BBC R4 presenter floats ranking racism

Last month we documented one of many examples of BBC reporting on antisemitism in which an antisemitic statement was inaccurately and misleadingly described as “comments about Israel” and insufficient effort was made to explain why the statement was considered antisemitic. We observed at the time that:

“…as long as the BBC continues to report such stories while avoiding referencing the accepted definition of antisemitism, it cannot give its audiences an accurate and informative account of events.”

On March 12th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme witnessed another such example in the introduction to an item relating to US politics (from 2:51:23 here) by presenter Justin Webb. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Webb: “President Trump limps from crisis to crisis but his opponents, the Democrats, seem themselves to be in a mess. They won control of the House of Representatives last autumn and they sent some very high-profile new faces to Washington, among them the Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Well it hasn’t turned out though to be such plain sailing for her or the others. She is now accused of being antisemitic after she suggested that Jewish Americans have an allegiance to Israel.”

Leaving aside the fact that criticism of the comments made by Ilhan Omar in late February has focused on the antisemitic nature of the dual loyalty charge found in her statements rather than on the congresswoman herself and so Webb’s claim that “she is now accused of being antisemitic” does not reflect that criticism, no effort was made to explain to listeners that the claim that “Jewish Americans have an allegiance to Israel” – or as Omar actually put it “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country” – is categorised as a manifestation of antisemitism according to the IHRA working definition:

“Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”

Without that essential information, listeners would obviously not be in a position to understand this story fully. Webb continued:

Webb: “And that has prompted some very deep soul-searching as the party works out how it’s going to get rid of President Trump in the presidential elections. I’ve been hearing from the Democratic supporting polling expert John Zogby.”

After Zogby had spoken about “the demographic battle within the party between an old guard versus a new group of Young Turks that represent really millennials and Generation Z”, Justin Webb came up with the following bizarre question.

Webb: “The party’s having a big row about antisemitism and it’s fair to say to the surprise, I think, of some Democrats who really thought it wasn’t going to be the issue that it is. If…if the party decided to say to its supporters ‘look, we think that antisemitism is a bit like the way some of our people might regard anti-white racism; that actually it’s a different order of racism, it’s not as important, it’s still bad but it’s not as important as some other forms of racism’, what impact do you think that would have?”

We have been unable to find any evidence of such a suggestion having been put forward by the Democratic party (and indeed Zogby’s response was “you won’t see it happen”) so why Webb found it appropriate to float the grotesque notion of more important and less important types of racism is unclear.

Unsurprisingly, Webb failed to challenge Zogby when he came up with the inadequately explained claim that some people within the Democratic party are confusing antisemitism with “opposition to Israeli policies”.

Zogby: “By the same token to confuse antisemitism with Israeli policies and opposition to Israeli policies is a very difficult road to go down and by some establishment figures within the Democratic party, we saw how dangerous that gets. And that is one of the key points within this demographic revolution. Younger people let’s just say don’t have the automatic admiration for Israel. They know a post-intifada Israel and they know Israel as a foreign country.”

Webb went on to ask Zogby what would happen “if the Democratic party moved in the direction of being much more critical of Israel than it has been in the past, never mind the antisemitism issue”. Zogby replied that while some Jewish voters “would move away”, the numbers could be “more than made up…by energising millennials and energising non-whites”.

After a final question concerning the presidential election, Webb closed the item.

Following the broadcast the Jewish Chronicle contacted the BBC for comment and was told that “Justin is the first to admit he should have phrased his question better”. Apparently a BBC representative also said that “Mr Webb accepted the question needed to be better phrased because “the audience will not have been as familiar with the state of American politics as he and John Zogby are””. 

For years we have watched the BBC fail to provide the accurate and impartial reporting which would help its audiences understand antisemitism related stories in the UK. As we see, that serial failure is now being replicated in stories relating to US politics – not least because the BBC still does not work according to the accepted definition of antisemitism and because BBC staff too often appear to have forgotten that it is their job to inform audiences rather than subject them to esoteric insider chats that show off their own ‘familiarity’ with a topic. 

Related Articles:

BBC reporting on Labour antisemitism again falls short

BBC R4 report on antisemitism in the US uses the Livingstone Formulation

BBC R4 ‘Today’ listeners hear an esoteric item on antisemitism

 

 

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Whitewashing Hizballah on BBC Radio 4

The March 9th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item by Mishal Husain who is currently in Lebanon for a special broadcast from that country on March 11th to mark eight years since the beginning of the uprising in Syria.

Although the report (from 35:20 here) was introduced by both co-presenter Martha Kearney and Mishal Husain as being connected to the topic of “the war in Syria” and UK aid to Syrians displaced by that conflict, its focus soon shifted to a different topic.

