BBC R4’s ‘Today’ airs second item in five days on Israel election video

As noted here earlier in the month, the BBC’s record of reporting on the past two Israeli general elections shows that it has serially ignored the economic and social issues which have been high up on the list of priorities for Israeli voters. A report from Tom Bateman which was aired in the January 30th edition of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme suggests that coverage of the election due to be held in April is unlikely break that mould.  

The subject of Bateman’s report is former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz who previously got an anonymous mention on the same programme on January 18th and whose campaign videos were mentioned in an ‘alternative news bulletin’ by John Simpson in the January 25th edition of ‘Today’.

The item (from 2:41:36 here) was introduced by presenter Nick Robinson.

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

Robinson: “Israelis go to the polls in the Spring to choose a new government. Last night the campaign launch took place on Tel Aviv of Benny Gantz – a former chief of the Israeli military who believes he can unseat Benjamin Netanyahu – now into his tenth year as prime minister. Here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

If his first term in office is taken into account, Netanyahu is actually well beyond hid “tenth year as prime minister”.

Bateman’s report began with sounds from an event held the previous evening and an inaccurate portrayal of the colour of IDF uniforms.

Bateman: “A man previously seen in khaki holding binoculars. Tonight it’s a suit, a microphone and an adoring crowd. Benny Gantz launched his campaign and a broadside at Benjamin Netanyahu who he suggested was like a king sowing incitement and division. Israeli elections are usually decided on the issue of security and so former generals ooze with potential political capital. But Benny Gantz’s story goes up against an incumbent prime minister seen by his base as Mr Security.”

Bateman then interviewed a man who was Gantz’s radio operator in the paratroopers brigade thirty years ago and his one question was:

Bateman: “As somebody who knows him well, can you give us a clue about his politics? What’s your impression?”

Voiceover: “My impression…eh…he…”

Bateman quickly stepped in:

Bateman: “The policies haven’t been pouring from Benny Gantz. Some observers have little to say other than the fact that he is tall with unusually blue eyes. Although even then he was out-polling most other parties.”

Listeners then heard some in part tongue-in-cheek commentary from Gil Hoffman – political correspondent at the Jerusalem Post.

Hoffman: “So because Israelis are voting on security, that gives anyone with a security record a great advantage and Gantz has one more added plus which is this lack of an opinion on anything. […] There will be efforts by Right-wing politicians to show that Gantz is not this security messiah but that he is a weak Leftist and prevent him from being this alternative to Netanyahu. They’ve just started and there are 72 days left.”

Bateman next turned to the same campaign video which ‘Today’ audiences had heard about just five days earlier.

Bateman: “So Gantz – trying to burnish a strongman image – released a video showing flattened buildings in Gaza when he was chief of staff in the war of 2014. It boasted of sending parts of the Strip back to the Stone Age and thirteen hundred terrorists killed. Human rights groups castigated the apparent disregard for civilian casualties. An Arab Israeli MP said he watched it and felt sick.”

Like Simpson before him, Bateman refrained from reminding listeners that the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other Gaza Strip based terror groups began because attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians escalated with 52 missiles fired during June 2014 and 237 missiles and dozens of mortars fired in the first week of July – eighty of them on July 7th 2014 alone. Also like Simpson, Bateman failed to clarify that the video he described as showing “flattened buildings in Gaza” in fact shows one specific neighbourhood in which the fighting was particularly fierce because of Hamas’ placement of military assets in civilian residential areas.

Bateman continued with commentary on ‘leadership’ from a soon to be former MK.

Bateman: “Hilik Bar, a Labour party MP, said Gantz had fallen into a populist trap – a clumsy imitation of the hawkish right.”

Bar: “If you will test his ideas one to one you will see that he is a Leftist. OK by the way he’s…”

Bateman [interrupts] “That’s become really a term of abuse. I mean the Right are using that as a way of attacking him.”

Bar: “People who are afraid to belong to the Left or to [be] called Leftist are either a coward or not leaders enough.”

Bateman closed his report with yet more military motifs.

Bateman: “As his launch packed up last night Gantz began his campaign on a battlefield strewn with political casualties. Many an Israeli general has tried to reach the top of government. Few have succeeded.”

Among Israel’s twelve different prime ministers to date – some of who served more than one term – three (along with one acting prime minister) have held the rank of general or above.

Of all the new political lists which have emerged since the announcement of the upcoming election, BBC audiences have so far heard only this very sketchy portrayal of this one party, with no reporting whatsoever on its stated policies. Interestingly, the fact that Gantz’s new party has teamed up with a party led by another former chief of staff, Moshe Ya’alon, did not make it into Bateman’s report.

So while BBC audiences have yet to hear any reporting on topics not connected to security and the ‘peace process’ which will be issues in the upcoming election, they did hear two reports concerning the same ‘Stone Age’ campaign video in the space of five days.

Related Articles:

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

More inaccurate and context-free Gaza framing on BBC Radio 4

 

 

 

  

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More inaccurate and context-free Gaza framing on BBC Radio 4

h/t DG

In recent weeks BBC audiences – and in particular listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme – have heard repeated misrepresentation of the chronic problems with utilities and services facing the population of the Gaza Strip.

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part four

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part five

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

BBC audiences have repeatedly been steered towards the inaccurate view that (as also claimed by Hamas) the economic and humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip are primarily attributable to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures, while the roles of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in creating and exacerbating the crisis have been downplayed or airbrushed from the story. The latest chapter in that serial misrepresentation came on January 25th when listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard an item introduced by presenter Nick Robinson at 47:13 minutes into the broadcast.

Robinson: “If you work on this programme you often hear the complaint that we and the news are so dominated by Brexit and Trump that the news agenda from abroad gets crowded out. […] Here’s our world affairs editor then, John Simpson, with an alternative news bulletin.”

