BBC article on antisemitism report recycles problematic backgrounder

Following the publication of the UK Parliament Home Affairs Select Committee report on antisemitism on October 16th, a relatively long article appeared on the UK politics page of the BBC News website under the headline “Jeremy Corbyn’s response to anti-Semitism in Labour criticised by MPs“.ha-select-comm-report-art

20.9% of the article’s 1,007 words are describe the report’s criticism of the response to antisemitism within the Labour Party while reactions to that criticism from Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Livingstone take up 14.3% of the word count.  The committee’s criticism of the failure of Twitter to combat antisemitism on its platform is described in 7.5% of the article’s word count and 4.5% describes the report’s criticism of the National Union of Students president.

Towards the end of the article, readers are given a superficial account of two aspects of the report.

“The report expressed concern about use of the word “Zionist”, saying “use of the word in an accusatory context should be considered inflammatory and potentially anti-Semitic”.”

In its conclusions the actual report states:

“‘Zionism’ as a concept remains a valid topic for academic and political debate, both within and outside Israel. The word ‘Zionist’ (or worse, ‘Zio’) as a term of abuse, however, has no place in a civilised society. It has been tarnished by its repeated use in antisemitic and aggressive contexts. Antisemites frequently use the word ‘Zionist’ when they are in fact referring to Jews, whether in Israel or elsewhere. Those claiming to be “anti-Zionist, not antisemitic”, should do so in the knowledge that 59% of British Jewish people consider themselves to be Zionists. If these individuals genuinely mean only to criticise the policies of the Government of Israel, and have no intention to offend British Jewish people, they should criticise “the Israeli Government”, and not “Zionists”. For the purposes of criminal or disciplinary investigations, use of the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ in an accusatory or abusive context should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic. This should be communicated by the Government and political parties to those responsible for determining whether or not an incident should be regarded as antisemitic.”

The BBC article also tells readers:

“But it [the report] did say free speech should be allowed on the Palestinian issue, saying it was not anti-Semitic to criticise actions of the Israeli government.”

However that is just part of the story – as Professor Alan Johnson notes at the Telegraph:

“The Committee is very clear about two things. First, criticism of Israel is absolutely acceptable. Second, vile demonisation and conspiracism, with its cartoons dripping in blood and its hook noses and its wild claims of global domination and its Nazi comparisons is not “criticism of Israel”.”

The report itself states:


Crucially, the IHRA definition of antisemitism recommended by the committee (which was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s 31 member countries earlier this year) includes the following example of a manifestation of antisemitism often prevalent among those active “on the Palestinian issue”:

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”ha-select-comm-art-related-reading

This BBC article twice offers readers the same ‘related article’ titled “What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?”.

As was noted here when that ‘backgrounder’ first appeared, its problematic aspects (which, regrettably, have not been addressed since publication) include promotion of the Livingstone Formulation.

We have in the past noted here the need for the BBC to work according to a recognised definition of antisemitism in order to prevent the appearance of antisemitic discourse in its own content as well as on its comments boards and social media chatrooms and such a proposal was included in BBC Watch’s submission to the DCMS public consultation on the renewal of the BBC’s charter.

In light of the Home Affairs Select Committee recommendation, it would of course be appropriate for the BBC and OFCOM to now adopt the IHRC working definition of antisemitism.


BBC Asia amplifies ludicrous conspiracy theory to millions

“BBC News aspires to remain the standard-setter for international journalism…”  

“… the BBC continues to be seen as the most trusted and objective international news provider.”

“The BBC operates the widest-reaching international newsgathering network of any broadcaster.”

“The BBC will continue to serve key less-developed markets in Africa and Asia, such as Nigeria and Bangladesh, as well as a number of information-poor language markets with a clear need for independent information.” 

