BBC’s ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic?’ documentary maker in conversation

In the latest episode of his podcast series British journalist Jonny Gould talks to John Ware about his documentary “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” which was aired on BBC One’s ‘Panorama’ earlier this month.

“…the [Labour party] press operation is frankly inept…it’s difficult to take some of their stuff seriously.”

“None of them [the Labour party leadership] would submit to questioning. It’s impossible to interrogate them because any communication is conducted…by e-mail, by written answers…it’s not an ideal way to get to the bottom of something…”

“…the Labour party’s relationship to the truth on some of these issues is not what it should be, has not been what it should be.”

The podcast is available here or in additional formats here.

BBC One’s ‘Panorama’ on Labour antisemitism raises another issue

The edition of ‘Panorama’ titled “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” which was aired on BBC One on July 10th (available here on iPlayer or here) swiftly garnered reactions from the Labour party itself – which described it as an “authored polemic” – and its supporters as well as from bodies such as the Chief Rabbi, the JLC and CST and the Board of Deputies of British Jews along with many others.

There is, however, something more to be said about the core topic addressed by John Ware.

At 08:58 Ware told viewers that: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Ware: “Before Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader in 2015, complaints in the party about antisemitism were rare. […] After Mr Corbyn became leader, party membership surged, some attracted by his decades of radical Left activism.

Interviewee: “So there’s an increase in members from a particular perspective and they brought with them a particular world view which unfortunately allowed breathing space for antisemitism to arise.”

That “world view” of course existed in British society long before Corbyn’s election to the party leadership in September 2015 and it was described later on in the film (from 10:21) as follows by Dr Dave Rich.

Rich: “Many people on the Left they define themselves by being anti-racist and actually they define the Right as being racist. So in their world they can’t be antisemitic because they are Left-wing.”

Ware: “For Jeremy Corbyn and those who share his world view, part of being anti-racist is near unconditional support for the Palestinian cause. Yet the campaign for Palestinian rights can blind some anti-racists to another kind of racism against Jews.”

Rich: “If you look back at the kind of antisemitism that existed in the 1930s – Jews using their money, Jews controlling governments – instead you started to see the same ideas were being directed towards Israel. These kinds of ideas are much more acceptable on the Left and in pro-Palestinian campaigning circles because they talk about Israel; they don’t talk about Jews. But actually underneath the surface, it’s the same ideas.”

If one wishes to understand why antisemitism is still so sociably acceptable in the UK in the 21st century that it is not a barrier to becoming a member of – or even a leading figure in – one of Britain’s most prominent political parties, one cannot ignore the country’s biggest and most influential media organisation.

For example, among the images seen during the above section of the programme was this one, apparently from a demonstration in London:

The picture used on that banner – and the falsehood behind it – is a product of inaccurate and irresponsible BBC reporting.

Long before Jeremy Corbyn took over the Labour party leadership the BBC was whitewashing the antisemitism of British politicians and facilitating the spread of antisemitic discourse on its message boards. Over six years ago the BBC was already promoting the notion that “it’s very difficult to criticize the Israeli government without in turn being told you’re antisemitic and some people would say that Jews see antisemitism everywhere” and that was not a one-off case by any means. In its various ‘backgrounders’ supposedly explaining antisemitism to its audiences, the BBC has repeatedly promoted the Livingstone Formulation.

The BBC has hosted known antisemites and Holocaust deniers and provided often offensive anti-Israel campaigners with an unhindered platform from which to promote falsehoods. It has whitewashed antisemitism in British society from sport to charities and academia and has promoted antisemitic stereotypes. BBC audiences have been repeatedly exposed to antisemitic tropes concerning ‘the Jewish lobby’ or ‘the Israel lobby’ and stereotypes about ‘rich Jews’ even from BBC staff and contributors. And of course the BBC has failed to respond appropriately to complaints from the general public concerning antisemitism in its own content.

Since the issue of antisemitism in the Labour party became prominent, the BBC has repeatedly shown itself to be incapable of reporting on that topic accurately, impartially and in a manner which provides the British public with the full range of information.

