Weekend long read

1) Ahead of Al Quds Day, the Henry Jackson Society has published a report on the ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’ by Emma Fox.

“The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is a London-based advocacy group established in 1997, inspired by the worldview of Ayatollah Khomeini and the revolutionary, theocratic societal aims he established in the Islamic Republic of Iran. IHRC has gained prominence in recent years for its pro-Hezbollah Al Quds Day parades, its controversial ‘Islamophobia Awards’ and the anti-Semitic rhetoric espoused by the group’s senior figures. However, less attention has been given to IHRC’s wider extremist links and terrorist sympathies. There is also a lack of understanding as to how extremist groups can exploit the charitable sector; obtain public funds; acquire status via academic associates; attain international recognition; and influence governments.”

2) At the ITIC, Dr Raz Zimmt reports on this year’s Al Quds Day theme.

“The “International Quds [Jerusalem] Day,” is held each year since 1979 on the last Friday in the month of Ramadan, following a ruling of the leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ruhollah Khomeini. The event is intended to express the support for the Palestinian cause by Iran and the Muslim world and the “liberation of Palestine,” as well as to besmirch Israel, call of its eradication and defy the United States, the West and their Arab regional allies. […]

Iran, which is facing increasing pressured from the United States, wishes to turn “International Quds Day”, set to take place this Friday, May 31, 2019, to a show of opposition to the peace plan of President Trump, known as the “deal of the century.” On the eve of Quds Day, Ramazan Sharif, the Spokesman of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), declared that the slogan used for Quds Day rallies this year will be “the defeat of the Deal of the Century and stabilization of the Palestinian Question.” He lambasted the “deal of the century” and warned that its purpose is to eliminate Palestine.”

3) The ITIC also documents the “Strong Palestinian Authority rejection of the upcoming American economic workshop in Bahrain”.

“The United States and Bahrain recently announced an economic workshop in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, on June 25 and 26, 2019. The “Peace to Prosperity” meeting will constitute the overture of the American program for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, known as the “deal of the century.” Expected attendees are treasury ministers and businessmen from the Middle East and around the globe. The objective of the workshop is to encourage potential investment in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip that would lead to Palestinian and regional prosperity, which could be made possible by a peace agreement. Later, the Americans are planning to release the political aspects of the “deal of the century,” which will concern the unresolved core issues between Israel and the Palestinians.

Senior Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah figures rushed to announce their unreserved rejection of the economic workshop in Bahrain, despite the severe economic difficulties facing the PA.”

4) Robert Bernstein – the founder of one of the BBC’s most quoted and promoted NGOs, Human Rights Watchpassed away this week at the age of 96. In 2010 he gave a speech on Human Rights in the Middle East.

“During my twenty years at Human Rights Watch, I had spent little time on Israel. It was an open society. It had 80 human rights organizations like B’Tselem, ACRI, Adalah, and Sikkuy. It had more newspaper reporters in Jerusalem than any city in the world except New York and London. Hence, I tried to get the organization to work on getting some of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly free speech, into closed societies – among them, the 22 Arab states surrounding Israel. The faults of democratic countries were much less of a priority not because there were no faults, obviously, but because they had so many indigenous human rights groups and other organizations openly criticizing them. […]

A Human Rights Watch Board member told The New Republic that they go after Israel because it is like “low-hanging fruit.” By that, I think he means that they have a lot of information fed to them by Israel’s own human rights organizations and the press, that they have easy access to Israel to hold their press conferences, and that the press is eager to accept their reports. The organization, most would agree, was founded to go after what I guess you would call “high-hanging fruit” – that is, closed societies, where it is hard to get in. Nations that will not allow you to hold press conferences in their country. Nations where there are no other human rights organizations to give you the information.”

BBC Two’s ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ breaches impartiality guidelines with ‘specialist’ academic

The August 3rd edition of the BBC Two television programme ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ included an item concerning what presenter Reeta Chakrabarti euphemistically described as “the problems in the Labour Party”.

