Essay on ‘rationalising terror’ notes BBC reporter’s Paris remark

Readers will no doubt recall the statement made by BBC reporter Tim Willcox whilst interviewing a participant in a rally in Paris following the terror attacks at the Charlie Hebdo offices and the Hyper Cacher supermarket in January 2015.Willcox

“Many critics of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.”

The BBC’s response to complaints on that issue began with the claim that an apology on Twitter sufficed, proceeded with a decision to handle the high volume of complaints en masse and culminated in their rejection. The head of the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit informed complainants that:

“It’s clear from a number of the comments I received that I understood the first of the summarised points of complaint (“That the question put by Tim Willcox to an interviewee was misleading in that it linked the Paris killings in a kosher supermarket with events in the Middle East”) in a different sense from some who complained.

What I had in mind was a direct causal relationship between particular recent events in the Middle East and the Paris killings, and it was on that basis that I wrote “Nothing in the day’s coverage of events in Paris suggested a direct link between events in the Middle East and those killings, and I can’t see that such a suggestion can readily be derived from what Mr Willcox said”.

It has been put to me, and I have accepted, that Mr Willcox’s words suggested a broader link between perceptions of Palestinian suffering and the incidence of anti-Semitic incidents.

However, that doesn’t alter the outcome because I don’t think suggesting a link of that kind can be viewed as a breach of editorial standards (or even as particularly controversial, considering the correlation between anti-Semitic incidents and Israeli actions with an adverse impact on Palestinians which has been noted by organisations such as the Community Security Trust).”

British writer and journalist Nick Cohen – who produced some typically insightful comment on the incident at the time – has now returned to that topic in an article published at Standpoint magazine.

“An associate of the Islamist gang that pumped bullets into the staff of Charlie Hebdo also took hostages at the Hypercacher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes in the 20th arrondissement. There he murdered Philippe Braham, a sales executive, Yohan Cohen, a student, Yoav Hattab, another student, and François-Michel Saada, a pensioner. The dead had provided no “rationale” and created no “particular sense of wrong”. They were ordinary citizens, shopping for food, as we all do.

But when [John] Kerry and those like him looked at their bodies closely perhaps they noticed that appearances deceived. They were not like the rest of us, after all. Hypercacher was a kosher supermarket and the dead were Jews. Few people were prepared to say what they were thinking openly, but a BBC reporter, Tim Willcox, showed no restraint. A Jewish woman in the crowd near the crime scene told him, “The situation is going back to the days of 1930s in Europe. Jews are the target now.” Willcox could not let the suggestion that Jews were innocent victims go unchallenged. “Many critics of Israel’s policy would suggest that Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands,” he said, interrupting her.

If you were a Jew, it was Israel’s fault that you were murdered, and possibly your fault too for not trying to pass as a gentile, or avoiding synagogues, and Jewish shops and restaurants, or changing your name and ditching your kippah. 

If you are a freethinker satirising Islam, you are a “this” and there is a “rationale” to your murder. If you are Jewish, you are a “that” and there is a “rationale” to your murders too.”

Read the full article – titled “Shame On The Liberals Who Rationalise Terror” – here.

 

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BBC ‘analysis’ of Copenhagen terror promotes faux linkage to Israel but erases attacks on Jews

On February 18th the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Europe page included an item promoted as follows:Denmark security chief art

“Ex-security chief looks at how Denmark terror threat was handled”.

The article – titled “Viewpoint: Denmark prepared for attack but nowhere is safe” – was written by the former head of the Danish intelligence services, Hans Jørgen Bonnichsen, but will obviously have been subject to BBC editorial review before publication.

Readers are informed that:

“The two attacks [in Copenhagen] replicated the terror directed at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.”

Of course the terror attacks in Paris were not only “directed at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo”, but also at shoppers and staff in a kosher supermarket. That missing information is crucial in light of the reference to “symbolic targets” which appears in the next paragraph.

“The Danish copycat gunman, named locally as Omar El-Hussein, followed the same modus operandi and aimed his desire for revenge against the exact same symbolic targets as the French gunmen.”

The writer then goes on to claim:

“The attackers all sought revenge for the insulting depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the actions of police, who represent what they see as the state oppression of Islam.”

