BBC World service radio reclassifies Hanukkah

BBC coverage of the recent stabbing attack in Monsey included a report aired on the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on December 29th. Presenter James Menendez introduced the item (from 00:11 here) as follows: [emphasis added]

Menendez: “And we’re going to start straight away today in New York and the latest in a spate of antisemitic attacks in the area in the past few days. This one was particularly serious. A masked man armed with a large knife got into the home of an ultra-orthodox Rabbi in Rockland County north-west of the city where dozens of people were celebrating Hanukkah, the Jewish New Year. He stabbed five people before running away. He was later arrested.”

Hanukkah of course has nothing to do with the Jewish New Year – Rosh HaShana – which is celebrated at the beginning of the month of Tishrei, which usually falls in September.

Once again we see the results of the BBC’s failure to carry out even basic fact checking.

Related Articles:

BBC News claims motive for NY stabbing attack “not clear”

Reviewing BBC coverage of the Likud leadership primary

How much coverage would one consider it necessary for the BBC to give to the topic of leadership primaries in one political party in a foreign country?

BBC coverage of the Likud leadership primary which took place on December 26th included the following:

December 26th:

BBC News website:

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu in party leadership challenge

BBC Radio 4:

‘Today’programme – the first item in the opening news bulletin was a report by Barbara Plett Usher (from 01:39 here).

BBC World Service radio:

‘Newsday’ – the lead item (from 00:37 here) was a four-minute interview with Israeli journalist Noga Tarnopolsky.

‘Newshour’ –  the lead item was a four-minute report (from 00:12 here) by Barbara Plett Usher.

December 27th:

BBC News website:

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu comfortably wins party leadership challenge

BBC Radio 4:

‘Today’ programme – a report from Barbara Plett Usher (from 33:44 here) and an additional report from the same journalist in a news bulletin (from 1:03:38 here).

BBC World Service radio:

‘Newsday’ – a four-minute and twenty-second report from Barbara Plett Usher (from 14:09 here).

‘Newshour’ – a report by Barbara Plett Usher (from 45:04 here).

Yes, the BBC apparently really did consider it efficient use of public funding to produce at least nine multi-platform reports in two days on the topic of a leadership poll conducted by one political party in a foreign country in which less than half of the 116,000 members eligible to vote returned a predictable result.

The BBC’s biased Bethlehem binge continues

Yesterday we documented an overtly politicised Christmas report by Barbara Plett Usher which was aired on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Global News Podcast’ on Christmas Eve.

BBC politicisation of Christmas continues on WS radio

An extended version of that audio report was also broadcast on three additional BBC radio programmes on December 24th with the following introductions:

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

1) BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’ (from 46:37 here)

Mishal Husain: “Now, Bethlehem relies on tourists at this time of year and this Christmas looks like being the best for some years after a time of relative peace. It is a Palestinian city in the West Bank which is feeling the economic effect of the Israeli occupation. Israel has restricted movement out of the West Bank and confiscated some Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements and what it calls a security barrier around the city. Barbara Plett Usher reports from there.”

2) BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’ afternoon edition (from 45:04 here)

Tim Franks: “Bethlehem is preparing for what it hopes will be the best Christmas in years as the city now boasts a fragment of wood believed by some to have formed part of Jesus’ manger. The relic’s been returned from the Vatican where it’s been since the 7th century. But even with that boost, the biblical town revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ remains fragile. The once thriving local Christian community is dwindling – partly because of the economic effect of the Israeli occupation with restrictions on freedom of movement which Israel argues are for security reasons, which Palestinians say damage not only their economy but their dignity as well. Barbara Plett Usher has more from the town in the spotlight this Christmas.”

3) BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’ evening edition (from 36:59 here)

Julian Marshall: “Pilgrims from around the world are preparing to begin Christmas celebrations with midnight mass in Bethlehem, believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus. Modern Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the Israeli occupied West Bank. Its holy sites are administered by the Greek Orthodox and Latin patriarchies. But the once thriving Palestinian Christian community has dwindled. Israel has restricted movement out of the West Bank and confiscated some Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements and what it calls a security barrier around the city. Palestinians say these measures significantly harm their freedom and their economic prospects. Barbara Plett Usher has more from the town in the spotlight at Christmas.”

Once again we see BBC journalists using the term “Israeli occupied” without any mention of the fact that Bethlehem came under complete Palestinian Authority control twenty-four years ago in December 1995.

Yet again listeners were not informed that no “restrictions on freedom of movement” existed until the Palestinians chose to launch the second Intifada in the year 2000 and they heard nothing at all about the Palestinian terrorism that murdered and wounded thousands of Israeli civilians and which brought security measures such as checkpoints and the anti-terrorist fence into existence.

The BBC practice of describing an area still subject to negotiation under the terms of an agreement signed by the Palestinians as “Palestinian land” was once again in evidence, as was promotion of the false claim that there is a wall “around Bethlehem”.

