Report of All-Party inquiry into Antisemitism adduces BBC content

February 9th saw the publication of the Report of the All-Party Parliamentary inquiry into Antisemitism which was commissioned by John Mann MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.

In the view of this writer, the report is not without issues and perhaps one of the more obvious is the absence of clarification of the connections of boycott campaigns against shops in the UK to the parent body behind those individual actions – the BDS movement. The resulting failure to identify the antisemitic aims of the BDS movement as a whole as well as those it inspires in individual cases of harassment of retailers constitutes a serious omission from this report.

As readers who have already had a chance to read the publication will be aware, several references are made to the BBC.  In the chapter titled ‘Traditional and Social Media’ (page 49 onwards), section 151 includes the following:BBC building

“…there was an overwhelming consensus amongst those that submitted evidence or gave personal testimony at the regional meetings we held, that the media, and in particular the BBC, had a role to play in whipping up anger through emotive content in the news and analysis that was broadcast. There was certainly a significant focus on the conflict. Using various analytical tools, Dr Ben Gidley found that there had been particularly intense coverage of protests and demonstrations against Israel and the conflict in general when compared to other countries and conflicts. He argued that the excessive focus on Israel in the media allows for inappropriate language to be used, although we discuss this in a later section.” [emphasis added]

Section 154 notes:

“An antisemitic trope about Jewish control of politicians referenced by a BBC journalist”.

The chapter titled ‘The Role of the Media’ appears from page 78 onwards.

Part five of the report is titled ‘Addressing Antisemitic Discourse’. Under the sub-heading ‘Accusations of Dual Loyalty and Malign Influence’ (page 104 onwards), section 376 notes that:

“References to and interest in the ‘Jewish lobby’ was not only a feature of political debate.[…] We were warned however of “the capacity of this sort of article to generate troubling stereotypes” given a reference to ‘the Jewish lobby’ was made when the article was discussed on the BBC News Channel. We note that the language used to collectively describe Jews was raised again in this regard in early 2015.”

The appended footnotes show that the first instance cited refers to a statement made by the BBC’s ‘political advisor’ on November 8th 2014 and that the second instance refers to the remarks made by Tim Willcox in Paris on January 11th 2015. 

There is, of course, a case for differentiating between these two statements broadcast by the BBC. Whilst the first one definitely did tap into the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope (with Tim Willcox later adding another age-old stereotype about ‘rich Jews’), the second one was different in that it held European Jews collectively responsible for the perceived actions of Israel. However, it is interesting to note that the report goes on to state:

“Leading figures and commentators in public life must be clear that it is inaccurate to use the term ‘Jewish lobby’ which used in this context is antisemitic and that there is nothing disreputable about the existence of an Israel lobby. Sadly, antisemitic stereotypes of Jewish influence and dual loyalty, albeit not as prolific as in other periods of modern British history, were used during Operation Protective Edge and afterwards and as Professor Feldman put it, emerged “from all points of the political spectrum”.”

It worth remembering  that complaints made by members of the public about the first of those comments were dismissed by the BBC, whilst complaints made about the second statement were dismissed by Ofcom and are currently pending investigation by the BBC’s ECU.

The references to BBC content in this report (which relates to a defined period of time) do not of course provide a comprehensive picture of the issue of antisemitic discourse in BBC content and on the corporation’s public message boards. Nevertheless, the BBC should obviously be very concerned by the fact that it appears at all in this report. 

BBC doubles down on presenter’s ‘mansion tax’ comment

The Jewish Chronicle informs us that the BBC has issued a statement following the receipt of complaints concerning remarks made during a BBC News Channel papers review on November 8th (and also promoted on the BBC News website) which, as we noted here, included references to “the Jewish lobby”.BBC Papers on website

“The BBC has received 33 complaints after a commentator referred to a “Jewish lobby” during a newspaper review. […]

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the BBC said: “The comments were made about the Independent on Sunday story which claimed that unnamed Jewish donors were withdrawing financial support from Ed Miliband over Israel.

