BBC News website omits key information in Polish Holocaust law report

In late January and early February of this year the BBC devoted quite a lot of reporting to what was described in one programme as “Poland’s controversial WW2 death camps law”.

BBC ignores its own previous reporting in coverage of Polish bill

BBC R4 ‘Today’ impartiality fail in item on Polish Holocaust bill

BBC WS tells listeners to go online for part of a story it didn’t tell

As was noted here at the time, the BBC elected to present that story largely through the context-free narrow perspective of the objections of Israeli politicians.

When the lower house of the Polish parliament passed amendments to that law on June 27th the BBC News website published a report titled “Poland Holocaust law: Government U-turn on jail threat“.

“When Poland made it a criminal offence this year to accuse it of complicity in Nazi war crimes, there was an outcry in Europe, Israel and the US. […]

Five months later, the right-wing prime minister has moved to change the law to decriminalise the offence, describing it as a “correction”.

An amendment to the Holocaust law was quickly backed by the lower house of parliament and now moves to the Senate.”

A section of the report headed “Why has Poland backtracked on Holocaust law?” explained the move to readers as follows:

“The government was surprised, however, by the widespread outrage the law caused, especially from two key Polish allies, Israel and the US, which saw it as an attempt to deny historical truth and muzzle testimony and research into the period.

The law also provoked a brief explosion of anti-Semitic feeling on social media and elsewhere in Poland.

But it’s the harm the dispute has done to Poland’s relations with the US and Israel that has caused the government to take this step.”

Despite the BBC having reported in early March on “talks in Jerusalem”, readers of this article were not told of the joint statement put out by the Israeli and Polish prime ministers on June 27th or of the fact that – as Ha’aretz reported – task forces established by the two governments brought about in the amendment passed by the Polish parliament.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart Matthias Morawiecki issued a joint statement on Wednesday, following Poland’s decision to amend a controversial law that criminalized anybody accusing the Polish nation of complicity in Nazi crimes

Netanyahu stated that in recent months Israel had been in contact with Poland about the law and that the two countries reached an agreement on an amended version of the law. “I am pleased that they have decided to completely cancel the clauses that have caused uproar and dissatisfaction in Israel and the international community. […]

Netanyahu added that Israel and Poland had established task forces to reach a compromise acceptable to both countries following Israeli criticism of the law and Polish defense of it.” 

Obviously that information is essential to audience understanding of why the Polish government made the “U-turn” described in this report’s headline.

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Another Abbas speech and more selective BBC reporting

Between December 2017 and February 2018 the BBC News website failed to provide audiences with a full account of speeches made by the Palestinian Authority president on three separate occasions:

BBC reports the parts of Abbas’ OIC speech that fit its narrative

BBC censors parts of Mahmoud Abbas speech once again

Another BBC makeover on a speech by Mahmoud Abbas

When Mahmoud Abbas made yet another offensive and historically illiterate speech at a rare PLO convention on April 30th (which was subsequently condemned by a wide range of parties including Israel, Germany, the UK, France, the UN, the EU, US envoys, Holocaust scholars and even the New York Times and the Guardian), the BBC’s coverage appeared at first glance to be more comprehensive.

On May 1st the BBC News website published a report headlined “Holocaust row: Abbas accused of anti-Semitism“. In the body of the report the BBC was similarly incapable of informing readers in its own words of the anti-Semitic nature of Abbas’ remarks and instead relied on observations from third parties.

“Remarks by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas about the Holocaust have been condemned as anti-Semitic by Israeli politicians and rights activists. […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman said the remarks were “anti-Semitic and pathetic”. […]

In New York, the Anti-Defamation League condemned Mr Abbas’s “anti-Semitic assertions”.”

Under the sub-heading “What did Abbas say exactly?” the BBC report described Abbas’ statements as follows:

“Carried live on Palestinian TV, the 90-minute speech in Arabic included a section on the Palestinian leader’s view of the history of European Jewry, based on what he said were books by “Jewish Zionist authors”.

Jews in eastern and western Europe, he said, had been periodically subjected to massacres over the centuries, culminating in the Holocaust.

“But why did this used to happen?” he asked. “They say, ‘It is because we are Jews.’ I will bring you three Jews, with three books who say that enmity towards Jews was not because of their religious identity but because of their social function.

