MEMO Balfour event participant hosts BBC Radio 4 discussion on Balfour Declaration

A journalist known for his promotion of the notion of a secretive ‘pro-Israel lobby’ allegedly influencing British politics who regularly writes for one media outlet linked to Hamas and participated in a Balfour Declaration/Israel bashing ‘conference’ organised by another outfit with Hamas connections might not seem like the ideal presenter for an item discussing the Balfour Declaration centenary aired by a broadcaster supposedly committed to ‘impartiality’.

Nevertheless, Peter Oborne did present the October 28th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Week in Westminster’ and that programme included (from 22:03 here) “reflections on the letter which paved the way for the creation of the state of Israel, 100 years ago”.

One of the other people ‘reflecting’ was MP Stephen Kinnock who last December accepted an award from the Hamas-linked ‘Palestinian Return Centre’ as thanks for his support during its campaign for UN accreditation. Mr Kinnock’s views on Israel have long been clear: shortly after the conflict of summer 2014, for example, he wrote the following:

“This devastating onslaught on Gaza has triggered yet another humanitarian crisis, and that’s what’s creating headlines in the here and now. But it is also possible that it has inflicted such damage on Gaza’s already crippled infrastructure that it will become an unliveable place well before 2020. You just can’t help wondering whether the Israeli government factored this into its calculations when it opted to launch such a wide-ranging attack on the Gaza Strip.” [emphasis added]

Kinnock is also on record as an enthusiastic supporter of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign but Radio 4 listeners were not informed of that fact before they heard him promote it in this item – introduced by Peter Oborne as follows:

Oborne: “Parliament did note one other momentous event last week: the centenary of the famous letter from foreign secretary AJ Balfour in 1917 which paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel. A hundred years on and this declaration is as contentious as ever. Tory MP Robert Halfon and Labour’s Stephen Kinnock took part in this week’s debate and afterwards they came into the studio. How does Robert Halfon view the centenary?”

Halfon: “Well I thought it was an incredibly important moment in British history as well as in terms of the creation of the State of Israel. I thought it was another example of why Britain is a truly great country. The Jewish people should have a homeland and had a right to return to their homeland and it was an incredible moment both – as I say – in the history of the Jewish people but also in the history of our country.”

Oborne: “Stephen Kinnock.”

Unsurprisingly, Kinnock’s response reflected PLO messaging on the topic of the Balfour Declaration – although in contrast to much other BBC coverage of the centenary (see ‘related articles’ below), listeners did at least get to hear an accurate portrayal of the text’s reference to “civil and religious rights”. However, Kinnock’s promotion of context-free, spurious and misleading linkage between the text of the Balfour Declaration and what he described as ‘violations’ – including the unsupported notion of ‘illegal’ trade – predictably went completely unchallenged by Oborne.

Kinnock: “Well, I think it’s very important as well to remember the crucial phrase in the Balfour Declaration: ‘it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’ and..err…I think the conclusion we have to draw is that that sentiment has simply not held and has been repeatedly violated by Israeli governments down the ages. We now see vast expansion of illegal settlements, violations of human rights, businesses trading illegally out of the occupied territories of the West Bank and all that is undermining peace and undermining security. We know that we can’t have one without the other so my intervention in the debate was very much in the hope that we could see a change in attitude and behaviour from the Israeli side, which I think is the key to any kind of forward progress in this.” [emphasis added]

Halfon: “It’s worth remembering that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East: one man one vote. There are Arab MPs in the Israeli Knesset. It’s worth remembering that it is a place of refuge, a place of scientific advancement. It’s been a place of tolerance; it’s one of the few places in the Middle East where gay people live normal lives…”

Oborne [interrupts]: “If you could try answering Mr Kinnock’s question that you haven’t yet addressed, which is the Balfour Declaration certainly achieved the Jewish homeland but what about the point about looking after the non-Jewish people – in the phrase of the Balfour Declaration – who were already there?”

Halfon: “If you originally remember, when Palestine, which had the British mandate, was carved up the vast majority of it became Jordan: 77% of it. The rest – smaller, much more small part of that; smaller than the size of Wales – was given to the Jewish people. The Arabs refused to accept that in 1948. We had the war in 1948, we had the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War. Israel has faced the threat of terrorism almost every day since its existence and despite that, is a democracy, has been prepared to make significant moves towards peace. It should be a place that should be celebrated and supported by the United Kingdom and anyone who believes in freedom and democracy.”

Oborne: “Stephen Kinnock.”

Kinnock: “I think all the Palestinian people are asking for is to be treated equally in the eyes of the law.”

Oborne: “Would you like a change in British government policy – a different kind of pressure on Israel if you come to power?”

Listeners then got to hear what may be a preview of the policy of a government under Mr Kinnock’s party. They were not however provided with any background information concerning the goals of the BDS campaign promoted by Kinnock and his factually baseless references to Judea & Samaria as “illegally occupied” were not challenged by Oborne.

