BBC’s Nicky Campbell materially misleads on Jewish self-determination

Following its written and audio items relating to antisemitism and anti-Zionism, the BBC took the same topic to its British audience’s television screens. The May 1st edition of BBC One’s “moral, ethical and religious discussion series” titled ‘The Big Questions’ purported to address the question “Is anti-Zionism anti-Semitic?”.

What followed is perhaps best described as tabloid television; various pre-selected participants engaged in repugnant defamation of Israel by means of populist slurs such as ‘ethnic cleansing’, ‘colonisation’ and ‘apartheid’ and promoted falsehoods such as the baseless allegation that Israel ‘burnt’ Palestinian children with white phosphorus.

Of course nothing other than that was to be expected given the records and ideologies of some of the people the BBC chose to invite to the programme such as MPAC UK’s Raza Nadim, Tony Greenstein, Daphna Baram and Moshe Machover. Without doubt the programme’s producers got entirely predictable results.

One particularly notable feature of the programme, however, came not from the invited guests but from the show’s presenter Nicky Campbell who twice introduced the following theme into the discussion.

“Benjamin Netanyahu – the prime minister – he wanted to pass this law saying Israel is the nation-state of one people only – the Jewish people – and no other people. If any other country in the world said that, people would be jumping up and down saying that’s racist.”

The bill to which Campbell refers was in fact first proposed by the Kadima party’s Avi Dichter in 2011 and additional versions were subsequently proposed by several other members of the Knesset – including Netanyahu. In 2013 the then Minister of Justice, Tsipi Livni, commissioned Professor Ruth Gavison to examine the issue and compile recommendations. To date the bill has not passed a preliminary reading.

Campbell’s twice stated claim is based on partial representation of the Israeli prime minister’s words during a debate in the Knesset in 2014.

““Ladies and gentlemen, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people and the Jewish people alone,” Netanyahu said, with rights for its non-Jewish minority. He added, however, that critics of his bill want a Palestinian national state which would be empty of Jews, but that Israel should be a bi-national state.

He outlined the general principles of his draft of the “Jewish state” bill, echoing elements of Israel’s Declaration of Independence and Basic Laws: “The land of Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and the site of the state of Israel’s establishment. The state of Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people and it embodies the right of self-determination. The right to exercise self-determination in the state of Israel is exclusive to the Jewish people. The state of Israel is a democratic state, and it executes the rights of all of its citizens according to the law.””

Campbell not only claims that the proposal to enshrine Jewish self-determination in Israeli law is “racist” but also implies that no “other country in the world” has done such a thing. That of course is an inaccurate claim – as Professor Eugene Kontorovich pointed out in 2014 – and one which materially misleads BBC audiences.

“Seven EU states have constitutional “nationhood” provisions, which typically speak of the state as being the national home and locus of self-determination for the country’s majority ethnic group. This is even the case in places like the Baltics, with large and alienated minority populations.

For example, the Latvian constitution opens by invoking the “unwavering will of the Latvian nation to have its own State and its inalienable right of self-determination in order to guarantee the existence and development of the Latvian nation, its language and culture throughout the centuries.” It continues by defining Latvian “identify” as “shaped by Latvian and Liv traditions, Latvian folk wisdom, the Latvian language, universal human and Christian values.”

Or consider the Slovak constitution, which opens with the words, “We the Slovak nation,” and lays claim to “the natural right of nations to self-determination.” Only then does it note the “members of national minorities and ethnic groups living on the territory of the Slovak Republic,” which are not part of the “We” exercising national self-determination.”

There are numerous additional examples of nation-states but of course BBC audiences do not hear presenters claim that the enshrinement of Japanese, Egyptian or French self-determination in those countries’ laws is “racist”.

Obviously then the BBC, Nicky Campbell and the Mentorn Media production team need to explain why they got this so wrong and to clarify their error to audiences.

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BBC’s Jeremy Bowen misrepresents a CST statement

Resources:

‘The Big Questions’ – Twitter account

‘The Big Questions’ – Facebook  

BBC ‘moral debate’ contributor promotes conspiracy theory

In relation to this story, the Jewish Chronicle informs us that:

“A representative of a controversial UK Muslim group has described an initiative led by Jewish society heads at campuses across the UK as indicative of the “Zio lobby”.

In a Facebook status posted on Saturday, Raza Nadim, spokesman for the London-based Muslim Public Affairs Council, which purports to “focus on non-violent jihad”, hit out against the “power of the Zio lobby”.

Mr Nadim’s rant on social media came after heads of every active Jewish society (JSoc) across the country called on Malia Bouattia, who is campaigning to be the next NUS president, to clarify previous comments she made about Israel. Signatories also questioned why she appeared to take issue with large JSocs, referring to a 2011 article she co-wrote which described Birmingham University as a “Zionist outpost in British higher education,” adding: “It also has the largest JSoc in the country, whose leadership is dominated by Zionist activists.”