“This is a different issue. So the Jewish question that was widespread throughout Europe was not against their religion but against their social function which relates to usury [unscrupulous money-lending] and banking and such.”

Mr Abbas also denied that Ashkenazi Jews – Jews from Germany and north-eastern Europe – were actually Semitic, saying, “They have no relation to Semitic people.””

The BBC did not however bother to clarify that Abbas’ falsehoods did not stop there and it failed to inform readers that he also touted the long discredited claim according to which Ashkenazi Jews are descendants of the ‘Khazar kingdom’, that he denied historic Jewish links to Israel and described the State of Israel as a “colonialist enterprise”, that he promoted the falsehood that Jews in Arab lands had not suffered discrimination and persecution or that he claimed that a Jewish bank had collaborated with the Nazi regime.

In other words, rather than telling readers – as claimed – what Abbas said “exactly”, the BBC actually gave a selective account of his speech to audiences who have in the past repeatedly been denied information concerning similar outbursts from the Palestinian leader that the corporation frequently touts as a ‘moderate’.

Towards the end of that article readers found a typically euphemistic description of the background to the breakdown of the 2013/14 round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians:

“The last direct peace talks took place in 2014, when Barack Obama was in the White House. They broke down amid acrimony.”

As has so often been the case in the past, the BBC refrained from clarifying to readers that those talks came to an end after the Palestinian Authority chose ‘reconciliation’ with Hamas over an end to the conflict with Israel and breached agreements reached before the talks commenced.

Three days after the appearance of that report, on May 4th, the BBC News website published an additional article titled “Palestinian leader Abbas apologises for Holocaust remarks” which similarly presented a selective description of Abbas’ statements.

“His televised speech included a section on his view of the history of European Jewry, based on what he said were books by “Jewish Zionist authors”.

He said that, over the centuries, Jews in eastern and western Europe had been periodically subjected to massacres, culminating in the Holocaust.

“But why did this used to happen?” he asked. “They say, ‘It is because we are Jews.’ I will bring you three Jews, with three books who say that enmity towards Jews was not because of their religious identity but because of their social function.

“This is a different issue. So the Jewish question that was widespread throughout Europe was not against their religion but against their social function which relates to usury [unscrupulous money-lending] and banking and such.””

The article failed to clarify to readers that Abbas did not retract any of the false claims made in his speech or that his belated ‘apology‘ was directed at “people of the Jewish faith” rather than the Jewish people because he and others of his ilk continue to deny that the Jews are a nation.

Once again we see that the BBC has sidestepped an opportunity to enhance its audiences’ understanding of factors such as the Palestinian erasure of Jewish history and refusal to recognise the Jewish state that do not fit into the narrative it has chosen to promote regarding the ‘reasons’ for the failure of the so-called peace process to yield results.

Related Articles:

BBC claims Abbas’ historical distortions and smears not ‘relevant’

BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state

 

 

BBC WS tells listeners to go online for part of a story it didn’t tell

The February 17th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item described in its synopsis as being about “Poland’s controversial WW2 death camps law”.

Presenter Rebecca Kesby introduced the item (from 14:06 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Kesby: “Last month the Polish parliament approved a bill to make it illegal to accuse Poland of complicity in the crimes of the Nazis during the Second World War. At least six million Poles were killed – about half of them Jewish. Many more fled the country. There’s no question that the country suffered horribly but lately a row has erupted about those Poles who may have colluded with the Nazis and why that word – colluded – is so contentious. Today at a panel discussion at the International Security Conference in Munich, an Israeli journalist challenged the Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki about the new law. Here’s part of Ronen Bergman’s challenge.”

Listeners then heard a recording of Ronen Bergman speaking during the Q&A session.

Bergman: “Both my parents were born in Poland – my late mother and my father. My mother received a special prize for good Polish from the Polish minister of education when she was five. Then the war started and they lost much of their family because their neighbours – their Polish neighbours – snitched to the Gestapo that they are holding Jews. My mother was able to save much of her family because she heard during the night that the neighbours are going to tell that they have Jews in their vicinity to the SS the next morning. And after the war my mother swore that she will never speak Polish for the rest of her life – not even a single word. If I understand correctly, after this law is legislated I will be considered a criminal in your country for saying this. What is the purpose, what is the message that you are trying to convey in the world? You are creating the opposite reaction and just attracting more attention to these atrocities. Thank you.”