Although The BBC has been covering that topic with varying degrees of accuracy and impartiality for well over two years, it was presented to viewers as something that has recently come to light. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Chakrabarti: “It’s been widely assumed that all forms of racism exist within the far right of politics but it’s now being suggested that the Left has issues with antisemitism too. Where has that come from?”

In her second question to guest journalist Jonathan Sacerdoti, Chakrabarti said:

Chakrabarti: “Well I wonder if we can broaden this out a little bit from the Labour party to the sort of ideas of antisemitism – quite where they come from – because there’s often quite a conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism, isn’t there? Can you explain just quite simply what the difference is?”

As Sacerdoti spoke about Jewish self-determination in Israel, viewers were shown a very interesting selection of images, none of which reflected the content of his reply.

Chakrabarti then brought in another guest – Katy Sian – previously identified as “a sociology lecturer at York University specialising in racism”.

According to York University Ms Sian’s field of interest does not include antisemitism.

“The main thrust of her scholarship is focused on critical race theory and the performance of postcolonial subjectivity among ethnically marked communities stranded in metropolitan archipelagos. The initial iteration of her research can be seen in her first monograph, Unsettling Sikh and Muslim Conflict: Mistaken Identities, Forced Conversions, and Postcolonial Formations. This book has generated much debate with its pioneering mapping of Sikh-Muslim antagonism as it circulates throughout Britain. Katy is expanding this research by investigating Sikh-Muslim conflict in the USA and Canada where little work exists.” 

Chakrabarti went on:

Chakrabarti: “[…] You study racism; that’s your…part of your profession. How big an issue do you think that antisemitism is within the whole spectrum of hate politics across the UK?”

Viewers heard that antisemitism “isn’t as bad as has been made out”, that it is “remarkable” that other forms of racism are not being discussed in the same way and that Katy Sian does not “think it’s right to just exceptionalise one form of racism over another”.

Chakrabarti then asked:

Chakrabarti: “…I wonder then why you think antisemitism gets so much air-time?”

Clearly one answer to that question would be that Labour Party members are not promoting Romaphobia, Islamophobia or anti-Black racism on social media or in local council meetings but the ‘expert’ answer viewers heard was as follows:

Sian: “I think it gets so much air-time because of Corbyn and his historic kind of…ehm…support for Palestinian rights. So it’s part of a much wider political project which is to essentially silence any critique of the Israeli state expansion.”

Leaving aside the question of what those three last words are supposed to mean (seeing as Israel has only withdrawn from territory throughout the last fifty years), it would of course have been appropriate – according to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality which stipulate the “need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint” –  for viewers to have been informed that Katy Sian stood on behalf of the Labour Party in a district of Leeds during local council elections in 2011. 

Moreover, seeing as the programme’s producer arranged her appearance via Twitter, one presumes that he was aware of the fact that Sian’s feed shows that she has not changed her political affiliations since then and that she regularly Tweets anti-Israel material.

At that point in the show, Chakrabarti read a statement from the Labour Party before bringing guest Geoffrey Alderman to speak about the historic aspect of antisemitism in the UK. When Professor Alderman said that he thought it “outrageous” to suggest that those objecting to antisemitism in the Labour Party were doing so because they wanted to “get rid” of Jeremy Corbyn or “to do down the Labour Party”, she jumped in:

Chakrabarti: “Well I wanted to ask if it also has something to do with the actions of the Israeli government.”

Less than a minute later she asked Jonathan Sacerdoti:

Chakrabarti: “Do you not accept that for some people it’s the actions of the Israeli government they are protesting against?”

She subsequently claimed that Sacerdoti was misrepresenting Sian’s statement concerning “a wider political project” before going on to give her “a final right of reply”.

