BBC WS radio listeners get Ashrawi’s unchallenged propaganda

The lead item in the August 15th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was described thus:

“Israel is blocking two US Democratic lawmakers, who are prominent critics of the Israeli government, from visiting.”

Presenter Julian Marshall introduced the item (from 00:10 here) as follows:

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

Marshall: “And we begin today with that decision by Israel – supported by President Trump – to bar entry to two US Democratic Congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who had been planning to visit the Palestinian territories. But Israel has said they won’t be allowed in because of their support for the international movement that urges a boycott of Israel, known as BDS. In 2017 Israel passed a law banning entry to foreigners who support a boycott. Newshour has repeatedly asked the Israeli government for an interview. They’ve instead given us a statement. ‘Congressmen Tlaib and Omar’, the statement says, ‘are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress. Only a few days ago we received their itinerary for their visit in Israel which revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy’. Well in a moment we’ll be speaking to an Israeli journalist but first let’s get the reaction of Hanan Ashrawi, who would have been hosting the two Congresswomen in the Palestinian territories.”

Listeners were not informed that Ashrawi is a member of the PLO executive committee as well as the founder of ‘Miftah’ – the controversial NGO that organised and part sponsored the proposed trip. Neither were BBC audiences told that the person “who would have been hosting the two Congresswomen” was herself denied a visa to the United States earlier this year.

Ashrawi: “I think this is absolutely preposterous and unacceptable. I mean they are denying entry to representatives of another country; I mean their ally, the US. These are Congresswomen who are coming to Palestine, not to Israel. They are coming to reach out to the Palestinian people, to see how things are on the ground and the reality of the occupation. And now Israel gives itself the right to bar them from coming to Palestine, to ban them from entering and the same time to impose a blackout on Palestinian realities in order for them not to find out the truth. This is not acceptable and I believe that this is as affront to the American people and to the representatives themselves. But unfortunately Donald Trump, the president, [laughs] was inciting against them and he was telling the Israelis not to allow them in.”

In fact the Congresswomen’s itinerary included a day two tour of “Al-Aqsa mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall and other historic sites” in the Israeli capital Jerusalem. Marshall made no effort to clarify to listeners that, as the BBC itself states, “[t]here is no independent state of Palestine today” despite Ashrawi’s repeated references to that non-existent entity.

Likewise making no effort to inform audiences of the fact that the BDS campaign promotes the so-called ‘right of return’ for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees (which would lead to the elimination of the Jewish state and thereby deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination) Marshall went on:  

Marshall: “But Israel would argue that it has a 2017 law that bars foreigners from entering the country who support a boycott of Israel and they [Ashrawi laughs] would argue that that is what these two Congresswomen have been doing.”

Israel of course does not have to “argue” that Omar and Tlaib support the BDS campaign: they have made that quite clear themselves.

Listeners next heard a series of plainly ridiculous claims from Ashrawi concerning Israel and the 2017 amendment to the ‘Entry to Israel law’ which enables Israel to deny entry to people who advocate for a campaign that the BBC serially refuses to accurately portray to its audiences.

Ashrawi: “Well the thing is, Israel cannot tolerate dissent or differences of opinion. There are many people who…who adopt this. There are many people who think that Israel should be held accountable. This is something that is universally acceptable so Israel cannot legislate in order to violate international law and human rights. And Israel now thinks that not only is it above the law and it can do whatever it wants with the occupation, it wants to enjoy full impunity and it wants to punish those who want to hold Israel accountable and act in accordance with their conscience.”

Making no effort to challenge Ashrawi’s propaganda, Marshall continued:

Marshall: “Is this another reason for the Palestinians not to engage with the Trump administration?”

Listeners then heard similarly unchallenged misrepresentation of ‘international law’ from the literature graduate Ashrawi.

