BBC Radio 4 promotes Nazi analogy in a discussion on antisemitism

BBC Radio 4’s programme ‘The Briefing Room’ describes itself as follows:

“Series looking at important issues in the news. Presented by David Aaronovitch.”

The May 19th edition of that programme (available here) purported to address an issue which has indeed recently been making headlines in the UK.Briefing Room R4

“Labour activists, councillors, an MP and a former Mayor of London have all been suspended for comments which many regard as anti-Jewish. But why might a left of centre, progressive, pro-minority party have a problem with Anti-Semitism?”

Serious discussion of that topic would obviously not be enhanced by having one-third of the invited panel taken up by a person who subscribes to the view that it is no more than a “scam to smear Labour activists” and who has in the past collaborated with notorious propagators of conspiracy theories in order to promote her anti-Israel propaganda.

Nevertheless, the programme’s production team saw fit to give Kerry-Anne Mendoza a platform – and the results were entirely predictable. Having presented her ‘credentials’ (“half of my family are Jewish”) Mendoza went on to address:

“…the comparison – which I completely understand why it’s offensive – the comparison of Israel to Nazism or the atrocities of the Third Reich. I say well; what evidence is there for that?”

Listeners then heard the following:

“And so, well, what other state in the world do I know of in the present day who’s [sic] been behind the forced sterilization of Jewish women? That would be Israel. It was applying Depo-Provera – long term contraceptive injections – to Ethiopian Jewish women. I think that’s an anti-Semitic act. I think it has horrific echoes…eh…of some of the atrocities – not all of them – some of the atrocities perpetrated by the Third Reich and I think it’s right to call that out. I would call that out in any state, anywhere in the world where Jewish women or any other group of women were subject to forcible sterilization to prevent some sort of racial dilution which was the theory behind that process.”

Leaving aside Mendoza’s medically ignorant and obviously inaccurate portrayal of (temporary) contraception as “sterilization” (a procedure designed to be permanent), the fact is that her completely baseless slander – which has unfortunately appeared in BBC content before – was disproved in a report published by Israel’s State Comptroller in January of this year.

“There is no evidence that Ethiopian women who immigrated to Israel were required to take birth-control shots against their will, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira wrote this week in a letter obtained by Haaretz.

Shapira wrote that he had concluded his investigation into the allegations, which surfaced in December 2012, and that “no evidence could be found for the claims raised that shots to prevent pregnancy were administered to Ethiopian women under pressure or threats, overt or covert, or in any way that was improper.””

So how did the programme’s host David Aaronovitch react to that very transparent promotion of a Nazi analogy based on what is known to be a blatant lie? He allowed her to continue unchallenged.

KAM: “Do I think it’s helpful for people to go around willy-nilly attempting to bait Jewish people by calling them Nazis? Absolutely not. But do I think there is some evidential case for saying there are echoes here of some of the worst behaviour that we have committed in Europe? Yes I do. Ahm…and actually that was an opinion that was actually [laughs] given to me originally by a Jewish Israeli. I was reporting from Gaza during Operation protective Edge. I was there and witnessing it. Do I think it’s wholly comparable? No – but I don’t think any situation is. But to dismiss out of hand those concerns as intrinsically anti-Semitic – I would disagree with.”

Listeners do not get an answer to the curious question of how Mendoza managed to find “a Jewish Israeli” in the Gaza Strip nine years after all the people answering that description were evacuated from the territory, but they do get to hear David Aaronovitch pass the buck to David Hirsh.

DA: “David, how do you respond to that?”

DH: “Well, I think we need to talk about what the Nazis did. The Nazis created a racial categorization of human beings. They created an industrial network in order to round up, identify and gas and murder all of the Jews of Europe. Now, Kerry-Anne’s story about…ehm…one incident in which some people were given long-term contraception is a really good example of how particular incidents are used to kind of demonise Israel. The claim that there was a campaign to stop black people from breeding in Israel is just appalling actually. It’s not true, when in fact black people have been brought and rescued and brought to Israel and are part of Israeli society – a half of Israeli society….

KAM: “But they are not brought and rescued by Israel. They’ve been treated abysmally…”

At that point Aaronovitch interrupts and redirects the discussion elsewhere.

The question which must be asked about this particular segment of the programme (which includes additional material no less worthy of comment) is what impression the average listener would have taken away. On the basis of past evidence one can well assume that the BBC’s response to any complaint on this issue would be to claim that Mendoza’s allegations were rebutted by David Hirsh.

