Jews of the Middle East in the eyes of BBC Arabic

This is the first in a series of posts by CAMERA Arabic showing how Arabic language channels belonging to Western media outlets frame the topic of Jews who originate from or live in the Middle East and North Africa by distinguishing ‘loyal’ Jews from ‘treacherous’ Zionists. All translations, emphasis and in-bracket remarks are by CAMERA Arabic unless otherwise specified.

“May God bless the soldiers of Israel […] may he shed his light on us, on Israel and on Tunisia, long live Israel and long live Tunisia!

Those spontaneous words, originally an excited mixture of Hebrew and a colloquial dialect of Arabic, were chanted by a woman on a bus full of fellow tourist-pilgrims, with many others in the group cheering and responding to her wishes with “amen”. Most if not all of them were Jewish Israelis of Tunisian heritage. Their journey’s destination was the al-Ghriba synagogue, one of the oldest in the world, located on the Tunisian island of Djerba. Jews have been conducting an annual celebration there every Lag b‘Omer (which usually falls in May) for generations, and this year (2019) saw the number of pilgrims and visitors to the site exceeding all previous gatherings since the country underwent the Jasmine Revolution in January of 2011.

The entire trip was documented by Rina Matsliah, a well-known Israeli journalist who was born in Tunisia herself. It was her report that brought a seemingly marginal moment to the public eye: the enthusiastic woman and her group were shown for a few seconds in an evening news program on Israel’s Channel 12. The report also revealed to the viewers that the group had the opportunity to look from outside at the house near the capital Tunis where, in 1988, Israel had assassinated Yasser Arafat’s deputy, Khalil al-Wazir (a.k.a Abu Jihad) – one of Fatah’s leading terrorists and a man responsible for the murders of dozens of Israeli civilians.

That documentation of a group of Israeli tourists proudly praising Israel and its soldiers on Tunisian soil and later looking at a site where a prominent Palestinian leader was assassinated soon sparked a scandal in the North African country.

An Arabic subtitled version of the report was promoted by Hezbollah affiliated ‘al-Mayadeen’ channel, and demonstrations and sit-ins were subsequently held in front of government buildings in Tunisia. Under the accusation of “normalization” with the “Zionist entity”, the protesters specifically demanded the removal from office of René Trabelsi – Tunisia’s minister of tourism and the first Jew ever to be appointed minister in modern Tunisian history. Trabelsi is a member of a tiny Jewish community of no more than 2,500 people.

The story was reported widely on Arabic-speaking channels, including those belonging to Western media organisations. Some quoted Arab social media without fact-checking the preposterous claims raised there. For example, a television program produced by BBC Arabic uncritically amplified outraged comments which viewed the visit as a military act.

“If this is true, Khalil al-Wazir Abu Jihad became a martyr twice, the first time when Israel assassinated him in 1988 and the second when his killers visited the house where he became a martyr in Tunis” (2:11)

I have no problem with Tunisian Jews in either Tunisia or France, I have a problem with the ‘Zionists’ who live in occupied Palestine, they’re all soldiers, whether on active duty or in the reserve forces, since military service is compulsory in the Zionist entity… I mean, [how can] we consider them tourists and their origin to be Tunisian!?” (2:26)

The BBC Arabic program also quoted an additional edited comment (1:54), by a Tunisian journalist who insisted there was nothing new about “Zionists” entering Tunisia.

The online BBC report about the same story noted that the journalist, Habib Bouajila called for the sacking of Trabelsi in order to “protect Tunisian national dignity”. Bouajila accused Trabelsi of dangerously distorting facts and inflaming tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites because the minister had pointed out al-Mayadeen’s affiliations with Hezbollah and claimed that the channel’s translation from Hebrew into Arabic was mistaken.

The full, unedited version of Boualija’s comment as embedded in a BBC Arabic webpage, is saturated with antisemitic tropes, undertones and dog-whistles. It views the incident as a new level in the prosecution of a conspiracy against the Tunisian people, involving Jews of many countries as well as Trabelsi himself (to whom he consistently refers by his Hebrew name Roni). The hateful comment concludes with death wishes to Israel and America.

The admittance of Zionists into Tunisia is not new – since the nineties everybody knows they’re entering with their Zionist passports in tourist groups or, in rare occasions, with their second passports. [This is the case] as long as all the Zionist settlers, from the minister to the last occupier-usurper, retain their original nationality, or [obtain] a western nationality, such as most members of Jewish diasporas all over the world have. The Jews of Tunisia, previous or current, and those who left it for occupied Palestine, are no exception.

This is not what’s new – the new provocation is the boldness of Roni Trabelsi, who holds the tourism portfolio and in his last statement assumed the role[s] of the [entire] Tunisian diplomatic corps, the President of the Republic and the Parliament, so that he would decide on Tunisia’s alignments along the international axes. He also assumed the role of a media analyst [who specializes in] TV-stations and affiliations, in order to classify the al-Mayadeen channel as Lebanese Shi’ite […], despite [the fact] it was merely conveying and literally translating the report of the Zionist channel. On top of that, he arrogantly surmised the ratio of Tunisians who deplore his tendencies towards normalization and shamed with what he sees as ‘disgrace’, i.e. Shi’ization and siding with the Resistance [Hezbollah]…

The audacity of the minister stems from his (admittedly correct) estimation that he is stronger than the Tunisian government and state. In a Tunisian landscape that sets his path [forward] and promotes him to be a ‘high-ranked official’, Roni is the distinguished, the selected; he has more power and importance than all the ‘indigenous’, ‘gentile’ ministers and officials. It also derives from his (admittedly accurate) understanding that the straw man of ‘antisemitism’ and the allegations of bigotry, terrorism and assaulting ‘our Jewish brethren’ will deter the cowardly politicians, commentators and academics who want to stay where they are or aspire to move up the ladder. In [such] a Tunisian landscape Roni knows, and those who fear of Roni know, that his installment, as well as the installment of his minions [lit. players], is at the hand of the great supervisor, who loves Roni and loves those who love Roni and isolates whoever hates him.