“The BBC’s journalism for international audiences should share the same values as its journalism for UK audiences: accuracy, impartiality and independence. International audiences should value BBC news and current affairs for providing reliable and unbiased information of relevance, range and depth.” (source: “Public purposes: Global outlook“)

What happens when the media organisation with the biggest global outreach – one that supposedly provides trustworthy information to parts of the world where that is in short supply – decides that the amplification of ludicrous conspiracy theories to millions of consumers falls within its ‘standards’? This:

Balgladesh tweet BBC Asia

Bangladesh art

That headline appeared on the BBC News website’s Asia and Middle East pages on June 6th 2016. The only question is why the people responsible thought that its publication contributes in any way to fulfilling the obligations as laid out in the BBC’s public purpose remit.


BBC Radio 4 promotes Nazi analogy in a discussion on antisemitism

BBC Radio 4’s programme ‘The Briefing Room’ describes itself as follows:

“Series looking at important issues in the news. Presented by David Aaronovitch.”

The May 19th edition of that programme (available here) purported to address an issue which has indeed recently been making headlines in the UK.Briefing Room R4

“Labour activists, councillors, an MP and a former Mayor of London have all been suspended for comments which many regard as anti-Jewish. But why might a left of centre, progressive, pro-minority party have a problem with Anti-Semitism?”

Serious discussion of that topic would obviously not be enhanced by having one-third of the invited panel taken up by a person who subscribes to the view that it is no more than a “scam to smear Labour activists” and who has in the past collaborated with notorious propagators of conspiracy theories in order to promote her anti-Israel propaganda.

Nevertheless, the programme’s production team saw fit to give Kerry-Anne Mendoza a platform – and the results were entirely predictable. Having presented her ‘credentials’ (“half of my family are Jewish”) Mendoza went on to address:

“…the comparison – which I completely understand why it’s offensive – the comparison of Israel to Nazism or the atrocities of the Third Reich. I say well; what evidence is there for that?”

Listeners then heard the following:

“And so, well, what other state in the world do I know of in the present day who’s [sic] been behind the forced sterilization of Jewish women? That would be Israel. It was applying Depo-Provera – long term contraceptive injections – to Ethiopian Jewish women. I think that’s an anti-Semitic act. I think it has horrific echoes…eh…of some of the atrocities – not all of them – some of the atrocities perpetrated by the Third Reich and I think it’s right to call that out. I would call that out in any state, anywhere in the world where Jewish women or any other group of women were subject to forcible sterilization to prevent some sort of racial dilution which was the theory behind that process.”

Leaving aside Mendoza’s medically ignorant and obviously inaccurate portrayal of (temporary) contraception as “sterilization” (a procedure designed to be permanent), the fact is that her completely baseless slander – which has unfortunately appeared in BBC content before – was disproved in a report published by Israel’s State Comptroller in January of this year.

“There is no evidence that Ethiopian women who immigrated to Israel were required to take birth-control shots against their will, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira wrote this week in a letter obtained by Haaretz.

Shapira wrote that he had concluded his investigation into the allegations, which surfaced in December 2012, and that “no evidence could be found for the claims raised that shots to prevent pregnancy were administered to Ethiopian women under pressure or threats, overt or covert, or in any way that was improper.””

So how did the programme’s host David Aaronovitch react to that very transparent promotion of a Nazi analogy based on what is known to be a blatant lie? He allowed her to continue unchallenged.

KAM: “Do I think it’s helpful for people to go around willy-nilly attempting to bait Jewish people by calling them Nazis? Absolutely not. But do I think there is some evidential case for saying there are echoes here of some of the worst behaviour that we have committed in Europe? Yes I do. Ahm…and actually that was an opinion that was actually [laughs] given to me originally by a Jewish Israeli. I was reporting from Gaza during Operation protective Edge. I was there and witnessing it. Do I think it’s wholly comparable? No – but I don’t think any situation is. But to dismiss out of hand those concerns as intrinsically anti-Semitic – I would disagree with.”

