Coverage of Shimon Peres’ death promotes the BBC’s political narrative

As was to be expected, with the announcement of the death of Israel’s ninth president Shimon Peres on the morning of September 28th came a plethora of BBC reports.

The BBC World Service programme ‘Newsday’ promoted a clip from a 2013 interview (the full version of which was previously discussed here and here) with Peres by Lyse Doucet under the title “Former Israeli President Shimon Peres has died“.peres-on-me-pge

Visitors to the BBC News website found several articles including “Chief rabbi pays tribute to former Israel PM Shimon Peres” and “Shimon Peres: Tributes from around the world“.

In an article by former BBC Jerusalem correspondent Kevin Connolly which also appeared on the BBC News website under the headline “Shimon Peres: Long legacy of Israel’s elder statesman” audiences were told that:

“As times changed over the course of his long political life, Shimon Peres in many ways changed with them.

The man who had been a member of a government that approved the building of Jewish settlements in the territories occupied in the 1967 war came to see them as an obstacle to a peace deal.”

Similar messaging was found in a news report on the website titled “Shimon Peres, former Israeli president, dies aged 93“.

“Once an advocate of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, Mr Peres later became a leading political dove. He often spoke of the need for compromise over territorial demands in Palestinian areas.”

The BBC News website also published an obituary – “Obituary: Shimon Peres, Israeli founding father” – in which readers were again informed that:obit-peres-pic

“Once an advocate of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, Peres became a leading political dove, often speaking of the need for compromise over territorial demands in Palestinian areas.”

The obituary also includes a photograph with the caption: “The former Labour leader advocated territorial compromise in the West Bank”.

The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Landale produced a filmed report titled “Shimon Peres: An emigre who became a world statesman” which appeared on the BBC News website in addition to being aired on BBC television. Landale (who appears not to have had any help from the BBC’s pronunciation unit regarding the surname of the person his report is about) told viewers that:lansdale-on-peres

“As a politician he changed his views over time. He was a member of the government that approved the building of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian territory but he came to see them later as an obstacle to peace.”

So are the BBC’s various portrayals of Shimon Peres’ views accurate? Did he favour “territorial compromise” and did he really view “Jewish settlements” as an “obstacle to peace”?

Another item appearing among the BBC News website’s coverage is a recycled filmed report from 2013 by Lyse Doucet from titled “Shimon Peres on turning 90“. There, at around 07:30, Doucet poses the following question:

Doucet: “The Palestinians say that you can’t discuss the land for a Palestinian state while Israel continues to build settlements on it. How do you reconcile that contradiction?”

Peres: “There are solutions to it. First of all, the Palestinians agreed there will be three [settlement] blocs. There, Jewish settlers on the West Bank can remain. That was the proposal introduced by President Clinton. It was right and acceptable.”

Also in 2013 – as the Times of Israel and Ha’aretz reported at the time – Peres clearly rejected the notion of ‘settlements as an obstacle to peace’.

“President Shimon Peres rejected European Union criticism of his country‘s settlement policy during a visit to Brussels on Wednesday, arguing that it did not stand in the way of peace in the Middle East.

EU President Herman Van Rompuy said there would be no sustainable peace until Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, and those of Israel for security, were fulfilled by a comprehensive deal based on the two-state solution.

“For these reasons I have recalled the opposition of the European Union to the illegal expansion of settlements,” Van Rompuy said.

But Peres replied that an acceptable solution to the settlement issue had been found years ago, based on a land swap deal with the Palestinians.

“I don‘t take this criticism that, because of the settlements, we lost the chance of implementing the two-state solution,” Peres said, adding that the EU could help to overcome other problems.

The most important difficulty is not settlements but terror,” the Israeli president said. “Take terror out of Gaza and they have a free place, it has nothing to do with Israel.”

“Condemn the Hamas … because they are a center of terror,” Peres said, referring to the movement which controls the Gaza strip. “And Hezbollah the same,” he added.”

Obviously Shimon Peres was of the opinion that “territorial compromise” by both Israelis and Palestinians in the form of land swaps of the kind proposed in the Clinton parameters and the Olmert plan is necessary but he clearly did not regard Jewish communities in Judea & Samaria as an “obstacle to peace” as claimed by the BBC in these reports.  