So while John Ware’s Panorama documentary about institutional antisemitism in the Labour party is obviously a very welcome step in informing the British public about the anti-Jewish racism in their society, it is also necessary for the BBC to put its own house in order by undertaking a serious examination of its own coverage of – and contributions to – that worrying phenomenon.

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One to watch on BBC One

Jeremy Corbyn’s Antisemitism Crisis: a Timeline  (CAMERA)

BBC News not sure whether Corbyn controversy mural antisemitic or not

Reviewing BBC R4’s ‘World at One’ background on the Labour Party story

 

 

One to watch on BBC One

On Wednesday July 10th, at 9 p.m. UK time, BBC One will air an edition of ‘Panorama’ titled “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?”.

“Panorama goes inside the anti-Semitism crisis gripping Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. With exclusive interviews from key insiders and access to confidential communications and documents, this is the story of how the crises developed. Reporter John Ware reveals the evasions and contradictions at the heart of the political party which leader Jeremy Corbyn says has anti-racism at its very core.”

Reactions from the Labour party have already been forthcoming.

“A row has broken out in the senior ranks of the Labour party after it emerged it was trying to use non-disclosure agreements against former staffers who contributed to what is expected to be a critical documentary about Jeremy Corbyn’s team and antisemitism. […]

The split was triggered by Labour’s response to an approach from the BBC about allegations it will feature in a Panorama programme to be broadcast on Wednesday. The film has been made by the veteran investigative journalist John Ware and it is expected it will use leaked documents and interviews with insiders to revive claims that advisers working for Corbyn intervened in antisemitism disciplinary cases in such a way as to favour some of those accused.

According to the Sunday Times, up to half a dozen former Labour staffers spoke to Panorama despite having signed NDAs with the party. Some of them have received letters from Labour’s lawyers saying they could face legal action for breaking their NDA obligations.”

And:

“The Labour Party is reportedly in fresh turmoil as fresh allegations are about to air on the BBC that key aides of Jeremy Corbyn tried to protect leftwingers accused of antisemtism.

The Sunday Times reported today that leading allies of the Labour leader have demanded he remove his chief of staff, Karie Murphy, and director of communictions and strategy, Seamas Milne. […]

But another Labour source told the paper the party was preparing to complain about the programme. “Rather than investigating antisemitism in the Labour Party in a balanced and impartial way, Panorama appears to have predetermined its outcome and created a programme to fit a one-sided narrative.””

As one Labour MP put it:

 

BBC silent on British link to incitement of Palestinian children

A month ago the annual ‘Palestine Festival for Childhood and Education’ was held in the Gaza Strip. As the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported, the five-day festival’s opening event was attended by a representative from the Gaza office of a British charity.

“On April 3, 2016, a ceremony was held at the University College of Applied Sciences in Gaza to announce the beginning of the Annual Palestine Festival for Childhood and Education. The opening ceremony was attended by college’s rector, Dr. Refaat Rustom, members of the faculty, Ahmed Hawajri, director of guidance and special education in the department of education in the Gaza Strip, Imad al-Ghalayini, representing the Bank of Palestine, Mahmoud Lubbad, Interpal representative in Gaza, and representatives of children’s organizations throughout the Gaza Strip. The festival began on April 3 and ran until April 7, 2016, and organized various activities for children throughout the Gaza Strip.” [emphasis added]

Lubbad’s participation is explained by the fact that the British charity Interpal co-sponsored the festival.

“The high point of the festival during Palestinian Children’s Day on April 5. One of the events was held in Khan Yunis, and was attended by many children and their teachers. Children came on stage in groups and put on shows they had prepared for the audience. There were dances and songs as well as displays with themes of hatred and violence against Israel, evidence of the indoctrination received by the younger Palestinian generation. The displays were accompanied by songs with themes of hatred and violence.