That “alternative news bulletin” was also promoted separately as a podcast in which at 1:46 listeners heard the following: [emphasis added]

Simpson: “A brand new Israeli politician, Benny Gantz – a former military chief of staff who’s emerging as a major threat to the prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu – has produced a number of campaign videos praising Israel’s war against Palestinian militants. One shows aerial footage from 2014 of Gaza in ruins, saying that six thousand targets were destroyed. Parts of Gaza have been returned to the Stone Age, says the commentary approvingly.”

Simpson refrained from reminding listeners that the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other Gaza Strip based terror groups began because attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians escalated with 52 missiles fired during June 2014 and 237 missiles and dozens of mortars fired in the first week of July – eighty of them on July 7th 2014 alone. The video that Simpson describes as showing “aerial footage from 2014 of Gaza in ruins” does not in fact show “Gaza” as a whole but one specific neighbourhood in which the fighting was particularly fierce because of Hamas’ placement of military assets in civilian residential areas.  

Simpson continued:

Simpson: “That may be right in one particular aspect. An investigative report just out says that after more that 25,000 people in Gaza were injured by Israeli forces last year, doctors have been battling a superbug epidemic in Gaza which is disturbingly resistant to antibiotics.”

The ‘investigative report’ to which John Simpson refers was published on December 31st and – while devoid of any empirical evidence – its portrayal of the background to the state of the healthcare system presents an inaccurate picture.

“Gaza is a particularly fertile breeding ground for superbugs because its health system has been crippled by years of blockade and antibiotics are in short supply. Even though doctors know the protocols to prevent the rise of drug resistant bacteria, they do not have supplies to follow them.” [emphasis added]

As our colleagues at UK Media Watch pointed out when that report first appeared in the Guardian:

“The rest of the 1000 plus word piece follows this pattern of suggesting that Israel is largely to blame for the shortage of vital medicines in Gaza, a shortage that is putting the lives of countless Palestinians at risk. 

But, this is a lie. The import of antibiotics, and almost all other important medicines, are not in any way impacted by Israel’s blockade. As a CAMERA prompted correction at the NY Times noted, “the import of medicine” to Gaza “is not restricted” by Israel.

It’s actually the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority – and not Israel – that’s responsible for the purchase of medicines for Gaza. But, the PA, as part of the sanctions they imposed on Hamas in 2017 related to their ongoing political dispute, often fails to send such vital drugs to Gaza. The PA-imposed sanctions also includes a major reduction in Gaza’s overall healthcare budget, and a frequent refusal to issue permits to Gaza patients to receive medical treatment in Israel, the West Bank and Arab countries.

As the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported earlier in the year, “the escalation in internal Palestinian divisions in March 2017 led to a decline in deliveries from the West Bank and the gradual rise in the percentage of essential medicines at zero stock”. Even the pro-Palestinian NGO Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) blamed the PA for the shortage of medicine and medical supplies.

In fact, even before Fatah’s sanctions against Hamas, the Islamist group was complaining that Ramallah was sending only a small fraction of the medicine to Gaza it was required to send under existing agreements.”

Following his context-free caricature of ‘militaristic’ Israel and his airbrushing of the fact that the vast majority of those “injured by Israeli forces” were engaged in violent rioting at the time, Simpson tried to create linkage between an alleged epidemic of resistant bacteria and Israeli actions and in order to do so, completely erased the Palestinian Authority and Hamas from his framing.

Apparently Radio 4’s “alternative news bulletin” means an alternative to factual, accurate and impartial reporting.  

 

 

 

Iranian propaganda goes unchallenged on BBC radio – part one

The BBC’s public purposes – set out by the Royal Charter and Agreement – include the obligation to:

“…provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world.”

In coverage of the May 10th Iranian missile attacks on Israel on both domestic and international radio stations, we learned that the BBC apparently believes that public purpose can be met by providing its audiences with unchallenged Iranian propaganda.

The May 10th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ programme included several items relating to that story. At 0:62 listeners heard a news bulletin with a report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell and at 10:26 Knell gave another rather garbled report. At 01:08:53 co-presenter Nick Robinson introduced an interview with Maj Gen Yaakov Amidror with promotion of false linkage between the missile attacks and the decision to withdraw from the JCPOA announced by the US president a day earlier.

Robinson: “Has it begun? The wider Middle East war which many said was presaged by the decision of Donald Trump to rip up the Iran nuclear deal. A decision celebrated by Israel which has long warned that Iran is terrorising the region. Last night Iranian missiles based in Syria hit Israel for the first time. The residents of one town in the Golan Heights were instructed to go to bomb shelters. In response Israel launched one of its heaviest barrages in Syria since the conflict began in 2011. Syrian state television broadcast footage of air defences and played patriotic songs.”

In fact, some 24,000 residents of ten communities in the Golan Heights – rather than “one” – had to rush for shelters shortly after midnight.

Amidror pointed out to Robinson that there is no link between Iranian aggression against Israel and the US president’s decision, reminding him that an armed drone was sent by Iran into Israeli territory three months before that decision was announced. In response to Robinson’s reference to “Iranian forces that are in Syria to support President Assad”, Amidror clarified that there is no need for long-range missiles, anti-aircraft missiles or Republican Guards units in order to fulfil that mission.

At 02:36:51 the programme returned to the topic, with co-presenter John Humphrys telling listeners that: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Humphrys: “Israel has carried out a wave of airstrikes on Syria aimed at what it says were Iranian targets. The Israeli military said it was because Iranian forces inside Syria had been attacking its positions in the Golan Heights. The former head of the Israeli national security council Major general Yaakov Amidror says his country will not let Iran get a foothold in Syria. Well, Professor Mohammad Marandi of the Tehran University, who is close to the Iranian regime, is on the line. […] Your country will not let…the Israelis say your country will not get a foothold in Syria. Is that what you’re after – a foothold in Syria?”

