Weekend long read

1) Back in October the BBC News website published an article about the then recently released UK Parliament Home Affairs Select Committee report on antisemitism in the UK. The British government’s newly published response to the relevant recommendations made in that report can be found here.Weekend Read 

2) Former MK Einat Wilf writes about ‘Israeli timing’ at the Tower.

“Israel has one glaring problem: lousy timing. Most of Israel’s apparent problems, certainly the ones its critics claim it has, emerge from Israel’s repeated inability to be synchronized with prevailing global moods. But patience has its rewards—over time, as challenges facing Israel turn out to be global rather than local, Israel’s failings appear so much less so, if at all.

Consider, as an appetizer, the minor but remarkably annoying issue of airport security. During the 1990s, when I was working on projects in Israel for a global consulting firm, senior partners of the firm would arrive in Israel for a two- to three-day stay to oversee the projects. They would invariably arrive angry. Fuming, really. “What is this crazy security you have at your airports? How dare they look in my bag? How do you ever expect to be part of the global economy if you carry on this way?” The Israelis among us would bow our heads in shame, apologize profusely and mumble something about necessity and terrorism.”

3) The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has produced a backgrounder relating to the recent 7th Fatah Congress.

“The 7th Fatah Movement conference held in Ramallah between November 29 and December 4, 2016 dealt mostly with internal Palestinian issues, with the struggle for Mahmoud Abbas’ successor in the background. It also discussed strategies for dealing with Israel on the ground and in the international arena. The speeches given by Mahmoud Abbas and statements made by senior Fatah figures indicated the conference’s decision to strengthen the concept of “popular resistance” (decided on at the 6th Fatah Movement conference in August 2009). The concept “popular resistance” is represented as legal, unarmed and peaceful. However, developments on the ground since the 6th conference indicate that behind the term “peaceful popular resistance” hides support given by Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to popular terrorism, which again erupted violently in September 2015 and has since also entered Israeli territory.”

 

BBC News gives a whitewashed account of ‘controversial’ meeting in House of Lords

On October 27th the BBC News website’s UK Politics page ran an article headlined “Lib Dems suspend peer over controversial meeting“. Readers of the second version of the report were informed that:tonge-art

“A former Lib Dem MP has had her membership of the party suspended after chairing a meeting criticised as “shameful” by the Israeli embassy.

Baroness Tonge, who was already sitting as an independent peer, said she would now quit the party for good.”

Readers trying to understand why that meeting in the House of Lords was “controversial” and “shameful” had to make do with the following thirty-two word explanation:

“One person at the meeting reportedly compared Israel to so-called Islamic State. […]

The Jewish Chronicle reported that another audience member had implied an American rabbi had provoked Hitler into murdering Jews.”

A more comprehensive account of the proceedings is provided by David Collier, who was present at the event.

With regard to the purpose of the meeting, BBC News website readers were given the following vague description:

“The event, in the House of Lords, was organised by the Palestinian Return Centre as part of its campaign calling for the UK Government to “officially apologise for its past colonial crimes in Palestine”.”

In fact – as the PRC’s promotional material for the event clearly states – the meeting was part of an ongoing campaign by the PRC (and others – as the BBC has already partly reported) to get Britain to specifically ‘apologise’ for the Balfour Declaration rather than for any generalised “colonial crimes”.

“The Palestinian Return Centre is hosting an event inside the UK Parliament a week ahead of the 99th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration which will be on November 2nd. The Balfour Declaration, which had no basis of legal authority, promised the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, where the indigenous Palestinians amounted to 90% of the total population.

After the Balfour Declaration Palestine became the victim of colonialism and Britain’s legacy is still evident today as Palestinians continue to be denied the right to self-determination and suffer from living under military occupation or as refugees. As the 100th year since the Balfour declaration approaches, the Palestinian Return Centre has decided to re-launch its campaign which started in 2013 called Balfour Apology Campaign which asks the UK Government to officially apologies for its past colonial crimes in Palestine.”

The BBC’s portrayal of the aim of the event therefore conceals the real agenda of the campaign of which this meeting was part: an agenda recently described by David Horovitz at the Times of Israel.

