BBC WS radio misrepresents the IHRA definition of antisemitism

h/t SG

The December 22nd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Boston Calling’ – titled “The allegiance edition” – included an item (from 08:56 here) described in its synopsis as follows:

“Also, we look into President Trump’s latest executive order, which relies on a controversial definition of anti-Semitism…” [emphasis added]

The working definition of antisemitism which the BBC World Service found fit to portray as “controversial” is that produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) which has been adopted by governments and bodies around the world.

Presenter Carol Hills (of PRI) chose to introduce the item with an unexplained reference to ‘allegiance’ which might well be considered inappropriate given the subject matter of antisemitism.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Hills: “In these divided times there are still some things we agree on. Few people, for example, would not agree that antisemitism is bad and that we should do something about it. But the agreement ends there because as soon as you start asking people what is antisemitism, who is guilty of it and what to do about it, that’s when you run into disagreements and in some cases allegiance comes into question. This became clear after President Trump signed his latest executive order. Our own Rupa Shenoy has more.”

Rupa Shenoy – also of PRI – began with a superficial description of the executive order signed on December 11th which is ostensibly the subject matter of her report.

Shenoy: “Hanukkah came early at the White House as President Trump recounted what he’d done for the Jewish people and said he was adding to that legacy by signing a powerful executive order.”

Recording Trump: “This action makes clear that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act which prohibits the federal funding of universities and other institutions that engage in discrimination applies to institutions that traffic in antisemitic hate.”

Shenoy: “He noted that Congress and the previous administration had tried to do something similar but those efforts stalled.”

Recording Trump: “But this year there’s no roadblock because I’m doing it myself. It’s much easier.”

Shenoy: “And Trump made the intent of his order clear.”

Recording Trump: “This is our message to universities: if you want to accept the tremendous amount of federal dollars that you get every year, you must reject antisemitism. It’s very simple.”

Shenoy: “The order recommends that universities define antisemitism with this specific language as -quote – a certain perception of Jews which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews including – quote – rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism. Ken Stern helped craft that definition originally for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.”

Ken Stern did not ‘help craft’ the IHRA definition. He did help write – along with some eight others – its predecessor for a now defunct EU agency called The European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. Seeing as Stern has repeatedly voiced his opinion that the IHRC is not suitable for use on campuses because he regards them as a special ‘free speech’ environment, the views he expresses in this report do not come as much of a surprise.

Stern: “It was never intended as something to police speech on campus.”

Shenoy: “Because he says there’s no similar definition of racism for example. And Stern says the Department of Education has made clear that Title VI already covers Jewish students.”

Stern: “Jewish students are being targeted regardless if they’re pro-Israel or anti-Israel, simply because they’re Jewish. That’s something that’s actionable and a concern. But the use of this definition is part of a long-standing pattern to try to curtail political speech about Israel.”

Shenoy then brought in a second voice supporting the same view – but failed to meet BBC editorial guideline requirements to inform audiences of the “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” of her contributor and the organisation she currently represents.  

Shenoy: “Others have come to the same conclusion about Trump’s executive order. Lara Friedman is president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace.”

Friedman: “What it says is when it comes to criticising Israel, Jews equal Israel, Israel equals Jews. If you are on campus and you only talk about Israel and you’re criticising Israel, you are by definition antisemitic. Under the definition offered here the Palestinian historic and lived narrative becomes antisemitism.”

Shenoy: “She says the order’s goal is to send a message to university administrators and organisers.”

Friedman: “We are watching you and we will make your life miserable; cost you time, there’ll be reputational costs, all of that. You could lose your federal funding if you dare cross the line so don’t even go near the line.”

Shenoy: “Friedman says Trump’s executive order is aimed at campus protests across the country that Trump sees as connected to a larger worldwide movement to boycott Israel called BDS. That’s short for boycott, divestment and sanctions.”

As is inevitably the case in BBC content, audiences did not receive any sort of explanation concerning the BDS campaign – including the particularly relevant fact that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.

Recording Trump: “And as president I want to be very clear. My administration vigorously condemns the BDS campaign against Israel.”

Shenoy: “This is Trump earlier this week [actually December 8th] at the Israeli-American Council’s national summit in Florida.”