And yet again BBC audiences were not provided with the context which would enhance their understanding of why the Palestinian Christian community is ‘dwindling’ – including the issue of Palestinian Authority persecution and discrimination – or any significant information concerning Bethlehem’s economy beyond the trite politicised slogans blaming Israel.

The extended version of Barbara Plett Usher’s report (a filmed version of which was also aired on BBC television on Christmas Eve) includes an interview with a man dressed up as Santa in Manger Square during which listeners heard that “Bethlehem is a city of peace” despite the fact that it has been the source of many terror attacks and plots. The part of Plett Usher’s report describing St Catherine’s church and an Airbnb in Deheishe are expanded and we discover that she badgered more than one American tourist in order to promote her own political agenda.

Plett Usher: “What comes to mind when you come to Bethlehem? What’s the main impression?”

Tourist 1: “Oh well it’s overwhelming because of just how…I mean this is where our lord saviour was born and, my goodness, I mean this is it where everything started.”

Plett Usher: “But what about the wall around Bethlehem now? The big cement wall – what do you think of that?”

Tourist 1: “Oh yes, that was substantial of course and you can tell that people that lived in the old times, how protected they felt by the big wall and how amazing it is today.”

Plett Usher: “It’s a new wall but anyway…”

Tourist 1: “Oh, that’s a new wall?”

Plett Usher: “Yes.”

Tourist 1: “Oh OK, it’s a new wall then. That so it’s about the future as well.”

Tourist 2: “We’re from the US, yes.”

Plett Usher: “And what do you think of Bethlehem?”

Tourist 2: “Ah, it’s beautiful.”

Plett Usher: “What about the politics? Do you know…”

Tourist 2: “I don’t know much about it. All I know is my saviour Jesus Christ. That’s all I know. That’s all I care about. I just want to learn more about him. Yeah, and my eyes are open now that I’m here.”

Plett Usher: “What have you seen now that your eyes are open?”

Tourist 2: “Oh well, it’s as if I was coming to life, so yes.”

There is of course nothing novel about a BBC journalist exploiting the ‘season of goodwill’ to promote her own political agenda which includes misinformation about a structure built to protect Israeli civilians of all faiths and ethnicities from Palestinian terrorism. Many BBC employees have done the exact same over the years while studiously avoiding any serious reporting on the topic of the beleaguered Christians living under Palestinian Authority and Hamas rule.

Related Articles:

BBC politicisation of Christmas continues on WS radio

BBC News again self-conscripts to Banksy’s Israel delegitimisation

BBC WS radio airs anti-terrorist fence falsehoods

BBC Radio 4 religious show airs anodyne report on Palestinian Christians

Documenting five years of BBC politicisation of Christmas

 

 

 

The BBC returns to an old obsession

Long-time readers may recall that back in early 2013 the BBC exhibited something of an obsession with one Israeli football club.

The BBC, football racism and Israel

Obsession: four BBC ‘Beitar’ articles in under a week

As was noted here at the time:

“Yes – there is a serious problem with a group of racist fans of one football club out of dozens – most of which (as even acknowledged in the BBC article on the subject) have players from many different religious and ethnic backgrounds – in a country which includes players from minority ethnic and religious groups on its national teams

Deplorable as the racism among some fans at Beitar Jerusalem is, its existence makes Israel no different and no worse than most countries on the planet which have also failed to eliminate racism from football. It certainly does not justify the over-generalised headline “Football racism fears in Israel” or the placing of two separate reports on two home pages of the BBC News website for a relatively prolonged period of time. 

Unless, that is, this incident is being exploited to try to advance a specific narrative about an entire country.” 

In 2016 the BBC’s Middle East editor promoted an irrelevant comparison – and false equivalence – between incitement and glorification of terrorism sanctioned and organised by the Palestinian Authority and its main party Fatah with the behaviour of a specific group of Israeli football hooligans.  

“Hate-filled Palestinian rhetoric against Israel is not hard to find. It cuts the other way too.

Fans of one of Jerusalem’s professional football clubs, which has roots in a right-wing Zionist youth movement, are notorious for chanting “Death to Arabs” during games.”

On December 20th the BBC returned to the topic of the Beitar Jerusalem football club in a flurry of reports by BBC Sport’s Alex Capstick.

A written report headlined “Beitar Jerusalem: How do you change ‘the most racist’ club in Israel?” was published on the BBC Sport website and on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

A filmed report titled “How Beitar Jerusalem’s football club owner took on racism and won” was also posted on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page and in its ‘Crossing Divides’ section. That film promotes the following bizarre claim:

“In Israel pulling people together in a common cause is difficult.”

The BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item on the same story (from 14:05 here) with presenter Tim Franks telling listeners that:

“One of the more unpleasant football matches I’ve ever attend was fifteen years ago in Jerusalem where the top club, Beitar, had a truly terrible reputation for a hardcore of racist fans and so they proved to be, screaming ‘death to Arabs’, waving blood-curdling banners – you get the ugly picture. But when the high-tech business mogul Moshe Hogeg became the new owner, he decided to take the numbskulls on and his at-time confrontational style seems to be working.”

