Weekend long read

1) The CST has produced a research briefing documenting the reactions of various UK-based groups to the death of the “blind Sheikh”, Omar Abdel Rahman, in prison in the US. One of those groups is ‘Cage’, which two years ago received considerable promotion on BBC platforms. Asim Qureshi of ‘Cage’ has also been interviewed on BBC programmes without his “particular viewpoint” having being clarified to audiences.

“On the day of Rahman’s death, Moazzam Begg, the outreach director of CAGE, posted a tribute on Facebook. Asim Qureshi, the research director of CAGE, ‘liked’ Begg’s post, using a ‘crying’ emoji.”

The full CST briefing can be found here.

2) The Telegraph has an interview with the chairman of the Charity Commission for England and Wales.

“Reports of alleged links between charities and terrorism or extremism have surged to a record high, the charity watchdog has warned.

The number of times the Charity Commission has shared concerns about links between charities and extremism with police and other agencies has nearly trebled from 234 to 630 in just three years.

The Commission also opened eight compliance cases and four formal inquiries into “allegations of abuse of charities for terrorist or extremist purposes” in 2015/16. […]

Earlier this year the Commission stepped in to stop the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and Anita Roddick Foundation funding Cage because it did not match their “charitable objectives”.

Mr Shawcross said that Cage, a controversial human rights group, “was not a charity and there is no way in which Cage could represent any charitable purpose under British law”.

Last year, it emerged that Cage had used meetings on university campuses to encourage the “sabotage” of the Government’s official anti-extremism programme, Prevent.”

3) As explained by Dr Matthew Levitt in a briefing last month to the Senate of Canada, the abuse of charities is of course by no means confined to the UK.

“Much ink has been spilt in recent years on the more eye-catching forms of terror finance, such as the Islamic State’s takeover of oil fields and extortion of civilians under its control. The abuse of charity is a small percentage of the group’s revenues, but it is not an insignificant source, nor is it limited to the case of the Islamic State. On the contrary, cases of abuse of charity are on the rise over the past two years, and they reveal the involvement of a wide array of terrorist groups, countries, and financiers.”

4) As has been noted here on numerous occasions in the past, when reporting on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, the BBC consistently refrains from informing its audiences what that campaign aims to achieve and in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such background information “not our role“. Our colleagues at UK Media Watch have posted a short video explaining the BDS campaign.

BBC content again featured in CST report on antisemitic discourse

The Community Security Trust (CST) recently published its annual report (available here) on the topic of Antisemitic Discourse in Britain for the year 2015.

The section of that report documenting reactions to the 2015 terror attacks at the Hypercacher supermarket in Paris and the Synagogue in Copenhagen includes:

“…examples show[ing] a range of mainstream media and political responses to the Paris attacks […]. They include cases where hostility to Israel appeared to dictate reactions to the killings of French Jews.”

One of those examples (p 31) is described as follows:

“On 11 January, Tim Willcox of BBC News interviewed a French-Israeli woman attending a rally in memory of the victims of the Paris terror attacks. She expressed concern about persecution of Jews, saying “the situation is going back to the days of the 1930s in Europe”, whereupon Willcox stated:

“Many critics though of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well”.

Willcox’s response sparked an angry reaction from many commentators. For example, historian Simon Schama tweeted “Appalling of @BBCTimWillcox to imply any and all JEWS (not Israelis) responsible for treatment of Palestinians by hectoring lady in Paris”. Writing in the Spectator, Nick Cohen commented:

“…Of course, Willcox would never say such a thing after the murder of Muslims, and rightly so. He was interviewing an elderly Jewish lady, who was trying to mourn Jews killed for no other reason than they were Jews in a Paris supermarket.

Change the religion – make it Judaism, to be precise. Change Islamism to Israel, and the most grotesque apologies for murder become acceptable; standard even. Jews must bear collective responsibility for Israel’s crimes real and imagined.”

On 12 January, Willcox tweeted a bland apology: “Really sorry for any offence caused by a poorly phrased question…it was entirely unintentional”.”Willcox

Readers will no doubt recall that in response to complaints concerning that broadcast, the BBC originally claimed that Willcox’s subsequent apology on Twitter sufficed. Having received a large number of complaints, the BBC then decided to consolidate them. Concurrently, additional complaints made to OFCOM were rejected.

