at Westminster. What’s he said, Jonathan, and specifically about what?”

Blake: “Well Chris, not for the first time Jeremy Corbyn has faced questions about his attendance at a wreath laying ceremony in Tunisia in 2014 at the Palestinian Martyrs’ Cemetery. He was in the country for a conference organised by the Tunisian president bringing together different Palestinian factions to try to form a unity government.”

Where Blake got the idea that the purpose of a conference titled the ‘International Conference on Monitoring the Palestinian Political and Legal Situation in the Light of Israeli Aggression’ was “to try to form a unity government” is unclear.

Listeners then heard Blake portray members of a terrorist organisation as “activists” and give a context-free description of an operation which took place in response to a terror attack in Cyprus that he failed to mention.

Blake: “And what is not in question is whether he laid a wreath to victims of an attack by the Israeli air force in 1985 on the headquarters of the Palestinian [sic] Liberation Organisation in which many people were killed. What is less clear is his involvement in the laying of a wreath at the graves of a memorial [sic] to the Palestinian activists who were suspected of being behind the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972 – members of the so-called Black September terrorist group. And they took hostage and killed 11 Israeli athletes. During a visit to the West Midlands Mr Corbyn was asked about this earlier on and spoke about attending the conference and whether he took part in that controversial ceremony. Here’s what he said.”

As for Blake’s claim that the wreath was laid at the graves of those “suspected” of being behind the Munich Olympics massacre – Fatah describes one of those buried there as “the head of the Black September organization’s department of operations and assassinations” and states that “He came up with the idea for the Munich operation”.

Listeners then heard a recording of Corbyn admitting what Blake had just told them was “less clear”.

Recording Corbyn: “A wreath was indeed laid by some of those who attended the conference for those who were killed in Paris in 1992.

Interviewer: “Were you involved in that wreath laying?”

Corbyn: “I was present when it was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in it. I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who’s died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it. You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is a cycle of dialogue.”

Mason: “And listening carefully, Jonathan, to what he said there – ‘I don’t think I was actually involved in it’ – ehm…which appears to leave plenty of scope for his critics to criticise.”

Blake next cited reactions from two British politicians – while finding it necessary to mention the ethnic/religious background of just one of them:

Blake: “It does and it’s one reason that it is probably not the last time Mr Corbyn will have to answer questions on this. Not only his political opponents – the Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said he should resign. One Labour MP – the Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger has tweeted this afternoon criticising Mr Corbyn, saying ‘being present is the same as being involved. When I attend a memorial my presence alone, whether I lay a wreath or not, demonstrates my association and support. Where is the apology?'”

Blake went on to quote an earlier Tweet from the Labour Party which had already been shown to be inaccurate by Corbyn’s statements made on that West Midlands trip.

Blake: “Last year when he was asked about this Mr Corbyn said that he was there at the conference and at the headquarters and was laying a wreath to all those who died in the air attack on the PLO headquarters. But the Labour party are pushing back quite hard with a statement saying that the Munich widows are being misled – those were those quoted in this morning’s Daily Mail – Jeremy did not honour those responsible for the Munich killings.”

Mason: “Cheers, Jonathan.”

An hour later listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ heard another report from Jonathan Blake which was introduced by newsreader Neil Sleat (from 10:12 here) using the same bizarre description of terrorists.

Sleat: “The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has appeared to admit to being present at a wreath-laying ceremony for the Palestinian activists suspected of being behind the Munich Olympics massacre but said he didn’t think he was involved in it. Mr Corbyn has been criticized for his controversial visit to the Palestinian Martyrs’ Cemetery in Tunisia in 2014. In the past hour the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the laying of the wreath deserved unequivocal condemnation. Here’s our political correspondent Jonathan Blake.”

Blake then came up with a politicised description of terrorists and failed once again to provide BBC audiences with the context to the 1985 operation.

Blake: “Not for the first time Jeremy Corbyn’s attendance at a cemetery commemorating those who’ve died in pursuit of the Palestinian cause has been questioned. When this visit was criticised during last year’s general election campaign, Mr Corbyn said he had laid a wreath to commemorate the victims of an Israeli air strike on the headquarters of the PLO in Tunisia in 1985 and he confirmed that again today. The accusation against Mr Corbyn – which has seen the Home Secretary call for him to resign – is whether he took part in a ceremony where a wreath was laid at the graves of those accused of carrying out the attack on the Munich Olympics where 11 Israeli athletes were held hostage and killed. Mr Corbyn was asked about that on a visit to the West Midlands this afternoon.”