Once again and forever, past, present and future, we say to Roni and his supervisor, and to whoever loves Roni and whoever acts obsequiously towards Roni and his supervisor, and [to whoever] wants to reposition Tunisia in service of Roni’s friends and entourage in a supine Arab world and international community [lit. landscape], we say: Tunisia is Arab – Its spirit is [of] resistance despite our setbacks and breakdowns – it belongs with its [Arab/Islamic] Ummah – its compass is Palestine – and its voice is loud and clear: death to Israel – death to America – and glory to the resistance… and whoever doesn’t like it can go drink the water of La Goulette [a city on the Tunisian Mediterranean coast]. He can present himself as an ‘outside observer’ [lit. a bird at the roof] or an alcohol merchant or a civil servant, [all are] typical hypocritical stories [dipped] in nostalgia [that is made out] of Zio-Masonic [sic] flour between al-Ghriba and the Bab Bahr Cathedral [a famous church in Tunis which represents to the writer a Tunisia that’s not exclusively Arab/Muslim, like al-Ghriba]. We do not buy this position in our homeland, treacherous as it is coming from its honey-tongued proponents…”

In addition BBC Arabic’s online report also brought comments from other Tunisians who, in BBC’s words,

“feared […] that the incident would reflect badly on the Jews of Tunisia, who rejected Israel’s temptations and have confirmed their clinging to their Tunisian roots.

The protests eventually died out after the government responded by clarifying that none of the visitors has entered Tunisia under an Israeli passport. As for Trabelsi himself, he repeatedly denied any connection between Israelis who visit Tunisia and the perceived act of “normalization” that he was blamed for. In one interview, he also “firmly” condemned the tourists who, in his words, “celebrated the Israeli army on Tunisian soil.” Indeed, it seems that this time the Jewish minister has dodged the bullet. But as long as the debate that surrounds Jews who live in the Middle East is framed the way it is – framing that BBC Arabic obviously finds acceptable – it seems that he and his community will always be suspected of dual loyalty and will carry the burden of proof for their innocence.

Related Articles:

BBC whitewashes Islamist antisemitism with semantics

BBC whitewashes anti-Jewish extremism in Tunisia

Airbrushing terror: the BBC on Abu Jihad

 

 

BBC double standards on terrorism persist

The introduction to the BBC’s guidance document on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ states:

“Terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones and care is required in the use of language that carries value judgements.  We try to avoid the use of the term “terrorist” without attribution.  When we do use the term we should strive to do so with consistency in the stories we report across all our services and in a way that does not undermine our reputation for objectivity and accuracy.”

As documented here extensively, the BBC adheres to that guidance when reporting on terror attacks against Israelis. However when reporting on terrorism in some other locations, the BBC displays markedly less commitment to avoiding “value judgements” and maintaining “consistency”.

The following headline appeared in a report published on the BBC News website’s ‘Africa’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on February 9th:

“Tunisia attacks: Militants jailed over 2015 terror”

As readers may recall, the BBC made appropriate use of the word terror in its 2015 reporting on the second of those attacks. However when BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning the inconsistency between that reporting and previous coverage of a terror attack at a synagogue in Jerusalem, the BBC claimed that the two attacks were not comparable and described them as “very different” stories.

When BBC Watch submitted a follow-up complaint we were informed that the BBC was not prepared to engage in any further correspondence on the matter.

This latest headline once again demonstrates that the BBC does not apply its own editorial principles in a uniform and consistent manner. When the corporation wants to use words such as ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’, it does. When it wants to make “value judgements”, it does and in fact what dictates the BBC’s choice of terminology is “a political position” of precisely the type it claims to try to avoid.

Related Articles:

The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

Radio 4 provides more evidence of BBC double standards when reporting terrorism

 

The BBC uncritically amplifies Corbyn’s PFLP and ‘platform’ denials

Four days after he attended the controversial wreath-laying ceremony in Tunis in October 2014, Jeremy Corbyn had an article published in the ‘Morning Star’ in which he described that event, an additional one and the conference which had preceded them.

“A one-day conference was held under the auspices of the Centre for Strategic Studies for North Africa, just north of Tunis, near Carthage, attended by all Palestinian groups. […]

The conference was welcomed by the President of Tunisia Dr Moncef Marzouki and heard opening speeches from Palestinian groups including Fatah, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine as well as solidarity from the Turkish parliament and international support. […]

In my own speech to the conference there was great enthusiasm for the prospects of a British parliamentary vote on October 13 on Palestinian statehood.”

In other words, Corbyn was fully aware of the fact that members of at least two proscribed terrorist organisations – Hamas and the PFLP – were at that conference and was perfectly happy to share a platform with them.

However, when The Times published a photograph of Corbyn standing next to PFLP leader Maher al Taher at that wreath-laying ceremony, the BBC’s domestic audiences heard reports which made no mention of Corbyn’s 2014 article in the ‘Morning Star’.

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on August 16th were told (from 23:30 here) that: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “Jeremy Corbyn has told BBC News he didn’t know anything about the background of a senior figure in a banned Palestinian militant organisation that he appeared alongside in 2014. He shared a platform with Maher al Taher in Tunisia. Our political correspondent Susana Mendonça reports.”

Mendonça: “Maher al Taher is a senior figure of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine which has been linked to a terror attack on a synagogue complex in West Jerusalem in 2014, where a British rabbi was among those killed. It’s emerged that the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was pictured alongside him at a memorial event at a cemetery in Tunis as part of a Palestinian rights conference. Mr Corbyn has been coming under criticism for attending a wreath-laying there which took place near memorials for people who were accused of having links to a terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympic Games. But he has said that he was there to honour innocent people killed in a 1985 Israeli airstrike and has denied having any knowledge about who he was sharing a platform with.”