The open letter to NUS Black Students’ Officer Ms Bouattia, which was published on Wednesday, also asked whether she welcomed an endorsement for her presidential candidacy by Mr Nadim, given that MPACUK has been banned from university campuses by the NUS.”Raza Nadim

Those familiar with the record of MPACUK are unlikely to be surprised by Raza Nadim’s employment of the pejorative term ‘Zio’, his conspiracy theory concerning a powerful Jewish lobby or his support for the NUS candidate who two months ago appeared at an ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ event but in 2014 opposed NUS condemnation of ISIS on the grounds that it was ‘Islamophobic’.

It is however worth reminding ourselves of the fact that this is a man the BBC saw fit to invite to participate in a “moral, ethical and religious debate” programme just over a couple of months ago.

Had the BBC addressed its own issues concerning ‘Jewish lobby’ conspiracy theories, that lack of discernment (and additional examples of the BBC’s showcasing of Nadim as the ‘British Muslim voice’– especially on its Asian Network) might perhaps have been avoided.

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Why BDS activist Malia Bouattia couldn’t answer Jon Snow’s question on Israel boycott (UK Media Watch)

BBC continues to mainstream extremist group

BBC continues to mainstream extremist group

h/t Sussex Friends of Israel

The January 31st edition of BBC One’s “moral, ethical and religious debate” programme ‘The Big Questions’ included a revival of the ‘Mossad stole my shoe’ story from last year.

The inventor of that story, Asghar Bukhari, has apparently since relocated to the UAE but the organization he previously headed – MPACUK – was represented on this BBC programme by a former assistant to the controversial ex-MP for Bradford East – who is apparently not averse to doing a bit of fund-raising for extremists in his spare time.

As readers can see in the clip from the full programme below, Raza Nadim obviously still buys into that story and unfortunately host Nicky Campbell only adds credence to the outlandish conspiracy theory.  

Of course what is really disturbing about this programme is that fact that even after the spotlight placed on MPACUK’s long-known racism and extremism by Bukhari’s ridiculous claim and despite the UK government’s recognition of conspiracy theories and antisemitism as precursors to extremism, the BBC still continues to provide a platform for an organization flagged up in the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism a decade ago (from paragraph 140, page 29, here) and included on a list of proscribed organisations holding “racist or fascist views” by the National Union of Students.

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Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK spokesman: “Zionists are most vile animals to walk the earth”  (UK Media Watch)

BBC Trending airbrushes MPACUK

On June 15th BBC Trending got in on the ‘Mossad stole my shoe’ carnival with an article which for some unknown reason was deemed newsworthy enough to be included in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

Trending on ME HP

BBC Trending purports to be “the BBC bureau on the internet” and states that its mission is “reporting on what’s being shared and asking why it matters”. BBC blogger Mike Wendling opened his post with an unsourced description of Asghar Bukhari as a British Muslim ‘leader’.Trending shoe art

“Thousands have now mocked a British Muslim leader’s comments by using the satirical slogan “Mossad Stole My Shoe” – but the man behind the hashtag says it was intended to expose anti-Semitic attitudes in Muslim communities.”

Wendling’s description of Bukhari’s home-baked organization is no less bizarre – and heavily airbrushed.

“It all began with a Facebook post by Asghar Bukhari, a founding member of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPAC) – a UK pressure group which works to counter Islamophobia and Zionism, among other aims. He said his home was burgled, only a single shoe was stolen, and claimed it was a deliberate tactic of intimidation by Zionists.” [emphasis added]

Given Bukhari’s long-held penchant for launching personal attacks on Muslims who do not conform to his own check list of ‘appropriate’ Muslim qualities, one might very well question the accuracy of the description of MPAC UK as an organization “which works to counter Islamophobia”. And in fact, Wendling’s account of the story includes a description of Bukari’s subsequent racist jibe at one of his regular targets – Maajid Nawaz.

“In the video, Bukhari called Nawaz an “Uncle Tom nut job” and accused him of getting funding from pro-Israel supporters. Nawaz dismissed the allegations.”

Likewise, Wendling apparently has no qualms about describing an organization which sets out to “counter” the right of a particular ethno-religious group to self-determination with the bland term “pressure group” – although one would of course be surprised to find the BBC characterizing any group which opposed the rights of women or homosexuals in such anodyne terms.Bukhari tweets

Wendling writes:

“”There’s an unhealthy anti-Semitic strand to MPAC’s thinking,” Nawaz told BBC Trending.”