In February 2015 the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit provisionally rejected the consolidated complaint, sparking condemnation from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. In May 2015 the ECU finalised its decision. In June 2016 the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee published its rejection of appeals against that decision. 

In short, both the BBC and OFCOM dismissed complaints concerning a statement which Britain’s leading authority on antisemitism categorises as antisemitic discourse, with OFCOM stating that it had:

“…“carefully assessed complaints about alleged antisemitic comments” and “decided not to take the issue forward for further investigation.”

It explained: “While the comments clearly had the potential to cause offence, Ofcom considered a range of factors, including the live nature of this coverage and the need for an appropriate degree of freedom of expression, especially in news coverage of such a significant event.””

As OFCOM prepares to take on its new role as final adjudicator of complaints concerning BBC content, this worrying example once again highlights the need for both it and the BBC to work according to the definition of antisemitism recently adopted by the British government.

Related Articles:

BBC programme flagged up in CST report on Antisemitic Discourse

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ featured in CST report on antisemitic discourse

BBC Trust’s ESC rejects complaint about Tim Willcox’s ‘Jewish faces’ remark

UKMW Interview with Dave Rich

Our sister site UK Media Watch has a very interesting interview with the CST’s Dave Rich – author of the new and very timely book ‘The Left’s Jewish Problem’.dave-rich

UKMW:  In the first chapter of your book, ‘When the Left Stopped Loving Israel’, you argued that the rise of anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism as the defining ideologies of the radical left influenced activists to see the Israeli-Arab conflict through a different lens. Is it a fair reading of this chapter to say that, contrary to most theories, this left-wing intellectual tide began to turn before the Six Day War – that is, before Israel occupied one square centimeter of land?

Dave Rich: Yes, this is correct, although – and this is the key point – the radical left argument was, and remains, that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land began in 1948 (or before), and 1967 was just an extension of that earlier ‘crime’. The Six Day War saw an outburst of anti-Zionism on the radical Left in several countries, but the political ideas fuelling that outburst were already visible in the decade prior to that war. In Britain, anti-colonialism had become a prominent liberal and left-wing cause during the 1950s as colonies gained independence, and the Suez Crisis exposed the shabby duplicity required to maintain Britain’s imperial interests. The idea that Israel was a legacy of Western colonialism, rather than a rejection of it as many leftists had believed in 1948, was increasingly heard in radical left-wing politics in the early 1960s. So when the Six Day War occurred it was, as one contemporary observer wrote, “the perfect example of the key event as orchestrator of a symphony which was ready to be played.” The war gave focus and energy to ideas that already existed: this is why the radical left-wing response in the years following 1967 was not limited to analysing that war and its consequences, but instead critiqued the circumstances of Israel’s creation and the ideology of Zionism itself. People began to see Israel as a settler state, comparable to South Africa and Rhodesia – all three of which were former British colonies, so the theory had particular purchase in Britain.

Read the whole interview here.

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Weekend long read

Weekend long read

 

 

 

BBC’s Jeremy Bowen misrepresents a CST statement

The eruption of further scandals concerning members of the UK Labour party last week prompted extensive coverage of the story on all the BBC’s various platforms, with some items purporting to explain to the corporation’s audiences the difference between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. One such written backgrounder was previously discussed here and another item with the same theme appeared (from 01:48:00 here) in the April 30th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme.Today 30 4

Inadvertently demonstrating once again why the fact that the BBC does not work according to an accepted definition of antisemitism is problematic, presenter Justin Webb introduced the item as follows:

“Now, can you be anti-Israeli without being antisemitic? The question swirls around the debate about Labour’s current difficulties. What does the dividing line actually look like? Well we heard on this programme during the week an open disagreement between two Jewish commentators about whether disputing Israel’s right to exist did or did not itself constitute antisemitsm.”

The programme Webb appears to be referring to can be found here at 01:36:05. He of course refrains from informing listeners that according to the definition of antisemitism used by the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism and the College of Policing, “[d]enying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” is indeed considered antisemitism.

With no attempt to conform to standards of impartiality, Webb then appears to imply that Israelis are responsible for contemporary European antisemitism:

“Others suggest that the illegal settlement building on Palestinian land is the root cause of the modern problem. So how does it all look from the perspective of Israel – and the Palestinians? Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen is in Jerusalem and I asked him first what the generally accepted difference was between antisemitism and anti-Zionism.”