Marandi: “No of course not. The Iranian presence in Syria is due to the fact that since 2011 the Saudis and unfortunately Turkey and others, along with US support, they started supporting extremists in the country, taking advantage of the unrest. And they helped create this civil war. I think if your listeners read the US defence intelligence agency document of 2012 which was partially released – this is the largest military intelligence organisation in the world; it’s in the Pentagon – they pointed out that from the very…almost the very beginning in Syria the extremists had the upper hand among the opposition. And the Iranians since 2015 began to become increasingly involved, only after tens of thousands of foreign fighters – including unfortunately many thousands of European fighters – came into Syria.”

Humphrys: “But whatever the motives for going into Syria in the first place were, we now know – don’t we? – that Syrian [sic] forces have been attacking Israel, attacking positions in the Golan Heights, from within Syria.”

Marandi: “Yes because in…the Israelis have struck Syrian positions over a hundred times over the past few years in support of the extremist groups. We know…you know that ISIS is alongside the Israeli border as we speak. The Israelis never strike ISIS. The Nusra Front, which is Al Qaeda in Syria, they are on another part of the Israeli border with Syria and the Israelis admittingly [sic] have helped them.”

Humphrys: “Is this…sorry…I do beg your pardon. I’m going to have to shorten; we’ve very little time. But could this be the opening shots in a sense of a new war between Iran and Israel and perhaps then ultimately including many others – in other words a Middle East conflict?”

Marandi: “Well we have to see because it depends on the Israeli regime. The Israelis have already murdered seven Iranian soldiers who were there fighting Al Qaeda. The Iranians have not struck Israel. So you know it’s just…the Israelis are looking for a provoke…to provoke just like what we saw with regards to the JCPOA and the nuclear deal with the show that Netanyahu put on display. Remember just a few years ago Obama and the former French president Sarkozy, they were having a private conversation which there was a hot mike and they were both saying that Netanyahu is a serial liar and a very unpleasant person…”

Humphrys: “Alright.”

Marandi: “This is you know…so I don’t think you should really trust the Israeli narrative.”

Humphrys: “Professor Marandi; many thanks for talking to us.”

While obviously one would not expect anything other than such blatant propaganda from a regime apologist such as Mohammad Marandi, notably John Humphrys made no effort whatsoever to relieve Radio 4 listeners of the multiple false impressions given by his interviewee including the inaccurate claim that “the Israelis never strike ISIS” and the lie that Israel ‘helps’ the group known as Jabhat al Nusra. Likewise, Humphrys refrained from informing listeners that the seven “Iranian soldiers” Marandi described as having been “murdered” by Israel were actually members of the IRGC located at the T4 airbase from which the armed drone was launched in February.

Apparently though the BBC believes that such blatant but completely unchallenged propaganda meets the corporation’s supposed standards of accuracy and impartiality and that it enhances audience understanding of this story because this was not Marandi’s last appearance on BBC radio on May 10th.  

Related Articles:

Iran missile attack: BBC News promotes misinformation

 

BBC R4 ‘Today’ impartiality fail in item on Polish Holocaust bill

h/t GB

The February 2nd edition of the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme ‘Today‘ included an item (from 02:33:57 here) about the controversial ‘Holocaust complicity’ bill that is currently making its way through the Polish political system.

Listeners may well have been astounded to hear presenter Nick Robinson’s portrayal of the number of people who lost their lives in Nazi camps located in Poland in his introduction. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Robinson: “Hundreds of thousands died during the Holocaust in Polish death camps. I could be imprisoned in Poland for simply uttering those words if a law voted for in the Polish senate is enacted into law. Poland’s prime minister says it’s to lift a slur on his people and his country and to put the blame where it really belongs: on the Nazis. Israel’s prime minister has warned Poles not to try to change history. We’re joined now by Wojciech Roszkowski. He is professor of history at the institute of political studies at the Polish Academy of Science and also by Konstanty Gebert who is a columnist with Gazeta Wyborcza.”

As regular readers are aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

The bill that is the subject matter of this item is being advanced by Poland’s ruling ‘Law & Justice’ party (PiS). Listeners should therefore have been informed that the person they heard defending it  – who was twice described by Nick Robinson only as a “professor of history” – is not just an academic: for five years he was (as the BBC itself reported in 2007) a member of the European Parliament (MEP) on behalf of the political party that is currently promoting the controversial legislation.  

Related Articles:

BBC ignores its own previous reporting in coverage of Polish bill

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ returns to an old trope

h/t NS

In the past we have documented on these pages numerous examples of the BBC’s promotion of the notion of an all-powerful “Israel lobby” and – even more frequently – the notion of a “Jewish lobby“. In November 2014, for example, listeners to BBC Radio 5 live heard the following

“I mean if we’re not careful we’re going to turn into the east coast of America where, you know, where all of politics is in thrall…ehm…to the Jewish lobby and to the Irish lobby and as a result you get very, very distorted politics and good sense goes out of the window.” […]

“We can’t all observe dietary laws because it might offend the more powerful lobby – the Israeli lobby – which already has big brother America cow-towing to its every wish. I mean it really is unacceptable. It’s kind of un-British anyway…”  [all emphasis added]

Over the past couple of years, however, the BBC has been noticeably more cautious about promotion of the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope.

The November 8th edition of the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ included several items relating to a story broken by the BBC several days earlier concerning a British cabinet minister and allegedly “undisclosed” meetings in Israel that actually took place several months ago and in some cases were posted on social media.

One of those items included a discussion (from 02:13:45 here) between presenter Nick Robinson, Conservative MP Crispin Blunt and former Labour politician Lord Falconer who accused Priti Patel of “colluding with a foreign government” and looking “like she’s much more the emissary of the Israeli government than a member of the British government”.