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

Husain: “The UK’s just pledged an extra £100 million for Syrians in need and the Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt has told me host countries like Lebanon need ongoing support too. He came to Beirut straight after the government’s decision to ban the political wing of Hizballah – an organisation that’s had elected MPs in the Lebanese parliament for years. It’s part of the current government, controlling three ministries. I’ve been speaking to Amal Saad, professor of political science at the Lebanese University and the author of a book on Hizballah.”

As we see, that introduction (notable for Husain’s promotion of the entirely false notion of separate ‘wings’ of Hizballah) was no more helpful in aiding listeners to understand that they were about to hear from a Hizballah supporter than were the introductions heard by audiences on previous occasions when the BBC brought in Amal Saad for comment.

Listeners also received no information which would help them understand that when Hizballah and its supporters speak of ‘resistance’ against Israel, they in fact mean the destruction of that state.

Saad: “It’s first and foremost priority is resisting Israel and now fighting jihadis.”

Husain: “How entrenched is it in Lebanese politics, in Lebanese society today?”

Saad: “For the past 15 years or so Hizballah has been deeply entrenched in the Lebanese state: in the civil service, also in municipalities – across the board basically. And of course there is also the military and security cooperation that Hizballah has with the Lebanese army and with Lebanon’s security services.”

Listeners heard no mention of the fact that the 2006 UN Security Council resolution 1701 stated that there should be “no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon” and that previous accords pertaining to “the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State” should be implemented. Predictably, neither Husain nor her interviewee bothered to inform listeners that Hizballah is funded and supplied with weapons (also in violation of that UN resolution) by a foreign power.

Husain went on to once again promote the chimera of different ‘wings’ of the terror group.

Husain: “The UK says it can no longer make a distinction between the military and the political wing of Hizballah. Is it a false distinction to make?”

Saad: “I think it was an artificial one and it was a politically expedient one to facilitate dialogue and cooperation with Hizballah in Lebanon. In fact Hizballah is not a party with a military wing. It’s a resistance army and it has a political wing.”

Husain: “And that has meant fighting on the same side as President Assad in Syria and it’s been linked to the Houthi fighters backed by Iran in Yemen. One assumes that that is what the UK means when it says it’s destabilising the Middle East.”

The BBC’s domestic audiences then heard the claim that their own government’s policies are dictated by foreign interests.

Saad: “The British focused a lot on its role in Syria in the parliamentary report. The main argument was about Hizballah’s destabilising role in the region with emphasis on Syria. There was very little about actual terrorist incidents anywhere in the world. The UK is very troubled by Hizballah’s role in the region in the sense that it conflicts with US interests in the region. I think that’s the real problem.”

Despite having been told that Hizballah is a militia, Husain persisted in labelling it as a political organisation:

Husain: “But it is a party which has a history in what you call the resistance to Israel. It’s been responsible in the past for bombings, there were tunnels that have been dug into Israel. You look at all of that and around and then perhaps people say well, this is a valid decision for the UK to have taken.”

Saad: “This is part and parcel of an open war between Hizballah and Israel. There’s a balance of deterrence between the two. Even if we were talking about any transgressions that the UK has decided Hizballah has made, you know, they could try Hizballah for war crimes if they like. But that’s not the same thing as terrorism.”

That part of the item closed with that whitewashing of Hizballah’s terror activities and with no mention of UNSC resolution 1701 or Iran’s role as Hizballah’s mentor and supplier and no explanation of what the euphemism ‘resistance’ really means.

Despite having been told by Amal Saad in very plain terms that the notion of separate wings of Hizballah is “artificial”, Husain then went on to press her point (from 38:35) with Alistair Burt.

Husain: “We did make that distinction for more than a decade. So what has changed?”

Husain: “Last year a minister said that there wasn’t the evidence to proscribe the political wing of Hizballah. What changed between last year and this year?”

And when Burt mentioned the annual ‘Quds Day’ marches in the UK, Husain interrupted him with the following flippant remark:

Husain: “You made this decision on the basis of flags at a demonstration?”

