One-sided BBC background recycles BDS falsehoods

Back in July 2015 the BBC ran a series of reports about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel (BDS) that were promoted on television, radio and the corporation’s website.

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part one

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part two

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part three

While portraying that campaign as one that “says it’s defending human rights”, the BBC made no effort whatsoever to provide audiences with the full range of information concerning its funding, origins, claims and aims. Moreover, audiences were misled as to the origins of the BDS campaign by the main interviewee featured in the reports, Michael Deas (who was at the time campaign officer for the BNC and is currently a “Palestine solidarity organiser”), who claimed that:

“The international community consistently fails to hold Israel to account for its violations of international law. So given this failure, ten years ago – in July 2005 – Palestinian organisations came together to issue an appeal for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions similar to the boycott campaign that helped end apartheid in South Africa. And the boycott calls for non-violent pressure against Israel until it complies with international law.”

The claim that the BDS campaign was initiated by “Palestinian organisations” is false – as David Hirsh has noted:

“In the 1970s and 80s the ANC, which positioned itself as the voice of the whole South African nation, called for a boycott of South Africa. Campaigners for the boycott positioned themselves as passive responders to the “call” of the oppressed. The BDS campaign against Israel has, since 2005, tried to position itself in the same way. However in truth, British anti-Israel activists started the boycott campaign and they persuaded people in Palestine to issue the “call”. Although neither the Palestinian Authority nor Hamas have issued a “call”, the BDS movement says that the “call” is issued by “Palestinian Civil Society”. […]

The pretence is politically important because it positions Palestinians as being the initiators of the “call” and people outside the region as passive responders to the voice of “the oppressed”.”

Nevertheless, on October 20th the BBC News website once again promoted that politically motivated misinformation in an article titled “Texas city requires Israel pledge for hurricane relief” which also includes comment from the ACLU.

Readers found the video of Deas from the 2015 television report embedded in that report and were also offered a link – with the authoritative title “What is the BDS movement?” – to a 2015 article by Kevin Connolly which likewise features Deas and amplifies the ‘apartheid’ smear.

The BBC’s record of reporting on the anti-Israel BDS campaign is abysmal: for years the corporation has reported related stories without adequately clarifying to its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.  Moreover, in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers that provision of such crucial background information is “not our role“.

It is therefore not surprising that the BBC News website now finds itself with no archive material to offer its readers as background information on the BDS campaign other than amplifications of the one-sided propaganda of a professional activist.  

Obviously the BBC cannot honestly claim to be accurately and impartially covering the anti-Israel campaign that calls itself BDS when it consistently fails to tell its audiences to what that campaign really aspires

Related Articles:

The BDS background the BBC avoids giving its audiences

A BBC promoted BDS myth exposed

BBC: ‘Israel is deeply controversial’ and BDS is a ‘human rights’ group

 

 

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BBC News ignores a case of UN anti-Israel bias

Back in March 2016 the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel rejects database of settlement-linked firms” that related to a resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council the previous day and which was discussed here.

“The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says the database will provide a resource for any organisation wanting to divest from companies involved in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.

It will potentially include a number of Israeli and international firms working in industries from banking to construction and security services, our correspondent adds.”

Recently an Israeli communications company received a letter from the UNHRC which has been making local news.

“The UNHRC recently sent a letter to the CEO of Bezeq, a major Israeli telecoms firm, accusing it of promoting settlement activity in Israel and of providing cellular services to areas that the Council believes are Palestinian territory. […]

The UNHRC threatens to add Bezeq to its database of companies operating in what it claims are Israeli settlements and the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Bezeq owns approximately 40 real estate properties in the West Bank used for telecommunications infrastructure, and operates antennas throughout the West Bank,” the UNHRC wrote in its letter.”

“Bezeq provides landline, cellular, internet, and cable TV services to residents of settlements in the West Bank,” according to the UNHRC, which considers this activity a violation of its accords.”

Apparently some 150 such letters have been sent by the UNHRC.

“The United Nations reportedly sent letters to some 150 Israeli and overseas companies, threatening to add them to its blacklist of firms operating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. […]

An unnamed western diplomat told Haaretz that more than half of the companies that received the warning letter were Israeli, about 30 were from the US and the remainder from countries including Germany, Norway and South Korea. The diplomat added that [UN Human Rights Commissioner] Hussein also sent copies of the letter to foreign ministries of several countries who are home to companies which may be added to the blacklist.”

Despite the fact that numerous international companies do business in additional locations  categorised as occupied territories (e.g. north Cyprus, Western Sahara), the UN Human Rights Council has not passed resolutions mandating the creation of a database of businesses operating in any location other than those it views as being occupied Israel.

In recent days BBC audiences have seen and heard a number of reports concerning the UN (for example here, here and here) in which the phrase anti-Israel bias was placed in scare quotes and that bias was described in qualifying terms such as “perceived”.

The BBC, however, has ignored the story of the letters sent by the UNHRC that demonstrate clear anti-Israel bias at the United Nations. 

Related Articles:

BBC fails to tell the whole story of UNHRC anti-Israel resolution

BBC fails (again) to give audiences the full story in UN HRC article 

Politicising the Balfour Declaration on BBC Radio 4 – part two

In part one of this post we saw how an item by Trevor Barnes relating to the Balfour Declaration that was aired in the October 1st edition (from 18:14 here) of the BBC Radio 4 ethics and religion show ‘Sunday‘ promoted assorted historical inaccuracies.  

Trevor Barnes’ fourth interviewee likewise began by promoting an inaccurate claim, suggesting (from 21:10) that “Israel and Palestine” were British colonies.