When Robinson asked “if she’d told the Foreign Office would that have made it OK?”, Falconer painted a garish caricature of the actual story that went completely unchallenged by Robinson.

Falconer: “I doubt it because the whole feel of the thing is that she – without officials, without telling anybody – which I think is one element only, was talking to them and instead of saying look I come with the British government’s view, I come with my own view. Let’s work out – the Israeli government and Miss Patel – how we can get assets out of the British government to help Israel. That does not look to me like the activity of a British government minister.” [emphasis added]

Later on in the conversation (02:16:57) Nick Robinson posed the following question:

Robinson: “Isn’t part of a subtext here, Charlie Falconer, that some people dislike the fact that Priti Patel is pro-Israel? Maybe the Foreign Office dislikes that and that this is a particular case rather than a general one? You’ve even accused her of trying to raise money for a leadership bid.”

Falconer: “Well I don’t know whether she’s doing that or not but I mean it obviously positions her well with those who are very pro-Israel, who would like to see a pro-Israel leader of either the Tory or the Labour party.”

Clearly understanding Falconer’s insinuation, Robinson then made an observation that – in light of the BBC’s ‘Jewish lobby’ record – is worthy of note.

Robinson: “I’ve got to put it to you, you know, there’ll be some people in the Jewish community listening to that and saying that’s the sort of paranoia about the Jewish community that is unacceptable.”

Falconer: “It’s nothing to do with paranoia about any particular country or any particular group. You do not want a prime minister who is in hock to the United States of America. You do not want a prime minister who is in hock to any particular group.”

“In hock” is defined as meaning “owing money to a person or organisation, or forced to do things for them because they have lent you money or have helped you”.

The conversation then moved on, with Robinson posing no further challenge to Falconer’s barely veiled promotion of the type of age-old tropes concerning scheming “pro-Israel” groups, governments, power and money that, until now, the BBC had over the last couple of years appeared to try to expunge from its content.  

 

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part three

The third item (see the first here and the second here) relating to the Balfour Declaration centenary that was aired on the November 2nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs show ‘Today‘ was an interview (from 01:32:28 here) with Israeli deputy minister Tzipi Hotovely conducted by the programme’s co-presenter Nick Robinson.

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

Robinson: “Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Downing Street today. The Israeli prime minister’s official residence back home is known simply as ‘Balfour Street’. That name: a recognition of the role of the British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour who, a hundred years ago today, declared Britain’s support for a Jewish homeland in the Holy Land. I’ve been speaking to Israel’s top diplomat – deputy foreign minister Zipi [sic] Hotovely about the significance of this day.”

After listeners heard Hotovely describe the Balfour Declaration as the beginning of international recognition of the Jewish right to self-determination and its wording as “very precise” in stating that the Jewish people should have their homeland, Robinson stepped in with yet more inaccurate paraphrasing of its text.

As was the case in the previous two items in this programme as well as in many additional BBC reports on the same topic (see ‘related articles’ below), he erased the all-important words “civil and religious” from his portrayal of the statement “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

Robinson: “It was precise in another way though, wasn’t it? The second half of what’s called the Balfour Declaration said nothing shall be done which prejudices the rights of the people already living in that area. That is unfinished business, is it not?”

Hotevely replied by clarifying that all Israeli citizens have equal rights and quoting the Declaration of Independence on that point. Robinson interrupted:

Robinson: “Those are the people living in Israel proper but of course there are many people living under Israeli occupation on what the world refers to as the occupied West Bank. They do not have equal rights, do they?”

At no point throughout this item were listeners informed that the people to whom Robinson refers are not Israeli citizens and that vast majority of Palestinians living in Judea & Samaria do so under the rule of the Palestinian Authority in Areas A and B as defined under the terms of the Oslo Accords.

While Hotovely was answering that question, Robinson – adopting an increasingly aggressive and patronising tone – interrupted her again:

Robinson: “Let’s be clear: when you deny the notion of occupation you are denying something recognised by every government round the world. You are denying something recognised by the United Nations, which all say that Israel is occupying land after the 1967 war and there should be the prospect at least of a Palestinian state there.”

As Hotovely tried to point out that the Palestinians rejected the 1947 Partition Plan, Robinson interrupted her again:

Robinson: “Yeah but we’re talking about your idea. You’re saying that it is not occupied. In what sense…well forgive me…let’s deal with what you said. In what sense is it not occupied?”

Hotovely’s response referring to the ancient Jewish connections to Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem was again interrupted by Robinson:

Robinson: “Well let’s go back to Balfour. Let’s go back to what he said. […]

Nobody said that Jews don’t have a connection with them. The land is occupied after a war. Now Balfour; let’s go back to him.”

Hotovely appears to have tried to raise the topic of the Six Day War at that point but Robinson interrupted her again with an even more inaccurate paraphrasing of the declaration’s text.

Robinson: “Forgive me. Let’s go back to Balfour. The Balfour [sic] said nothing should be done which prejudices the rights of the Palestinian people. Now you’ve got children. Imagine they were Palestinians living on what the world refers to as the occupied West Bank. Are you really saying that they would have the same rights as your children have?”

Just a few words into her reply, Robinson yet again interrupted:

Robinson: “That wasn’t the question.”

When Hotovely raised the point that there is no occupation or settlements or Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip and that the area is nevertheless under the control of a terrorist organisation, Robinson interrupted once more.

Robinson: “OK. Let me go back to Balfour one more time if I could. The British government said […] OK; so the British government…it is the British government’s position that there is unfinished business in the Balfour Declaration. Your prime minister is in the UK today and will be celebrating the Balfour Declaration. It is the British government’s position that only half of Balfour has been delivered. Let me just put the same question to you again. You have children. Imagine they were Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank. Would they have the same rights was my question. And the answer – you know – is no, they would not.”

