Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2020

Throughout the month of January 2020, twenty-eight written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, three of which were carried over from the previous month and some of which also appeared on other pages.

(dates in brackets indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

One report concerned external security issues:

Qasem Soleimani: ‘Trump deserves all the credit’ – Netanyahu (3/1/20 to 6/1/20)

Eleven items related to the US Administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposal (discussed here):

Trump’s Middle East peace plan: ‘Deal of the century’ is huge gamble Jeremy Bowen (27/1/20 to 7/2/20)

Netanyahu: Trump Middle East peace plan ‘deal of the century’  (28/1/20 to present)

Trump outlines Middle East peace plan (28/1/20 to present)

Abbas on Trump peace plan: ‘Conspiracy deal won’t pass’ (28/1/20 to present)

Trump releases long-awaited Middle-East peace plan (28/1/20 to 29/1/20)

Trump’s Middle East peace plan: Smiles and sorrow on the ground Tom Bateman (28/1/20 to present) discussed here

What does Trump’s Middle East plan say on key issues?  (29/1/20 to 10/2/20)

Trump Middle East plan: What he gets out of it  Aleem Maqbool (29/1/20 to present)

Why Trump’s Middle East plan is so divisive  Jeremy Bowen (29/1/20 to 3/2/20 and 7/2/20 to present)

Trump Middle East plan: Palestinians reject ‘conspiracy’ (29/1/20 to 3/2/20)

Palestinian PM defends stance on Trump Middle East plan Orla Guerin (30/1/20 to 3/2/20)

Six items related to a ceremony held in Jerusalem to mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Holocaust row seethes as leaders gather in Israel Tom Bateman (22/1/20 to 29/1/20) discussed here

Macron orders Israeli security to ‘go outside’ at Jerusalem church (24/1/20 to 28/1/20)

‘Go outside’: France’s Macron berates Israeli police at Jerusalem church (23/1/20 to 24/1/20) discussed here

Yad Vashem: Why Poland won’t be attending Holocaust memorial (23/1/20 to 24/1/20)

Holocaust forum: Netanyahu urges world to unite to confront Iran (23/1/20 to 28/1/20) discussed here

Prince Charles visits grandmother’s tomb on Jerusalem visit (24/1/20 to 25/1/20)

While no reporting on internal Palestinian affairs was published in January, audiences did find a report carried over from the BBC’s Christmas coverage and an interactive feature relating to archaeology in the Gaza Strip.

The Christians helping Bethlehem shepherd families give birth safely (25/12/19 to 3/1/20) discussed here

Treasure Hunters (24/1/20 to 25/1/20)

Of the eight items relating to internal Israeli internal affairs, seven reports concerned legal/criminal cases, of which two related to a case in Cyprus in which Israelis had been released without charge in July 2019, yet the BBC continues to publish reports on the website’s ‘Middle East’ page:

Ayia Napa: Foreign Office ‘concerned’ over Briton found guilty over rape claim (31/12/19 to 2/1/20 and 4/1/20)

Ayia Napa Briton sentenced over false rape claim (7/1/20 to 9/1/20)

Benjamin Netanyahu asks for immunity from prosecution (1/1/20 to 7/1/20 and 9/1/20)

Israel releases two Syrian prisoners in ‘goodwill gesture’ (10/1/20 to 12/1/20)

Jerusalem rabbi arrested for ‘holding women in slavery’ (13/1/20 to 14/1/20)

Netanyahu indicted in court on corruption charges after dropping immunity bid (28/1/20 to 30/1/20)

Naama Issachar: US-Israeli woman released from Russian prison (29/1/20 to 1/2/20)

One report concerned social issues:

How Beitar Jerusalem’s football club owner took on racism and won Alex Capstick (20/12/19 to 1/1/20) discussed here

As noted above, the BBC News website did not produce any reporting on internal Palestinian affairs throughout January and neither did it produce any coverage of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis. As we see, almost 40% of the reporting appearing on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page throughout January concerned the US administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposal.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – December 2019

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of Palestinian affairs in 2019

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2020

 

 

BBC R4’s ‘World at One’ misleads on the Holocaust

The January 23rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ included several items relating to the World Holocaust Forum event held on that day at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, one of which was an interview with Holocaust survivor Dr Martin Stern.