Clearly this item, with comment coming from a Hizballah supporter and numerous grave omissions, comes nowhere near to providing licence fee paying listeners with the “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards” that is supposed to improve their ability to understand their own government’s decision to proscribe Hizballah.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio listeners get unchallenged Hizballah messaging – part one

BBC WS radio listeners get unchallenged Hizballah messaging – part two

BBC’s Newshour Extra listeners get a partisan ‘explanation’ of Hizballah

Usual mantras in BBC News report on Hizballah designation

 

BBC R4 ‘Today’ listeners hear an esoteric item on antisemitism

The February 23rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 49:14 here) concerning the UK Labour party. Presenter Nick Robinson introduced the item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Robinson: “Compare and contrast the following reactions to the resignations of nine Labour MPs in the past week alone. ‘There is now brutality in the Labour party. Racist bullies are responsible for driving one – Luciana Berger – out of the party and it needs to change if more are not to follow.’ That was the reaction of the party’s deputy leader Tom Watson. In contrast: ‘there is no place for harshness and bullying in the party and to tell you the truth, I don’t believe it exists on a wide scale’. That was the response of the leader Jeremy Corbyn. So who is right? And how can the party’s divisions on bullying, on antisemitism and indeed over Europe now be bridged?

Robinson discussed that topic with two labour MPs – the first of whom he introduced as “Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North, a vocal supporter of Jeremy Corbyn”. However – despite the BBC’s obligation to provide “…news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues…” and notwithstanding Robinson’s challenges to some of his interviewee’s talking points – the interview quickly descended into an esoteric conversation that most listeners would have had great difficulty following.

Robinson: “Chris […] what would you say is the scale of bullying and scale of antisemitism in the Labour party?

Williamson: “Well I’ve never witnessed any bullying and – I’ve got to say like Chuka Umunna – never seen any examples of antisemitism. That’s not to say that neither of those things exist but the truth is that the Labour party has a proud tradition of standing up for social justice, fighting racism in all its forms, right back from the early 1930s when we stood – the Labour party – with the Jewish community in Cable Street against Oswald Mosely’s fascists, to being the backbone of the anti-Nazi League in the 1970s.”

Robinson: “It’s a curious formula to say that you’ve never witnessed any antisemitism. You yourself apologised for signing a petition opposing a ban on a musician who blamed the Grenfell Tower disaster on so-called ‘Jerusalemites’. So far from not witnessing it, you accidentally – you apologised for it – went along with it.”

Williamson: “That’s very, very unfair. Look I didn’t know that the individual concerned had made those remarks and actually deleted the Tweet within 12 minutes of actually posting when it was brought to my attention.”

The unnamed “musician” is Gilad Atzmon who – despite being an antisemite who promotes conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial – used to be quite a regular fixture on the BBC. Williamson did indeed delete his Tweet promoting a petition defending Atzmon and made an apology based on what was described in the New Statesman as “a claim that for many stretches credulity”.  

Robinson however did not bother to provide listeners with the details of that story or to ask Williamson how he ‘accidentally’ managed to sign a petition supporting an antisemite without bothering to do any background research. He went on:

Robinson: “What about when you defended a man who’d said Jewish Trump fanatics were to blame for antisemitism allegations in the Labour party? You defended that man. He was a member of the National Executive Committee.”

Williamson: “He…well…well you’re trying to pick out isolated examples here Nick to try to imply that there is a major problem.”

Robinson: “No, I’m asking you to justify the fact that you said you’ve never seen something when in your own personal case you have twice faced allegations of going along with antisemitism.”

Again Robinson did not provide listeners with the details of the example he used or even the name of “that man” – Peter Willsman – so that they could check out the story and judge Williamson’s responses for themselves.

Williamson: “Allegations are one thing – aren’t they? – but just because somebody makes an allegation doesn’t make it true. If you actually go down that road you’re then very much into the McCarthyite witch hunt era, aren’t you?”

Robinson: “Is John McDonnell responsible for a McCarthyite witch hunt when he says ‘we’ve got to be quicker, we’ve got to be fiercer in dealing with antisemitism’? Is he a McCarthyite?

Williamson: “Well let me quote you what a Jewish journalist…”

Robinson: “No, I’d like you to respond to Mr McDonnell.”

Williamson: “Well yeah I am gonna respond with this comment actually and it’s a comment from a Jewish journalist and I think if you’d just do me the courtesy of listening for a moment Nick, I think you’ll find it highly significant. He wrote on the 21st of July last year ‘Expect a group of high-profile right-wing MPs and councillors or members to resign from the Labour party in protest. Don’t fall for this. In reality this will be just another attempt to sabotage Labour, possibly setting up a new moderate splinter party in the process, using false claims of antisemitism as their totemic issue’.”

The anonymous journalist that Williamson claims is Jewish is Asa Winstanley – a known anti-Israel activist and a contributor to the extremist siteElectronic Intifada’ and the Hamas linked, London-based outfit MEMO. Significantly, Williamson omitted part of the Tweets he ‘quoted’.