Recording Corbyn: “I don’t share platforms with terrorists. I don’t believe in killing people. I have attended memorial events for those that have died in the sadness of all these conflicts and that is my position.”

Mendonça: “The Labour Party has complained to the press watchdog IPSO about newspaper coverage of the visit to Tunisia.”

The PFLP was not merely “linked” to the Har Nof terror attack (which the BBC refrained from describing as such at the time) in which six people were murdered: it claimed responsibility for it.

Once again BBC audiences were not told that the context to Corbyn’s statements is the fact that the 1985 Israeli airstrike on the PLO HQ in Tunis came in response to a Palestinian terror attack against Israeli civilians in Cyprus.

On the same evening listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ were informed by newsreader Neil Nunes (from 05:23 here) that:

Nunes: “Jeremy Corbyn said he didn’t know anything about the background of a senior figure in a Palestinian militant organisation that he appeared alongside in 2014. The Labour leader attended a memorial event in Tunisia with Maher al Taher from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The group has been linked to an attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem in 2014; a British rabbi was among those killed. Mr Corbyn rejected any suggestion that he condoned violence.”

Recording Corbyn: “I don’t share platforms with terrorists. I don’t believe in killing people. I have attended memorial events for those that have died in the sadness of all these conflicts and that is my position.”

Interviewer: “And the person they’re talking about: did you knowingly share a platform…”

Corbyn [interrupts]: “No, I was unaware of any of his background.”

Once again the BBC refrained from informing audiences that the PFLP has not just “been linked to” the Har Nof attack but actually issued a formal statement stating that the two terrorists belonged to its ranks.

The same omission appeared in an article published on the BBC News website’s ‘UK Politics’ page on August 16th under the headline “Jeremy Corbyn ‘unaware’ of militant group figure“.

“Jeremy Corbyn has said he did not know that a man he stood next to at a wreath-laying ceremony was a senior member of a militant Palestinian group.

Maher Taher, of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), was pictured alongside the Labour leader at a 2014 event in Tunis.

The PLFP was later linked to an attack on an Israeli synagogue. The US and EU consider it to be a terrorist group.

Mr Corbyn told the BBC: “I was unaware of any of his background.””

Readers of that report also found the quotes from Corbyn promoted in the above two news bulletins.

“I don’t share platforms with terrorists,” Mr Corbyn said. “I don’t believe in killing people.

“I have attended memorial events for those that have died in the sadness of all of these conflicts, and that is my position.”

Failing yet again to provide audiences with the relevant context, the report continued:

“Mr Corbyn has said that his attendance at the wreath-laying was to honour innocent people killed in a 1985 Israeli air strike on the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) headquarters in Tunis.”

The report went on to provide readers with a link to a profile of the PFLP which was first published by the BBC following the Har Nof attack. Nearly four years on, that profile – previously discussed here – is still illustrated with an inaccurate photograph and has still not been updated to reflect the correct number of victims murdered in that attack.

“The PLFP was formed as a resistance movement after the occupation of the West Bank by Israel in 1967. It is treated as a terrorist organisation by the US and European Union.”

It is therefore unsurprising to see that this article also gives readers an inaccurate account of the number of people killed in that terror attack.

“In November 2014, two members of the group armed with axes stormed a synagogue complex in West Jerusalem and killed four rabbis – including British-born Avraham Shmuel Goldberg. According to reports at the time, it was not clear how involved the PFLP leadership had been in the attack.”

As we see, while domestic BBC audiences saw and heard multiple uncritical amplifications of Corbyn’s denials concerning Maher al Taher and his disingenuous claim that he does not share platforms with terrorists, the BBC made no effort to inform them of Corbyn’s October 2014 ‘Morning Star’ article in which he clearly stated that he had appeared at an event together with representatives of two proscribed terrorist organisations.

Related Articles:

BBC R4 listeners hear more ‘contextualisation’ of Corbyn wreath-laying

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part one

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part two

Over a third of BBC website’s Corbyn wreath laying report allocated to denials 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC R4 listeners hear more ‘contextualisation’ of Corbyn wreath-laying

h/t SW

In previous posts (see ‘related articles’ below) we have noted how BBC coverage of the Jeremy Corbyn wreath-laying story has failed include background information relating to the claim promoted by the Labour leader’s supporters that he was honouring victims of an Israeli air strike on the PLO headquarters in Tunisia in 1985.

The context to those statements – which to date has not been provided to BBC audiences in any of the content we have seen – is the fact that the strike came in response to a Palestinian terror attack against Israeli civilians in Cyprus.

That omission was evident again in an item (from 23:26 here) aired in the August 15th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’. Presenter Mark Mardell introduced that item thus: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Mardell: “Jeremy Corbyn says when he paid tribute to the Palestinian dead in 2014 in a Tunis cemetery he was at a conference alongside many other people from other political parties. We’ll speak to one of them in a moment. Those attacking Mr Corbyn claim he helped lay a wreath honouring members of the terrorist group which murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. He vehemently denies that as a slur.”

Radio 4 listeners then heard part of an interview with Corbyn aired on Channel 4 News the previous day.

Corbyn: “I was there when the wreaths were laid – that’s pretty obvious. There were many others there who were witness to that. I witnessed many other people laying many wreaths.”

Reporter: “Did you lay the wreath?”

Corbyn: [sighs] “I laid one wreath along with many other people in memory – as I’ve said – of all those who died in the awful attack in 1985 which, as I keep repeating – you seem not to understand – was condemned by the whole world.”

Mardell did not bother to inform Radio 4 listeners that the strike was on the PLO’s headquarters in Tunis, that among those in whose “memory” Corbyn says he laid the wreath were members of the PLO terror group including leaders of Fatah’s ‘Force 17’ , that the strike came after a terror attack against Israeli civilians or that the local Jewish community in Tunisia was subsequently targeted, including in a shooting attack at the Synagogue in Djerba in which three people were murdered.

He went on to introduce a guest whose political affiliations (Liberal Democrats) were not clarified and who was allowed to present his own ‘credentials’.

