BBC News’ side-lining of French president’s anti-Zionism statement is no surprise

At the July 16th event in Paris marking the 75th anniversary of the deportation of French Jews to Auschwitz, the French president made a significant statement.

“French president Emmanuel Macron on Sunday condemned anti-Zionism as a new form of anti-Semitism, in what observers said was an unprecedented statement from the leader of France in support of the Jewish state.

“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 said an event in Paris marking the mass deportation of French Jews during World War II. He was directly addressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who attended the event.” [emphasis added]

Macron’s statement is of course in step with the IHRA working definition of antisemitism that was adopted in recent months by the British government and the EU parliament as well as in accord with the US State department’s definition. His words were reported by numerous media outlets including the Independent, the Times, the Washington Post and the New York Times.

However, the BBC News website’s report on the ceremony made no mention whatsoever of the French president’s recognition of anti-Zionism as a manifestation of antisemitism.

Should we be surprised at the omission of that statement from the BBC’s coverage of the event? Not really.

Last April – despite the fact that it still does not work according to an accepted definition of antisemitism – the BBC considered itself sufficiently qualified to produce a backgrounder titled “What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?“.

As was noted here at the time, that article promoted the Livingstone Formulation, failed to inform readers what anti-Zionism actually means and focused 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 while advancing the ‘Zionism is racism’ canard. Subsequent BBC reporting again amplified similar themes.

The BBC’s funding public should therefore not be overly surprised that a statement from the French president that contrasts starkly with the BBC’s repeated woolly misrepresentations of anti-Zionism and spotlights the corporation’s calculated disregard for accepted definitions of antisemitism was sidelined by BBC News.  

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The BBC must tell its audiences how it defines antisemitism

The BBC and the need for a definition of antisemitism

BBC again ignores the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism

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

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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

Radio 4 provides more evidence of BBC double standards when reporting terrorism

Further examples of the double standard evident in the BBC’s use of the term terrorism were recently supplied by a series of programmes broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

On August 29th the station’s consumer affairs programme ‘You & Yours’ – presented by Winifred Robinson – broadcast an edition titled “Terrorism vs Tourism” which discussed the impact of terrorism “on people flying to Mediterranean resorts”.You and Yours 1

“Terrorists are increasingly targeting tourist resorts and destination cities. In today’s You & Yours we report on the human impact of terror attacks and the long-term affect [sic] on the countries they target.

New research commissioned by You & Yours shows to what extent passenger numbers travelling to British holiday destinations, including France, Tunisia, Turkey, and Egypt have been affected by attacks over the last two years.”

Unsurprisingly, Israel – which has both past and recent experience of dealing with the effects of terrorism on its tourist industry – was not included among those “Mediterranean resorts”. 

The following day – August 30th – another programme on the same topic was aired under the title “Call You and Yours: how has terrorism at home or abroad affected your holiday plans?“.You and Yours 2

“Terrorism is at the top of the agenda at the moment, after high profile attacks in Paris, Nice and Tunisia. We’d like to know if it’s made a difference to how you live your life. Perhaps you’ve changed your destination – or had second thoughts about taking your family abroad. 
We’d also like to hear from you if you work in the tourism industry, tell us how has terrorism affected business.”

The September 5th edition of ‘You & Yours’ included an item on “Egypt tourism“.

“Exclusive research commissioned by You and Yours shows how visitor numbers to Egypt are dropping since political unrest and terror attacks – we report on how the tourism industry is suffering and how the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice is decided.”

Throughout all three of those programmes, the term terror was used frequently and appropriately. Obviously the programme makers did not feel uncomfortable making the kind of “value judgements” which the BBC editorial guidelines on language when reporting terrorism instruct them to avoid.

“Terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones and care is required in the use of language that carries value judgements.  We try to avoid the use of the term “terrorist” without attribution.  When we do use the term we should strive to do so with consistency in the stories we report across all our services and in a way that does not undermine our reputation for objectivity and accuracy.” […]

“…we don’t change the word “terrorist” when quoting other people, but we try to avoid the word ourselves; not because we are morally neutral towards terrorism, nor because we have any sympathy for the perpetrators of the inhuman atrocities which all too often we have to report, but because terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones.”You and Yours 3

Last month we noted here that the BBC had found a ‘working definition’ of terrorism with which it is apparently comfortable – at least when reporting on incidents in Europe.

“Terrorist attacks are acts of violence by non-state actors to achieve a political, social, economic or religious goal through fear, coercion or intimidation.”

Once again this series of Radio 4 programmes demonstrates all too clearly that those editorial guidelines are not being applied in a uniform and consistent manner. When the BBC wants to use words such as ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’, it does. When it wants to make “value judgements”, it does and in fact what dictates the BBC’s choice of terminology is “a political position” of precisely the type it claims to try to avoid.