“The Balfour Declaration sought to restore a Jewish homeland while respecting the interests of the non-Jews who share this land. Thirty years later, the UN set out a specific framework for achieving this. This was not acceptable to the Arabs of Palestine and those who spoke for them at the time, since their desire for a first-ever Palestinian state was outweighed by their hostility to the notion of a revived Jewish state alongside them. And it is all too evidently not acceptable to the Palestinian leadership now.

In declaring diplomatic and legal war on the Balfour Declaration, Palestinian leaders are telling the world — to their and our enduring misfortune — that nothing has changed in 100 years, that their opposition to our state in any borders remains greater than their desire for their own independent entity. A century later, they are affirming that their refusal to share any part of this land with the Jewish people remains absolute.”

Readers would of course also have been in a better position to understand that agenda had they been given any background information about the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) and told of its connections to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood or the additional activities of individuals connected to that London-based organisation which has been banned in Israel since 2010.

Neither were readers informed of Jenny Tonge’s record of previous collaboration with the PRC and its various spin-offs which, as the Times recently reported, included a 2009 PRC paid trip to Syria to meet Bashar al Assad.

“Lady Tonge accompanied Mr Corbyn on the PRC trip to Syria in 2009. Mr Corbyn used the visit to allege that “once again the Israeli tail wags the US dog”, an allegation popular with conspiracy theorists and antisemites. […]

The politicians met Assad and thanked him for housing half a million Palestinian refugees since 1948.”

Remarkably, this BBC report gives uncritical amplification to Jenny Tonge’s advancement of a well-worn trope concerning ‘powerful’ Jews:

“Speaking to the BBC, Baroness Tonge blamed the “power of the Israel lobby” and its sway over UK political parties for her suspension.”

As David Aaronovitch noted at the Sunday Times:

“Ten years ago the baroness did the old one about Jewish financial power in the form of “the pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips”. She got a reprimand from her party leader for it. Six years ago it was the ancient blood libel (Jews kill gentiles for their blood or body parts, see also under Shylock), when she demanded an inquiry into absurd allegations that an Israeli aid mission to Haiti was harvesting organs from Haitians. She lost a front bench job for that.”

One might therefore have expected the BBC to provide readers with some obviously relevant context concerning Tonge’s ignominious record of antisemitic statements – and to be able to recognise (and identify as such) a version of the Jewish lobby trope before promoting it in a quote. But sadly, the BBC’s own record on that particular topic has long been disturbingly dismal.

Related Articles:

BBC News, PA Balfour agitprop and British history

Jenny Tonge & the Hamas Lobby

BBC whitewashes Jenny Tonge

Hamas entryism at the UN

The UN, the PRC and Hamas: a postscript with a twist

Weekend long read

1) At the Jewish News, Dave Rich comments on the UK Parliament Home Affairs Select Committee report on antisemitism which was published earlier this month.Weekend Read

“However, it would be a grave error to be complacent, and the report points out exactly why. Some police forces still do not appear to record anti-Semitic hate crime properly. The amount of hate and abuse on social media is enormous and nobody – not the social media companies themselves, nor the police or CPS – has yet found a solution to it.

The National Union of Students comes in for particular criticism, and rightly so: Jewish students need to be allowed to lead the campaign against anti-Semitism on campus, rather than being preached to about what is, and isn’t, anti-Semitic.”

2) Ben Cohen brings us another review of Dave Rich’s very timely new book titled “The Left’s Jewish Problem” at the Tower.

“Rich makes a persuasive case that the Young Liberal model of anti-Zionism—in essence, uncritical support of Palestinian discourse and political and military actions—enjoyed an impact on British views on the Palestinian question that continues today. It certainly exercised a greater appeal upon activists like Ghada Karmi, as well as the parliamentarians who took up the Palestinian cause in growing numbers during the 1970s. As Rich says,

‘In the 1970s, groups like Palestine Action, the Palestine Solidarity campaign and the Free Palestine newspaper helped to establish the notion that Fatah and other Palestinian factions had the right to use violence, although they sometimes differed over the precise tactics used. Since then, attitudes ranging from sympathy for the motivations of terrorists to outright justification for their actions have spread beyond the radical left to become commonplace in mainstream left-wing and liberal thought.’