Recording Trump: “But sadly BDS has also made disturbing headway on American college campuses – you know that, don’t you? Here with us today is Adela Cojab, a recent graduate of New York University who courageously stood for Israel in the face of hostility and bigotry…”

Shenoy: “Adela Cojab got on stage and told the audience she was suing NYU because it failed to protect Jewish students from harassment. Now she tells me she feels validated by the presidential order.”

Cojab: “By signing this order he just expanded the definition of protected groups and it includes Jewish students of course. And that tells Jewish students everywhere that what they’re going through isn’t normal, it’s not OK. And it just clarifies that they can stand up.”

Shenoy: “And Cojab pushes back against the argument that the executive order will stifle free speech.”

Cojab: “I think that the process can very much not be antisemitic. I criticise Israel openly because I have thoughts but there’s a difference between criticising Israel and Israeli policy and Israeli administration and criticising Israel’s right to exist. Because when you say that you’re anti-Zionist you’re saying that you’re against Israel’s right to exist, which is destroying Israel.”

Having apparently brought in Cojab to balance the two voices already heard, Shenoy then promoted a third view opposing the executive order. She did not however bother to clarify to listeners that her interviewee is a member of ‘Students for Justice in Palestine’ (SJP) which is one of the main proponents of BDS on US campuses.

Shenoy: “And creating a hostile environment for students, she says. For their part many campus activists for Palestinian rights say they’re not backing down. Nick Galloway is a graduate student at the University of Maryland who’s participated in demonstrations for years.”

Galloway: “They can’t stop us from getting together and fighting for justice and fighting for BDS.”

Shenoy: “He says Trump’s executive order might intimidate some Palestinian or Muslim students on campus from protesting. But Galloway adds that it also might invite a backlash.”

Galloway: “It’s going to strengthen the resolve of student organisers to [unintelligible] that.”

Shenoy: “But the divisions over Israel, Zionism, Palestinian rights and free speech aren’t going away any time soon. Trump’s executive order will have to play out on college campuses and likely court rooms across the country.”

To sum up, BBC audiences heard three voices opposing the US president’s executive order and just one in favour. In breach of BBC editorial guidelines they were not informed of the agendas of the organisations with which two of those voices are associated and neither were they given any relevant background information concerning the BDS campaign which they support.

Most egregiously, listeners were told that the IHRA working definition of antisemitism is “controversial” and that its adoption means that people who “talk about Israel” and criticise Israel “are by definition antisemitic”. That of course is completely false. As Dave Rich of the CST has pointed out, the IHRA definition does not “repress” freedom of speech at all.

“The IHRA definition does no such thing, stating plainly that ‘criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.’ This leaves room for the full range of rational, evidence-based opposition to Israeli laws, policies and actions. It doesn’t allow for the kind of obsessive, irrational hatred that depicts Israel as a Nazi state of unparalleled cruelty that needs to be wiped off the map, or that sees “Zionist” conspiracies behind everything from 9/11 to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and for good reason: because, as the IHRA definition recognises, antisemitism sometimes includes ‘the targeting of the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.’”

If the BBC’s partners at PRI are not capable of portraying the IHRA working definition of antisemitism in a manner that meets BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, that content should obviously not be rebroadcast on ‘Boston Calling’.

Related Articles:

Guardian op-ed: presidential order on antisemitism only supported by right-wing Jews (UK Media Watch) 

 

BBC Watch prompts correction to report on French antisemitism resolution

Last week we noted the inaccurate portrayal of a resolution passed by the French parliament in an article which appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ page.

BBC News misrepresents French parliament resolution

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning that report (including a link to the draft resolution passed by France’s National Assembly) and two days later we received a reply from the BBC News website:

“Thank you for getting in touch about our article France anti-Semitism: Jewish graves defaced with Nazi swastikas.

After considering your point further we have amended this section of the article and added a correction note at the bottom, advising readers of these changes.”

The original version of the report read as follows:

The amended version and the added footnote now read:

 

BBC News misrepresents French parliament resolution

On December 4th a report titled “France anti-Semitism: Jewish graves defaced with Nazi swastikas” was published on the ‘Europe’ page of the BBC News website.

Towards the end of that report – throughout which the BBC once again used the wrong spelling of the word antisemitism – readers were told that: [emphasis added]

“On Tuesday night, France’s National Assembly passed a draft resolution that includes hatred of Israel as an example of anti-Semitism.