The filmed report tells viewers that Beitar Jerusalem is “the only one [team] in the top division never to have selected as Arab player”. However none of Capstick’s reports inform BBC audiences just how prevalent Muslim players actually are in Israeli football teams – including the national squad which is currently captained by Circassian footballer Bibras Natkho.

Obviously the BBC continues to find it more ‘newsworthy’ to promote the exception to the rule by continuing to focus audience attentions on one particular Israeli football club.

BBC WS radio airs anti-terrorist fence falsehoods

In addition to the BBC News website’s written puff piece relating to the latest agitprop in Bethlehem from Banksy, the corporation also promoted the same story on television and radio.

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on December 22nd heard an item (from 33:52 here) which not only gave uncritical amplification to what is clearly no more than an exercise in delegitimisation of Israel but also gravely misled BBC audiences.

Presenter James Menendez introduced the item.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Menendez: “The British street artist Banksy has made a big name for himself with his witty, provocative and usually political graffiti. His most famous images have been widely reproduced. Perhaps less well-known is his campaigning against Israel’s separation barrier: the high wall dividing Israel and the West Bank and in places cutting deeper into Palestinian territory. The UN’s highest court has advised that it contravenes international law.”

Menendez made no effort to inform listeners either at that point or any other in the four and a quarter minute item that – despite his description of a “high wall” – over 95% of the anti-terrorist fence is made of wire mesh.

His claim that in places the fence cuts ‘deeper into Palestinian territory’ fits in with the BBC narrative according to which areas that the Palestinians agreed under the terms of the Oslo Accords would have their final status determined through negotiations with Israel (in this case locations in Area C) are described using the pre-emptive phrase “Palestinian territory”, which is of course unhelpful and even misleading to audiences.

Predictably Menendez made no effort to inform listeners that the cited ICJ advisory opinion was marred by politicisation before continuing with a coy description of ownership as “an interest”:

Menendez: “Well it turns out Banksy has an interest in a small hotel in Bethlehem called the Walled Off Hotel – that’s walled off, not Waldorf – and has just produced a new work to sit inside the lobby. It is a Christmas manger scene called ‘the scar of Bethlehem’ and it shows the manger by Israel’s separation barrier which appears to have been pierced by a blast, creating the shape of a star. Well the hotel manager Wissam Salsaa has been telling me more.”

Salsaa: “The holy family is just a classical holy family but the background of the holy family is a replica of the separation wall that Israel built round the Palestinian cities and of course there’s a big part of it around the town of Bethlehem. And on the middle there is a kind of shell hole carved the wall as a scar. So this nativity scene…I mean it looks like the star of Bethlehem but Banksy called it the scar of Bethlehem.”

Menendez refrained from telling listeners that Israel did not build a “wall” – or a fence – “round the Palestinian cities” at all – including Bethlehem. Indeed, the BBC presenter proceeded with the false claim that “the wall runs through Bethlehem”:

Menendez: “And the background that people should understand as well is that – as you say – that the separation barrier, the wall, runs through Bethlehem but specifically runs right round the back of your hotel. I mean I think all the rooms overlook the barrier; is that right?”

As the B’tselem map below shows, the anti-terrorist fence (marked in red, with planned construction in purple) does not ‘run through’ Bethlehem at all – that claim is a complete falsehood.

Salsaa: “Yes, the Walled Off hotel – a hotel that was created by Banksy in 2017 – located about 4 meters away from the separation wall. It is known as the hotel with the worst view in the world. Usually our room sells according to the view: the worse the view is, the more expensive the room becomes.”

Menendez made no effort to clarify that the location of the propaganda exercise that is the hotel was selected precisely because of its proximity to the small section of the anti-terrorist fence made of concrete at that location.

Menendez: “But how has this work gone down in Bethlehem? What’s been the response to it?”

Salsaa: “Yeah I mean I heard some of the responses. I think people so appreciative to this contribution by Banksy to Bethlehem because Christmas started in Bethlehem but unfortunately we in Bethlehem we don’t live normal Christmas because of our situation. So it’s putting the spotlight on our pain.”

Menendez then came up with the falsehood that no terror attacks have taken place “for…three years now”. Since the beginning of this year alone 218 attacks have taken place in Jerusalem and on the Israeli side of the ‘green line’ – some of which were perpetrated by residents of PA controlled areas in Judea & Samaria.  

Menendez: “Israel of course says the barrier is necessary to prevent terror attacks and there hasn’t been one for, what, three years now. I mean have they got a point do you think?”

Salsaa: “Building the wall?”

Menendez: “Yeah, building the wall, yeah.”

Salsaa: “Actually I mean if you come over here and you could see in your eyes that there are thousands of Palestinians – Palestinian labourers – sneak into Israel every day to go and work. They use ladders and grappling hooks to climb the wall. So I don’t think that the wall could prevent terrorism or violence. I completely disagree with that.”