Three of the plays put on by the children were the following:

  1. A play in which a very young, veiled girl stabs an “IDF soldier” with a knife – In response the “soldiers” shoot her and she falls motionless to the ground. The play was related to the release of Palestinian prisoners (see below), and glorified the stabbing attacks which are a prominent form of attack in the current Palestinian terrorist campaign.
  2. A play showing a “Palestinian prisoner” incarcerated by “IDF soldiers.” A masked child wearing a uniform “shoots and kills the IDF soldiers” and releases the “prisoner”. The play reflects the Hamas’ efforts to abduct Israelis as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel.
  3. A display put on by another group of children showing an “IDF soldier” holding an Israeli flag. A little girl knocks him over, steps on him and picks up a Palestinian flag. Then she “releases” a Palestinian prisoner.”

As can clearly be seen in this video of clips from those shows, the stage backdrop displayed the Israel-erasing Interpal logo.

Interpal logo Gaza childrens festival

When approached by the Daily Mail, an Interpal representative stated that:

“…it did not support the play but instead ‘hosted some activities in Gaza City, as part of the larger event’, adding that it does not condone violence.”

And:

“Our logo was used in various materials for the festival, as we held our own activities as part of the larger umbrella of the festival in Gaza City,’ a spokesperson said. ‘We did not support this particular play and did not have any involvement with it.”

Ten years ago the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ made a very good programme about Interpal titled ‘Faith, Hate and Charity’ which opened with footage of Palestinian children performing similar ‘amateur dramatics’. Following that programme an investigation into Interpal was carried out (not for the first time) by the Charity Commission.

“Included in a wealth of material which Panorama passed to the Commission was video evidence of young girls at an event organised by one of Interpal’s partner charities being encouraged to sing: “We all sacrifice ourselves for our country” and “… we answer your call and make of our skulls a ladder to your glory, a ladder.”

Another clip shows girls dancing to a tune with the lyrics: “Fasten your bomb belt oh would-be martyr and fill the square with blood so that we get back our homeland.”

A woman, who was organizing another event was seen taking the microphone and telling the children: “To martyrs in every time and place… To the rich blood and to the wounds which have drawn the identity of Islamic land.”

In paragraph 60 of its report, the Commission acknowledged that the material presented to it “seemed to indicate that certain local partners funded by the Charity promoted terrorist ideology or activities amongst their beneficiaries.”

Despite that Panorama report, Interpal continued to function and apparently very little has changed in the last decade – apart the BBC’s level of interest in the story, which it has not covered to date.

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Weekend long read

As has been noted here previously, BBC reporting on the current wave of terror attacks against Israelis has frequently made use of the term ‘lone wolf attacks’. In an interview with the Times of Israel, Anat Berko – currently a member of the Knesset and formerly a criminologist specializing in suicide terrorists – addressed that topic.Weekend Read

“I don’t accept the idea that these are lone wolves. This wave of terror is directed from above. The incitement is insane. It’s on TV, satellite broadcasts, in mosques, on the street and in schools, including East Jerusalem, in schools that we actually pay for. It’s so bad that it’s a surprise that not everyone is a terrorist. If you look at the website of the Palestinian Authority, they speak of all of Palestine, pre-1948, not just pre-1967.”

Read the full interview here.

At Standpoint magazine, John Ware writes about “‘Anti-Extremists’ Who Equate Israel With IS: a must read which underscores the importance of accurate and impartial reporting on Israel and the Middle East for domestic BBC audiences.

“Swallowing fantastical conspiracy theories — especially about Jews — is an early sign of vulnerability to radicalisation, and is symptomatic of the marked grievance narrative that says the West is persecuting Muslims. […]
The grievance narrative that Muslims are the eternal victims of Jews and the West is known to set David Cameron’s eyes rolling and is one of several extreme but non-violent drivers that can lead to radicalisation. Others include disdain for parliamentary democracy, sectarianism, and regressive attitudes to equality. The entire extremist narrative is now the target of the government’s counter-extremism strategy published this autumn, a narrative which Mr Cameron has exhorted the nation to fight “every day at the kitchen table, on the university campus, online and on the airwaves”. So how exactly are we doing on this side of the Channel?”

An interesting recent discussion between Dave Rubin and Nick Cohen on the topic of “the Regressive Left and Identity Politics” (note the reference to “BBC-type people”) can be found at The Rubin Report.