However, while this model of anti-Zionism studiously avoided Marxist critiques of the PLO and the Arab regimes as well as the possibilities for revolution within Israel, it did drift into discussions that were arguably more bizarre and certainly more disturbing than the notion of a socialist federation of Arab and Israeli workers. This is where Rich’s second decisive contribution comes to fore, in his discussion of the British Left’s attitude towards the Holocaust.”

Read the whole review here.

3) Writing at the Guardian, Howard Jacobson also discusses the implications of the Home Affairs Select Committee report.

“The mantra bedevilling reasonable conversation about Israel is that the Jews have only one motive in labelling anti-Zionism antisemitic and that is to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel. This assertion defames Jews, the majority of whom, in my experience, take issue not with the idea of legitimate criticism, but with what in any given instance “legitimacy” amounts to. Criticism is not an inviolable concept. It can be moderate or extreme, truthful or mendacious, well-intentioned or malign. To complain when it is unjust is not to shut down debate. It cannot be exorbitant to argue that what will determine whether criticism of Israel is antisemitic is the nature of the criticism.

The effect of a libel is to exhaust trust. It should not be automatically assumed that, when it comes to Israel, Jews are incapable of arguing honestly, an assumption that itself edges dangerously close to the racism that is being denied. We need to separate this from that. No, “legitimate” (that is to say fair and honest) criticism of Israel as a nation among nations does not amount to antisemitism. Anti-Zionism, on the other hand – the repudiation of Israel’s right to exist – almost invariably does.”

4) Also in relation to the Home Affairs Select Committee report, at the Huffington Post, Elliot Miller argues that “When It Comes To Antisemitism, The NUS Just Doesn’t Get It“.

“Unsurprisingly, the HASC report’s section on campus antisemitism refers to the well-known comments of NUS President Malia Bouattia, in which she described the University of Birmingham as a “Zionist Outpost.” The committee’s MPs have concluded that such behaviour – among many other incidents – smacks of outright racism. This is not to mention the scathing conclusion that Bouatia appeared not to have taken campus antisemitism “sufficiently seriously.” […]

While the report has admirably tried to draw attention to a generally ignored issue, the response to it among the student movement has not been encouraging. One open letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee in support of Malia Bouattia – signed by over 150 student leaders – encapsulates the problem of antisemitism among the student left.” 

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:

ha-select-comm-report-crtiticism-israel

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.

 

Why BBC accuracy matters for its funding British public

Not for the first time, the annual Al Quds Day march held in London earlier this month did not receive any coverage on the BBC News website. As the Jewish Chronicle reported, the event included the inevitable Iranian sponsored defamation and demonisation of Israel, calls for the eradication of that UN member state and glorification of terrorism.Al Quds day London

“Signs accusing Israel of genocide were handed out at the start of the protest, with a banner at the front of the rally reading: “Dismantling of Zionist State = End Of Bloodshed.” One man carried a homemade placard which said: “Israel is a cancer. We are the cure.””

Although the BBC did not apparently find the hate-fest going on under its own nose newsworthy, there was something novel about this year’s event.

“Approximately 500 pro-Israel activists mounted a counter-demonstration, chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and “Terrorist scum: off our streets” when the Al-Quds Day marchers collected outside the United States embassy in Grosvenor Square. […]

Joseph Cohen, who runs the Israel Advocacy Movement grassroots group, said the day had been “incredible.

“Last year my wife and I were the only people opposing the rally, when there were people marching with Hizbollah flags calling for the genocide of Israel.

It’s amazing today to see hundreds of people coming out to oppose Hizbollah terrorism. Every year they march unopposed. Not this year.””

Since then, a debate has begun on the topic of the display of the flag of a terrorist organisation proscribed by the UK on London’s streets with Dr Matthew Offord MP raising the issue in Parliament.

The Mayor of London also spoke on the topic when it was raised at the London Assembly but, as the Jewish News reports, the issue is not straightforward.  