“I think Britain doesn’t come out of any of the colonial history of Israel and Palestine in that good a light.”

Barnes: “Chris Rose – director of the Amos Trust; a Christian organisation working in the West Bank and Gaza.”

That description of the Amos Trust is grossly inadequate and fails to inform listeners of that NGO’s political agenda and anti-Israel activities as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality require.

Rose: “Even Balfour himself a couple of years later on said that Zionism be right or wrong is more important than the wishes of the 700,000 Arabs. Our call is to the British Government now, if it is determined to celebrate the Balfour Declaration, to do so in the only real meaningful way by working tirelessly for full equal rights for everybody who calls it home.”

The statement by Lord Balfour shoddily paraphrased by Chris Rose (who has in the past attributed Palestinian terrorism to “high unemployment and poor amenities“) comes from a memorandum written by Balfour in 1919 and its context – the question of the selection of mandatories in various regions of the Middle East – is important. 

“Without further considering whether the political picture drawn by the Covenant [of the League of Nations] corresponds with anything to be found in the realms of fact, let us ask on what principle these mandatories are to be selected by the Allied and Associated Powers

On this point the Covenant speaks as follows:—

‘The wishes of these communities (i.e., the independent nations) must be a principal consideration in the selection of a mandatory.’

The sentiment is unimpeachable; but how is it to be carried into effect? To simplify the argument, let us assume that two of the ‘independent nations’ for which mandatories have to be provided are Syria and Palestine? Take Syria first. Do we mean, in the case of Syria, to consult principally the wishes of the inhabitants? We mean nothing of the kind. According to the universally accepted view there are only three possible mandatories—England, America, and France. Are we going ‘chiefly to consider the wishes of the inhabitants’ in deciding which of these is to be selected? We are going to do nothing of the kind. England has refused. America will refuse. So that, whatever the inhabitants may wish, it is France they will certainly have. They may freely choose; but it is Hobson’s choice after all.

The contradiction between the letter of the Covenant and the policy of the Allies is even more flagrant in the case of the ‘independent nation’ of Palestine than in that of the ‘independent nation’ of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country, though the American Commission has been going through the form of asking what they are. The four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”

Referring to Chris Rose, Trevor Barnes continued – with noteworthy use of the word Jewish rather than Israeli:

Barnes: “His claim is that the second half of the declaration has still to be honoured. While the first half favoured a Jewish homeland, the second reassured explicitly – quote – ‘that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities’ which Chris Rose says hasn’t happened in practice, though for the Board of Deputies Richard Verber defends the Jewish record on religious freedom post-Balfour.”

Verber: “Well there are many cases in Israel proper where religions do indeed co-exist in harmony. Jerusalem has its flash-points but you go and you see Jews, Muslims, Christians, Bahai, Druze walking around. Many have their own areas and places of worship. Israel is of course the only place in the Middle East where Christians are free to worship without persecution.”

Rose: “If you live in Bethlehem you may well not be able to go up to Temple Mount to pray, to worship. If you want to go and worship in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre you pretty won’t be able to do that and so while yes there’s religious freedom in that respect, there has to be recognised that there’s also major constrictions on freedom of movement which restricts people from having their religious freedom.”

Unsurprisingly Chris Rose did not bother to tell listeners that residents of Bethlehem and other areas that have been under Palestinian Authority control for over two decades can apply for permits to visit religious sites in Jerusalem (among other reasons) or that “constrictions on freedom of movement” are the unfortunate outcome of Palestinian terrorism. While Trevor Barnes did tick the impartiality box by paraphrasing the Israeli view, he too failed to make any reference to Palestinian terrorism. Listeners were then told that Jewish self-determination is a “hotly contested concept”.

Barnes: “Chris Rose of the Amos Trust. For its part the Israeli government has repeatedly said that such restrictions as there are are driven solely by security concerns and by the imperative legitimately to ensure the country’s survival. And in essence, says Richard Verber, the right of Israel to exist in the first place is at the heart of any religious definition of that hotly contested concept Zionism.”

Verber: “Zionism is a religious imperative. It’s a core belief in Judaism today. The word Zionism is clearly a newer invention – we’re talking here 19th century – but the idea of there being a desire among the Jewish people to have autonomy in their own homeland dates back 3,300 years when the Jewish people first entered what was then the land of Canaan – Cna’an. I think Jewish people have long understood the importance of living alongside their religious brethren; whether that be Christian or Muslim or indeed any other stripe or people of no faith at all.”

Barnes: From its inception Zionism itself did not have the backing of all Jews – especially religious Jews who argued that a return to the land of Israel was to be the work of the Messiah and couldn’t be engineered by any human agency. Events of the Second World War and the Holocaust, however, put paid to many reservations and the promise of the Balfour Declaration was made actual in 1948. Indeed Richard Verber for the Board of Deputies argues that the founders of the State of Israel referenced the Balfour Declaration, repeating and reinforcing a commitment to civil and religious freedom. The Amos Trust, however, isn’t convinced and they’ve launched a campaign ‘Change the Record’ calling for equal rights for all in the holy land.”

Listeners then heard a recording promoting that political campaign currently being run by the inadequately presented political NGO: a campaign which aims to persuade the British government that “the seeds of today’s injustice, inequality and violence were sown by the Balfour Declaration in 1917”. 

Barnes went on to say:

Barnes: “Those celebrating – rather than mourning – the Balfour Declaration dispute that reading of events. But either way Nicolas Pelham says it changed the religious make-up not just of Palestine but of much of the Middle East.”

