BBC R4 ‘Today’ listeners hear an esoteric item on antisemitism

The February 23rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 49:14 here) concerning the UK Labour party. Presenter Nick Robinson introduced the item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Robinson: “Compare and contrast the following reactions to the resignations of nine Labour MPs in the past week alone. ‘There is now brutality in the Labour party. Racist bullies are responsible for driving one – Luciana Berger – out of the party and it needs to change if more are not to follow.’ That was the reaction of the party’s deputy leader Tom Watson. In contrast: ‘there is no place for harshness and bullying in the party and to tell you the truth, I don’t believe it exists on a wide scale’. That was the response of the leader Jeremy Corbyn. So who is right? And how can the party’s divisions on bullying, on antisemitism and indeed over Europe now be bridged?

Robinson discussed that topic with two labour MPs – the first of whom he introduced as “Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North, a vocal supporter of Jeremy Corbyn”. However – despite the BBC’s obligation to provide “…news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues…” and notwithstanding Robinson’s challenges to some of his interviewee’s talking points – the interview quickly descended into an esoteric conversation that most listeners would have had great difficulty following.

Robinson: “Chris […] what would you say is the scale of bullying and scale of antisemitism in the Labour party?

Williamson: “Well I’ve never witnessed any bullying and – I’ve got to say like Chuka Umunna – never seen any examples of antisemitism. That’s not to say that neither of those things exist but the truth is that the Labour party has a proud tradition of standing up for social justice, fighting racism in all its forms, right back from the early 1930s when we stood – the Labour party – with the Jewish community in Cable Street against Oswald Mosely’s fascists, to being the backbone of the anti-Nazi League in the 1970s.”

Robinson: “It’s a curious formula to say that you’ve never witnessed any antisemitism. You yourself apologised for signing a petition opposing a ban on a musician who blamed the Grenfell Tower disaster on so-called ‘Jerusalemites’. So far from not witnessing it, you accidentally – you apologised for it – went along with it.”

Williamson: “That’s very, very unfair. Look I didn’t know that the individual concerned had made those remarks and actually deleted the Tweet within 12 minutes of actually posting when it was brought to my attention.”

The unnamed “musician” is Gilad Atzmon who – despite being an antisemite who promotes conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial – used to be quite a regular fixture on the BBC. Williamson did indeed delete his Tweet promoting a petition defending Atzmon and made an apology based on what was described in the New Statesman as “a claim that for many stretches credulity”.  

Robinson however did not bother to provide listeners with the details of that story or to ask Williamson how he ‘accidentally’ managed to sign a petition supporting an antisemite without bothering to do any background research. He went on:

Robinson: “What about when you defended a man who’d said Jewish Trump fanatics were to blame for antisemitism allegations in the Labour party? You defended that man. He was a member of the National Executive Committee.”

Williamson: “He…well…well you’re trying to pick out isolated examples here Nick to try to imply that there is a major problem.”

Robinson: “No, I’m asking you to justify the fact that you said you’ve never seen something when in your own personal case you have twice faced allegations of going along with antisemitism.”

Again Robinson did not provide listeners with the details of the example he used or even the name of “that man” – Peter Willsman – so that they could check out the story and judge Williamson’s responses for themselves.

Williamson: “Allegations are one thing – aren’t they? – but just because somebody makes an allegation doesn’t make it true. If you actually go down that road you’re then very much into the McCarthyite witch hunt era, aren’t you?”

Robinson: “Is John McDonnell responsible for a McCarthyite witch hunt when he says ‘we’ve got to be quicker, we’ve got to be fiercer in dealing with antisemitism’? Is he a McCarthyite?

Williamson: “Well let me quote you what a Jewish journalist…”

Robinson: “No, I’d like you to respond to Mr McDonnell.”

Williamson: “Well yeah I am gonna respond with this comment actually and it’s a comment from a Jewish journalist and I think if you’d just do me the courtesy of listening for a moment Nick, I think you’ll find it highly significant. He wrote on the 21st of July last year ‘Expect a group of high-profile right-wing MPs and councillors or members to resign from the Labour party in protest. Don’t fall for this. In reality this will be just another attempt to sabotage Labour, possibly setting up a new moderate splinter party in the process, using false claims of antisemitism as their totemic issue’.”

The anonymous journalist that Williamson claims is Jewish is Asa Winstanley – a known anti-Israel activist and a contributor to the extremist siteElectronic Intifada’ and the Hamas linked, London-based outfit MEMO. Significantly, Williamson omitted part of the Tweets he ‘quoted’.

With listeners not told who that “Jewish journalist” is and not made aware of his long record of anti-Israel activity and his stance concerning antisemitism in the Labour party, they would of course be unable to judge Williamson’s response.  