As has been noted here on numerous occasions, the BBC’s portrayal of the topic of ‘settlements’ regularly fails to inform audiences of the fact that under any realistic scenario, some of the Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria would remain under Israeli control – preferring instead to amplify an adopted political narrative. It is of course highly regrettable that in its coverage of the death of a statesman strongly associated with efforts to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the BBC has distorted his views in order to promote that same narrative.  

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Examining the BBC’s claim that Israeli building endangers the two state solution

 

 

BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

For some time now the Palestinian Authority’s Jibril Rajoub has been exploiting sport as a means of delegitimising Israel for political ends. In recent years he has, among other things, tried to get Israel expelled from the International Olympic community, threatened legal action against sponsors of the Jerusalem Marathon and pressured UEFA to disallow Israel’s hosting of a tournament. As president of the Palestinian Football Association, last year Rajoub turned his attentions to FIFA and the BBC produced a series of reports amplifying his campaign to get Israel suspended from world football.Connolly FIFA filmed

BBC frames anti-Israel delegitimisation campaign as a sports story

Wind in the sails of Jibril Rajoub’s anti-Israel campaign from BBC WS WHYS

Kevin Connolly continues the BBC’s amplification of anti-Israel delegitimisation

This week (as civilians in Syria continue to have their human rights violated by being killed en masse) one of the BBC’s most quoted and promoted NGOs found time to publish a report which yet again highlights both the links between the agendas of some so-called human rights organisations and anti-Israel campaigning – as well as the media’s relationship with such groups.

The Human Rights Watch report is titled “Israel/Palestine: FIFA Sponsoring Games on Seized Land” and sub-headed “Israeli Settlement Football Clubs Contribute to Human Rights Violations”. The flimsy arguments behind HRW’s claim that playing football in Area C is a violation of human rights have already been dismantled by Professor Eugene Kontorovich.

“The football-as-human rights-violation arguments against Israel are tendentious and prove too much. So those campaigning against Israel rely principally on a lawyerly claim about FIFA’s rules: The clubs “clearly violate FIFA’s statutes, according to which clubs from one member association cannot play on the territory of another member association without its and FIFA’s consent,” the members claim.

The problem is nothing in the FIFA statutes that equates “territory” with sovereign territory. Indeed, that would be impossible, since many FIFA members are not sovereign states at all. Instead, territory, as is often the case in international texts, means jurisdiction.

This is because the FIFA is not a border demarcation body. That is why FIFA clearly separates any question of sovereign statehood and territory from FIFA membership by not requiring that member federations be recognized states (i.e. Hong Kong, American Samoa, Faroe Islands, Northern Ireland, etc.). The claim that the acceptance of the Palestinian soccer federation into FIFA constituted a recognition of Palestine as a state and a recognition of its maximal border claims is unsupportable. FIFA membership does not imply statehood, nor has FIFA ever taken a position on preexisting border disputes.”

Nevertheless, as noted in a comment on a previous post (thanks to D), the BBC World Service found HRW’s political campaigning worthy of inclusion in some of its summaries of world news on September 26th.ws-hrw-amplification-news-26-9

Listeners to this news summary were told (at 01:47) that:

“…Human Rights Watch is calling on world football’s governing body to force the relocation of six Israeli football clubs located in West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law. The campaign group says that FIFA is breaking its own rules.”

Those who tuned in to a later news bulletin were informed (at 01:45) that:

“…Human Rights Watch has called on world football’s governing body FIFA to force the relocation of six Israeli football clubs based in West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law. The Israeli authorities say it’s not up to FIFA to rule on political questions.”

As usual, no attempt was made to conform to editorial guidelines on impartiality by clarifying to audiences the existence of legal opinions which contradict that well-worn BBC mantra on the alleged illegality of Israeli communities in Area C and parts of Jerusalem. Moreover, despite those same editorial guidelines, no effort was made to clarify the “particular viewpoint” of HRW in relation to Israel and listeners were therefore unable to assess the group’s claims in the appropriate context.

Although this latest example of unchallenged BBC amplification of HRW’s politicised agenda is entirely predictable, it is of course extremely disturbing to see it being promoted in supposedly factual news bulletins.

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Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2015

BBC’s mantra on ‘international law’ becomes even less impartial

Misleading headlines for BBC News report on Ankara incident

An incident which took place outside the Israeli embassy in Ankara on September 21st was reported on the BBC News website in an article which carried three different headlines in the space of eight hours.

