The BBC and the ‘apartheid’ smear

BBC audiences are no strangers to unchallenged multi-platform amplification of the ‘apartheid’ smear against Israel.mcdonalds-pic

For example, in November 2012, listeners to BBC Radio 4 were told that:

“The ..emm…country [Israel] is run on such apartheid lines it’s possible for the two sides to just literally not see each other.”

In April 2014 visitors to the BBC News website were told by the former BBC Middle East bureau chief that use of the word ‘apartheid’ made (and later walked back) by the US Secretary of State “adds legitimacy to the debate about whether there is an equivalence between the old South African regime and the situation on the West Bank”.

In May 2014 viewers of the BBC News Channel programme ‘Hardtalk‘ and visitors to the BBC News website heard a South African anti-Israel activist say:

“We have seen – I have seen – in Palestine what didn’t exist under apartheid in the worst days of apartheid.”

In January 2015 the BBC News website managed to shoehorn a ‘he said-she said’ version of the ‘apartheid’ trope into a news story:

“Harsh critics of Israel level the charge of apartheid – the system of state-sanctioned racial discrimination once practised by South Africa – against the Jewish state over its treatment of Palestinians and Israeli-Arab minority. Israel says the accusation is baseless and a part of efforts to demonise it.”

In March 2015 listeners to the BBC World Service were told that:

“…practically he [the Israeli prime minister] officially declared Israel as an apartheid state – a segregation state”

And:

“…this would be a long journey and a struggle against the system of apartheid that Netanyahu has created. And that means that we need not only Palestinian popular resistance on the ground but also boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel in the very same manner that was used against the system of apartheid in South Africa at one point in time.”

And that:

“…as Israel moves further into the open as an apartheid state, that clash with US values will become more apparent.”

In August 2015 the BBC World Service initiated a ‘discussion’ based on the ‘apartheid’ trope.

In September 2015 listeners to BBC Radio Wales were told that in relation to Israel they should:

“…remember the days of apartheid South Africa. People used to hold up these small examples of coexistence […] to gloss over the fundamental reality of institutionalized racism, of apartheid.”

In January 2016 visitors to a local page on the BBC News website found amplification of the claim from an anti-Israel group that “its campaign was similar to international boycotts of South Africa in the 1970s and 80s, when anti-apartheid activists tried to bring down white minority rule.”

In February 2016 visitors to another local page on the BBC News website found the following unqualified information:

“According to its website, Israel Apartheid Week takes place across 150 universities and cities and “aims to raise awareness about Israel’s ongoing settler-colonial project and apartheid policies over the Palestinian people”.”

In April 2016 a BBC News website backgrounder on antisemitism informed audiences that:

“The Palestine Solidarity Campaign says it opposes all racism, including anti-Jewish prejudice and the “the [sic] apartheid and Zionist nature of the Israeli state”…”

And in September 2016 listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard the unchallenged claim of:

“…an occupation that has transformed into a system of apartheid much worse that what prevailed in South Africa.”

Despite all that amplification (and more), not once in those four years has BBC Watch been able to document an explanation having been provided to BBC audiences as to why the ‘apartheid’ trope is false, why used by anti-Israel activists and what is the aim of that tactic.

As has been noted here before:

“As Norman Finkelstein (not one of the better known card-carrying Zionists) pointed out earlier this year [2012], the makers of those demands [the BDS campaign] have one end-game in their sights.

“They call it their three tiers… We want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever, because they know the result of implementing all three is what? What’s the result? You know and I know what’s the result: there’s no Israel.” […]

The methods used to try to bring about that end game include the delegitimisation of Israel: the attempt to paint a picture of a country so morally unacceptable that any ‘right-minded’ person cannot possibly tolerate its continued existence.

One way of doing that is to use the ‘apartheid’ trope. By deliberately employing rhetoric which the public associates with a universally morally unacceptable theme, the BDS movement aspires to brand Israel in the minds of the general public with the same stigma as the former racist regime in South Africa. 

Of course a close and factual examination of the situation immediately reveals that the use of the ‘apartheid’ trope in relation to Israel is utterly unfounded.  But sadly, many if not most members of the general public do not have sufficient knowledge of the facts to be able to assess the ‘apartheid’ trope for what it really is: a rhetorical tactic relying on the human mind’s natural tendency to make associations.”

But in addition to failing to provide its audiences with the context which would enable their understanding of why the false ‘apartheid’ smear is used, the BBC has for the most part also ignored the views of people who really did experience apartheid. A publication produced by ‘Africans for Peace’ provides some interesting insights from four South Africans who have visited Israel.

“In South Africa, I had frequently heard the description of Israel as an “apartheid state.” As a black man coming from South Africa, where we actually experienced apartheid, I realized that this was not apartheid. This was not the same situation.”

How does it make you feel that the BDS movement compares the situation of the Palestinian people with the plight of black people under apartheid?