Presenter Sarah Montague introduced the run up to that item (from 07:36 here) as follows:

Montague: “The ceremony underway at the moment in Jerusalem is thought to be one of the largest gatherings of world leaders in Israel’s history. It’s being held at Yad Vashem and it’s brought representatives from all over the world to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Yad Vashem’s the country’s memorial to the six million killed in the Holocaust, the majority of whom were Jews. More than a million of those died in Auschwitz.” [emphasis added]

The Holocaust is defined as follows by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

“The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.”

And similarly by Yad Vashem:

“The Holocaust was unprecedented genocide, total and systematic, perpetrated by Nazi Germany and its collaborators, with the aim of annihilating the Jewish people.”

Montague’s claim that Jews were “the majority” of “the six million killed in the Holocaust” – and the resulting implication that some of those killed in the Holocaust were not Jews – is hence inaccurate and misleading. As the USHMM goes on to clarify:

“During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted and killed other groups, including at times their children, because of their perceived racial and biological inferiority: Roma (Gypsies), Germans with disabilities, and some of the Slavic peoples (especially Poles and Russians). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.”

If Montague’s intention was to refer to groups of people other than Jews who were targeted by the Nazis during the Second World War, then her quoted figure of six million is likewise inaccurate.

photo credit: USHMM

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns ‘occupation’ into Holocaust remembrance report

BBC’s Guerin gratuitously inserts ‘occupation’ into Holocaust remembrance coverage

BBC News again uncritically amplifies Iranian regime disinformation

BBC News again uncritically amplifies Iranian regime disinformation

On January 23rd the BBC News website published a report about the World Holocaust Forum event held that day at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The report – which was originally headlined “World leaders gather in Israel for Holocaust forum” – was updated and amended throughout the day and its final version (which will remain online as “permanent public record”) was retitled “Holocaust forum: Netanyahu urges world to unite to confront Iran”.

The report opened by telling BBC audiences that:

“Israel’s prime minister has vowed that “there will not be another Holocaust” in a speech at a forum in Jerusalem marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

Benjamin Netanyahu also called on the international community to “join the vital effort of confronting Iran”.

“We have yet to see a unified and resolute stance against the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet,” he said.”

Later on readers were informed that in his speech the Israeli prime minister:

“…warned that, today, Iran “openly seeks to develop nuclear weapons and annihilate the one and only Jewish state”.

“Israel salutes [US President Donald] Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence for confronting the tyrants of Tehran, who subjugate their own people, who threaten the peace and security of the entire world,” he added.

“I call on all governments to join efforts in confronting Iran. Israel will do whatever it must do to defend its people and the Jewish future.””

BBC journalists then found it necessary to add the following:

“Iran has repeatedly called for the eradication of the State of Israel, but says that it is not anti-Semitic. It has also denied that it wants nuclear weapons.”

The IHRA working definition of antisemitism includes “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” as one possible manifestation of antisemitism. The BBC however did not bother to clarify to audiences that calling for “the eradication of the State of Israel” is hence antisemitic, despite the Iranian regime’s claim to the contrary.

BBC audiences are frequently exposed to the corporation’s unquestioning amplification of the Iranian regime’s denials of pursuit of nuclear weapons. The BBC continues to uncritically promote that mantra despite evidence to the contrary which includes a December 2015 report produced by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which stated that:

“…the agency “assesses that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place” up to 2009.”

Notably, the BBC’s ‘impartiality’ box ticking excluded any mention of the relevant subject of the Iranian regime’s longstanding record of Holocaust denial – a topic described by the corporation in 2013 as ‘taking issue’ with the Holocaust.  

The all too common BBC practice of uncritically promoting the disinformation of authoritarian regimes (such as Iran, Russia and Syria) without providing audiences with the background information necessary to put that propaganda into its correct perspective obviously obstructs the fulfilment of the BBC’s first public purpose of helping its funding public to understand and engage with the world around them”.