Listeners do not get an answer to the curious question of how Mendoza managed to find “a Jewish Israeli” in the Gaza Strip nine years after all the people answering that description were evacuated from the territory, but they do get to hear David Aaronovitch pass the buck to David Hirsh.

DA: “David, how do you respond to that?”

DH: “Well, I think we need to talk about what the Nazis did. The Nazis created a racial categorization of human beings. They created an industrial network in order to round up, identify and gas and murder all of the Jews of Europe. Now, Kerry-Anne’s story about…ehm…one incident in which some people were given long-term contraception is a really good example of how particular incidents are used to kind of demonise Israel. The claim that there was a campaign to stop black people from breeding in Israel is just appalling actually. It’s not true, when in fact black people have been brought and rescued and brought to Israel and are part of Israeli society – a half of Israeli society….

KAM: “But they are not brought and rescued by Israel. They’ve been treated abysmally…”

At that point Aaronovitch interrupts and redirects the discussion elsewhere.

The question which must be asked about this particular segment of the programme (which includes additional material no less worthy of comment) is what impression the average listener would have taken away. On the basis of past evidence one can well assume that the BBC’s response to any complaint on this issue would be to claim that Mendoza’s allegations were rebutted by David Hirsh.

However, listeners would not have understood from David Hirsch’s response that an official investigation had taken place or that it found no evidence of the administration of Depo-Provera to Ethiopian women against their will. In fact, Hirsch’s reference to “one incident in which some people were given long-term contraception” would have prompted the average listener to go away with the mistaken idea that there is a factual basis to Mendoza’s deliberate smears. Moreover, the BBC itself – in the form of its presenter – made no effort to ensure that audiences were made aware of the facts behind that slander and actually left listeners to make up their own inadequately informed minds with regard to who is telling the truth – Mendoza or Hirsh. 

Any serious examination of the question of “why might a left of centre, progressive, pro-minority party have a problem with Anti-Semitism?” would necessarily include recognition of the fact that a major contributing factor to that phenomenon is the deliberate demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel by far-Left activists.Briefing room tweet

In other words, by failing to adequately challenge Mendoza’s mendacious propaganda, this programme – which is also being promoted by the BBC on social media as a podcast – lent a helping hand to the spread of the blight of anti-Jewish racism it purported to discuss.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell regurgitates Ha’aretz slurs

Three year old allegations from BBC’s Yolande Knell shown to be untrue

Times of London revives anti-Israel smear over Ethiopian blood donations (UK Media Watch)

Email suggests Times of London journo misrepresented museum exhibit he reviewed (UK Media Watch)


BBC Radio 4 contact details



BBC News amplifies unreliable source on Hizballah commander’s death

On the morning of May 13th the 14.3 million followers of the BBC News (World) Twitter account were informed that Israel had assassinated a Hizballah commander.

BBC tweet Hizb commander

The BBC News website article to which audiences were directed in that (now non-existent) Tweet was titled “Top Hezbollah commander Badreddine killed in Israel strike” and it opened as follows:

“A senior Hezbollah commander has been killed in an Israeli operation in Syria, the Lebanon-based Shia militant organisation says.

It says Mustafa Amine Badreddine died in an Israeli air strike near Damascus airport.

Israel has so far made no public comment on the claim.”

Did Hizballah really issue such a statement and did the BBC independently verify its accuracy before informing millions of people around the world that Israel had killed Badreddine? Obviously not because the next version of the article – retitled “Top Hezbollah commander Badreddine killed” – revealed that the information had come from a less than reliable source.

“A senior Hezbollah commander has been killed in an Israeli operation in Syria, the Lebanon-based Shia militant organisation says.

It did not provide details, but Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV said Mustafa Amine Badreddine died in an Israeli air strike near Damascus airport.

Israel has not commented on the claim.”