It upsets me a lot! A lot! Because it’s misleading! The situation cannot be compared to apartheid because it’s not apartheid. Those people involved with the BDS movement need to go to Israel and the West Bank to see the situation for themselves.”

“Please – don’t steal the word “apartheid!” For black South Africans, apartheid was more than just systematic discrimination against our people. It was a project that aimed to rob a specific race of its history, culture, dignity, and humanity. Those who apply the term “apartheid” to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse are guilty of perpetuating that same theft, by denying the uniqueness of the racism and hatred that we faced, and which we have overcome with much blood and tears. While the challenges that face Israel and her neighbor Palestine may result in one group feeling discriminated against by the other, it is very different from the legally-blessed racism, based on the discredited idea of white supremacy, that once reigned in my country.”

“The reality is that the two situations are very different. I came to understand that the analogy of apartheid in Israel was an abuse of the memory of apartheid, just as it is possible to abuse the memory of the Holocaust or slavery in a similar manner.”

It is high time for the BBC to meet its public purpose remit and its commitment to ‘due impartiality’ by ensuring that its audiences are provided with fact-based information concerning the redundancy of the ‘apartheid’ trope the true aims of those who promote that tactical smear.  

 

UK government halts funding to BBC quoted and promoted charity

The Telegraph informs us that:

“The government has ceased funding a British charity which sponsored events accused of promoting hatred and violence against Jews. 

The Department for International Development (Dfid) said that it no longer supported War on Want, which helped pay for “Israeli Apartheid Week” in February this year. […]

War on Want, whose logo appears on publicity materials for Israeli Apartheid Week and the meeting, has received £260,000 in funding from Dfid over the last two years.

The subsidy is doubly embarrassing because the Government has recently banned local authorities and other public bodies from implementing boycotts of Israel.

A Dfid spokesman said last night that it has ceased funding of War on Want, apart from a small project with a distinct branch of the charity in Northern Ireland.”

As was reported here last year, this is not the first time that ‘War on Want’ has been active in the organisation of ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ in British universities and its activities include additional forms of anti-Israel campaigning.WoW 1

Among the other bodies funding ‘War on Want’ is the charity ‘Comic Relief which – as has been noted here before – receives considerable support from the BBC. In addition, BBC Radio 4’s charity appeals slot has featured ‘War on Want’ on several occasions.

In light of the circumstances which prompted the decision taken by the Department for International Development, one would of course expect that ‘Comic Relief’ and additional funders of ‘War on Want’ will be reviewing their position.

That same background should of course also prompt the BBC to ensure that on the fairly frequent occasions upon which it hosts representatives of ‘War on Want’ on its programmes, care should be taken to meet the existing BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality which require that audiences be made aware of the association of contributors with a “particular viewpoint”.

BBC News website buries Oxford University Labour Club story

h/t AM

When the co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club resigned last week, his statement explaining the decision prompted additional students at that institution (and others) to publicise their own experiences.  The OULC’s umbrella body Labour Students announced that an investigation would take place and that course of action was supported by the Labour Party. The chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism, John Mann MP, called for suspension of the OULC pending investigation and the story prompted much additional discussion in the UK media from writers including Simon Schama and Dan Hodges as well as from commentators further afield.  

Clearly then, this was not just a local story but nevertheless visitors to the BBC News website might have had trouble finding the corporation’s coverage of it because what did appear was to be found on the site’s regional ‘Oxford’ page and reaching that involves a trip from the site’s main homepage to the UK page, from there to the England page, then to ‘Regions’, then to ‘South’ and finally to the ‘Oxford’ page.OULC art 1

One article appeared the day after the story broke – February 17th – under the title “Oxford University Labour Club in anti-Semitism row” and an additional report was published the next day under the interestingly punctuated headline “Ed Miliband cancels Oxford talk in ‘anti-Semitism’ row“.

Readers of both those articles would have received the impression that the co-chair’s resignation was exclusively prompted by one factor. The first article opens:

“A Labour MP has called for the Oxford University branch of the party to be suspended over allegations of anti-Semitism by its members.

John Mann MP said he wanted a “full inquiry” after the club voted to endorse Israel Apartheid Week.

Club co-chairman Alex Chalmers resigned after the vote and said many members had “some kind of problem with Jews”.”

The second article states:

“Former Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he is “deeply disturbed” by claims of anti-Semitism at Oxford University Labour Club (OULC).

He has pulled out of a scheduled talk after the club’s co-chairman Alex Chalmers resigned over it voting to support Israel Apartheid Week.”

However, Mr Chalmers’ statement made it very clear that the concerns he raised are not confined to that specific vote.

Both the BBC’s articles quote Mr Chalmers as follows:

“He said the decision to endorse Israel Apartheid Week illustrated the “uneven and insincere” attitude of some members “when it comes to liberation”.”

The full quote however begins with a description of ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ which the BBC chose not to provide to its audiences.

“The decision of the club to endorse a movement with a history of targetting and harassing Jewish students and inviting antisemitic speakers to campuses, despite the concerns of Jewish students, illustrates how uneven and insincere much of the active membership is when it comes to liberation.”