Absurdly, while evidence to the contrary accumulates, the corporation continues to claim that its coverage of terrorism is consistent, accurate and impartial.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

The BBC, European ‘fear’ and Israeli ‘paranoia’

Last October we discussed an article by Kevin Connolly – then of the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau – which has since been promoted as ‘related reading’ many times on the BBC News website.Paranoia Connolly

“During the first three weeks of October 2015, ten Israelis were killed and 112 wounded – eleven of them seriously – in forty stabbing attacks, four shootings and five vehicular attacks which took place throughout the country.

On October 23rd, however, BBC News told its audiences that Israelis are suffering from either a collective psychosis ‘characterised by delusions of persecution’ or ‘unjustified suspicion and mistrust of other people’ – depending on which definition of the word paranoia BBC editors intended their headline to communicate.

Either way, it is obviously extremely hard to believe that if British citizens had been subjected to such a wave of terror attacks, the BBC would characterise their mood as unjustified or disconnected from reality by using the term ‘paranoia’. And it is of course equally unlikely that after over fifty attacks on British citizens in three weeks, the BBC would still be avoiding the use of the word ‘terror’ – as it continues to do in its current coverage of Israel.”

Happily, such a scenario has not transpired in Britain but at the end of July, the BBC World Service turned its attentions to “the fear that lies over Europe” in an edition of ‘The World This Week’.

TWTW 31 7 tweet

Presenter Jonny Dymond described the item at the beginning of the programme:

“As one brutal attack has followed another in France and Germany, I’ll take the mood of the continent with one of our most experienced Europe watchers – the editor of our Europe bureau.”

His introduction (from 00:47 here) was as follows:

“Europe has not known a week or two like the last ones for many, many years. First the terrible slaughter in Nice that left at least 84 dead, then a string of attacks in southern Germany. Then this week the killing of a French priest in a quiet town as he and his parishioners celebrated morning mass on a summer’s day.

An anguished debate over how to deal with violent Islam, both imported and homegrown, is in full swing. A new national guard will be created to defend citizens against terror attacks. Not for the first time, a beleaguered President Francois Hollande spoke darkly of war.” […]

In Germany shootings, stabbings and bombings – some connected with so-called Islamic State; all connected in some way with Germany’s embrace of migrants – have rocked a country that has over the decades become a by-word for cautious, conservative stability.”

Introducing the editor of the BBC’s Europe bureau, Simon Wilson, Dymond spoke of Europeans “confronted with a darker version of their continent; one gloomy about the future and nervous about what some perceive as the enemy within.”

Wilson told audiences:

“I was in Nice within a few hours of the attack there. People were really scared. That’s a really scary thought if anyone can take control of a vehicle and drive it into you. Those feelings will fade in weeks and months and other cities have overcome terror attacks and got back to normal. I think people are changing their plans. Do you want to be in a big crowd watching a football match on a big screen in Brussels or Paris at the moment? Probably not. ‘Climate of fear’ probably a bit too strong but I think in little ways individuals all over Europe are shaping up to a new reality and the one consistent thing you do hear people saying is ‘this isn’t going to go away soon, is it? This is the new normal and we’re going to have to live with it’.”TWTW 31 7

So as we see, in contrast to its portrayal of Israeli fears of what it refuses to term terrorism as ‘paranoia’, the BBC is perfectly able to identify – and empathise with – the understandable fears of Europeans following what it has no problem defining as “terror attacks”. And remarkably, it also has no qualms about identifying the cause: “violent Islam”.  

The item went on to include reference to an issue rarely if ever acknowledged in BBC coverage of Israel: the obligation of a state to defend its citizens.

JD: “How have the attacks changed the position of the leaders of the two great EU countries France and Germany?”

SW: “For Francois Hollande this is devastating politically. He was already pretty weak […] the elections are up next year. The primary function of a state is to protect its citizens and plainly over a period of 18 months they’ve found that very, very difficult to do. So clearly for Francois Hollande and the French socialists, there’s a huge challenge and I think they’re in big trouble politically.”

Wilson later added that the German chancellor “also faces elections next year and it wouldn’t take much more I think for her to be in big trouble.”

Asked by Dymond if the terror attacks “lead to a more introspective Europe”, Wilson remarked that “Europe’s leaders are consumed with the internal problems […] they are absolutely absorbed with these crises” and noted that European Council president Donald Tusk “has said publicly he thinks Western civilisation is being threatened by everything that’s going on”.

As readers no doubt recall the BBC long since made it clear that it believes that terror attacks against Israelis are “very different” from – and not comparable to – those perpetrated against citizens of other nations. Apparently it is also of the opinion that the concerns of Israeli civilians can be portrayed differently from those of citizens of EU countries. While the BBC refuses to acknowledge that the double standard it promotes is a “significant issue of general importance”, we remain convinced that it compromises the BBC’s claim to impartial reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel

 

 

 

 

Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel

After a shaky start, BBC News was soon able to provide its audiences with an accurate description of the horrendous attack on Bastille Day revellers in Nice on the evening of July 14th.

Attack Nice Tweet 1

Attack Nice Tweet 2

BBC News website 'World' page

BBC News website ‘World’ page

BBC News website 'Europe' page

BBC News website ‘Europe’ page

Terror attacks using vehicles have not been afforded the same clarity of description by the BBC when perpetrated against Israelis.