However, BBC World Service listeners did not hear the Polish prime minister’s response (which can be seen here) and so they did not know that he began by saying:

“It’s extremely important to first understand that, of course, it’s not going to be punishable, not going to be seen as criminal to say that there were Polish perpetrators – as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators, as there were Ukrainian…. not only German perpetrators.” [emphasis added]

Kesby made no effort to inform listeners of that obviously crucial part of the story before going on to introduce Ronen Bergman.

Kesby: “Well a short time [sic] we managed to get through to Ronen Bergman and he told us more about his challenge.”

Listeners then heard Bergman’s comments on the Polish prime minister’s remarks – without having heard the statements themselves and without it being clarified that “he” refers to Morawiecki.

Bergman: “[….] He did not admit that there were Polish collaborators. He did not use that word; he said perpetrators and the use of that word  – while saying in the same line, in the same sentence, that there were Polish as well as Jews – so like making one line connecting all of them – he said these were perpetrators – meaning criminals – who mushroomed – that was the word that he said – who mushroomed in the sense…so the subtext is basically this: there were criminals in Poland, some of them were Jews, some of them were Poles, and they were the ones who gave Jews to the Gestapo. This is nothing but Holocaust denial and an outrageous lie.”

Kesby then asked:

Kesby: “These terrible events are seventy years old. Why is this such a current issue now?”

Bergman: “Because Poland – or elements in Poland as well as in some other Eastern European countries – are trying to rewrite the history of the Holocaust and there should not be any debate. […] But the Nazi Germans they were the ones who initiated the extermination and they were the ones who managed it. But there were many, many people of some of the local countries that were under German occupation who assisted them and much of the Holocaust could not have been executed without them. Now some of these countries are now trying to say that they were nothing but victims and the Polish government have gone to a much further extent to say that if someone says anything else he’s a criminal.”

Kesby: “And why do you think that it the case? Why do you think there is this sensitivity to admitting what has happened in the past?”

Bergman: “Well I think that nobody wants to admit that he was part of the most vicious crime in the history of humanity. And I think that these countries basically are trying to say that the Germans – and only the Germans – are to blame. They want retribution – meaning compensation – and taking from their shoulders any kind of guilt. […] You know this sort of narrative is something that we always suspected still exists but I think that we have never heard from such a senior official of these countries speaking this language.”

Obviously having belatedly realised that listeners had not heard the remarks from the Polish prime minister’s that were the subject matter of this interview, Kesby closed the item by saying:

Kesby: “That was Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman there and apologies – there wasn’t the full exchange there as I anticipated, of his exchange with the Polish prime minister but it is available online if you’d like to do a search and see both sides of the argument.”

The newly appointed Director of the BBC World Service group recently claimed that BBC World Service radio’s English services “remain the gold standard for international news” and that:

“With global concern growing about disinformation, ‘fake news’ and media literacy, the World Service Group has never been in a stronger position to show the way forward. We spot the stories, see the patterns and make sense of the world for our audiences.”

Obviously sending audiences to “do a search” on the internet in order to find for themselves the crucial part of a story is hardly “the gold standard” of news provision.

 

Weekend long read

1) The New Statesman carries an edited version of the Holocaust Memorial Day lecture delivered by Howard Jacobson.

“It isn’t that we expected the world suddenly to love us after the camps were liberated. We are wise in the ways of human psychology. We know that people turn against those to whom they feel obliged. It is hard to forgive those you have wronged, and we knew we would not be forgiven the Holocaust. But we thought anti-Semitism itself might take a short break – admit its errors, lick its wounds and go into hiding for a while. Embarrassment, if nothing else, would surely deter most anti-Semites from showing their faces. “Not yet,” we thought they’d say. “Not a good idea after what’s just happened.” What no one could have expected was the speed with which they found a way round any such compunctions, not least by denying that anything had happened at all. Holocaust – what Holocaust?”

2) At the JNS Ben Cohen discusses Poland’s ‘Holocaust complicity’ law.

“If the Polish government’s goal was simply to encourage greater awareness and education about Polish suffering under the Nazis, that would be a laudable goal. But by tying that aspect of Nazi rule so explicitly to the mass enslavement and extermination of the Jews, and by willfully misrepresenting documented evidence of Polish anti-Semitism and collaboration with the Nazis as a slander upon the Polish nation as a whole, they are engineering their own deserved failure, to the detriment of Poland’s people.”