Let’s break that sentence down in order to appreciate what BBC audiences are actually being told.

In both Paris and Copenhagen the first target to be attacked was connected to cartoonists who had drawn images which some chose to regard as insulting to their religion: the Charlie Hebdo offices and a venue hosting a discussion on free speech with Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks. In other words, there at least exists some sort of connection between the claim that “[t]he attackers all sought revenge for the insulting depiction of the Prophet Muhammad” and those “symbolic targets” selected by the terrorists.

Regarding the claim that the terrorists “sought revenge for […] the actions of police”, the writer makes sure to include the qualifying phrase “who represent what they see as…” in order to indicate to readers that the grievance he attributes to the attackers is not established fact but a matter of perception.

However, no such signposting qualifier is applied to the claim that the terrorists “sought revenge for […] the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories” and, crucially, at no point in his entire article does Bonnichsen clarify to readers that half of the targets of the terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen were identifiably Jewish locations – a kosher supermarket and a synagogue – with no connection whatsoever to Israel. 

The writer’s unqualified claim that the terrorists in Paris and Copenhagen attacked “symbolic targets” because of “Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories” would have been egregious enough had he actually bothered to inform readers that European Jews were targeted in those attacks. The notion that French and Danish Jews are “symbolic targets” of revenge for something entirely unconnected to them taps into the exact same theme used by Tim Willcox following the Paris attacks and promotion of that theme without adequate qualification and clarification not only erases the antisemitic motives of the terrorists themselves from audience view, but also helps propagate and mainstream the antisemitism which lies behind that faux linkage.

However, the absence of any mention of the fact that Jews were targeted in Paris and Copenhagen makes Bonnichsen’s promotion of the dumbed-down cliché “the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories” as a motive for the terror attacks even more problematic because, in addition to concealment of the antisemitic ideologies of the attackers, the uninformed reader seeking to understand Islamist terrorism in Europe is being encouraged to believe that it can be blamed on Israel. 

The BBC claims that it meets its public purpose remits by ensuring that its output is focused upon:

“Providing in-depth explanation of the most significant issues facing the UK and the world (such as the Middle East, global terrorism, climate change, public service reform, crime and immigration), all of which will help to support citizenship around a serious news agenda. The BBC will offer in-depth, multi-platform seasons as a means of engaging audiences in these big issues and helping them make sense of the world.”

If the BBC really does aspire to meet the above public purpose remit, its editors need to acknowledge that the amplification of facile sound-bites such as that promoted by Bonnichsen is no substitute for honest presentation of the ideologies which inspire Islamist terrorism. Relatedly, they also need to urgently ask themselves why ‘analysis’ of specific incidents of terrorism in two European capitals – which from the BBC’s point of view was presumably intended to augment audience understanding of the issue – erases from view the fact that the victims of half those attacks were targeted for no other reason than their being Jews.   

 

 

BBC double standards on terrorism surface yet again

Regular readers of these pages who happened to visit the Europe page of the BBC News website on January 23rd would not have been overly surprised to find the perpetrator of the January 9th terror attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris, in which four people were murdered and fifteen others held hostage for hours, described as “[a]n Islamist militant”.Paris attacks art

Via an article appearing two days later in The Independent, we learn that the BBC has decided that he and the perpetrators of the attack at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo two days beforehand will not be described by the corporation as terrorists.

“The Islamists who committed the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris should be not be described as “terrorists” by the BBC, a senior executive at the corporation has said.

Tarik Kafala, the head of BBC Arabic, the largest of the BBC’s non-English language news services, said the term “terrorist” was too “loaded” to describe the actions of the men who killed 12 people in the attack on the French satirical magazine. […]

We try to avoid describing anyone as a terrorist or an act as being terrorist. What we try to do is to say that ‘two men killed 12 people in an attack on the office of a satirical magazine’. That’s enough, we know what that means and what it is.” ” [emphasis added]