Corbyn: “I was present when it was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in it. I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who’s died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it. You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is a cycle of dialogue.”

Yet again Blake found it necessary to mention a British MP’s ethnicity/religion and once again he amplified a Labour Party claim that had already been shown to be false.

Blake: “Saying that he didn’t think he was involved is unlikely to satisfy Mr Corbyn’s critics. The Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger, who has been critical of Mr Corbyn’s handling of the antisemitism row within the party, said ‘being present is the same as being involved’ and asked ‘where is the apology?’. In response to the Daily Mail publishing criticism from the wives of those killed in the Munich massacre, a Labour Party spokesperson said their widows were being misled. Jeremy Corbyn did not honour those responsible for the Munich killings.”

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

 

BBC continues to promote anti-Israel campaign with ‘ancestral lands’ theme

h/t AM

With the BBC now having produced over a week’s worth of reporting on the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt organised by Hamas and additional terror factions in the Gaza Strip together with foreign Muslim Brotherhood linked activists, we can begin to identify patterns of reporting in the corporation’s multi-platform coverage.

One theme that has been repeatedly evident on a variety of platforms is context-free promotion of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’. BBC audiences have not however been told on what that demand is based, what its aim actually is, what it means for the internationally accepted ‘two-state solution’ or why the people making that demand continue to be categorised as refugees.

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part two

On March 6th a spin-off from that theme appeared: the description of Israel as “ancestral lands” of Palestinian refugees:

BBC reporting on Gaza border rioting continues to avoid core issue

One may have thought that BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality would have prompted the use of terminology such as “what Palestinians see as their ancestral lands” (particularly seeing as only two years of residency in Mandate Palestine is required to meet the UN definition of refugee) but that was not the case in either the written article or in radio reports promoting the same theme.

The March 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included an item (from 29:05 here) billed thus:

“Palestinians say Israeli troops have killed at least six people on Gaza’s border with Israel. As Israel is criticised by human rights groups inside and outside the country we hear from a military spokesman.”

Presenter Chris Mason introduced that item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Mason: “When you hear or use the word smokescreen, the chances are the conversation is actually indulging in a spot of imagery about a ruse designed to disguise someone’s real intentions. But along the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip today, a smoke screen was a literal description of the tactic deployed by Palestinians. The choking black clouds – the result of burning tyres – had a simple purpose: make it harder for Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border to shoot protesters in Gaza.”

Obviously listeners would be likely to erroneously conclude from that portrayal that anybody and everybody protesting “in Gaza” is liable to be shot – rather than those engaged in violent rioting right next to the border fence or attempting to infiltrate it. Mason then promoted another falsehood with the claim that all Palestinian refugees were “forcibly displaced”.

Mason: “This was the second week of a planned six-week protest set to end on the 15th of May – the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian ‘Nakba’ or catastrophe in which more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced by Israeli forces in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948.”

He continued with promotion of another now well-established theme: unquestioning repetition of casualty figures provided by the “Palestinian health ministry” – but without clarifying that the ministry concerned is run by Hamas – one of the organisers of the publicity stunt.

Mason: “Today six Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces according to the Palestinian health ministry and – as they did last week – the forces fired teargas to repel those at the border.”

Listeners then heard the “ancestral lands” theme.

Mason: “The protesters are demanding that refugees be allowed to return to ancestral lands that are now in Israel but Israel says the militant group Hamas which dominates Gaza is staging the rallies in order to launch attacks. Our correspondent Yolande Knell has spent the day with a 72 year-old Palestinian man who was one of the protesters today.”

Knell: “This is Jabaliya; one of eight refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. It’s really overcrowded. The streets are narrow with breeze-block buildings. I’ve come to the home of a retired English teacher Ahmed Abdullah to hear his story.”

Abdullah: “Here are the deeds. This was recorded in 1940 through the British Mandate. My mother took me there and she showed me every inch belongs to me.”

Knell: “Ahmed and his mother were the only survivors from their large family in the fierce fighting that followed the creation of the State of Israel. He comes from Hulayqat village, just to the north of Gaza but was brought up here. His family’s land is now an agricultural community in Israel.”

Listeners were given no context whatsoever to that story. They were not informed that Hulayqat was located along the route linking Jewish communities in the Negev to the centre of the country or that in the rioting that preceded the War of Independence, together with the inhabitants of two more hostile neighbouring villages, the residents of Hulayqat regularly harassed Jewish travelers along that road and blocked it. Neither were they told that armed Egyptian volunteers were already located in the area or that Hulayqat was the site of a British military post from which it was possible to control the route to the Negev. With the expectation of invasion by Arab armies, immediately before the War of Independence began the Palmach conducted Operation Barak in order to prevent the Jewish communities in the Negev from being cut off by the Egyptian army. Hulayqat was taken on May 13th 1948.

