BBC radio coverage of the Chief Rabbi’s article – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, both the November 25th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ – presented by Ritula Shah – and the November 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Razia Iqbal – included interviews with two people presenting opposing perspectives on the topic of an article by Britain’s Chief Rabbi published by The Times.

On ‘The World Tonight’ Jenny Manson was introduced (from 13:11 here) as “the co-chair of Jewish Voice for Labour”, with listeners hearing nothing at all about that fringe group’s agenda.

Having declared herself “absolutely horrified” by Mirvis’ article, Manson began by disputing a statement made earlier on in the programme by the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Martin Bashir concerning the number of British Jews represented by the Chief Rabbi before going on: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Manson: “…these allegations – I’ve just had a quick look through the letter [sic] – many of them have been…ehm…repudated [sic] by JVL if you’d like to look at our website. We’ve proper evidence, we’ve even had lawyers pouring over them in relation to the Labour MPs who’ve left citing antisemitism, in relation to the mural.”

Listeners were not informed by Shah what that opaque reference to “the mural” actually means before Manson went on.

Manson: “He [the Chief Rabbi] mentions in his letter [sic] the EHRC’s investigating institutional antisemitism – that is not true. They are investigating the processes. If he’s looked at the EHRC site you can see this.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission website clarifies that it is investigating more than “processes”.

Shah however made no effort to clarify that point.

Shah: “But the fact that there is an investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into the Labour party is something that may concern many people. He also says…”

Manson: “OK. Can I…can I just…”

Shah: “Indeed but can I just mention one point. The Chief Rabbi says that ‘convention dictates that the Chief Rabbi stays well away from party politics and rightly so. However challenging racism in all its forms is not a matter of politics: it goes well beyond that’.”

Manson: “Oh absolutely. I mean we challenge racism every time and any racism we see either in the Labour party or anywhere else, we call out. But let me go back to the EHRC. Both the Conservative party and the Labour party had sent the EHRC…had…sorry…the EHRC has received complaints about the Conservative party and the Labour party. You don’t hear about that, about the Conservative party. They received many complaints. They had to investigate many complaints. What they decided to do – if anyone wants to look at their website – was to investigate the processes not the party.”

Once again Shah failed to challenge that claim.

Shah: “OK well you’ve made that point but the thing that will stand out in people’s minds is that the Chief Rabbi has chosen to make an intervention – he uses the phrase with the heaviest of hearts – at what is clearly a very sensitive time in the run-up to an election; we’re weeks away. Why do you think he would have felt the need to do this if he didn’t believe the problem was very, very serious?”

Manson: “What I think must have happened is that we’ve had three and a half years of – in my view and in the view of my colleagues – extremely biased reporting. We have put out statements. Nobody picks them up. There’s been one side of this issue – it’s not only been on the BBC – but if anyone wants to look at the facts, I say they abound.”

Shah made no effort to question that claim from Manson or to point out that members of ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ – including Manson herself – have made regular appearances in BBC content over the past couple of years before her interviewee went on:

Manson: “So that many Jews have got genuinely frightened. What we know because we really do know the facts – I say we look at them very carefully – is there was a serious new threat to Jews on the Far-Right. There is no threat to Jews in the Labour party. There has been some people who’ve said foolish things. There’s some people who say foolish things in the Lib Dem party and in the Conservative party but only the Labour party is being looked at [by] the Chief Rabbi and his colleagues and I have to ask why about that too. But let’s just say that there’s been…they’ve been misled badly and I think to intervene in the election at this time is very, very poor stuff. It won’t go down well with people who are…who are open-minded, who know, who look at the evidence. It’s a bad day for me as a Jew to hear false allegations being repeated yet again.”

Once again Shah failed to challenge Manson’s claims before closing the interview at that point.

The next day Manson appeared on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 34:59 here) and was interviewed by Razia Iqbal directly after an interview with Mike Katz of the Jewish Labour Movement.