The Palestinians who illegally enter Israeli territory do so – according to Israel’s former Chief of Staff – in places where the anti-terrorist fence has yet to be constructed rather than in locations where a ‘wall’ has to be climbed. Salsaa went on – unchallenged by Menendez – to promote more baseless propaganda.

Salsaa: “Beside that, the wall is not built on a border. So like if you look at the map of the wall you would see that the wall is strangling for example Bethlehem; is converting Bethlehem into an open-air prison. So the wall is not the border. You cannot talk about the border between two countries. You are talking about a different set-up, OK, and this is the problem. Of course I mean security is important for everyone. We talk about peace; peace should be for everyone. So walls cannot be an answer for the circumstances of the conflict that we are living in.”

Menendez: “And given the way things have been going, do you have any optimism that the wall will come down any time soon?”

Salsaa: “Well honestly I mean…yeah I mean the political situation are not so much encouraging but of course as human beings we should have some hope and the hope that I have is a big support by Banksy and through art we try to speak out and raise our voice. The set up of the Walled Off Hotel and the activities have been mainly led by Banksy in our part of the world are so essential in promoting creativity and positive way of resistance instead of violence. So today we Palestinians can raise our voice in a very positive way.”

Menendez closed the item at that point, with BBC audiences having been exposed to over four minutes of totally unchallenged and entirely one-sided propaganda concerning the anti-terrorist fence, without even one mention of the hundreds of Israeli civilians murdered in the attacks which were the reason for its construction.

Related Articles:

BBC News again self-conscripts to Banksy’s Israel delegitimisation

Media turn Banksy’s small Anti-Israel installation into major news (CAMERA)

BBC’s ME editor says “there haven’t been all that many” terror attacks in Israel

BBC report skirts issues facing Palestinian Christians

On December 17th a filmed report by Barbara Plett Usher titled “Saint Barbara: A celebration for Arab Christians” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

“Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate the feast of St Barbara.

It may not be as familiar as some other religious holidays, but it’s a big day for Arab Christians, and especially for those in the Palestinian village of Aboud in the West Bank.

The BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher went to find out more.”

Referring to a resident of the village who expressed concerns about emigration and low birth rates, Plett Usher told viewers that:

“She worries about the future of Christians here.”

Nevertheless, BBC audiences heard nothing substantial about the issues facing Palestinian Christians.

The same was the case in an audio version of the report which was aired on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on December 17th (from 37:45 here).

“But she worries about the future of Christians here.”

In both reports Plett Usher did however tell a certain story about the shrine she visited.

Filmed: “It’s interesting to me that Barbara is the patron saint of gunpowder or people who handle explosives because this cave was blown up by the Israeli Army during the second intifada. They said they thought it was a place where militants were hiding out and they didn’t realise how significant it was religiously.”

Audio: “The Israelis blew up the shrine by mistake during the second Palestinian intifada because they thought militants were using it as a hide-out. Interesting that Barbara is the patron saint of those who handle explosives.”

By “militants” Plett Usher of course means terrorists apparently hiding in a church. Whether or not that account is accurate or complete is unclear: it is highly unlikely that a structure would be attacked on the basis of a “thought”. Although a similar story appears on the English language ‘Wikipedia’ page for Aboud, it is sourced from a report prepared by the anti-Israel NGO ‘ARIJ’ and BBC Watch was unable to find confirmation from any reliable source, including news reports from the time.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to see that Barbara Plett Usher chose to highlight that vague and context-free story from over seventeen years ago in what was billed as a report about a Christian feast day while ignoring the fact that a church in the same village was vandalised just months ago

BBC radio coverage of the Chief Rabbi’s article – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, both the November 25th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ – presented by Ritula Shah – and the November 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Razia Iqbal – included interviews with two people presenting opposing perspectives on the topic of an article by Britain’s Chief Rabbi published by The Times.

On ‘The World Tonight’ Jenny Manson was introduced (from 13:11 here) as “the co-chair of Jewish Voice for Labour”, with listeners hearing nothing at all about that fringe group’s agenda.

Having declared herself “absolutely horrified” by Mirvis’ article, Manson began by disputing a statement made earlier on in the programme by the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Martin Bashir concerning the number of British Jews represented by the Chief Rabbi before going on: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Manson: “…these allegations – I’ve just had a quick look through the letter [sic] – many of them have been…ehm…repudated [sic] by JVL if you’d like to look at our website. We’ve proper evidence, we’ve even had lawyers pouring over them in relation to the Labour MPs who’ve left citing antisemitism, in relation to the mural.”

Listeners were not informed by Shah what that opaque reference to “the mural” actually means before Manson went on.

Manson: “He [the Chief Rabbi] mentions in his letter [sic] the EHRC’s investigating institutional antisemitism – that is not true. They are investigating the processes. If he’s looked at the EHRC site you can see this.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission website clarifies that it is investigating more than “processes”.

Shah however made no effort to clarify that point.