Must read article by former BBC journalist

A July 8th article by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus entitled “Egypt’s political unrest causes regional concern” opens thus:

“The removal from office of a president drawn from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood by the Egyptian military clearly has implications for political Islam around the region.

Similar movements in Tunisia and Syria have been watching events closely and will be drawing their own lessons.” [emphasis added] 

“Similar movements”? With a deep sigh I made a note to myself to write an article about the Muslim Brotherhood network and specifically its Syrian branch and former London resident Rachid Ghannouchi.  

But it turns out that I don’t have to – because former BBC correspondent John Ware has written a long and excellent piece on the subject which anyone (including current BBC staff and quite a few politicians) who hopes to begin to understand the basics of the Middle East and beyond – and why Islamists and democracy cannot get along – should read.

In our recent article entitled “Who has the ear of ‘senior BBC executives’?” we pointed out the cosy connections between the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and known Hamas operatives in the UK such as Mohammed Sawalha.  John Ware writes: 

“One senior Muslim Brother in Britain today is Mohammed Sawalha, a fugitive Hamas commander described by a Brotherhood website as being “responsible for the political unit of the international Muslim Brotherhood in the UK”. Membership of the Brotherhood is not a badge Sawalha wears publicly for members; followers have been generally careful to obscure their radicalism, forever cleaving towards the Muslim and non-Muslim mainstream as “noble” (a word they often use) campaigners for justice and civil rights.”

John Ware’s article is here – do read it all. 

BBC documentary ‘Israel: Facing The Future’ tries to break the mould

For those who have not yet had the chance to watch the BBC Two documentary “Israel: Facing The Future” with John Ware which was broadcast on April 17th, here it is.

Whilst the programme does have its inaccuracies, all in all it is clear that – for once – a genuine effort was made to present an objective, well-rounded picture of a complex subject and that a good deal of background research must have gone into making the documentary. Although the cameraman is not named on the relevant page of the BBC website, the film includes some stunning shots, often peppered with good humour.

A few of the more notable inaccuracies include the presentation of the anti-terrorist fence as a “concrete separation wall” – although to Ware’s credit he did at least explain why it was built in the first place. The claim that “Palestinians here [in Area C] are stateless” was not balanced by a clarification of the fact that the vast majority of Palestinians living in Judea & Samaria do so under Palestinian Authority rule. The description of Avrum Burg as “leader” of the Israeli peace movement was probably somewhat over the top: many Israelis – even those on the Left of the political map – would dispute that Burg’s ideas have anything to do with peace or that he leads any kind of mainstream ‘peacenik’ movement. And at its narrowest point, Israel is of course 9.3 miles wide – not twelve. 

The claim that since the idea of a two-state solution “was first discussed” (one presumes Ware means the Oslo accords), Israeli communities have “moved ever deeper into the territory” [Judea & Samaria] is in itself disputable and the assertion that this would make it “harder to dismantle settlements” is speculation which ignores the Israeli record of dismantling communities in the Sinai and the Gaza Strip.

Ware states that “The West Bank has been under Israeli control since 1967 when Israel defeated Arab armies threatening to attack”. Of course that is a very superficial description of the Six Day War and one which ignores a whole host of factors sparking the conflict – for example the closure of the Straits of Tiran by Egypt and the expulsion of international observers from Sinai – as well as the fact that Arab armies did considerably more than “threaten”.  

That particular point was the subject of a complaint made by a reader to the BBC about Ware’s film. The surreal answer he received appears below.

Ware prog complaint reply

In addition, Ware states that “Israel was reluctant to part with the new territory” [acquired as a result of the Six Day War]. That very superficial representation airbrushes out of the picture the Israeli government’s hope of being able to broker peace deals with the surrounding countries after the war and the response of those countries in the form of the Khartoum Declaration

There are additional inaccuracies in the programme – some of which are addressed here – but overall it was refreshing to see an attempt to portray Israel beyond the usual jaded clichés. Two BBC-related (rather than Israel-related) points did strike this viewer though.