With listeners not told who that “Jewish journalist” is and not made aware of his long record of anti-Israel activity and his stance concerning antisemitism in the Labour party, they would of course be unable to judge Williamson’s response.  

Robinson: “So do you agree the claims are false?”

Williamson: “Now that is a Jewish journalist and I would also refer you to…”

Robinson: “I was asking for your view Mr Williamson.”

Williamson: “I would also refer you to the letter that was signed by over two hundred prominent Jewish members of the party who say in an open letter that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn…”

Robinson: “Can you tell me your view. You’re only quoting other people’s views.”

Williamson: “Let me just answer in my own way…that Labour and Jeremy Corbyn are a crucial ally in the fight against racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism.”

That letter cited by Williamson naturally appeared in the Guardian and its signatories include numerous anti-Israel campaigners who conveniently deny the existence of antisemitism in his party. Again, without that essential background information, listeners would be unable to judge Williamson’s response for themselves.

The interview came to an end shortly after that with Robinson again citing Labour MPs:

Robinson: “So Tom Watson is wrong…Tom Watson is wrong when he talks about racist bullies. John McDonnell is wrong when he says the party’s not dealing with antisemitism quickly enough or fiercely enough. They’re all wrong.”

Williamson: “Well I don’t…no…I’m not saying that. I mean I do think there was delays in the…err…dealing with the complaints that have been made but I think it’s important to put those into context as well. Labour is the biggest party in western Europe now and there were a number of complaints. Around a third of them however were deemed not to have sufficient evidence – potentially malicious complaints being made about antisemitism – and obviously the Labour party does need to deal with that and there was a bit of a delay but look, there is no place for antisemitism in the Labour party.”

Williamson’s framing of the topic under discussion in this item is based on the fallacy that if an anonymous “Jewish journalist” and unnamed “prominent Jewish members of the party” say so, then allegations of antisemitism can’t possibly be true.

With Nick Robinson having made no effort to unpack that sophism or to explain to listeners what sort of political milieu the little known fringe activists invoked by Williamson inhabit, this item clearly did the exact opposite of helping audiences to “engage fully” with the issue of antisemitism in the UK Labour party.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 fails to clarify a commentator’s ‘particular viewpoint’

Guardian letter claims Corbyn is an “ally in the fight against antisemitism” (UK Media Watch)

 

 

BBC world affairs editor’s holiday snaps exclude Hizballah

h/t ML

The February 23rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included – apropos of nothing – a report from Beirut by world affairs editor John Simpson.

Co-presenter Nick Robinson introduced that space filler (from 16:18 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Robinson: “A civil war in the Middle East that risks destabilising the entire region. For years it was Lebanon and not Syria that merited that description. Today’s Lebanon – fragile but stable – is a very different country to that which our world affairs editor John Simpson reported on in the 1980s and 90s. He’s been back, more than 30 years after reporting on its conflict.”

The first part of the item is taken up by Simpson’s old war stories. After listeners discover that he is actually in Beirut on a family holiday, Simpson moves on to describing a “shopping area” and “a pleasant little café” before closing:

Simpson: “All these years later Lebanon still seems immensely fragile. Syria and its civil war is less than 50 miles away and Syria itself, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran are all inclined to interfere here and act like bullies. But the one thing everyone tells you is that the Lebanese themselves have learned their lesson. 15 years of ferocious civil war have left a terrible scar. Better to get on with your fellow citizens of whatever religion and make money than fall out with them and risk a fresh round of destructive horror.”

Remarkably the BBC world affairs editor’s holiday snapshots from “peaceful” Lebanon include no mention whatsoever of the heavily armed, foreign funded and directed, sectarian, theocratic terrorist group that dominates the country while threatening the neighbouring one described by Simpson as being “inclined to interfere…and act like bullies”. 

 

 

Keeping Knell’s crystal ball gazing alive on BBC Radio 4

BBC domestic radio would not usually bother to report on closed primary elections held by one of tens of parties set to run in a foreign country’s general election that is two months away.  

That, however, is exactly what listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard on February 6th and to understand why, it is worth recalling Jerusalem correspondent Yolande Knell’s crystal ball gazing on the same radio station in late December 2018.

Knell’s predictions for the year ahead in the Middle East focused not on Syria, Iran, Yemen or the embattled Kurds but on a story much closer to her own office’s back yard.