Shah: “But the fact that there is an investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into the Labour party is something that may concern many people. He also says…”

Manson: “OK. Can I…can I just…”

Shah: “Indeed but can I just mention one point. The Chief Rabbi says that ‘convention dictates that the Chief Rabbi stays well away from party politics and rightly so. However challenging racism in all its forms is not a matter of politics: it goes well beyond that’.”

Manson: “Oh absolutely. I mean we challenge racism every time and any racism we see either in the Labour party or anywhere else, we call out. But let me go back to the EHRC. Both the Conservative party and the Labour party had sent the EHRC…had…sorry…the EHRC has received complaints about the Conservative party and the Labour party. You don’t hear about that, about the Conservative party. They received many complaints. They had to investigate many complaints. What they decided to do – if anyone wants to look at their website – was to investigate the processes not the party.”

Once again Shah failed to challenge that claim.

Shah: “OK well you’ve made that point but the thing that will stand out in people’s minds is that the Chief Rabbi has chosen to make an intervention – he uses the phrase with the heaviest of hearts – at what is clearly a very sensitive time in the run-up to an election; we’re weeks away. Why do you think he would have felt the need to do this if he didn’t believe the problem was very, very serious?”

Manson: “What I think must have happened is that we’ve had three and a half years of – in my view and in the view of my colleagues – extremely biased reporting. We have put out statements. Nobody picks them up. There’s been one side of this issue – it’s not only been on the BBC – but if anyone wants to look at the facts, I say they abound.”

Shah made no effort to question that claim from Manson or to point out that members of ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ – including Manson herself – have made regular appearances in BBC content over the past couple of years before her interviewee went on:

Manson: “So that many Jews have got genuinely frightened. What we know because we really do know the facts – I say we look at them very carefully – is there was a serious new threat to Jews on the Far-Right. There is no threat to Jews in the Labour party. There has been some people who’ve said foolish things. There’s some people who say foolish things in the Lib Dem party and in the Conservative party but only the Labour party is being looked at [by] the Chief Rabbi and his colleagues and I have to ask why about that too. But let’s just say that there’s been…they’ve been misled badly and I think to intervene in the election at this time is very, very poor stuff. It won’t go down well with people who are…who are open-minded, who know, who look at the evidence. It’s a bad day for me as a Jew to hear false allegations being repeated yet again.”

Once again Shah failed to challenge Manson’s claims before closing the interview at that point.

The next day Manson appeared on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 34:59 here) and was interviewed by Razia Iqbal directly after an interview with Mike Katz of the Jewish Labour Movement.

Iqbal: “Joining me in the studio now is Jenny Manson, co-chair of another Jewish Labour group – ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ – ahm…which supports Jeremy Corbyn. […] What’s your response to what you’ve just heard Mike Katz saying?”

Manson: “Well I’m actually appalled at the lack of truth in some of those comments. For example the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is not investigating the Labour party’s institutional antisemitism. Because of the number of complaints it was sent – many of which turned out not to be true is my guess – they are looking at the processes of the Labour party.”

Once again listeners heard no challenge to that spin.

Manson: “It’s not whataboutery to say that all political parties have a problem with antisemitism, racism, Islamophobia and all forms of xenophobia. There have been Conservative and Lib Dem candidates withdrawn in the last few weeks over antisemitism. It’s not a Labour party problem and it is relevant to say why should there be so much attention to the existence – I’m thankful to say – of a very small amount of antisemitism in the Labour party and almost no attention on the other political parties and no recognition of the work done by Jeremy Corbyn. I am personally offended by this continuous attack on him, who I know.”

Iqbal: “OK but the Chief Rabbi has talked about this as a ‘new poison which has been sanctioned from the very top’ and he also says that the claim by the Labour party that all cases of antisemitism in its ranks have been investigated is ‘a mendacious fiction’. I mean these are incredibly strong things to say.”

Manson: “They are incredibly…and incredibly the wrong things to be saying not only in an election campaign; at any time. It’s 0.0% [sic] of…point six of the Labour party members have been accused of antisemitism. When the party investigates they investigate it properly. Again, no point…this whataboutery but I hear that some of the people suspended for Islamophobia in the Tory party find themselves back in a couple of weeks later.”

Iqbal did not demand any evidence from Manson for that allegation.

Manson: “The Labour party’s very thorough. To have 100 cases that haven’t been heard is to do with the process. We do a proper process. We have lawyers acting. This idea, this multiplication of non-facts of the last four years against all the evidence. We have evidence and ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ – we are by the way…you have…to be a full member of ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ you have to be Jewish and in the Labour party. The Jewish Labour Movement do not make that requirement. We speak for Jews in the Labour party. We’ve investigated cases for example why some of these Labour MPs have left. We have the evidence of…”

Failing to challenge that highlighted spurious claim, Iqbal interrupted with a decidedly pointless question given the fact that the entire purpose of JVL is to act as cheerleaders for Corbyn.