However, he refrains from providing readers with any further information about MPACUK’s controversial record. As ‘Harry’s Place’ reported a decade ago:

“The evidence of MPACUK’s virulent antisemitism has been available for years to anyone who cared to seek it out. Writing in 2003 for a website of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, Dave Rich revealed:

‘The Muslim Public Affairs Committee have used their website to reproduce material taken from the sites of both David Irving and The Heretical Press (a far right publisher based in Hull)… Often when Islamist organisations use far right sources it reveals a deeper antisemitism. The Muslim Public Affairs Committee’s reproduction of material from the far right sits on their website alongside open support for Holocaust denier David Irving, accusations of Zionist media and political control, lists of Jewish donors to New Labour and an investigation into whether the Talmud is “the most Powerful and Racist book in the world”. In one example which neatly illustrates the growing commonalities between political extremes, the Islamist Muslim Public Affairs Committee published an article by Professor Kevin MacDonald – who appeared as a witness for David Irving in his failed libel action against Professor Deborah Lipstadt – on the subject which is currently of so much interest to the far left and the anti-war movement: the “International Jewish Origins of Neoconservatism”’.”

Here is what the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism had to say about MPAC UK way back in 2006:

“The activities of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, MPACUK, have given cause for concern. Although its rhetoric is often extremist, MPACUK identifies itself as part of the mainstream British Muslim community, describing itself as “the UK’s leading Muslim civil liberties group, empowering Muslims to focus on non-violent Jihad and political activism”. Originally set up as a web-based media monitoring group, MPACUK’s declared first mission was to fight the perceived anti-Muslim bias in the media and to redress the balance. However, MPACUK has been criticised for publishing material on its website promoting the idea of a worldwide Zionist conspiracy, including the reproduction of articles originally published on neo-Nazi and Holocaust Denial websites, and is currently banned from university campuses under the NUS’s ‘No Platform’ policy. MPACUK are known to have removed an offensive posting from their website on one occasion, after complaints were made, but thereafter continued to publish similar material.”

So, whilst Mike Wendling may have reported “on what’s being shared”, beyond the obvious reason put forward by Maajid Nawaz (“By mocking something like this, I hope to make it more taboo and less acceptable for Muslims to spread these kinds of conspiracy theories”), he actually did not adequately address the issue of “why it matters”.

One of the main reasons this story does matter is because (although Wendling refrains from mentioning the fact in his piece) the obviously obsessive conspiracy theorist and extremist Asghar Bukhari (along with others from his organization) is a regular guest on BBC programmes – and not least the BBC’s Asian Network which even promotes the MPACUK website as a “useful link”.

That in turn matters because the BBC’s constitutional document charges it with the task of “sustaining citizenship and civil society” and civil society is not sustained by the airbrushed amplification of conspiracy theory promoting organisations with any kind of racist agenda. Obviously though, the BBC has yet to realise that. 

Resources:

Mike Wendling: Twitter or michael.wendling@bbc.co.uk

BBC Trending: Twitter

BBC News – contact and complaints

A question for BBC News

In light of the ‘Mossad stole my shoe’ story recently found in both the mainstream and social media (see examples here, here, here, here, here and here), this seems like a very apposite – if not long overdue – question.

Hillel Neuer tweet

Mind you, the promotion of crazy conspiracy theories never prevented Abdel Bari Atwan from being a BBC frequent flyer.

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BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine equates Israeli defence with Paris terrorism

BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine equates Israeli defence with Paris terrorism

h/t tb

One of the items appearing in the January 19th edition of the BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine show (available for a limited period of time from 36:57 here) was built around discussion of the following irrelevant – and frankly crass – question put by the host in his introduction.Jeremy Vine

“Now, is it more difficult being a Jew or a Muslim in the UK?”

After having presented the reactions of some British politicians to issues arising from the recent terror attacks in Paris, Jeremy Vine goes on to yet again advance the ridiculous notion that British Jews and British Muslims are engaged in some sort of competition for the title of ‘most suffering’.

Vine [38:43]: “So is it more difficult being a Jew or a Muslim in the UK right now? Let’s speak to Angela Epstein – Jewish writer, speaks to us from Salford – and David Cesarani is with me; the professor of history at Royal Holloway University of London; a particular expert on Jewish history as well. Angela, do you feel under pressure as a British Jew?”

Angela Epstein’s answer to that question includes the following statement:

“We are targets of Muslim terror because we are Jews and the same does not happen the other way round even in the face of heinous provocation…”

Vine quickly jumps in:

“You say it doesn’t happen the other way round – there will be people who say wait; when you look at the State of Israel and what it does in the occupied territories, that’s the…that’s the other side of the argument.”

In other words, Jeremy Vine apparently believes it justifiable to promote equation of actions taken by Israel to defend its civilians with those of terrorist organisations and at the same time implies that the motivation for any Israeli actions in “the occupied territories” is the religion of the people living there. He also apparently believes that it is legitimate to amplify the antisemitic canard that British Jews bear responsibility for the actions of the Israeli government. Although Angela Epstein protests Vine’s redundant analogy, he persists, asking David Cesarani:

“…does this stem from Israel’s actions and the way they’re perceived or is there something deeper afoot or is it actually not a problem, David?”