“Tim named Maureen Lipman in this context, and as part of a wider discussion, asked if Labour’s ‘mansion tax’ policy was one of the factors that might put off some of the Jewish donors cited by the paper from contributing to Labour’s election coffers.

“It was clear that he was not suggesting that Jewish people in particular are against the mansion tax.” “

As the JC points out:

“The newspaper article had made no reference to the mansion tax.”

According to the information in the JC report, the BBC statement does not appear to have addressed the equally problematic issue of the programme’s promotion of the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope.

Related Articles:

More BBC promotion of the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope

BBC Radio 5 live mainstreams an antisemitic trope

BBC News interviewee’s antisemitic slur goes unchallenged

BBC defends employee’s use of term ‘Jewish lobby’

BBC’s Simpson mainstreams trope used by anti-Israel campaigners

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ featured in CST report on antisemitic discourse

The numbers behind BBC promotion of the ‘Israel lobby’

 

More BBC promotion of the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope

Barely a week after the mainstreaming of the antisemitic ‘Jewish lobby’ trope in a review of the papers on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Stephen Nolan show, another papers review – this time on the BBC News Channel – promoted the same trope and others on November 8th.

In addition to its being broadcast on television, the item was also posted on the BBC News website’s UK page the following day. The relevant section can be seen in the video below.BBC Papers on website

Presenter Tim Willcox’s guests are Nigel Nelson of the ‘Sunday People’ and former Lib Dem spin-doctor Jo Phillips who is introduced as “our political advisor”.

Asked by Willcox to explain the story appearing in the ‘Independent’ to viewers, Phillips says:

“…what you get is a lot of unnamed people…ahm…from sort of the Jewish lobby and obviously, you know, they’ve been very supportive of the Labour Party and they are abandoning ‘toxic’ Labour.”

Obviously as far as Phillips is concerned, any British Jew – identified or not – who contributes to a political party can automatically be categorised as a member of a supposed “Jewish lobby”. She goes on:

“But they’re not abandoning it because of Ed Miliband’s personal ratings according to this. This is because of what Ed Miliband actually said…ahm…in the summer; his aggressive condemnation of Israel’s attacks – disproportionate attacks and incursion into Gaza.”

Ms Phillips’ qualifications – legal or military – for judging whether or not Israeli attacks were “disproportionate” are of course highly debatable, but Willcox makes no effort to rectify the misleading impression given to viewers by Phillips’ employment of a loaded label without evidence-based justification.

Instead, Willcox bizarrely introduces into the conversation the equally evidence-free notion that Jewish donors to the Labour party will automatically be opposed to a proposed tax on high-value properties, thus tapping into the old stereotype of ‘rich Jews’.

“Yeah and a lot of these prominent Jewish…ah….ah….faces will be very much against the mansion tax presumably as well.”

Phillips later adds:

“…but it is this terrible thing if, you know, you’re not supposed apparently to say anything anti-Israeli. Ahm…and if you attack Israeli political…ahm…policies or the government policies then, you know, this is what you get. Ahm…you know it seems to me that it’s totally hypocritical that on the one hand they [Labour] are now going to have to look perhaps to the unions to get some funding but will be accused of being in the unions’ pockets. But when he’s [Miliband] being brave and principled and standing up and saying, you know, this time Israel has gone too far, people take their money away…”

So, here we have the BBC once more promoting the age-old antisemitic trope that a “Jewish lobby” made up of rich Jews uses its power and financial clout to manipulate political policy. Moreover, viewers are fed the ridiculous idea that a British politician with a “brave” and “principled” stance is being punished by a wealthy ‘lobby’ (which obviously does not share the same characteristics) simply because “you’re not supposed to say anything anti-Israeli”.

This is just one more example of the growing phenomenon of BBC enablement of the mainstreaming of antisemitic discourse. Broadcasting House: you have a very serious problem.