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”.

 

 

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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.

Related Articles:

BBC reporting on Labour antisemitism again falls short

 

 

 

 

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. 

Related Articles:

BBC reporting on Labour antisemitism again falls short

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

BBC R4 ‘Today’ listeners hear an esoteric item on antisemitism

 

 

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…”.

 

 

 

 

 

BBC report on antisemitism in France marred by its own record

On February 21st a report titled “Macron announces crackdown on anti-Semitism in France” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ page. Readers were told that:

“French President Emmanuel Macron has announced new measures to tackle anti-Semitism, following a spate of attacks.

He told Jewish leaders that France would recognise anti-Zionism – the denial of Israel’s right to exist – as a form of anti-Semitism. […]

Mr Macron added: “Anti-Zionism is one of the modern forms of anti-Semitism. This is why I’m confirming that France will put forward the definition of anti-Semitism as drawn by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.””

Readers may recall that this is not the first time that Mr Macron has addressed the issue of anti-Zionism: he previously did so in July 2017.

““We will never surrender to the messages of hate; we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism,” Macron said an event in Paris marking the mass deportation of French Jews during World War II.”

As documented here, the BBC chose to sideline that statement at the time and subsequently failed to report a similar one made by the UN Secretary General. Two days after Mr Macron’s 2017 statement, BBC Radio Ulster held a phone-in presented as follows:

“We debate the very controversial claim by the French president that anti-Zionism is simply another form of anti-Semitism” [emphasis added]

Now that the BBC has got round to accurately reporting Mr Macron’s position on anti-Zionism it is worth taking a look at what its audiences have been told about that subject to date.

Although the BBC does not work according to the IHRA definition of antisemitism (which was adopted by the British government in 2016), in April 2016 it nevertheless considered itself sufficiently qualified to produce a backgrounder titled “What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?“.

As was noted here at the time, that article promoted the Livingstone Formulation, failed to inform readers what anti-Zionism actually means and focused 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, even while advancing the ‘Zionism is racism’ canard.

“The UK Labour Party has been at the centre of a row over anti-Semitism, including its relationship to anti-Zionism. What do these terms actually mean?

Anti-Semitism is “hostility and prejudice directed against Jewish people” (OED).

Zionism refers to the movement to create a Jewish state in the Middle East, corresponding to the historic land of Israel – anti-Zionism opposes that.

But some say “Zionist” can be used as a coded attack on Jews, while others say the Israeli government and its supporters are deliberately confusing anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism to avoid criticism.” [emphasis added]

And:

“Some anti-Zionists say Zionism itself is a racist ideology, because of how, in their view, the Palestinian people have been treated by the Israeli state.”

Since publishing that unsatisfactory and unhelpful backgrounder, the BBC has continued to amplify those themes.

Given the BBC’s record on reporting the issue of anti-Zionism, its audiences obviously lack the background knowledge necessary for proper understanding of the French president’s statement reported in this article.

That state of affairs will continue as long as the BBC continues to ignore the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism which long since answered the question of whether anti-Zionism – i.e. the denial of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination – is an expression of antisemitism.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio Ulster promotes ‘Zionism is racism’ and the ‘apartheid’ smear

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

BBC again ignores the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism

More promotion of the Livingstone Formulation from BBC News

BBC ‘Hardtalk’ interview highlights presenter’s Israel fixation

h/t RH, DK

A recent edition of the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk’ was presented to viewers of the BBC World News channel and the BBC News channel on January 10th as follows:

“HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Pinchas Goldschmidt, Chief Rabbi of Moscow and president of the Conference of European Rabbis. There is plenty of disturbing data pointing to a significant rise in overt anti-Semitism in Europe and the United States but why? How should the Jewish community respond? And how much reassurance and protection is being offered to Jews whose past has so often been written in blood? Is rising anti-Semitism a symptom of a liberal democratic order that is starting to crumble?”

A similar synopsis was presented in an audio version of the programme aired on BBC World Service radio on January 11th.

While the first part of the programme largely stuck to some of the subject matter presented in that synopsis, from around the middle of the interview presenter Stephen Sackur shifted the focus of the discussion, beginning by questioning whether opposition to the existence of the Jewish state is antisemitism. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

[14:07] Sackur: “Interesting you put it in the historical context throughout this interview. I felt from you a consciousness not just of the present but of the past in Europe and what has happened to Jews in the past. And it’s interesting that the former Chief Rabbi in Britain, Jonathan Sacks, he said, you know, ‘in the Middle Ages Jews were persecuted because of their religion, in the 19th and 20th centuries they were reviled because of their race and today in the 21st century Jews are attacked because of the existence of their nation-state, Israel’. Do you feel that Israel has now become front and centre in ways in which people who have antisemitic intent are now using the Israel issue to get at the Jewish people?”