However, listeners would not have understood from David Hirsch’s response that an official investigation had taken place or that it found no evidence of the administration of Depo-Provera to Ethiopian women against their will. In fact, Hirsch’s reference to “one incident in which some people were given long-term contraception” would have prompted the average listener to go away with the mistaken idea that there is a factual basis to Mendoza’s deliberate smears. Moreover, the BBC itself – in the form of its presenter – made no effort to ensure that audiences were made aware of the facts behind that slander and actually left listeners to make up their own inadequately informed minds with regard to who is telling the truth – Mendoza or Hirsh. 

Any serious examination of the question of “why might a left of centre, progressive, pro-minority party have a problem with Anti-Semitism?” would necessarily include recognition of the fact that a major contributing factor to that phenomenon is the deliberate demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel by far-Left activists.Briefing room tweet

In other words, by failing to adequately challenge Mendoza’s mendacious propaganda, this programme – which is also being promoted by the BBC on social media as a podcast – lent a helping hand to the spread of the blight of anti-Jewish racism it purported to discuss.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell regurgitates Ha’aretz slurs

Three year old allegations from BBC’s Yolande Knell shown to be untrue

Times of London revives anti-Israel smear over Ethiopian blood donations (UK Media Watch)

Email suggests Times of London journo misrepresented museum exhibit he reviewed (UK Media Watch)

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BBC Radio 4 contact details

 

 

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Three year old allegations from BBC’s Yolande Knell shown to be untrue

Nearly three years ago, in February 2013, the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell produced an article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israeli Ethiopian birth control to be examined“.Knell Depo Provera

As was documented here at the time, Knell’s report was actually no more than a rehash of an article which appeared on the same day in the Ha’aretz newspaper.

“In fact, this story has been around for some time, after Ha’aretz first latched on to a programme  made by Israeli journalist Gal Gabai which was broadcast in December 2012 on Israeli television and which asserted that some Ethiopian immigrants had been given the contraceptive Depo-Provera against their will. The original Ha’aretz article embroidered the already problematic television programme and the exaggerated story took on a life of its own in many foreign media outlets, with Ha’aretz later finding itself dealing in damage control.” 

In the same article Knell also misrepresented another much older story connected to Israel’s Ethiopian community in order to pad out her insinuations of racism.

““The issue is extremely sensitive in Israel where the population of about 120,000 thousand Ethiopian Jews sometimes complains of discrimination. There have been several scandals in the past. In 1996, for example, the Israeli authorities admitted they had secretly disposed of blood donations given by Ethiopian Israelis because of fears about HIV/Aids.”

Instead of blindly repeating things she reads in Ha’aretz, had Knell bothered to read the 1996 report by former Israeli president Yitzhak Navon into that incident before putting finger to keyboard, she would know that the disposal of those blood donations was the result of a failure by the blood services (which are run by Magen David Adom – not “the Israeli authorities” as Knell states) to update an earlier directive from 1984 (at the time of Operation Moses) which related not to HIV, but to Hepatitis B, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Navon report stated:

“Contrary to the public impression, there is no connection between the decision made in 1984 and AIDS.”

“At the time the health services were worried by findings connected to the prevalence of diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis and Hepatitis among the Ethiopian immigrants from ‘Operation Moses’.””

Ha’aretz subsequently corrected the article upon which Knell’s report was based but no amendment was made to the BBC’s article, which still remains available online.

Israel’s State Comptroller (Ombudsman) has now completed an investigation into the allegations.

“There is no evidence that Ethiopian women who immigrated to Israel were required to take birth-control shots against their will, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira wrote this week in a letter obtained by Haaretz.

Shapira wrote that he had concluded his investigation into the allegations, which surfaced in December 2012, and that “no evidence could be found for the claims raised that shots to prevent pregnancy were administered to Ethiopian women under pressure or threats, overt or covert, or in any way that was improper.””

Yolande Knell’s ugly smears never had any verified, factual basis but nevertheless the BBC allowed her inaccurate article to become “historical record“. Obviously, it is high time for the BBC to make amends by appending a note to the article which explains that its content is inaccurate and misleading. 

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BBC’s Knell regurgitates Ha’aretz slurs

Hot on the heels of the BBC’s recent spate of binge reporting on the subject of the Beitar Jerusalem football club comes another attempt – this time by Yolande Knell – to paint Israel as a country riddled with racism.

In an article from February 28th 2013 entitled “Israeli Ethiopian birth control to be examined” which appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website, Knell actually does nothing more than rehash an article from the same day which appeared in Ha’aretz.