Iqbal [interrupts]: “OK well let me ask…you say that you know Jeremy Corbyn. Can you categorically say that he has never made an antisemitic comment, that he is not antisemitic in any way?”

Manson: “I can absolutely confirm that and in a way my knowing him is not…I’m very pleased to know him but even before I knew him, when I was first involved in this campaign, I knew that this man has a great hatred of racism on all sides. What has been done is things that he’s done over the last ten years have been picked over. He has always supported, as I do, Palestinian rights very strongly. So he has a meeting – as many people were suggesting he should do including Parliament at the time – with various groups. When they sit down he addresses everybody there as friends. How in any way that can be typified as antisemitism is utterly beyond me. These are the kind of stories that have been built on for four years since he became leader in an attempt to get rid of him as leader.”

Iqbal made no effort whatsoever to explain to listeners around the world what Manson was referring to with that story or to challenge her inaccurate account. Even Corbyn himself does not deny that he called members of Hamas and Hizballah friends – rather than “everybody there” as claimed by Manson. Iqbal could and should have informed listeners that in the same speech Corbyn spoke about Hamas – an organisation committed to the destruction of Israel under its overtly antisemitic founding charter – as follows:

“The idea that an organisation that is dedicated towards the good of the Palestinian people and bringing about long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region should be labelled as a terrorist organisation by the British government is really a big, big historical mistake…”

Corbyn also clearly expressed his opposition to the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their own state: a stance categorised as antisemitism under the IHRA working definition.

“We are opposed to Zionism and what Israel is doing towards the Palestinian people. […] Our argument – and I refuse to be dragged into this stuff that somehow or other because we’re pro-Palestinian we’re anti-Semitic: it’s nonsense. What we’re in favour of is a Palestine where everybody can live. They can’t live if you’ve got Zionism dominating it all.”

Instead, Iqbal let Manson’s lies stand and posed her last question.

Iqbal: “Just very briefly, do you accept though that this is going to be hugely damaging to him and the Labour party?”

Manson: “Well strangely enough I don’t think it’s going to be and the reason is this has been going on a long time and the reason that it’s not going to damage the party as much as I think people think is because Jeremy’s character, as has been shown in the debates recently, is so clearly sincere and genuine that if it had been some lesser man perhaps this story would have been believedbut people are sceptical. They say this doesn’t sound right.”

Iqbal: “OK we will leave it there. Jenny Manson, co-chair of another Jewish Labour group – ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ – joining us live here in the ‘Newshour’ studio – thanks.”

As we see, despite having brought in an unabashed cheerleader for Jeremy Corbyn to comment on this story, neither Shah nor Iqbal made any effort to challenge her distortions, spin and downright lies, with the result being that both domestic audiences and those worldwide heard nothing in the two interviews with her which would contribute to their understanding of the issues that lie behind the Chief Rabbi’s unprecedented step.

Related Articles:

BBC radio coverage of the Chief Rabbi’s article – part one

BBC News not sure whether Corbyn controversy mural antisemitic or not

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

 

 

 

BBC radio coverage of the Chief Rabbi’s article – part one

Coverage on BBC radio stations of an article by Britain’s Chief Rabbi published by The Times on November 25th was understandably extensive and reports heard by listeners to two programmes on different stations are of particular interest.

Both the November 25th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ – presented by Ritula Shah – and the November 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Razia Iqbal – included interviews with two people presenting opposing perspectives on the story.

One of those interviewees was Mike Katz of the Jewish Labour Movement which has been affiliated to the UK Labour party since 1920.

On ‘The World Tonight’ Mr Katz was introduced (from 25:17 here) as “Mike Katz, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement” and on ‘Newshour’ he was presented (from 30:07 here) as “Mike Katz who is the national chair of Jewish Labour”.

Listeners were given no information concerning the JLM’s long history, the fact that it is one of the oldest socialist societies to be affiliated with the Labour party or the number of members in the organisation.  

The other interviewee was Jenny Manson of ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ which was launched two years ago in late September 2017. Writing several weeks after that launch, Robert Philpot noted that:

“…it was JVL’s opposition to JLM’s attempt to change Labour’s rules to crack down on anti-Semitism — a change backed by Corbyn himself — which provoked most controversy.

During the debate on the measure, which was adopted by the party, JVL’s vice-chair, Leah Lavane, railed against JLM and those who “make that accusation [of anti-Semitism] every time you criticize the despicable behavior of the state of Israel toward the Palestinian people.”

For JVL, the tightening of the party’s rules represents an “anti-democratic restriction on political debate” which “runs the risk of giving the stamp of approval to those opposed to Corbyn’s leadership to drive out more of his supporters.”

It particularly objects to the party judging allegations of anti-Semitism by using the definition drawn up by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and adopted by the British government because, it claims, this restricts criticism of Israel.

In fact, the IHRA definition explicitly makes clear that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.””

