BBC Radio 4 religious programme does Israeli politics

h/t HG

BBC Radio 4’s weekly programme ‘Sundaypurports to give listeners “a look at the ethical and religious issues of the week”. The lead item in the April 7th edition of that programme (from 01:01 here) had nothing to do with “ethical and religious issues” at all. 

The item relates to a political story taken rather more seriously by the foreign press than the Israeli public which emerged in an April 6th Channel 13 interview with Israel’s prime minister. During that interview Netanyahu was asked why, during his 2015-2019 term of office, he had not annexed Gush Etzion or applied Israeli law to Ma’ale Adumim. Avoiding the word annexation, Netanyahu replied that the topic is under discussion and that he intends to apply Israeli law to Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria during his next (potential) term.

While no such action is likely to happen before the US presents its proposals for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians (if at all, given that Netanyahu has in the past repeatedly scuppered such efforts when advanced by other MKs), Netanyahu’s remarks were presented to BBC audiences as a “vow” to “annex settlements”.

Presenter William Crawley introduced an interviewee who, on the same programme, has in the past shown herself to be less than reliable on Israel related stories. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Crawley: “This Tuesday is election day in Israel and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have advanced his own chances of success with his surprise announcement last night that, if re-elected, he will annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Jordana Miller is a foreign correspondent for ABC News based in Jerusalem. She joins us now. […] Did anyone see this coming?”

Miller: “I can tell you for those of us who’ve been covering Benjamin Netanyahu for years, we knew there was still gonna be something he was gonna offer to voters before Tuesday. We weren’t sure exactly what but here it is. He is now vowing to annex parts of the West Bank which would be a major change in Israeli policy and it would bring, you know, millions of Palestinians under Israeli law which, you know, is a very grey…their status as it is is under a very grey kind of…eh…cloud.”

By the time Miller claimed that what she described as a ‘vow’ to “annex parts of the West Bank” would lead to “millions of Palestinians” being brought under Israeli law, the government minister Israel Katz had already explained to a local radio station that not one Palestinian would be annexed in the event of application of Israeli law to the Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria.

Crawley made no effort to explain to listeners that – despite his interviewee’s assertion – “millions of Palestinians” do not live in the “Jewish settlements” to which he referred in his introduction and he refrained from clarifying that – in contrast to her additional inaccurate claim – the status of the vast majority of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria is not “under a very grey kind of cloud” because they are in fact Palestinian Authority citizens living in Palestinian Authority controlled areas.

Miller went on:  

Miller: “So this would be very complicated and I don’t believe he will actually do it ahm…but this is what he’s doing to kind of rally his base. He is really down in the polls and tied in a few, maybe by one and he needs to really get people to the ballot and that’s – to the ballot box – that’s what he’s doing.”

Crawley: “And I suppose this, from his point of view, might be a helpful distraction from the corruption scandals that have been engulfing him recently.”

Miller: “That’s right. The attorney general announced some weeks ago that he does plan to charge Netanyahu on bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases. But the really interesting thing is that it has seemed to barely register with Israeli voters. They simply don’t seem to care that much. At the top of their list are security concerns. Ah…from the north eh…that border with Syria which they fear Iran is moving into and in the south with the Islamic terror group Hamas and the economy. But the corruption charges really, in polls we’ve seen it comes, you know, in the top ten it comes in the bottom half for voters.”

Crawley did not bother to point out to listeners that – in contrast to the impression given by Miller – the attorney general’s final decision concerning charges against Netanyahu will only be made after pre-indictment hearings which will take place after the election.  

Crawley: “If this annexation did go through on the re-election of prime minister Netanyahu what would that mean for the Middle East peace process?”

Miller: “Well it would just be another severe blow for the Palestinians and they have been dealt many blows over the last…err, you know, almost two years under President Trump. So this would be I think…I think it would cause massive riots across the West Bank and of co… [cut off] harsh condemnations in the Arab world.”

Crawley: “Ahm…how much, Jordana, how much of a role does religious orthodoxy – Jewish religious orthodoxy – play in these kinds of political moves?”

Apparently not comprehending the question, Miller went on to give an account which few listeners would have understood.