As we noted on these pages three years ago:

“British readers may have heard of the ‘Al Mayadeen’ TV station which was launched in June 2012 as an alternative to Al Jazeera and broadcasts from Beirut – if only because it employs one George Galloway for, according to The Times, some £80,000 a year. Those familiar with Galloway’s record at the Iranian outfit ‘Press TV’ will perhaps not be surprised to learn that Al Mayadeen’s financial backers are alleged to be Iranian and Syrian. That is denied by the station’s Tunisian director, who formerly worked for Al Jazeera – as did his colleague Sami Kleib (also spelt Kulyab). Kleib’s wife Luna Shibl – previously of Al Jazeera too – has apparently worked as a media advisor to Bashar al Assad.”

In fact, as the Times of Israelamong others – reported, Hizballah’s statement did not say that Badreddine had been killed by Israel at all: that notion originated from Lebanese media reports.

“Hezbollah’s top commander in Syria, Mustafa Badreddine, was killed in a purported Israeli airstrike in the country earlier this week, according to Lebanese media reports.

A statement from the organization early Friday confirmed Badreddine’s death, but did not blame Israel for the airstrike that killed him, which reportedly took place near Damascus’s airport on May 10.

Several Lebanese television outlets, including the al-Mayadeen channel thought to be close to Hezbollah, said early Friday that Israel carried out the attack.”

The subsequent version of the BBC’s report – again retitled “Hezbollah commander Mustafa Amine Badreddine killed” – inaccurately informed audiences that the claim which had not actually been made by Hizballah has been “rolled back”.Article Hizb commander

“A senior Hezbollah commander has been killed in Syria, the Lebanon-based Shia militant organisation says.

Mustafa Amine Badreddine died in a large explosion near Damascus airport, Hezbollah said in a statement on the website of its al-Manar network.

It rolled back on an earlier claim that Israel was responsible.”

That claim remained in situ in two additional versions of the article.

Significantly, none of the versions of the report inform BBC audiences that Hizballah is an internationally designated terrorist organization but the BBC did find it appropriate to highlight its charity work.

“Hezbollah, the Party of God, is a Shia Islamist political, military and social organisation that wields considerable power in Lebanon.”

The sixth version of the report inaccurately informs audiences that the second Lebanon war took place two years after its actual date.

Hizb commander art wrong date 2 Leb war

It is of course highly unlikely that those who read the initial versions of this BBC report would have bothered to revisit it, meaning that their take-away message includes unverified and inaccurate information sourced from an ideologically motivated and notoriously unreliable propaganda outlet which, according to AP, has since removed the claim.

“The Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV, which is close to the Lebanese Shiite group, earlier said Badreddine was killed in an Israeli airstrike but later removed the report.”

Licence fee payers would no doubt expect the BBC – committed as it is to accurate and impartial reporting – to carry out independent verification of such serious claims before aiding their amplification worldwide in ‘shoot from the hip’ reporting.


A BBC correspondent’s recommended reading

h/t BM

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.  They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views in BBC output, including online, on such matters.” (Section 4.4.13, BBC Editorial Guidelines on Impartiality)

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, News and Current Affairs staff should not:

  • advocate support for a particular political party;
  • express views for or against any policy which is a matter of current party political debate;
  • advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate.”

(BBC Guidance on Social Networking and Other Third Party Websites (including Blogs, Microblogs and Personal Webspace): Personal Use)

Given the above it is obviously less than ideal for a BBC correspondent to be found retweeting an article supposedly “Exposing the fake anti-Semitism scandal manufactured to shatter Labour’s left-wing” – especially when that article was written by a well-known professional anti-Israel activist renowned for making up delusional allegations and straying into the realms of antisemitism.

Meet the BBC economics correspondent Andrew Verity.

Verity profile

This is apparently what he thinks is worth reading “on an issue of current public controversy or debate”.

Verity Tweet


BBC’s ME editor promotes inaccurate story on Twitter

On February 28th members of the Israeli security forces on duty in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya were attacked by rioters.