Version 1

Version 1

The BBC’s original description of the incident in which a man tried to stab a security guard at the entrance to the embassy and was then shot in the leg was as follows:

“Turkey attack: Man shot at Israel embassy in Ankara”

Obviously that headline led audiences towards the erroneous belief that the “man shot” was the victim of the “Turkey attack” rather than the perpetrator.

Following criticism on social media, over six hours after its original publication that headline was amended to read:

“Turkey attacker shot at Israel embassy in Ankara”

Two hours later the headline changed again – perhaps in an attempt to clarify that the target of the attack was neither a large bird nor a country:

“Turkey Israel embassy attacker shot in Ankara”

Version 3

Version 3

Notably, other media outlets appeared to encounter considerably less difficulty in coming up with a headline which accurately and concisely portrayed the story.

Reuters: Knife-wielding man shot outside Israeli embassy in Turkey: officials

Telegraph: Knife attacker shot attempting to storm Israeli embassy in Turkey

Al Jazeera: Turkey: Knife attacker shot in front of Israeli embassy

CNN: Attacker shot outside Israeli Embassy in Turkey

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BBC News confusion on number of Israelis killed in Istanbul terror attack

BBC News flunks headline of report on Jerusalem terror attack

 

BBC Radio 4 fails to clarify the agenda of the BDS campaign and the PSC

The September 18th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday‘ included an item (from 11:54 here) described as follows in the synopsis:sunday-18-9-bod-ujs

“Jewish students fight the movement for sanctions against Israel”.

Presenter Edward Stourton introduced the item with a specious portrayal of the purpose of the BDS campaign.

“Most universities begin the new academic year around this time. The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Union of Jewish Students are marking the moment by sending round advice on how to combat the activities of the Boycott, Disinvestment [sic] Sanctions movement – or BDS – which, in the words of its website, urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law. We’re joined by Joel Salmon, the Board of Deputies Parliamentary Officer, and Ben Jamal who next month will take up the post of director of the Palestinian [sic] Solidarity Campaign.” [emphasis added]

The majority of listeners would of course lack the knowledge needed to appreciate just how inaccurate and misleading Stourton’s portrayal is because the BBC consistently refrains from informing its audiences that what the BDS campaign really seeks to achieve is the demise of the Jewish state. Moreover, the corporation has even shrugged off the responsibility to clarify the BDS agenda in its frequent amplification of that campaign.

In addition, listeners to this item were not informed of the “particular viewpoint” of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality demand before they heard the fallacious framing of the BDS campaign from Ben Jamal, who previously headed the PSC’s Richmond and Kingston branch.

“…I think what we’d also all want students to do is to engage in and to be involved in discussion and activism around human rights and issues of social and international justice.”

“And I think boycott – as I understand it – is a non-violent tactic that throughout history has been used by those defending human rights and fighting against oppression.”

“…this is the tactic for example that Gandhi used to oppose Britain’s violation of rights in India. It’s the tactic that Martin Luther King used to oppose segregation and it’s the tactic that Nelson Mandela used to defend the rights of black South Africans. I take Gandhi’s framing of boycott. In a way it’s a form of dialogue. It’s a way of saying to someone ‘I respect your humanity but I will not cooperate or give my political or economic support to what you are doing’.”

The uninformed listener would hence not be capable of putting Jamal’s portrayal of the specific BoD/UJS handout which is the subject of the item into its appropriate context or understanding that the undertone of the Livingstone Formulation that portrayal includes is not apparently by chance.

“One of the concerns I’ve got at the leaflet or pamphlet that’s been produced is it’s part of an attempt I think to reframe a tactic of boycott as something that is inherently divisive, hostile or at worst extremist or even quasi-violent.”

“I think my concern is this is an attempt to frame any advocacy of boycott or any criticism of Israel as inherently hostile.”

Clearly the predictable absence of adequate explanation of the BDS campaign’s true agenda in this item once again undermined the BBC’s public purpose remit of enhancing audience awareness and understanding of the issue in general and certainly did nothing to contribute to the general public’s comprehension of the very serious problem of antisemitism on the campuses of UK universities.

No BBC coverage of energy sector agreements between Israel and the PA

The topic of Israel’s withholding of tax revenue transfers to the Palestinian Authority has cropped up time and time again in the BBC’s Middle East coverage over the years. However, the BBC has repeatedly failed to adequately inform audiences of the relevant context of the PA’s massive debt to the Israel Electric Corporation and the reasons why that debt has accumulated.

