BBC Two presenter Victoria Derbyshire should read this A-Z thread on Labour antisemitism

As followers of BBC Watch no doubt recall, on Aug. 15th, BBC Two presenter Victoria Derbyshire interviewed two British Jews, Mark Lewis and his partner Mandy Blumenthal, to discuss their view that antisemitism in the UK has become so bad that they no longer felt safe living there, and had decided to emigrate to Israel.

As we noted at the time, the interview was so biased – and at times hostile – that the BBC presenter could have been mistaken for a Jeremy Corbyn spokesperson, as she spouted off meaningless Labour talking points, used misleading statistics attempting to downplay antisemitism and seemed convinced that the couple was grossly exaggerating their concerns – despite death threats and other forms of abuse they’ve experienced.  

Derbyshire even at one point – in an attempt to discredit their claims – accused Lewis and Blumenthal of belonging to a non-existent Zionist political party in the UK.

Yesterday, @GasherJew, a twitter account that’s been doing extremely important work exposing antisemitism in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, tweeted the following thread containing an A-Z of examples of Labour antisemitism.

The list is especially useful for journalists and pro-Corbyn activists who deny that antisemitism is a serious issue in the party, or suggest that the problem has been greatly exaggerated by the British Jewish community. (See web version of the twitter thread here)

Related Articles

 

Advertisements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BBC Two’s ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ breaches impartiality guidelines with ‘specialist’ academic

The August 3rd edition of the BBC Two television programme ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ included an item concerning what presenter Reeta Chakrabarti euphemistically described as “the problems in the Labour Party”.

Although The BBC has been covering that topic with varying degrees of accuracy and impartiality for well over two years, it was presented to viewers as something that has recently come to light. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Chakrabarti: “It’s been widely assumed that all forms of racism exist within the far right of politics but it’s now being suggested that the Left has issues with antisemitism too. Where has that come from?”

In her second question to guest journalist Jonathan Sacerdoti, Chakrabarti said:

Chakrabarti: “Well I wonder if we can broaden this out a little bit from the Labour party to the sort of ideas of antisemitism – quite where they come from – because there’s often quite a conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism, isn’t there? Can you explain just quite simply what the difference is?”

As Sacerdoti spoke about Jewish self-determination in Israel, viewers were shown a very interesting selection of images, none of which reflected the content of his reply.

Chakrabarti then brought in another guest – Katy Sian – previously identified as “a sociology lecturer at York University specialising in racism”.

According to York University Ms Sian’s field of interest does not include antisemitism.

“The main thrust of her scholarship is focused on critical race theory and the performance of postcolonial subjectivity among ethnically marked communities stranded in metropolitan archipelagos. The initial iteration of her research can be seen in her first monograph, Unsettling Sikh and Muslim Conflict: Mistaken Identities, Forced Conversions, and Postcolonial Formations. This book has generated much debate with its pioneering mapping of Sikh-Muslim antagonism as it circulates throughout Britain. Katy is expanding this research by investigating Sikh-Muslim conflict in the USA and Canada where little work exists.” 

Chakrabarti went on:

Chakrabarti: “[…] You study racism; that’s your…part of your profession. How big an issue do you think that antisemitism is within the whole spectrum of hate politics across the UK?”

Viewers heard that antisemitism “isn’t as bad as has been made out”, that it is “remarkable” that other forms of racism are not being discussed in the same way and that Katy Sian does not “think it’s right to just exceptionalise one form of racism over another”.

Chakrabarti then asked:

Chakrabarti: “…I wonder then why you think antisemitism gets so much air-time?”

Clearly one answer to that question would be that Labour Party members are not promoting Romaphobia, Islamophobia or anti-Black racism on social media or in local council meetings but the ‘expert’ answer viewers heard was as follows:

Sian: “I think it gets so much air-time because of Corbyn and his historic kind of…ehm…support for Palestinian rights. So it’s part of a much wider political project which is to essentially silence any critique of the Israeli state expansion.”