As longtime readers will know, the claim appearing in bold above is simply not true. The BBC does indeed use the word terror and its derivatives in certain cases – particularly in reports on Northern Ireland. The term has also been used to describe incidents in Great Britain, Norway and Spain, among others. A report appearing on the BBC News website’s ‘London’ page just one day before the Independent article was published informed audiences – albeit in confusing grammatical style – that:

Al Muhajiroun art

In the ‘through the looking glass’ world of the BBC, a UK-based organization which was proscribed by the British government on the basis of its engagement in the glorification of terrorism can be described as a “Terrorist organization” (with a capital T, no less) whilst other groups appearing on the same list of proscribed organisations but operating elsewhere are regularly described in BBC content in euphemistic terms such as “the Lebanese militant movement” or “the Palestinian Islamist militant group, Hamas“.

The Charlie Hebdo terrorists carried out an attack not only directed at the staff of that particular publication but also with the intent of sowing fear and self-censorship in the wider Western media.  They sought to terrorise journalists – and Western society in general – into complying with their particular politico-religious demands just as terrorists of all stripes do the world over. Tarik Kafala’s claim that the correct terminology for those who gunned down seventeen people in cold blood is “loaded” means that the BBC cannot tell this story accurately and impartially to its audiences.

That fact will come as no surprise to anyone who has been monitoring the BBC’s inconsistent use of the word terror and its habit of hiding behind the smokescreen of “value judgements” it claims are implicit in that word’s use and may “raise doubts about our impartiality”.

But when shooting attacks by a far-right extremist in Norway do get the BBC editorial thumbs-up for description as “terror attacks” and “terrorist activity” is used to describe the actions of members of an armed group in Northern Ireland, it is of course difficult to conceive of any reason for the refusal to accurately name terrorism elsewhere which does not stem from a “value judgement” regarding the perpetrators – or their victims – and impossible to see how the BBC can make any honest claim to cover the subject of terrorism with impartiality.

Related Articles:

Debate widens on BBC avoidance of the word terrorist

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

BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine equates Israeli defence with Paris terrorism

h/t tb

One of the items appearing in the January 19th edition of the BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine show (available for a limited period of time from 36:57 here) was built around discussion of the following irrelevant – and frankly crass – question put by the host in his introduction.Jeremy Vine

“Now, is it more difficult being a Jew or a Muslim in the UK?”

After having presented the reactions of some British politicians to issues arising from the recent terror attacks in Paris, Jeremy Vine goes on to yet again advance the ridiculous notion that British Jews and British Muslims are engaged in some sort of competition for the title of ‘most suffering’.

Vine [38:43]: “So is it more difficult being a Jew or a Muslim in the UK right now? Let’s speak to Angela Epstein – Jewish writer, speaks to us from Salford – and David Cesarani is with me; the professor of history at Royal Holloway University of London; a particular expert on Jewish history as well. Angela, do you feel under pressure as a British Jew?”

Angela Epstein’s answer to that question includes the following statement:

“We are targets of Muslim terror because we are Jews and the same does not happen the other way round even in the face of heinous provocation…”

Vine quickly jumps in:

“You say it doesn’t happen the other way round – there will be people who say wait; when you look at the State of Israel and what it does in the occupied territories, that’s the…that’s the other side of the argument.”

In other words, Jeremy Vine apparently believes it justifiable to promote equation of actions taken by Israel to defend its civilians with those of terrorist organisations and at the same time implies that the motivation for any Israeli actions in “the occupied territories” is the religion of the people living there. He also apparently believes that it is legitimate to amplify the antisemitic canard that British Jews bear responsibility for the actions of the Israeli government. Although Angela Epstein protests Vine’s redundant analogy, he persists, asking David Cesarani:

“…does this stem from Israel’s actions and the way they’re perceived or is there something deeper afoot or is it actually not a problem, David?”

Cesarani does not provide a coherent response to that question.

 At 42:09 Vine downplays the nature of the terror attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris.

“And Angela, even if you look at the Paris attacks, what they went for first were the cartoonists. They were not going for French Jews. The kosher supermarket was secondary.”

Angela Epstein tries to correct Vine on that topic too, citing the murder of Ilan Halimi and the attack on the Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012. From 46:05 listeners hear David Cesarani making the dubious suggestion that British Jews who emigrate to Israel might be seen as ‘running away’ and ‘disloyal’.