BBC promotes selective narrative on PA economy

Critical omission in BBC News report on PA tax revenues

BBC again avoids informing audiences about PA debt to Israel

Multiple breaches of BBC editorial guidelines in BBC WS’s ‘Business Matters’ report from Bethlehem

Last week an agreement was reached in an effort to try to solve the perennial problem of that PA debt to the IEC.pylons

“Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement on Tuesday to resolve the Palestinians’ outstanding debt of almost NIS 2 billion ($530 million) to the Israel Electric Corporation.

Under the agreement, the PA will pay Israel NIS 570 million ($132 million), putting an end to the 10-year debt crisis. The balance of NIS 1.5 billion ($397 million) will be paid in 48 installments, according to AFP, which added that a portion of the debt — likely interest accrued over the years — is expected to be waived. […]

A joint Israeli-Palestinian committee will be formed to oversee the transfer of responsibility to the PA of power lines that supply electricity to Palestinian cities in the West Bank.”

The same week also saw an additional development in the energy sector.

“Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed to move ahead with plans to build a gas pipeline to Gaza in an effort to boost energy and water supplies to the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave. […]

A source in the PA told The Times of Israel that Palestinian officials were told the Israeli political echelon gave the go-ahead Tuesday. Israel and the Palestinians are set to jointly request funding for the pipeline from a number of donor countries. A committee comprised of representatives of such donor states is set to meet in New York later this month. […]

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Netherlands will help Israel build the Israel-Gaza pipeline.

“We want to help the population of Gaza and the first step is to improve the supply of energy and water… including laying a gas pipeline,” Netanyahu said during a two-day visit to The Netherlands at the beginning of this month.”

Given that the topic of the chronic electricity crisis is a regular feature in BBC reporting from the Gaza Strip (and frequently inaccurately attributed to Israel), one might have expected the corporation to report this news. However, neither of those examples of cooperation between Israel and the PA has received any BBC coverage.

Weekend long read

1) At the JCPA, Yoni Ben Mehachem takes a look at a topic much neglected by the BBC: Fatah’s internal politics.Weekend Read

“The succession battle in the Palestinian Authority has become very elemental since Mahmoud Abbas rejected the request of four Arab states – Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – to mend fences with his bitter rival Muhammad Dahlan. Some of those states want to see Dahlan as the next PA chairman.

Although some in Fatah view Abbas’ rejection of the Arab request as an act of “political suicide,” Abbas does not show signs of stress. At the urging of Egypt and Jordan, which fear Hamas, he called off the elections in the territories and consented to a return to Fatah by some of Dahlan’s people. As far as Abbas is concerned, he has complied with most of Egypt and Jordan’s requests. Yet, still, he is not prepared to countenance Muhammad Dahlan.”

2) The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff reports on another Palestinian succession battle likewise ignored by the BBC to date.

“Many people consider Haniyeh the leading candidate to succeed incumbent Khaled Mashaal, 60, primarily because of where he lives — Gaza. Running against him is Moussa Abu Marzouk, 65, who already was the head of the political wing (1992-7), is now Mashaal’s deputy (along with Haniyeh), and is considered a close associate of groups belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood’s global network.

There is a third candidate, too, well known to every Hamas activist in Gaza, the West Bank, and abroad. His name is Khaled Mashaal.

As Palestinian commentators point out, Hamas’s constitution prevents Mashaal being re-elected again. But anything is possible when it comes to Mashaal (Abu al-Walid), who has held the post for 20 years. Hamas may have a hard time saying goodbye to him, almost as hard as Mashaal would have in saying goodbye to the job. As head of Hamas’s political wing, he enjoys extraordinary status not only among the Palestinians but also throughout the Middle East and the Muslim states. He and his relatives are believed to have accrued considerable property and wealth in Qatar.

Will he be prepared to step down? Quite a few experts doubt it.

And quite a few experts question whether the Hamas election process is going to much resemble democracy in the first place.”

3) At the Washington Post Professor Eugene Kontorovich writes about “Why the U.N.’s Israel obsession should worry even people who don’t care about Israel”.

“Everyone knows the U.N. spends a disproportionate time on Israel, but the data reveal that even within resolutions, it uses a unique legal vocabulary for the Jewish state. The scale of the difference is quite striking. […]

Since 1967, General Assembly resolutions have referred to Israeli-held territories as “occupied” 2,342 times, while the territories mentioned above are referred to as “occupied” a mere 16 times combined… Similarly, Security Council resolutions refer to the disputed territories in the Israeli-Arab conflict as “occupied” 31 times, but only a total of five times in reference to all seven other conflicts combined.”