Knell Depo Provera

In fact, this story has been around for some time, after Ha’aretz first latched on to a programme  made by Israeli journalist Gal Gabai which was broadcast in December 2012 on Israeli television and which asserted that some Ethiopian immigrants had been given the contraceptive Depo-Provera against their will. The original Ha’aretz article embroidered the already problematic television programme and the exaggerated story took on a life of its own in many foreign media outlets, with Ha’aretz later finding itself dealing in damage control

Hebrew speakers can see the original documentary for themselves here and will note the fact that interviews with both the doctor heading the Israeli Society for Contraception and the Director of the Ethiopian Immigrants Department in the Ministry of Absorption (himself an Ethiopian immigrant) contradict the assertions made by Gabai. 

Our colleagues at CAMERA have produced a detailed report examining the background to the claims made in the original documentary (including a partial transcript) and the subsequent Ha’aretz article which can be read here. The latest Ha’aretz article – upon which Knell bases her report – yet again includes factual distortions, which Knell of course repeats. 

In her own version of the story Yolande Knell states:

“Questions are being asked whether the use of contraceptive shots could have contributed to the 50% drop in the birth rate among Ethiopian immigrant women in the past decade.

Depo-Provera shots, which are given every three months, are not a standard method of birth control in Israel.

Allegations have been made that some Ethiopian women coming to the country were given them against their will and without having the full side effects explained.”

Where Knell obtained the information which prompted her to claim that Depo-Provera is “not a standard method of birth control in Israel” is unclear. The medication is among the options available to the prescribing gynecologist in all the health care companies and government hospitals and – like all other forms of contraception and medication in general – is prescribed when it best suits the needs of the specific patient. Because Depo-Provera is a progesterone only method of contraception, it is one of the options available to women who cannot take estrogen-based contraceptives (for example, those who are breast-feeding) and it is also indicated in the case of certain medical conditions such as endometriosis. Knell’s assertion that there is a “standard method” contraception in Israel (or elsewhere) is based on ignorance of the medical facts. 

Additionally, because Depo Provera is administered at three-month intervals and a new prescription is required for each new administration (entailing a visit to a gynecologist and then to the pharmacy to pick up the medication, followed by a visit to the nurse for the injection itself), women clearly have the possibility to opt out of the treatment every 13 weeks. 

Knell also digs up an old story from almost two decades ago in order to add padding to her insinuations of racism:

“The issue is extremely sensitive in Israel where the population of about 120,000 thousand Ethiopian Jews sometimes complains of discrimination. There have been several scandals in the past. In 1996, for example, the Israeli authorities admitted they had secretly disposed of blood donations given by Ethiopian Israelis because of fears about HIV/Aids.”

Instead of blindly repeating things she reads in Ha’aretz, had Knell bothered to read the 1996 report by former Israeli president Yitzhak Navon into that incident before putting finger to keyboard, she would know that the disposal of those blood donations was the result of a failure by the blood services (which are run by Magen David Adom – not “the Israeli authorities” as Knell states) to update an earlier directive from 1984 (at the time of Operation Moses) which related not to HIV, but to Hepatitis B, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Navon report stated:

“Contrary to the public impression, there is no connection between the decision made in 1984 and AIDS.”

“At the time the health services were worried by findings connected to the prevalence of diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis and Hepatitis among the Ethiopian immigrants from ‘Operation Moses’.”

To remind readers, the risk of the transmission of HIV through donated blood was first recognized in 1983 and standardised testing of blood donations for HIV and the then newly identified Hepatitis C virus began around 1992. Whilst the disposal of those blood donations from members of the Ethiopian community in 1996 was undoubtedly insensitive, it was not founded in racism but based on the very real problem which existed worldwide at the time concerning the possibility of the transmission of infectious diseases via blood transfusions. To this day – regardless of skin colour – one cannot donate blood in Israel if one has lived in a country in which Malaria is endemic until three years have passed by since leaving that country.

Miss Israel 2013

Incidentally, one can also not donate blood in Israel (because of the risk of CJD) if one lived in England for an accumulated period of six months or more during the years 1980 – 1996, if one received a blood transfusion in Britain since 1980 or if one lived in Ireland or Portugal for an accumulated period of ten years since 1980 – as well as for a whole list of other reasons. Of course Knell would not dream of using that information to write a report implying discrimination against immigrants to Israel from the UK because nobody would swallow such a tall tale. 

These repeated transparent attempts by the BBC to paint Israel as a country rotten with racism are so predictable and amateurish that they are becoming ridiculous.

Beyond that – especially in the current climate of economic austerity in the UK – license fee payers will no doubt be disgruntled to discover that they are paying to maintain a BBC Jerusalem Bureau which blindly regurgitates Ha’aretz articles in English which they can easily read online for themselves, should they so wish. 

Update: Ha’aretz has issued a correction to the article upon which Yolande Knell’s report is based. One of course expects the BBC to amend its own article accordingly.