Pelham: “Until the Balfour declaration, under the Ottoman Empire religious communities had lived essentially as that – as holy communities – and what the Balfour Declaration does is to transform religious communities into religious national movements so that instead of sharing space they have conflict over space. Instead of having holy communities in the region, we have holy lands and the battle between sects for control of the land.”

Listeners to this unbalanced item heard inaccurate and blatantly politicised ‘history’ and were steered towards the false impression that the Middle East was a region blessed with idyllic inter-religious harmony until the day Arthur Balfour put pen to paper. They were also informed that Jewish self-determination is a “contested concept” and exposed to an ongoing political campaign run by a partisan NGO that engages in delegitimisation of Israel.

How this item by Trevor Barnes can be said to meet BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality is unclear.  

Related Articles:

Politicising the Balfour Declaration on BBC Radio 4 – part one

Reviewing BBC portrayal of the Balfour Declaration

BBC’s ME Editor misrepresents the Hussein-McMahon correspondence

BBC’s Connolly contorts Israeli – and British – history to fit his political narrative

 

BBC Radio Ulster promotes ‘Zionism is racism’ and the ‘apartheid’ smear

h/t B

On July 16th, at an event in Paris marking the 75th anniversary of the deportation of French Jews to Auschwitz, the French president Emmanuel Macron said:

“We will never surrender to the messages of hate; we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism.” 

Macron’s statement is of course in accord with the US State department’s definition of antisemitism and in step with the IHRA working definition of antisemitism that was adopted in recent months by the British government and the EU parliament. The IHRA definition includes the following in its possible manifestations of antisemitism:

 “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

And:

“Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

As was noted here at the time, BBC News website coverage of the ceremony made no mention whatsoever of the French president’s recognition of anti-Zionism as a manifestation of antisemitism.

However, two days later – on July 18th – BBC Radio Ulster’s daily phone-in show ‘Talkback‘ ran a 35 minute long programme with a title that signaled its tone:

“We debate the very controversial claim by the French president that anti-Zionism is simply another form of anti-Semitism” [emphasis added]

Presented by William Crawley, the programme’s studio guests were Unitarian minister Chris Hudson and Fiona Ferguson from the ‘People Before Profit Alliance’: a very small Irish Trotskyist political party which includes the following in its manifesto:

“We support the Palestinian struggle for liberation against Zionist occupation and oppression and back the international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Apartheid Israel.”

That relevant information was not communicated to listeners.

In addition, listeners heard the opinions of four callers – all of whom presented negative views of Israel.

The programme began with an introduction from Crawley:

Crawley: “At what point do you think a criticism of the State of Israel turns into antisemitism? Given the many centuries of abuse the Jewish people have experienced, particularly in Europe, the allegation of antisemitism is a very serious one. We often hear activists and campaigners pushing back against that allegation. There is a world of difference, they say, between being an anti-Zionist and being antisemitic.  That’s a distinction the French president Emmanuel Macron clearly doesn’t accept. He told the prime minister of Israel that France will never surrender to anti-Zionism because it is – and I quote – ‘a reinvention of antisemitism’. The French president’s words have travelled quickly around the world. Yesterday Senator Chuck Schumer who leads the Democrats in the US Senate applauded him for his comments.”

Listeners then head a recording of Senator Schumer speaking, which included the clearest presentation of the issue under discussion in the entire programme.

Schumer: “The idea that all other peoples can seek and defend their right to determination but the Jewish people cannot; that other nations have a right to exist but the Jewish State of Israel does not – that too is a modern form of antisemitism.”

Crawley continued, ignoring BBC style guide instructions on the use of the term ‘Palestine’:

“…in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.”

Crawley: “We know that the politics of Israel and Palestine is extremely contentious here with many active in campaigns on both sides of the debate. In a moment we will debate ourselves whether the French president is right to see no distinction whatsoever – no difference – between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. But first let’s try to understand the central tenets – the central ideas – at the heart of Zionism.”

Crawley then brought in a person he repeatedly addressed as ‘Yoel’ but who is in fact Yoav Peled. Not surprisingly, when Crawley asked “what is Zionism?” Peled’s answer included a strawman definition that is not adopted by Zionists.

Peled: “There is no one clear definition. If you define Zionism as support for whatever the Israeli government does, that’s one thing. And if you’re against that then certainly this is nothing to do with antisemitism. If you say that Zionism is recognizing the right of Jews to have a state of their own in that particular part of the Middle East, then the question is, is it justified given the fact that it came at the expense of the Palestinians? And there is a debate about that and I think it’s a legitimate political debate and neither side is necessarily racist against the other.”

Crawley’s conversation with Peled continued, touching on the history of Zionism, its ‘leaders’ and Jewish opponents to it. Crucially though, the ostensibly neutral academic brought in to explain “the central tenets” of Zionism and provide what Crawley termed “historical backdrop” did so from one very clear side of the political spectrum.

Crawley’s studio guests were then brought into the conversation with no particular surprises in their positions. However, listeners did hear a series of mostly inadequately challenged allegations about Israel and Zionism that are worthy of note – including repeated promotion of the ‘Zionism is racism’ canard and the ‘apartheid’ smear. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

07:43 – Ferguson: “For me Zionism is ahm….it’s ahm… […] it’s an exclusionary right-wing ideology. It’s political and it oppresses or opposes those that don’t come from a Jewish background. It’s racist and it has led to… […] it’s racist and it has led to appalling treatment of Palestinians and so anti-Zionism is the opposition to that. […] Opposition to a racist state and opposition to the racism of Semitism [sic] are what are synonymous here – not anti-Zionism.”