Listeners are not informed of the source of that “generally accepted difference” but Bowen’s explanation is as follows: [emphasis added]

“Anti-Zionism is the opposition to the idea of Zionism which emerged as an idea in the late 19th century and that was a time when nationalism and self-determination were very big ideas in Europe where large empires ruled many different races. And, if you like, Zionism in the 19th century was the Jewish equivalent of that nationalism with the idea that Jews could go back to what they regarded as their ancestral homeland which – depending on definition – means various amounts of the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.”

No effort is made to clarify the legal side of the story in the form of the Mandate for Palestine which clearly defined what Bowen misleadingly terms “various amounts of land”. He continues:

“Now antisemitism is the hatred of Jews because they’re Jews. It includes the blood libel – that Jews murder Christians to use their blood in Jewish rituals. And it also classically includes the promotion of stereotypes – the evil, grasping Jew like Shylock in Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’.”

Webb then once again floats the notion that Israel is to blame for antisemitism.

“So when you come to modern times and to the existence of the State of Israel and the way that Israel is…set up, is it fair to say that there are things about Israel that fuel…err…well all of those things – both anti-Zionism and antisemitism?”

Bowen wisely refrains from following Webb’s lead and replies:

“Well really the big issue is where is the dividing line between what people might regard as legitimate criticism of the actions of the government of Israel as a government and antisemitism which is simply criticizing them because they’re Jews. There’s something called the BDS campaign which is about boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel because of its occupation of Palestinian territories and actions it’s taken. Now…eh…that’s been described as an antisemitic campaign because among other things it denies the right of Jews to self-determination, they’d say, it uses classic antisemitic symbols…ehm…and even at times – according to ngomonitor.org which looks at these things from a pro-Israeli point of view – compares contemporary Israeli policy with the Nazis. Now supporters of this campaign called BDS say it’s a legitimate tactic of non-violent resistance and the Israeli government only complains about it because it works as a…it works as far as they’re concerned as a form of pressure.”

That portrayal of the BDS campaign is of course particularly remarkable in light of the fact that whilst Bowen and his colleagues have frequently promoted, amplified and mainstreamed it, to date BBC audiences have never been told that the campaign aims to deny Jews the right to self-determination – despite the Middle East editor obviously being aware of that agenda. Bowen then continues:

“So I mean that is one of the issues on the dividing line. There are others as well. Err…you may remember a couple of years ago the British House of Commons in…in a vote that was non-binding expressed support for the idea of recognition of a Palestinian state. About three-quarters of UN members have recognized a Palestinian state. But the Community Security Trust – which is a British Jewish organization that monitors antisemitism – it said that that vote stoked antisemitism in Britain. So where you put that dividing line is quite a matter of debate once you get away from the clear extremes.”

However, Bowen’s portrayal of the CST’s statement is not accurate and it materially misleads listeners. The CST did not say – as Bowen claims – that the vote in the House of Commons “stoked antisemitism in Britain”. What it did say in its report on Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2014 (see page 33 onwards) was that some of the language used in the debate surrounding that vote employed antisemitic themes.

“The vote on 13 October 2014 by MPs to recognise Palestinian statehood caused a number of reactions, explicitly or implicitly echoing the staple antisemitic conspiracy charge that Jews control politicians: expressed either as “Jewish” or “pro-Israel” lobbies. The control charge was variously made against both British and American lobbies.”

Seeing as some of that antisemitic discourse took place on the very same BBC radio station to which Bowen is speaking in this item, one might have expected him to be more au fait with the story – and to be able to portray it accurately.

The item closes with Bowen’s appraisal of the Palestinian view of the story – although listeners are not told why the BBC considers that view to be relevant. We do however learn that the BBC does in fact know that the Arabic word ‘Yahud’ does not mean ‘Israeli’ and – despite the fact that the issue is never raised in BBC content – that the corporation is aware of the existence of antisemitism in Palestinian society.

Webb: “And what do all these arguments look like to Palestinians?”