Iqbal: “Joining me in the studio now is Jenny Manson, co-chair of another Jewish Labour group – ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ – ahm…which supports Jeremy Corbyn. […] What’s your response to what you’ve just heard Mike Katz saying?”

Manson: “Well I’m actually appalled at the lack of truth in some of those comments. For example the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is not investigating the Labour party’s institutional antisemitism. Because of the number of complaints it was sent – many of which turned out not to be true is my guess – they are looking at the processes of the Labour party.”

Once again listeners heard no challenge to that spin.

Manson: “It’s not whataboutery to say that all political parties have a problem with antisemitism, racism, Islamophobia and all forms of xenophobia. There have been Conservative and Lib Dem candidates withdrawn in the last few weeks over antisemitism. It’s not a Labour party problem and it is relevant to say why should there be so much attention to the existence – I’m thankful to say – of a very small amount of antisemitism in the Labour party and almost no attention on the other political parties and no recognition of the work done by Jeremy Corbyn. I am personally offended by this continuous attack on him, who I know.”

Iqbal: “OK but the Chief Rabbi has talked about this as a ‘new poison which has been sanctioned from the very top’ and he also says that the claim by the Labour party that all cases of antisemitism in its ranks have been investigated is ‘a mendacious fiction’. I mean these are incredibly strong things to say.”

Manson: “They are incredibly…and incredibly the wrong things to be saying not only in an election campaign; at any time. It’s 0.0% [sic] of…point six of the Labour party members have been accused of antisemitism. When the party investigates they investigate it properly. Again, no point…this whataboutery but I hear that some of the people suspended for Islamophobia in the Tory party find themselves back in a couple of weeks later.”

Iqbal did not demand any evidence from Manson for that allegation.

Manson: “The Labour party’s very thorough. To have 100 cases that haven’t been heard is to do with the process. We do a proper process. We have lawyers acting. This idea, this multiplication of non-facts of the last four years against all the evidence. We have evidence and ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ – we are by the way…you have…to be a full member of ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ you have to be Jewish and in the Labour party. The Jewish Labour Movement do not make that requirement. We speak for Jews in the Labour party. We’ve investigated cases for example why some of these Labour MPs have left. We have the evidence of…”

Failing to challenge that highlighted spurious claim, Iqbal interrupted with a decidedly pointless question given the fact that the entire purpose of JVL is to act as cheerleaders for Corbyn.

Iqbal [interrupts]: “OK well let me ask…you say that you know Jeremy Corbyn. Can you categorically say that he has never made an antisemitic comment, that he is not antisemitic in any way?”

Manson: “I can absolutely confirm that and in a way my knowing him is not…I’m very pleased to know him but even before I knew him, when I was first involved in this campaign, I knew that this man has a great hatred of racism on all sides. What has been done is things that he’s done over the last ten years have been picked over. He has always supported, as I do, Palestinian rights very strongly. So he has a meeting – as many people were suggesting he should do including Parliament at the time – with various groups. When they sit down he addresses everybody there as friends. How in any way that can be typified as antisemitism is utterly beyond me. These are the kind of stories that have been built on for four years since he became leader in an attempt to get rid of him as leader.”

Iqbal made no effort whatsoever to explain to listeners around the world what Manson was referring to with that story or to challenge her inaccurate account. Even Corbyn himself does not deny that he called members of Hamas and Hizballah friends – rather than “everybody there” as claimed by Manson. Iqbal could and should have informed listeners that in the same speech Corbyn spoke about Hamas – an organisation committed to the destruction of Israel under its overtly antisemitic founding charter – as follows:

“The idea that an organisation that is dedicated towards the good of the Palestinian people and bringing about long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region should be labelled as a terrorist organisation by the British government is really a big, big historical mistake…”

Corbyn also clearly expressed his opposition to the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their own state: a stance categorised as antisemitism under the IHRA working definition.