Related Articles:

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BBC News promotes partisan political narrative on Old City

On the afternoon of January 22nd the BBC News website published a report headlined “‘Go outside’: France’s Macron berates Israeli police at Jerusalem church”.

The BBC’s description of that “Jerusalem church” is as follows:

“The Church of St Anne, which dates back to 1138, is the best-preserved Crusader church in Jerusalem. According to Christian tradition, the crypt enshrines the home of the Virgin Mary and her parents.

It is located in occupied East Jerusalem, to the north of the hilltop site known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount.” [emphasis added]

The Church of St Anne is located in Jerusalem’s Old City. As we see, the BBC continues its long-standing practice of promoting the partisan political narrative according to which the Old City is categorised as “occupied East Jerusalem” without the provision of any of the essential context concerning Jordan’s belligerent attack on parts of the city and the subsequent nineteen-year occupation.

Interestingly, it took the BBC until the following day to add details to the story which were already known at the time of the report’s original publication.

“An Israeli police spokesman said that as President Macron’s delegation arrived at the Church of St Anne there was a “discussion” between Israeli and French security guards about who would be allowed to enter the site.

“The French president requested that the guidelines be respected and, based on the terms agreed upon ahead of time, an Israeli guard and a policeman escorted the president and his delegation inside,” he added.

“When the president and the delegation finished the visit, he apologised about the incident and shook hands with the security personnel.””

As we noted earlier this week, BBC audiences were not informed of the call published in an official Palestinian Authority newspaper to use violence to disrupt the event commemorating the Holocaust which was the background to the French president’s visit to Jerusalem. Had that context been provided, readers would of course have been better placed to understand this story.

Related Articles:

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BBC tells audiences location of centuries-old Jewish habitation is an ‘illegal settlement’

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns ‘occupation’ into Holocaust remembrance report

BBC’s Guerin gratuitously inserts ‘occupation’ into Holocaust remembrance coverage

BBC’s Guerin gratuitously inserts ‘occupation’ into Holocaust remembrance coverage

h/t GB

On the evening of January 22nd BBC audiences were presented with audio and filmed versions of a report by the corporation’s Istanbul based international correspondent Orla Guerin about an Israeli Holocaust survivor.

Listeners to BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’ and those tuning in to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ heard an audio version of Guerin’s report (from 18:13 here and from 20:38 here) in which her usual commitment to accuracy was on display:

Guerin: “Rina takes us to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial centre: a sprawling compound hewn out of stone.” [emphasis added]

Yad Vashem was of course constructed using concrete.

However it was the filmed version of Guerin’s report – aired on BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ and available here – which caused offence to many viewers. Towards the end of that report Guerin told audiences:

Guerin: “In Yad Vashem’s Hall of Names, images of the dead. Young soldiers troop in to share the binding tragedy of the Jewish people. The State of Israel is now a regional power. For decades it has occupied Palestinian territories. But some here will always see their nation through the prism of persecution and survival.” [emphasis added]

Given Orla Guerin’s long record of problematic Israel-related reporting one might wonder about the degree of judgement behind the BBC’s decision to send her to cover such a sensitive subject as Holocaust remembrance.

However, when one considers that by the time Guerin’s filmed report went on air, visitors to the BBC News website had already seen the gratuitous shoehorning of a context free reference to ‘occupation’ into an article ostensibly about the World Holocaust Forum event in Jerusalem, those editorial considerations perhaps become clearer.

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BBC’s Bateman shoehorns ‘occupation’ into Holocaust remembrance report

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns ‘occupation’ into Holocaust remembrance report

January 22nd saw the appearance of an article titled ‘Holocaust row bubbles as leaders gather in Israel’ in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

Written by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman, the article’s main theme is what he describes as “a row about the distortion of history by rival nationalist leaders in Europe”.

Referring to the Polish president, Bateman tells readers that:

“Mr Duda has said he will not attend this week’s Holocaust remembrance ceremony at Yad Vashem, the official memorial centre in Jerusalem. […]

Mr Duda complained that he has not been allowed to address the audience, whereas Mr Putin and other leaders will speak.”

He goes on to claim that what he again describes as “the row” over speaking arrangements at the Jerusalem event “has aggravated a bitter dispute between Russia and Poland – whose leaders have been armflexing over the war’s legacy”.