Miller: “Well that’s been another fascinating thing about this election. Usually the ultra-orthodox parties hold a lot of power because they are some of the most powerful small parties and anybody who wants to be prime minister has to negotiate with them. But this year one of the traditional ultra-orthodox parties polling very low and what we see instead is the rise of the national religious parties in the middle: people who have broken off to support Israel’s minister of education who’s one of Benjamin Netanyahu’s big rivals. There’s another party called the Identity party headed by a national religious leader who’s advocating for separation of religion and state and who wants to legalise marijuana. So we are seeing a very different religious party or centre coming to the fore and they will have a much greater impact likely on creating more separation between church [sic] and state because they are not part of a kind of isolated ultra-orthodox community. So it’s interesting.”

Obviously the inaccuracies in this item mean that it contributed little to Radio 4 listeners’ understanding of this badly presented and as yet entirely speculative story.

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BBC Radio Ulster audiences hear that ‘Israel should be wiped off the map’

On January 30th the BBC News website published an article that included the BBC’s response to calls from supporters of the anti-Israel BDS campaign to boycott the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.

Notwithstanding the BBC’s statement on the issue, the following day – January 31st – BBC Northern Ireland’s BBC Radio Ulster decided to air a long phone-in item on its ‘Talkback’ programme hosted by William Crawley. Titled “Is the BBC right to take part in Eurovison being held in Tel Aviv, or should the corporation stay away?”, the item included contributions from journalist/activist Eamonn McCann and historian Ruth Dudley Edwards as well as seven callers.

On the hook of the Eurovision Song Contest, listeners heard thirty-eight minutes of mostly unchallenged falsehoods and delegitimisation – often outstanding for their ignorance even by the ‘standards’ of BBC Radio Ulster. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Having informed listeners in his introduction that “Jerusalem is a disputed capital” and after noting the BBC’s statement on the call to boycott May’s event in Tel Aviv, Crawley invited listeners to phone in.

“What do you think? You’re a licence fee payer. Do you think the BBC is right to continue with its role in the Eurovision contest this year or should it boycott the Tel Aviv Eurovision?”

Crawley then asked his guest Eamonn McCann – introduced as a “journalist and former ‘People Before Profit’ MLA [member of the legislative assembly]” and a supporter of “the boycott movement” – to “lay out the case for the boycott first”.

McCann began by promoting a popular but inaccurate myth according to which the BDS campaign was initiated by Palestinians.

McCann: “well the boycott movement – BDS boycott, divestment and sanctions – that was set up in 2005 yes and that was the year after and it was a response to the publication of an opinion of the International Court of Justice about the legality of the apartheid wall – or separation wall as the Israelis call it – and the associated settlement figures. Now the BDS movement arose, endorsed by more than 60 civil society organisations that are from…of Palestinians and a…the actual…its manifesto said that they wanted a boycott of Israel – quote – until it meets its obligations under international law and that was spelled out by the BDS movement at the beginning as ending its occupation and colonisation of Arab lands, recognising the fundamental rights of Arab Palestinian citizens to full equality and respecting protection and promoting the rights of Palestinians to return to their homes. Now that’s the aim of it. It is an entirely peaceful sort of movement. Indeed it was formed because previously we had a sustained violence and nothing else – nothing else. The BDS movement couldn’t stop the violence of the resistance of Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza, but it said here is a non-violent way of engaging international support and trying at last to pressure the Israelis into abandoning what is an apartheid system. That’s what’s happening here: apartheid in the 21st century. And just as we had a boycott of apartheid South Africa, we should now certainly not be presenting Israel as a sort of normal state where light entertainment and progressive thought flourishes. That is to deny – implicitly to deny – the reality under which the Palestinian people live. Therefore boycott it.”

Making no effort to challenge McCann’s repeated ‘apartheid’ smear, to point out that the ICJ opinion has no legal standing or to clarify that ‘Arab lands’ also means Israel and ‘right of return’ means the end of the Jewish state, Crawley went on to quote the BBC’s statement once again before introducing Ruth Dudley Edwards whom he promptly interrupted with the following dubious claim:

Crawley: “This is obviously organised by the European Broadcasting Union and there were some in Israel – not least the prime minister – Prime Minister Netanyahu – who wanted the event to be held in Jerusalem, Ruth. But the European Broadcasting Union determined that it should be held in Tel Aviv. That’s a break with normal tradition. They normally go with a country’s capital and the prime minister said the country’s capital is Jerusalem so isn’t the European Broadcasting Union there making a political decision?”