“This is not the time to suggest the Jews are going to run away. The Jews are afraid, the Jews need special protection. We’re citizens of this country. It is our country and I’m going to stand shoulder to shoulder with people to defend that. And I’m not going to give the impression to anyone that Jews are not loyal to this country; that they really have their loyalty in Israel and at the least sign of trouble they’re all going to rush off to Netanya or Tel Aviv.”

One has to wonder whether Cesarani would suggest that Britons – Jewish or otherwise – emigrating to any other countries in the world might be perceived in a similar light.

After a break, Jeremy Vine purports to discuss the other side of his chosen subject matter (from 51:00) with two Muslim interviewees.

“So we were discussing whether British Jews are under threat; now we’re talking about British Muslims and whether things are better or worse for Muslims and Jews in this country in the wake of what’s happened in the last few weeks.”

If one wished to inform listeners on topics relating to terrorism and antisemitism, it would of course be beneficial to bring into the conversation an interviewee who has not shown public support for Islamist terrorism and for a notorious Holocaust denier and who represents a lobbying organisation previously banned from university campuses by the NUS because of antisemitism. Nevertheless, Radio 2 selected Asghar Bukhari from MPAC UK as one of its contributors to this discussion. Here is what the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism had to say about MPAC UK in 2006:

“The activities of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, MPACUK, have given cause for concern. Although its rhetoric is often extremist, MPACUK identifies itself as part of the mainstream British Muslim community, describing itself as “the UK’s leading Muslim civil liberties group, empowering Muslims to focus on non-violent Jihad and political activism”. Originally set up as a web-based media monitoring group, MPACUK’s declared first mission was to fight the perceived anti-Muslim bias in the media and to redress the balance. However, MPACUK has been criticised for publishing material on its website promoting the idea of a worldwide Zionist conspiracy, including the reproduction of articles originally published on neo-Nazi and Holocaust Denial websites, and is currently banned from university campuses under the NUS’s ‘No Platform’ policy. MPACUK are known to have removed an offensive posting from their website on one occasion, after complaints were made, but thereafter continued to publish similar material.”

Listeners already aware of the background to Bukhari and his organization would not have been surprised to hear him talking about Jihadist terrorism in the following terms:

“And I take exception….that this extremism is due to some sort of antisemitism – it’s not. Terrorism – every single act of terrorism against Western targets – has been due to the foreign policy of our government according to research and according to most of the experts out there. And the government is trying to blame the Muslim community and say oh it’s your problem. No: it’s your problem – the government has caused this problem. We cannot solve it unless you change your foreign policy.”

The trouble is, of course, that most listeners will not know who Bukhari and MPAC UK are or what sort of ideologies they stand for and Jeremy Vine made no attempt whatsoever to inform them on that issue when introducing him despite the existence of relevant BBC editorial guidelines. Notably too, the entire item avoids any real attempt to discuss the topic of Jihadist terrorism and its underlying ideologies.

At the end of the segment, Vine reads out a couple of e-mails from listeners and one of those picked out for promotion to listeners includes the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope.

“Aziz Najmuddin [phonetic] is in Southampton. He’s listening; he says I’m a Muslim man. I don’t feel threatened at all. British society is a fair society. But what I find disgraceful is that there’s no perceived threat to the Jews but there’s been so much police allocation to it. It is David Cameron playing up to the Jewish lobby in America.”

If the BBC aspires to provide its audiences with factual information and meaningful discussion on the topic of Jihadist terrorism of the type seen recently in Paris and the concerns of European Jews relating to that issue and rising antisemitism in general, one obviously basic requirement is to avoid contributors with a record of antisemitism.

No less crucial is that the corporation’s own presenters should understand the significance – and illegitimacy – of amplification (even with the ‘some might say’ caveat) of the antisemitic premise that terror attacks against Jews in Europe can be ‘explained’  by their being collectively responsible for the actions – real or imagined – of Israel. Obviously too, BBC content should be free from the promotion other antisemitic tropes such as the ‘Jewish lobby’ and ‘dual loyalties’. Unfortunately, what should go without saying is clearly not sufficiently understood by some BBC employees.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Tim Willcox in Paris: a new low

BBC response to Willcox complaints: he sent a Tweet

Themes in BBC reporting on the Paris terror attacks

As we noted here the other day, BBC reporting on the Paris terror attacks has been notable for its tendency to avoid of any meaningful discussion of the actual issue of Islamist extremism and instead, audience attentions have been deflected towards a variety of other themes.

