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.

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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.

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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?

 

 

BBC 2 ‘Newsnight’ fails to challenge misinformation on antisemitism

The news that the Equality and Human Right Commission (EHRC) had opened an investigation into the UK Labour Party in order to determine whether it “has unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish” prompted the BBC Two flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newsnight’ to air a related report on May 28th.

The report included an interview with Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh and former Labour MP Clare Short by presenter Emma Barnett.

Much of Clare Short’s contribution focused on promoting one specific false claim which, given her record of anti-Israel activism and her previous statements concerning the Labour party antisemitism scandal, could hardly have come as a surprise to those who solicited her participation.

“…what’s happened is there’s been a widening of the definition of antisemitism to include criticism of Israel. The anyone who’s sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians is called antisemitic. That’s what’s happened.”

“…but what I’ve said about this whole dilemma is true. They’ve broadened the definition to say criticism of Israel, which is in breach of international law, is part of antisemitism. And then people who are active on that issue are being picked on.”

“I am saying that criticism of Israel’s breaches of international law is not antisemitism.”

“…but if the definition has been stretched to include criticism of Israel…”

“Do you think the definition of antisemitism should include criticism of Israel?”

“…everybody should make this distinction: antisemitism is evil. Extending the definition to prevent people having any sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinians is a misuse of that allegation.”

Although Siobhain McDonagh did protest Short’s claims on two occasions – “That isn’t what’s happened” – at no point during the item were viewers informed that Short’s Livingstone Formulation allegation is patently false or that the opening paragraph of the relevant IHRA working definition of antisemitism specifically states:

“Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” [emphasis added]

Moreover, ‘Newsnight’ further promoted Short’s misinformation on Twitter.

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding…so that all audiences can engage fully with major local, regional, national, United Kingdom and global issues and participate in the democratic process, at all levels, as active and informed citizens.”

 

BBC replies late to complaint on failure to reference definition of antisemitism

Back in February of this year the BBC News website covered a story concerning the UK Labour party. As was noted here at the time:

“A report […] published on the BBC News website’s UK Politics page on February 20th – “Derek Hatton suspended by Labour days after being readmitted” – […] failed to explain to readers why the Tweet is problematic and likewise gave the misleading impression that the issue is “comments…about Israel” rather than antisemitism.”

In addition we noted that:

“The same report closed with what was apparently intended to be background information:

“Mr Hatton posted the 2012 message during “Operation Pillar of Defence” a week-long offensive by the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza.

According to a UNHCR report, 174 Palestinians were killed during the operation, and hundreds were injured.

At the time, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said “of course Israel has the right to self-defence and attacks against Israel must end, but the international community would also expect Israel to show restraint”.”

Notably readers saw no mention of the highly relevant context of the months of terror attacks which preceded that “week-long offensive”. Equally remarkable is the BBC’s portrayal of casualties in that conflict as exclusively Palestinian (despite the fact that six Israelis – two soldiers and four civilians – were also killed) and its failure to clarify that 60% of the Palestinians killed were operatives of terror groups.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint relating to those two issues. Following initial acknowledgement of the complaint, we received a communication on March 7th informing us that “it may take a little longer before we can reply”. On March 26th we received another e-mail stating:

“We are contacting you to apologise that we’ve not been able to reply to your complaint within the time period we aim for. We manage this for most complaints but regret it’s not always possible to achieve.”

On May 3rd we received a response from the BBC News website. With regard to the points we raised concerning the article’s inaccurate claim that the issue was “comments…about Israel” and the need for the BBC to explain to audiences why the statement in Hatton’s Tweet is antisemitic according to the accepted definition, the reply states:

“Thank you for getting in touch about our article reporting that Derek Hatton has been suspended by the Labour Party less than 48 hours after he was admitted back into the party (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-47312006) and please accept our apologies for the long and regrettable delay in writing back to you.

The article does refer to “…comments the ex-Militant man made about Israel” and in the next line quotes a tweet from 2012, which readers can judge for themselves. [emphasis added]

We also point out that his application to rejoin Labour “drew fierce criticism from many leading figures in the party, coming on the same day as seven MPs quit the party in protest at what they said was a culture of anti-Semitism in the party”.”

Our point was of course precisely that the vast majority of readers cannot in fact “judge for themselves” if the BBC does not reference the accepted definition of antisemitism.

With regard to the point raised concerning the absence of relevant context, the reply stated:

“As regards your second point, the article doesn’t refer to Israeli casualties but as it’s about Derek Hatton’s social media comments about an IDF offensive, we don’t see that this was an essential inclusion for balance.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s comments were also included for context.”

Yes, it really did take the BBC over two months to come up with that reply.

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BBC R4 presenter floats ranking racism

Last month we documented one of many examples of BBC reporting on antisemitism in which an antisemitic statement was inaccurately and misleadingly described as “comments about Israel” and insufficient effort was made to explain why the statement was considered antisemitic. We observed at the time that:

“…as long as the BBC continues to report such stories while avoiding referencing the accepted definition of antisemitism, it cannot give its audiences an accurate and informative account of events.”

On March 12th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme witnessed another such example in the introduction to an item relating to US politics (from 2:51:23 here) by presenter Justin Webb. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Webb: “President Trump limps from crisis to crisis but his opponents, the Democrats, seem themselves to be in a mess. They won control of the House of Representatives last autumn and they sent some very high-profile new faces to Washington, among them the Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Well it hasn’t turned out though to be such plain sailing for her or the others. She is now accused of being antisemitic after she suggested that Jewish Americans have an allegiance to Israel.”