Bateman gives an overview of that Russian and Polish “armflexing” – which of course has been going on independently of the Jerusalem conference and which, as the BBC has itself reported, has its roots in a European Parliament resolution dating from last September.

He then moves on to the topic of the Polish legislation of 2018:

“Two years ago the Polish government made it illegal to say that the country was complicit in Nazi crimes during the Holocaust.

After an international outcry it later deleted parts of the law, but the controversy then engulfed Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He supported the partial u-turn by signing a joint statement with the Polish prime minister.

That move was condemned by Yad Vashem who said the statement contained “grave errors and deceptions” and harmed the “historical memory of the Holocaust”.

Mr Netanyahu defended his move saying he had consulted Yad Vashem’s chief historian.”

Bateman’s literal ‘bottom line’ to a story ostensibly about Russian and Polish polemics relating to World War Two and the Holocaust comes in a section sub-headed ‘Betrayal of the Holocaust’. There he manages to reframe the story by uncritically quoting a contributor whose highly relevant political opinions are not revealed to BBC audiences – in clear breach of BBC editorial guidelines relating to “Contributors’ Affiliations”.

“But among his [Netanyahu’s] critics was the Israeli historian Prof Zeev Sternhell, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust in Poland who escaped the Warsaw Ghetto as a child with the help of two Polish families.

He accuses Mr Netanyahu of embracing ultra-nationalists in Europe because they provide a counterweight to the EU’s “liberal wing” of France and Germany who are critical of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

“In order to get that alliance working he’s ready to pay a heavy price… And the heavy price is a betrayal of the Holocaust,” he says.” [emphasis added]

Significantly, Bateman did not bother to remind readers of more recent events which can hardly be described as “embracing” the Polish stance.

Neither did he offer readers any contrasting view to the predictably controversial claim from Professor Sternhell that Israel’s prime minister is ‘betraying’ the Holocaust in order to counter criticism of “Israel’s occupation” and apparently neither did he offer the right of reply to that allegation. 

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BBC Radio 4’s statistics programme on Holocaust denial in the UK

The lead item (from 00:28 here) in the February 3rd edition of the BBC Radio 4 statistics programme ‘More or Less’ related to the results of a survey published a few days earlier by Britain’s Holocaust Memorial Day Trust that was previously covered on the BBC News website.

“Is it true that one in 20 adults in Britain don’t believe the Holocaust took place? Those are the findings of a survey commissioned by The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. But Professor Peter Lynn of Essex University explains why the survey is unlikely to be accurate.”

Presenter Tim Harford introduced the item:

Harford: “Last Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day; a day of solemn remembrance. But it was also a day of appalled surprise because a poll was published claiming that [recording] ‘as many as one in 20 adults in Britain don’t believe the Holocaust took place and 1 in 12 believe its scale had been exaggerated’.

One in 20 Britons: that would be about three million people not believing that the Holocaust happened. The survey said that many others were confused about the details.

So to clear up any uncertainty, at least here, the Holocaust is a name given to the genocidal murder of around 6 million Jews led by the German State under Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government and part of an even bigger policy of systematic murder of a variety of targets including the Roma, disabled people, political prisoners and many others.

We’ve always known that a few people love to claim that this never happened or happened on a dramatically smaller scale – but as many as one in twenty?”

Programme producer Ruth Alexander subsequently brought in Peter Lynn, Professor of Survey Methodology at the University of Essex.

Alexander: “Now when Professor Lynn heard about the results of this survey, he raised an eyebrow.”

Lynn: “Yes, I was immediately sceptical that this sounded a bit…ehm…unlikely.”

Alexander: “The number sounds too big?”

Lynn: “Yes.”

With no identification of the additional experts cited, listeners were told that survey participants may have unintentionally stated that the Holocaust did not happen:

Alexander: “In fact, I’ve spoken to three other survey design experts – they all agree, there are some serious flaws with this study. Now it’s true that 5% of people surveyed agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that the Holocaust never really happened. However, Professor Lynn thinks they may not all have done so deliberately.”