BBC radio audiences however heard nothing about JVL’s background and agenda. On ‘The World Tonight’ Ms Manson was introduced (from 13:11 here) as “the co-chair of Jewish Voice for Labour” and on ‘Newshour’ – appearing after Mr Katz – she was described (from 34:59 here) as “co-chair of another Jewish Labour group – Jewish Voice for Labour – ahm…which supports Jeremy Corbyn”. [emphasis added]

In other words, listeners to two different BBC radio stations were given the erroneous impression that those interviewees represented two comparable Jewish groups linked to the Labour party and – in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – they were told practically nothing of the obviously relevant issue of the “particular viewpoint” of the fringe group Jewish Voice for Labour.

During the ‘Newshour’ interview with Mike Katz, (from 30:07 here) listeners heard Razia Iqbal twice ask him whether he thought that the Chief Rabbi’s article was the “right thing to do” and when her interviewee pointed out that antisemitism in the Labour party “is not an issue that has suddenly come out of nowhere” Iqbal interrupted him and the following exchange was heard: [emphasis in italics in the original]

33:18 Iqbal [interrupts]: “But even today, Mike Katz, even today Jeremy Corbyn says that he has made it very clear that there is no place whatsoever – I’m quoting him now – ‘for antisemitism in our society, our country or in my party. There never will be as long as I’m leader of the party’.”

Katz: “So, Razia, why hasn’t he taken proper action against it? Why has he allowed this state of affairs to flourish so that the party gets referenced to and taken up by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission? Why is it the case actually that there are still more than 100 outstanding cases before the National Constitutional Committee on antisemitism?”

Iqbal [interrupts]: “But there’s…I mean, you know…I just…I just wonder if I can point you…I wonder if I can point you to the other really big issue that does exist inside the political discourse in this country which is the presence of Islamophobia in the Conservative party and I wonder to what extent you feel that this is just a targeting of Jeremy Corbyn when there are…there are equally difficult thorny issues for the Conservative party to deal with.”

Yes – apparently ‘Newshour’ producers really did think that the understanding of audiences around the world of a story concerning unprecedented criticism of the leader of the UK Labour party from the Chief Rabbi would be enhanced by that blatant ‘whataboutery’ from Razia Iqbal.

In part two of this post we will look at the two interviews with Jenny Manson.  

Reviewing the impartiality of BBC radio reports on the Pompeo statement

Earlier this week we reviewed inaccurate claims made in reports aired on BBC radio stations about a statement made by the US Secretary of State.

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part one

BBC Radio 4 promotes the ‘four decades of US policy’ myth – part two

BBC WS radio materially misleads listeners with ’40 years’ spin

Some of those reports included recorded statements from or interviews with people other than BBC journalists and the overall picture indicates that audiences did not get a balanced view of the story.

November 19th, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’:

Recorded statement from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat (from 01:38 here)

Erekat: “Once the Trump administration decide to undermine international law, once they become an administration that’s pro Israel’s occupation, pro Israel war crimes, this is constitute a major threat to international peace and security.”

November 19th, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newsday’:

Recorded statement from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat (from 06:09 here)

Erekat: “Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem are not only illegal under international law, they are war crimes and the statement of Mr Pompeo is absolutely rejected and must be condemned because once superpowers, once the Trump administration decide to undermine international law, this is constitute a a major threat to international peace and security and this is turning the international community from the rules of international law, the rules of solving conflict by peaceful means, into the rules of the jungle.”

Interview with Lahav Harkov of the Jerusalem Post (from 07:29 here)

Interview with Palestinian journalist and former PA spokesperson Nour Odeh (from 06:23 here)

November 19th, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’:

Recorded statement from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat (from 14:06 here)

Erekat: “Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem are not only illegal under international law, they are war crimes and the statement of Mr Pompeo the Secretary of State of the United States is absolutely rejected and must be condemned and this is turning the international community from the rules of international law, the rules of solving conflict by peaceful means, into the rules of the jungle.”

Interview with Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi (from 34:07 here)

In short, listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard comment from one side only – the PLO’s side – while listeners to BBC World Service radio heard four times more comment from the Palestinian side than from the Israeli side.

Apparently the BBC believes that meets its obligation to ‘due impartiality’.

 

BBC WS radio facilitates unchallenged HRW monologue – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the first half of a long item (from 14:05 here) that was aired on the November 25th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ and which related to the ‘Human Rights Watch’ employee Omar Shakir whose work visa was not renewed by the Israeli authorities in May 2018 and who – following several court cases – left the country on that day.

Presenter Razia Iqbal continued, providing the cue for another HRW talking point.

Iqbal: “There is a suggestion that the case against Omar Shakir was initially based on statements that he had made in support of a boycott before he took on his role with Human Rights Watch. Is that true?”

Roth: “The Israeli government really kind of resurrected these statements that he had made when he was a university student years ago. But even the government made clear that the anti-BDS law is supposed to be preventative – it’s supposed to look to the future. It’s not supposed to be punitive. So in fact, you know, whatever Omar Shakir said back in his university days is irrelevant. Everything he has done since joining Human Rights Watch – as any Human Rights Watch employee – strictly adheres to Human Rights Watch policy which is not to endorse BDS, it is not to call for boycott. So this is, you know, not about BDS. This is about trying to shut down mainstream human rights advocacy.”