“The confusion appears to centre on the fact the armed wing of Hezbollah is listed as a terrorist group while the political wing is not, yet the two elements share the same flag. The home office has said “the context and manner in which the flag is displayed must demonstrate that it is specifically in support of the proscribed elements of the group”.”

Obviously some of that confusion could have been avoided had the UK’s national broadcaster adhered to its remit of building an “understanding of international issues” rather than spending years cultivating that same myth of separate ‘wings’ of Hizballah, whitewashing the fact that it is a terrorist organisation by means of euphemisms such as “Lebanese Shia group”, misrepresenting its terror designation by numerous countries and misleading BBC audiences with regard to its activities.

Why the accuracy and impartiality of BBC reporting matters

Last week a debate on the conditions and health of Palestinian children was held in the House of Lords.  As noted by NGO Monitor, a briefing paper was prepared ahead of that debate.HoL pic

“In July 2016, the UK House of Lords Library posted a briefing paper: “Living Conditions, Health and Wellbeing of Palestinian Children,” which was “withdrawn” without explanation on July 19, but is available on unofficial websites.” 

As NGO Monitor points out, that briefing paper relied heavily on information promoted by various political NGOs – but it also included information gleaned from several BBC reports.

Footnote 4 (and 11) referred readers to an article titled “Palestinian jailed for murder of Israeli teenagers” which was published on January 6th, 2015 as the source for the following information:

HoL doc 1

As was noted here at the time that article was published:

“The BBC report plays down Hamas involvement in the kidnappings and murders:

“The leader of Hamas, the Islamist group dominant in Gaza, said in an interview in August that a Hamas cell had killed the teenagers but had not acted on instructions from above.”

The article fails to adequately clarify that funding for the terror attack came from Hamas sources in the Gaza Strip or that high-ranking Hamas operative Saleh al Arouri admitted the organisation’s involvement in August 2014.”

Footnotes 14 and 15 referred readers to a BBC article dating from September 1st 2014 as the source of the information below:

HoL doc 2

Notably, no effort is made to distinguish Palestinian civilian casualties from combatants. That of course will not come as a surprise to those who are aware of the sources of those UN quoted figures. As was previously noted here in relation to that BBC article:

“Once again we see the BBC quoting “the UN” as though that body were impeccably objective, but with no effort made to inform audiences with regard to the very significant issue of the background to those UN statements and the political motivations involved.”

Footnote 16 referred readers to a BBC report from August 27th 2014 titled “Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce”.

HoL doc 3

As was noted here at the time:

“The real story behind the August 26th ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is of course the fact that Hamas could have accepted the same terms six weeks earlier and thereby prevented hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure and unquantifiable suffering for the people of the Gaza Strip.”

Footnotes 33, 34 and 36 referred readers to an article by Yolande Knell from July 8th 2015 titled “Why is Gaza reconstruction so slow?”

HoL doc 4

As was noted here at the time, that politicised campaigning article by Knell made no mention of Hamas’ misappropriation of construction materials or its renewed tunnel building and it misrepresented the topic of dual-use goods.

The BBC’s coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas and other assorted terrorist organisations in the summer of 2014 was highly – and consistently – problematic: not least for its serial misrepresentation of the topic of civilian/combatant casualty figures and the use of data supplied by Hamas and its supporters. Both during and after the conflict, the corporation adopted a campaigning role on the issue of the restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel in response to terrorism and presented a partisan view of the topic of reconstruction in Gaza.

It is obviously very disturbing to see reporting which did not meet the BBC’s professed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality being promoted to members of the House of Lords ahead of a debate but the fact that the house’s researchers use such material as the basis for a briefing paper serves to highlight exactly why the British public, their politicians and public officials should be all the more concerned about the accuracy and impartiality of BBC journalism which later becomes “historical record“.  

 

BBC promoted NGOs and a question in Parliament

Back in December we noted that our colleagues at CAMERA had secured corrections to inaccurate information appearing in an article published by Associated Press which was largely sourced from an employee of a political NGO previously quoted and promoted in BBC content.