In August 2014 BBC News reported a “Suspected ‘attack’ on bus with digger in Jerusalem”.

Bus Reynolds filmed

On October 22nd 2014 a vehicular attack in Jerusalem in which two people were murdered was described as a “car ‘attack'”.Pigua Jerusalem version 2

 

Pigua art 26 10

BBC reports on vehicular attack in Jerusalem on November 5th 2014 in which two people were murdered were headlined “Driver hits pedestrians in East Jerusalem” and a follow-up report described a “van attack”.

Pigua 5 11 report

Pigua 5 11 2nd victim

A fatal vehicular attack in Jerusalem on April 15th 2015 did not receive any coverage from the BBC and neither did a fatal vehicular attack at Halhoul Junction on November 4th of that year. Numerous additional attacks have either been ignored or reported without use of the word terror. In one case, not only did the BBC not tell audiences that a terror attack had taken place but even amplified anonymous hearsay suggesting it had not.

Once again the BBC’s double standards when reporting terrorism are all too apparent.

Related Articles:

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

 

The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

The BBC’s guidance on “Language when Reporting Terrorism” states: [emphasis added]

Our policy is about achieving consistency and accuracy in our journalism. We recognise the existence and the reality of terrorism – at this point in the twenty first century we could hardly do otherwise. Moreover, we don’t change the word “terrorist” when quoting other people, but we try to avoid the word ourselves; not because we are morally neutral towards terrorism, nor because we have any sympathy for the perpetrators of the inhuman atrocities which all too often we have to report, but because terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones.

We also need to ensure that when we report acts of terror, we do so consistently in the stories we report across our services. We have learnt from the experience of covering such events in Northern Ireland as much as in Israel, Spain, Russia, Southern Africa or the many other places where violence divides communities, and where we seek to be seen as objective by all sides, that labels applied to groups can sometimes hinder rather than help.”

And:

“The value judgements frequently implicit in the use of the words “terrorist” or “terrorist group” can create inconsistency in their use or, to audiences, raise doubts about our impartiality. [….]

We also need to ask ourselves whether by using “terrorist” we are taking a political position, or certainly one that may be seen as such.”

However, as has frequently been noted on these pages the BBC’s reporting on terrorism is in fact anything but consistent and the corporation’s reporting on the wave of terror attacks which took place in three countries on June 26th provided another example of that phenomenon.

When two terrorists armed with a gun, knives and axes walked into a Jerusalem synagogue in November 2014 and slaughtered early morning worshippers, the BBC did not categorise that incident as a terror attack.

“One outstanding – although predictable – feature of the BBC’s coverage is that despite the fact that the core story was about a terror attack perpetrated on the congregation of a synagogue, in all of the above reports the word terror and its derivatives were never used directly by the BBC. References to terrorism came only in the form of quotes from Israeli officials (placed in inverted commas by the BBC), from Israeli interviewees or from the US Secretary of State in the filmed report of his statement to the press.”

When at least one terrorist armed with a rifle walked onto a beach in Tunisia in June 2015 and gunned down equally unsuspecting tourists, the language used by the BBC in some of its coverage was very clear.

Tunisia 1

Tunisia 2

Coverage of the other attacks which took place on the same day in France and Kuwait also employed the word terror.

France 1

France 2

BBC terror attacks 1

One can only imagine what the public and parliamentary reaction would have been if – as it did following the January terror attacks in Paris – the BBC had promoted the view that the word terrorist was too “loaded” for use in coverage of the murder of British holiday makers in Tunisia.

But the fact that in this case appropriate use of the word terror was seen in some of the BBC’s coverage of these attacks only serves to further highlight the inconsistency of its practice and the absence of universality in its professed avoidance of making “value judgements”.

Related Articles:

No terror please, we’re the British Broadcasting Corporation

Debate widens on BBC avoidance of the word terrorist

BBC double standards on terrorism surface yet again

Mapping the BBC’s inconsistent use of the word ‘terror’

 

 

Helen Grady does real journalism on BBC WS ‘Assignment’

Last month we noted here the miserable decision by the BBC 2 ‘Newsnight’ production team to provide a platform to Alain Soral (described in this recent article by the Independent’s John Lichfield as “a virulently anti-semitic French intellectual, light years to the right of the Marine Le Pen and the National Front”) as part of its coverage of the quenelle/Anelka/Dieudonne story.

Newsnight’s tepid and misleading description of Soral as a “writer and film-maker” and the unhindered airing of his antisemitic conspiracy theories did nothing to enhance audience understanding of the issues at hand. 

Hence, it is all the more refreshing to be able to note a recent BBC World Service programme in the ‘Assignment’ series which actually does provide a lot of background material which will help BBC audiences reach informed opinions. Helen Grady’s interesting and informative report – titled “Dieudonne: France’s Most Dangerous Comedian?” – makes fascinating listening for anyone trying to understand the popularity of Dieudonne and how that phenomenon fits into the picture of contemporary politics and antisemitism in France. It is available here or here on BBC iPlayer. 

Assignment BBC WS

Related Articles:

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