Ashrawi: [laughs] “I can’t think we need another reason. I think that the Trump administration has taken illegal, unilateral measures on the issues of Jerusalem, on the issues of refugees, on the issues of funding the Palestinians, on the issue of punishing the most vulnerable segments of our population and of course while refusing the two-state solution, the ’67 borders, by refusing to acknowledge the fact of the occupation itself. So they have effectively violated every aspect of international law pertaining to the Palestinian question. So in a sense I mean there’s nothing left to do other than incite against their own nationals, against the representatives of the American people. An American president is telling a foreign country not to admit members of his own Congress [laughs]. I mean this lacks any sense of logic or political responsibility or respect for his own people even. Certainly we said the moment that they decide to treat us as equals and to respect international law, then of course we are willing to talk to them. But since they are violating the law and violating our rights, there is no reason to engage.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that the US administration has not ‘refused’ the two-state solution and that there is no such thing as “’67 borders”, Marshall closed that completely unchallenged propaganda rant.

Marshall: “That was senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi.”

Despite the BBC being obliged to provide its funding public with “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” its coverage of this story (see ‘related articles’ below) has been characterised by a complete failure to supply audiences with relevant information concerning the political NGO that organised the trip and the BDS campaign which the two Congresswomen support.

Although, given her record, it was patently obvious that BBC World Service radio listeners were not going to hear any objective or informative comment from Hanan Ashrawi, ‘Newshour’ producers nevertheless sought out her ‘contribution’ and Julian Marshall’s failure to question any of her numerous outlandish claims and statements ensured that the BBC once again failed to meet its public purpose.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

BBC Radio 4’s uncritical amplification of Ilhan Omar’s falsehood

 

Advertisements

BBC Radio 4’s uncritical amplification of Ilhan Omar’s falsehood

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ are promised “in depth reporting, intelligent analysis and breaking news from a global perspective”. Here is what those listeners heard (from 03:39 here) in the news bulletin which opened the programme’s August 15th edition. [emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “Israel has banned two US Democrat Congresswomen from entering the country because they’ve been critical of its policies towards the Palestinians. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar had been expected to begin a tour of the Palestinian territories later this week. Ms Omar has accused the Israelis of implementing President Trump’s ban on Muslims. Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “The Congresswomen – Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia and grew up in the US, and Rashida Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent – have both supported the movement to boycott Israel. They were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem next week in a trip that had become the focus of controversy. Israel passed a law two years ago allowing it to ban entry to supporters of the boycott movement. Earlier on Thursday, President Trump tweeted that Israel would show weakness to allow them in, calling them a disgrace and accusing them of antisemitism. Israel’s interior ministry later said it would not allow them entry. The not-for-profit group that was organising the visit called the move an assault on the Palestinian people’s right to reach out to decision makers from around the world.”

That sixty-six second item prompts several observations:

1) Tlaib and Omar were not denied entry “because they’ve been critical” of Israel’s – unspecified – “policies towards the Palestinians”. They were refused entry to Israel because they openly support a political campaign which negates Jewish self-determination but as ever BBC audiences heard absolutely nothing about the obviously relevant topic of the BDS campaign’s aims in this bulletin.

2) There is no “ban on Muslims” either in the US or in Israel. In fact:

“A record number of visitors from Muslim countries came to Israel last year, including nearly 55,000 from countries that have no diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.

According to figures provided by the Population and Immigration Authority on Monday, 72,109 citizens of Egypt and Jordan (the only Arab countries with which Israel has full diplomatic ties), Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia visited Israel in 2018.”

3) Once again BBC audiences heard nothing about the political NGO ‘Miftah’ – opaquely described by Bateman as a “not-for-profit group” without any mention of its agenda and record. Neither were they told that earlier this month Palestinian leaders met with no fewer than 72 Democrat and Republicandecision makers” from the US Congress.

Given the failure by Tom Bateman to provide any relevant background information on the BDS campaign or the political NGO ‘Miftah’, given that listeners were misled with the claim that Tlaib and Omar were not permitted to enter Israel because “they’ve been critical” and given this item’s unquestioning and uncritical amplification of falsehoods from Omar and ‘Miftah’, readers can decide for themselves whether Radio 4 audiences got the “in depth reporting” and “intelligent analysis” touted on this programme’s webpage.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

 

Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

On August 15th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel bars Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting” on its ‘Middle East’ page. The opening paragraph similarly told readers that:

“Israel is blocking two US Democratic lawmakers, who are prominent critics of the Israeli government, from visiting.”

The following lines however indicated that the BBC is well aware of the fact that the two Congresswomen had no interest in visiting Israel as a whole.

“Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem next week.”

Readers were told that:

“Both have supported the boycott movement against Israel, but Israeli law allows supporters of the campaign to be banned from visiting.”