The definition, by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, has already been adopted by the European Parliament and several other countries.

A number of MPs from President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party voted against the resolution.”

The IHRA definition of course does not include “hatred of Israel” as an example of antisemitism. It does include the following:

    • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
       
    • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
       
    • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
       
    • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
       
    • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
       
    • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
       
    • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

The resolution passed by the French National Assembly on December 3rd includes the following:

“Considering that it would constitute an effective instrument for combating antisemitism in its modern and renewed form, encompassing manifestations of hatred of the State of Israel justified solely by the perception of Israel as a Jewish community.” [emphasis added]

The preceding explanatory statement clarifies:

 “…anti-Zionist acts can sometimes obscure antisemitic realities. Criticizing the very existence of Israel as a community of Jewish citizens is tantamount to hatred of the Jewish community as a whole, as holding Jews collectively responsible for the policies of the Israeli political authorities is a manifestation of antisemitism. Such drifts are increasingly making anti-Zionism “one of the contemporary forms of antisemitism,” to use the words of the President of the Republic. To point to such drifts does not prevent any free criticism of the policies and positions taken by Israeli governments.” [emphasis added]

The BBC, however, chose to promote a dumbed-down portrayal of the resolution adopted by the lower house of the French parliament that is both inaccurate and misleading. Coming as it does after a series of failed BBC attempts to explain anti-Zionism and antisemitism to its audiences (see some examples in ‘related articles’ below), that lazy and inaccurate portrayal is not particularly surprising.

Related Articles:

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

BBC News ‘explanation’ of antisemitism promotes the Livingstone Formulation

BBC article on antisemitism report recycles problematic backgrounder

BBC again ignores the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism

Another BBC antisemitism backgrounder promotes Livingstone Formulation

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

BBC report on UN SG’s Israel visit omits his statements on anti-Zionism

BBC report on antisemitism in France marred by its own record

BBC radio coverage of the Chief Rabbi’s article – part one

Coverage on BBC radio stations of an article by Britain’s Chief Rabbi published by The Times on November 25th was understandably extensive and reports heard by listeners to two programmes on different stations are of particular interest.

Both the November 25th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ – presented by Ritula Shah – and the November 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Razia Iqbal – included interviews with two people presenting opposing perspectives on the story.

One of those interviewees was Mike Katz of the Jewish Labour Movement which has been affiliated to the UK Labour party since 1920.

On ‘The World Tonight’ Mr Katz was introduced (from 25:17 here) as “Mike Katz, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement” and on ‘Newshour’ he was presented (from 30:07 here) as “Mike Katz who is the national chair of Jewish Labour”.

Listeners were given no information concerning the JLM’s long history, the fact that it is one of the oldest socialist societies to be affiliated with the Labour party or the number of members in the organisation.  

The other interviewee was Jenny Manson of ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ which was launched two years ago in late September 2017. Writing several weeks after that launch, Robert Philpot noted that:

“…it was JVL’s opposition to JLM’s attempt to change Labour’s rules to crack down on anti-Semitism — a change backed by Corbyn himself — which provoked most controversy.

During the debate on the measure, which was adopted by the party, JVL’s vice-chair, Leah Lavane, railed against JLM and those who “make that accusation [of anti-Semitism] every time you criticize the despicable behavior of the state of Israel toward the Palestinian people.”

For JVL, the tightening of the party’s rules represents an “anti-democratic restriction on political debate” which “runs the risk of giving the stamp of approval to those opposed to Corbyn’s leadership to drive out more of his supporters.”

It particularly objects to the party judging allegations of anti-Semitism by using the definition drawn up by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and adopted by the British government because, it claims, this restricts criticism of Israel.

In fact, the IHRA definition explicitly makes clear that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.””

BBC radio audiences however heard nothing about JVL’s background and agenda. On ‘The World Tonight’ Ms Manson was introduced (from 13:11 here) as “the co-chair of Jewish Voice for Labour” and on ‘Newshour’ – appearing after Mr Katz – she was described (from 34:59 here) as “co-chair of another Jewish Labour group – Jewish Voice for Labour – ahm…which supports Jeremy Corbyn”. [emphasis added]

In other words, listeners to two different BBC radio stations were given the erroneous impression that those interviewees represented two comparable Jewish groups linked to the Labour party and – in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – they were told practically nothing of the obviously relevant issue of the “particular viewpoint” of the fringe group Jewish Voice for Labour.