Hotovely then spoke about Palestinian incitement and “schools and squares” named after terrorists that glorify violence against Jews but was again interrupted.

Robinson: “Well as you know there are many children who don’t believe that and many schools that don’t teach it. Let’s talk about the future if we could, minister, because that’s what matters now.”

Hotovely’s response to that interruption included the observation “it doesn’t seem like you’re shocked from [by] the idea that young children are being raised on this legacy of terrorism” but Robinson continued with yet another ‘question’ to which he also provided the answer.

Robinson: “Has Israel now abandoned the goal set by so many of a so-called two-state solution? In other words; of Israel living alongside and in peace with a Palestinian state. From everything you say, you have.”

Hotovely’s attempts to reply were repeatedly interrupted.

Robinson: “What’s your policy though? What’s your policy?”

Robinson: “So there will be no Palestinian state?”

Robinson: “Let me ask what you think the future is rather than your view of the Palestinians. Is your view of the future then a larger Israel incorporating what you call Judea & Samaria – what other people call the occupied West Bank – with second class Palestinian citizens live [sic] there? Is that your vision?”

After Hotovely’s reply to that question (and without it being clarified to listeners that her personal political views on that topic are not the majority view in Israel) Robinson continued by asking whether her three year-old and one year-old daughters have “Palestinian friends”:

Robinson: “Well let me ask you finally and personally – do you, do your family, do your children have Palestinian friends?”

Hotovely managed to say that her brothers live in Judea & Samaria and use the same facilities as Palestinians before Robinson interrupted yet again:

Robinson: “They have friends?” […]

He then proceeded to lecture his guest.

Robinson: “Well going to a Palestinian shop is not the same as having friends. The reason I ask you the question is peace needs hope. What the Balfour Declaration did was to give the Jewish people hope. What hope are you offering to the Palestinian people?”

One cannot but arrive at the conclusion that the sole aim of this aggressive, patronising and ultimately tediously uninformative interview was to amplify yet again the BBC’s chosen political message that the Balfour Declaration is ‘unfinished business’ by means of inaccurate representation of its text.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bateman amplifies PLO’s Balfour agitprop

More Balfour Declaration agitprop promotion on the BBC News website

BBC News portrays propaganda installation as a “museum”

BBC report on UK Balfour dinner follows standard formula

More BBC Balfour Declaration centenary reporting from Yolande Knell – part one

More BBC Balfour Declaration centenary reporting from Yolande Knell – part two

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part one

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part two

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part two

The second item (see the first here) relating to the Balfour Declaration centenary aired on the November 2nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today‘ was described in the synopsis thus:

“The Balfour Declaration – signed 100 years ago – is reviled by those who campaign for the rights of the Palestinian people and celebrated by supporters of Israel. Nick Robinson reports on the events which led to the declaration and its consequences.”

The item was introduced by co-presenter Nick Robinson (from 01:17:28 here) as follows:

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

Robinson: “Tonight Benjamin Netanyahu the Israeli prime minister will join Theresa may at a dinner in London to celebrate the centenary of a letter sent by Lloyd George’s foreign secretary in 1917. His name: Arthur Balfour. Now it may be just 67 words long but the Balfour Declaration as it’s known is not of mere historical interest. To this day it is reviled by many of those who campaign for the rights of the Palestinian people but celebrated by supporters of Israel.”

After listeners had heard a recording from an unidentified event celebrating the Balfour Declaration, Robinson went on to inaccurately paraphrase the document – airbrushing the words “civil and religious” from his portrayal as has been seen on multiple occasions in additional BBC coverage of this story.

Robinson: “One paragraph in one letter written a hundred years ago, here in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, continues to divide people now as much as it did then. That promise of a national home for the Jewish people alongside another – to protect the rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine: was it a masterpiece of ambiguity by Foreign Office mandarins schooled in the art? Or was it a calculated deceit by a colonial power from which the Middle East has yet to recover?”

Robinson’s first interviewee was the current Lord Rothschild whose great-uncle was, as pointed out, “the recipient of that letter”.

Rothschild: “It had been the yearning of the Jewish community for two thousand years to get back to Jerusalem and Palestine and therefore the moral authority of Great Britain at that time was so great that even though this letter is somewhat ambiguous, I think the Jewish community and my forebear believed that this would lead to a national home for the Jews and many Jews would therefore go there.”

Robinson: “You say the document was ambiguous. Some argue that it was deceptive.”

Rothschild: “I mean I don’t think it’s deceptive, no. I think you know that the Jews took over a land, as Mark Twain said, had been a dreary, desolate place in 1867 and through dint of hard work and labour, they made a huge success of it. But they did feel, the Arabs, that they were being dispossessed.”

Robinson then in effect told listeners – inaccurately – that the land on which Israel was later established was in fact Arab/Palestinian.

Robinson: “You say they did feel that they were dispossessed. The truth is they were dispossessed.”

He subsequently introduced the totally irrelevant and materially misleading theme of ‘colonialism’.

Robinson: “So what do you say to those who say that the British government should apologise for it; that this was an act in effect of colonialism?”

Robinson went on to showcase another event relating to the Balfour Declaration centenary organised by a group set up to specifically campaign on the topic.

Robinson: “…something Britain can be proud of. Not the views of those gathered this week in Westminster’s Central Hall to mark what they call Britain’s broken promise.”

Listeners then heard yet another BBC misrepresentation of the Hussein-McMahon correspondence.

Robinson: “His Royal Highness Prince el Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. Like Lord Rothschild he’s the descendent of someone who received a letter from a British diplomat a century ago. He’s the great-grandson of the Sherif of Mecca who was told back in 1915 that Britain would support Arab independence in return for their support in the fight against the Ottoman Empire.”