4) Fathom has an interesting article titled “Othering Zionism: theoretical affinities between Islamists and the Anti-Zionist Left”.

“The political alliances between Islamist organisations and the anti-Zionist Left rests on an underlying theoretical compatibility, argues Sapan Maini-Thompson. He examines their shared ideological schema in which Jews appear only as alien, racist, colonial interlopers in the region while Islamist and even anti-Semitic ‘resistance’ movements are coded as authentic and so progressive.”

5) At the Tower, Professor Gerald Steinberg reflects on the fifteen years since the Durban Conference.

“For many observers, the “Durban Strategy” marked the coming-out party for a “new anti-Semitism.” Unlike more traditional forms of anti-Semitism, which were by nature more overtly religious or racial in their blatant discrimination towards Jews, new anti-Semitism conceals the millennia-old hatred in a contemporary package, one better suited for a 21st-century audience. This anti-Semitism exploits the language of universal human rights and civil society, with NGOs publishing false and distorted allegations regarding Israel, and creating and maintaining double standards that apply only to a single country. New anti-Semitism goes well beyond any notion of legitimate criticism of Israel and its policies, and instead promulgates hateful vilification of the country, its people, and its Jewish character.”

BBC News amends misleading portrayal of Israeli construction

Earlier this week we noted that a report titled “US approves record $38bn Israel military aid deal” which was published on the BBC News website’s US & Canada and Middle East pages on September 13th presented an inaccurate and misleading portrayal of Israeli construction. As was observed at the time:military-aid-art

“The employment of phrases such as “Israeli settlement building”, “construction of Jewish settlements” and “construction of settlements” obviously leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing towns and villages, most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.”

Following communication from BBC Watch, the version of the article currently available online has now been amended.

The passage which previously stated “Pro-Palestinian groups criticised the deal, saying it rewards Israel despite the ongoing construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank” now reads as follows:

“Pro-Palestinian groups criticised the deal, saying it rewards Israel despite the ongoing construction in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

The sentence which previously read “Last month, the White House warned that the construction of settlements posed a “serious and growing threat to the viability of a two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” has also been amended:

“Last month, the White House warned that the construction in settlements posed a “serious and growing threat to the viability of a two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

[All emphasis added]

The amendments to the article can be viewed here.

Unfortunately, no footnote was added to explain the changes made and the continued absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website means that those who read the report in the week before it was amended will not be aware that they received inaccurate and misleading information.

BBC current affairs revisits antisemitism and anti-Zionism – part two

As was documented in part one of this post, on September 7th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard a rare explanation of why some forms of anti-Zionism are antisemitism from professor of history and Holocaust studies Yehuda Bauer.oz-clip

The following week, on September 13th, viewers of BBC’s Two’s ‘Newsnight’ saw Israeli author Amos Oz make the same point in an interview with Kirsty Wark.

A clip from the programme was also posted on the BBC News website and a written article about the interview appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘World’ page on September 14th under the title “Amos Oz: Saying Israel should not exist is anti-Semitic“.

“One of Israel’s great living writers, Amos Oz, says people who say Israel should not exist are anti-Semitic.

Speaking in an interview with BBC Newsnight, he said strong criticism of Israel is legitimate, but to argue there should be no Israel “that’s where anti-Zionism becomes anti-Semitism”.” […]

“In recent months, the Labour Party in the UK has been embroiled in a row over anti-Semitism, and whether the party has a problem on the issue.

Oz told Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark: “I can tell you exactly where I draw the line. If people call Israel nasty, I to some degree agree. If people call Israel the devil incarnated, I think they are obsessed – they are mad. But this is still legitimate.”

“But if they carry on saying that therefore there should be no Israel, that’s where anti-Zionism becomes anti-Semitism, because none of them ever said after Hitler that Germany should cease to exist, or after Stalin that there should be no Russia.”

“Saying that Israel should cease to exist, or should not have come into being, this is crossing the line.””

One can of course disagree with some of the analogies chosen by Amos Oz but nevertheless, it is worth noting that BBC audiences rarely see the connection between anti-Zionism and antisemitism explained and that in contemporary Britain it is far from rare to hear people “saying that Israel should cease to exist”.oz-written

The subject of BDS was also raised in the ‘Newsnight’ interview and in the written article.