Knell: “In terms of new names I mean I’m going to say the Attorney General here in Israel. Avichai Mandelblit. I mean he’s very well-known here but I really think he’s going to be internationally sort of known in the months ahead because he has to make this big decision about whether to charge the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in these public corruption cases. And there’s real drama here because Mr Mandelblit was Mr Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary. When he was appointed originally he was accused of being too close to the prime minister and now he could become the man who takes down the prime minister after a decade in power. And if Mr Netanyahu can stay in office until the middle of next year he would actually be the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history, taking over from the founding father David Ben Gurion so there’s a real legacy issue here. Ahm…the BBC did get to ask Mr Netanyahu about all of this at an end of year journalists’ event and we just got his usual mantra which is nothing will come out of this because there’s nothing in it and I think this is going to be a fascinating year for Israeli politics. I mean certainly that is something that his party supporters believe that this has been some kind of witch hunt and just to go back to Mr Mandelblit, I mean this man many journalists remarked how he’s gone from having red hair to turning grey in the few years he’s been in his job, having to make lots of tough decisions. He already, I think, lost his invitations to go to the prime minister’s luxury private residence in the north of Israel because he charged his wife Sarah in a case about misusing state funds for catering when she has a cook paid for by the state. So I’m foreseeing lots more political drama here in the months ahead.”

Many of those themes were recycled in this latest report from Knell which was introduced by presenter Mishal Husain (from 2:41:17 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Husain: “In Israel the Likud party of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been voting on its list of candidates to contest April’s general election. While it faces new competition, polls suggest that Mr Netanyahu is best placed to lead the next coalition government, putting him on course to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister this summer. But he might also become the first sitting Israeli leader to face a criminal trial. There’ll be a decision soon on possible corruption charges. He denies any wrongdoing. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell reports from Jerusalem.”

Knell: “There’s a big effort here in Jerusalem to put on a positive show as the Likud faithful vote for their preferred candidates in a primary election. But there’s no disguising that the upcoming general election is going to be tough for the party leader Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s facing possible corruption charges and his most formidable political rival in years, a former general, Benny Gantz. Ha’aretz journalist and Netanyahu biographer Anshel Pfeffer sees the PM on the attack.”

Pfeffer: “He’s very much under pressure, he’s very much acting impulsively. The more time passes, the more these indictments will create more problems for him and these challenges on the political scene with a new party like the Gantz party and with rivals within Likud perhaps starting to speak out against him, we’ll see less the statesman and more the local politician fighting a very dirty battle of survival.”

Knell continued with portrayal of daily videos posted on Facebook as a television channel.

Knell “And as part of that battle, this week Mr Netanyahu launched Likud TV – his own channel to counter what he describes as fake news. He’s furious at the media coverage of three criminal investigations against him, calling it a witch hunt and insists he won’t step down. Before the election Israel’s attorney general has said he’ll announce whether he intends to prosecute. Guy Luria of the Israel Democracy Institute says it’s not clear what happens next.”

Luria: “No prime minister in Israeli history has been indicted while in office. It’s really difficult to see how he could conduct himself in court facing serious potential multiple corruption charges and continue to conduct government. We are in uncharted waters. We don’t know how that will take shape.”

Knell: “At a recent press event the BBC asked the prime minister about his legal predicament.”

Recording Netanyahu: “I believe nothing will come of it because there’s nothing in it. And it doesn’t affect me, it doesn’t affect my support because people believe what I just said and they also believe that we’re doing the right things for the country.”

Knell: “Here on a main road by the Likud polling station you can see how Mr Netanyahu is building his campaign around that belief. There’s a huge billboard showing him with President Trump, beaming and shaking hands. ‘Netanyahu – a different league’ reads the slogan. The prime minister is stressing how his close relations with this White House has helped deliver a tough approach on Iran and the Palestinians as well as US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Grass roots Likud voters strongly support their leader.”

Unidentified Man: “Currently there is no-one that is nearly as strong or as intelligent or as experienced as Netanyahu is.”

Unidentified Woman: “Netanyahu I think is the best prime minister we had here, not just for security – also for the economic situation.”

Knell: “If, as polls predict, Mr Netanyahu is set to win his fifth election, this summer he’ll take over from the founding father David Ben Gurion as Israel’s longest ever serving prime minister. But he could also make another record: as the first sitting prime minister to fight criminal charges. The coming months will define his legacy.”

As we see, while this item used the previous day’s Likud primaries as a hook, BBC audiences actually heard nothing at all about the results.  Neither – once again – did they get any information about the policies of the party described by the BBC as “new competition” headed by a “formidable political rival” or news about any of the additional parties which have so far registered.