During the ‘Newshour’ interview with Mike Katz, (from 30:07 here) listeners heard Razia Iqbal twice ask him whether he thought that the Chief Rabbi’s article was the “right thing to do” and when her interviewee pointed out that antisemitism in the Labour party “is not an issue that has suddenly come out of nowhere” Iqbal interrupted him and the following exchange was heard: [emphasis in italics in the original]

33:18 Iqbal [interrupts]: “But even today, Mike Katz, even today Jeremy Corbyn says that he has made it very clear that there is no place whatsoever – I’m quoting him now – ‘for antisemitism in our society, our country or in my party. There never will be as long as I’m leader of the party’.”

Katz: “So, Razia, why hasn’t he taken proper action against it? Why has he allowed this state of affairs to flourish so that the party gets referenced to and taken up by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission? Why is it the case actually that there are still more than 100 outstanding cases before the National Constitutional Committee on antisemitism?”

Iqbal [interrupts]: “But there’s…I mean, you know…I just…I just wonder if I can point you…I wonder if I can point you to the other really big issue that does exist inside the political discourse in this country which is the presence of Islamophobia in the Conservative party and I wonder to what extent you feel that this is just a targeting of Jeremy Corbyn when there are…there are equally difficult thorny issues for the Conservative party to deal with.”

Yes – apparently ‘Newshour’ producers really did think that the understanding of audiences around the world of a story concerning unprecedented criticism of the leader of the UK Labour party from the Chief Rabbi would be enhanced by that blatant ‘whataboutery’ from Razia Iqbal.

In part two of this post we will look at the two interviews with Jenny Manson.  

BBC Radio 4 again purports to explain antisemitism

The purpose of the Livingstone Formulation was described by the person who named it, David Hirsch, as follows:

“the use of the Livingstone Formulation is intended to make sure that the raising of the issue of anti-Semitism, when related to ‘criticism of Israel,’ remains or becomes a commonsense indicator of ‘Zionist’ bad faith and a faux pas in polite antiracist company.”

Lesley Klaff describes it as:

“…the practice of responding to claims of contemporary antisemitism by alleging that those making the claim are only doing so to prevent Israel from being criticised; in other words, they are ‘playing the antisemitism card.’”

As has been noted here before, the BBC has been promoting that device for over three years – for example: 

Mainstreaming the Livingstone Formulation on BBC Radio 4

BBC promotes the Livingstone formulation – again

More promotion of the Livingstone Formulation from BBC News

BBC News ‘explanation’ of antisemitism promotes the Livingstone Formulation

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part two

BBC R4 report on antisemitism in the US uses the Livingstone Formulation

Another BBC antisemitism backgrounder promotes Livingstone Formulation

Concurrently, the BBC continues to ignore the fact that anti-Zionism in the form of denial of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination has been defined as antisemitism under the IHRA working definition which has been adopted by numerous countries, more than 130 UK local councils, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the judiciary – but not the BBC.

On July 24th the BBC’s domestic radio station – Radio 4 – aired yet another discussion of antisemitism (which it still does not spell properly) on its ‘Moral Maze’ programme presented by Michael Buerk.

The synopsis to that programme begins by mentioning “the anti-Semitism crisis engulfing the Labour party” (obviously a topic which might be of interest to domestic BBC audiences) and goes on to cite statements and polls concerning antisemitism in Europe before promoting the Livingstone Formulation:

“Less clear cut is the relationship between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. There is an argument about where the line is, and who has the right to draw it. Since Zionism has at its heart a belief in the Jewish right to self-determination, many Jews believe that those who oppose the state of Israel are anti-Semites. Others – many Jews included – don’t think that anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic, and argue that saying so is merely a way of ignoring Palestinian grievances. Anti-Semitism may be the oldest ethnic hatred, but is it just another form of racism? Or is it a distinct and uniquely pernicious prejudice which must be understood in the context of centuries of violent oppression, dehumanisation and genocide? Anti-Semitism: what is it? what isn’t it? and how can it be defeated?” [emphasis added]

In his introduction Michael Buerk described the first of the two questions to be discussed as:

“…where do you draw the line between criticism of Israel and prejudice against Jews? Between antisemitism and anti-Zionism?”