08:37 – Ferguson: “…there are two ways that we can interpret Zionism, the first one being that one set of people have a divine right to an area of land over others and should be able to take that back regardless of the detriment or the persecution of the people who live there. That is wrong, I think. Second […] it’s full support for the Israeli state. I think that the Israeli state is racist. I think that it’s an apartheid state and therefore I think that even the second definition is wrong.”

12:20 – Ferguson: “I think that it is the State of Israel which is racist in this case. […] I think that if one group of peoples is being given a divine right to exist over another and despite […] the detriment that it causes to the other, then yes; that is racist.”

15:41 – Ferguson: “To oppose the racist record of a state cannot in itself be racist. That’s an oxymoron. Israel has carried out some of the worst human rights atrocities that we have seen in history but most notably in the last ten years, thousands of people within the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been murdered.  Their homes have been bulldozed. Notably, Rachel Corrie – an American activist – was trapped and murdered and crushed under the bulldozer operated by an Israeli official who was destroying the home of a Palestinian – which they do systematically in order….”

Corrie’s death was of course an accident and the Ferguson’s claim that the bulldozer was “destroying the home of a Palestinian” is contradicted by the findings of the court that ruled on the case. William Crawley did not however bother to inform listeners of those facts.

18:02 – Connor (caller): “I have been in Palestine. I have been in the West Bank. I have been in Ramallah, Jericho. I’ve seen first-hand the disgusting treatment of the Palestinians. […] It is apartheid; the only apartheid and everyone knows this. […] It’s [Israel] completely ignoring the right of those of the Palestinian Jews [sic].”

19:26 – Connor (caller): “The Palestinians have been there for generation after generation. The Law of Return in Israel allows any Jew in the world to go and live in Israel and occupy land belonging to Palestinians […] occupy land, throw people out of their homes. I’ve seen this first-hand. I’ve seen bulldozers. I’ve seen families getting put out of their home to accommodate settlers from foreign countries who are being put….and they’re being paid £14,000 a year by the Israeli state to occupy and take over territory…”

Those blatant falsehoods were not challenged.

21:34: Hudson: “When I opposed apartheid in South Africa I didn’t call for the destruction of the South African state. […]

Crawley: “Did you call for the destruction of white domination?”

Hudson: “Absolutely.”

Crawley: “That by analogy is what Fiona is saying. She’s not calling for the destruction of Israel but she is calling for the dismantling of a power system that prejudices in favour of Jews.”

Listeners heard falsehoods concerning the rights of Arab Israelis that the presenter was clearly unable to correct because he is insufficiently informed.

22:10: Crawley: “So every Palestinian living in Israel is allowed to vote?”

Hudson: “To my knowledge they are, yes.”

Ferguson: “They’re not. There are two judiciary systems as well so depending whether you’re a Palestinian or a Jew, you’re treated by the law differently.”

Husdon: “You’re talking about Israeli Arabs?”

Ferguson: “Well exactly. That’s exactly the point, isn’t it, because there are full citizens who are Palestinians living within the State of Israel who are under a different judicial system. That’s apartheid.”

Crawley: “Are they allowed to vote on equal terms?”

Feruguson: “It depends. They’re…apparently they are. What you’ll hear is that they are and what the State of Israel will tell you that they are but actually in reality it doesn’t happen. It’s just something that is…ehm….the system is either fiddled with in a way…”

Those inaccurate allegations clearly materially misled listeners and were even later repeated.

24:15 – Ferguson: “But if we’re talking about the existence of the political structures as we referred to earlier of Israel, which are racist, which are prejudiced, which are apartheid – and by the way, Chris, you’re one of a minority nowadays that doesn’t accept it is apartheid. Desmond Tutu who, let’s be honest, has more experience on this topic than either of us […] calls it apartheid. The UN in a report at the end of last year has accepted that Israel is an apartheid state. Should an apartheid state in itself – the structures of the state – be allowed to exist? Of course not.”

25:05 – Crawley: “You accept the right of the State of Israel to exist as a democracy?”

Ferguson: “But the State of Israel is not a democracy.”

Crawley:[…] But do you accept the right of this state to exist as a democracy?”

Ferguson: “I don’t see how that can be answered because a) Israel is not a democracy as it is and b)…no, of course it’s not a democracy…I mean people…it’s not a democracy. Can I explain why it is not a democracy? Because there are two judicial systems for different people who live within there. There are 1.7 million Palestinians who live within Israel who are not afforded the same rights as Israelis. It’s not a democratic state.”

26:04 – Kaitlin (caller): “This thing about Israel being a democratic state. You know, that phrase is trotted out and it’s rarely questioned […]. I just want to give you two examples in which Israel is not a democratic state. One are the thousands of Palestinians including men, women and children, who are imprisoned without trial – effectively interned and left to rot in jail for years and many of them having been tortured by the way. The second example is the West Bank. Now Israel has complete control over the West Bank and yet the people there, who live effectively under military occupation, don’t have any vote. They have no right to vote for the parliament – the Jewish parliament – which actually controls their lives.”

Notably Crawly made no attempt to clarify the context of terrorism in relation to administrative detention or to inform listeners that Palestinians living under PA rule in Areas A and B vote for their own legislative council. Neither did he clarify that the Israeli Knesset is not “Jewish”.

28:14 – Michael (caller): “I was in Israel in 1985. […] I also experienced teenage soldiers – Israeli soldiers – bullying elderly men who were coming from the very north end of the country through the blazing sun to work in the south and making them sit in the sun for 3 or 4 hours extra at a checkpoint for no reason. And I noticed this. That’s just bullying.”

Crawley: “So what you’ve got, you’ve got evidence in your mind of bullying, intimidation, inappropriate behavior by Israeli forces.”