Rather, the BBC continues to focus audience attention on Yolande Knell’s speculations concerning an indictment which may or may not be issued and a court case which may or may not take place – all the while failing even to provide audiences with relevant factual background

Related Articles:

An Israel elections story that falls outside BBC framing

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

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

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

  

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ discusses antisemitism ahead of HMD – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the January 25th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an interview with Deborah Lipstadt about the rise of antisemitism, during which presenter Martha Kearney found it appropriate to quote one of Jeremy Corbyn’s denials concerning the antisemitism evident in his party.

The January 26th edition of the same programme saw presenter Mishal Husain return to that interview with Lipstadt (from 1:50:36 here) in an item featuring a member of the UK Labour party. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “Can an outlook that focuses on race and privilege prevent people recognising antisemitism? That was the suggestion made on the programme yesterday by the historian Deborah Lipstatdt […] Here’s what she said.”

Recording Lipstadt: “…many people consider themselves progressives, their view of the world is refracted through a prism which has two facets. One factor is ethnicity and one is class. And they look at Jews and they see white people – quote unquote white people – who are privileged and therefore could not possibly be victims of prejudice.”

Husain: “Well Michael Segalov is a journalist, member of the Labour party and is himself Jewish. […] What do you think of that view?”

This is not the first time that the BBC has brought in Segalov to comment on antisemitism in the party of which he is a member but without clarifying that he is a Corbyn supporter.

Segalov: “I think there is some truth in it. I don’t think that it is inherent to being progressive. I certainly don’t think misunderstanding what the Jewish community have been through is part of being progressive or on the Left. But I do think when – in particular in relation to Israel, which is obviously not what Jewish identity is all about but it’s part of it – it is possible to fall into a trap, which is understandable, of seeing Israel as a colonial state. And I think the reason that happens on the progressive Left more than it does elsewhere is because it’s only really on the Left that the lexicon is apparent. You don’t really see people on the Right talking critically about empire, about colonialism in a way the Left do. So I was trying to think of an analogy on the way here and to some extent I guess it’s like if you’re not trying to juggle you’re not going to drop anything – it’s that sort of issue there.”

Husain: “But what Deborah Lipstatdt was saying was actually something even more basic than that if you like. She is saying that if you see the world through this prism and she said – she was talking about ethnicity and class – but perhaps when you think about it in this way, that if you see…if your world view had a big focus on wealth and the inequality that results from imbalances in wealth and you perceive Jews as having wealth even though that is…depends on who you’re talking about, then you can find it difficult to see Jews as victims.”

Segalov: “Well no, I dispute that completely. I think it’s very important we say that those kind of prejudices such as seeing Jewish people as wealthy need to be dispelled. I don’t think it’s at all inherent to the idea that if you’re critical of wealth and power you’re suddenly antisemitic. I think making those connections is…”

Husain: “But that’s not what I said. I said could it mean that you are less likely to see Jews as people who can be victims?”

Segalov: “Only if you hold on to the view that Jewish people are wealthy and powerful which is…which is not fundamentally true. I do think there’s a bit more nuance to what Deborah said, as much as respect I have for her, in particular that I don’t think progressive people solely see inequality through the lens of either wealth or race. We see it through gender, you see it through sexuality, you see it through nationality and ethnicity and all different religious groups too. It’s all this identity politics idea. So I don’t think it’s as straightforward as to say that if you see the world through a lens of the powerful and the wealthy and the not so, that you’re ever going to fall into the trap of antisemitism.”

Husain: “But do you find yourself often having to make a point or urging people who have the same political views as you to see Jewish people in a different way from perhaps how they first see them?”

Segalov: “Not fairly regularly, no, no.”

Husain: “It does happen?”

Segalov: “Of course. I think they…we…antisemitism and misunderstandings of the Jewish community have been prevalent in Europe and this country and beyond for generations. And I certainly think at a time when Jewish people relatively in the UK and relatively in the US too, despite the administration over there, are safe and comfortable – a short period of time and long may it continue – it’s possible for younger people to not understand and appreciate the history that Jewish people have of marginalisation, oppression and discrimination. I don’t think it happens too often but of course there’s a risk.”

Husain made no effort to remind listeners (and her guest) that just four months ago 40% of British Jews said they would seriously consider leaving the UK if Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister.

Husain: “Michael Segalov, thank you very much.”

Quite how the producers of this programme thought Segalov’s largely incoherent ramblings would contribute to BBC’s domestic audiences’ understanding of antisemitism in the UK Labour party is a mystery. Listeners were however told by a person introduced as Jewish that it is “understandable” if people perceive “Israel as a colonial state” and they heard multiple references to Jews, wealth and power.

Sadly, even just days ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, BBC Radio 4 could not come up with impartial and informative reporting on the antisemitism that blights its listeners’ society.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ discusses antisemitism ahead of HMD – part one

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ discusses antisemitism ahead of HMD – part one

As Holocaust Memorial Day approached, on January 25th the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme aired a short interview (from 2:24:30 here) with Deborah Lipstadt concerning her new book.