Bin Talal: “While one set of promises was being made to the Arabs, another was obviously being made correspondingly to the international Jewish movement. The Emir Faisal recognised the importance of a pluralist Arab state provided – and here’s the caveat – the Arabs obtained their independence as demanded in earlier memorandum. Sadly, the influence from outside to try and create some semblance of a state and a Jewish home; the desire from those within the region, both Jews and Arabs, to live together was confounded by the pressures of demography from Russia on the one side and from Europe.”

At no point did Robinson explain to listeners that – as clarified in the 1922 White Paper and by Sir Henry McMahon himself – “[t]he whole of Palestine west of the Jordan was […] excluded from Sir Henry McMahon’s pledge”.

Neither were audiences told anything of the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement or that bin Talal’s own country – and with it Arab self-determination – was established on 77% of the land originally assigned to the creation of a Jewish national home, after Britain activated Article 25 of the Mandate for Palestine.

Bin Talal went on to claim that the two World Wars “resulted in the importance of making space for others without consulting the main issue of how those others could live side-by-side with the indigenous inhabitants”.

Robinson then asked:

Robinson: “Is it right for the Balfour Declaration to be celebrated as many Jews want it to be, to be marked as the British government says, or is it something that Britain should be ashamed of?”

With apparently no sense of irony – considering that his own country (with considerable British help) attacked the nascent Israeli state the day after its creation and subsequently occupied areas assigned to the Jewish national home by the League of Nations – bin Talal replied:

Bin Talal: “I would rather suggest with all due respect that celebrating is – against the background of the bloodshed in this region on an almost daily basis – rather a strong word.”

Robinson’s next interviewee was the Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran who was introduced as someone who “says it’s time the British government recognised Palestine”.

Moran: “I think rather than say apology I’d rather see recognition for the part that Britain played and I think the first step in reparation to that would be recognition of the second state in the two-state solution which is Palestine. The idea that we can achieve real peace without equal players sitting at that negotiation table are…are ridiculous.”

Once again no effort was made to inform listeners of the fact that the Palestinians have turned down repeated opportunities to have their own state alongside the Jewish state.

Listeners next heard from the former Guardian journalist Ian Black who promoted the notion of Jews as a “religious group” rather than an ethnicity or a people.

Black: “The Zionist movement used the language of modern nationalism to say we are one people and we need a land of our own. It had of course the religious and the biblical, the spiritual link to the Holy Land and the tragedy of the story is that that land was claimed and occupied by another people which did not accept that claim. It saw it as an incursion by foreigners who had no right to be there. And those fundamentals remain at the heart of the conflict today.”

Robinson returned briefly to his Jordanian interviewee before closing with messaging implying that the Balfour Declaration has not been implemented.

Robinson: “When Arthur Balfour the foreign secretary wrote his letter – the letter that became the Balfour Declaration – he knew it was controversial. After all, it had been through draft after draft. What he couldn’t know is that a hundred years later the diplomats and the ministers that work in these offices here at the Foreign Office would still be trying to make a reality of his promises.”

And so in this item listeners heard a majority of views from one side of the debate, with Robinson’s own opinions made amply clear. They also again heard inaccurate representation of the Balfour Declaration’s specific reference to the “civil and religious rights” of non-Jewish communities, misleading references to Palestinian ‘dispossession’ and an inaccurate portrayal of the Hussein-McMahon correspondence, while all mention of the Jordanian part of the story of the Mandate for Palestine was erased from view.

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More BBC Balfour Declaration centenary reporting from Yolande Knell – part one

More BBC Balfour Declaration centenary reporting from Yolande Knell – part two

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part one

 

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ promotes equivalence between violent rioters and victims of terror

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ programme last week heard two reports on consecutive days relating to the Palestinian rioting ostensibly in reaction to security measures installed at Temple Mount after two Israeli policemen were murdered in a terror attack on July 14th. Both of those items were notable for their promotion of moral equivalence between the murders of victims of terrorism and the deaths of rioters killed while engaged in violence.

In the July 25th edition of ‘Today’, presenter Nick Robinson introduced the item (from 01:16:07 here) as follows: [emphasis added]

Robinson: “Will the decision by the Israeli security cabinet to remove metal detectors at one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites lessen the tension which has led to the deaths of three Israelis and four Palestinians in recent days, as well as an attack on Israel’s embassy in Jordan?”

The three Israelis mentioned by Robinson are the members of the Salomon family murdered by a terrorist who infiltrated their family home on July 21st as they finished dinner. The four Palestinians were all engaged in violent rioting (that was praised by the Palestinian president’s party Fatah) at the time of their deaths. Radio 4’s presenter however made no effort to inform listeners of the vastly different circumstances behind those deaths or to clarify that the Israelis were victims of terrorism.

Robinson likewise failed to clarify that the two Israeli policemen he went on to mention were also victims of terror, or who carried out that attack.

Robinson: “The detectors were installed at entry points to the al Asqa [sic] mosque – the third holiest site in Islam – after two Israeli policemen were shot dead in the area of the Temple Mount.”

Listeners were not informed of the all-important fact that the terrorists used weapons smuggled into the al Aqsa mosque.

Robinson: “The UN’s Middle East envoy has been warning of catastrophic costs well beyond the walls of the Old City. This is the reaction of Manuel Hassassassian [sic], the head of the Palestinian mission to the UK.”

Listeners then heard completely unchallenged statements from Manuel Hassassian.

Hassassian: “I think for the moment, removing the metal detectors is a stepping stone in the right direction of calming down the situation. But Israel is insisting on putting cameras and smart technology to control and to supervise the area of the Haram Sharif that alone heavily guarded by manpower and that in itself is also instigative to the Palestinian faithful worshippers who will go and pray in the Haram Sharif. But I must say that, you know, the removal, in general, of the metal detectors will pacify the situation and we hope – we hope – that Israel won’t resort to such measures in the future because the question of religion is something very, very, very sensitive that could create tension and escalation as we have seen the last week.”