32:06 – Crawley: “But there are those on the other side […] who say it’s a manufactured majority because the right of return is not being granted to Palestinians and if it was, you would no longer have a Jewish majority in the State of Israel. So it’s a manufactured majority – that’s the allegation.”

33:24 – Ferguson: “I just want to pick up on the last comment […] about the displacement of 6.5 million Jews – sorry: of Palestinians – and their right to return. It wasn’t just something that happened and is now something that we get over and can swipe under the carpet. These Palestinians still do not have the right to return to that area of land. Never mind that Jewish people – regardless of where they came from, regardless of their background – are welcomed, encouraged to come along and often – as Connor rightly said, our caller – given subsidies to do so and allowed to buy land. Palestinians are not allowed to do so. The treatment of one peoples above another in that way is racist and I believe the State of Israel is apartheid as a result of that.”

The false claim of “6.5 million” displaced Palestinians was not challenged.

The editorial decisions behind the making of a programme with this subject matter by a regional BBC station are of course worthy of discussion. The fact that listeners were materially misled because the presenter was insufficiently informed to be able to effectively challenge inaccurate claims and falsehoods from an unbalanced field of contributors is obvious. The fact that the programme’s producers clearly had no qualms about facilitating the non-stop promotion of delegitimisation of Israel by means of politically motivated smears and falsehoods should be a serious cause for concern.

However, this programme did fulfil one useful function: it – albeit inadvertently – proved the point made by the French president.

Resources:

BBC Radio Ulster contact details

‘Talkback’ contact details   

 

 

 

 

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ picks up the baton of BDS campaign amplification

The July 19th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included yet another report concerning the BDS campaign’s failed crusade against a performance by Radiohead in Israel.

The programme’s synopsis provides BBC audiences with inaccurate information:

“… why a performance by the band Radiohead in the Israeli capital Tel Aviv has become controversial.” [emphasis added]

Presenter Rebecca Kesby introduced the item (from 38:54 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

“Now one of the world’s biggest bands, Radiohead, have [sic] been playing to thousands of fans tonight in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv but the concert has been controversial. Earlier this year an open letter signed by more than 40 public figures urged the band to pull out and instead join a boycott against what it said was the Israeli government’s denial of freedom to Palestinians. About an hour or so ago we spoke to the BBC’s Tom Bateman at the concert – he assessed the mood.”

In fact, many of those who signed that letter are hardly household names but Bateman likewise promoted that chimera.  

Bateman: “[…] The controversy behind this gig began with a campaign calling for a boycott against Israel: the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, or BDS. […] …but their [Radiohead] latest journey to Tel Aviv has been marked instead by recriminations. The open letter to the band in April asking them not to play in Israel was signed by more than 40 public figures including South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, the film director Ken Loach and the Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters. It accused Radiohead – a band it noted had campaigned for Tibetan freedom – of failing to stand up for Palestinians under occupation. Such was the pressure on Radiohead in the midst of its world tour. One Tweet from Ken Loach said the band must decide whether to stand with the oppressed or the oppressor.”

As usual, the BBC made no effort to either unpack the BDS campaign’s propaganda slogans or to explain to audiences exactly what that campaign is really all about. Bateman ostensibly ticked the ‘impartiality’ box by including a pre-qualified eighteen-word comment from an Israeli in an item which was otherwise dedicated entirely to promotion of BDS campaign PR messaging.

Bateman: “The Israeli columnist Ben Dror Yemini has long campaigned against what he calls a movement of elites, believing it denies Israel a right to exist and disempowers moderates on both sides.”

Yemini: “I want the elites in London, in Europe, in the United States to be in favour of reconciliation.”

He then went on to tell a sorry tale of “Israeli controls over travel for Palestinians” without clarifying that the orchestra concerned has, according to its own website, “performed in Palestine, Germany, France, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon, Greece and Italy” and just last year went on tour in the UK.

Bateman: “The soundtrack changes in Ramallah in the West Bank and the perspective is different. Zeina Khoury runs the Palestine Youth Orchestra and supports the boycott campaign. […]… she spoke to me about a tour planned for the autumn. She says Israeli controls over travel for Palestinians mean she can’t fully assemble the musicians in Jerusalem or bring people from elsewhere in the Middle East to the West Bank.”

Khoury: “Every year that we apply for these permits they get denied or they just…they don’t give us an answer – the Israelis. So we’re never able to have a full orchestra in Palestine. But in this festival in Israel Radiohead can just come in through the airport and it’s so easy for them. So they don’t get the point that it’s not the same case. It’s not the same thing for Palestinian musicians, Arab musicians or any festival in Palestine.”

Bateman: “Well the Radiohead singer Thom Yorke has described the public call on them to avoid Israel as, he says, upsetting, divisive and a waste of energy. He’s been pretty emphatic that the band understand [sic] the issues, that they don’t support Israel’s government, he says, but they still choose to play here. It is far from the first call by the boycott campaign that has divided opinion. Tonight, as you can probably hear, the music goes on. It will leave a debate that is far from concluded.”

Yet again we see that the BBC is regularly providing a consistently unchallenged PR platform for the BDS campaign, thereby mainstreaming a crusade aimed at delegitimising Israel and eliminating Jewish self-determination – but without providing audiences with the full range of information that would enable them to make up their own minds on the issue.

Related Articles:

BBC Music promotes falsehoods and BDS campaign website

BBC Music again covers a BDS story without explaining that campaign’s agenda 

Accuracy trumped by politics in BBC report on Israeli PM’s Paris visit

On July 16th an article titled “Netanyahu in Paris to commemorate Vel d’Hiv deportation of Jews” appeared on the BBC News website’s Europe and Middle East pages. However, the version of that report which is currently available is markedly different from its earlier editions.