“”They (Israelis) are trying to uproot us from Jerusalem, they are stealing the houses, the trees and the stones of the city,” laments Nura Sub-Laban, a Palestinian woman featured in The Associated Press article today by Karin Laub and Mohammed Daraghmeh (“Palestinian eviction case spotlights Jerusalem settler push“).

Set against the backdrop of the disputed “gold-topped Dome of the Rock,” AP’s account of the looming eviction of Sub-Laban from their home in Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter reflects a narrative of supposed Jewish encroachment in the holy city at the expense of dispossessed Palestinians, blameless “victims of discriminatory use of Israeli property law.” 

It is also fundamentally wrong, based as it is on a grossly misrepresented basic facts about the Sub-Laban case, initially ignoring critical essential information and falsely casting it as part “of a wider settlement campaign.””

The subject matter of that AP article cropped up again last week during Prime Minister’s Questions in the UK Parliament. The ‘BBC Parliament’ TV channel of course broadcast the February 24th session which included a question from the MP for Bradford East (available in the UK only from 29:22 here).

Imran Hussain (Bradford East) (Lab): Last week, together with several of my hon. Friends, I visited Palestine, where we went to the home of Nora and her family, who have lived in the old city of East Jerusalem since 1953. Israeli settlers, however, are now trying to force Nora from her home of over 60 years. There are many other cases like that. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that illegal settlements and constructions are a major roadblock that hinder peaceful negotiations? What are this Government doing to help prevent these infringements into Palestinian lives and land?”

Mr Hussain and additional Labour MPs did indeed visit the region earlier in February on a trip organized by the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU). As readers may recall, MAP has been used by the BBC in the past as a source of information and a BBC reporter showcased one of its projects in 2014. CAABU’s director Chris Doyle and other representatives are frequent contributors to BBC content.

According to CAABU’s Joseph Willits, the part of the trip which involved a visit to the Sub Laban family was facilitated by the foreign funded political NGO Al Haq which is of course active in the ‘lawfare’ campaign against Israel and is from time to time promoted in BBC content.

“They are Nora Gheith Sub-Laban and her family in Jerusalem’s Old City who are battling an eviction because illegal settlers want to move into their home. They also face constant intimidation from settlers and the Israeli army. Thanks to Al-Haq Organisation for arranging these visits to see the impact of illegal settlements and the Wall that destroys lives, livelihoods, families, and a person’s psychological make up.”

Willits tweet Sub Laban

MAP described that visit as follows:

“On Thursday, the MPs met Palestinian communities living in the shadow of Israel’s 440km-long separation wall, and heard from the Gaith-Sub Laban family who have threatened [sic] with eviction from their home of 62 years in East Jerusalem.”

Unsurprisingly given the agendas of all the groups involved in organising this visit, the British parliamentarians were obviously not told the entire story.

“…the Sub-Labans were never the owners of the property, but rather enjoyed “protected tenant” status. That status can be lost if the tenant abandons the property without intention of returning – and it is irrelevant whether the tenant is Jewish or Palestinian. […]

…before the 1948 war, the building was “owned by a trust for Kollel Galicia, a group that collected funds in Eastern Europe for Jewish families in Jerusalem.” When Jordan occupied Jerusalem in 1948, the property fell under the control of the Jordanian administration and was rented to the Palestinian Sub-Laban family in 1953. Following the 1967 war, when Israel gained control of eastern Jerusalem, the property was, according to the AP,

‘handed to an Israeli government department, the General Custodian. Palestinian residents were recognized as “protected tenants,” provided they continued to live in the apartments and pay rent to the Custodian.

[Ahmed] Sub-Laban said his family was forced out of the apartment between 1984 and 2001, but did not lose their protected tenancy during this period.’ […]

But the article’s underlying flaw is that initially nowhere did it state that at that point, in 2001, the family failed to move back into the property, which is the crux of the legal argument against them.

The magistrate court (34656-11-10) (in a decision upheld by the district court (28083-12-14) found that the family had not returned to the apartment in 2001. According to the court from 2001-2010 (when the property was transferred to the trust) the family did not live in the apartment. From 2010 until 2014, they had only “pretended” to live in the apartment.”