Both articles include the following statement:

“According to its website, Israel Apartheid Week takes place across 150 universities and cities and “aims to raise awareness about Israel’s ongoing settler-colonial project and apartheid policies over the Palestinian people”.”

The sentence following the quote selected by the BBC clearly clarifies the campaign’s links to the BDS movement but that information is not provided to readers and neither are they presented with any background which would aid their understanding of the baseless nature of the allegations made in that quote or the political agenda of the ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ project.OULC art 2  

Neither were readers of these two reports told of the reaction of other former members of the OULC.

“This week the members of Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) voted to endorse so-called “Israel Apartheid Week”. As former Chairs and Executive members of OULC, we oppose this decision and condemn it. We support the decision of one of the current Co-Chairs, Alex Chalmers, to resign in response. 

Israel Apartheid Week purports to be a conference promoting intellectual discussion. In reality it is little more than a gathering of propagandists seeking to dismantle the only majority-Jewish member-state of the United Nations. It principally serves as a vehicle for promoting the academic, cultural and economic isolation of the Jewish state. In doing so, it strengthens the hand of those who oppose the two-state solution and emboldens extremists who seek to “resolve” the conflict by extinguishing one of the parties to it.” 

Clearly the BBC’s coverage of this story is by no means comprehensive and the decision to confine it to a regional website page despite the controversy and discussion it raised in much wider circles is decidedly curious. The inclusion in both reports of unchallenged amplification of inaccurate statements from a website run by extremist anti-Israel campaigners is obviously problematic but – given the BBC’s record of failing to adequately inform its audiences of the BDS campaign’s true agenda – also sadly predictable.

Related Articles:

BBC promoted NGO supplying props for ‘Israel Apartheid Week’

 

BBC promoted NGO supplying props for ‘Israel Apartheid Week’

One BBC-related issue which we find ourselves having to raise on these pages with disturbing frequency is that of the inadequate introduction of guests or interviewees linked to political NGOs. In our round-up of NGO contributors to BBC content in 2014 we noted that:

“In some instances an interviewee or contributor to BBC content was presented to audiences by name and with the title of his or her organization, but more often than not the political agenda of that organization and the interviewee’s resulting “standpoint” were not adequately clarified – as demanded by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality. The same practice was evident when quotes were used from organisations’ press releases without being attributed to a specific person. […]

In other cases, interviewees or contributors were presented by name only and – again in breach of editorial guidelines – BBC audiences were not informed of their affiliations with campaigning organisations or of the fact that their contribution should be assessed within the context of a particular political agenda.”

On at least two occasions last year the ‘Senior Campaigns Officer’ for ‘War on Want‘, Rafeef Ziadah, was interviewed on BBC Radio 4. On one occasion – in a programme about Jerusalem – Ziadah’s employment at ‘War on Want’ and her activism in the BDS movement were not clarified to listeners at all, whilst on the other – in a programme about drones – her position at ‘War on Want’ was mentioned but the BBC did not bother to meet its own editorial guidelines by informing audiences about that organisation’s anti-Israel campaigning.

One recent manifestation of that political campaigning comes in the form of an offer from ‘War on Want’ to supply props to student groups organizing ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ events at UK universities. Students are encouraged to:WoW 1

“Organise an Apartheid Wall display on your campus to raise awareness about the ongoing destruction and human rights violations caused by the Wall. Props available to borrow are:

Six wall panels. Each panel measures approximately 2 metres x 1 metre and is heavy and must be supported. Your group may borrow some or all of the panels.

One watch tower measuring 2 metres by 70cm diametre. It is very heavy.

Four  cardboard/paper mache over sized guns measuring 1.5 metres each (new – not in picture)”

In other words, the BBC has provided audiences with information on Israel-related issues by means of a representative of an organization with a very clear political agenda which has been repeatedly concealed from listeners.

An additional aspect of this issue is the fact that among the bodies funding ‘War on Want’ is the UK charity ‘Comic Relief’ which is supported by the BBC.  This year’s annual fundraising drive – known as ‘Red Nose Day‘ – will take place on March 13th, with much BBC One programming devoted to the event. As we noted here two years ago:

“As a publicly funded body committed to impartiality, it is imperative for the BBC to ensure that – via its partnership with Comic Relief – it is not associated with organisations such as War on Want which demonise Israel as part of a racist campaign to deny self-determination to one specific ethnic group.” 

Unfortunately, not only has nothing changed on that front since those words were written, but BBC collaboration with the amplification of the ‘War on Want’ political agenda by means of inadequately introduced interviews with its ‘Senior Campaigns Officer’ appear to have become the norm.

If the BBC’s Director of Television is as concerned about antisemitism in the UK as his remarks last December suggest, a serious review of the activities of organisations funded via his programming is just as urgent as examination of the corporation’s failure (despite the repeated lip service paid to that issue) to adhere to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality when introducing guests and interviewees.