Is a BBC WS claim about Israeli politicians true?

The August 16th edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 48:53 here) in which the BBC managed to shoehorn Israel into its coverage of last weekend’s shocking incidents in Virginia, USA.

Presenter Owen Bennett-Jones told worldwide listeners that:

“Video of the white supremacists in Charlottesville clearly shows them chanting openly antisemitic slogans, with organisers amongst other things complaining that President Trump allowed his daughter to marry a Jewish man.

While President Trump has come under a lot of flack from Jewish leaders and politicians in the US for his perceived hesitancy in condemning the groups, in Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu and most politicians have been rather more muted regarding what the president said. So why is that?”

The issue of whether or not it is appropriate for politicians from any country to comment on the internal affairs of another state is not discussed in this item and listeners are not given an answer to the question of why Bennett-Jones singled out Israeli politicians rather than those in any other nation. But is the claim regarding Israeli politicians made by Bennett-Jones accurate?

Earlier on the same day that this item was broadcast, the Times of Israel published an article titled “Israeli politicians reject Trump claim of two sides to Virginia hate march“.

““There aren’t two sides,” Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, said in a Wednesday statement.

“When neo-Nazis march in Charlottesville and scream slogans against Jews and in support of white supremacy, the condemnation has to be unambiguous. They represent hate and evil. Anyone who believes in the human spirit must stand against them without fear.” […]

Tzipi Livni, a former justice minister and No. 2 in the opposition Zionist Union faction, also rejected Trump’s assertion.

“When it comes to racism, anti-Semitism and Nazism, there are never two equal sides. There’s good and there’s evil. Period,” she said in a Wednesday statement. […]

…Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked […] urged that the neo-Nazis face prosecution.

“The neo-Nazis in the United States should be prosecuted,” she said Tuesday. Allowing them to march violently through American streets “was not the intention of the American Constitution. A democratic state does not have to tolerate such phenomena.”

On Sunday [Naftali] Bennett, who heads the Jewish Home party, condemned the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and called on US leaders to denounce its “displays of anti-Semitism.”

“The unhindered waving of Nazi flags and symbols in the US is not only offensive towards the Jewish community and other minorities, it also disrespects the millions of American soldiers who sacrificed their lives in order to protect the US and entire world from the Nazis,” he said in a statement

“The leaders of the US must condemn and denounce the displays of anti-Semitism seen over the past few days,” he added.”

In addition to those decidedly not “muted” statements, the Israeli prime minister put out a tweet condemning the racism and, despite members of the Knesset currently being on holiday, a number of other politicians from a range of parties likewise made their views on the matter clear – including Michael Oren, Zahava Galon, Revital Swid, Ksenia Svetlova, Manuel Trachtenburg, Avi Gabbai, Yehuda Glick, Yitzhak Herzog, Dov Hanin, Shelly Yechimovich, Amir Peretz, Meirav Michaeli, Ayelet Nachmias-Verbin, Miki Rosental, Nachman Shai, Itzik Shmuli and Tamar Zandberg – who even went on American TV two days before this ‘Newshour’ programme was aired to talk about the issue.

And yet, the BBC apparently came to the bizarre conclusion that it was accurate to describe the responses from those Israeli politicians and others as “muted”.

Another interesting aspect of this item comes in Bennett-Jones’ introduction of his interviewee. [emphasis added]

“Ruthie Blum is a Trump voter living in Tel Aviv and a conservative commentator too with a number of publications including the Jerusalem Post.”

Seeing as in the past the BBC has on countless occasions failed to comply with its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by refraining from clarifying the “particular viewpoint” of interviewees,  that detailed introduction is noteworthy.

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BBC News report on JCC bomb threats promotes irrelevant videos

On March 23rd the BBC News website’s US & Canada and Middle East pages carried an article titled “Israel holds 19-year-old over threats against Jewish centres“.

The article itself gives an accurate account of the arrest of a US-Israeli dual national on suspicion of making hoax bomb threats to institutions in the US and elsewhere. However, the report also promotes two items of completely unrelated visual material.

Embedded in the report is a video captioned ‘”It’s other people’s loved ones – you don’t do this”: People gather at Philadelphia graveyard’ which first appeared on the BBC News website on February 27th in a written report titled “‘Hundreds’ of US Jewish graves attacked in Philadelphia” as well as in a separate filmed report.

Obviously that video has no connection to the arrest which is the subject matter of this report and the reason for its inclusion is therefore unclear.

A second video embedded in the article is captioned “The BBC spoke to a Muslim-American couple targeted by an abusive caller”. It first appeared on the BBC News website on November 29th 2016 in an article promoting a report produced by the controversial SPLC titled “‘Trump effect’ led to hate crime surge, report finds” as well as in a separate filmed report.

There is nothing to suggest that this video has any connection to the story being reported either and so the editorial decision to promote it in this article is similarly incomprehensible.

 

 

The numbers behind BBC promotion of the ‘Israel lobby’

As readers may recall, we have posted here a few times about the BBC’s unsatisfactory responses to complaints which have arisen due to its journalists having employed the loaded term ‘Jewish lobby’ – see for example here and here.Capitol

BBC employees are no better at dealing with their interviewees’ promotion of the notion of an all-powerful ‘Israel lobby’ either, as we noted in this recent post, perhaps because the BBC itself does not shy away from using either term – as shown for example in a 2007 article still available on the BBC News website titled “US storm over book on Israel lobby” which opens with the words:

“The power of America’s “Jewish lobby” is said to be legendary.”

Now a study on lobbying of the US government has been published which might be of help to members of the public making similar complaints in the future and, as Yair Rosenberg explains, the results are very interesting.

“If you estimated the amount of money a country spends on lobbying the United States based on critical media coverage of that lobbying, you’d probably put Israel at the top of the list. But a new study by the Sunlight Foundation reveals that not only isn’t Israel a big spender, it practically doesn’t even make the list. Of the 84 countries surveyed, Israel ranked 83rd, spending just $1,250 to lobby America in 2013. (The only country that ranked lower was Mali, which spent nothing at all.) By contrast, other key American allies unloaded massive sums to influence the U.S. government. Topping the list is the United Arab Emirates with $14.2 million. It is followed by Germany ($12 million), Canada ($11.2 million), and Saudi Arabia ($11.1 million).”

Readers may be interested to learn too that the eternally cash-strapped, donor supported Palestinian Authority spent $1,110,769.59 on lobbying the US via the PLO in 2013.

As Jeff Dunetz points out:

“Some of you may be thinking, “nice trick Jeff what about AIPAC? (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee)”. If one includes AIPAC, then other groups such as the American Iranian Friendship Council must be included. So asking about AIPAC is making demands of the Israel numbers that aren’t being made of other countries.

But I will bite anyway. According to Open Secrets, AIPAC spent $2,977,744 in lobbying in 2013, when the $1,250 is added it brings Israel’s total to $2,978,994 which puts Israel in eighth place between South Korea and the Republic of Srpska.

Even when AIPAC spending is included Israel’s lobbying dollars is only 21% of what the UAE spends, about a quarter of Germany’s spending, 26.5% of Canada’s, 26.8% of the Saudi’s, 48.6% of Mexico’s and about three-quarters of both Morocco and South Korea’s lobbying spending.”

If anyone comes across a BBC reporter or interviewee talking or tweeting about the UAE lobby, the Morocco lobby or the Canada lobby “taking control of a foreign government“, or perhaps the BBC’s World Affairs editor John Simpson writing that ‘the Mexican tail usually seems to wag the American dog’, please do be sure to let us know. We’ll pop out and buy a lottery ticket.