In other words, the claim made by Mr Hussain in Parliament that “Israeli settlers, however, are now trying to force Nora from her home of over 60 years” is inaccurate not least because two  courts of law have established that she did not live in that rented apartment for thirty of those years. Naturally, Mr Hussain’s amplification of that political propaganda in Parliament was appreciated by his hosts.

Willits tweet 2

The problematic aspects of the relationship between the media and political NGOs have previously been raised on these pages.

“As time goes by the mutually beneficial relationship between the traditional media and NGOs flourishes and expands and news consumers find that more and more of their news comes or is sourced from agenda-driven organisations which make no claim to provide unbiased information and are not committed to journalistic standards.

When political agendas and reporting meet, questions obviously arise concerning accuracy, impartiality and reliability. Whilst the BBC – like many other media organisations – has addressed the topic of ‘citizen journalists’ providing user-generated content (UGC), much less attention is given to content sourced from NGOs.”

One result of the BBC’s unchallenged promotion of information provided by NGOs often portrayed as ‘human rights groups’  is the ensuing ‘halo effect’ which leads members of the public and politicians alike to refrain from critical examination of the facts behind claims made by campaigning groups with a clear political agenda – as, sadly, the above example shows only too well.

Related Articles:

British MP’s query on Jerusalem prompting David Cameron’s ‘shock’ is based on lie (UK Media Watch) 

Multi-platform BBC propagation of Alan Duncan’s ugly stereotypes and incitement

On October 14th an article appearing on the BBC News website was promoted under the heading “Israel criticises UK Palestine vote”. The report, which remained on the website’s Middle East page for three consecutive days and also appeared on the UK Politics page, was titled “MPs’ Palestinian vote sends troubling message, says Israel“. However, the 593 word article actually devoted less than a quarter of its content (116 words) to informing readers about Israeli government reactions to the previous day’s Commons vote.Duncan art

As well as presenting brief coverage of the views of the motion’s proposer and of the British government’s Middle East minister, the writer of this report chose to devote almost as much of his or her word-count to the views of another British MP as to the declared subject matter of the article.

“In a speech on Tuesday morning, former International Development Minister Alan Duncan said the expansion of Israeli settlements was an “ever-deepening stain on the face of the globe”.

Mr Duncan, who left the government in last summer’s reshuffle, told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One: “Having illegal settlements all the time is simply not acceptable and anyone who supports them, I consider to be an extremist.”

He said “the starting point in principle is that these settlements are illegal”, adding that the UK government “must be prepared to state this principle more strongly”.”

Predictably, the BBC’s report went on to present the usual mantra which is promoted any time the topic of ‘settlements’ arises and yet breaches its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to clarify to audiences that alternative legal opinions on the topic exist.

“About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

The October 14th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World at One’ referred to in that article can be heard here for a limited period of time with the relevant item commencing at 38:00.Duncan World at One

Presenter Martha Kearney opens by inaccurately informing listeners that:

“The former international development minister Sir Alan Duncan has launched a scathing attack on the Israeli government.”

As we will see in a moment, Duncan’s attacks went far beyond criticism of “the Israeli government”. She continues:

“He condemns Israeli settlements as an act of theft, saying ‘occupation, annexation, illegality, negligence, complicity: this is a wicked cocktail which brings shame to the government of Israel’. His attack comes less than 24 hours after MPs voted in favour of recognizing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Sir Alan, who left the government in the summer reshuffle, is now the Prime Minister’s special envoy to Oman and Yemen. This is very strong language you’re using.”

Duncan: “Yes, and we always go on about the peace process but it’s very important I think to go on about the principles behind it and the fundamental principle which I think governs the entire…eh….setting of the process is the fact that settlements are illegal. They are illegal in international law and they are supported every single day in their expansion by the Israeli government and I think this is unacceptable. And if Israel, as a democracy, says that it deserves to be treated as a democracy, then it should behave like one and having illegal settlements all the time is simply not acceptable and anyone who supports them, I consider to be an extremist.”