Mardell: “Lord Phillips of Sudbury attended that conference. […] What did you make of the conference? Why did you go?”

Phillips: “Well I’m an oddball [laughs] in that I’m a fanatical supporter of the right of the State of Israel to exist and indeed offered to fight for them in 1973 but a profound critic of their policy in Palestine [sic] which I believe is shocking in terms of their own high standards in history and most of all I’m convinced that what they’re doing and continue to do – and indeed it gets worse – is actually jeopardising the safety of the State of Israel and so on.”

It would of course have been helpful to listeners to know that Lord Phillips’ self-declared record as “a fanatical supporter of the right of the State of Israel to exist” has not prevented him from taking part in an event organised by supporters of the Hamas terrorist group which most certainly does not share that sentiment, meeting a Hamas leader by whom he was “immensely impressed“, advocating for boycott of Israel in line with the BDS campaign which seeks to eradicate the Jewish state or indulging in ‘Jewish lobby’ conspiracy theories.

Listeners then discovered that Phillips cannot even remember where the conference he was asked to tell them about took place.

Phillips: “…I have taken advantage of I think it’s three – could be four – trips, parliamentary trips, to usually Israel and Gaza and the West Bank but on this occasion to Egypt [sic] for this conference, simply to a) inform myself directly and better in order that I can be in touch, form opinions which are factually based and thus be a better advocate for the whole situation.”

Failing to point out to listeners that the conference was also attended by leaders of Palestinian terror factions and even a convicted terrorist who tried to blow up Israeli cinema goers, Mardell asked:

Mardell: “But at this particular conference in Tunisia, were there many people who were like-minded like you who believe that the State of Israel should exist?”

Claiming that “this was quite a few years ago” (actually less than four years ago), Phillips avoided the question while mentioning “a big delegation of European representatives” and “lots of MEPs.”

Mardell next asked whether the conference (which he did not bother to inform listeners was titled the “International Conference on Monitoring the Palestinian Political and Legal Situation in the Light of Israeli Aggression”) was “hostile to Israel”.

Phillips: “I did…well this is…absolutely not.”

Phillips went on to claim that he had a “general memory” of delegates being at the conference because they were “interested in what’s going on in the Middle East”.

In response to questions from Mardell concerning Corbyn’s participation in the wreath-laying, Radio 4 listeners then heard more of the type of ‘contextualisation’ heard in a previous Radio 4 programme.

Phillips: “…this conference went on a couple of days. It was a very crushed programme with side meetings and heave knows what. And I could quite imagine he was asked to go along and lay a wreath. […] I could absolutely imagine that he was drawn into this slightly shambolic huge meeting and laid a wreath, as he thought, just for the people who died and then got caught up in what he’s now caught up with.”

Phillips – and the item – closed with listeners being told that too much fuss is being made about anti-Jewish racism.

Phillips: “And of course we live at a moment in time when the sort of antisemitic thing has in my view grown way out of all control and good sense.”

That remark hardly comes as a surprise from a contributor on record as claiming that the issue of antisemitism is used “like McCarthyism and a good way to silence people” and that people fail to ‘speak out’ on Israel “for fear of being branded anti-Semitic”. Nevertheless, it is obvious that listeners to this item gained no insight into the real nature and agenda of that ‘conference’ in Tunis but were in fact materially misled on that topic.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part one

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part two

Over a third of BBC website’s Corbyn wreath laying report allocated to denials

 

 

BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire and a non-existent political party

The August 15th edition of BBC Two’s ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ included an item introduced by the presenter as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Derbyshire: “Next: in simple terms antisemitism is described as hostility to, prejudice or discrimination against Jewish people. But even the definition of the term has been the cause of debate in recent weeks as the Labour antisemitism row goes on. Now one of the most high-profile lawyers in Britain, Mark Lewis, and his partner Mandy Blumenthal – a property company director – tell this programme in an exclusive joint interview that they believe the level of antisemitism in this country has become so severe that they no longer feel safe living here. Instead, they say, they’re moving to Israel and intend to do this by the end of the year.”

One might have thought that, having invited two people onto the programme ostensibly to hear about the experiences – including a death threat – that have prompted them to reach the decision to uproot their lives and relocate to a different country, Derbyshire would have refrained from spending the next fifteen minutes telling them why they are wrong.

However, the BBC presenter could have been easily mistaken for a member of the Labour Party’s press team as she read out a list of Jeremy Corbyn’s statements on antisemitism followed by a list of “actions that he has taken as leader of the Labour Party in order to tackle the antisemitism” as well as a pre-prepared statement from the Labour Party – while concurrently promoting a context free defence of Corbyn’s participation in a ceremony honouring terrorists in Tunisia four years ago obviously taken from a Labour Party statement.

Derbyshire: “And [Corbyn] absolutely explained why he was there. Absolutely explained why he was there. That they and others were paying their respects to those killed in an Israeli air raid in 1985 including civilians.”

Derbyshire later inaccurately described the conference in Tunisia in which Corbyn had participated together with senior members of terrorist organisations as a “peace conference” and the standard of BBC fact-checking was also on display in another segment:

Derbyshire: “Can we talk about your politics? […] Let’s talk about your politics because there will be some who will accuse you of saying this simply for political motivations because you’re not Labour supporters. You’re members of the UK Zionist party which was relaunched this year.”

Blumenthal: “Hold on, hold on. What is the UK Zionist party? I’m sorry to interrupt you but you’re saying that I’m a member of a UK Zionist party?”

Derbyshire: “Sorry – that was the information I was given. That’s obviously inaccurate.”

 

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part two

In part one of this post we looked at how the story of the UK Labour Party leader’s participation in an event in Tunisia in 2014 that had been the subject of a report in a British newspaper three days earlier was presented to the BBC’s domestic audience on BBC Radio 4 on the evening of August 13th.