One came as a result of Ware’s statement that during Operation Cast Lead “what the world saw were pictures of dead Palestinians”. That, of course, is in no small part due to the mainstream media’s focus on such pictures according to the old adage ‘if it bleeds, it leads’. The media in general – including the BBC – clearly needs to examine its own responsibility for the fact that world opinion on the Arab-Israeli conflict has been shaped to no small degree by the stories it elects not to run (such as Israeli civilians in bomb shelters) as well as those it does highlight.

Another point for consideration comes from the sub-text of the documentary which implied that Israel’s standing in the world – and indeed the justification for its existence and its future – depends upon its being a peace-orientated secular democracy. It is telling to observe that neither the BBC nor the abstract phenomenon known as ‘world opinion’, which it helps shape, has revealed similar concerns in relation to other countries.

Nobody dreamed of suggesting that the existence of Egypt or Tunisia should be subject to discussion when religiously motivated governments came to power in those countries. In fact, the BBC in particular was notably enthusiastic about what it saw as the display of democracy at work during the ‘Arab Spring’. ‘World opinion’ (along with the BBC) is not dissuaded from supporting attempts to establish a Palestinian state either by the lack of a culture of peace or the existence of extremist religiously-inspired ideology within Palestinian society. Neither does the fact that the Palestinian people have not been able to exercise their democratic right to vote for their leaders for over seven years appear to prompt questions from their financial supporters – or BBC documentaries. 

Hence, the impartiality of the underlying suggestion of this film that Israel’s future is threatened by a “shrinking secular majority” must necessarily be examined for double standards within the broader framework of BBC approaches to the wider world. 

Predicting the future in Israel (and the Middle East in general) is a notoriously reckless business, as those of us who believed that events such as the signing of the Oslo Accords or the disengagement from the Gaza Strip hailed a brighter tomorrow well know. So whilst the underlying assumptions in Ware’s documentary may have limited value, it was nevertheless refreshing to see a BBC production which did try to go beyond that organisation’s standard approach. 

Glimpse of upcoming BBC programme on Israel

Ahead of tonight’s BBC Two programme “Israel: Facing the Future” (scheduled at 21:00 GMT), the BBC News website has published a feature under the title “Israel at 65: What does the future hold?” written by the programme’s presenter John Ware. A filmed excerpt from the upcoming programme appears in that article and also separately on the BBC News website under the heading “Israel at 65: John Ware gets a glimpse inside an Orthodox religious school“. 

John Ware prog 2

The first sentence of the above synopsis would suggest that the BBC is having trouble distinguishing between the minority Haredim and other groups which define themselves as ‘religious’ in Israel. Hopefully the programme itself will be more accurate. 

One to watch on BBC Two

Next Wednesday – April 17th 2013 – at 21:00 GMT a programme by John Ware entitled “Israel: Facing the Future” will be shown on BBC Two.

“John Ware journeys to Israel for a fresh look at how it has responded to the changes sweeping the region in the wake of the Arab Spring. He meets Israelis from all walks of life to go beyond the news clichés and analyse what is next for the world’s only Jewish state as both the religious and the secular battle over its future.”

John Ware prog

One to watch out for

Paula Stern from Ma’ale Adumim has written on the Times of Israel blogs of her recent day with a BBC film crew making a documentary in Israel. 

“And when it was all done, I came home and pondered what I would write here. I get the first chance to post about my hours with some BBC employees and a seasoned BBC reporter. They and he will get the last word when the documentary airs. It will be an hour in length, covering hours and hours of footage shot all over Israel – the Negev, the north, Tel Aviv, and Ramallah. From all the hours of walking and driving…a few short sentences will be taken. “

Paula’s impressions are encouraging:

Ma’ale Adumim

“BBC came to Maale Adumim to see, to listen and overall, I think they did.”

“I searched for the bias BBC is famous for; I waited for the agenda to come through. I have to be honest and say they were fair.”

“They said they wanted to show their audience the real Israel, the side the media doesn’t have a chance to show.”

Of course the proof of the pudding is in the editing, but the BBC reporter concerned is apparently John Ware, who has a good track record on understanding Islamist extremism, having made the Panorama documentaries on extremism in Saudi schools in Britain and the Hamas-linked charity Interpal.  

Apparently due to be broadcast around April, this will be definitely a programme to watch out for.