Predictably, Kearney makes no attempt to inform listeners of the existence of the many legal opinions which contradict Duncan’s oft stressed claims regarding the legality of ‘settlements’. She goes on:

“Well the view of the Israeli government is that the long-term future of the settlements is a matter for peace negotiations.”

Kearney fails to clarify to listeners that the Oslo Accords – willingly signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people – also define the issue of ‘settlements’ as a topic for final status negotiations and that nowhere in those agreements is any limit placed on either Israeli or Palestinian construction.

Duncan: “Ehrr…that of course is largely true but it doesn’t mean that they’re not illegal in the first place and this fundamental principle must be admitted by the Israeli government as the starting point for those negotiations. We all accept that the 1967 borders are going to encroach into the West Bank and that the borders of Israel are going to be larger, but the starting point in principle is that these settlements are illegal.”

Kearney makes no effort to inform BBC audiences that there is no such thing as “1967 borders” or that the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan specifically – at the request of the Jordanians – states that those armistice lines are not borders and that “[t]he provisions of this article shall not be interpreted as prejudicing, in any sense, an ultimate political settlement between the Parties to this Agreement”. Instead Duncan is allowed to continue uninterrupted:

“And every single time there is a step in the so-called process – even when Prime Minister Netanyahu is knocking on the door of the White House to see the President – they announce further settlements, insultingly and in defiance of international law.”

Kearney: “You can speak more strongly now you’ve left ministerial office but do you think the UK government should be speaking the same kind of language as you are?”

Duncan: “I think the UK government must be prepared to state this principle more strongly and perhaps diverge from the United States when doing so ‘cos we all know the United States is very much in hoc to a very powerful financial lobby which dominates its politics.”

There is no reaction whatsoever from Kearney to the promotion of that unmistakable ‘Jewish lobby’ trope by a prominent British politician on the BBC’s airwaves and neither of course does she bother to ask Duncan whether or not his political views are “in hoc” to the government of Oman in light of the financial contributions he has received in the past from that source.  Duncan goes on:

“But we, I think, a hundred years after the Mandate in the region…eh – second half of which we began to complete last night in the vote in the House of Commons in wanting to recognize Palestine – should make it absolutely clear that international law must be upheld and that anyone who thinks that they can defy international law or support that defiance is adopting an extreme position which is undemocratic, not acceptable and should not be part of our politics.”

The programme continues with an interview with Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, the introduction to which Kearney exploits for further BBC promotion of the misguided comments made by the MP for Croydon South during the previous evening’s parliamentary debate.

Kearney’s use of a quote from Duncan’s speech to the RUSI in her introduction to this item indicates that before deciding to invite him to appear on this programme in order to further publicise it, ‘World at One’ staff read that speech (which, incidentally, does not include even one reference to Palestinian terrorism) and decided that its writer’s messages were appropriate content for unchallenged promotion by the BBC.

From that – along with the fact that no attempt was made by Martha Kearney to correct any of Duncan’s inaccuracies or to distance the BBC from his use of an antisemitic trope – we can conclude that the programme’s producers, along with the BBC News website editors who also obviously found Duncan’s messages worthy of propagation to BBC audiences, were unperturbed by his employment of a multitude of lies such as “settler-only motorways” which of course do not exist and “persistent annexation of the West Bank” which has never happened.

We can also conclude that BBC staff found nothing offensive in Duncan’s crude and cheap caricature of half a million people: an intentional attempt to create a stereotype which many would regard as deliberate and dangerous incitement.

“In addition to being illegal, settlement activity is very often violent, nasty, and brutal. Not all, but many settlers are heavily armed and aggressive.

It is no exaggeration to say that many settlers are state-supported militia, defying international law, driving out the rightful inhabitants from their land, and creating an illegal economy at the expense of those who have been cruelly displaced.”

But Alan Duncan’s courting of mob mentality is not just confined to demonizing and delegitimizing half a million Israeli men, women and children because of their postcodes: he also seeks to brand anyone, anywhere, who does not agree with his falsehood-based conclusions and crude stereotyping.

“Anyone who considers settlements acceptable places themself outside the boundaries of democratic principle. Settlement endorsement should be put on a par with racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism. Indeed, just as we quite rightly judge someone unfit for public office if they refuse to recognise Israel, so we should shun anyone who refuses to recognise that settlements are illegal.