Kinnock: “Yeah. I think what certainly one of the things we must do is contribute to the campaign for any business that is located in the illegally occupied West Bank to be sanctioned; that British companies should not do any trade with those businesses and this also means indirectly; through – for example – financial institutions. There’s quite a lot of British money going into financing a lot of commercial activity going on in the illegally occupied West Bank. So I think that would be a very good start.”

Halfon: “The settlement issue; all those things will come under a negotiation of a proper peace process but there should be a Palestinian state – something I believe in – but the Israelis are right to say we want a Palestinian state but we also need to be sure that we will be free from terrorism and attacks from Islamist groups, from Hamas and so on.”

Oborne: “Anyway, let me wrap things up, gentlemen, by drawing attention to the fact that the 2nd of November will be the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. I’ll ask each of you in turn whether you agree with the prime minister that this is a matter for celebration. Robert Halfon.”

Halfon: “Absolutely. I think it’s a very special moment that should be celebrated.”

Kinnock: “No. I think it’s a matter of regret because the phrase in there which is absolutely critical that the interests of non-Jewish communities will be protected has been violated countless times.”

No-one familiar with the views of Peter Oborne and Stephen Kinnock would have expected to hear an accurate and impartial discussion of either the Balfour Declaration centenary or Israel in this item. The problem, however, is that Radio 4 listeners were not made aware of the “particular viewpoint” of the contributors as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality require.

Related Articles:

The significance of the BBC’s promotion of Peter Oborne’s Brotherhood washing

BBC contributor on ME links up with UK Hamas supporters

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 three

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

 

 

 

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The significance of the BBC’s promotion of Peter Oborne’s Brotherhood washing

h/t JK

Much of the landmark speech on combating extremism delivered by the British prime minister on July 20th focused – naturally – on the issue of tackling extremist ideology.

“But you don’t have to support violence to subscribe to certain intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish. […]

…ideas also based on conspiracy: that Jews exercise malevolent power; or that Western powers, in concert with Israel, are deliberately humiliating Muslims, because they aim to destroy Islam. […]

First, any strategy to defeat extremism must confront, head on, the extreme ideology that underpins it. We must take its component parts to pieces – the cultish worldview, the conspiracy theories, and yes, the so-called glamorous parts of it as well. 

In doing so, let’s not forget our strongest weapon: our own liberal values. We should expose their extremism for what it is – a belief system that glorifies violence and subjugates its people – not least Muslim people. […]

Second, as we counter this ideology, a key part of our strategy must be to tackle both parts of the creed – the non-violent and violent.

This means confronting groups and organisations that may not advocate violence – but which do promote other parts of the extremist narrative.

We’ve got to show that if you say “yes I condemn terror – but the Kuffar are inferior”, or “violence in London isn’t justified, but suicide bombs in Israel are a different matter” – then you too are part of the problem. Unwittingly or not, and in a lot of cases it’s not unwittingly, you are providing succour to those who want to commit, or get others to commit to, violence.”

In light of David Cameron’s words it was remarkable that less than a week after that speech was made, the BBC (which is of course committed to “sustaining citizenship and civil society“) chose to broadcast a programme on Radio 4 made by a journalist known for promoting the notion of a scary ‘Pro-Israel lobby’ with extraordinary influence and control over British politics.

All the more unfortunate was the fact that Peter Oborne’s programme – apparently commissioned by the BBC and aired under the title “HSBC, Muslims and Me” on July 26th – not only whitewashed known supporters of Hamas in the UK, but did so using promotion of false “context” concerning discrimination against British Muslims in general.Oborne report R4

Two days after this radio programme was broadcast, the BBC News website’s Magazine section also saw fit to publish a written version of Oborne’s re-hash of this year-old story headlined “Why did HSBC shut down bank accounts?“. That article opens with the following words:

“Last year international banking giant HSBC suddenly closed the bank accounts of several prominent British Muslims. Anna Meisel and Peter Oborne reveal how the decision was made.” [emphasis added]

In spite of that sweeping claim, both the article and the radio programme relate to the closure of the bank account of one organization – the North London Central Mosque, also known as Finsbury Park Mosque – and one family – the al Tikriti family. Two other organisations also had their bank accounts closed around the same time – Anas al Tikriti’s ‘Cordoba Foundation’ and the Ummah Welfare Trust – although neither of Oborne’s reports clarify that fact.

The take-away message of Oborne’s two reports is to be found both in the written article’s final lines and at the end of the audio report:Oborne report written

“There is a deeper and more troubling context here.

By sending the message to law-abiding Muslims that they are excluded from the simple privileges enjoyed by all other British people, we risk encouraging rather than suppressing extremism.”