The programme’s panel included Melanie PhillipsMona SiddiquiTim Stanley and Matthew Taylor. The ‘witnesses’ were Julia Neuberger, Adam Sutcliffe, John Inge and ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’ member Robert Cohen who has previously appeared in similar Radio 4 content in which the BBC fruitlessly ‘discussed’ issues already addressed by expert bodies, while failing to inform its audiences of the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism that have already answered the question of whether anti-Zionism is an expression of antisemitism.

This programme was no better and did little to contribute to audience understanding of the issue of antisemitism in British society in general or in the Labour party – not least because falsehoods such as the portrayal of Israel as a “settler colonialist project” and the claim that Israel is “besieging Gaza” were inadequately challenged.

Despite its own dismal record and the plethora of evidence illustrating that the BBC does not have the authority or the expertise – let alone the remit – to define antisemitism, it continues to insist on producing content purporting to inform its audiences on that issue.

Related Articles:

In which the BBC asks ‘is Zionism wrong?’

 

 

 

BBC criticised over debate programme participant

The evening of June 18th saw a televised debate titled ‘Our Next Prime Minister’ on BBC One.

“Emily Maitlis presents a debate between the candidates vying to succeed Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party.”

Among the members of the public selected to present questions to the five candidates was a man presented as “Abdullah Patel, Imam of a mosque” (which was identified by different BBC departments as being in both Gloucester and Bristol) who brought up the topic of Islamophobia.

Writing at the Spectator, journalist Stephen Daisley continues the story:

“Shortly after the programme concluded, someone tweeting under the name Abdullah Patel (@AbdullahPatel94) claimed on Twitter to be the imam from the programme. His Twitter bio describes him as an ‘imam, primary deputy head, teacher, youth worker [and] trainee counsellor’ with a degree in psychology and counselling. He offered a critique of each candidate’s answer to the question posed on-air […]

The BBC News website embedded his Twitter thread in a follow-up article, meaning the Corporation either knows @AbdullahPatel94 to be the same man featured in the debate or its journalists assumed this to be the case and republished his comments without checking.

It’s important to establish these facts because, if @AbdullahPatel94 is, as he claims and the BBC seems to believe, the Abdullah Patel from the debate, the Corporation has some serious questions to answer about how extensively it vetted him. Guido Fawkes tweeted, before heading to bed, that those interested should have a gander at @AbdullahPatel94’s tweets about Jews. I did and what I found wasn’t pretty. Many of the tweets have now been deleted, so what follows is the screen grab. It was there for anyone to read.”

As well as the offensive Tweets highlighted by Stephen Daisley (including some suggesting an equivalence between Auschwitz and the Gaza Strip), additional information not limited to social media appears in an article by David Toube at the Quilliam Journal.

Stephen Daisley closed his article:

“…if @AbdullahPatel94 is who he claims to be, there could scarcely be a less suitable person to question anyone about prejudice. If the man who interrogated the Tory leadership candidates is the author of these tweets, the BBC has catastrophically failed in its editorial duties by giving him air time. The Corporation will have to account for this grave lapse in broadcasting standards and work to rebuild trust with viewers as well as the Conservative party. They have let both down badly.”

BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast’s Nicky Campbell apologised for interviewing the same person the morning after the debate.

The BBC put out a statement:

BBC editor Rob Burley added:

However the Guido Fawkes website pointed out that a search showed that the BBC’s interviewee had been active on Twitter as recently as two days before the debate.

The BBC is claiming that an apparently very last-minute check did not turn up anything to preclude Mr Patel from taking part in the programme and one of the Tweets the BBC says it did not see was this one:

Readers may recall that in April 2016 the BBC was incapable of recognising that same image as antisemitic when it was found to have been promoted by a Labour MP and only described it as such after Naz Shah herself defined it in that term.

The question that therefore arises is even if the BBC had seen Mr Patel’s Tweets before the BBC One debate, would it have been capable of recognising their offensive nature? The BBC’s past record and the fact that the corporation does not work according to the accepted definition of antisemitism unfortunately makes that debatable.

Related Articles:

Another BBC antisemitism backgrounder promotes Livingstone Formulation

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 fails to give the full picture on new Labour MP

Following the announcement of the result of the Peterborough by-election on June 6th listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard comment on one aspect of that story on several programmes.