Although he opted out of asking the PA’s representative any questions at all (for example, regarding incitement to violence by the PA and its dominant party Fatah), Robinson did find it appropriate to ask the item’s second interviewee – Efraim Halevy, who is not a representative of the Israeli government – questions relating to Israeli policy.

Robinson: “…is it time that your prime minister, your government, changed its approach?”

The next day – July 26th – ‘Today’ listeners heard another item on the same topic which was introduced (from 02:49:29 here) by Nick Robinson thus:

Robinson: “The area of East Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Haram al Sharif remains very tense after days of protests by Palestinians over new security measures. Israel has now removed controversial metal detectors, saying they’ll be replaced with alternatives. But the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas says he’ll maintain a freeze on security cooperation with Israel. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman now reports from Jerusalem.”

Failing to clarify that the July 14th attack at Lions Gate was an act of terror, Bateman began:

Bateman: “Gunshots rang out from one of the most revered sites on earth nearly a fortnight ago. Two Israeli policemen were shot dead by three Israeli Arabs who were killed by security forces. In the volatile moments that followed police closed the compound and two messages competed for public attention.”

Listeners next heard material recycled from a report by Tom Bateman that was broadcast on the BBC World Service twelve days previously.

Erdan: “The terrorists they used firearms inside the Temple Mount violating, violating the holiness of this important place.”

Bateman: “Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan spoke out, as did the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem Adnan Husseini.”

Husseini: “We are living under occupation. Now the mosque should be open. If the mosque will not be open, it means that we are going to have more problems. This moment is very dangerous moment, very sensitive moment. We have to go to pray.”

Bateman: “They did pray – but on the streets outside the al Aqsa mosque; the holy Islamic shrine and also a powerful symbol of Palestinian hopes for statehood. To Jews the site is the abode of God’s presence where the biblical temples once stood.”

Bateman then gave a brief qualified explanation of the reason for the installation of the metal detectors which it is hard to believe would have been fully understood by listeners. He failed to adequately clarify which “guns had been smuggled in” to where or by whom.

Bateman: “Israel said it was installing the metal detectors because the guns had been smuggled in. Tensions grew and on Friday became a day of Palestinian protest. Fearing unrest, Israel barred entry to the site to all men aged under 50.”

As was the case in a previous report for the BBC World Service, Bateman downgraded what was in fact defined by its initiators as a ‘Day of Rage’ to a “day of Palestinian protest”.

After listeners heard a brief recording of Bateman in Jerusalem on July 21st, he continued:

Bateman: “Israeli police fired stun grenades. The protests spread. This was now about more than metal detectors. For Palestinians it evoked fears Israel wanted to change the long-standing access agreement over al Aqsa. Israel repeatedly said this was not the case. The site is in East Jerusalem which was annexed by Israel half a century ago. In the clashes over the weekend, five Palestinians were killed.”

Bateman then went to visit the family of a person killed while participating in violent rioting in a district of Jerusalem.

Bateman: “Children played outside as I visited the home of Susanne Abu Ghannam. Her son Mohammed was among those who died on Friday, shot – she said – by Israeli forces.”

Although listeners heard the mother claim that “the occupation forces were surrounding the hospital in order to take his body”, Bateman did not inform them that there is no indication that was the case.

Bateman then moved swiftly on, promoting equivalence between that death and the murders of three Israelis in the July 21st terror attack in Halamish.

Bateman: “Another woman was left grieving on Friday. An hour’s drive from Jerusalem, in the Jewish settlement of Halamish in the West Bank, a Palestinian man – claiming his actions were for al Aqsa – entered the home of an Israeli family celebrating a birth. He stabbed to death Michal Salomon’s husband, sister-in-law and father-in-law.”

After listeners had heard from Michal Salomon, Bateman closed his report.

Bateman: “For Israel the crisis was about a profound need to maintain security at what one minister called the most sensitive location on earth. It has drawn in Israel’s neighbour Jordan; the custodian of al Aqsa as part of the two countries’ peace deal. Amid international calls for calm, Palestinian leaders said last night their boycott on entering the mosque would continue. It seems Israel’s decision to remove the metal detectors has yet to see this crisis resolved.”

Although this is far from the first time that we have seen the BBC equating the deaths of Palestinians participating in violent acts with those of Israelis deliberately murdered by terrorists, the fact that the BBC refuses to use the word terror to describe attacks against Israelis makes that politicised editorial policy of moral equivalence all the more misleading to audiences – and all the more offensive.

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BBC’s Bowen again misleads domestic audiences on UK PM’s statement

The February 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today’ included a long item (from 02:36:48 here) ostensibly concerning the Israeli prime minister’s visit to London on that day which was introduced by presenter Nick Robinson as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]today-6-2

“The Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is in London today for a meeting with Theresa May. The prime minister is likely to restate Britain’s opposition to building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories; this at a time when American policy towards Israel is undergoing a dramatic shift. Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu loathed each other. Mr Trump, in contrast, has vowed to be Israel’s best friend. He’s refused to condemn the building of settlements, he’s promised to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, going against decades of US foreign policy. From Jerusalem, Mark Lowen now reports.”

The ensuing audio report from Mark Lowen was very similar to his filmed report seen on BBC World News television in late January, including visits to the same locations and promotion of the same unbalanced messaging.

Listeners heard a recording of Obama claiming that “the growth of the settlements are [sic] creating a reality that increasingly will make the two-state solution impossible” followed by Lowen’s assertion that:

“The bond with Barack Obama plummeted as he increasingly saw the Israeli government as an impediment to peace. In his last press conference Mr Obama alluded to his final blow: allowing a resolution to pass at the UN against settlements, which violate international law.”

Lowen went on to present a partisan interpretation of the significance of the proposed relocation of the US embassy:

“Donald Trump has taken a far more pro-Israel position. He’s promised to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognising Israel’s disputed claim over the whole city, although he is now lowering expectations on the issue.”