“In February 2015, hundreds of UK artists signed a letter announcing they would take part in a cultural boycott of Israel. They said they would not accept professional invitations to Israel, or take any funding from organisations linked to the government.

Other prominent artists – including writer JK Rowling and historian Simon Schama – later criticised the move as “divisive and discriminatory”.

Oz told Newsnight he believes cultural boycotts of Israel are counter-productive.”

As has been documented here on many occasions, despite its frequent promotion of the BDS campaign the BBC has to date failed to inform its audiences of its full agenda and that it is in fact one of those voices “saying that there should be no Israel”.  Hence, BBC audiences would be unlikely to understand the link between the BDS campaign and the form of antisemitism explained by Amoz Oz – and earlier by Yehuda Bauer – in these two rare interviews.

Regrettably, the BBC did not make the most of the opportunity to clarify that point to its audiences and thereby contribute to meeting its remit of building “a global understanding of international issues”.

Related articles:

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

BBC current affairs revisits antisemitism and anti-Zionism – part one

BBC current affairs revisits antisemitism and anti-Zionism – part one

Readers may recall that earlier this year, as antisemitism scandals plagued the UK Labour Party, the BBC produced a distinctly unhelpful backgrounder titled “What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?“. At the time we noted that:antizionism art

“One might of course argue that the BBC’s public purpose remit – which includes “sustaining citizenship and civil society” and “promoting education and learning” – should have gone some way towards both preventing the appearance of antisemitic discourse in its own content and helping raise the British public’s awareness of antisemitism, thereby ensuring that ideologies such as those which have brought the Labour party into disrepute of late would be relegated to the status they deserve rather than becoming so commonplace within a mainstream British political party.”

With those scandals showing no sign of subsiding, earlier this month the BBC revisted the topic in two separate interviews. Given that discussion of antisemitism and anti-Zionism in Britain quite frequently boils down to non-Jews telling Jews what antisemitism is (or more often – what it is not), it was refreshing to see BBC audiences provided with a chance to hear Jewish Israeli voices.

The September 7th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an interview (from 02:44:10 here) with Professor Yehuda Bauer which was introduced as follows by presenter – and former BBC political editor – Nick Robinson. [all emphasis in bold added]

NR: “When does criticism of Israel amount to antisemitism? – if it ever does. That’s the question that’s been asked ever since Ken Livingstone – a regular and robust critic of the State of Israel – was suspended from the party for claiming that Hitler had supported Zionism before he went mad. Zionism, of course: the movement which led to the creation of a national home for the Jewish people. This week Mr Livingstone quoted a pamphlet from the Holocaust Memorial in Israel – Yad Vashem – in his defence.”

The “question” of course precedes Livingstone’s original remarks but those unfamiliar with that latter story can find more details here. Robinson continued:

“Well Yehudi [sic] Bauer is in London at the moment. He’s chair of the Yad Vashem Institute and professor emeritus of history and Holocaust studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Good morning to you Professor. […] Let’s begin with Ken Livingstone’s words if we can and then we’ll widen our discussion. He says – Mr Livingstone – if you go to the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem in Israel, one of the pamphlets they sell to tourists there is one that talks about the deal done between Hitler and the Zionists in the 1930s, so it must be true, he says.

Yehuda Bauer replied:

“Well, I don’t want to relate to the person who said it but to the content of the things. You see what happened was that when the Nazis got to power the idea was to expel or deport or in some ways get rid of all the Jews in Germany – not only deny them citizenship but actually expel them. So they should go anywhere possible. And that was supported by the Nazi party. The Zionist movement at that time wanted to rescue the Jews of Germany and wanted to get as many out of there as possible. So a deal was struck in August 1933 – which lasted for about five and a half years – to export goods from Germany with the people who bought them in Germany, to Palestine. This is part of an effort of German Jews to leave Germany because of the policies of the Nazi government. “

Robinson: “But if Hitler, as it were, and other Nazis wanted Jews to move to what was going to become Israel, is it right to then say ‘ah well, he was supporting Zionism’?”

Bauer: “No he wasn’t. In fact the Nazi foreign office – as anyone who has studied the material knows – opposed Zionism radically. When the British government supported a partition of Palestine between Arab and Jewish states in 1937, 38, 39, all German diplomats in the world got instructions to oppose any kind of Jewish state in Palestine. There was a contradiction in the policies of the Nazis. On the one hand they wanted to get rid of all the Jews and on the other hand, to one of the major places where they could go at the time, they opposed the establishment of a Jewish state.”