The article originally opened as follows:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Paris to commemorate the victims of a mass arrest of Jews in Nazi-occupied France in 1942.

More than 13,000 Jews were rounded up and detained at a cycling stadium, the Velodrome d’Hiver, before being deported to Nazi death camps.

Mr Netanyahu will also hold direct talks for the first time with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The visit has been criticised by some groups as politicising a tragedy.” [emphasis added]

About an hour after publication, that latter sentence was amended to read:

“The visit has drawn consternation from critics of the Israeli PM.” 

BBC website visitors who read the article’s first two versions were later told that:

“Mr Netanyahu’s attendance at the commemoration ceremony has not been welcomed by everyone in France.”

That statement was replaced in version 3 by the following:

“The visit has drawn consternation from critics of the Israeli PM.

Some in France have criticised Mr Netanyahu’s attendance at the commemoration ceremony arguing it was becoming too politicised.”

Readers of the first three versions of the report were next informed that:

“Elie Barnav, a former French ambassador to Israel, told AFP news agency: “The presence of Netanyahu makes me a little uneasy.

“This story has nothing to do with Israel.””

Obviously the BBC did not copy/paste the AFP report it recycled properly because the person concerned is actually called Elie Barnavi rather than ‘Barnav’.

Clearly too, the BBC did not bother to check the original AFP article in French because had it done so, it would know that Mr Barnavi is in fact “l’ancien ambassadeur d’Israël en France” – the former Israeli ambassador to France – (2000 to 2002) rather than “a former French ambassador to Israel” as was inaccurately claimed in the English language version of that AFP report.

As regular readers know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state that:

“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.”

It would therefore have been appropriate for readers to have been informed of Mr Barnavi’s links to political groups of a particular stripe – which are far more relevant in the context of his comments than his time spent in the diplomatic service.

“Within months of being sent off to Paris by Prime Minister Ehud Barak, he found himself with a new boss: Ariel Sharon. Barnavi, a Peace Now activist, wondered what to do. Many French Jews expected him to resign.”

Similarly, when the BBC decided to promote the view of a tiny fringe French group also quoted in the AFP article (including a link to its website) it should have clarified to readers that UJFP supports the anti-Israel BDS campaign.

“The Union of French Jews for Peace (UJFP) described the decision to invite Mr Netanyahu as “shocking” and “unacceptable”.”

BBC Watch contacted the BBC News website raising those issues and subsequently the article was amended yet again to correct the inaccurate reporting of Mr Barnavi’s name and former position. The tepid and unhelpful description “a pro-Palestinian organisation” was added to the sentence promoting the UJFP.

No footnote was added to advise BBC audiences who had read the earlier versions of the report of the inaccuracies in its first three editions.

Obviously the BBC was far more concerned with amplifying politically motivated criticism of the Israeli prime minister’s Paris visit (at the invitation of the French president: a point strangely absent from the BBC’s account of the story) than it was in ensuring that audiences were provided with accurate and impartial information.

Eventually – some six and a half hours after its original appearance – the article was amended once again and the sections amplifying politically motivated criticism of the Israeli PM’s participation in the ceremony that was its subject matter were completely removed.  

Related Articles:

BBC News drops Associated Press, expands links with AFP

BBC Music again covers a BDS story without explaining that campaign’s agenda

On July 12th a link to an article by BBC Music’s Mark Savage appeared on both the Middle East and Entertainment and Arts pages of the BBC News website under the heading “Radiohead continue to defend Israel gig”.

That link leads to an article headlined “Radiohead on Israel gig: “Playing a country isn’t the same as endorsing its government”” which opens:

“Thom Yorke has continued to defend Radiohead’s decision to play a concert in Israel.”

BBC Music has been promoting this story since February when it also amplified (albeit with inaccuracies) the efforts of supporters of the BDS campaign calling themselves ‘Artists for Palestine UK’ – including Roger Waters – to get Radiohead to cancel their upcoming concert in Israel. Fifty-five words of this 642 word report are similarly dedicated to amplification of that group including – once again – a link to its website.

“In April, the group were [sic] petitioned by Artists For Palestine, who asked them to reconsider performing in a country “where a system of apartheid has been imposed on the Palestinian people”.”

A further 54 words describe a “protest” by a small number of BDS campaign supporters in Scotland at a recent Radiohead show.

One hundred and sixty-seven words (26%) of the article and a link are dedicated to amplification of efforts by Ken Loach to persuade Radiohead to cancel their Tel Aviv appearance. That generous exposure is perhaps more comprehensible when seen in the context of the BBC’s decision last month to mark Loach’s birthday with a Tweet and a re-promoted blogpost highlighting his “strong ties to the BBC”.

“On Tuesday, filmmaker Ken Loach wrote an open letter, accusing Radiohead of ignoring “human rights violations”. […]

“None of us want to see them make the mistake of appearing to endorse or cover up Israeli oppression. If they go to Tel Aviv, they may never live it down.”

Loach continued: “I don’t know who is advising Radiohead, but their stubborn refusal to engage with the many critics of their ill-advised concert in Tel Aviv suggests to me that they only want to hear one side – the one that supports apartheid.””

With a total of 276 words assigned to amplification of those protesting Radiohead’s show in Israel and 256 words allotted to a member of the band’s reaction to those calls, the article’s remaining 110 words are devoted to BBC supplied background to the story.

As usual in BBC content relating to this topic, that ‘background’ does not however include an explanation of the BDS campaign’s aims and agenda and Mark Savage does not provide any factual information that would enable audiences to put the unchallenged allegations – such as “human rights violations”, “oppression” and “apartheid” – made by the showcased BDS supporters into their correct context.