The introduction to that item from presenter Martha Kearney included the following: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Kearney: “Her new book looks at the rise of antisemitism in the past decade and maintains that it’s no longer just the far Right but those on the Left as well who are to blame.”

Having brought in her guest she went on:

Kearney: “Now just describe to us what you think lies behind this recent wave of antisemitism.”

Lipstadt: “Well as you said in the introduction I think right now it’s coming from the Right and from the Left and from a third source and that is Islamist Jihadist extremists. What lies behind it? I think a number of factors. First of all we’ve seen Right wing populist governments or Right wing political leaders, including in my own country, play on making divisions among people, play on making divisions against minorities which gins up this attit…plays into the antisemitism. On the Left I think it’s been brewing for a long time. We could trace roots of it back […] to the late […] USSR. But it’s been there but it’s taken on an added potency in recent years and is often used in connection to Israel.”

Kearney: “And you’ve written about Jeremy Corbyn in this context in your book.”

Lipstadt: “I have. I think Jeremy…I don’t know if Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite or not and I don’t think that’s the important question. I don’t know what’s in his heart. But what I do is look at his record over a very long time [….] and what I see is a man who doesn’t understand antisemitism or – worse yet – doesn’t take it seriously…”

Interrupting her guest, Kearney immediately jumped in with a quote which some BBC listeners have heard used before.

Kearney [interrupts] “Well you see he would dispute that and he’s written a number of articles and put out a number of statements and said, you know, for example ‘people who dish out antisemitic poison need to understand, you do not do it in my name’.”

Lipstadt: “Right, I know that. I think for Jeremy Corbyn and other progressives – not all progressives but people who…many people consider themselves progressives, their view of the world is refracted through a prism which has two facets. One factor is ethnicity and one is class. And they look at Jews and they see white people – quote unquote white people – who are privileged and therefore could not possibly be victims of prejudice. There’s an irony here of course because if you turn to the far Right, they don’t consider Jews white people [….]. And they say well therefore you could not possibly be a victim of prejudice. On top of this – and we hear this from Jeremy Corbyn and from others – I am a progressive, I have gotten my progressive values with my mother’s milk, they are inbred in me, it’s impossible, it’s just impossible, it’s oxymoronic for me to be prejudiced therefore you must be making this up. You must be doing this for some ulterior purpose. And they just refuse to take it seriously. I see it on campuses in the United States from the Left, I see it in the British Labour Party, I saw it in the women’s march in the United States – the leaders of the women’s march. You see it in many different places that they just don’t think antisemitism is a serious problem.”

Kearney closed the item at that point, with the BBC’s domestic listeners having heard nothing of substance on the topic of far-Right antisemitism in the UK or what Lipstadt termed “Islamist Jihadist extremists” and the highly relevant issue of links between that brand of antisemitism and the British Left.

While it was Kearney who raised the subject of the leader of the UK Labour party, she also found it necessary to challenge her expert guest’s observations by amplifying denials of Corbyn’s role in propagating antisemitism in a country in which 5% of adults do not believe the Holocaust happened, 8% say its scale is exaggerated and 64% cannot accurately state how many Jews were murdered.

As we shall see in part two of this post, the next day’s edition of the ‘Today’ programme returned to part of this interview with Deborah Lipstadt.

 

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.  

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ perpetuates framing of rioting and elections

As we have seen, a significant proportion of the January 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme was given over to two items relating to Israel and the Gaza Strip. The second of those items was discussed here:

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

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

We have also looked at one aspect of presenter Mishal Husain’s introductions to both those items:

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

The first item began (from 37:13 here) with an opaque reference to a new political party running in the upcoming general election in Israel – but without listeners being told even the party leader’s name – and yet more euphemistic portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting as “protests”.

Husain: “A former Israeli military chief has launched a bid to challenge Benjamin Netanyahu in the elections scheduled for April. They’ll come a year after weekly Palestinians protests at the boundary fence between Israel and Gaza began. The UN says that last year 295 Palestinians were killed and 29,000 injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza – the highest annual figure since 2014. Fifteen Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks in the same period. Tom Bateman, our Middle East correspondent, is on the line from Jerusalem and in this coming election campaign, Tom, how much will relations with Palestinians and security feature?”

As BBC reporting on past Israeli elections shows, the corporation has repeatedly promoted the notion that the ‘peace process’ was the most important issue facing the Israeli electorate even when that was patently not the case.