Iqbal made no effort to challenge that spin or to inform listeners that while Shakir was indeed involved in BDS advocacy before joining HRW, that activity has continued, as detailed here, including the FIFA campaign, the Airbnb campaign, the UN BDS data base and the targeting of Israeli banks.

Iqbal: “You have Mr Shakir with you in the car. I’m assuming that you will not be replacing him in his role to cover this particular region.”

Roth: “The Israeli government wanted to get rid of Omar Shakir by deporting him so we are deliberately not playing along with that. Omar will continue his direction of Human Rights Watch’s work on Israel and Palestine. He will do it, as we do in many closed countries, from a neighbouring country so he will set up in one of our offices in the region. We have offices in countries that don’t censor us. Initially he’s going to be operating out of our office in Amman.”

Iqbal: “This Israeli decision has been criticised by the UN and the European Union. The United States sees this just [sic] an issue of freedom of expression. Are you going to appeal against this decision or or is that not possible now?”

Iqbal did not provide a source for her claim of how the US “sees this” but an identical claim appears in an AFP report in which it is also unsourced. Listeners then heard Ken Roth egregiously assert that the ruling given by Israel’s Supreme Court was based on politics rather than legal scholarship, with no challenge whatsoever from Iqbal.

Roth: “We brought this government’s decision to the Israeli Supreme Court. Ahm…the panel we received was a rather Right-wing panel which ruled against us so that they’ve allowed the deportation to go forward. Human Rights Watch has [unintelligible] a full panel which will be more reflective of a more centrist or moderate view of the law should require in light of free speech and human rights principles. That petition is currently pending before the chief justice of the court.”

Listeners did not hear that HRW petitioned – unsuccessfully – for Shakir to be allowed to stay in Israel in the meantime.

Iqbal then asked to speak to Omar Shakir himself.

Shakir: “I am on route to Ben Gurion airport to leave Israel Palestine after two and a half years documenting human rights abuses by all parties as Israel and Palestine director at the organisation. It’s difficult on a personal level to leave but at the same time our work will continue. We will continue to work on the same issues with the same intensity and the same methodologies and I will continue to direct that work and I’m confident I’ll be back one day; one day in which human rights abuses are no longer systematic, in which discrimination is not as deeply entrenched as it is today and until that day comes, I’ll continue to work as hard as I have for the last few years.”

Iqbal: “Are you disappointed that you are not getting perhaps the kind of robust support from the United States – of which you are a citizen – as you are from the United Nations and the European Union?”

Shakir: “It’s been fantastic just seeing the outpouring of support across the world. The world sees through the Israeli government’s narrative. This is about muzzling human rights advocacy. It’s been clear that this Trump administration has moved from failing to use its leverage to safeguard rights to full-fledged green-lighting at serious rights abuse but that position has been rejected whether it be with regard to the illegality of settlements, the status of Palestinian refugees or attacks on human rights defenders. The United States’ position has only highlighted its isolation from the global consensus.”

Iqbal: “And just one final comment on…on what you are being accused of doing by the Israelis – that you have been engaged in advocating boycotting and divestment and sanctions against Israel.”

Shakir: “Look, neither Human Rights Watch nor I as its representative ever called for a boycott of Israel. This is but the latest in a series of allegations used to muzzle Human Rights Watch’s work. The reality here is that Human Rights Watch uses the same methodology we use in a hundred countries around the world. One of our important focuses is business and human rights and we’ve done the exact same work. We’re not going to create a special rule for Israel. We’re going to use the same standards that we use everywhere else and we’ll continue that work.”

Iqbal closed the pre-recorded interviews there, failing to point out to listeners that Shakir’s claim of ‘using the same standards’ in Israel as it does “everywhere else” is patently untrue and that – for example – it did not campaign for Airbnb to de-list holiday rentals in other disputed territories such as northern Cyprus.

Listeners then heard an ‘explanation’ of why ‘Newshour’ completely failed to provide its listeners with any other perspective.

Iqbal: “Our correspondent in Jerusalem has attempted to get reaction from the authorities in Israel but they have rejected requests for interviews. We have also been trying here in London.”

That of course does not excuse the entirely one-sided nature of this long item in which listeners repeatedly heard HRW’s long-standing spin on the story go unquestioned and unchallenged but were told nothing at all about the court’s findings.

Once again we see that when reporting on ‘Human Rights Watch’ – which is one of the political NGOs most quoted and promoted by the BBC in its coverage of Israel –  the BBC tosses its editorial standards on accuracy and impartiality aside, opting for journalistic activism over providing its audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the story.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio facilitates unchallenged HRW monologue – part one

A third superficial BBC News website report on ‘Human Rights Watch’

A BBC promoted BDS myth exposed