Sian: “I mean I would argue that bigotry, violence, harassment, abuse, hatred and systematic oppression enshrined through laws and policies directed at Jews for simply being Jews is antisemitic. To critique Israel’s settler colonial state is not antisemitic.”

Chakrabarti made no effort to challenge Sian’s false and materially misleading portrayal of Israel as a “settler colonial state”, instead allowing her to read out loud from an obviously pre-prepared statement on India which had nothing to do with the issue of antisemitism in Britain’s Labour Party.

The fact that a Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Party supporter – and quite possibly a party member – was brought in to comment on this topic while inadequately presented as a ‘neutral’ academic is clearly a breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality.

The fact that audiences were also not informed that the same supposedly ‘neutral’ academic regularly promotes anti-Israel material and four years ago had a book launch organised by the (Corbyn favoured) Iran linked, self-styled Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) – which organises the annual anti-Israel ‘Quds Day’ hate rally in London – likewise clearly impairs their ability to put her claims and pronunciations into their appropriate perspective.

Resources:

BBC Complaints website

 

BBC News disregards al Quds Day hate in London once again

Back in February the BBC News website published an article on one of its regional UK pages about graffiti on a billboard in Luton.

“Police are investigating after a billboard advertising an al-Quds Day rally was vandalised in Luton. […]

Also known as Jerusalem Day, al-Quds Day originated in Iran in 1979 and the poster was billed as “United for Palestine”.

The words “ban race hate posters” were daubed over it. It has been taken down.

The poster advertises and rally and march in London on 10 June. […]

…Reza Kazim, from the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) which is behind the poster, said it “is not dividing the community” and the removal of it “censors free speech”.”

The link provided in that report leads readers to an article published by the BBC in 2013 in which the racial hatred and terror promotion that typify al Quds Day events was whitewashed.

Given the BBC’s past record of ignoring the annual IHRC-organised jamboree of anti-Israel/anti-Jewish hate and public support for the Hizballah terror group, it was hardly surprising to see that this year too no coverage of that June 10 event appeared on the BBC News website. The BBC’s funding public therefore remained unaware of the fact that the rally included calls for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel that were met with raucous applause.

“I have a couple of messages today. One message for the Jewish people who are living in Palestine, the other message for the Zionist bunch who are occupying the Palestine, and the other messages is for the Saudis – we are standing in front of their embassy – and the people who are standing on the wrong side. My message to the Jewish people of Palestine is that the British governments, several decades ago, and then America used you to wipe Palestine off the map and you can make sure that the resistance will come and free Palestine and wipe Israel off the map. […] We tell you, you haven’t seen in the Al Quds Day yet. The Al Quds Day, when we march into Al Quds (cheers) with all the conscientious people, with people who have human hearts, with Muslims, and Jews and Christians, we will come, we will free Palestine and we will free the world of this Zionist bunch who is supported by all corrupt powers in the world. My message to the Zionist bunch who are occupying Palestine: “Your days are numbered, either you go yourself, or we will drive you away, we will kick you out of Palestine, that’s a promise.” 

As noted at ‘Harry’s Place’:

“Bahmanpour’s speech alone makes a mockery of the UK’s absurd distinction between the “military” and “political” wings of Hezbollah. The former is a proscribed terrorist group while the latter is not. Hezbollah itself makes no such distinction and nor do its supporters really believe in any separation, including the Al Quds speakers and marchers assembled by the self-styled Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC).”

The motifs heard by the crowd in London were remarkably similar to those heard two days before by Hizballah supporters in south Lebanon when they saw a televised speech marking al Quds Day from Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah.

“Our speech, the Palestinian people’s speech, the Arab and Islamic people’s speech and even Islam’s speech, I can claim that this is Islam’s speech, and the resistance’s speech is we do not want to kill. We do not want to destroy. We do not want to throw anyone into the sea. We tell you with all civility, take your ships, board your planes and return to the countries you came from. The native Jews who are the people of Palestine remain in Palestine. However, the invaders, the settlers who came from all over the world leave. This is the message of Islam, the message of the resistance and the message of the people of the region. No one is going to make a new Holocaust like what Netanyahu said. But if you insist on the occupation, I tell you the day of the great war in this region will come. It will be the day that all of us will pray in al-Quds. We are waiting for that day. A positive waiting. Preparatory waiting. The true faithful waiting.”