Even if he does not remember that the 2004 Eurovision was held in Istanbul rather than Turkey’s capital, the 2011 event in Dusseldorf rather than the German capital, the 2013 Eurovision on Malmo rather than Sweden’s capital, the 1972 event in Edinburgh and the 1974 event in Brighton rather than in London, one would at least have thought that Crawley would recall that in 1993 the Eurovision was held in a small Irish town called Millstreet rather than in Dublin.

When Dudley Edwards went on to note that the “BDS movement is being used to help demonise Israel, delegitimise it”, Crawley jumped in:

Crawley: “Why are you bringing up antisemitism?”

After explaining that some of those behind the BDS campaign are driven by antisemitism and that the so-called ‘right of return’ means “the rights of 8 million people who hate Israel to come and live in Israel” because of the hereditary aspect of Palestinian ‘refugee’ status, Dudley Edwards clarified that “the objective is to destroy Israel”.

Crawly quickly brought in McCann at that point, who three times tarred Dudley Edward’s statements as “nonsense”.

McCann: “I mean are we all driven by antisemites? Is there a secret conspiracy here? Is the United Methodist Church in the United States, is the Norwegian Trade Union Federation, is Amnesty International, is Human Rights Watch? […] Incidentally, many of my best friends are anti-Zionist Jews. Many of my best friends are Jews.”

McCann went on to invoke Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Ronnie Kasrils and Joe Slovo.

McCann: “If they say…if Nelson Mandela says that looks like apartheid then I think that he knows a wee bit more about apartheid than either Ruth or myself and I’m gonna take his word for it.”

McCann proceeded to interrupt Ruth Dudley Edwards as she tried to describe the terrorism faced by Israelis and then went on:

McCann: “They’re not dealing with rockets every day of the week. In fact the number of rockets being fired from Gaza or anywhere else is very small – tiny, infinitesimal – compared to the firepower being directed by Israel against the Palestinian people. That is why in terms of deaths […] We can watch on our televisions and actually see heavily armed members of the Israeli Defence Forces shooting – aiming and shooting down – and shooting in the back young Palestinians. Some of them might be carrying stones – it’s all they have – and sling shots like David had to use against Goliath. That’s what you see now.”

Crawley made no effort to inform listeners that the “infinitesimal” number of rockets and mortars launched from Gaza at Israeli civilians in 2018 was one thousand or that “stones” are obviously by no means “all they have” seeing as hundreds of attacks with IEDs, grenades and firearms have been carried out in the past year alone. Neither did Crawley react when Mc Cann went on to claim that “there’s slaughter going on there” before once again invoking the political NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

During the phone-in part of the item listeners heard from seven callers – all male – three of whom were against boycotting the Eurovision and four in favour. Many of the lies and distortions promoted by those callers went unchallenged.

Caller 2: “Israel used white phosphorus on civilians – children, men, women. Journalists – kills journalists on a regular basis. It destroys olive trees. Takes land off people, you know, it murders people, children. How can anyone in their right kind of mind accept anything that Israel does? Israel should be wiped off the map and the land should be given back to the Palestinians. […] They should be…their power should be taken off them and it should be returned to the Palestinian people and they should all live in peace together in one area. […] The power and the government and the structure should be returned back to the Palestinians.”

Crawley made no effort to clarify to listeners that “the Palestinians” never had an independent state with “power and the government and the structure”. Neither did he bother to inform his audience – and his caller – that denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination is considered antisemitism according to the IHRA definition that is used by the British government.

Listeners also heard from McCann on the topic of Israel’s existence.

McCann: “I don’t accept its right to exist as it’s presently constituted. Israel is a settler state.”

They also heard him opine on the rights of the LGBT community in Israel.

Crawley: “Would you also accept that LGBT rights are more protected in Israel than any other country in that region?”

McCann: “Yes [….] but let’s get this clear…the fact that a great number of LGBT in Israel are anti-Palestinian. We mustn’t allow the fact that…if you’re LGBT you’re entitled to your freedom, you’re entitled to your liberation and your equality. You are not entitled just because you’re LGBT or anything else, you are not entitled to support and to endorse and to implement an apartheid regime against the Palestinian people. Nothing gives you that right.”