Some BBC content amplified the erroneous notion that Charlie Hebdo is a racist magazine. For example, this clip – broadcast on Radio 5 live’s Breakfast programme on January 11th – was also promoted separately on social media.

Themes CH 1

In the January 9th edition of the BBC World Service’s ‘The World This Week’ (available as a podcast here) presenter Emily Buchanan was joined by French journalists Agnes Poirier and Nabila Ramdani. Buchanan’s introduction to the item indicates that she was well aware of the fact that just hours before her broadcast, four people had been killed in a terror attack on a Jewish target.

“The funeral bells of Notre Dame Cathedral tolled in the rain for the twelve people shot dead in and near the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo; gunned down on Wednesday by men shouting Islamist slogans. The attack was, they shouted, revenge for the magazine’s insults to the Prophet Mohammed and Islam. The killings sent shock waves around France and beyond. [….] France went on maximum alert. The security forces identified the suspects as two brothers of Algerian descent who had a long history of links to extremist groups. After a two-day man hunt police eventually ran them to ground at a print works outside Paris. The brothers died in a hail of bullets. A hostage they’d taken survived. Meanwhile, in an apparently linked attack, another gunman who had already killed a policewoman took more hostages inside a kosher supermarket. In a dramatic simultaneous assault, he too died but so did at least four of his hostages, though a number survived.”

Nevertheless, Buchanan’s first question/statement to Ramdani was:

“And Nabila Ramdani; the impact on the Muslim community must be profound.”

There was no discussion in the programme of the impact on the Jewish community which had lost four of its members just hours earlier. Buchanan went on to provide Ramdani with an opening for promotion of the notion of Charlie Hebdo as a ‘racist’ publication.

Buchanan: “But Nabila, I mean, amongst many in the Muslim community those cartoons were seen as very offensive weren’t they? And I mean some people may even have said that they were racist.”

Ramdani used the cue to tell listeners that:

“It had faced criticisms in the past for dressing up racism as satire. There was a fair amount of racism lurking behind the magazine.”

In response to Agnes Poirier’s attempt to refute that labelling, Ramdani went on to make the baseless claim that:

“Islam was particularly what Charlie Hebdo had it in for…”

Obviously the focus on this misleading theme contributed nothing to informed audience understanding of the magazine itself or the real motives behind the terror attack.

Another theme heavily promoted in BBC content was that of the terror attacks being attributable to radicalization prompted by socio-economic factors and alienation. One example of that came in a programme which perhaps flies under the radar of many readers – BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Sunday Morning’. The January 11th edition of that show – presented by Ricky Ross – included discussion of the Paris terror attacks (from 01:01:10 here) with Nabila Ramdani once again and also with Alison Phipps – Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies at the University of Glasgow and a member of the Kairos Document supporting Iona Community.Themes CH 2

That item is too long to transcribe here in full but notably its focus was on the attack against Charlie Hebdo, with no specific mention of the targeting of the Jewish supermarket two days before this broadcast and hence Nabila Ramdani was able to tell listeners that “the element of surprise came because Paris has been remarkably free of terrorist incidents over the past, you know, so many decades…”.

The context of antisemitic attacks and incitement in Paris and elsewhere in France was hence concealed from listeners. Audiences did however get a hefty dose of misguided PC messaging from Alison Phipps, who equated the Paris attacks with the 1996 Dunblane attack in Scotland and the Breivik attacks in Norway.

“I think the problem here is the problem of violence and the problem of violence produced out of despair and anger and fear. I think it’s easy to move into debates about a clash of civilisations or religions but actually to me that feels intellectually a bit lazy really….”

“We see violence occurring in the context of Europe and this being not something that’s coming particularly out of any religious motivation or civilization motivation but people who are despairing and resorting to violence and they’re committing crimes as a result.”