‘Today’, 7/6/19:

During an interview with Labour MP Andy McDonald, presenter John Humphrys asked (from 2:23:00 here):

“Quick word about antisemitism: are you entirely comfortable that your new MP had to apologise for approving a post on social media…”

Listeners were not told what it was about that post that made an apology necessary.

‘Six O’Clock News, 7/6/19:

[08:50 here] Newsreader: “The election of Lisa Forbes in Peterborough has not been universally welcomed inside the Labour party. A number of MPs have expressed misgivings and some in the party have already called for her suspension over allegations of antisemitism, which Miss Forbes strongly denies. Here’s our political correspondent Chris Mason.”

Mason: “….Miss Forbes had liked a Facebook post which said the prime minister had a Zionist slave masters agenda alongside a video of children praying after the New Zealand terror attack. Labour said she hadn’t read the text accompanying the video. Lisa Forbes said antisemitism was something she condemned completely. Last summer the new MP signed a letter calling on Labour’s National Executive Committee to resist calls to adopt all eleven examples accompanying the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism into the party’s code of conduct. The letter said this could silence free speech on Israel. Labour later did accept the full definition and say Lisa Forbes now accepts this too. […] Peterborough’s new MP has repeated that she believes antisemitism is abhorrent.”

‘The World Tonight’, 7/6/19:

[18:12 here] James Coomarasamy: “Well Labour’s new MP for Peterborough hasn’t enjoyed much of a honeymoon period. Lisa Forbes has been criticised by some of her new colleagues for liking social media posts with antisemitic content. She had for example given the thumbs up to one Facebook post which said that Theresa May had a – quote – Zionist slave masters agenda, alongside a video of children praying after the New Zealand terrorist attack. The Jewish Labour Movement has already called for the whip to be removed from her and that explains why Lisa Forbes’ interviews this morning sounded at times more like an apology talk than a victory lap. Here she is speaking on Sky News.”

Listeners heard Forbes claim in reference to that video that she “hadn’t paid much attention to the text above it”.

‘Today’, 8/6/19:

[09:00 here] Martha Kearney: “Labour’s relief at winning the Peterborough by-election may be tempered by the arguments over its new MP Lisa Forbes.”

Kearney then brought in BBC political reporter Peter Saull, saying “and this is all over a Facebook post”.

Saull: “Yeah, that’s right. So Lisa Forbes liked a Facebook post which said that the prime minister had a Zionist slave masters agenda and that line of text was alongside a video of children praying after the New Zealand terrorist attack and Labour said that she hadn’t actually read that text that was accompanying the video. That’s one thing. The second is that she signed a letter…you remember at the time Labour was going through a conversation about whether it should adopt the full international definition of antisemitism as set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. She signed this letter saying that the party shouldn’t adopt all eleven examples of antisemitism because it could silence free speech on Israel.”

So do those homogeneous portrayals of the controversy surrounding the new Labour MP for Peterborough tell the whole story?

The letter urging the party not to adopt all the examples accompanying the IHRA definition of antisemitism was circulated by the anti-Zionist fringe group ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ but BBC audiences were not given that relevant information. As the Jewish Chronicle reported:

“The letter appeared to call for the dismantling of the state of Israel, which is suggested was not “democratic” but an “apartheid state” and suggested instead a one state solution “in the form of a democratic state that grants equal rights to everyone lawfully residing within its borders.”

Ms Forbes backed the claim that: “Claiming that the State of Israel is a racist endeavour is not the same as denying Jewish people the right to self-determination.

“It is denying such self-determination at the cost of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people. It is denying self-determination in the form of an ethno-nationalist state.”

The letter added: “Our Palestinian members must be able to speak freely about the Nakba and about the current system of apartheid and ongoing ethnic cleansing just like our Jewish members must be able to speak freely about the Holocaust.”

It also expressed support for the Boycott Divestment, Sanctions movement, saying: “To endorse the BDS movement or to suggest that the State of Israel in its historic and current form is a racist endeavour are not expressions of antisemitism.””

Obviously the BBC’s domestic audiences were not given the full picture as to why Lisa Forbes’ signing of that letter caused controversy.