Robinson: “So do you agree the claims are false?”

Williamson: “Now that is a Jewish journalist and I would also refer you to…”

Robinson: “I was asking for your view Mr Williamson.”

Williamson: “I would also refer you to the letter that was signed by over two hundred prominent Jewish members of the party who say in an open letter that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn…”

Robinson: “Can you tell me your view. You’re only quoting other people’s views.”

Williamson: “Let me just answer in my own way…that Labour and Jeremy Corbyn are a crucial ally in the fight against racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism.”

That letter cited by Williamson naturally appeared in the Guardian and its signatories include numerous anti-Israel campaigners who conveniently deny the existence of antisemitism in his party. Again, without that essential background information, listeners would be unable to judge Williamson’s response for themselves.

The interview came to an end shortly after that with Robinson again citing Labour MPs:

Robinson: “So Tom Watson is wrong…Tom Watson is wrong when he talks about racist bullies. John McDonnell is wrong when he says the party’s not dealing with antisemitism quickly enough or fiercely enough. They’re all wrong.”

Williamson: “Well I don’t…no…I’m not saying that. I mean I do think there was delays in the…err…dealing with the complaints that have been made but I think it’s important to put those into context as well. Labour is the biggest party in western Europe now and there were a number of complaints. Around a third of them however were deemed not to have sufficient evidence – potentially malicious complaints being made about antisemitism – and obviously the Labour party does need to deal with that and there was a bit of a delay but look, there is no place for antisemitism in the Labour party.”

Williamson’s framing of the topic under discussion in this item is based on the fallacy that if an anonymous “Jewish journalist” and unnamed “prominent Jewish members of the party” say so, then allegations of antisemitism can’t possibly be true.

With Nick Robinson having made no effort to unpack that sophism or to explain to listeners what sort of political milieu the little known fringe activists invoked by Williamson inhabit, this item clearly did the exact opposite of helping audiences to “engage fully” with the issue of antisemitism in the UK Labour party.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 fails to clarify a commentator’s ‘particular viewpoint’

Guardian letter claims Corbyn is an “ally in the fight against antisemitism” (UK Media Watch)

 

 

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BBC Persian Service promotes antisemitic Holocaust denier Atzmon

h/t Adam Holland (via Twitter) & others  

You might think that an organisation which has as its motto the phrase “Nation shall speak peace unto Nation” would refrain from promoting the opinions of an antisemitic Holocaust denier, but that is not the case. 

We have previously documented here examples of the BBC’s vigorous groupie-style promotion of Gilad Atzmon, especially on the World Service – see here, here and here – but on July 30th 2013 the BBC reached a new low by broadcasting an interview with Atzmon on its Persian Service.

Atzmon BBC Persia

Atzmon is of course no stranger to the Iranian regime’s Press TV and yet for some reason best known to itself, the BBC – which prides itself upon being a source of “accuracy, impartiality, independence, seriousness” in parts of the world in which local media cannot be relied upon  to exhibit those qualities – apparently sees nothing problematic in promoting the vile opinions of a man securely in the pocket of the regime which so recently harassed its local employees and blocked its broadcasts.

It is bad enough that the BBC promotes Atzmon in English language broadcasts, especially given that anti-racists in Britain are trying to oppose the spread of his hate speech.  But it is even more reprehensible and irresponsible on the part of the BBC to go to the trouble of translating his racist opinions into Persian for promotion in a part of the world which has been spoon-fed with anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial for years by its own repressive regime. 

BBC World Service promotes Gilad Atzmon – again

h/t Adam Holland

The BBC World Service has an arts programme called The Strand which, according to the blurb:

“..is a daily 18 minute programme highlighting the best of what’s going in the arts.

Wide-ranging and with eclectic interests, The Strand reflects the artistic response to the BBC’s news agenda.

Presented by Harriett Gilbert and friends, it features discussions, reviews, big-name interviews and location reports as well as live studio performances and Hollywood, Bollywood gossip.”

Since the beginning of the year, The Strand has been running an occasional music series called ‘Hear my country in which listeners were asked to write in with a nomination for the song which they feel best represents their homeland. The series also includes music selected by people who were invited by the BBC to contribute their choices of music best representing their particular country. Here, for instance, one can hear three songs selected by a presenter from Radio 3 in Madrid. 

One might perhaps have assumed that an essential qualification for being asked by the BBC to select music representing one’s country would be to live in it. Obviously not, because the person the BBC asked to choose music representing Israel is an old BBC World Service favourite who has not lived there since 1994.  