“According to Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, shortly after 5 p.m. police units patrolling the flashpoint area were besieged by firebombs and large Jerusalem stones thrown by a mob of young Arab men.

“Police units were carrying out operations in Issawiya and local Palestinians started rioting, throwing petrol bombs and Jerusalem stones weighing up to 20 kilos from rooftops at them,” said Rosenfeld shortly after the attack.

An officer was struck in the head by one of the stones, treated at the scene, and transferred to an area hospital in light condition, he added.”

The BBC did not report those incidents at the time but two days later the corporation’s Middle East editor came up with this story for his 137,000 Twitter followers.

Bowen tweet Issawiya riots

The promoted link leads to a report from Ha’aretz which is based entirely on the account of a family from Issawiya that was detained following the rioting. That article, however, casts some revealing light on the wording chosen by Bowen to describe the story.

The Oxford dictionary defines “jail” as “a place for the confinement of people accused or convicted of a crime” and the equivalent term more often used in British English is of course prison – “a building in which people are legally held as a punishment for a crime they have committed or while awaiting trial”.  A police station is obviously a building with a different function: “the office or headquarters of a local police force”.

The Ha’aretz report opens with the following words:

“A Palestinian toddler spent four hours outside a Jerusalem police station on Sunday, after his parents had been taken into custody during a security operation to arrest his 16-year-old brother, according to family members.” [emphasis added]

So – despite Bowen’s inaccurate and misleading claim – there was in fact no “jail” in this story at all.

The article also states:

“The Israel Police said in response that “a force of police and other security operatives on a mission to arrest suspects in Issawiya was attacked by members of the family. The force managed to pacify the attackers and took them into custody for questioning. The mother of the family was also detained. The police agreed to her request that she bring her child to the police facility until the grandfather could pick him up.” [emphasis added]

Apparently Mr Bowen needs to brush up on his employer’s guidance for the use of social media – especially this part:

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC.” 

When BBC journalists become the story – and when they don’t

On January 20th followers of the BBC News Twitter account were alerted to a story described as follows:

Tweet journalist fly US

However, only those who followed the link and bothered to read the article – titled “BBC journalist Rana Rahimpour stopped from flying to US” – in full would appreciate that in fact the well promoted story (which is also told in an additional article by BBC Trending called “Why I tweeted a picture of myself in tears“) has nothing at all to do with the BBC or journalism and that it is actually about the visa related tribulations of a woman making a private journey who just happens to work for the corporation.Rahimpour story

In an additional filmed interview on BBC News Rahimpour gave a positive answer to this loaded question from the presenter:

“Does this feel right now that you are being discriminated against because of your heritage?”

The question of whether or not journalists should become the story is of course largely a matter of taste but in this case it seems pretty clear that Ms Rahimpour’s BBC connections prompted wide coverage of an event which might otherwise have received much less exposure.

Interestingly, a previous story about another BBC employee did not receive any coverage from the corporation. BBC News producer Erica Chernofsky wrote about her experiences whilst driving in Judea & Samaria last October at the Times of Israel.Rahimpour story Trending

“And then suddenly there was a loud boom. And another, and another, and then another. And I couldn’t see a thing, and I heard my children screaming, the baby crying, I looked out my window and saw the Palestinian children, and then an Israeli soldier. I fumbled for my cell phone, following the protocol I had been taught but never had to use.

I called for help. I heard my voice shaking as I tried to explain where we were, what had happened, and as I did my car’s windscreen finally came into focus, it was smashed, my legs and arms were covered in glass, my knee was burning where a shard of glass was stuck inside my skin. And then I dropped the phone, suddenly remembering my children, ohmigod my children, the baby! I climbed out of my seat to look behind me as my husband continued driving away as fast as he could.