And:

“Israeli law blocks entrance visas to any foreigner who calls for any type of boycott that targets Israel – either economic, cultural or academic.

The law attempts to suppress the “boycott, divest, sanction” movement, which has drawn growing support across Europe and the US.” [emphasis added]

Not only is that representation of the 2017 amendment to the ‘Entry to Israel’ law inaccurate (the amendment gives the interior minister leeway to make exceptions) but as usual the BBC did not clarify to its audiences that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) promotes the so-called ‘right of return’ for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees which would lead to the elimination of the Jewish state and thereby deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination.  

The report also told readers that:

“Ms Omar and Ms Tlaib have both been criticised for their stance on Israel – but have denied charges of being anti-Semitic.”

No effort was made to explain to readers why such charges have been leveled or to inform them of the problematic nature of statements made by the two representatives.

The BBC chose to uncritically amplify a statement from Omar while failing to inform readers of similar actions taken by democratic countries – including the UK.  

“Ms Omar described Israel’s move as “an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation”.”

Regarding the Congresswomen’s proposed itinerary, readers were told that:

“According to US media, their trip was meant to begin on Sunday, and would include a stop at one of the most sensitive sites in the region – a hilltop plateau in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.

They also planned to visit Israeli and Palestinian peace activists and travel to Jerusalem and the West Bank cities of Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron.” [emphasis added]

According to that itinerary, what the BBC presents as “peace activists” are in fact political NGOs such as ‘Mercy Corps’, Amnesty International, Al Haq, B’tselem, DCI-Palestine and ‘Breaking the Silence’.

Readers were told that:

“The trip to the West Bank was planned by Miftah, an organisation headed by Palestinian peace negotiator Hanan Ashrawi.”

No background was provided concerning Miftah and its record of advocating the BDS campaign and glorifying terrorists

The following day – August 16th – that article was replaced by another headlined “Rashida Tlaib rejects Israel’s offer of ‘humanitarian’ visit” which included much of the same content but also informed readers that:

“…in a series of tweets on Friday, Ms Omar hit back at claims that she and Ms Tlaib hadn’t asked to meet with Israel’s government or opposition officials.

The Minnesota congresswoman said that, during their visit, they had planned to meet Jewish and Arab members of Israel’s parliament, along with Israeli security officials.

Among other plans, they had also intended to tour the West Bank city of Hebron with Israeli military veterans, she said.”

Readers were not told that those “Israeli military veterans” were in fact members of the foreign funded political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’ or that the itinerary shows no evidence of planned meetings with Israeli Knesset members or officials.

Readers also found another euphemistic portrayal of the anti-Israel BDS campaign.

“Ms Tlaib and Ms Omar have voiced support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign – which aims to put economic pressure on the Israeli government – because of their opposition to Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

Obviously if – in line with the BBC’s public purposes obligations – audiences were to understand Israel’s decision not to permit this visit by two members of the US Congress, they needed to be accurately informed what the campaign supported by the women is really about.

However rather than provide that essential information, in these two reports the BBC once again chose to continue its long-standing policy of avoiding telling its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.

Related Articles:

BBC News claims BDS is solely about ‘a cultural boycott’

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

BBC R4 presenter floats ranking racism

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ messaging reflects that of anti-Israel group

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ messaging reflects that of anti-Israel group

The April 1st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included a report by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barbara Plett Usher which was introduced by presenter Julian Marshall (from 45:11 here) as follows:

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

Marshall: “The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life in hotly contested elections next week, trying to win another term in office despite facing possible indictments on corruption charges. His election campaign has made much of his ability to deliver dividends from Israel’s relationship with America and has highlighted his friendship with President Trump but for some time his Right-wing policies have been chipping away at America’s strong bi-partisan support for the Israeli government and that fracture is becoming ever more public. Barbara Plett Usher takes a closer look.”

Listeners heard no justification for the use of the buzz words “Right-wing policies” and no explanation of what those policies supposedly involve. They were given no evidence to support the claim that American support is for “the Israeli government” rather than Israel as a whole. Neither was any evidence provided supporting the claim that such support has been diminished solely and exclusively because of the Israeli prime minister’s policies. Plett Usher’s report opened with a recording of the Israeli prime minister speaking.