And for those wondering who exactly are “the native Jews” or “the Jewish people who are living in Palestine”, here is a taste of the thinking behind such terminology.

As the BBC reported at the time, in January of this year a debate on the UK’s currently partial proscription of Hizballah was held in the House of Commons and that topic remains under discussion. Obviously public and parliamentary debates are not enhanced by the fact that Britain’s public broadcaster repeatedly refrains from reporting on the advocacy of ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel either in London or by the leader of the terror group whose flags fly on the British capital’s streets.

The fact that the BBC has also spent years cultivating the myth of separate ‘wings’ of Hizballah and whitewashing the fact that it is a terrorist organisation through use of euphemisms such as “Lebanese Shia group” or “Lebanese political and military group” as well as misrepresenting its terror designation by numerous countries and misleading audiences with regard to its activities is also clearly not conducive to meeting the corporation’s public purposes.

Related Articles:

BBC tones down Iranian rhetoric and extremism

More BBC whitewashing of ‘Al Quds Day’

BBC News ignores Al Quds Day – in English

Why BBC accuracy matters for its funding British public

Islamic Human Rights Commission & Al Quds Day: Tip of the UK’s Iranian support network iceberg (UK Media Watch)

Can UK MPs turn to the BBC for accurate information on Hizballah?

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The CST has produced a research briefing documenting the reactions of various UK-based groups to the death of the “blind Sheikh”, Omar Abdel Rahman, in prison in the US. One of those groups is ‘Cage’, which two years ago received considerable promotion on BBC platforms. Asim Qureshi of ‘Cage’ has also been interviewed on BBC programmes without his “particular viewpoint” having being clarified to audiences.

“On the day of Rahman’s death, Moazzam Begg, the outreach director of CAGE, posted a tribute on Facebook. Asim Qureshi, the research director of CAGE, ‘liked’ Begg’s post, using a ‘crying’ emoji.”

The full CST briefing can be found here.

2) The Telegraph has an interview with the chairman of the Charity Commission for England and Wales.

“Reports of alleged links between charities and terrorism or extremism have surged to a record high, the charity watchdog has warned.

The number of times the Charity Commission has shared concerns about links between charities and extremism with police and other agencies has nearly trebled from 234 to 630 in just three years.

The Commission also opened eight compliance cases and four formal inquiries into “allegations of abuse of charities for terrorist or extremist purposes” in 2015/16. […]

Earlier this year the Commission stepped in to stop the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and Anita Roddick Foundation funding Cage because it did not match their “charitable objectives”.

Mr Shawcross said that Cage, a controversial human rights group, “was not a charity and there is no way in which Cage could represent any charitable purpose under British law”.

Last year, it emerged that Cage had used meetings on university campuses to encourage the “sabotage” of the Government’s official anti-extremism programme, Prevent.”

3) As explained by Dr Matthew Levitt in a briefing last month to the Senate of Canada, the abuse of charities is of course by no means confined to the UK.

“Much ink has been spilt in recent years on the more eye-catching forms of terror finance, such as the Islamic State’s takeover of oil fields and extortion of civilians under its control. The abuse of charity is a small percentage of the group’s revenues, but it is not an insignificant source, nor is it limited to the case of the Islamic State. On the contrary, cases of abuse of charity are on the rise over the past two years, and they reveal the involvement of a wide array of terrorist groups, countries, and financiers.”

4) As has been noted here on numerous occasions in the past, when reporting on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, the BBC consistently refrains from informing its audiences what that campaign aims to achieve and in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such background information “not our role“. Our colleagues at UK Media Watch have posted a short video explaining the BDS campaign.