Lynn: “I guess the first thing that struck me was that the wording of the question about believing that the Holocaust happened seems to me to have some serious shortcomings and I think that may have caused some people to appear to agree that the Holocaust had never really happened when that wasn’t what they intended.”

Harford: “So the issue here is that people taking part in an online survey like this; they’re ticking boxes, maybe they’re not looking too closely; maybe they’re in a hurry, they’re distracted by what’s on TV; they’re thinking more about the shopping vouchers they might receive for doing the survey than what they’re actually agreeing or disagreeing with and some of them might make outrageous claims just for the fun of it.”

Later on listeners were told that the result may have come about by accident.

Lynn: “There is always a significant minority of respondents who take short cuts and I think that that could be the case here because the respondents here are presented with a series of statements. Now the first two items in this scale are firstly: ‘It is important to know about the Holocaust in today’s world’ and secondly: ‘More needs to be done to educate people about what happened during the Holocaust’. So, at that point you might be beginning to think, ah I can see a battery of statements about the Holocaust, seems like I’m the kind of person who tends to agree with them; I’ll just agree to the next few and assume that that represents my position.

But the item we’re talking about here, the third item ‘the Holocaust never really happened’ is worded the other way round – it’s what we call a reversed item – where if you believe that the Holocaust happened, you should now be disagreeing with the item. So you could easily fall into the trap of just assuming you agreed with all these items and, therefore, not giving a response to this third item that actually represents your true view.”

With the programme makers’ views of the intelligence of the British public abundantly clear, Harford continued:

Harford: “It seems like there is a lot of ignorance out there and clearly Holocaust denial is a real thing and it would be worth trying to measure how prevalent it is. So do we know of any other, perhaps more reliable, research that can give us a better sense of the true numbers?”

Alexander went on to cite a study conducted twenty-five years ago in the United States (which obviously has no bearing on the issue of Holocaust denial in Britain) and to quote yet more anonymous experts on Holocaust denial in an equally unrelated location.

Alexander: “…it turned out that the correct number of Holocaust Deniers in the US was more like 2% of the population. And experts have told me that studies in Europe have tended to give lower numbers still.”

Apparently the ‘More or Less’ team would have the BBC’s domestic listeners conclude that a study conducted a quarter of a century ago in a country with a different culture, education system and population make up is more likely to reflect the percentage of people in their own country who do not believe that the Holocaust happened than a survey recently conducted in the UK.

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Antisemitic smear in BBC employee’s HMD tweet

On Holocaust Memorial Day – January 27th – the results of a survey showing among other things that 5% of UK adults do not believe that the Holocaust happened were published by the UK’s Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

In a Tweet relating to that survey BBC employee Masoud Behnoud wrote (as confirmed by a professional translator):

“This [lack of knowledge about the Holocaust] happens in a situation where the financial and political power of Jews has been publicising/promoting it [i.e. knowledge about the Holocaust] for half a century.” [emphasis added]

As we have unfortunately had cause to note here on numerous occasions in the past, the BBC has editorial guidelines on the personal use of social media.

While those guidelines do not include any specific mention of the topic of the promotion of antisemitic themes on microblogs run by BBC employees – apparently because the BBC does not expect to be employing people who engage in that or any other form of racism – they do state that people “identified as a BBC staff member or BBC talent…should not post derogatory or offensive comments on the Internet”.

Despite promoting his own BBC programmes in his timeline, Masoud Behnoud however does not identify himself as a BBC employee in his Twitter profile.

 

 

BBC Radio Wales’ brief but misleading presentation of UK antisemitism

On January 27th BBC Radio Wales aired an edition of the programme ‘All Things Considered’ titled ‘Nationalism & Religion’.

“On Holocaust Memorial Day Roy Jenkins explores the perceived rise of anti-Semitism and far right movements; nationalism and religion, and compares attitudes to 1930s Germany.