Caller 4 also promoted the lie that “Israel is an apartheid state” with no challenge from Crawley, as did caller 5.

Caller 5: “Israel is an apartheid state – much more even than South Africa. […] What happened in Israel shouldn’t be happening. All those people were moved off their land over the last 60 – 70 years. 100 years ago there was Jewish people living in what is now Israel, living then in peace and it’s only when they became, I suppose, a force that they then started moving in on Palestinian villages. […] Israel should be ostracised worldwide…as long as Israel is doing what they’re doing – slaughtering the people.”

While the level of most of the ‘discussion’ heard in this programme is frankly jaw-dropping, it is acutely obvious that its presenter – despite the BBC’s public purpose obligation to educate and inform – was perfectly content to let historical and current affairs related inaccuracies go unchallenged along with the repeated falsehoods – and in particular the ‘apartheid’ smear – that were clearly intended to delegitimise Israel and curry support for the BDS campaign.

And so, not for the first time ,we see that unfettered defamation, demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel – along with promotion of the antisemitic denial of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination – gets a free pass on BBC Northern Ireland radio stations.

Related Articles:

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BBC Radio Ulster promotes ‘Zionism is racism’ and the ‘apartheid’ smear

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Resources:

BBC Radio Ulster contact details

‘Talkback’ contact details

 

 

 

BBC Radio Ulster promotes ‘Zionism is racism’ and the ‘apartheid’ smear

h/t B

On July 16th, at an event in Paris marking the 75th anniversary of the deportation of French Jews to Auschwitz, the French president Emmanuel Macron said:

“We will never surrender to the messages of hate; we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism.” 

Macron’s statement is of course in accord with the US State department’s definition of antisemitism and in step with the IHRA working definition of antisemitism that was adopted in recent months by the British government and the EU parliament. The IHRA definition includes the following in its possible manifestations of antisemitism:

 “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.”

And:

“Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

As was noted here at the time, BBC News website coverage of the ceremony made no mention whatsoever of the French president’s recognition of anti-Zionism as a manifestation of antisemitism.

However, two days later – on July 18th – BBC Radio Ulster’s daily phone-in show ‘Talkback‘ ran a 35 minute long programme with a title that signaled its tone:

“We debate the very controversial claim by the French president that anti-Zionism is simply another form of anti-Semitism” [emphasis added]

Presented by William Crawley, the programme’s studio guests were Unitarian minister Chris Hudson and Fiona Ferguson from the ‘People Before Profit Alliance’: a very small Irish Trotskyist political party which includes the following in its manifesto:

“We support the Palestinian struggle for liberation against Zionist occupation and oppression and back the international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Apartheid Israel.”

That relevant information was not communicated to listeners.

In addition, listeners heard the opinions of four callers – all of whom presented negative views of Israel.

The programme began with an introduction from Crawley:

Crawley: “At what point do you think a criticism of the State of Israel turns into antisemitism? Given the many centuries of abuse the Jewish people have experienced, particularly in Europe, the allegation of antisemitism is a very serious one. We often hear activists and campaigners pushing back against that allegation. There is a world of difference, they say, between being an anti-Zionist and being antisemitic.  That’s a distinction the French president Emmanuel Macron clearly doesn’t accept. He told the prime minister of Israel that France will never surrender to anti-Zionism because it is – and I quote – ‘a reinvention of antisemitism’. The French president’s words have travelled quickly around the world. Yesterday Senator Chuck Schumer who leads the Democrats in the US Senate applauded him for his comments.”

Listeners then head a recording of Senator Schumer speaking, which included the clearest presentation of the issue under discussion in the entire programme.

Schumer: “The idea that all other peoples can seek and defend their right to determination but the Jewish people cannot; that other nations have a right to exist but the Jewish State of Israel does not – that too is a modern form of antisemitism.”

Crawley continued, ignoring BBC style guide instructions on the use of the term ‘Palestine’:

“…in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.”

Crawley: “We know that the politics of Israel and Palestine is extremely contentious here with many active in campaigns on both sides of the debate. In a moment we will debate ourselves whether the French president is right to see no distinction whatsoever – no difference – between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. But first let’s try to understand the central tenets – the central ideas – at the heart of Zionism.”