Later the same evening the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ also aired a long item on the same story:

“Jeremy Corbyn attacked by Benjamin Netanyahu — over laying a wreath in memory of Palestinians suspected of 1972 Munich massacre.”

In her introduction to the item (from 16:28 here) presenter Ritula Shah managed to twist a story that first emerged in 2017 and was again taken up by a British newspaper in recent days into an ‘accusation’ from the Israeli prime minister. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Shah: “The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized Jeremy Corbyn and accused him of laying a wreath on the grave of one of those behind the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972 in which 11 Israeli athletes died. A photo of Mr Corbyn holding a wreath at the Palestinian Martyrs’ Cemetery in Tunisia in 2014 was published by the Daily Mail. The events of 1972 shocked the world. Here’s a flavour of how the BBC reported the event at the time.”

After listeners had heard an archive recording, Shah went on to read out Corbyn’s Tweet:

Shah: “Well tonight the Labour leader’s responded to the Israeli prime minister’s statement in a Tweet saying ‘at Netanyahu’s claims about my actions and words are false. What deserves unequivocal condemnation is the killing of over 160 Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli forces since March, including dozens of children’.”

Listeners were not provided with any context to Corbyn’s ‘whataboutery’: the fact that a significant proportion of those dubbed ‘protesters’ by Corbyn were linked to terror factions and killed during violent rioting and attacks was not clarified by Shah before she continued.

Shah: “In an interview earlier today Mr Corbyn was asked to respond to the wreath-laying claim.”

Listeners then heard a recording of part of that interview.

Recording Corbyn: “A wreath was indeed laid by some of those who attended the conference for those who were killed in Paris in 1992.

Interviewer: “Were you involved in that wreath laying?”

Corbyn: “I was present when it was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in it. I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who’s died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it. You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is a cycle of dialogue.”

Shah: And that reference to Paris in 1992 by Jeremy Corbyn refers to the assassination of Atef Bseiso who was a senior member of the PLO who was allegedly killed by the Israeli secret service in revenge for the Munich attack.”

JVL protest at the BBC, 7/8/18. Photo credit: @The Red Roar

Shah then introduced her sole interviewee – a member of a pro-Corbyn fringe group called ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ which – despite the fact since its formation last year, BBC audiences have seen its representatives interviewed and quoted in dozens of items of BBC content – just the previous week organised a demonstration outside the BBC’s main London building to protest “the BBC’s failure to report fairly and impartially about the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party”.

Shah; “Well joining me now is Glyn Secker, secretary of the pro-Corbyn group Jewish Voice for Labour. […] do you think that reference to Paris in 1992 is essentially an attempt to distract from Bseiso’s involvement in the 1972 Munich Olympics attack?”

Radio 4 listeners first heard the unsubstantiated claim that the Daily Mail had doctored the photographs.

Secker: “Yes, I mean the commemoration of the Munich…of the deaths in Munich…ahm…when it is reported by the Daily Mail it is quite devious because yes, they have a picture of Jeremy Corbyn holding a wreath and it’s in that cemetery but actually they’ve switched – and you can see from the analysis of the photographs – they’ve switched the graves around. There’s one picture of him standing at a different grave – not the one where they were laying the wreath – and I think that must have been the grave of the terrorist. Jeremy Corbyn is standing there with his hands in his pocket, obviously not being very respectful.”

Shah [interrupts]: But he says himself, but he says himself ‘I was present when it was laid’ so that suggests very clearly that he was there, the photographs appear to show he was there, he’s not denying he was there. What’s the difference between being present and laying a wreath? If you’re in a place, you’re present, there, you’re taking part.”

Next Secker conjured up a hypothetical situation to add to his photo doctoring conspiracy theory:

Secker: “Well he’s not…well he wasn’t…well if you’re with a group of people, you’re there as their guest and they then say please will you walk over to this side of the cemetery and you follow them and then you find that they’re laying a wreath and you can see the wreath on this grave in the photograph but as I say, Jeremy Corbyn is standing there with his hands in his pockets – not a mark of respect for that grave – so I think what’s happened is the photograph of him holding the wreath is actually cropped at the bottom so you can’t see the grave and they’ve taken the picture where he was laying a wreath to the…to all the victims and they’ve switched it and made it look like something other.”

Listeners then heard irrelevant linkage of the issue of the UK Labour Party leader honouring terrorists to the topic of antisemitism.

Secker: “Now as Jews we do not take instruction from the Daily Mail about antisemitism. They backed Mosley in the 1930s…”

Shah: “But – hang on a minute – are you accusing the Daily Mail of antisemitism?”

Secker: “Ah well, I’m accusing them certainly historically of antisemitism – yes. They backed Mosley. They published in 1938 an article saying the country was being flooded by Jews.”

Pointing out that the Daily Mail was not there to reply to Secker’s allegations, Shah tried to drag the conversation back onto topic.

Shah: “I’m quite confused by the answer that you just gave and I dare say other people are. But Jeremy Corbyn is not denying that he was present at this wreath laying, that he was in this cemetery in Tunis. What is the difference between that and actually…he may not physically have literally laid the wreath but he was there.”

Yet again listeners had to listen to Secker’s hypothetical speculations.

Secker: “But if he’s been asked to walk over by his guests [sic] to the other side of the…of the cemetery – which looks very clearly as if that’s what happened – and he goes and stands with them at the grave of this terrorist and he stands there with his hands in his pockets – not marking respect at all to that person – that speaks volumes for what he was thinking.”

Shah: “Why does it matter so much that he had his hands in his pocket? He was there.”

Secker: “Well I tell you, if he was visiting my father’s grave and he stood there with his hands in the pockets I would be very offended.”

Shah: “So you think there is a difference between being present with your hand in your pocket but not actually involved?”

Secker: “Yes, he’s not got a wreath. He wasn’t laying a wreath at that grave. He was laying a wreath at the other grave.”

Shah: “Do you think those distinctions are so nuanced as to be almost irrelevant?”