As the remains of six unknown victims of Auschwitz were buried in Hertfordshire last Sunday – one for every million Jewish people killed by the Nazis – the Chief Rabbi urged an end to rising anti-Semitism. Later in the week, the country’s most senior counter-terrorism officer warned that the ‘febrile’ atmosphere around Brexit could be exploited by far right extremists. At a time of heightened division and the rise of right-wing nationalist movements across Europe, and in other parts of the world, some draw disturbing parallels with the Germany of the 1930s. On Holocaust Memorial Day, Roy Jenkins asks is such talk merely alarmist? 
Wales has had its own nationalist party for more than 90 years, with elected representatives at Westminster, in Brussels and in the Welsh Assembly. Plaid Cymru is part of the political establishment, hardly sinister – there are clearly important distinctions to be made. So just what is nationalism? And in what ways is it bound up with religion?

Joining Roy to discuss the issues are Dan Cohn-Sherbok, ordained Reform Rabbi and Professor Emeritus of Judaism at the University of Wales Trinity St. David; The Rev’d Aled Edwards, Chief Executive of Cytun, Churches Together in Wales, active in issues of equality, racism and the care of refugees and asylum seekers; and Sinisa Malesevic, Professor of Sociology at University College Dublin, who has written and lectured widely on nationalism, ethnicity and identity.”

In contrast to the impression given in that synopsis – and repeated by the presenter in his introduction – the fact that the remains of six people murdered in Auschwitz were buried in Bushey and the fact that the number of Jewish victims of the Holocaust is six million is coincidental.

Despite the programme’s given description, listeners actually heard remarkably little about “the perceived rise of antisemitism” in the UK and what they did hear came mostly from contributor Dan Cohn-Sherbok.  [emphasis in bold added]

06:24 Jenkins: “Dan – rising levels of antisemitism. As a Jewish person living and working around the UK, what’s your experience?”

Cohn-Sherbok: “Well I know that some of my fellow co-religionists are concerned about what they perceive as rising antisemitism and this is all tied up I think with the State of Israel and criticism of Israeli policy. I personally don’t feel that I’m living in any kind of an antisemitic environment. It’s really philosemitic and particularly in Wales. I have lots of friends and I don’t feel it but I know that there are currents of criticism of Israel and this worries a lot of Jews.”

Jenkins: “And do people talk to you directly about it, expressing their concerns?”

Cohn-Sherbok: “Not really. There’s much more concern about Brexit and about American politics. But I know, reading the Jewish newspapers and being informed about what’s going on in the Jewish world, that there is concern and people don’t feel comfortable about being Jewish.”

26:13 Cohn-Sherbok: “Well I think that what the Holocaust has illustrated to Jews is that in times of terrible deprivation and economic instability a society can look for a target and in Nazi Germany the targets were the Jews. And they were rejected on racial grounds and also on religious grounds. Being Jewish meant that you were an outsider. You were an outsider in terms of race and an outsider in terms of religion. So it seems to me that is really the lesson of the Holocaust – that you can turn the outsider into the enemy and that can result in the most terrible circumstances.”

28:55 Cohn-Sherbok: “I think as far as the Jewish community is concerned we’re not doing enough to reach out to the Muslim community. It’s all mixed up with Israel and the Palestinians but we need to try to find some way of building a bridge between the Jewish community and the Muslim community and Jewish leaders are not doing enough. We need to do much more.”

So did this programme meet the BBC’s public purpose obligations to its funding public by contributing to their understanding of antisemitism in their own country?

The employment of the term “perceived” in relation to rising antisemitism in both the programme description and in Cohn-Sherbok’s contribution obviously hinders audience understanding of the fact that the number of antisemitic incidents recorded by the Community Security Trust has risen over the past decade.

The claim that antisemitism in the UK is “all tied up with” – i.e. exclusively linked to – the State of Israel is inaccurate and misleading and does not reflect the findings of the CST (see page 11) either in terms of the proportion of incidents showing evidence of political motivation or the differing types of motivation.

“Of the 727 antisemitic incidents reported to CST during the first six months of 2018, 154 incidents, or 21 per cent, showed evidence of political motivation. Of these, 67 incidents showed evidence of far right motivation; 77 showed evidence of anti-Israel motivation; and ten showed evidence of Islamist motivation. All incidents needed to show evidence of antisemitism alongside any political motivation in order to be recorded by CST as an antisemitic incident.”