Bowen: “Well, you know, I think for a lot of Palestinians…ahm…you know Palestinians often routinely refer to Israelis when they’re speaking Arabic – they don’t call them the Israelis; they call them the Jews. Ah…and you do hear quite antisemitic remarks from…ah…Palestinians and sometimes if you challenge them on that they say things like – and you don’t always hear those by the way, I have to say that – but sometimes if you challenge them they say look, it’s about the occupation. They’ve taken our land, they’ve taken what we believe is ours so we don’t like them for that reason. And that – I was talking to someone about it yesterday and he said…ah…for centuries Jews lived next to Arabs and there weren’t problems until the State of Israel started. So, you know, again on the Palestinian point of view though, I think they’re more concerned with their own particular issues than whether or not things are antisemitic.”

The item closes there with Bowen making no effort to inform listeners that antisemitism and persecution of Jewish communities in the Arab world existed long before Israel – and political Zionism – came on the scene.

Did listeners go away with a better understanding of antisemitism and anti-Zionism? That is extremely doubtful but what is obvious yet again is that the BBC will remain incapable of adequately explaining this subject to its audiences so long as it fails to work according to accepted definitions of antisemitism.

Related Articles:

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BBC Trust’s ESC rejects complaint about Tim Willcox’s ‘Jewish faces’ remark

A complaint concerning a BBC programme which was flagged up in the CST’s report on Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2014 has been rejected by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee.BBC Papers on website

A link to the original programme can be found below:

More BBC promotion of the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope

The BBC’s initial – and not dissimilar – response to complaints about the programme is documented here:

BBC doubles down on presenter’s ‘mansion tax’ comment

The ESC’s full decision can be found on pages 17 to 23 inclusive here with a summary appearing on pages 6 and 7. Whilst the full text of the original complaint is not available, some of the content of the decision appears – to put it politely – to have missed the point.

“The Committee concluded that:

 A reference by the presenter to ‘Jewish faces’ was not anti-Semitic in the context of a discussion about prominent Jewish people (donors to the Labour party). The presenter had been struggling for a phrase to sum up the group of people they were discussing in the heat of the live discussion, and had come up with Jewish “faces”. Trustees noted that the word “face” or “faces” was in common use as a synonym for a prominent person or people. Trustees considered it was clear that this was the meaning the presenter had intended the audience to take and that the potentially offensive meaning understood by the complainant, suggestive of a negative stereotype of Jewish facial features, would not have been intended; nor would the majority of the audience have interpreted it in that sense.”

The real significance of this ruling, however, is found in the fact that the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee obviously considers itself to have sufficient authority, knowledge and expertise to determine what is – or in this case, what is not – antisemitism even though one of Britain’s leading expert bodies on that form of racism has classified the programme concerned as an example of antisemitic discourse.

 

 

BBC programme flagged up in CST report on Antisemitic Discourse

The Community Security Trust (CST) recently published its annual report on the topic of Antisemitic Discourse in Britain for the year 2014.BBC Papers on website

Readers of the report – which can be found in pdf format here – will note a reference to a BBC programme from November 2014 on page 35 under the heading “BBC DISCUSSION – JEWISH DONORS, JEWISH LOBBY, MANSION TAX”.

A link to the broadcast concerned is available here. Discussion of that programme can be found in the BBC Watch article titled “More BBC promotion of the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope” and information regarding the BBC’s response to criticism of the broadcast is available in the subsequent article “BBC doubles down on presenter’s ‘mansion tax’ comment“.

Revisiting BBC reporting of civilian deaths in Gaza on July 28th 2014

On page 29 of its 2014 Antisemitic Incidents report the Community Security Trust provided the following information:

“Almost half the incidents recorded in those two months [July and August 2014 – Ed.] – 258, or 48 per cent of the 542 incidents recorded in July and August – made direct or indirect reference to the conflict in Israel and Gaza that began on 8 July 2014 and concluded on 26 August. There was also a daily correlation between the number of antisemitic incidents reported to CST during this period and specific events in the conflict in Israel and Gaza. […] On 28 July, a day when media reported an explosion at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, CST recorded 22 antisemitic incidents in the UK.” [emphasis added]

With BBC content reaching the vast majority of the UK population and BBC One television news identified by the public as the UK’s most important source of news, the manner in which the BBC reported a story which prompted twenty-two antisemitic  incidents in that country is obviously of interest.Shifa Sahti tweet 1

Here at BBC Watch we have been tracking the BBC’s reporting of that particular story since it first emerged. On July 30th 2014 we noted that – despite information having been provided around an hour after the incidents at Shifa hospital and the Shati refugee camp occurred which showed that the cause of the civilian casualties was missiles fired by a terrorist organization – the BBC’s reporting of the story on July 28th and 29th promoted the Hamas version of the story according to which Israeli missile strikes caused the deaths of some eight children and several adults.Pannell Shati report filmed 28 7

Several days later we noted here that the BBC had produced a report on July 31st (updated on August 4th) titled “Gaza conflict: Disputed deadly incidents” which – despite the above-mentioned information – continued to encourage audiences to believe that Hamas’ version of the story was at least as credible as the information provided by Israel.