Knell’s interviewee went on:

Abdullah: “Now Israelis called it Heletz. They built a moshav on the land, on the village, and called it Heletz. Because the Israeli thought one day that the oldest will die and the smallest will forget. We cannot forget. We cannot forget. We know that this is our country and one day we will return back. One day. After 10 years, after 50 years, after 1,000 years – we will return back.”

Knell: “How do you feel about the protests that have been taking place here?”

Abdullah: “I’ve been there. I should be in the front. I lived the whole tragedy. I lived all my life as a refugee. They are talking about my life, about my land, about my future for my sons and grandsons. All people, all the people in the whole world they have countries. They live in countries. We as Palestinians, our country live inside us.”

Knell: “But Israel completely rejects the Palestinians’ right to go back to that land. Is it realistic to keep talking about the right of return to those villages?”

Abdullah: “Of course. It is like an [unintelligible]. We started in Gaza; we began to put pressure on the Palestinians who [unintelligible] to move, move you are a refugee not to leave us alone in Gaza and we will ask the Palestinian refugee in Lebanon to move and also the Jordanian. We want to return back.”

Although it has been clear in some of her other reports that Yolande Knell knows full well that Hamas is one of the co-organisers of this publicity stunt – and is also financing it – listeners then heard another recurrent theme: the downplaying of Hamas’ involvement.

Knell: “When the Israelis say it’s just Hamas that’s trying to stir up violence…”

Abdullah: “It is not Hamas. It is not Hamas. It is people. I’m not Hamas. I don’t believe in Hamas thoughts. I’m secular, not religious. So I took a part.”

Knell: “So you think they’re just one of the parties?”

Abdullah: “Yes but they [Israel] want to cover it with Hamas to show us as we are terrorists. We are not terrorists. We are the victim of terrorism.”

Knell: “So Ahmed, you and some of your 25 grandchildren and I have come now to the protest camp east of Jabaliya on the border with Israel. There’s a big crowd here and we can see Israeli soldiers by the fence across a field. There are tyres burning. There’s been some tear gas fired. It feels very dangerous. The idea is to continue these demonstrations until the middle of May. Are you ready to keep coming back?”

Abdullah: “Yeah. We are not fed up. We are not tired. We will continue day by day. We are on the right way to implement our right of returning to our home and land.”

That item continued with Chris Mason interviewing the head of the political NGO B’tselem about his organisation’s call for Israeli soldiers to disobey orders (also promoted in a written BBC report on the same day) and that was followed by an interview with an IDF spokesperson.

A TV version of Yolande Knell’s one-sided and totally context-free amplification of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ was also seen by viewers of BBC Four’s ‘World News Today’ and an edited version of Knell’s interview with Ahmed Abdullah was heard by listeners to the March 6th evening edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ (from 18:05 here), with presenter Julian Marshall once again unquestioningly quoting Hamas casualty figures and telling listeners that:

“…in similar protests last Friday in support of the demand that Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel, 16 Palestinians lost their lives.”

Listeners to an earlier version of ‘Newshour’ on the same day (from 49:32 here) heard similar promotion of Hamas-supplied casualty figures that have not been independently verified by the BBC and were told by Yolande Knell that:

“The Palestinians…they’re calling for the right of those original 1948 Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Gaza – which is about 1.3 million of the 2 million population – to be allowed to go back to their land which is now in Israel. Israel has long rejected such a claim but the Palestinians here say they’re going to keep up these protests until the middle of May when it will be the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel when those hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes or forced to flee.”

The BBC has now had well over a week in which to provide its audiences with the background which would facilitate their understanding of why Israel (and the pro two-state solution international community) ‘rejects’ the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’. In light of its continued failure to produce any such reporting, one can only conclude that the BBC’s intention is not to meet its remit as a supplier of “impartial news and information” but to provide amplification for that anti-Israel political campaign.  

Related Articles:

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

BBC News claims Gaza stone throwers engaged in ‘peaceful demonstrations’

BBC again fails to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in Gaza border agitprop

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part two

BBC Radio 4 dusts off the ‘expert’ hats and ‘disproportionate’ meme

No BBC reporting on preparations for upcoming Gaza border stunt

BBC reporting on Gaza border rioting continues to avoid core issue