Crawley then brought in a person he repeatedly addressed as ‘Yoel’ but who is in fact Yoav Peled. Not surprisingly, when Crawley asked “what is Zionism?” Peled’s answer included a strawman definition that is not adopted by Zionists.

Peled: “There is no one clear definition. If you define Zionism as support for whatever the Israeli government does, that’s one thing. And if you’re against that then certainly this is nothing to do with antisemitism. If you say that Zionism is recognizing the right of Jews to have a state of their own in that particular part of the Middle East, then the question is, is it justified given the fact that it came at the expense of the Palestinians? And there is a debate about that and I think it’s a legitimate political debate and neither side is necessarily racist against the other.”

Crawley’s conversation with Peled continued, touching on the history of Zionism, its ‘leaders’ and Jewish opponents to it. Crucially though, the ostensibly neutral academic brought in to explain “the central tenets” of Zionism and provide what Crawley termed “historical backdrop” did so from one very clear side of the political spectrum.

Crawley’s studio guests were then brought into the conversation with no particular surprises in their positions. However, listeners did hear a series of mostly inadequately challenged allegations about Israel and Zionism that are worthy of note – including repeated promotion of the ‘Zionism is racism’ canard and the ‘apartheid’ smear. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

07:43 – Ferguson: “For me Zionism is ahm….it’s ahm… […] it’s an exclusionary right-wing ideology. It’s political and it oppresses or opposes those that don’t come from a Jewish background. It’s racist and it has led to… […] it’s racist and it has led to appalling treatment of Palestinians and so anti-Zionism is the opposition to that. […] Opposition to a racist state and opposition to the racism of Semitism [sic] are what are synonymous here – not anti-Zionism.”

08:37 – Ferguson: “…there are two ways that we can interpret Zionism, the first one being that one set of people have a divine right to an area of land over others and should be able to take that back regardless of the detriment or the persecution of the people who live there. That is wrong, I think. Second […] it’s full support for the Israeli state. I think that the Israeli state is racist. I think that it’s an apartheid state and therefore I think that even the second definition is wrong.”

12:20 – Ferguson: “I think that it is the State of Israel which is racist in this case. […] I think that if one group of peoples is being given a divine right to exist over another and despite […] the detriment that it causes to the other, then yes; that is racist.”

15:41 – Ferguson: “To oppose the racist record of a state cannot in itself be racist. That’s an oxymoron. Israel has carried out some of the worst human rights atrocities that we have seen in history but most notably in the last ten years, thousands of people within the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been murdered.  Their homes have been bulldozed. Notably, Rachel Corrie – an American activist – was trapped and murdered and crushed under the bulldozer operated by an Israeli official who was destroying the home of a Palestinian – which they do systematically in order….”

Corrie’s death was of course an accident and the Ferguson’s claim that the bulldozer was “destroying the home of a Palestinian” is contradicted by the findings of the court that ruled on the case. William Crawley did not however bother to inform listeners of those facts.

18:02 – Connor (caller): “I have been in Palestine. I have been in the West Bank. I have been in Ramallah, Jericho. I’ve seen first-hand the disgusting treatment of the Palestinians. […] It is apartheid; the only apartheid and everyone knows this. […] It’s [Israel] completely ignoring the right of those of the Palestinian Jews [sic].”

19:26 – Connor (caller): “The Palestinians have been there for generation after generation. The Law of Return in Israel allows any Jew in the world to go and live in Israel and occupy land belonging to Palestinians […] occupy land, throw people out of their homes. I’ve seen this first-hand. I’ve seen bulldozers. I’ve seen families getting put out of their home to accommodate settlers from foreign countries who are being put….and they’re being paid £14,000 a year by the Israeli state to occupy and take over territory…”

Those blatant falsehoods were not challenged.

21:34: Hudson: “When I opposed apartheid in South Africa I didn’t call for the destruction of the South African state. […]

Crawley: “Did you call for the destruction of white domination?”

Hudson: “Absolutely.”

Crawley: “That by analogy is what Fiona is saying. She’s not calling for the destruction of Israel but she is calling for the dismantling of a power system that prejudices in favour of Jews.”

Listeners heard falsehoods concerning the rights of Arab Israelis that the presenter was clearly unable to correct because he is insufficiently informed.

22:10: Crawley: “So every Palestinian living in Israel is allowed to vote?”