Hear my country Atzmon

Atzmon being Atzmon, he uses the platform provided by the BBC to spout his usual propaganda and throws in a bit of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions promotion to boot.

“My first choice is a song that was sung by the Nahal choir – an Israeli military band basically – and it is called הוא לא ידע את שמה – ‘He didn’t know her name’.

And this music was very important for me because – as I understand it now – as youngsters in Israel, my generation and earlier generations, we were heavily indoctrinated with a lot of patriotic music that was there to prepare us for the ultimate sacrifice on the Jewish altar.” 

Those wishing to hear the rest can do so here

Gilad Atzmon is not just a “writer and jazz saxophonist” as the BBC claims. Despite his place of birth, he is also well known as a Holocaust denier and an unabashed antisemite, as was previously documented here and here when he was also promoted by the BBC World Service last October. 

Would the producers of ‘The Strand’ invite a neo-Nazi to choose music to represent Germany for no other reason than that he happened to have been born in Bonn or ask a violin-playing member of the Klu Klux Klan to select American music? Of course not – because BBC producers are able to identify those versions of racism and the BBC does not normally collaborate with racists in the spreading of their hate-filled ideas. But the BBC apparently does not grasp that by refusing to recognise Atzmon’s well-documented antisemitism for what it is and by repeatedly providing him with a platform from which to champion his odious propaganda, it is actually complicit in the spread of racism. 

BBC interviewee’s support for Greta Berlin’s antisemitic videos

As readers will no doubt remember, the BBC World Service saw fit to broadcast an interview with Gilad Atzmon on its ‘Weekend’ programme on October 14th 2012, in which the host Julian Worricker declared himself to be “intrigued” by the proudly antisemitic, Holocaust-denying jazz musician. Worricker even posted a photo of himself and Atzmon on the BBC World Service’s Facebook wall. 

Atzmon has not been shy about adding his voice to the fray which ensued after Greta Berlin of the ‘Free Gaza Movement’ posted a video claiming that “Zionists operated the concentration camps” on the organisation’s official Twitter account.

(If you have not been keeping up with that rather tangled chain of events, it is documented here – part 1 – and here – part 2 – by Avi Mayer and is well worth reading in full.)

The Greta Berlin story broke on September 30th: two weeks before Atzmon’s World Service interview. By October 7th, Atzmon had come out in support of Berlin and her posting of the video, writing on his own blog:

“A few days ago Greta Berlin had been subject to a vile Israeli and Zionist smear campaign following her facebook post containing the following message: “Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews”. ” …

“Zionists and Hasbara agents were very quick to slander Berlin. They tagged her as an ‘anti Semite’ and a ‘Holocaust denier’. But clearly there is no Holocaust denial in Berlin’s message..” ….

 “The meaning of it all is pretty simple. As I disclose in my latest book The Wandering Who, there is a devastating continuum between hard core Zionism, Israeli Hasbara and the Jewish so-called ‘left’. Unfortunately, some Palestinians also operate as Sabbath Goyim. And they better be exposed [sic].”

In other words, Atzmon regards attempts by those in the world of pro-Palestinian activism to clean up their movement’s act and dissociate it from racism and Holocaust denial as a “Zionist plot”. 

That information was available to BBC researchers and to Julian Worricker – who claimed during the interview to have read “both critics and supporters” of Atzmon – a full week before the programme was broadcast. 

And yet, despite Atzmon’s infamous history and his open support for a woman who promoted antisemitic material on the internet (including a 1943 Nazi propaganda film), Worricker elected to go ahead with the interview, not only failing to challenge any of Atzmon’s bizarre statements, but also with the dumbed-down presentation of his guest as a mere “controversial public critic of Israel”.

The employment of racism and Holocaust denial in order to delegitimize a nation for political ends does not fall into the category of ‘criticism’ and Atzmon’s rantings go far beyond Worricker’s theme of “music and politics”. 

More recently, on October 19th, Atzmon published another predictably odious piece – entitled “Jewish Domination? Occupation More Likely” and cross-posted at ‘Countercurrents‘ – in which he wrote of those opposing antisemitism and Holocaust denial:

“The recent attack on Free Gaza’s Greta Berlin and Colonel Ann Wright suggests that we have crossed a red line — Jewish domination within the Palestinian solidarity movement belongs to the past. We are now, it seems, under Zionist occupation, and we are subject to all the symptoms of Israeli abuse and Zionist brutality. The expulsions, the exclusions and the cleansings that are inherent within Zionism, Israeli and Jewish politics, are now alive and kicking within the Palestinian solidarity movement itself. ” ….

“The message here is clear – some elements within the Palestinian solidarity movement have obviously adopted the most repellent and brutal Zionist symptoms, and we are now engaged, caught up in, and beset by a sinister series of expulsions, purges, crude witch hunts, exclusions, smears, character defamations and cleansings.”