Secker: “No they’re not irrelevant because the way the Daily Mail presents it is that he’s laying a wreath to a terrorist and he wasn’t and he said he wasn’t. That’s a big story and he’s denying it and I think that’s correct.”

After those four minutes of discussion concerning Jeremy Corbyn’s pockets, Ritula Shah then gave Secker the cue to irrelevantly opine on Israel. It would of course at that point have been appropriate for her to clarify to listeners that the speaker they were hearing is not just a member of a “pro-Corbyn group” but also an anti-Israel campaigner who captained an attempt to breach the naval blockade which prevents Hamas smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip and was briefly suspended by the Labour Party in March due to his membership in a secret Facebook group where antisemitic and anti-Israel content is rife.

Shah: “Benjamin Netanyahu says that this deserves unequivocal condemnation from everyone. Why does Mr Corbyn then say that’s false?”

Secker: “Well because he didn’t do it and therefore there was nothing for him to be condemned for. I would condemn Netanyahu for welcoming eh…the…ah…Orban the president [sic] of Hungary to his…to his country. He’s the leader of an extreme right-wing organization. I would condemn Netanyahu for making a deal with the Polish prime minister that the Poles are no longer responsible for the Holocaust. We lost family in the Holocaust.”

Shah: “Do you understand why this is so difficult for Jeremy Corbyn? It’s simply another, another allegation in a situation where he’s constantly being accused of antisemitism…”

Secker: “Yes.”

Shah: “…of acts which can be interpreted as antisemitic.”

Secker: “Yes, it’s horrific for him. I’ve spoken on the same platform as Jeremy. I know him personally. There’s not an anti-Semitic or racist bone in his body. He’s a…he’s very strongly anti-racist. And this has been whipped up as a way of silencing criticism of Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinians and is being used to bring him down politically.”

With that dose of the Livingstone Formulation Ritula Shah ended the item.

However, that was not the last that Radio 4 listeners heard from Glyn Secker: his Livingstone Formulation promotion was also featured two hours later in a report by Tom Barton aired in the station’s ‘Midnight News’ bulletin (from 00:54 here):

Barton: “Saying that he didn’t think he was involved hasn’t satisfied Mr Corbyn’s critics. The Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger said that being present was the same as being involved. But the labour leader’s supporters say he’s being treated unfairly. Glyn Secker, the secretary of the pro-Corbyn group ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’.

Secker: “Yes, it’s horrific for him. I’ve spoken on the same platform as Jeremy. I know him personally. There’s not an anti-Semitic or racist bone in his body. He’s a…he’s very strongly anti-racist. And this has been whipped up as a way of silencing criticism of Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinians and is being used to bring him down politically.”

Barton: “As the Labour leadership tries to bring the wider row over antisemitism under control, the intervention of the Israeli prime minister isn’t going to make that task any easier.”

As we see, on a day when the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition – and a potential prime minister – had admitted to having taken part in a ceremony honouring terrorists while participating in a conference together with members of additional terrorist organisations, the best the BBC could do for its British audiences was to present them with nearly seven minutes of discussion about Jeremy Corbyn’s pockets, conspiracy theories about doctored photos and irrelevant anti-Israel smears from an inadequately introduced anti-Israel activist.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part one

Over a third of BBC website’s Corbyn wreath laying report allocated to denials

BBC News gives free rein to anti-Israel campaigner’s falsehoods

 

 

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part one

On the early evening of August 13th members of the BBC’s domestic audience listening to BBC Radio 4 heard reports about the UK Labour Party leader’s participation in an event in Tunisia in 2014 that had been the subject of a report in a British newspaper three days earlier.

Listeners to Radio 4’s ‘PM‘ heard presenter Chris Mason introduce an item (from 36:15 here) with the inaccurate claim that the story was about antisemitism. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Mason: “Jeremy Corbyn has been talking about antisemitism. Our correspondent Jonathan Blake is at Westminster. What’s he said, Jonathan, and specifically about what?”

Blake: “Well Chris, not for the first time Jeremy Corbyn has faced questions about his attendance at a wreath laying ceremony in Tunisia in 2014 at the Palestinian Martyrs’ Cemetery. He was in the country for a conference organised by the Tunisian president bringing together different Palestinian factions to try to form a unity government.”

Where Blake got the idea that the purpose of a conference titled the ‘International Conference on Monitoring the Palestinian Political and Legal Situation in the Light of Israeli Aggression’ was “to try to form a unity government” is unclear.

Listeners then heard Blake portray members of a terrorist organisation as “activists” and give a context-free description of an operation which took place in response to a terror attack in Cyprus that he failed to mention.

Blake: “And what is not in question is whether he laid a wreath to victims of an attack by the Israeli air force in 1985 on the headquarters of the Palestinian [sic] Liberation Organisation in which many people were killed. What is less clear is his involvement in the laying of a wreath at the graves of a memorial [sic] to the Palestinian activists who were suspected of being behind the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972 – members of the so-called Black September terrorist group. And they took hostage and killed 11 Israeli athletes. During a visit to the West Midlands Mr Corbyn was asked about this earlier on and spoke about attending the conference and whether he took part in that controversial ceremony. Here’s what he said.”

As for Blake’s claim that the wreath was laid at the graves of those “suspected” of being behind the Munich Olympics massacre – Fatah describes one of those buried there as “the head of the Black September organization’s department of operations and assassinations” and states that “He came up with the idea for the Munich operation”.

Listeners then heard a recording of Corbyn admitting what Blake had just told them was “less clear”.

Recording Corbyn: “A wreath was indeed laid by some of those who attended the conference for those who were killed in Paris in 1992.

Interviewer: “Were you involved in that wreath laying?”

Corbyn: “I was present when it was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in it. I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who’s died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it. You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is a cycle of dialogue.”

Mason: “And listening carefully, Jonathan, to what he said there – ‘I don’t think I was actually involved in it’ – ehm…which appears to leave plenty of scope for his critics to criticise.”