Leaving aside the question of what those three last words are supposed to mean (seeing as Israel has only withdrawn from territory throughout the last fifty years), it would of course have been appropriate – according to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality which stipulate the “need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint” –  for viewers to have been informed that Katy Sian stood on behalf of the Labour Party in a district of Leeds during local council elections in 2011. 

Moreover, seeing as the programme’s producer arranged her appearance via Twitter, one presumes that he was aware of the fact that Sian’s feed shows that she has not changed her political affiliations since then and that she regularly Tweets anti-Israel material.

At that point in the show, Chakrabarti read a statement from the Labour Party before bringing guest Geoffrey Alderman to speak about the historic aspect of antisemitism in the UK. When Professor Alderman said that he thought it “outrageous” to suggest that those objecting to antisemitism in the Labour Party were doing so because they wanted to “get rid” of Jeremy Corbyn or “to do down the Labour Party”, she jumped in:

Chakrabarti: “Well I wanted to ask if it also has something to do with the actions of the Israeli government.”

Less than a minute later she asked Jonathan Sacerdoti:

Chakrabarti: “Do you not accept that for some people it’s the actions of the Israeli government they are protesting against?”

She subsequently claimed that Sacerdoti was misrepresenting Sian’s statement concerning “a wider political project” before going on to give her “a final right of reply”.

Sian: “I mean I would argue that bigotry, violence, harassment, abuse, hatred and systematic oppression enshrined through laws and policies directed at Jews for simply being Jews is antisemitic. To critique Israel’s settler colonial state is not antisemitic.”

Chakrabarti made no effort to challenge Sian’s false and materially misleading portrayal of Israel as a “settler colonial state”, instead allowing her to read out loud from an obviously pre-prepared statement on India which had nothing to do with the issue of antisemitism in Britain’s Labour Party.

The fact that a Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Party supporter – and quite possibly a party member – was brought in to comment on this topic while inadequately presented as a ‘neutral’ academic is clearly a breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality.

The fact that audiences were also not informed that the same supposedly ‘neutral’ academic regularly promotes anti-Israel material and four years ago had a book launch organised by the (Corbyn favoured) Iran linked, self-styled Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) – which organises the annual anti-Israel ‘Quds Day’ hate rally in London – likewise clearly impairs their ability to put her claims and pronunciations into their appropriate perspective.

Resources:

BBC Complaints website

 

BBC: ‘Israel is deeply controversial’ and BDS is a ‘human rights’ group

For years the BBC has reported stories relating to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) without adequately clarifying to its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.  Moreover, in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such crucial background information “not our role“.

Nevertheless, one might have expected that in two reports specifically relating to the issue of support for the BDS campaign from student unions in British universities, the corporation would have made an effort to get the facts right.

On April 27th BBC Two’s current affairs programme ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ included a report by Jon Ironmonger (available here or here) about a Charity Commission investigation into 17 student unions that have endorsed the BDS campaign.

Having told audiences that Israel is “one subject” that “bitterly divides” students, Ironmonger went on to inform them that:

“The Jewish state of Israel is deeply controversial; accused of wide-ranging human rights abuses against the Palestinian people and provoking anger around the world.”

He of course provided no evidence for that “human rights abuses” smear.

Audiences were later told that: [emphasis added]

“Students’ unions in increasing numbers have been voting to adopt strict anti-Israel policies under the banner of a global movement called BDS – Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. […]

BDS pressures Israel to end the occupation of Arab lands by calling for the boycott of Israeli companies and institutions.”

Obviously the use of such partisan terminology to describe disputed territory is not consistent with supposed BBC editorial standards of impartiality.

That report included two appearances by Sai Eglert who was described on screen as a “student teacher” and portrayed by Ironmonger as “a member of the Palestine Society at SOAS”. Viewers were not told that Eglert – who has appeared in BBC content before – is a BDS supporter and anti-Israel campaigner.