Robinson: “OK.”

Bauer: “In other words, they were violently anti-Zionist but to get rid of the Jews was the priority…”

Robinson [interrupts] “OK but that…”

Bauer: “For Jews this was an essential way in order to rescue people from Germany.”

Listeners then heard the following post-factual framing of Bauer’s explanation:today-7-9-bauer

Robinson:  “That’s the history, as it were, and historians can debate it and discuss…”

Bauer: “No, no – that’s a fact.”

Robinson: “OK, understood. But why I was putting it that way is I wanted to take you one stage further and then say if people challenge those facts – as you call them – does that then make them antisemitic – or in effect racist – rather than people who just don’t understand the history properly?”

Bauer: “Well you see criticism of any Israeli government’s policies is certainly not antisemitism. If I criticise any kind of British government – for instance during the Thatcher period – that doesn’t make me an anti-British person.”

Robinson: “So when does it become antisemitism?”

Bauer: “It becomes antisemitism the moment people say ‘well 1948 – the establishment of a Jewish state – was a mistake’. Mistakes have to be corrected and the only way to correct that so-called mistake would be to annihilate Israel – which means actually that the people who advocate such views are on the verge of being genocidal – intentionally or unintentionally – genocidal propagandists.”

Robinson: “But isn’t it possible for me – or anybody else – to argue that I do think it was a mistake to create the State of Israel but I might have no intention at all of wiping it off the map or indeed persecuting the Jewish people?”

Bauer: “No; if you oppose the policies of the present or any past or future Israeli government – whether that’s towards the Palestinians or anything else – that’s certainly not antisemitism. Antisemitism begins the moment you say the Jews have no right to have a separate political existence as a people.”

Robinson: “Yehudi [sic] Bauer; your talk is tonight in London. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.”

It is of course impossible to determine whether or not that interview succeeded in fulfilling its apparent purpose of helping BBC Radio 4 audiences to understand the inaccuracy of Ken Livingstone’s claims but certainly that purpose was not helped by Nick Robinson’s introduction of post-factual framing.

Nevertheless, it is very rare for BBC audiences to hear a clear and concise explanation of why some forms of anti-Zionism are expressions of antisemitism and surprisingly – as we will see in part two of this post – they heard another such explanation just a week later.

Related articles:

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

 

BBC News pushes settlements narrative in report on another topic

On September 13th an article titled “US approves record $38bn Israel military aid deal” was published on the BBC News website’s US & Canada and Middle East pages. The next day – for reasons unknown – the article was rewritten and its date stamp changed.military-aid-art

Notwithstanding its declared subject matter, the original article told BBC audiences that:

“It [the agreement] was approved despite frustration within the Obama administration at Israeli settlement building.”

And:

“Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have also been a sticking point between the allies.

Only last month, the White House chided Israel for a “dramatic acceleration” in such building on occupied Palestinian territory.”

The amended version tells readers that:

“Pro-Palestinian groups criticised the deal, saying it rewards Israel despite the ongoing construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. […]

Last month, the White House warned that the construction of settlements posed a “serious and growing threat to the viability of a two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The employment of phrases such as “Israeli settlement building”, “construction of Jewish settlements” and “construction of settlements” obviously leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing towns and villages, most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.

The use of the phrase “building on occupied Palestinian territory” of course prevents audiences from understanding that all construction takes place in Area C or in Jerusalem and that under the terms of the Oslo Accords – signed by the recognised representatives of the Palestinian people – the future of those areas is to be determined in final status negotiations and in the meantime, no limitation on construction in those areas is imposed by the Accords.

The sentence “[o]nly last month, the White House chided Israel for a “dramatic acceleration” in such building…” clearly does not clarify to readers the real story behind that hyperbole and in fact actively misleads audiences with regard to the pace of building compared to previous years.

Construction completesThe insertion of the mantra concerning ‘international law’ as ever conceals from BBC audiences the existence of legal opinions which do not conform to the BBC’s chosen narrative.

Ostensibly, this is an article about a subject other than ‘settlements’ but as we see, a highly partial and misleading view of that topic – which does not serve the BBC’s remit of “enhancing audience understanding” but rather advances a specific political narrative – is nevertheless shoehorned into the report.  

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Examining the BBC’s claim that Israeli building endangers the two state solution