3) The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has published a report on a campaign being run by the Palestinian Authority and others.

“In September 2017 Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem and the PA, issued a fatwa forbidding the use of the Israeli curriculum in schools in east Jerusalem. He was joined by Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, the imam of al-Aqsa mosque. Sabri Sidam, the PA minister of education, said in December 2017 that his ministry would begin to take practical steps to implement Sheikh Muhammad Hussein’s fatwa. […]

The number of students in east Jerusalem who study the Israeli curriculum is continually rising. According to information from the Jerusalem municipality, during the current school [2017-2018] year 5,800 students in east Jerusalem study the Israeli curriculum, an increase of 14% over the previous year [2016-2017]. […] Meir Shimoni, director of the Jerusalem district in the ministry of education, said that “the surveys we carried out indicate that about 50% of the parents in east Jerusalem want their children to pass the Israeli matriculation exams”.

4) At the JCPA Dr Jacques Neriah discusses Turkey’s military presence in the Middle East.

“While Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East have been under the world’s magnifying glass, Turkey has been silently projecting its military presence in the area to such an extent it has become a source of worry to the “moderate” Arab states and specifically to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Indeed, since its invasion of Northern Cyprus in 1974, Turkey had underplayed its military in the Middle East as a significant military power. The Syrian civil war, the emergence of ISIS, and the proliferation of radical Islam coupled with a president identified with the Muslim Brothers have all been instrumental in appearing to Turkey’s critics in the Arab world as “the new Ottomans.””

BBC R4 ‘Today’ impartiality fail in item on Polish Holocaust bill

h/t GB

The February 2nd edition of the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme ‘Today‘ included an item (from 02:33:57 here) about the controversial ‘Holocaust complicity’ bill that is currently making its way through the Polish political system.

Listeners may well have been astounded to hear presenter Nick Robinson’s portrayal of the number of people who lost their lives in Nazi camps located in Poland in his introduction. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Robinson: “Hundreds of thousands died during the Holocaust in Polish death camps. I could be imprisoned in Poland for simply uttering those words if a law voted for in the Polish senate is enacted into law. Poland’s prime minister says it’s to lift a slur on his people and his country and to put the blame where it really belongs: on the Nazis. Israel’s prime minister has warned Poles not to try to change history. We’re joined now by Wojciech Roszkowski. He is professor of history at the institute of political studies at the Polish Academy of Science and also by Konstanty Gebert who is a columnist with Gazeta Wyborcza.”

As regular readers are aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“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.”

The bill that is the subject matter of this item is being advanced by Poland’s ruling ‘Law & Justice’ party (PiS). Listeners should therefore have been informed that the person they heard defending it  – who was twice described by Nick Robinson only as a “professor of history” – is not just an academic: for five years he was (as the BBC itself reported in 2007) a member of the European Parliament (MEP) on behalf of the political party that is currently promoting the controversial legislation.  

Related Articles:

BBC ignores its own previous reporting in coverage of Polish bill

 

BBC ignores its own previous reporting in coverage of Polish bill

On January 28th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel criticises Poland over proposed Holocaust law” which opened as follows:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticised a draft Polish bill to make it illegal to accuse Poles of complicity in the Nazi Holocaust.”

Later on readers were told that:

“The country [Poland] has long objected to the use of phrases like “Polish death camps”, which suggest the Polish state in some way shared responsibility for camps such as Auschwitz.”

And:

“The Polish government said the bill was not intended to limit freedom to research or discuss the Holocaust.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki tweeted that “Auschwitz-Birkenau is not a Polish name, and Arbeit Macht Frei is not a Polish phrase”.

The country’s Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki, who authored the bill, said Israel’s objections were “proof” that it was needed.

“Important Israeli politicians and media are attacking us for the bill. On top of that they claim that Poles are co-responsible’ for the Holocaust,” he said.

“This is proof how necessary this bill is.””

The next day that report was replaced by another one headlined “Poland president to review Holocaust bill after Israel outcry” in which readers were told that:

“Poland’s draft bill, which is an amendment to an existing Polish law, would make using phrases like “Polish death camps” punishable by up to three years in prison. […]

Poland’s government insists the legislation aims to prevent the international defamation of Poland, and is not intended to impede genuine academic debate.”

The BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ also covered the story on January 28th (from 00:58 here) in an item billed as follows:

“Israel has formally reprimanded Poland’s most senior diplomat in the country, over a proposed law that would outlaw descriptions of Nazi death camps as Polish. But a member of Poland’s ruling party tells Newshour the bill is aimed at preventing Holocaust denial.”

Although presenter James Menendez did ask the Polish MP whether the bill is “an attempt to whitewash Polish history”, listeners heard an evasive reply and when Menendez observed that “there’s a lot of anger from Israel”, his interviewee responded:

“Yes exactly and there is also a lot of anger among Polish people now when they hear about that.”

To date, BBC audiences have not been informed of how that “anger” has been expressed or of criticism of the proposed law from non-Israeli sources.

Interestingly, none of the BBC’s coverage of the story mentioned that attempts to pass this bill began several years ago – even though the BBC reported on that topic in 2016. 

Oddly too, the BBC’s reporting did not remind audiences of a relevant story the BBC covered in 2016 and early 2017 concerning a museum in Gdansk.

“Poland’s nationalist government has won a court ruling that will enable it to take over a brand new World War Two museum and reshape its exhibition to fit a narrower Polish perspective. […]

The ruling on Tuesday by Warsaw’s Supreme Administrative Court means the Museum of the Second World War will be merged with a yet-to-be built museum on 1 February.

Poland’s Culture Minister, Piotr Glinski, will then be able to nominate his own director who can change the museum’s exhibition to fit the government’s needs. […]

Mr Glinski has said that following the merger the museum will concentrate on more Polish aspects of the war including the country’s defence against the Nazi invasion in 1939.”

Another relevant story reported by the BBC last year was also ignored in this latest coverage.

As we see, rather than building on its previous reporting on attempts by Poland’s current government to dictate a narrative of history, the BBC has elected to present this story through the context-free narrow perspective of the objections of Israeli politicians.  

 

Weekend long read

1) At the Begin-Sadat center for Strategic Studies, Dr Alex Joffe examines the concept of ‘settler-colonialism’.

‘The settler-colonial argument against Israel posits that Zionism was an imperial tool of Britain (or, alternatively, that Zionism manipulated the British Empire); that Jews represent an alien population implanted into Palestine to usurp the land and displace the people; and that Israel has subjected Palestinians to “genocide,” real, figurative, and cultural.

According to this argument, Israel’s “settler colonialism” is a “structure, not an event,” and is accompanied by a “legacy of foundational violence” that extends back to the First Zionist Congress in 1897 or even before. With Zionism thus imbued with two forms of ineradicable original sin, violent opposition to Israel is legitimized and any forms of compromise, even negotiation, are “misguided and disingenuous because ‘dialogue’ does not tackle the asymmetrical status quo.”’

2) At the Tablet, Professor Richard Landes writes about “Europe’s Destructive Holocaust Shame“.

‘Of all the post-modern multi-narrative projects, re-centering and problematizing Christian European majority narratives promised quite an academic bounty. The Hebraic contribution could be used to challenge the self-absorbed narcissistic quality of the modern Western grand narrative that so grated on the post-modern sensibility. Certainly, given the abundance of evidence and subjects to explore, it was a promising avenue for research. And how appropriate for Germans to engage in that exploration of a culture which, in their self-destructive madness, their fathers had tried to exterminate.’

3) The Kohelet Forum has published a report documenting “The Scope of European and Multinational Business in the Occupied Territories”.

‘On March 24, 2016, at its 31st session, the UN General Assembly Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted Resolution 31/36, which instructed the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a “database” of business enterprises. The database will focus on one particular issue, which an earlier Council resolution claimed raises human rights issues: that “business enterprises have directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements.”

Such an activity—making blacklists of private organizations—is absolutely unprecedented for the HRC. And the current “research” program is focused on only one context: companies working in areas designated as being under Israeli civil jurisdiction in the West Bank under the Oslo Accords. […]

This report is designed to put the HRC’s “database” project in a global perspective. It examines business activity in support of settlement enterprises in occupied territories around the world. This study reveals that such business is ubiquitous and involves some of the world’s largest industrial, financial services, transport, and other major publicly traded companies. Such companies include Siemens, Crédit Agricole, BNP Paribas, Santander, Vodafone, Renault, Veolia, Trelleborg, Wärtsilä, and Turkish Airlines, to take just a few examples.’