Pointing out that not everyone who criticises Israel is an antisemite, Rabbi Goldschmidt went on:

Goldschmidt: “However, if you go and you delegitimise Israel […] and you say that every people in the world have a right to a nation-state besides the Jews, so that’s also another form of politically correct antisemitism which…”

Sackur [interrupts] “Is it? It’s anti-Israel and its government and its policies in occupied territory but is it antisemitism?

Sackur – who is apparently embarrassingly unaware that the IHRA working definition of antisemitism adopted by his own government categorises “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” as a form of antisemitism – next moved on to the topic of the leader of the British Labour party.

[15:44] Sackur: “When you observe in Britain the fall-out between the Jewish community and the leader of the main opposition party in the United Kingdom – Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party – with clear overt allegations from the Jewish establishment that Jeremy Corbyn has aided and abetted antisemitism, do you worry about the degree to which there is now this gulf between one of the main political parties and the Jewish community in Britain?”

When Rabbi Goldschmidt stated that the meaning of security for Jews is that they would fare equally well regardless of which political party was elected Sackur interjected:

[16:51] Sackur: “Well only if you’re suggesting to me that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party is an existential threat to the future of the Jewish community in Britain. Are you seriously saying that?”

Goldschmidt: “I think that the British Jewish community is the best to answer that. However I’ve seen the turbulence….”

Sackur [interrupts] “Let us remember that despite all of the allegations about Jeremy Corbyn and his actions in the past and his words in the past, Jeremy Corbyn insists that throughout his political career he has been a fighter against, an enemy of all forms of racism including, he always says, antisemitism.”

The remainder of the programme saw Sackur focus somewhat obsessively on one political figure who is of course unconnected to the supposed topic of the programme, beginning with employment of the ‘some people I’m not going to name say’ tactic.

[17:54] Sackur: “You see some observers of this debate and this argument and this rift that has developed see a fundamental hypocrisy amongst many Jewish people because while they castigate Jeremy Corbyn for some of his associations in the past, they look across the water to Israel, to the leader of Israel prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu who just recently hosted for five days of warmth and friendship prime minister Viktor Orban of Hungary who has long associations with far right elements including antisemitic elements in Hungary. Also they see Binyamin Netanyahu making a point of journeying all the way to Brazil to declare his friendship, alliance and partnership with the new president of Brazil, Mr Bolsonaro, who has a record – a long record – of making statements which are deeply troubling in terms of his attitude to minorities, to gay people, to women. Where’s the consistency here?”

The Hungarian prime minister’s July 2018 visit to Israel in fact lasted two days rather than five as inaccurately claimed by Sackur, who predictably had nothing to say about the representatives of 59 additional counties who attended the recent inauguration of Brazil’s new president.

When Rabbi Goldschmidt pointed out that British Jews do not vote for the prime minister of Israel Sackur interrupted him again:

Sackur: “But nobody’s accusing Binyamin Netanyahu of antisemitism because he develops a very warm friendship with Viktor Orban, who many Jews regard as deeply dangerous to the future of Jewish communities in Europe.”

Sackur did not provide any evidence for his claim of “a very warm friendship” between the prime ministers of Israel and Hungary and did not clarify whether or not he believes that, by the same standard, the British prime minister should be criticised for hosting the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince last year.

Interrupting his guest yet again, Sackur pursued his point:

[20:04] Sackur: “…let me ask you a very blunt question. What do you – as the chief of the Conference of European Rabbis – what do you think of Binyamin Netanyahu cosying up to Viktor Orban and the leadership in Poland, both of which have very troubling attitudes to many Jews in Europe?”

Goldschmidt: “I think that…”

Sackur [interrupts] “Just tell me what you think.”

Sackur then posed his fourth question relating to Israel’s prime minister.

[20:55] Sackur: “Just a final thought and it involves your personal life as well. You’ve made a life for the last 3 decades in Russia and actually the position for Jews in Russia appears on the face of it to have improved over the last 30 years. I dare say you’ve been involved in that. Binyamin Netanyahu – again quoting him – when there are serious, horrible terror attacks which involve Jewish people being killed in Europe, he always says to the Jews of – in this case I’m quoting France but the Jews of Europe – he says ‘listen, Israel isn’t just the place in whose direction you pray; the State of Israel is your home and Israel is waiting for you with open arms’. As a European Jew who’s made a life in Russia, do you think it is wise and helpful for the Israeli prime minister to constantly tell Jews that ultimately, by implication, the only safe place for Jews is in Israel?”

Failing to listen to Rabbi Goldschmidt’s answer – which included clarification of the importance of the existence of Israel “to all Jews” – Sackur interrupted him again.

Sackur: “I’m not sure you’re answering my specific point. Is it your perspective that Israel is ultimately the only safe place – truly safe place – for the Jewish people?”

This programme could have provided BBC audiences – both domestic and international – with some insight into the issue of antisemitism in Europe and how the Jewish minority living on the continent perceives its future.