“We are opposed to Zionism and what Israel is doing towards the Palestinian people. […] Our argument – and I refuse to be dragged into this stuff that somehow or other because we’re pro-Palestinian we’re anti-Semitic: it’s nonsense. What we’re in favour of is a Palestine where everybody can live. They can’t live if you’ve got Zionism dominating it all.”

Instead, Iqbal let Manson’s lies stand and posed her last question.

Iqbal: “Just very briefly, do you accept though that this is going to be hugely damaging to him and the Labour party?”

Manson: “Well strangely enough I don’t think it’s going to be and the reason is this has been going on a long time and the reason that it’s not going to damage the party as much as I think people think is because Jeremy’s character, as has been shown in the debates recently, is so clearly sincere and genuine that if it had been some lesser man perhaps this story would have been believedbut people are sceptical. They say this doesn’t sound right.”

Iqbal: “OK we will leave it there. Jenny Manson, co-chair of another Jewish Labour group – ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ – joining us live here in the ‘Newshour’ studio – thanks.”

As we see, despite having brought in an unabashed cheerleader for Jeremy Corbyn to comment on this story, neither Shah nor Iqbal made any effort to challenge her distortions, spin and downright lies, with the result being that both domestic audiences and those worldwide heard nothing in the two interviews with her which would contribute to their understanding of the issues that lie behind the Chief Rabbi’s unprecedented step.

Related Articles:

BBC radio coverage of the Chief Rabbi’s article – part one

BBC News not sure whether Corbyn controversy mural antisemitic or not

Reviewing BBC R4’s ‘World at One’ background on the Labour Party story

 

 

 

BBC’s domestic audience sold short on Labour antisemitism yet again

The October 17th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ included an item (from 12:51 here) concerning the earlier announcement by MP Dame Louise Ellman that she had left the UK Labour party.

Newsreader: “The veteran Labour MP Dame Louise Ellman has quit the party, saying that Jeremy Corbyn is not fit to be prime minister. In a statement on Twitter Dame Louise said the party was no longer a safe place for Jews. Jason Kaye reports.”

Kaye: “Dame Louise, who is Jewish, has long been vocal in her opposition to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour and she’s faced calls to step down from members of her local party in Liverpool Riverside. In the statement tonight she said her decision had been truly agonising but said she had to take a stand because she could not advocate a government led by Mr Corbyn, who she said would pose a threat to the country. She said that as a back-bencher Jeremy Corbyn had consorted with antisemites, Holocaust deniers and terrorists and under his leadership Jewish members had been bullied, abused and driven out of the party. The MP for the neighbouring Wavertree constituency, Luciana Berger, quit Labour in February making similar claims. She’s now joined the Liberal Democrats but Dame Louise, who’s been a Labour member for 55 years, says she won’t join another party and hopes that she can return to her political home under different leadership.”

Following that portrayal of parts of the MP’s statement (which notably avoided her reference to the ongoing investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission), Kaye proceeded to give completely uncritical amplification to a statement put out by a Labour party spokesperson.

Kaye: “Labour said the party would continue to take robust action to root out antisemitism in the party and wider society. It said Mr Corbyn had consistently supported struggles for human rights and justice around the world and had made the right calls.”

A slightly edited version of Jason Kaye’s report – once again including uncritical amplification of that Labour party statement – was also heard by listeners to a news bulletin aired (from 1:02:25 here) during the October 17th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme.  Shortly afterwards (from 1:14:56), audiences heard presenter Mishal Husain interview Dame Louise Ellman.

Although the MP twice raised the topic of the ongoing EHRC investigation into antisemitism in the Labour party, Mishal Husain interrupted her interviewee in order to promote the notion to listeners that things have improved.

Husain [interrupts]: “Are we also not now in a different place, would you say, on Labour’s handling of antisemitism is that they now have been public about the number of complaints they’ve received? Ehm…earlier this year Jeremy Corbyn said the complaints system essentially needed to be toughened up so that…so that Labour could confront what he called the poison of antisemitism.”