The claim that antisemitism in the UK is linked to “criticism of Israeli policy” and “criticism of Israel” is inaccurate and misleading, as is the claim that “a lot of Jews” are worried by such criticism. As the IHRA working definition of antisemitism clearly states:

“…criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

Israel-linked antisemitic incidents in the UK do not fall into the category of legitimate “criticism of Israeli policy” as Cohn-Sherbok misleadingly claims. Likewise, his portrayal of antisemitism as a reaction to “terrible deprivation and economic instability” clearly does nothing to enhance listener understanding of antisemitism in 21st century Britain.

That this programme was aired on Holocaust Memorial Day obviously makes its failure to contribute to audience understanding of contemporary antisemitism in the UK – and even mislead listeners on that topic – even more unfortunate.

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ discusses antisemitism ahead of HMD – part one

As Holocaust Memorial Day approached, on January 25th the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme aired a short interview (from 2:24:30 here) with Deborah Lipstadt concerning her new book.

The introduction to that item from presenter Martha Kearney included the following: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Kearney: “Her new book looks at the rise of antisemitism in the past decade and maintains that it’s no longer just the far Right but those on the Left as well who are to blame.”

Having brought in her guest she went on:

Kearney: “Now just describe to us what you think lies behind this recent wave of antisemitism.”

Lipstadt: “Well as you said in the introduction I think right now it’s coming from the Right and from the Left and from a third source and that is Islamist Jihadist extremists. What lies behind it? I think a number of factors. First of all we’ve seen Right wing populist governments or Right wing political leaders, including in my own country, play on making divisions among people, play on making divisions against minorities which gins up this attit…plays into the antisemitism. On the Left I think it’s been brewing for a long time. We could trace roots of it back […] to the late […] USSR. But it’s been there but it’s taken on an added potency in recent years and is often used in connection to Israel.”

Kearney: “And you’ve written about Jeremy Corbyn in this context in your book.”

Lipstadt: “I have. I think Jeremy…I don’t know if Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite or not and I don’t think that’s the important question. I don’t know what’s in his heart. But what I do is look at his record over a very long time [….] and what I see is a man who doesn’t understand antisemitism or – worse yet – doesn’t take it seriously…”

Interrupting her guest, Kearney immediately jumped in with a quote which some BBC listeners have heard used before.

Kearney [interrupts] “Well you see he would dispute that and he’s written a number of articles and put out a number of statements and said, you know, for example ‘people who dish out antisemitic poison need to understand, you do not do it in my name’.”

Lipstadt: “Right, I know that. I think for Jeremy Corbyn and other progressives – not all progressives but people who…many people consider themselves progressives, their view of the world is refracted through a prism which has two facets. One factor is ethnicity and one is class. And they look at Jews and they see white people – quote unquote white people – who are privileged and therefore could not possibly be victims of prejudice. There’s an irony here of course because if you turn to the far Right, they don’t consider Jews white people [….]. And they say well therefore you could not possibly be a victim of prejudice. On top of this – and we hear this from Jeremy Corbyn and from others – I am a progressive, I have gotten my progressive values with my mother’s milk, they are inbred in me, it’s impossible, it’s just impossible, it’s oxymoronic for me to be prejudiced therefore you must be making this up. You must be doing this for some ulterior purpose. And they just refuse to take it seriously. I see it on campuses in the United States from the Left, I see it in the British Labour Party, I saw it in the women’s march in the United States – the leaders of the women’s march. You see it in many different places that they just don’t think antisemitism is a serious problem.”

Kearney closed the item at that point, with the BBC’s domestic listeners having heard nothing of substance on the topic of far-Right antisemitism in the UK or what Lipstadt termed “Islamist Jihadist extremists” and the highly relevant issue of links between that brand of antisemitism and the British Left.

While it was Kearney who raised the subject of the leader of the UK Labour party, she also found it necessary to challenge her expert guest’s observations by amplifying denials of Corbyn’s role in propagating antisemitism in a country in which 5% of adults do not believe the Holocaust happened, 8% say its scale is exaggerated and 64% cannot accurately state how many Jews were murdered.

As we shall see in part two of this post, the next day’s edition of the ‘Today’ programme returned to part of this interview with Deborah Lipstadt.