Leaving aside the fact that criticism of the comments made by Ilhan Omar in late February has focused on the antisemitic nature of the dual loyalty charge found in her statements rather than on the congresswoman herself and so Webb’s claim that “she is now accused of being antisemitic” does not reflect that criticism, no effort was made to explain to listeners that the claim that “Jewish Americans have an allegiance to Israel” – or as Omar actually put it “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country” – is categorised as a manifestation of antisemitism according to the IHRA working definition:

“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.”

Without that essential information, listeners would obviously not be in a position to understand this story fully. Webb continued:

Webb: “And that has prompted some very deep soul-searching as the party works out how it’s going to get rid of President Trump in the presidential elections. I’ve been hearing from the Democratic supporting polling expert John Zogby.”

After Zogby had spoken about “the demographic battle within the party between an old guard versus a new group of Young Turks that represent really millennials and Generation Z”, Justin Webb came up with the following bizarre question.

Webb: “The party’s having a big row about antisemitism and it’s fair to say to the surprise, I think, of some Democrats who really thought it wasn’t going to be the issue that it is. If…if the party decided to say to its supporters ‘look, we think that antisemitism is a bit like the way some of our people might regard anti-white racism; that actually it’s a different order of racism, it’s not as important, it’s still bad but it’s not as important as some other forms of racism’, what impact do you think that would have?”

We have been unable to find any evidence of such a suggestion having been put forward by the Democratic party (and indeed Zogby’s response was “you won’t see it happen”) so why Webb found it appropriate to float the grotesque notion of more important and less important types of racism is unclear.

Unsurprisingly, Webb failed to challenge Zogby when he came up with the inadequately explained claim that some people within the Democratic party are confusing antisemitism with “opposition to Israeli policies”.

Zogby: “By the same token to confuse antisemitism with Israeli policies and opposition to Israeli policies is a very difficult road to go down and by some establishment figures within the Democratic party, we saw how dangerous that gets. And that is one of the key points within this demographic revolution. Younger people let’s just say don’t have the automatic admiration for Israel. They know a post-intifada Israel and they know Israel as a foreign country.”

Webb went on to ask Zogby what would happen “if the Democratic party moved in the direction of being much more critical of Israel than it has been in the past, never mind the antisemitism issue”. Zogby replied that while some Jewish voters “would move away”, the numbers could be “more than made up…by energising millennials and energising non-whites”.

After a final question concerning the presidential election, Webb closed the item.

Following the broadcast the Jewish Chronicle contacted the BBC for comment and was told that “Justin is the first to admit he should have phrased his question better”. Apparently a BBC representative also said that “Mr Webb accepted the question needed to be better phrased because “the audience will not have been as familiar with the state of American politics as he and John Zogby are””. 

For years we have watched the BBC fail to provide the accurate and impartial reporting which would help its audiences understand antisemitism related stories in the UK. As we see, that serial failure is now being replicated in stories relating to US politics – not least because the BBC still does not work according to the accepted definition of antisemitism and because BBC staff too often appear to have forgotten that it is their job to inform audiences rather than subject them to esoteric insider chats that show off their own ‘familiarity’ with a topic. 

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BBC reporting on Labour antisemitism again falls short

BBC Radio 4’s February 21st ‘Midnight News’ included (from 00:28 and then from 11:33 here) an item on a story concerning the UK Labour party.

Newsreader: “Labour has suspended Derek Hatton only days after he was allowed back into the party. Tweets about Israel are understood to be the reason for the decision.” [emphasis added]

Newsreader: “Labour has suspended the former leader [sic] of Liverpool City Council, Derek Hatton, just two days after he was provisionally readmitted to the party. The outspoken Left-winger was expelled more than 30 years ago because of involvement with a far-Left group.”

The story was ‘explained’ by the BBC’s political correspondent Jonathan Blake as follows:

Blake: “Derek Hatton’s suspension is thought to relate to a Tweet posted in 2012 which one Labour MP said implied that every Jew was responsible for the actions of the Israeli government.”

Not only did listeners not hear what Hatton’s Tweet said but they were not told that according to the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel” is a manifestation of antisemitism.

A report on the same story published on the BBC News website’s UK Politics page on February 20th – “Derek Hatton suspended by Labour days after being readmitted” – similarly failed to explain to readers why the Tweet is problematic and likewise gave the misleading impression that the issue is “comments…about Israel” rather than antisemitism.

“The ex-deputy leader of Liverpool council’s membership was provisionally approved on Monday, more than 30 years after he was expelled from the party.

But senior Labour figures have since complained about the move and comments the ex-Militant man made about Israel.

In a tweet in 2012, he urged “Jewish people with any sense of humanity” to condemn Israel’s “ruthless murdering”.” [emphasis added]

Obviously as long as the BBC continues to report such stories while avoiding referencing the accepted definition of antisemitism, it cannot give its audiences an accurate and informative account of events.

The same report closed with what was apparently intended to be background information:

“Mr Hatton posted the 2012 message during “Operation Pillar of Defence” a week-long offensive by the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza.

According to a UNHCR report, 174 Palestinians were killed during the operation, and hundreds were injured.

At the time, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said “of course Israel has the right to self-defence and attacks against Israel must end, but the international community would also expect Israel to show restraint”.”

Notably readers saw no mention of the highly relevant context of the months of terror attacks which preceded that “week-long offensive”. Equally remarkable is the BBC’s portrayal of casualties in that conflict as exclusively Palestinian (despite the fact that six Israelis – two soldiers and four civilians – were also killed) and its failure to clarify that 60% of the Palestinians killed were operatives of terror groups.

Once again we see that BBC reporting on the issue of antisemitism in the UK Labour party falls short of providing its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK…”.