Ellman: “Well it’s very clear that Jeremy Corbyn – the head of the Labour party – has really struggled to accept that there is any such thing as antisemitism within the Labour party and…”

Husain [interrupts]: “Even now?”

Ellman: “…sees antisemitism as something on the Right. I think he’s had to acknowledge it but he finds it very difficult to do it. And even now the Labour party only takes action when there is public exposure of what is going on and when very brave whistle-blowers come out and talk about what they themselves have experienced.”

Husain’s suggestion that the Labour party’s handling of antisemitism within its own ranks is “in a different place” is of course unfounded – as the party’s own recently released annual report (which does not include the word antisemitism) indicates.

Those who have been following the BBC’s reporting ever since the issue of antisemitism in the Labour party became prominent will be aware that (with a few exceptions) it has generally failed to provide the British public with coverage that provides them with the information necessary for full understanding of the issue and these two programmes aimed at domestic British audiences are no exception.  

Related Articles:

BBC News not sure whether Corbyn controversy mural antisemitic or not

BBC News ‘explanation’ of antisemitism promotes the Livingstone Formulation

Reviewing BBC R4’s ‘World at One’ background on the Labour Party story

BBC One’s ‘Panorama’ on Labour antisemitism raises another issue

 

 

 

Another BBC antisemitism backgrounder promotes Livingstone Formulation

On the day that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced that it had launched a formal investigation into the UK Labour party in order to determine whether it has “unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish” the BBC News website published a backgrounder titled “A guide to Labour Party anti-Semitism claims” on its ‘UK Politics’ page.

“The internal Labour row over anti-Semitism has dragged on for nearly three years. Here’s a guide to what’s been going on.”

The opening section of that May 28th article, headed “What is anti-Semitism?”, quotes the Oxford English Dictionary rather than the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism adopted by the UK government, the Scottish and Welsh governments, 120 municipalities in the UK and the country’s three main political parties, among others.

“Anti-Semitism is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “hostility and prejudice directed against Jewish people”. […]

Modern-day anti-Semitism can take many forms, including, but not limited to, conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the global financial system and the media, to attacks on synagogues, verbal abuse or hate speech and abusive memes on social media.”

The first mention of the IHRA working definition comes (together with a link) in section eight of the article – headed “Definition Row” – thirty-six paragraphs later.

In section two of the article – “Why is Labour rowing about it?” – readers find euphemistic, and hence unhelpful, descriptions of two terrorist organisations.

“Jeremy Corbyn has a more internationalist outlook than recent Labour leaders – he comes from a left-wing tradition of campaigning against Western imperialism and aggression.

He is a longstanding member of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and has been accused by opponents of being too close to Hamas, a militant Islamist group, and Hezbollah, a Lebanese paramilitary group.”

Readers are told that:

“Some of Mr Corbyn’s supporters, however, say the problem has been exaggerated and is being used as a stick to beat the Labour leader by people who don’t like him or his brand of socialism.”

They are not told that such claims are baseless and the article goes on to imply that the issue of antisemitism is somehow linked to “the rights of Palestinians”.

“And some of those who joined the party to vote for Mr Corbyn as leader in 2015 share his passionate belief in the rights of Palestinians to their own state and are vocal critics of Israel.”

Section three of the article is headed “Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism”.

“Debates about claims of anti-Semitism in Labour often involve Israel and another term, anti-Zionism.”

The BBC fails to give a proper definition of Zionism and refrained from clarifying that negation of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination is antisemitism.

“Zionism refers to the movement to create a Jewish state in the Middle East, roughly corresponding to the historical land of Israel, and thus support for the modern state of Israel.”

Readers then saw the latest example of BBC promotion of the Livingstone Formulation.

“Some say “Zionist” can be used as a coded attack on Jewish people, while others say the Israeli government and its supporters are deliberately confusing anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism to avoid criticism.”