‘The BBC’s presentation of that incident, however, places data gathered from sophisticated tracking equipment on a par with the unverified verbal claims of assorted bodies all ultimately run by a proscribed terrorist organization.

“Gaza’s police, Civil Defence Directorate and health officials say Israeli air strikes caused the explosions. According to Al-Jazeera, Hamas denied it had fired any rockets from the area and said it was “categorically an Israeli air strike”. Hamas said it had collected shrapnel from the scene consistent with Israeli munitions, the channel’s website reported.

In a text message quoted by AP news agency, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described the incident as a “war crime” for which “the occupation” would pay the price.”’Shifa Shati Campbell tweet

On August 12th 2014 we noted that – despite a visit by the BBC’s chief international correspondent to an IDF missile tracking unit – the article defining the July 28th incident as “disputed” still stood.

On December 12th 2014 we noted that the IDF Military Attorney General’s investigation into the July 28th incidents at Shifa hospital and Shati concluded that they were caused by missiles fired by a terrorist organization. Despite that, all the five reports suggesting to BBC audiences that it was reasonable to assume that the deaths of civilians – mostly children – had been caused by Israeli missiles were still available to visitors to the BBC News website with no correction added.  

On March 26th a report appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Amnesty: Hamas rocket attacks amounted to war crimes“.  The article includes the following:AI Shati report

“Amnesty said rocket fire had also endangered Palestinian civilians.

The group said an independent munitions expert had concluded that a Palestinian rocket had exploded next to a supermarket in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City on 28 July, killing 13 civilians, 11 of them children aged between seven and 14.”

As we know, the BBC sets great store by any report – accurate or not – produced by Amnesty International. Perhaps then the appearance of this one will at long last prompt the corporation to append clarifications to those five reports – all of which are still accessible in their original inaccurate and misleading form on the BBC News website. It is, after all, in the BBC’s interest to do so in light of the fact that – according to its own statement from June 2014:

“…however long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it”

The corporation’s continued failure to add appropriate clarifications to those five BBC reports (and any others still available to the public) risks wasting licence fee payer-provided funding on dealing with unnecessary complaints. More seriously, it also continues to provide the agar for antisemitic incidents in Britain. 

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BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ featured in CST report on antisemitic discourse

The Community Security Trust (CST) recently published a report titled ‘Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2012’. On page 20 of that report, under the chapter heading “Jewish conspiracy and the ‘lobby'”, the CST cites an edition of the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk’ from May 2012 as an example of the propagation of the age-old concept of the supposed power of an American ‘Jewish lobby’. 

As our colleagues at CAMERA noted at the time:

“Anchor Sarah Montague’s introduction set the stage for, in effect, a half‑hour smear of American Jews, predicated on bigoted attitudes prevalent in British discourse. She said:

American presidents have long been criticized for being too in thrall to the Jewish lobby. The American Jews influence US foreign policy and that explains Washington’s increasing support for Israel.”

The CST notes that:

“Following complaints, a BBC spokesman stated:

“We consider the wording used in the introduction appropriate as the presenter was simply explaining and reflecting the public views of the guest. She makes clear these are the controversial views of Jewish American academic, Norman Finkelstein, and then robustly challenges him in the interview.”

Despite the BBC’s protest, it was Montague, not Finkelstein, who used the expression about US presidents being “in thrall to the Jewish lobby”. Furthermore, whilst Montague did challenge many of Finkelstein’s replies, the basic notion of a ‘Jewish lobby’ controlling American policy appeared to go unchallenged, and was indeed fundamental to the interview.”

It should of course be a sad day for the BBC – as well as a wake-up call – when it finds itself among such company as the Iranian regime’s Press TV and known Hamas supporters such as MEMO in a report by Britain’s leading authority on antisemitism.