As for the social media post that the Labour party claims Forbes did not read, claiming that “Theresa May had a Zionist slave masters agenda” (or, if one arrives at the conclusion that its writer does not know how to use a possessive apostrophe, that Theresa May is controlled by ‘Zionist slave masters’) – here it is:

Forbes also commented on another post by the same Facebook user in which he claimed that the CIA and the Mossad created ISIS but that went unmentioned by the BBC.

Clearly domestic BBC audiences were not given the full range of information which would allow them to understand why some members of Lisa Forbes’ own party “have expressed misgivings” and some “have already called for her suspension over allegations of antisemitism”.

 

 

Another BBC antisemitism backgrounder promotes Livingstone Formulation

On the day that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced that it had launched a formal investigation into the UK Labour party in order to determine whether it has “unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish” the BBC News website published a backgrounder titled “A guide to Labour Party anti-Semitism claims” on its ‘UK Politics’ page.

“The internal Labour row over anti-Semitism has dragged on for nearly three years. Here’s a guide to what’s been going on.”

The opening section of that May 28th article, headed “What is anti-Semitism?”, quotes the Oxford English Dictionary rather than the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism adopted by the UK government, the Scottish and Welsh governments, 120 municipalities in the UK and the country’s three main political parties, among others.

“Anti-Semitism is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “hostility and prejudice directed against Jewish people”. […]

Modern-day anti-Semitism can take many forms, including, but not limited to, conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the global financial system and the media, to attacks on synagogues, verbal abuse or hate speech and abusive memes on social media.”

The first mention of the IHRA working definition comes (together with a link) in section eight of the article – headed “Definition Row” – thirty-six paragraphs later.

In section two of the article – “Why is Labour rowing about it?” – readers find euphemistic, and hence unhelpful, descriptions of two terrorist organisations.

“Jeremy Corbyn has a more internationalist outlook than recent Labour leaders – he comes from a left-wing tradition of campaigning against Western imperialism and aggression.

He is a longstanding member of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and has been accused by opponents of being too close to Hamas, a militant Islamist group, and Hezbollah, a Lebanese paramilitary group.”

Readers are told that:

“Some of Mr Corbyn’s supporters, however, say the problem has been exaggerated and is being used as a stick to beat the Labour leader by people who don’t like him or his brand of socialism.”

They are not told that such claims are baseless and the article goes on to imply that the issue of antisemitism is somehow linked to “the rights of Palestinians”.

“And some of those who joined the party to vote for Mr Corbyn as leader in 2015 share his passionate belief in the rights of Palestinians to their own state and are vocal critics of Israel.”

Section three of the article is headed “Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism”.

“Debates about claims of anti-Semitism in Labour often involve Israel and another term, anti-Zionism.”

The BBC fails to give a proper definition of Zionism and refrained from clarifying that negation of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination is antisemitism.

“Zionism refers to the movement to create a Jewish state in the Middle East, roughly corresponding to the historical land of Israel, and thus support for the modern state of Israel.”

Readers then saw the latest example of BBC promotion of the Livingstone Formulation.

“Some say “Zionist” can be used as a coded attack on Jewish people, while others say the Israeli government and its supporters are deliberately confusing anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism to avoid criticism.”

Immediately after that paragraph readers are provided with a link billed “Read more about the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism” which leads to a highly problematic and uncredited BBC backgrounder produced in late April 2016. As was noted here when that backgrounder was first published:

“…the article focuses on promoting the inaccurate and misleading notion that anti-Zionism is the same thing as expressing criticism of the policies and actions of the Israeli government. […] To make matters even worse, the article amplifies the ‘Zionism is racism’ canard and the ‘apartheid’ fabrication…”

That backgrounder also gives heavy promotion to the Livingstone Formulation, the purpose of which was described by the person who named it, David Hirsch, as follows:

“the use of the Livingstone Formulation is intended to make sure that the raising of the issue of anti-Semitism, when related to ‘criticism of Israel,’ remains or becomes a commonsense indicator of ‘Zionist’ bad faith and a faux pas in polite antiracist company.”

Lesley Klaff describes it as:

“…the practice of responding to claims of contemporary antisemitism by alleging that those making the claim are only doing so to prevent Israel from being criticised; in other words, they are ‘playing the antisemitism card.’” 