They were screaming, my 3-year-old was crying hysterically, my 6-year-old was yelling “what happened mommy, what happened!” over and over again. And the baby, was crying, screaming, oh, he’s such a good baby and he never cries, and then I saw he was covered in millions of tiny pieces of glass. The entire back windshield of the car had smashed in, there was glass everywhere, all over my children, all over my baby. In his hair, on his face, on his little onesie. I gently tried to shake the glass off him as my hands trembled, “drive faster, quickly, quickly, we have to check the baby,” I cried to my husband, who had somehow not lost control of the car during the attack. […]

It’s in the news all the time. Rock throwing. It seems trivial. But it wasn’t rocks. It wasn’t pebbles. It was giant blocks of stone, the rectangular kind that are used to build houses. And it can kill. Rocks, stones, guns, are all the same. They are weapons. They are violence. They are tools to commit murder.”

So, whilst a BBC employee with nationality-related visa problems makes the news, a BBC employee targeted in a terror attack for no other reason than her nationality did not.

Related Articles:

When stone-throwing at vehicles does interest the BBC


News from Hamas – via the BBC’s Gaza office

Here is a Tweet sent by the BBC’s correspondent in the Gaza Strip, Rushdi Abualouf, on January 13th.

Rushdi tweet IED 13 1

As can be seen from the wording of the Tweet, that version of the story came from Hamas sources and was obviously not verified before it was disseminated.

“One man was killed in the strike and three more were injured, according to Hamas, which claimed the attack came not from an aircraft, but from an Israel Navy ship.”

The incident received no further coverage from the BBC.

“The Israel Air Force attacked a terror cell in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning, in a joint operation with the Shin Bet.

Members of the terror cell were planting explosives on the border fence, which they were planning on setting off near an IDF patrol.

The Palestinians reported one killed, 31-year-old Musa Za’aytar, and three others wounded in the attack, their condition currently unknown. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group affiliated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah group, later identified the deceased as a member, saying he was targeted while planting explosives.”

Whilst the terror cell’s affiliations are not clear, as far as the BBC is concerned this Palestinian fatality will join the many others which are opaquely described as having come about “in clashes with Israeli forces”.

Impartiality fail from BBC’s Barbara Plett

The Tweet below was sent by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barbara Plett on January 14th 2016.

Plett tweet

Why Ms Plett found it necessary at this time to use her BBC branded Twitter account to resurrect an article unrelated to her field of reporting nearly three years after its initial publication remains a mystery. What is clear however is that the article promoted by Plett is about a study that is by no means “new” and which was shown at the time to be highly controversial.

The Israeli-Palestinian Textbook Study Fraud

The Palestinian Textbook Fiasco

The Whitewashing of Hate

Study on incitement ‘another Goldstone Report’

Giving incitement the stamp of approval

BBC editorial guidelines on “Personal use of Social Networking and other third party websites” state:

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC.”

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.” 

The promotion of a discredited study with distinct political overtones by a BBC journalist would clearly undermine the corporation’s reputation for impartiality at any time. When such promotion is done by a journalist who has already been shown to lack an impartial approach to the subject matter concerned, it is obviously all the more problematic.

Related Articles:

Recommended reading from BBC’s Jon Donnison

Behind a Jon Donnison recommended article

BBC takes action over offensive Twitter account

Earlier this month we noted the existence of a Twitter account held by someone claiming to be a BBC employee which included offensive Israel-related posts.Grintz profile

“If the BBC really does employ the holder of this Twitter account, then obviously the corporation needs to address the matter urgently. If not, the issue of someone posing as a BBC employee on social media and thereby bringing the corporation into disrepute also clearly warrants action.” 

Shortly afterwards the account was discontinued and in response to a complaint submitted by Mr Stephen Franklin, the BBC has clarified that the holder is not a member of its staff.

“We can assure you that the user in question is not BBC staff. We became aware of this matter and took the appropriate measures. This account has since been suspended.

Thanks for bringing it to our attention.”