“I think …that when people feel threatened and they’re despairing, when people feel as though they’re assaulted and attacked, they tend to resort to more violent means…”

Another theme promoted in this programme and in other BBC content was spurious linkage between the Paris attacks and events elsewhere in the world with Ricky Ross talking about “people who maybe have been angered by the events of the war in Iraq, perhaps the invasion of Afghanistan and also perhaps of drone strikes and so on….”

In an article titled “France divided despite uplifting rallies” which appeared on the BBC News website on January 11th, Hugh Schofield chose to highlight the following sentiments attributed to anonymous members of the French Muslim community, but failed to provide readers with any factual answers to the questions posed.

“Over and again they express their anger at what they see as double standards:

Why so much fuss over 17 dead when thousands have died in Gaza and Syria?

Why is it all right for Charlie Hebdo to mock Islam when the controversial comic Dieudonne M’bala M’bala is prosecuted for mocking Jews? Why is one defined as “inciting hatred” and not the other?”

In a report from January 10th titled “Young French Muslims fear attack after Paris shootings” produced for Newsbeat – which caters for younger audiences – Duncan Crawford quoted one of his interviewees as saying:

“The problem is 12 people are dead. All the media talk about it. But in Iraq, in Syria, and in Palestine, every day thousands of people are dead, and no one talks about it. That’s the real problem.”

No attempt was made to provide the BBC’s younger audiences with information which would enable them to put that statement into its correct context.

When major events such as last week’s terror attacks in Paris take place, it is obviously the task of the media to help the general public determine the facts of the event and its context as soon as possible so that they can reach informed opinions. The BBC is of course obligated to precisely such priorities by its public purposes and yet its commitment to building “a global understanding of international issues” did not prevent avoidance of any serious reporting on the real issues behind these attacks.

The concurrent smoke and mirrors promotion of themes such as ‘racist’ cartoons, poverty, despair, alienation and disaffection do not contribute to audience understanding of the underlying issues faced by European society in general – and members of the Muslim communities battling radicalisation in particular – any more than the promotion of the theme of ‘Gaza’ helps them understand why a Jewish supermarket was the target of one of these terror attacks. 

 

 

BBC R4: Paris ‘tensions’ due to Israel’s failure to make peace

h/t JK

A particularly noticeable characteristic of BBC reporting on the Paris terror attacks has been a general avoidance of any meaningful discussion of the actual issue of Islamist extremism.

Instead, BBC audiences have seen, read and heard numerous commentators bemoaning the social conditions which supposedly turn disadvantaged and alienated youths into Jihadist terrorists. On other occasions, the Charlie Hebdo magazine has been described as ‘racist’ as though that misapplied label somehow provides relevant context to the premeditated murders of seventeen people. And in other cases audiences have been herded towards a view according to which if Jews are attacked in Paris, it is ultimately the fault of other Jews because of things they do – or do not do – in another part of the world.

We will be providing additional examples in future posts, but here is one which appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ on January 13th as the four victims of the Hyper Cacher terror attack had just been laid to rest in Jerusalem.World at One

The first part of this segment from the programme consists of a report from Kevin Connolly about French Jews to which we will return later. In the second part – from 03:50 – the programme’s presenter Shaun Ley introduces two interviewees:  Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, Paris Director for the American Jewish Committee and Professor David Cesarani – described by Ley as “professor of history at Royal Holloway University of London” and someone who “has written extensively on Jewish history and is an authority on the Holocaust”.

Shaun Ley: “Well the number of Jews leaving France, as Kevin was saying, has certainly risen: almost seven thousand last year – twice as many as the year before. But is Binyamin Netanyahu right to talk of rising antisemitism in Europe and is emigration the answer?”

Of course contrary to the impression given in this item, it is not just the prime minister of Israel who talks about a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe; many bodies and organisations are recording and noting that trend, including the ADL, the CST and the Mayor of London. The French government had recognized the gravity of the situation even before the latest attacks.

“…in 2014 the antisemitic incidents [in France] increased by 91%. All too often people forget that half of the incidents classified as “racial incidents” are directed against Jews. This, in spite of the fact that they form less than 1% of the general population. Under these circumstances it is understandable that the Minister of the Interior has recently declared that the “struggle against racism and anti-Semitism” is “a national matter”. 