I would be very interested to hear whether Julian Worricker really thinks that anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial constitute “criticism” of Israel (or anything else) and if he still stands by the decision to give air-time to a man who thinks they have a place in the pro-Palestinian movement. Mr Worricker is invited to contribute his thoughts to the discussion in the comments below. 

BBC World Service hosts antisemite Gilad Atzmon

Gilad Atzmon is a Jazz musician, an ex-pat Israeli and, in his own words, an “ex-Jew”. He is also an anti-Semite who promotes conspiracy theories and supports Holocaust deniers.

Don’t take my word for it, though. 

Here is Tony Greenstein – not exactly a “Lover of Zion” – congratulating the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (also not known for their Zionism) for dissociating itself from Gilad Atzmon in 2011 after , as Greenstein puts it, “Atzmon himself [h]as openly embraced the politics of holocaust denial question the existence of Auschwitz as a death camp”.

Here is a recent article from 972 Magazine referring to Atzmon’s book ‘The Wandering Jew’:

“Atzmon is a Holocaust denier; he has previously asked “if the Nazis ran a death factory in Auschwitz-Birkenau, why would the Jewish prisoners join them at the end of the war?” In this book […..]  Atzmon writes on page 179 “we, for instance, can envisage a horrific situation in which an Israeli so-called ‘pre-emptive’ nuclear attack on Iran that escalates into a disastrous nuclear war, in which tens of millions of people perish. I guess that amongst the survivors of such a nightmare scenario, some may be bold enough to argue that ‘Hitler might have been right after all.’ On page 27 he argues “Throughout the centuries, some Jewish bankers have gathered the reputation of backers and financers of wars and even one communist revolution.””

Here is Nick Lowles of the anti-racist, anti-fascist campaign ‘HOPE not hate’ writing about Atzmon and here is the Community Security Trust discussing his visit to Exeter University in November 2011. Andy Newman, a British Trade Unionist and contributor to ‘Socialist Unity’, wrote about the Left’s need to distance itself from Gilad Atzmon in the Guardian in September 2011.

Alternatively, one could take a look at some of the words of Atzmon himself (all sources in the link):

“To regard Hitler as the ultimate evil is nothing but surrendering to the Zio-centric discourse. To regard Hitler as the wickedest man and the Third Reich as the embodiment of evilness is to let Israel off the hook. To compare Olmert to Hitler is to provide Israel and Olmert with a metaphorical moral shield. It maintains Hitler at the lead and allows Olmert to stay in the tail. We should never compare Israel to Nazi Germany. As far as evilness is concerned, we should now let Israel take the lead.”

“The question of whether there was a mass homicide with gas or ‘just’ a mass death toll due to total abuse in horrendous conditions is no doubt a crucial historical question. The fact that such a major historical chapter less than seven decades ago is scholarly [sic] inaccessible undermines the entire historical endeavour. …Furthermore, unless one approves and repeats the official Holocaust narrative, one may find oneself locked behind bars. This happened lately to three rightwing history revisionists who dared to suspect the official Auschwitz narrative. ….I can see these three outlaws :[David] Irving, [Ernest] Zundel and [Germar] Rudolf, the three rightwing historical revisionists who happen to be locked behind bars. …While left academics are mainly concerned with signalling out Holocaust deniers telling us what is right and who is wrong, it is the revisionists who engage themselves in detailed archive work as well as forensic scrutiny…. If history shapes the future, we need to liberate our perspective of the past, rather than arresting revisionists, we simply need many more of them.”

“We must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously…. American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elder of Zion’ are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy. So far they are doing pretty well for themselves at least.”

“The Protocols is widely considered a forgery. It is a manual for a prospective new member of the “Elders”, describing how they will run the world through control of the media and finance, replacing the traditional social order with one based on mass manipulation. Though the book is considered a hoax by most experts and regarded as a vile anti-Semitic text, it is impossible to ignore its prophetic qualities and its capacity to describe both the century unfolding and the political reality in which we live.”

Most reasonable people would probably avoid putting up a photograph of themselves together with such an obviously racist Holocaust denier on their organisation’s Facebook wall. They would also not gratify his repulsive views with a sympathetic radio interview.

 Not so the BBC World Service’s Julian Worricker, who was ‘intrigued’ by his interviewee Atzmon on October 14th 2012. 

The BBC World Service would not dream of promoting David Duke or a member of Combat 18, even if they also happened to be rather good at tap dancing.  So the question is; why can the BBC either not identify Gilad Atzmon for what he really is or justify giving him air-time if it does?