Blake next cited reactions from two British politicians – while finding it necessary to mention the ethnic/religious background of just one of them:

Blake: “It does and it’s one reason that it is probably not the last time Mr Corbyn will have to answer questions on this. Not only his political opponents – the Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said he should resign. One Labour MP – the Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger has tweeted this afternoon criticising Mr Corbyn, saying ‘being present is the same as being involved. When I attend a memorial my presence alone, whether I lay a wreath or not, demonstrates my association and support. Where is the apology?'”

Blake went on to quote an earlier Tweet from the Labour Party which had already been shown to be inaccurate by Corbyn’s statements made on that West Midlands trip.

Blake: “Last year when he was asked about this Mr Corbyn said that he was there at the conference and at the headquarters and was laying a wreath to all those who died in the air attack on the PLO headquarters. But the Labour party are pushing back quite hard with a statement saying that the Munich widows are being misled – those were those quoted in this morning’s Daily Mail – Jeremy did not honour those responsible for the Munich killings.”

Mason: “Cheers, Jonathan.”

An hour later listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ heard another report from Jonathan Blake which was introduced by newsreader Neil Sleat (from 10:12 here) using the same bizarre description of terrorists.

Sleat: “The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has appeared to admit to being present at a wreath-laying ceremony for the Palestinian activists suspected of being behind the Munich Olympics massacre but said he didn’t think he was involved in it. Mr Corbyn has been criticized for his controversial visit to the Palestinian Martyrs’ Cemetery in Tunisia in 2014. In the past hour the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the laying of the wreath deserved unequivocal condemnation. Here’s our political correspondent Jonathan Blake.”

Blake then came up with a politicised description of terrorists and failed once again to provide BBC audiences with the context to the 1985 operation.

Blake: “Not for the first time Jeremy Corbyn’s attendance at a cemetery commemorating those who’ve died in pursuit of the Palestinian cause has been questioned. When this visit was criticised during last year’s general election campaign, Mr Corbyn said he had laid a wreath to commemorate the victims of an Israeli air strike on the headquarters of the PLO in Tunisia in 1985 and he confirmed that again today. The accusation against Mr Corbyn – which has seen the Home Secretary call for him to resign – is whether he took part in a ceremony where a wreath was laid at the graves of those accused of carrying out the attack on the Munich Olympics where 11 Israeli athletes were held hostage and killed. Mr Corbyn was asked about that on a visit to the West Midlands this afternoon.”

Corbyn: “I was present when it was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in it. I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who’s died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it. You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is a cycle of dialogue.”

Yet again Blake found it necessary to mention a British MP’s ethnicity/religion and once again he amplified a Labour Party claim that had already been shown to be false.

Blake: “Saying that he didn’t think he was involved is unlikely to satisfy Mr Corbyn’s critics. The Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger, who has been critical of Mr Corbyn’s handling of the antisemitism row within the party, said ‘being present is the same as being involved’ and asked ‘where is the apology?’. In response to the Daily Mail publishing criticism from the wives of those killed in the Munich massacre, a Labour Party spokesperson said their widows were being misled. Jeremy Corbyn did not honour those responsible for the Munich killings.”

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “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”.

 

Over a third of BBC website’s Corbyn wreath laying report allocated to denials

A report which appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘UK Politics’ page on the afternoon of August 13th was initially headlined “Jeremy Corbyn pressed over ‘terror memorial’ claims”. Roughly two hours later the word terror was dropped from the headline, which was amended to read “Jeremy Corbyn ‘wreath laying’ attacked by Israeli PM“. The report was also posted on the website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

As noted on these pages last September, for decades BBC News has refrained from describing the members of the PLO faction that perpetrated the Munich Olympics massacre as terrorists. Surprisingly, the word terror was used in this report’s opening line:

“Israel’s PM has criticised Jeremy Corbyn over his presence at a ceremony said to have honoured the perpetrators of the 1972 Munich terror attack.”

However, the report later returned to form: [emphasis added]

“The questions were in response to a Daily Mail front page featuring photographs it said showed the Labour leader near memorials to members of the militant Black September group behind the 1972 attack.

Eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by the Palestinian group at the 1972 summer games in Munich.”

Sixty-nine of the 778 words used in the report described the Israeli prime minister’s tweet criticising Corbyn’s participation in a 2014 event in Tunisia commemorating members of the ‘Black September’ terrorist faction responsible for the brutal murders of Israeli citizens. Forty-nine words were used to give readers background on the Munich Olympics attack itself and a further fifty-seven words related to the Daily Mail article published three days earlier which once again brought a story that first emerged in 2017 into the spotlight.

Amplification of the denials of Corbyn and the Labour Party concerning that event accounted for 35% of the article’s total word count and a further 77 words – including Labour Party denials – related to a previous event in 2013. 

Readers were told that:

“Benjamin Netanyahu said Mr Corbyn deserved “unequivocal condemnation” for laying a wreath on the grave of one of those behind the atrocity.

Mr Corbyn said Mr Netanyahu’s claims about his “actions… are false”.

The Labour leader said he had attended the event in Tunis in 2014 as part of a wider event about the search for peace.”

BBC audiences were not however informed that the “wider event about the search for peace” – subsequently also described as “a conference” – was titled the “International Conference on Monitoring the Palestinian Political and Legal Situation in the Light of Israeli Aggression” or that – as also reported by the Daily Mail – its participants included a senior Hamas official featured in past BBC content.

“At the event in Tunisia, top Hamas leader Oussama Hamdan presented a ‘four point vision to fight against Israel’ and praised the group’s ‘great success on the military and national levels’, adding that the violence was ‘magnificent’.

He had just given an interview to Lebanese media in which he said that the anti-Semitic myth that Jews drank Christian blood was ‘not a figment of imagination or something taken from a film. It is a fact.’

Othman Jerandi, a former Tunisian foreign minister, also gave a speech at the conference and stated: ‘ISIS and Israel are the same thing’.