The BBC has been promoting that device for over three years – for example:

Mainstreaming the Livingstone Formulation on BBC Radio 4

BBC promotes the Livingstone formulation – again

More promotion of the Livingstone Formulation from BBC News

BBC News ‘explanation’ of antisemitism promotes the Livingstone Formulation

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part two

BBC R4 report on antisemitism in the US uses the Livingstone Formulation

Over the years we have documented here the BBC’s pretty gloomy record on preventing, identifying – and correcting – antisemitic discourse in its own content. One reason for that is that the BBC itself does not work according to an accepted definition of antisemitism. But despite its dismal record and the plethora of evidence illustrating that the BBC does not have the authority or the expertise – let alone the remit – to define antisemitism, it continues to produce unattributed backgrounders purporting to inform its audiences on that issue.

The recurring unquestioning amplification of the Livingstone Formulation – a device used exclusively by anti-Israel activists – in those backgrounders and in other BBC content obviously raises serious concerns about the BBC’s ability – and willingness – to inform audiences on this issue accurately and impartially.

Related Articles:

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

BBC article on antisemitism report recycles problematic backgrounder

 

 

 

 

BBC Watch prompts removal of Nazi analogy from BBC Arabic website

As documented here last week, on May 15th the BBC Arabic website published an article about a demonstration which had taken place a few days earlier in London.

“In a sub section titled “British sympathisers” readers were told that “[t]he British capital London witnessed a mass demonstration last Saturday to commemorate the anniversary and highlight the suffering of Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip”. No information was given concerning the organisers of that demonstration or the fact that its speakers included a Hamas-linked professional activist.

Readers were then told that an unnamed member of staff from BBC Trending […] had met some of the demonstration’s participants in order to understand why they “give up on a day of relaxation and good times with the family to engage in political action…”.”

Five participants were interviewed and their context-free and often inaccurate claims and statements were uncritically amplified by the BBC – including an antisemitic Nazi analogy from an interviewee named as ‘Jay’.

“I was very sympathetic to the victims of the Holocaust and I visited the Jerusalem Museum [sic] to know more about them, however the fact that the Israelis commit violent acts that bear the same level of atrocity against the Palestinians is beyond my comprehension” [translation CAMERA Arabic, emphasis added]

The IHRA working definition of antisemitism includes:

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint on that issue and the reply we received includes the following:

“Thank you for getting in touch and your complaint in which you claim that we ‘promoted anti-Semitism’ in an article published by the BBC Arabic service.

I forwarded your email to the editors of the Arabic service…

In reply – we try, as much as possible, to cover all different angles of Arab-Israeli conflict which simultaneously doesn’t necessarily mean that angles have to be crammed into every story. At the beginning of the article in question we did mention how the two sides view and celebrate/mourn this day. This story focused on one angle due to the nature of the event, the interviewees taking part in the event and the related trend on Arabic social media. In short – our view is that any objective assessment of the coverage of Arab-Israeli conflict on the Arabic site should be based on the entirety of the coverage across different medium: TV, Online & Radio, and not judged by one single article.    

Turning specifically to the allegation of ‘promoting antisemitism’, the accurate of the quote in question is: “I was, and still, very sympathetic to the victims of the Holocaust and I have visited Herzl Museum in Jerusalem to know more about them, but now I fail to comprehend the fact that Israelis are practicing violent acts on the same level of atrocity to the Palestinians”.

We don’t accept the complaint that it ‘promotes antisemitism.’ Our aim is to reflect the world as we find it and this quote was the strongly held view of the contributor, which we reported accurately. However, we have removed the quote as it does, in our view represent, an overblown comparison on the part of contributor. [emphasis added]

I hope the above clarifies the matter.”

The quote was indeed removed from the article on May 29th – two weeks after its initial publication – but with nothing added to inform readers of that fact.

Once again we see that, in addition to ignoring recommendations concerning the spelling of the word, the BBC apparently believes itself to have both the authority and the expertise to make pronunciations on what is – or is not – antisemitism. 

We have in the past noted here the need for the BBC to work according to a recognised definition of antisemitism – such as that published by the IHRA over three years ago – in order to prevent the appearance of antisemitic discourse in its own content as well as on its comments boards and social media chatrooms.

And sadly, that need is still embarrassingly obvious.

Related Articles:

BBC Arabic website promotes antisemitic Holocaust analogy

IHRA adopts working definition of antisemitism: when will the BBC?