BBC article on antisemitism report recycles problematic backgrounder

Following the publication of the UK Parliament Home Affairs Select Committee report on antisemitism on October 16th, a relatively long article appeared on the UK politics page of the BBC News website under the headline “Jeremy Corbyn’s response to anti-Semitism in Labour criticised by MPs“.ha-select-comm-report-art

20.9% of the article’s 1,007 words are describe the report’s criticism of the response to antisemitism within the Labour Party while reactions to that criticism from Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Livingstone take up 14.3% of the word count.  The committee’s criticism of the failure of Twitter to combat antisemitism on its platform is described in 7.5% of the article’s word count and 4.5% describes the report’s criticism of the National Union of Students president.

Towards the end of the article, readers are given a superficial account of two aspects of the report.

“The report expressed concern about use of the word “Zionist”, saying “use of the word in an accusatory context should be considered inflammatory and potentially anti-Semitic”.”

In its conclusions the actual report states:

“‘Zionism’ as a concept remains a valid topic for academic and political debate, both within and outside Israel. The word ‘Zionist’ (or worse, ‘Zio’) as a term of abuse, however, has no place in a civilised society. It has been tarnished by its repeated use in antisemitic and aggressive contexts. Antisemites frequently use the word ‘Zionist’ when they are in fact referring to Jews, whether in Israel or elsewhere. Those claiming to be “anti-Zionist, not antisemitic”, should do so in the knowledge that 59% of British Jewish people consider themselves to be Zionists. If these individuals genuinely mean only to criticise the policies of the Government of Israel, and have no intention to offend British Jewish people, they should criticise “the Israeli Government”, and not “Zionists”. For the purposes of criminal or disciplinary investigations, use of the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ in an accusatory or abusive context should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic. This should be communicated by the Government and political parties to those responsible for determining whether or not an incident should be regarded as antisemitic.”

The BBC article also tells readers:

“But it [the report] did say free speech should be allowed on the Palestinian issue, saying it was not anti-Semitic to criticise actions of the Israeli government.”

However that is just part of the story – as Professor Alan Johnson notes at the Telegraph:

“The Committee is very clear about two things. First, criticism of Israel is absolutely acceptable. Second, vile demonisation and conspiracism, with its cartoons dripping in blood and its hook noses and its wild claims of global domination and its Nazi comparisons is not “criticism of Israel”.”

The report itself states:

ha-select-comm-report-crtiticism-israel

Crucially, the IHRA definition of antisemitism recommended by the committee (which was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s 31 member countries earlier this year) includes the following example of a manifestation of antisemitism often prevalent among those active “on the Palestinian issue”:

“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.”ha-select-comm-art-related-reading

This BBC article twice offers readers the same ‘related article’ titled “What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?”.

As was noted here when that ‘backgrounder’ first appeared, its problematic aspects (which, regrettably, have not been addressed since publication) include promotion of the Livingstone Formulation.

We have in the past noted here the need for the BBC to work according to a recognised definition of antisemitism 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 such a proposal was included in BBC Watch’s submission to the DCMS public consultation on the renewal of the BBC’s charter.

In light of the Home Affairs Select Committee recommendation, it would of course be appropriate for the BBC and OFCOM to now adopt the IHRC working definition of antisemitism.

 

After effects 2 : BBC accuracy failure again used to promote hatred

Back in April we noted that the image of BBC employee Jihad Masharawi holding the body of his son Omar had been used by the Iranian regime-linked ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’ at an anti-Israel protest in London. 

Blogger Richard Millett has recorded another instance of the use of the same image in recent days by the same organization, also in London. 

Richard Millett photo

As we previously remarked:

“Is the BBC responsible for the fact that Khomeinist sympathisers intent upon Israel’s destruction and the spread of hate speech against Jews use that image to promote their cause? No.