Other delegates included activist Zaher Al-Birawi, who is close to the leadership of Hamas; and lawyer Sabagh al-Mukhtar, who appeared as an expert witness to support extremist cleric Abu Hamza before he was deported from Britain.”

Birawi is of course the UK-based activist involved in the organisation of both the recent failed ‘flotilla’ and the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting that has been taking place along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip for the past four and a half months. Birawi was also previously the director of the Hamas-linked ‘Palestinian Return Centre’ which has in the past donated to Jeremy Corbyn.   

Together with Corbyn at the wreath-laying ceremony linked to that ‘conference’ was a member of the PFLP terror group and a Fatah official who has appeared in BBC content.

Despite Corbyn having subsequently made statements that contradict the claim from “Labour’s press team”, readers of this report were told that:  

“On Sunday Labour’s press team said: “The Munich widows are being misled. Jeremy did not honour those responsible for the Munich killings.””

In an insert of ‘analysis’ from the BBC’s political correspondent Tom Barton readers found amplification of Corbyn’s ‘whataboutery’ – with no mention made of the fact that a significant proportion of those killed during the violent rioting and attacks were linked to terror factions – as well as amplification of a baseless but unattributed allegation.

“In his reply, Jeremy Corbyn described the Israeli Prime Minister’s accusations as false. But he also took the opportunity to say that the killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli forces deserves “unequivocal condemnation”. His supporters say the purpose of Benjamin Netanyahu’s message is to shut down that sort of criticism of Israel’s actions.”

In contrast to the 269 words used to report denials from Corbyn and the Labour Party, statements made by “critics” were afforded 108 words.

The BBC’s report stated that in relation to his presence at the wreath-laying ceremony, Corbyn said:

“I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who has died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it.”

Readers were later told that:

“In a tweet, Labour said he and other Parliamentarians had been honouring victims of the 1985 Israeli bombings.”

As noted at the Times of Israel, the context to those statements – which the BBC did not bother to provide – is the fact that what audiences saw described as “Israeli bombings” was the response to another brutal Palestinian terror attack.

“The “terrorist incident” he was apparently referring to was an Israeli air force strike on the PLO headquarters in 1985 in response to the hijacking of an Israeli yacht and the execution of three Israeli passengers.

PLO leader Yasser Arafat escaped unharmed although several of his bodyguards and several civilians were killed in the strike, which completely destroyed the headquarters.”

Remarkably, the BBC had no ‘analysis’ to offer its audiences on the topic of the leader of a British political party – and potential prime minister – who apparently thinks that a counter-terrorism operation against the headquarters of a terrorist organisation which had claimed the brutal murders of three civilians was a “terrorist incident”. 

Related Articles:

Reviewing the language used in BBC reports on the Munich Olympics Massacre

 

No BBC coverage of sports anti-discrimination move

Readers may recall that last October the Israeli delegation to a judo competition held in Abu Dhabi was barred by the organisers from displaying the Israeli flag, competing under the name ‘Israel’ or playing the national anthem. However, as was noted here at the time:

“The BBC Sport website (which usually displays an interest in reporting bigotry and discrimination in sport) has no coverage of that story either on its home page or on its Judo page. The BBC News website’s Middle East page similarly did not find this story of blatant discrimination in sport newsworthy.”

The International Judo Federation subsequently took steps to end such discrimination.

“Based on experiences from previous years and in an attempt to take a firm and constructive stance in the fight against discrimination in sport, the International Judo Federation announces that it will suspend two of its events, namely the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and the Tunis Grand Prix.

Prior to this decision and after carefully analysing the past situations involving the denial of participation in equal conditions of all IJF member federations – with their national insignia and anthem at the aforementioned events, and after repeated past interventions, the IJF officially requested the two organisers to provide a letter of guarantee signed by the government that all IJF member nations would have the right to participate in their events in equal conditions. […]

As no positive answer was received to date, although past the given deadline, the International Judo Federation’s Executive Committee decided to suspend both the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and the Tunis Grand Prix until governmental guarantee is given to ensure free and equal participation of all nations at the said events.”

That story has been reported by a number of Israeli media organisations as well as by CNN and the BBC associate news agency AFP. Visitors to the BBC Sport website, however, found no mention of the IJF’s decision either on the main homepage or on the ‘Judo’ page and no mention of the story is found on the BBC News website’s Tunisia and UAE pages.

 

Related Articles:

BBC drops the ball on anti-Israel bigotry in sport

BBC News and BBC Sport ignore Judo tournament anti-Israel bigotry

 

BBC News removes information on Hamas missile fire and terror designation

Earlier this week the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article promoting Hamas’ unsubstantiated claims concerning the murder of one of its members in Tunisia which was previously discussed here.sfax-art

That article included an incomplete portrayal of Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organisation and its record of terror activity while amplifying the group’s ‘resistance’ narrative.

“Hamas, which rules the Gaza strip, is seen as a legitimate resistance group by its supporters – but is classed as a terrorist outfit by the US and EU.

It refuses to recognise Israel as a country, and regularly fires rockets from Gaza into the Jewish state.

Israel has held Gaza under a blockade for the past decade, and conducted several offensives and air strikes against the territory – which it says are needed to curtail Hamas rocket fire.”

Subsequently, that section of the article was amended and the references to Hamas’ terror designation and firing of missiles at civilian communities in Israel were removed. The edited version now reads:

“Hamas, which is in control of the Gaza Strip, does not recognise Israel’s right to exist, and there have been years of conflict between the two sides.

It has occasionally sent drones across the border into Israel but these have either crashed or been shot down.”

The context of Hamas’ terror designation, its long record of terror activity and its self-declared mission to destroy Israel is obviously crucial to audience understanding of the allegations put forward in this article. Rather than improving on the incomplete information previously given, the amendments made do the exact opposite and thus reinforce the impression that the main purpose of this article was to promote Hamas’ evidence-free speculation.

Related Articles:

BBC rushes to amplify an evidence-free Hamas claim

BBC still touting problematic backgrounder for children