“The band have [sic] repeatedly been urged to call off the show as part of a cultural boycott over Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. […]

Radiohead have performed in Israel eight times – most recently in 2000 – but next week’s show is the first time they’ve visited since the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement began in 2005.”

As readers may recall, two years ago the BBC claimed that it is not its job to inform audiences what the BDS campaign is actually all about when reporting on related stories. More recently, the BBC has taken to bizarrely describing that campaign to eradicate Jewish self-determination as a “human rights group”.

Clearly though, BBC audiences cannot make up their own minds about Radiohead’s response to calls to join the boycott against Israel if they are not given the full information concerning that boycott campaign’s ultimate aim.

Related Articles:

BBC Music promotes falsehoods and BDS campaign website

Scottish BDS activists who protest Radiohead also promote Holocaust denial (UK Media Watch)

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke responds to Ken Loach’s pro-BDS op-ed in the Indy (UK Media Watch)

BBC Radio 4 provides a stage for anti-Israel activist’s agitprop and defamation 

 

 

BBC ME correspondent: Jewish history in Hebron is a ‘view’

BBC reporting on last week’s UNESCO resolution concerning the old city of Hebron – including the Tomb of the Patriarchs – has consistently failed to adequately clarify to audiences both the real reasons for Israel’s objections to the motion as well as the fact that the professional body assessing the proposal submitted by the Palestinian delegation did not recommend its adoption and criticised it for ignoring Jewish and Christian heritage in the city, “even though extensive remains testify to these links”.

Superficial BBC WS report on PA’s latest UNESCO stunt ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio, 2/7/17

BBC erases the real story in report on UNESCO’s Hebron resolution BBC News website, 7/7/17

The missing word in BBC R4 reporting on UNESCO Hebron resolution ‘The World Tonight’, BBC Radio 4, 7/7/17

An additional report concerning that story was broadcast (from 30:07 here) on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on July 7th. In his introduction to that item, presenter James Coomarasamy once again failed to clarify to listeners in the BBC’s own words that Israel’s objections are actually rooted in UNESCO’s declaration of the old city of Hebron a ‘Palestinian’ site – and the consequent erasure of its Jewish history and heritage – rather than in any objection to conservation per se. 

Coomarasamy: “Israel has denounced a decision by UNESCO to declare the old city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank a protected world heritage site. The resolution passed by a committee of the UN’s cultural agency also put it on a list of sites considered to be in danger. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a delusional decision.”

Listeners next heard a voice-over translation of the Israeli prime minister speaking in Hebrew.

“This time they have determined that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site – in other words, not Jewish – and that the site is endangered. Not a Jewish site? Who’s buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah: our forefathers and mothers. And that this is in danger? Only where Israel is present like in Hebron is freedom of worship ensured for everybody. Throughout the Middle East mosques, churches and synagogues are being blown up. Places where Israel is not present. So we will continue to guard the Cave of the Patriarchs to ensure religious freedom for everybody and we will continue also to guard the truth.”

Coomarasamy then told listeners that they were about to hear information concerning “the history” behind the story.

“So what is the history behind the Israeli prime minister’s clear annoyance at this decision? Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman is in Jerusalem.”

The history of the Tomb of the Patriarchs is of course well documented, with Abraham’s purchase of the site appearing in the Book of Genesis. While one can of course choose to believe that biblical story or not, what is not disputed is that the site was of such importance to Jews that Herod built a structure over the burial caves that is described by UNESCO’s professional team as having been “built in the 1st century BCE” – i.e. hundreds of years before the Islamic conquest of the region.

However, instead of providing audiences with a factual account of the site’s history, Tom Bateman preferred to give a narrative based portrayal of the story that cites ‘views’ – with views of course by definition being open to question and debate. [emphasis added]

Bateman: “Well he’s upset because Hebron, which is in the occupied West Bank, in his view and in the view of many Israelis has a connection to Judaism that goes back thousands of years. And the Cave of the Patriarchs that he talked about there, whilst the site itself is revered by all three of the monotheistic religions, to Judaism it is the burial-place of Abraham. Ah…and so it is his view that what’s happened here is that the Palestinian delegation has gone to UNESCO and has effectively used it for a politically motivated decision to try and enshrine Palestinian sovereignty over the entire city. Now for the Palestinians the view is rather different. It is that they believe that the site is endangered because of what they see as threats from occupation, from the Jewish settlements that are there in those…right in the centre of the old city and so they have for some time now been pushing for this vote and it went their way at UNESCO in Krakow at the meeting by 12 votes to 3.”

Bateman also refrained from providing audiences with any information concerning the history of the Jewish community in Hebron up to the 20th century or the more recent history – the Hebron Protocol – that would help listeners understand that there are “Jewish settlements …right in the centre of the old city” because the Palestinians agreed to that arrangement twenty years ago. He did however find it important to describe “pretty chaotic scenes” at the UNESCO vote before Coomarasamy made a vague reference to some more history: that of the Palestinian delegation’s repeated exploitation of the UN’s cultural forum for the denial of Jewish history and delegitimisation of Israel.

Coomarasamy: “And Israel’s going to reduce its funding to the UN; as you say there’ve been a number of decisions by the UN that Israel is unhappy about. This is just going to make, I guess, that relationship even worse.”