Is the BBC responsible for the fact that the picture of a father carrying his son who was killed as a result of a terrorist missile can be misrepresented as an image depicting Israeli “murder”? Yes. 

Because if BBC journalists in the Gaza Strip at the time had adhered to their own editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, that story would not have been promoted as part of a preconceived narrative depicting Israelis as ‘baby killers’ and that image would not have become entrenched in the minds of the general public as a depiction of Israeli wrong-doing.”

Over six months have now passed since the BBC first promoted its irresponsible and unprofessional knee-jerk report blaming Israel for Omar Masharawi’s death without any proof whatsoever that the story it so energetically promoted had a factual basis. The subsequent corrections issued by the BBC of course received nowhere near as much exposure as the original story itself and the BBC’s response to this very grave lapse of editorial standards has been disappointing at all levels. 

In May 2010, the BBC’s former Director General Mark Thompson said:  

“The BBC’s motto is ‘Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation’ – the idea being that access to news, information and debate about different countries and cultures can ultimately help foster mutual understanding and tolerance.”

That concept of course has another side to it too. When the news and information accessed by BBC audiences is not accurate or impartial, it can very easily foster hate and intolerance – as the above photograph illustrates only too well. One would have expected Mark Thompson’s successors to be aware of that fact, and to take the resulting responsibility seriously rather than closing ranks as a response to public criticism. 

Related posts:

BBC’s Jon Donnison displays a professional and ethical conflict of interests

BBC’s Omar Masharawi story has rug pulled by UNHRC

Still no BBC accountability on Masharawi story

A reminder of the chronology of the BBC’s Omar Masharawi story

Update on the BBC’s Omar Masharawi story

After effects: BBC accuracy failure used to promote hate

After effects: BBC accuracy failure used to promote hate

Back in March, when the UN HRC produced a report in which it established that the son of BBC Arabic journalist Jihad Masharawi had been killed as a result of a misfired terrorist rocket in November 2012, BBC Watch wrote:

“The BBC used the story of Omar Masharawi to advance the narrative of Israel as a ruthless killer of innocent children. It did so in unusually gory detail which etched the story in audiences’ minds, but without checking the facts, and with no regard whatsoever for its obligations to accuracy and impartiality. BBC reporters and editors  – including Jon Donnison, Paul Danahar and the many others who distributed the story via Twitter – rushed to spread as far and wide as possible a story they could not validate, but which fit in with their own narrative.

It is impossible to undo the extensive damage done by the BBC with this story. No apology or correction can now erase it from the internet or from the memories of the countless people who read it or heard it.”

Last week the Zionist Federation in the UK held a concert to celebrate Israel’s 65th anniversary. Outside the venue, a demonstration organized by one of the Iranian regime’s mouthpieces in the West – the Islamic Human Rights Commission – was documented by British blogger Richard Millett. Below is one of Richard’s photographs of the demonstration.

IHRC at ZF event

Is the BBC responsible for the fact that Khomeinist sympathisers intent upon Israel’s destruction and the spread of hate speech against Jews use that image to promote their cause? No.

Is the BBC responsible for the fact that the picture of a father carrying his son who was killed as a result of a terrorist missile can be misrepresented as an image depicting Israeli “murder”? Yes. 

Because if BBC journalists in the Gaza Strip at the time had adhered to their own editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, that story would not have been promoted as part of a preconceived narrative depicting Israelis as ‘baby killers’ and that image would not have become entrenched in the minds of the general public as a depiction of Israeli wrong-doing.

The reputation for trustworthy reporting which the BBC cultivates carries with it great responsibilities. But with regard to its Middle East reporting, the BBC often appears to be disturbingly cavalier about the potentially very serious consequences of its negligence of editorial standards on accuracy and impartiality.  

And by the way – five months on, Jon Donnison’s flawed account of Omar Masharawi’s death is still featured prominently in the Magazine section of the BBC website. 

Magazine 22 4