Of course that is not “the message” being sent to the millions of mainstream British Muslims who do not pop over to visit Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza at all, but Oborne’s hyperbole is amplified even more extensively in the audio version, the synopsis of which asks:

“Were the Muslims targeted by mistake or were they targeted because they are Muslims?”

Oborne posits the same hypothesis early on in the programme:

“So were the Muslims targeted by mistake, were they targeted because they really are secret terrorists or were they targeted simply because they are Muslims?”

He finds an Islington councillor who tells him that HSBC’s closure of the Finsbury Park Mosque’s account is “smearing by innuendo” and Oborne tells listeners that he has “long worried that British Muslims are being singled out for unfair treatment”. He also declares that the subjects of the programme – whom he describes as “some friends of mine” in its opening seconds – “as far as I can tell have no connection with terrorism”.

Kozbar

Mohammed Kozbar meets Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza

The three people named in Oborne’s report are Anas al Tikriti of the Cordoba Foundation, Mohammed Kozbar of the Finsbury Park Mosque (and numerous other organisations) and Mohammed Sawalha – also a trustee of the same mosque.

In the written report Oborne’s description of Sawalha is as follows:

“The World-Check entry on Finsbury Park Mosque also contained the information that Mohammed Sawalha was a trustee. Sawalha is believed to be one of the most senior Muslim Brotherhood figures in Britain. He is also alleged to have been a Hamas commander in Gaza 25 years ago. Hamas is designated by the US and other governments as a terrorist organisation.

But Kozbar said that Sawalha had been a trustee ever since the new management board was configured 10 years ago, with the approval of the police.”

Al Tikriti

Anas al Tikriti with Ismail Haniyeh

A similar account appears in the audio report at 32:43.

Sawalha’s days as a Hamas commander were actually spent in Judea & Samaria rather than Gaza but that minor inaccuracy is symptomatic of Oborne’s broader failure to conduct any serious research on his protagonists’ backgrounds and connections. In addition to his links to assorted Muslim Brotherhood organisationsincluding the ECESG which played a central role in organising the 2010 and 2011 flotillas – Sawalha was named in a terrorism financing trial in the US in 2008.

As was noted at the prominent British political blog ‘Harry’s Place’ last year:

Sawalha

Mohammed Sawalha (far right) with Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud al Zahar in Gaza

“On Monday 24 November 2008 a Dallas Federal court found the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) and five of its leading members guilty of funneling $12 million to Hamas. The jury convicted all defendants on conspiracy charges — conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organisation; conspiracy to provide funds, goods and services to a specially designated terrorist; and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Sawalha is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in this case.”

That information – which is amply available in the public domain (details of the case’s background even appear in the transcript to the 2006 Panorama programme linked to in the written report) – is obviously extremely relevant to Oborne’s subject matter and yet he chose not to impart it to his readers and listeners, preferring instead to amplify Mohammed Kozbar’s smoke and mirrors.

“He’s [Sawalha] been with us from the beginning when we took over [the mosque], when we had these meetings with the government, with the police and with the Charity Commission, with our local MP.”

That local MP, by the way, is Jeremy Corbyn – recently in the headlines due to his Hamas “friends”.

Kozbar and Sawalha

Mohammed Kozbar and Mohammed Sawalha in Gaza

All the more remarkable is the fact that the Harry’s Place article quoted above (and well worth reading in full) relates directly to the HSBC decision to cease providing banking services to Finsbury Park Mosque. As is noted in that July 2014 post, the BBC broke the news at the time with an article which similarly provided an unquestioning platform for the protestations of Mohammed Kozbar, Anas al Tikriti and others, even including the following quote:

“Khalid Oumar, one of the trustees of the [Finsbury Park] mosque, questioned the motives behind the letters.

“The letters that have been sent and the letters that we received do not give any reason why the accounts were closed in the first place,” he said.

“That has led us to believe that the only reason this has happened is because of an Islamophobic campaign targeting Muslim charities in the UK.””

That 2014 BBC article made no effort whatsoever to provide audiences with information concerning the links of the organisations and individuals concerned to the Muslim Brotherhood and their common denominator of support for Hamas. A year of potential research time has now passed but whilst Oborne does mention his subjects’ links to the Muslim Brotherhood, he provides nothing in the way of concrete information about that organisation’s links to terrorism or their records of support for Hamas, its terrorism and its mission of eradicating Israel.

Oborne’s all too apparent adoption of the role of advocate for individuals and organisations supportive of the terrorist organization Hamas is not unexpected and neither, sadly, is the BBC’s decision to provide a platform – and presumably payment – for his agitprop.

But there is a deeply unsettling aspect to the BBC’s decision to promote Oborne’s whitewashing of the links of known extremists by means of the canard suggesting that all mainstream British Muslims may be subjected to exclusion and discrimination just at the time when the British government is taking on the battle of combating extremist ideology and narratives.

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Must read article by former BBC journalist