Bateman: “Yeah that’s right. I mean we’ve heard Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say repeatedly that parts of the UN, and particularly UNESCO, are biased against Israel; they’re politically motivated, they’re in hock to Israel’s adversaries. And when he said – as we heard in the clip there – that this was delusional yet again by UNESCO after a vote that they felt severed Judaism’s historic ties to Jerusalem itself – to the Western Wall – ah…earlier this year, so he has said after this vote that he’s gonna withdraw another million dollars of funding to the United Nations and instead, he says, he will put that money into a heritage museum in Hebron.”

Like the rest of the BBC’s coverage of this story, Bateman’s equivocal ‘he said-she said’ account and his refusal to even provide historical facts without introducing false equivalence and ‘narratives’ obviously does not meet the corporation’s mission of providing “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 erases the real story in report on UNESCO’s Hebron resolution

As was expected, on July 7th UNESCO passed a resolution declaring the Cave of Machpelah (Tomb of the Patriarchs) an endangered ‘Palestinian’ world heritage site.

That story was the topic of a report titled “Unesco declares Hebron’s Old City Palestinian World Heritage site” that was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the same day and is remarkable for what it does not tell BBC audiences.

The article fails to inform readers that the professional body – ICOMOS – that evaluated the Palestinian application did not support it and stated that “ICOMOS considers that the comparative analysis has not so far justified consideration of this property for the World Heritage List”.

“The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) — a professional body that investigates claims that historic sites are endangered on behalf of UNESCO — earlier rejected the Palestinian claim that the Tomb of the Patriarchs was an endangered site. Its assessment on Hebron, published on Sunday, criticized the Palestinian proposal for ignoring Jewish and Christian heritage in the city, “even though extensive remains testify to these links.””

The BBC’s report quotes a PA statement:

“Today, Palestine and the world, through Unesco, celebrate Hebron as part of world heritage, a value that transcends geography, religion, politics, and ideology,” a Palestinian foreign ministry statement said.

“This vote celebrated facts and rejected the shameless high-profile political bullying and attempts at extortion.””

Notably, that particular statement was chosen for amplification rather than other distinctly more political ones made by Palestinian parties such as a Fatah spokesman:

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement welcomed the vote. Fatah spokesman in Europe Jamal Nazzal said it was “historic justice” and was “another reflection of the international position which opposes Israeli policy, and of our position which rejects recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation.””

Or the PA’s foreign minister:

““This vote is a success for a diplomatic battle fought by Palestine on all fronts, in the face of the Israeli and American pressure on the member states … and a failure and a tremendous defeat Israel,” Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a statement.

“Despite the aggressive Israeli campaign, spreading lies, distorting and falsifying facts about the Palestinian right, the world recognized our right to register Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque under Palestinian sovereignty and on the World Heritage List,” Maliki added.

“Israel’s occupation of our state does not give it sovereignty over any patch of our land in any way,” Maliki said.”

Not unrelatedly, the BBC’s report fails to inform audiences of the fact that this is far from the first time that UNESCO has been exploited for politically motivated denial of Jewish history since the Palestinian Authority joined that UN body in 2011.

That practice was specifically called out by some of the countries taking part in the July 7th UNESCO debate:

Canada:  Canada is disappointed by the continued politicization of the work of the World Heritage Committee as evidenced by this decision taken on the old city of Jerusalem and its walls earlier this week, and now by the decision to include the old town of Hebron/al-Khalil on the list of World Heritage in Danger. Canada takes issue with the decision just taken which fails to take into account the independent advisory body’s findings. Findings plainly outlined in the draft decision prepared by the Secretariat. These repeated decisions not only hurt UNESCO, they do not advance prospects for the comprehensive, just and lasting peace to which we aspire for the sake of all Israelis and Palestinians.

United States:  The decision to inscribe Hebron/al-Khalil Old Town on emergency basis is divisive, confusing, and impossible to justify. This site is not under any real or immediate threat. Indeed, the only urgency here is an urgency to express political anger. Had the Committee shown patience, this inscription might have represented, at some time in the future, an example of the World Heritage Convention acting as the international community’s best and most important tool for cultural dialogue, mutual understanding and peace. Instead, the politically motivated decision today to inscribe, only further stains UNESCO’s reputation and further divides this house.

Australia: Australia regrets this decisive decision and the damaging way in which it was reached. We are concerned that this was not only harmful to Israeli and Palestinian relations but obviously damaging the World Heritage Committee and to UNESCO.

We are concerned that the heavily politicized and unbalanced language in these resolutions continue to be seen to alter the status quo of Islamic, Jewish and Christian holy sites and they are not consistent with the effort to preserve the outstanding universal values of these sites.

Australia has consistently not supported these resolutions that target Israel in multilateral forum and we do not consider that these brings both parties closer to a negotiated settlement. We are focused on supporting those initiatives which reflect and maintain progress towards a negotiated settlement so that Israel and a future Palestinian state can exist side by side in peace and security. These sorts of decisions do not advance that agenda. It furthermore fails in recognizing the advice of our advisory bodies and we encourage all sides to refrain from further provocative actions and statements that undermine prospects for peace and the interests of our organization.”

The BBC, however, elected to ignore the statements by Canada and Australia and reports only a selective version of the US representative’s comments:

“The US had argued that the Tomb of the Patriarchs was “under no immediate threat” and that adding it to the list of sites in danger “risked undermining the seriousness such an assessment by Unesco should have”.

It had also warned that the resolution might undermine efforts by US President Donald Trump to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”

The real story behind this latest UNESCO resolution is of course the continuing politicisation of that body and the hijacking of its mission for the purpose of delegitimisation of Israel through erasure of Jewish history. BBC audiences, however, are serially deprived of that crucial background information under an editorial policy that fails to comply with the corporation’s public purposes.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC WS report on PA’s latest UNESCO stunt