Hudson: “To my knowledge they are, yes.”

Ferguson: “They’re not. There are two judiciary systems as well so depending whether you’re a Palestinian or a Jew, you’re treated by the law differently.”

Husdon: “You’re talking about Israeli Arabs?”

Ferguson: “Well exactly. That’s exactly the point, isn’t it, because there are full citizens who are Palestinians living within the State of Israel who are under a different judicial system. That’s apartheid.”

Crawley: “Are they allowed to vote on equal terms?”

Feruguson: “It depends. They’re…apparently they are. What you’ll hear is that they are and what the State of Israel will tell you that they are but actually in reality it doesn’t happen. It’s just something that is…ehm….the system is either fiddled with in a way…”

Those inaccurate allegations clearly materially misled listeners and were even later repeated.

24:15 – Ferguson: “But if we’re talking about the existence of the political structures as we referred to earlier of Israel, which are racist, which are prejudiced, which are apartheid – and by the way, Chris, you’re one of a minority nowadays that doesn’t accept it is apartheid. Desmond Tutu who, let’s be honest, has more experience on this topic than either of us […] calls it apartheid. The UN in a report at the end of last year has accepted that Israel is an apartheid state. Should an apartheid state in itself – the structures of the state – be allowed to exist? Of course not.”

25:05 – Crawley: “You accept the right of the State of Israel to exist as a democracy?”

Ferguson: “But the State of Israel is not a democracy.”

Crawley:[…] But do you accept the right of this state to exist as a democracy?”

Ferguson: “I don’t see how that can be answered because a) Israel is not a democracy as it is and b)…no, of course it’s not a democracy…I mean people…it’s not a democracy. Can I explain why it is not a democracy? Because there are two judicial systems for different people who live within there. There are 1.7 million Palestinians who live within Israel who are not afforded the same rights as Israelis. It’s not a democratic state.”

26:04 – Kaitlin (caller): “This thing about Israel being a democratic state. You know, that phrase is trotted out and it’s rarely questioned […]. I just want to give you two examples in which Israel is not a democratic state. One are the thousands of Palestinians including men, women and children, who are imprisoned without trial – effectively interned and left to rot in jail for years and many of them having been tortured by the way. The second example is the West Bank. Now Israel has complete control over the West Bank and yet the people there, who live effectively under military occupation, don’t have any vote. They have no right to vote for the parliament – the Jewish parliament – which actually controls their lives.”

Notably Crawly made no attempt to clarify the context of terrorism in relation to administrative detention or to inform listeners that Palestinians living under PA rule in Areas A and B vote for their own legislative council. Neither did he clarify that the Israeli Knesset is not “Jewish”.

28:14 – Michael (caller): “I was in Israel in 1985. […] I also experienced teenage soldiers – Israeli soldiers – bullying elderly men who were coming from the very north end of the country through the blazing sun to work in the south and making them sit in the sun for 3 or 4 hours extra at a checkpoint for no reason. And I noticed this. That’s just bullying.”

Crawley: “So what you’ve got, you’ve got evidence in your mind of bullying, intimidation, inappropriate behavior by Israeli forces.”

32:06 – Crawley: “But there are those on the other side […] who say it’s a manufactured majority because the right of return is not being granted to Palestinians and if it was, you would no longer have a Jewish majority in the State of Israel. So it’s a manufactured majority – that’s the allegation.”

33:24 – Ferguson: “I just want to pick up on the last comment […] about the displacement of 6.5 million Jews – sorry: of Palestinians – and their right to return. It wasn’t just something that happened and is now something that we get over and can swipe under the carpet. These Palestinians still do not have the right to return to that area of land. Never mind that Jewish people – regardless of where they came from, regardless of their background – are welcomed, encouraged to come along and often – as Connor rightly said, our caller – given subsidies to do so and allowed to buy land. Palestinians are not allowed to do so. The treatment of one peoples above another in that way is racist and I believe the State of Israel is apartheid as a result of that.”

The false claim of “6.5 million” displaced Palestinians was not challenged.

The editorial decisions behind the making of a programme with this subject matter by a regional BBC station are of course worthy of discussion. The fact that listeners were materially misled because the presenter was insufficiently informed to be able to effectively challenge inaccurate claims and falsehoods from an unbalanced field of contributors is obvious. The fact that the programme’s producers clearly had no qualms about facilitating the non-stop promotion of delegitimisation of Israel by means of politically motivated smears and falsehoods should be a serious cause for concern.