Unfortunately, Stephen Sackur’s often aggressive focus on getting his own points across – including promotion of the notion that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism, defending Jeremy Corbyn, downplaying the fears of British Jews and his bizarre but long-held obsession with the current Israeli prime minister – meant that viewers and listeners lost a good deal of the opportunity to hear from one of the better informed voices on those issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A problematic BBC Radio Manchester item on antisemitism

On September 16th members of the British Jewish community held a rally against antisemitism in Manchester and a few hours before the event one of its organisers – Raphi Bloom of North West Friends of Israel – gave an interview to the local radio station BBC Radio Manchester.

Mr Bloom’s interview took place on a show called ‘Mike Shaft’ after its presenter and it can be heard from 02:08:57 here.

Mike Shaft began by asking his guest “why is this taking place?”. After Mr Bloom had cited the absence of any improvement since the demonstration he described as being “specifically about the antisemitism that was engulfing Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party” that was held in London in March ,noting that the crisis has only grown since then, Shaft responded: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

[2:10:45] Shaft: “You can’t believe that the only antisemitism in this country is in the Labour Party.”

As Mr Bloom mentioned the support for Corbyn on social media from people on the far Right such as David Duke and Nick Griffin, Shaft interrupted:

[2:11:34]Shaft: “But you’re never talking about the Right.”

Following Mr Bloom’s response he went on:

[2:12:07] Shaft: “Mr Corbyn has apologised for hurt caused by antisemitism in the party and pledged to stamp it out. He’s stressed that people who hold antisemitic views have no place in the Labour Party. He said people who use antisemitic poison are not his supporters nor do they speak for him or the party. Why can you not accept that?”

Mr Bloom pointed out that those words have not been followed by actions, citing the lack of action in various cases including the recent remarks made by a Trade Union leader.

[2:14:03] Shaft: “Well there was an action in this past week where the Labour Party accepted the…the…the definition of antisemitism. But let me ask you…”

Bloom: “No it didn’t. It accepted it with a caveat – with a big caveat.”

Shaft: “It accepted it. Let’s leave it there because I want to move on. Let me ask you this: does criticism of Israel mean that you’re antisemitic?”

After Mr Bloom had clarified that the IHRA definition of antisemitism does not preclude criticism of Israel, the obviously very badly prepared Shaft went on:

[2:15:03] Shaft: “Let me ask you a question please because I couldn’t get my head round it. What was the decision taken recently by the Israeli government regarding people who weren’t born there?”

Mr Bloom pointed out that “we’re coming in here to talk about antisemitism against the British community but you’re asking me about the actions of the government of Israel” to which Shaft replied “yes I am”.

Mr Bloom then explained to Sharp that his question taps into the antisemitic dual loyalty trope that is described in the IHRA definition as “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel” but the BBC presenter persisted.

[2:15:43] Shaft: “If you could answer my question please it would help. We’re running out of time I’m warning you.”

Bloom: “But I want to make it very clear – I’m organising a rally today against antisemitism in the UK. What does that have to do with the actions of the Israeli government? Why are you asking me about the actions of the Israeli government?”

Shaft then employed the Livingstone Formulation.

[2:16:00] Shaft: “Because…I can tell you exactly why; because if people speak out against that, they’re described as being antisemitic. So explain to me please – and this is for a matter of fact – ‘cos I said, I don’t know exactly what the decision was. Can you tell me what the decision was?”

Incredibly – even after having received an explanation as to why holding Jews responsible for the actions of Israel is antisemitic – Shaft later again pursued that line of questioning.

[2:17:17] Shaft: “Let me ask you this: are you as a Jewish person happy with the treatment of the Palestinians?”

Bloom: “Again, I have to pull you up on this. I’m sorry to do this.”

Shaft: “You can pull me up all you want. I’d like you to answer the question.”

Bloom: “I’m here to talk about rising antisemitism in the UK. I’m here to talk about…”

Shaft [interrupts] “But it comes as a result of stuff that Israel is doing.”

After Raphi Bloom had explained that “if people attack Jews in this country because of the actions of the Israeli government it is antisemitic”, that British Jews  have no influence over Israeli government policies and that to hold them to account for Israel’s policies and actions is antisemitism, Shaft went on:

[2:19:21] Shaft: “Well I’ve already mentioned what Jeremy Corbyn has said, apologised.”

Shaft closed the interview with a statement that cannot possibly be considered to meet BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality:

[2:20:34] Shaft: “We’re out of time and you’ve mentioned…you’ve mentioned a lot of names and I don’t know what these people have said. I do know some other people are using this as a stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with and it’s never going to be resolved, we’ll wait and see.”

So here we have a BBC presenter who was so badly prepared for an interview that he had to ask his interviewee to explain a topic that he could not even present accurately to listeners, who found it appropriate to promote Labour Party messaging, claiming that the topic of the interview – antisemitism – is used “as a stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with” and used to silence criticism of Israel. On top of that – despite having had the significance clarified to him on air – the BBC presenter repeatedly pressed his British Jewish interviewee to ‘explain’ Israeli government policy and actions in an obviously extremely problematic line of questioning.

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