Nevertheless, Shaun Ley asks his guest:

“David Cesarani – do you think that Binyamin Netanyahu had a point when he suggested that there is a momentum now to leave France because of not just this incident but because of some of the previous incidents [the murder of Ilan Halimi in 2006 and the murders of four people at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 – Ed.] to which Simone referred?”

Ceserani: “No I don’t think Binyamin Netanyahu had a point and I think his comments have been inflammatory.”

Ceserani goes on to tell BBC audiences that “Jews in France have lived through much worse times than these” and that “things have been worse even in recent French history” before delivering the following statement:

“But we cannot overlook the tension between Jews and Muslims in France. The conflict in the Middle East has got a lot to do with that and I think that’s where Mr Netanyahu can play a role. I think if Mr Netanyahu can bring life to the peace process then I think a lot of that tension will subside.”

As is all too often the case at the BBC, we see the Palestinian-Israeli conflict being promoted here as the conflict in the Middle East even as Jihadist extremists in Syria and Iraq continue to kill thousands of their own countrymen. Predictably too, we see the fact that Islamist extremism is a significant factor in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict being ignored and erased. Responsibility for the failure to bring that conflict to an end is of course placed entirely on the shoulders of one party to it and even one specific politician – despite the similarly unsuccessful attempts of his predecessors. According to Cesarani, the Palestinians have no agency and no role to play in finding a conclusion to the dispute but if only the Israeli prime minister would change his ways, then the “tensions” which he apparently believes bring about both antisemitism and terror attacks would “subside” and French, British, Belgian and Dutch Jews could live in peace.  

BBC Radio 4 clearly has no qualms about providing Cesarani with a soap-box from which to promote his own political views in the guise of ‘expert analysis’. That of course is an issue in itself, but the main point here is that listeners are being distracted from and misled about the real background to the murders in Paris by means of this superficial exploitation of a tragedy for political messaging.

Kevin Connolly’s segment which began this item is very similar to an article he wrote on the same topic which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “‘Not safe’: French Jews mull Israel emigration” on January 13th. In both those reports Connolly highlighted the words of one of his interviewees with the written version going as follows:

“It’s only fair to point out that Mr Levy blames the media at least in part for the current atmosphere and argues that it has tended to demonise Israel in recent years in the wake of events ranging from the first Gulf war to the first and second Intifadas.

That perhaps is a debate for another time – and it is worth pointing out that France naturally insists that its Jewish population can safely remain there.”

Actually, that is not “a debate for another time”: it is one in which some of us have been engaged for years already and it is also one which – as this Radio 4 programme once again indicates – it is long past time for BBC journalists to join. 

When R4 audiences got an on-air correction about Israel – but not from a BBC journalist

On January 11th the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World This Weekend’ focused entirely on the subject of the terror attacks in Paris and that day’s rally, with presenter Mark Mardell reverting to the usual BBC’s usual ‘value judgement’ free formula for describing terrorists in his introduction.Mardell R4

“We’re live in Paris as world leaders gather to show support after a week when Islamic militants murdered seventeen people.”

Available here for a limited period of time, the programme’s attempts to ‘contextualise’ the terror attacks for BBC audiences are particularly remarkable because of what is omitted from the framing. At 11:24, during an interview with Andrew Hussey of the University of London, Mardell asks:

“What do you think, when we see radicalisation causing obviously terrible massacre here this week but also problems in the United States, in Britain and of course throughout the Middle East. What do you think drives people to be radicalised? Is it a reaction to modernity, to colonialism, to the West – or something else entirely?”

Hussey: “All of the above and something else entirely. It’s to do with a very old-fashioned word actually: alienation. How people cope and deal with alienation. Radicalisation, which is a complicated process, is one of the easy ways to deal with that.”