However, this programme did fulfil one useful function: it – albeit inadvertently – proved the point made by the French president.

Resources:

BBC Radio Ulster contact details

‘Talkback’ contact details   

 

 

 

 

 

BBC R4’s ‘Sunday’ talks the talk on antisemitism

The Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism, John Mann MP, was a guest on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday’ on August 9th. The item (available here from 05:21) was introduced by host William Crawley as follows:Sunday John Mann

WC: “Last week it was reported that the number of incidents of antisemitism in the UK is on the rise and a common analysis of that spike in anti-Jewish prejudice is the inability or unwillingness of some people to distinguish between the religion of Judaism and the politics of the state of Israel. But antisemitism has a longer history than comparatively recent disputes about the place of the Jewish state in the Middle East and that long history is surveyed in a new book – ‘Antisemitism: The Oldest Hatred’. Its author is the Labour MP John Mann who for the past ten years has chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.”

Listeners familiar with the BBC’s response to complaints concerning a reporter who, back in January, displayed precisely such “inability or unwillingness […] to distinguish between the religion of Judaism and the politics of the state of Israel” might have found Crawley’s detached description jarring.

Following John Mann’s explanation of why he wrote the book, Crawley came in again:

WC: “It’s complex sometimes because of the language and you point this out in the book: that sometimes people use language that covers…as a cover story…for antisemitism and it can be subtle; it can be difficult sometimes to recognize. Let’s explore that a bit, can we? Where do you see subtle forms of antisemitism today?” […]

JM: “The ways it creeps in that are distinctive and unusual are because of some of the caricatures of successful Jewish people. So concepts of wealth, of ownership – for example ownership of the media, ownership of business, control of countries – and not least the United States. That comes in a lot and it allows people – sometimes deliberately, more often, more ignorantly – to cross the border of what’s acceptable in terms of discourse […] and it’s this concept that the powerful Jew, the wealthy Jew, is used a lot. One example of how that is almost in the mainstream now: in the Baltics this is the imagery that’s there – similar to the imagery used by Goebbels and the Nazis – which is of this Jewish businessman-type figure, wealthy, controlling; a hidden influence who is malevolently affecting the future of society. That is used in the mainstream in the Baltics […] and to be honest, that’s quite extraordinary for part of the European Union.”

It is of course also quite extraordinary for the UK’s public broadcaster – but nevertheless, precisely such imagery was promoted in a BBC television programme on November 8th last year and the BBC failed to respond appropriately. Moreover, promotion of the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope and claims of Jewish and/or Israeli control of the United States have been documented on numerous occasions on these pages – see for example here, here, here, here and here.

Towards the end of the item, Crawley asks John Mann “how best to challenge the normalization of that kind of prejudice?” and the reply includes the following:

JM: “…you deal with your own backyard first. You deal with those in your own local community; you deal with those in your own workplace. In politics you deal with those in your own political party.”

Until the BBC begins to ‘walk the walk’ by seriously and frankly addressing its own issues concerning the mainstreaming of antisemitic discourse in its content and on its discussion boards, items such as this one can obviously only be viewed as cynical and opportunistic lip service to a very serious topic.

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Report of All-Party inquiry into Antisemitism adduces BBC content

Religion, political narrative and BBC Radio 4’s ‘Sunday’

On November 23rd the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday’ – which claims to address “the religious and ethical news of the week” – included an item (available from 36:45 here) presented in its synopsis as follows:Sunday 23 11

“In the aftermath of the attack on a synagogue in West Jerusalem, some politicians have warned against the Israeli-Palestinian conflict developing into a ‘religious war’. This week’s presenter William Crawley examines the latest wave of violence in the region. We also hear from Cardinal Vincent Nichols who has spent the last week on pilgrimage in the Holy Land.”

William Crawley introduced the item thus:

“On Tuesday two young Palestinian men armed with a gun, knives and meat cleavers went on a killing spree in a Jerusalem synagogue, leaving four rabbis and a police officer dead in their wake. Murder and brutality are tragically commonplace in the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and atrocities have been committed by both sides. But the unavoidable conclusion to be drawn about Tuesday’s attack, in the judgment of the Israeli Justice Minister, is that this conflict over land rights and political identity is now poised to become a full-blown religious war. We’ll explore that claim in a moment.”