4) A major study of antisemitism in Great Britain published this week by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) has received a lot of coverage including at UK Media Watch, the Times of Israel and the Jewish Chronicle.

‘Nearly half of people holding anti-Israel views across the political spectrum were revealed in the survey to also believe Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood.

Speaking at Tuesday night’s launch of the JPR survey, Dave Rich, Community Security Trust deputy director of communications, said the findings on left-wing antisemitism emerged after “prominent figures in Labour and Momentum repeatedly abused the memory of the Holocaust in pursuit of anti-Israel politics”.

Dr Rich said the poll findings – which are backed by CST – shattered the claim by some that antisemitism did not exist in Labour because it was an “anti-racist safe space”.’

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

BBC News website removes offensive statement after complaints

On June 27th the BBC News website published an article titled “Muslim girls complain of Polish racism on Holocaust study trip” on its ‘Europe’ page.

In the original version of that report, readers found a statement completely unrelated to its subject matter:

“The Holocaust is a sensitive topic for many Muslims because Jewish survivors settled in Palestine, on land which later became the state of Israel.”

About an hour later, that sentence was amended to read:

“The Holocaust is a sensitive topic for many Muslims because Jewish survivors settled in British-mandate Palestine, on land which later became the state of Israel.”

The gratuitous statement remained in place in that form in two additional versions of the report before being removed completely some 17 hours after the article’s original publication following complaints.

“Marie van der Zyl, vice-president of the BOD, together with Mr Mughal, said: “In a story about Muslim schoolgirls suffering racism as they learn about the Holocaust, why have the BBC included the gratuitous line – offensive to both Muslims and Jews – that ‘the Holocaust is a sensitive topic for many Muslims’? Together, we call on the BBC to delete the offending passage and apologise.””

However, no footnote has been added to the article to inform BBC audiences of that change or why it was made and despite the calls for an apology, none has been forthcoming.  

How BBC Radio 4 squeezed Israel into programme on Irish history

h/t JG

“Israel offers a florid illustration of how disastrously collective memory can deform a society.”

The man who expressed that opinion in an article promoting his new book  which was published in the Guardian on March 2nd 2016 – David Rieff – was invited two weeks later to take part in a programme marking the centenary of the Easter Uprising which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Start the Week’ show. Listeners heard a panel of historians and writers discuss various aspects of that chapter of Irish history in what was overall an interesting and informative programme.Start the Week

At around thirty minutes into the broadcast the discussion turned to the topic of collective memory with writer David Rieff telling listeners that:

“…collective memory isn’t memory in the historical sense. It is the series of…ah…it’s cherry picking the past, if you will, in the service of the present or some political view struggling for dominance in the present – that’s what it is.”

Listeners may have been somewhat surprised when – at 33:54 – presenter Tom Sutcliffe elected to introduce the Holocaust into a programme about Irish history.

TS: “OK: what about the classic instance of the duty of remembering the Holocaust? Err…would it be better if we forgot that?”

DR: “Well first of all, with respect, eventually we’re going to do. And second – I’m sorry again to bring in geologic time but it is surely at least worth taking to some extent into account. And the second thing is it seems to me…ah…that memory is different as long as there are people alive, or at least people alive who knew people who were alive. So that yes; as long as there are survivors of the camps – of which there are a few – as long as there are the children of those people – of which there are many – and grandchildren, fine. But in a hundred years? In two hundred years? Yeah, I think it might be time to let it go. And, even in terms of the memory of the Holocaust, it seems to me the memory of the Holocaust as it is deployed in Israel has been nothing but negative.” [emphasis added]

Given that Rieff had previously laid out his views on Israel’s ‘deformed’ society in that Guardian article (of which the producers of this programme must surely have been aware), the appearance of that latter throwaway politicized comment cannot have been too difficult to predict – especially following the presenter’s introduction of the Holocaust cue. Nevertheless, Sutcliffe refrained from challenging it –and not least the very interesting choice of the word “deployed” with its military connotations – before moving the conversation along.

And so – entirely predictably – uninformed listeners who had presumably tuned in because they wanted to hear a programme about Irish history therefore went away with the added ‘expert’ impression that Israel exploits the memory of the Holocaust for “negative” ends.

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