Reporting from Beit El, which he described as a “settlement on land the Palestinians want for a future state”, Lowen told listeners that:

“It looks like a regular suburb: seven thousand homes, a religious school and some buildings bearing the name Friedman – the family of David Friedman, the likely next ambassador here. He, Mr Trump and the president’s son-in-law have donated to Beit El.”

Once again, he did not inform listeners that the said Trump donation was apparently made back in 2003. Lowen also made a point of telling one of his interviewees from Beit El that “the Palestinians say it is also their territory; their ancestors also lived here”.

As was the case in his filmed report, Lowen visited the PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi in Ramallah and listeners heard the same unquestioned portrayal of the supposed consequences of relocation of the US embassy.

“The language that we’ve heard, coming out as though Israel can do no wrong and that the US not only will be the patron of Israel but in many ways will be the partner of Israel in its illegal activities – is serious cause for alarm. If the US moves its embassy then there’s no reason to talk about any peace solution because it’s finished; it’s done for.”

Lowen’s audio report also included commentary from “the plot of land in Jerusalem that’s long been ear-marked for a potential US embassy” but again with no clarification of its position in relation to the 1949 Armistice lines.

Following Lowen’s report, the item moved on to a conversation with Jeremy Bowen in which he repeated some of the same themes promoted just minutes earlier on BBC Radio 5 live.

Robinson: “This issue of settlements: on the surface it appears that Trump is endorsing them and yet only the other day we were hearing that they ‘may not be helpful’ – in quotes. So is it quite as it seems?”

Bowen: “Well when they said ‘may not be helpful’ it was still a softening on what had been the long-standing American position – that they were an obstacle to peace.”

Neither Robinson nor Bowen provided listeners with an accurate representation of the statement put out by the White House press secretary on February 2nd which clearly used the phrase ‘may not be helpful’ in a specific context.

“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.” 

Bowen continued:

Bowen: “I think the…until there is evidence to the contrary in terms of something a bit stronger than that – and I think that next week Netanyahu’s going to go and see Trump in Washington and, you know, we’ll see what comes out of that. But until there’s something really to the contrary, there is a distinct impression that Trump is prepared to give Mr Netanyahu carte blanche to go ahead with what he wants to do. But we’ll see…”

Robinson: “And that raises real…real questions for Theresa May. We saw in the UN the other day that Britain changed her historic position on settlements to try to get closer to Mr Trump.”

Of course the British prime minister’s remarks were not made “in the UN”, did not ‘change’ Britain’s “historic position” in the least and Robinson’s allegation of motive is at best highly debatable.

Bowen: Yes well, Britain supported a resolution in the dog-days of the Obama administration…err…which…err…condemned settlements and which the Americans very unusually abstained on; they didn’t veto. After that, even though it was a resolution that Britain had voted for and was also deeply involved in the drafting and presentation of, after that Number…Downing Street said that it was something that they…effectively Prime Minister May criticised Mr Kerry, then the Secretary of State’s condemnation of the expansion of settlements. And the Americans said well hang on a minute; that’s been British policy for a long time.”

Once again we see Bowen misleading listeners with an inaccurate representation of Mrs May’s remarks.

“[Downing Street] said her criticism was directed at Mr Kerry’s decision to attack the make-up of the Israeli government.

“We do not… believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex,” Mrs May’s spokesman said.

“And we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. The Government believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties, supported by the international community.”

The spokesman added: “The British Government continues to believe that the only way to a lasting peace in the Middle East is through a two-state solution. We continue to believe that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal.”

Moreover, listeners were then treated to some domestic political ‘analysis’ from Bowen based on his inaccurate misrepresentation:

Bowen: “Ah…I think that Britain has been floundering a bit on Middle Eastern policy in the last couple of months because there’s been a lack of consistency.”

Robinson: “In part is that not because, beyond the small print of this or that UN resolution, the really big stakes here are these, aren’t they: is Trump going to call time, along with Netanyahu, on the goal of Western foreign policy for decades: a two-state solution, a Palestinian state?”

Bowen: Well all…yes…I mean he might do that or it might not be quite that abrupt. He might just simply pay lip service to it while allowing things to happen which would make it impossible. There are plenty of people who believe that a two-state solution is now impossible anyway because of the volume of settlement, because of the way that Jewish settlements have…have encircled that part of Jerusalem that the Palestinians want for a capital and that Mr Netanyahu himself – who’s been prime minister for an awfully long time – while he says he wants a two-state solution, he does everything he can to make sure that it doesn’t happen.”

Robinson: “Jeremy Bowen…”

Bowen: “So there are plenty…so there are lots of people now talking about a one-state solution which might be tough for both sides.”

Robinson: “Jeremy Bowen; thank you very much indeed.”

As we see, twice on the morning of February 6th domestic audiences listening to two different BBC radio stations were misled by Bowen with regard to a statement made by their own prime minister.

Moreover, it is abundantly clear that the occasion of the Israeli prime minister’s visit to London was in both cases used as a hook for yet more promotion of the now standard politically motivated narrative according to which the two-state solution is solely endangered by Israeli actions.

Were Jeremy Bowen truly committed to providing BBC audiences with accurate and impartial information which would meet the corporation’s remit of enhancing “UK audiences’ awareness and understanding” of this particular international issue, he of course would not have concealed from view no less relevant issues such as Palestinian terrorism, Palestinian Authority incitement, Hamas’ refusal to accept the two-state solution, the PA’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state and the Hamas-Fatah split.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yehuda Bauer replied:

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

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

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

Robinson: “OK.”

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

Robinson [interrupts] “OK but that…”

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

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

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

Bauer: “No, no – that’s a fact.”

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

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

Robinson: “So when does it become antisemitism?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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