Immediately after that paragraph readers are provided with a link billed “Read more about the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism” which leads to a highly problematic and uncredited BBC backgrounder produced in late April 2016. As was noted here when that backgrounder was first published:

“…the article focuses on promoting the inaccurate and misleading notion that anti-Zionism is the same thing as expressing criticism of the policies and actions of the Israeli government. […] To make matters even worse, the article amplifies the ‘Zionism is racism’ canard and the ‘apartheid’ fabrication…”

That backgrounder also gives heavy promotion to the Livingstone Formulation, the purpose of which was described by the person who named it, David Hirsch, as follows:

“the use of the Livingstone Formulation is intended to make sure that the raising of the issue of anti-Semitism, when related to ‘criticism of Israel,’ remains or becomes a commonsense indicator of ‘Zionist’ bad faith and a faux pas in polite antiracist company.”

Lesley Klaff describes it as:

“…the practice of responding to claims of contemporary antisemitism by alleging that those making the claim are only doing so to prevent Israel from being criticised; in other words, they are ‘playing the antisemitism card.’” 

The BBC has been promoting that device for over three years – for example:

Mainstreaming the Livingstone Formulation on BBC Radio 4

BBC promotes the Livingstone formulation – again

More promotion of the Livingstone Formulation from BBC News

BBC News ‘explanation’ of antisemitism promotes the Livingstone Formulation

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

BBC R4 report on antisemitism in the US uses the Livingstone Formulation

Over the years we have documented here the BBC’s pretty gloomy record on preventing, identifying – and correcting – antisemitic discourse in its own content. One reason for that is that the BBC itself does not work according to an accepted definition of antisemitism. But despite its dismal record and the plethora of evidence illustrating that the BBC does not have the authority or the expertise – let alone the remit – to define antisemitism, it continues to produce unattributed backgrounders purporting to inform its audiences on that issue.

The recurring unquestioning amplification of the Livingstone Formulation – a device used exclusively by anti-Israel activists – in those backgrounders and in other BBC content obviously raises serious concerns about the BBC’s ability – and willingness – to inform audiences on this issue accurately and impartially.

Related Articles:

BBC News tries – and fails – to explain antisemitism and anti-Zionism

BBC article on antisemitism report recycles problematic backgrounder

 

 

 

 

BBC 2 ‘Newsnight’ fails to challenge misinformation on antisemitism

The news that the Equality and Human Right Commission (EHRC) had opened an investigation into the UK Labour Party in order to determine whether it “has unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish” prompted the BBC Two flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newsnight’ to air a related report on May 28th.

The report included an interview with Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh and former Labour MP Clare Short by presenter Emma Barnett.

Much of Clare Short’s contribution focused on promoting one specific false claim which, given her record of anti-Israel activism and her previous statements concerning the Labour party antisemitism scandal, could hardly have come as a surprise to those who solicited her participation.

“…what’s happened is there’s been a widening of the definition of antisemitism to include criticism of Israel. The anyone who’s sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians is called antisemitic. That’s what’s happened.”

“…but what I’ve said about this whole dilemma is true. They’ve broadened the definition to say criticism of Israel, which is in breach of international law, is part of antisemitism. And then people who are active on that issue are being picked on.”

“I am saying that criticism of Israel’s breaches of international law is not antisemitism.”

“…but if the definition has been stretched to include criticism of Israel…”

“Do you think the definition of antisemitism should include criticism of Israel?”

“…everybody should make this distinction: antisemitism is evil. Extending the definition to prevent people having any sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinians is a misuse of that allegation.”

Although Siobhain McDonagh did protest Short’s claims on two occasions – “That isn’t what’s happened” – at no point during the item were viewers informed that Short’s Livingstone Formulation allegation is patently false or that the opening paragraph of the relevant IHRA working definition of antisemitism specifically states:

“Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” [emphasis added]

Moreover, ‘Newsnight’ further promoted Short’s misinformation on Twitter.

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding…so that all audiences can engage fully with major local, regional, national, United Kingdom and global issues and participate in the democratic process, at all levels, as active and informed citizens.”