“The most outstanding characteristic of BBC reporting on the 2015 Israeli election from day one was the insistence of its journalists on framing the story from the angle of its effect on negotiations with the Palestinians – despite the fact that other concerns were much higher up on voters’ lists of priorities. So, whilst BBC audiences heard or read occasional brief references to ‘economic issues’, ‘the cost of living’ and ‘house prices’, they were never actually provided with any in-depth background information on those topics and hence were incapable of appreciating why – for example – a previously non-existent party (Kulanu) won ten seats in the incoming Knesset.”

If this item is anything to go by, the BBC has obviously not abandoned that redundant framing. A prominent politics journalist at the Jerusalem Post notes that:

“The Palestinians, peace talks, and settlements seem to be almost entirely irrelevant to this election season.”

Bateman began by airbrushing Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip nearly 12 years ago and whitewashing the background to “the conflict between Israel and Hamas”.

Bateman: “Well it will play a role…ah…but I think that the degree to which it’s decisive or significant will very much depend on what happens really on the ground, particularly in relation to the conflict between Israel and Hamas which runs Gaza. And also in terms of the sort of rhetorical situation that you’ll hear Mr Netanyahu talk about a lot in terms of the most strategic threat that he sees which is from Iranian entrenchment, Iranian forces inside…ah…neighbouring Syria. Now on that front there’s been, you know, a significant move in the fact that President Trump has said that US troops will be withdrawn. That is very concerning for Israel but you’re not gonna hear it publicly from Mr Netanyahu who has made a relationship with President Trump key in a priority to his…ehm…diplomatic focus. In terms of what the polls are saying, well despite the situation that we’ve had with Mr Netanyahu; people in his right-wing coalition trying to portray him as being too weak when it comes to Gaza – the more hawkish elements of his cabinet and his defence minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned late last year over this – despite all that the polls still suggest his Likud party’s on course to be again the biggest party, could even gain seats and that it is likely then that he will be able to put together another right-wing coalition.”

Husain: “And on this point about the conflict with Hamas I mean those casualty figures, a big part of them is what’s been going on in Gaza and it…you know you might say it can’t go on like that, it’s not sustainable and yet it has for many months and we reported from there last month.”

Failing to clarify that “the health ministry in Gaza” is the same terror group behind the weekly violent rioting at the border, Bateman went on to make a context-free reference to an earlier incident.

Bateman: “Yeah and I think the protests at the fence every Friday show few signs of going away. Just last Friday another 14 year-old boy was shot and died later of his wounds according to the health ministry in Gaza. However, the numbers have reduced since the peak of the protests in the spring and summer of last year.”

What Bateman and Husain describe as “protests” included the following on that day:  

“About 13,000 Palestinians participated (10,000 last week). The demonstrators gathered at a number of locations along the border. During the events there was a high level of violence, which included burning tires as well as throwing stones, IEDs and hand grenades at IDF soldiers and at the security fence. In the northern Gaza Strip there were at least three attempts to break through the fence into Israeli territory. In one instance IDF forces fired shots at suspicious Palestinians who fled back into the Gaza Strip. One IDF soldier was slightly injured by a stone.”

Downplaying of the violence that has included hundreds of incidents of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, Bateman continued:

Bateman: “There’s been a series of military escalations between Hamas and Israel. Now whether or not that will flare up again I think could have a significant impact on the election process. It may conversely be inspired to some degree by the fact that there are elections in Israel. But what the Israeli prime minister or the tack he has chosen is to try to take a bit of political damage from his own right-wing…from the more hawkish elements and try to contain that situation. That is in the form of a very indirect arrangement brokered by the Egyptians, by the Qataris and by the UN in which the Israelis effectively asked for calm on the perimeter fence. In return Hamas – which is under significant pressure financially because of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade, because of sanctions by the internationally recognised Palestinian leadership too…eh…there are suitcases full of cash – millions of dollars – coming from Qatar into Gaza to pay civil servants’ salaries and also to prevent a collapse of the electricity supply in Gaza. Now that is being permitted by Benjamin Netanyahu. The third payment of $50 million was postponed last week which shows I think just how very fragile this sort of uneasy truce is.”

Bateman failed to inform listeners that those “civil servants” are employees of the Hamas terror organisation or that the reason for the postponement of that “third payment” was a rise in violence that included more rocket attacks that went unreported by the BBC.

While the BBC has not yet produced much reporting on the upcoming election in Israel its framing of that topic so far is just as inflexible and unhelpful to audiences as its framing of almost ten months of weekly violent rioting and border infiltrations which it persists in portraying as “protests”.

Related Articles:

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

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

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