While interviewing a Jewish student about his experiences, Ironmonger appeared to question the existence of antisemitism at some UK universities.

“What’s fueling this antisemitism – if you like – on campus?” [emphasis added]

In addition to the filmed report, Ironmonger also produced a written article which was published on the BBC News website’s UK page on April 27th under the headline “Concerns raised over students’ unions’ anti-Israel stance“.

The portrayal of the BDS campaign in that article was no better. 

“Seventeen student bodies have endorsed the BDS movement – which calls for an international boycott of Israel over the way it treats Palestinians. […]

The BDS – which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – describes itself as a human rights organisation and criticises Israel for its human rights record.

It says it stands for “freedom, justice and equality”, saying it is “inclusive and categorically opposes as a matter of principle all forms of racism” – including anti-Semitism.”

Had audiences been told in the BBC’s own words that the BDS campaign is opposed to Jews having the basic human right to self-determination in their own country and that denial of Israel’s right to exist is considered – including by the UN Secretary General and according to the definition adopted by the UK government – to be a form of antisemitism, they would have been able to put the BDS campaign’s claim to be a non-racist human rights organisation into its correct context.

The subject matter of Jon Ironmonger’s two reports is important and serious. It is therefore all the more regrettable that BBC audiences were not provided with the full range of information critical for proper understanding of this story. 

 

 

BBC Two, BBC News give platforms to extremists

At the beginning of this month the BBC Two programme ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ – billed as “the BBC’s new daily news and current affairs programme” – presented a series of reports by Catrin Nye on the subject of ‘radicals’.Nye film 2

Those filmed reports were also promoted separately on the BBC News website, along with a written article by Nye titled “What should we do about radicals?” in which the filmed reports are again embedded. Interestingly, Catrin Nye’s definition of radicals holding “views that many consider offensive” appears to be limited to the far right and Islamist extremists, with no representation whatsoever from the far left of the political spectrum in any of her reports.

One of those featured in Nye’s series of films is Haitham al Haddad. In the synopsis to the version of the film appearing on the website, al Haddad is described as follows:

“Islamic scholar Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad openly criticises homosexuality. He has been called a bigot, a hate preacher and has had talks at a number of UK universities postponed or cancelled.

“I am just vocal about anything I disagree with. My view about homosexuality is clearly stated in the Koran. If the media had a fair presentation of my views it would just not single out those points,” he says.”

In the film itself Nye also tells viewers that al Haddad believes that “leaving Islam is punishable by death in the right circumstances” and that “Sunni Muslims shouldn’t marry Shias” but fails to mention that, among other things, Haitham al Haddad is also a proponent of female genital mutilation, sees nothing wrong with violence against women and promotes antisemitism and conspiracy theories.Nye film 1

Nye’s challenges to al Haddad (and her other interviewees) are on the whole very tame.

“Do you think you get an unfair deal?”

“Do you think you should be allowed to say everything you say, in public?”

The result is that he and other extremists get a largely unhindered platform from which to present themselves as ‘misunderstood’ and even victims.

The bottom line messaging in this series of reports is that extremist ideas should be weakened through public debate. One can of course debate the merits of that approach in general, including the question of whether there is in fact a debate to be had with people who reject basic democratic principles such as equal rights for women, members of the LGBT community and people of all colour and race.

And one can also ponder the question of whether the BBC, committed as it is by its public purpose remit to “sustaining citizenship and civil society” and with editorial guidelines on impartiality which state that achieving due impartiality does not require “detachment from fundamental democratic principles”, should be obliged to present more robust challenge to views such as those promoted by Haitham al Haddad if it elects to broadcast them on a publicly funded platform.

Related Articles:

The BBC, ‘democratic principles’ and the Jihadist recruiter

Not just about journalism: BBC editorial guidelines and the wider public interest

BBC coverage of UK aid convoy fails to meet editorial guidelines on impartiality