No settlement endorser should be considered fit to stand for election, remain a member of a mainstream political party, or sit in a Parliament. How can we accept lawmakers in our country, or any country, when they support lawbreakers in another? They are extremists, and they should be treated as such.”

Alan Duncan’s deliberate public promotion of illiterate and ahistorical populist lies should clearly be a cause of great concern to British voters in general and members of his party in particular – especially those who have previously spoken out against similar rabble rousing by George Galloway and the use of antisemitic tropes by David Ward. Duncan’s intentional propagation of crude stereotypes and his ugly incitement ought to render him unsuitable for public office – especially at a time when antisemitic incidents have just reached record levels in the UK and hence public figures should be doing their utmost to set an appropriate example.

The fact that the BBC has elected to amplify Duncan’s pernicious message entirely uncritically both on radio and on its website is yet another dismal example of the way in which the corporation – all too often unable to resist any opportunity to promote content which reflects its own ‘progressive’ political agenda – contributes to the spread of bigotry which propagates the stereotypes that are seeds of the weed of antisemitism seen not only on Britain’s streets but, even more gravely, in its supposedly most respectable institutions.

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In which BBC News helps an MP’s falsehood on its way to becoming an accepted ‘fact’

In which BBC News helps an MP’s falsehood on its way to becoming an accepted ‘fact’

As we noted here in an earlier post, there was nothing ‘right’ or ‘honourable’ about the numerous utterances of inaccurate anti-Israel propaganda voiced by some of the members of the British parliament during the Commons debate on the issue of recognition of a Palestinian state lastEcho Chambers heading Monday.

One of those claims in particular has gained quite a lot of media attention, making it worth charting its progress – and the BBC’s provision of backwind – as it proceeds on its way towards becoming yet another component in the ‘accepted narrative’ about Israel based on falsehood.

A report titled “UK Palestine statehood vote: Symbol or stumble?” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 16th. The item was written by the Echo Chambers team which purports to bring audiences “A review of the best commentary on and around the world…”.

Under the heading “Today’s must-read”, audiences are given a round-up of reactions in the American media to the UK parliament’s vote which includes the following passage:

Echo Chambers para

Regrettably, the MP for Croydon South is the one who made himself “look a fool” because the supposed reason for his about-turn; the thing which he claimed “has outraged me more than anything else in my political life” (and what a sheltered political life Sir Richard must lead) never actually happened.

Israel did not carry out any such “annexation of 950 acres of the West Bank just a few months ago”. The event to which Sir Richard refers in fact involved the determination of the status of an area of land situated in the Gush Etzion district of Area C which, after a process which went on for several years, was finally determined not to be privately owned and hence was declared state land.

It would of course not be in the least bit surprising were it to transpire that Sir Richard Ottaway’s embarrassing mistake was the result of uncritical reading of the BBC News report on the topic at the time – which, by the way, has since been amended to remove the misleading and inaccurate term ‘expropriate’.

But despite the fact that no such “annexation” took place, the BBC now amplifies that inaccurate claim by showcasing the writing of a journalist from the New Yorker who (like the political editor of the Guardian before him) obviously did not bother to examine the veracity of Ottaway’s statement before making his own pronunciation that “it should be a wake-up call” for “Israel’s supporters”. Mind you, John Cassidy also saw fit to link to the virulently anti-Israel blog ‘Mondoweiss’ in his article in the New Yorker, so perhaps his reluctance to confine himself to the facts should not come as much of a surprise.

Cassidy art New Yorker

When the media uncritically amplifies other members of the media promoting inaccurate statements by politicians who obviously make no effort to authenticate things they have read in other media reports which are often based on information provided to journalists by political NGOs, it can hardly be surprising that “world public opinion” is superficial and skewed. 

The “wake-up call” which the much publicized statements of Sir Richard Ottaway and others among his colleagues did provide this week, however, is to all those who previously presumed that British lawmakers actually bother to apprise themselves of the facts about issues upon which they voice opinions and subsequently vote.