Later on (13:14) Mardell informs listeners that:

“…one can argue for ages about whether there’s any connection between France’s colonial past and what happened here this week…”

And still later (15:18) listeners hear an interviewee described as one of the leaders of an organization countering Islamist radicalisation in Paris suggest that:

“Maybe it’s something to do with the injustices happening across the world – in Palestine, Iraq, in Syria and Libya…”

But the most notable part of this programme comes at 24:05 onwards when Mardell brings in two interviewees but only finds it necessary to signpost the political leanings of one of them, whilst refraining from providing any insight into Kundnani’s place on the political map.

“With me now Professor Arun Kundnani who teaches terrorism studies at John Jay College in New York and has written several books on Islamophobia and extremism and Rene Girard; he’s chief correspondent at the French right of centre newspaper le Figaro. Can I start with you, professor: does this display of solidarity today lead anywhere?”

Kundnani: “Ahm…I think it would probably lead to a kind of entrenchment of the kind of ‘them and us’ mentality that..ahm….has been part of the problem I think. Ahm…you know, what would be good is to see a genuine movement for freedom of expression but if we were doing something like that, we certainly wouldn’t be having Netanyahu attend for example….erm….you know the Israeli government has….”

Mardell: “Why not?”

Kundnani: “Well the Israeli government has been responsible for killing multiple journalists over the last couple of years in Gaza. Ahm…you know in this country we’ve seen through the war on terror quite a restriction on freedom of expression. We’ve actually put people in prison over the last couple of years for the books they own. Ahm…so…ahm…you know what has happened here is that freedom of expression has become a kind of slogan and a kind of icon of Western values. Ahm…but it’s not a genuine commitment to freedom of expression: it’s more about saying this is something that we have in the West and you don’t have. It’s the them and us mentality that is part of the problem here.”

As we see, Mardell makes no attempt to interrupt Kundnani’s bizarre monologue in order to relieve BBC audiences of the inaccurate impression that Israel has deliberately killed journalists.  Fortunately, a journalist with honesty and integrity happens to be on hand.

Mardell: “Rene Girard; how do you feel about the march that we’re seeing? Does it lead to any change of policy? Should it lead to any change of policy?”

Girard: “I have to say something on Netanyahu because I don’t want to be seen as sharing this opinion. I don’t think that Netanyahu policy for Palestine, for Israel, for the peace is a good one. I prefer Rabin’s policy. But as a fact I was covering the war in Gaza this summer and the Israelis don’t target journalists. They don’t kill journalists….”

Mardell [interrupts] “Well, I mean….”

Girard: “…they allow them to go together so I think…”

Mardell: [interrupts impatiently] “Thank you for making that point but what about the general point….”

The BBC has editorial guidelines on live output:

“Factual Errors

If it is established during a live programme that a factual error has been made and we can accurately correct it then we should admit our mistake clearly and frankly. Saying what was wrong as well as putting it right can be an important element in making an effective correction. Where the inaccuracy is unfair, a timely correction may dissuade the aggrieved party from complaining. Any serious factual errors or potential defamation problems should be referred immediately to Programme Legal Advice.

Impartiality

Due impartiality lies at the heart of the BBC’s standards. It is a core value and no area of programming is exempt from it. It is vital that any package or interview broadcast during a live event is impartial and fair. Care should be taken to ensure that there is no suggestion of bias. This can be achieved by careful casting and ensuring the presenter/interviewer is properly briefed to conduct a robust interview.”

How fortunate that Rene Girard was on hand to do the BBC correspondent’s job for him.

BBC’s Tim Willcox in Paris: a new low

BBC News coverage of the rally in Paris on January 11th included the clip below in which Tim Willcox interrupts an interviewee talking about the recent antisemitic attacks in France to inform her – forty-eight hours after four Jewish hostages had been murdered in a terror attack on a kosher supermarket – that:

“Many critics of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.”

He then goes on to lecture her:

“But you understand; everything is seen from different perspectives.”

The EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism includes the following:

 “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.”

Readers no doubt recall that just two months ago, Willcox made use of the age-old stereotype of ‘rich Jews’ and failed to challenge the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope in a programme he was hosting.

Update: Tim Willcox has apologised on Twitter, although it is of course obvious that the vast majority of viewers watching that programme are not among his followers. 

Willcox Twitter apology

Nick Cohen’s take on this story is as insightful as ever. 

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