Recording Netanyahu: “Thank you President Trump. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your friendship.”

Plett Usher: “Benjamin Netanyahu has always believed he’s best at reading the wind when it comes to Americans and he felt that wind at his back on a trip to Washington last week.”

Recording Trump: “Under my administration the unbreakable alliance between the United States and Israel has never been stronger.”

Barbara Plett Usher went on to repeat the buzz words heard in the introduction but while this time listeners learned that those policies supposedly relate to “the Palestinians and Iran”, they were not told what those policies are or in what way they are “Right-wing”.

Plett Usher: “President Trump has embraced him and his Right-wing policies on the Palestinians and Iran.”

As Jonathan Spyer recently pointed out, there is in fact “an almost complete consensus between a broad mass of the Israeli (Jewish) public” on the issue of Iranian threats against Israel and “a decline in the level of polarisation within the Jewish voting public over the last two decades” concerning “the security challenge of Hamas-controlled Gaza, and of the unresolved conflict with the Palestinian Arab national movement”.

“Regarding Iran, former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White list, which forms the main challenger to the ruling Likud party in the 2019 campaign, has made clear that there are no disagreements between himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the question of Iran and the threat it poses.

The consensus, however, goes beyond the rightist Likud and centrist Blue and White party. Labor and Meretz, representing the centre-Left and left-wing spots on the political map, are similarly supportive of the government’s stance on Iran.”

Quite how Plett Usher justifies her claim of “Right-wing policies on Iran” is therefore unclear.

On the subject of the conflict with the Palestinians, Spyer notes that:

“…this debate has lost much of its passion. On the Left, the belief that a partner for historic compromise had been found in the PLO lost many adherents after the collapse of the peace process and the commencement of Palestinian insurgency in late 2000. On the Right, the fervent and ideological commitment to avoidance of any land concessions west of the Jordan River also faded.

This has been reflected in the 2019 campaign. The main contenders – Likud and Blue and White, are clearly competing for the centre ground. “

Once again the justification for Plett Usher’s use of the slogan “Right-wing policies” is unclear.

She continued with a segment including unidentified interviewees at the recent AIPAC conference –using another label for which she did not bother to provide evidence.

Plett Usher: “But outside the White House the wind is shifting. [music] Not here. Support was rock solid at this conference of the powerful pro-Israel lobby the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee – or AIPAC. It has promoted Israel’s relationship with the US for decades in both political parties. But a few young, newly elected Democrats have been challenging that orthodoxy, triggering a controversy over charges of antisemitism and the level of bi-partisan support.”

Man 1: “The three vocal Democratic representatives are just vocal. They’re loud mouths. And I feel their uproar – people like uproar, they like a tumult, OK – and I think it’ll die down.”

Man 2: “I think that there’s enough love and support in the United States for Israel and an understanding of the importance of the alliance that it really will not affect the relationship.”

Referring to a small demonstration against AIPAC in March, Plett Usher went on to introduce a representative of a political group which, interestingly, she did not find it necessary to locate on the political spectrum.

[shouting: ‘Free Palestine, Free Gaza’]

Plett Usher: “Only a handful of demonstrators showed up but in fact opposition to Mr Netanyahu’s policies has been building for some time, especially when it comes to treatment of the Palestinians and especially in the younger generation. [shouting] That includes many American Jews who say Israel has lurched so far to the Right they no longer share its values. Ethan Miller belongs to a protest group called ‘If Not Now’.”

Miller: “You know, we’re a rising movement – a rising grassroots movement – of American Jews but I think we’re starting to see changes in Congress as well. We’re starting to see members of Congress both in the house and in the Senate actually start to speak up for Palestinian human rights in a way that we haven’t seen for a long time.”

The group ‘If Not Now’ claims to be “working to transform the American Jewish community’s support for occupation into a call for freedom and dignity for all”. Apparently Plett Usher would have her listeners believe that “the occupation” – which of course began as the result of a defensive war during the term of a Left-wing government when the current Israeli prime minister was still four months short of his eighteenth birthday – is one of “Mr Netanyahu’s policies”.

Plett Usher: “It’s a trend that’s never been so pronounced or contentious.”

Recording: “Breaking news coming out of the House of Representatives where a resolution has just passed condemning antisemitism and other forms of bigotry.”