Cesarani does not provide a coherent response to that question.

 At 42:09 Vine downplays the nature of the terror attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris.

“And Angela, even if you look at the Paris attacks, what they went for first were the cartoonists. They were not going for French Jews. The kosher supermarket was secondary.”

Angela Epstein tries to correct Vine on that topic too, citing the murder of Ilan Halimi and the attack on the Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012. From 46:05 listeners hear David Cesarani making the dubious suggestion that British Jews who emigrate to Israel might be seen as ‘running away’ and ‘disloyal’.

“This is not the time to suggest the Jews are going to run away. The Jews are afraid, the Jews need special protection. We’re citizens of this country. It is our country and I’m going to stand shoulder to shoulder with people to defend that. And I’m not going to give the impression to anyone that Jews are not loyal to this country; that they really have their loyalty in Israel and at the least sign of trouble they’re all going to rush off to Netanya or Tel Aviv.”

One has to wonder whether Cesarani would suggest that Britons – Jewish or otherwise – emigrating to any other countries in the world might be perceived in a similar light.

After a break, Jeremy Vine purports to discuss the other side of his chosen subject matter (from 51:00) with two Muslim interviewees.

“So we were discussing whether British Jews are under threat; now we’re talking about British Muslims and whether things are better or worse for Muslims and Jews in this country in the wake of what’s happened in the last few weeks.”

If one wished to inform listeners on topics relating to terrorism and antisemitism, it would of course be beneficial to bring into the conversation an interviewee who has not shown public support for Islamist terrorism and for a notorious Holocaust denier and who represents a lobbying organisation previously banned from university campuses by the NUS because of antisemitism. Nevertheless, Radio 2 selected Asghar Bukhari from MPAC UK as one of its contributors to this discussion. Here is what the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism had to say about MPAC UK in 2006:

“The activities of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, MPACUK, have given cause for concern. Although its rhetoric is often extremist, MPACUK identifies itself as part of the mainstream British Muslim community, describing itself as “the UK’s leading Muslim civil liberties group, empowering Muslims to focus on non-violent Jihad and political activism”. Originally set up as a web-based media monitoring group, MPACUK’s declared first mission was to fight the perceived anti-Muslim bias in the media and to redress the balance. However, MPACUK has been criticised for publishing material on its website promoting the idea of a worldwide Zionist conspiracy, including the reproduction of articles originally published on neo-Nazi and Holocaust Denial websites, and is currently banned from university campuses under the NUS’s ‘No Platform’ policy. MPACUK are known to have removed an offensive posting from their website on one occasion, after complaints were made, but thereafter continued to publish similar material.”

Listeners already aware of the background to Bukhari and his organization would not have been surprised to hear him talking about Jihadist terrorism in the following terms:

“And I take exception….that this extremism is due to some sort of antisemitism – it’s not. Terrorism – every single act of terrorism against Western targets – has been due to the foreign policy of our government according to research and according to most of the experts out there. And the government is trying to blame the Muslim community and say oh it’s your problem. No: it’s your problem – the government has caused this problem. We cannot solve it unless you change your foreign policy.”

The trouble is, of course, that most listeners will not know who Bukhari and MPAC UK are or what sort of ideologies they stand for and Jeremy Vine made no attempt whatsoever to inform them on that issue when introducing him despite the existence of relevant BBC editorial guidelines. Notably too, the entire item avoids any real attempt to discuss the topic of Jihadist terrorism and its underlying ideologies.

At the end of the segment, Vine reads out a couple of e-mails from listeners and one of those picked out for promotion to listeners includes the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope.

“Aziz Najmuddin [phonetic] is in Southampton. He’s listening; he says I’m a Muslim man. I don’t feel threatened at all. British society is a fair society. But what I find disgraceful is that there’s no perceived threat to the Jews but there’s been so much police allocation to it. It is David Cameron playing up to the Jewish lobby in America.”

If the BBC aspires to provide its audiences with factual information and meaningful discussion on the topic of Jihadist terrorism of the type seen recently in Paris and the concerns of European Jews relating to that issue and rising antisemitism in general, one obviously basic requirement is to avoid contributors with a record of antisemitism.

No less crucial is that the corporation’s own presenters should understand the significance – and illegitimacy – of amplification (even with the ‘some might say’ caveat) of the antisemitic premise that terror attacks against Jews in Europe can be ‘explained’  by their being collectively responsible for the actions – real or imagined – of Israel. Obviously too, BBC content should be free from the promotion other antisemitic tropes such as the ‘Jewish lobby’ and ‘dual loyalties’. Unfortunately, what should go without saying is clearly not sufficiently understood by some BBC employees.

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