Plett Usher then presented a highly selective version of a story from February, failing to clarify that the congresswoman did in fact use an antisemitic trope.  

Plett Usher: “A Muslim congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, was accused of using antisemitic language. That broke open divisions within the party in a public and messy way. Still, there was an upside says Jeremy Ben Ami. He heads a liberal pro-Israel lobby called J Street that is challenging AIPAC and he organised a conference call on the controversy.”

Recording Ben Ami: “The space that we need to have is the space to discuss the occupation. I think that we are in a place now where those conversations can actually start to be had.”

Plett Usher did not bother to inform listeners that J Street – which some would dispute is “pro-Israel” – was founded in 2007 when the prime minister of Israel was Kadima’s Ehud Olmert or that, in contrast to AIPAC which does not donate to candidates or campaigns, J Street donated some $4 million to exclusively Democratic candidates in 2018. She went on:

Plett Usher: “Or maybe not.”

Recording Trump: “But they are totally anti-Israel. Frankly I think they’re anti-Jewish.”

Plett Usher: “President Trump has seized the moment to go after the Democrats, even though he’s been accused of enabling antisemitism. Republicans are claiming to be better defenders of Israel and Democratic lawmaker Tom Malinowski says there’s now less space for conversation about Israel within the party – not more.”

Malinowski: “I am absolutely convinced it is possible to have a debate about our foreign policy towards Israel or any other country but when people start using blatantly antisemitic tropes in that debate, it actually makes it harder. It actually tends to shut down serious debate about foreign policy because everybody becomes defensive and angry rather that thoughtful about the choices that are before us.”

Plett Usher finished by building up what she apparently knows to be an imaginary story about a ‘boycott’ of the recent AIPAC conference.

Plett Usher: “The young and outspoken lawmakers have received an outsized amount of coverage but it is not just about them. Democrats who’ve announced they’re running for president include a mix of liberals and ethnic minorities who have also been more critical of Israeli policy.”

Recording Pence: “And as I stand before you, eight Democrat candidates for president are actually boycotting this very conference.”

Plett Usher: “The vice-president Mike Pence brought up the 2020 election at the AIPAC conference.”

Recording Pence: “It is wrong to boycott Israel and it is wrong to boycott AIPAC.”

Plett Usher: “In fact only one candidate – Bernie Sanders – explicitly said he was not attending because of policy differences. But it does look as if Israel will be an issue in America’s presidential campaign long after the Israeli prime minister has finished his.”

Plett Usher’s framing of this story is abundantly clear: ‘liberal’ Americans are, according to her, abandoning Israel solely because of its prime minister’s “Right-wing policies”. Unsurprisingly she ignored the relevant issue of the Democratic party’s leftward shift over the years in order to uncritically and unquestioningly promote a narrative advanced by the anti-Israel group showcased in her report.

“My generation sees the occupation and what’s happening in Israel-Palestine as a crisis the same way we do climate change,” said Simone Zimmerman, 28, a co-founder of a progressive group, IfNotNow, that opposes what it calls Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Ms. Zimmerman scorned what she called “the Trump-Netanyahu” alliance and said “too many in the American Jewish establishment and the Democratic establishment have let them off the hook.”

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming” intended to “build people’s understanding of…the wider world”. 

Related Articles:

BBC News framing of Iranian activity in Syria continues

BBC R4 presenter floats ranking racism

 

 

 

BBC R4 presenter floats ranking racism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

BBC reporting on Labour antisemitism again falls short

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

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

 

 

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

If the BBC was making a report about homophobic remarks or racist comments directed at black or Asian people it would be unlikely to solicit a contribution from a person promoting the view that criticism of such statements was intended to “shut down legitimate debate”.

That, however, is exactly what listeners to the March 4th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘World at One’ heard in an item by Gary O’Donoghue which was introduced by presenter Sarah Montague (from 25:03 here) using a rather curious claim. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Montague: “Now then, Labour isn’t the only Left of centre political party having to weather accusations of antisemitism at the moment. In the United States Democrats are having to counter claims that the leftward shift of their party is leading to antisemitic attitudes among some of their new members of Congress. Republicans have been trying to make the most of their political difficulties. From Washington, here’s our correspondent Gary O’Donoghue.”

Using an archive recording of former US president Harry Truman that includes the phrase “the problem of Israel”, O’Donoghue began by noting the longstanding Jewish American support for the Democratic party before asking “So what’s wrong?”. Listeners then heard from a person subsequently identified as Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times.

Weisman: “I think that the Labour party of Britain right now is what the Democratic party dreads and is desperate to avoid.”

O’Donoghue explained:

“…it’s the antisemitism label he’s talking about when he says the Democrats are desperate to avoid Labour’s mistakes in Britain. But why would a party that gets 75% of Jewish American votes risk being called antisemitic?”

Listeners then heard the phrase “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby” read out before O’Donoghue explained:

O’Donoghue: “A Tweet from a new young progressive Democrat elected to the House of Representatives called Ilhan Omar – one of the first two Muslim women ever to sit in Congress. She was talking about the influence of AIPAC – the American Israel Political Action Committee – a powerful lobbying group. The Benjamins is slang for $100 bills carrying, as they do, the face of Benjamin Franklin.”

O’Donoghue then brought in Deborah Lipstadt to explain further.

Lipstatdt: “When you say ‘it’s all about the Benjamins, baby’, that’s using a trope. Whether she was conscious of it or not – she says she was not conscious of it so I don’t know – American politics is infused with money. So if you say only this is about money, again, how come only this and not everything else?”

O’Donoghue went on to tell listeners that Lipstadt “says money is just one of a whole range of tropes that constitute antisemitism” before another recording was heard.

O’Donoghue: “Enter Rashida Tlaib; fellow Muslim freshman in Congress and […] someone else facing accusations of antisemitsm. In her case it was criticisms of fellow Democrats for not backing the so-called BDS movement which promotes boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.”

As ever in BBC content, listeners heard no further explanation of the anti-Israel BDS campaign and its aims before O’Donoghue went on:

O’Donoghue: “And yes, it was a Tweet.

‘They forgot what country they represent. This is the US where boycotting is a right and a part of our historical fight for freedom and equality.’

That, say her critics, manifests another antisemitic trope: that Jews have split loyalties.”

Listeners then heard the BBC’s idea of ‘balance’: promotion of what is known in the UK as the Livingstone Formulation.

O’Donoghue: “But Yousef Munayyer of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights says antisemitism allegations are used to shut down legitimate debate.”

In breach of editorial guidelines stipulating that the “particular viewpoint” of contributors should be made clear, O’Donoghue did not bother to inform his audience of the fact that Munayyer is himself a supporter of BDS and that the organisation he represents mobilises anti-Israel BDS campaigns. Lacking that obviously relevant information, listeners then heard from Munayyer:

Munayyer: “It weaponises one form of bigotry and one form of oppression to help defend and enable another. It is important to be able to say, you know, in one voice that we oppose antisemitism. We also oppose what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians.”

And so we see once again that the BBC’s interpretation of impartiality leads it to amplify claims from inadequately introduced anti-Israel campaigners which actually hinder audience understanding of the issue of antisemitism.

O’Donoghue’s report continued with comment from a representative of a Jewish organisation linked to the Democratic party before he went on:

O’Donoghue: “But it’s not just two members of Congress. Others on the Left face similar allegations. Most recently leaders of the Women’s March organisation have been heavily criticised over their connections to Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, who many regard as overtly antisemitic.”

Failing to provide his British listeners with anything more informative than that tepid portrayal of Farrakhan’s long-standing record of antisemitism and additional forms of bigotry, O’Donoghue brought in Deborah Lidstadt once again before closing his report.

O’Donoghue: “It’s not of course just a problem for the Left. Far-Right white supremacists trade in the same antisemitic ideas. But the Democratic leadership are conscious that a new, younger, more Left-leaning party base could drive a wedge between them and Jewish Americans, already wooed by Republican policies such as pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.”

Remarkably, although there was no room in O’Donoghue’s portrayal of antisemitism in the United States for the no less relevant issue of Islamist antisemitism, he did find the space for promotion of false balance in the form of the Livingstone Formulation – just as has been seen so often in BBC coverage of antisemitism in the UK Labour party.

Related Articles:

David Ward saga: BBC still prevaricating on antisemitism

One-staters get BBC WS platform for promotion of BDS, ‘resistance’ and ‘apartheid’ trope