After a conversation with Cardinal Vincent Nichols in which the professed subject matter was not ‘explored’, Crawley (at 40:34) moves on to his next guest.

“The Cambridge University historian Dr Wendy Pullan is the author of ‘The Struggle for Jerusalem’s Holy Places’. Wendy – good morning to you.”

Dr Pullan’s title could have more accurately been presented to listeners as “Senior Lecturer in the History and Philosophy of Architecture“. Significantly, she is also the “principal investigator” at “Conflict in Cities and the Contested State” (a body funded by the ESRC) which, despite its broad title, focuses its attentions mainly upon two cities: Jerusalem and Belfast. Past readers of the Guardian may be familiar with the Israel-related political opinions of Wendy Pullan’s “Conflict in Cities” colleague Mick Dumper and Dr Pullan is apparently also not averse to co-opting the halo of ‘impartial’ academia in order to promote a political narrative, as can be seen in her signed support for the BDS campaign at her university and, for example, her erroneous claim in an article published at ‘Open Democracy’ in 2013 that Israeli construction in the area known as E1 near Ma’ale Adumim “would cut the West Bank in two”. That inaccurate claim was also repeated in a paper presented by Pullan in Ankara in May 2014 within the framework of the UN’s “International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”, in which the anti-terrorist fence constructed to curb suicide bombings and thus save Israeli lives was described by Pullan in the following words:

“In recent years the world has been transfixed by the extent and audacity of the separation barrier (wall). While not to diminish the extent of the human misery the wall has caused the Palestinians, it is worth noting that this structure is only part of a much larger system that keeps the occupation in place, resulting from harsh closure policies that have cut off Palestinian Jerusalem from its natural hinterland in the West Bank. Effectively, the wall is a very visible ‘tip of the ice-berg’. Although the introduction of an eight-metre high wall that separates mostly Palestinians from Palestinians is a shocking spectacle repeatedly used in the media, we know from Berlin that walls can come down.” [emphasis added]

The conversation which took place in the Radio 4 programme is therefore best taken in the context of Wendy Pullan’s obvious political motivations. They, however, were not revealed to the programme’s listeners – in breach of BBC Editorial Guidelines on impartiality.

Crawley: “Let’s go to this claim of a developing religious war; to what extent to you buy into that analysis?”

Pullan: “Ahm…I don’t buy into it in the way it’s being portrayed by the various political leaders and then picked up by the press. I think that religion has played a role in this conflict for many decades but its role is not particularly new at this point.”

Crawley: How do we separate out a conflict with religious dimensions from a religious war? What’s the definition of that?”

Pullan: “Ahm…I think that the many different aspects to this conflict that have a lot to do with national identity and a very prolonged occupation and that these will always figure in the conflict itself. It’s over land, it’s over rights, it’s over identity. Now religion obviously has a role in all of that but I don’t think it’s the only role. Whereas a religious war will normally be fighting only in the name of religion; where all of the other aspects just fall by the wayside.”

Crawley: “So you’re calming down the rhetoric but let’s come to Jerusalem – a city you know very well; you lived there yourself for thirteen years. That city is so key to the peace process at this point. Why is it always such a sticking point?”

Pullan: “Well it’s a sticking point because it’s coveted by many different groups of people. And the…in a lot of ways the occupation comes to a head there. Jerusalem is highly symbolic. I mean when I say this isn’t a religious war, it doesn’t mean that religion is unimportant. It is the centre for three major monotheistic faiths. So it’s the natural place to play out the conflict. On the other hand, it’s coveted as a capital for both the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

Crawley: “And the fact that it has so many sacred sites is significant because sacred sites don’t cease to be sacred for future generations.”

Pullan: “No, the sacred sites…once a sacred site is numinous it usually continues to be numinous and certainly the area that the Jews know as Temple Mount and the Muslims know as Haram al Sharif is an area that’s gone back and forth in different hands and so on. But it’s remained holy, although this has been manifested in different sorts of ways.”

Crawley: “Very briefly, Wendy, what do you think it would take to calm down some of these tensions at the minute?”

Pullan: “Ahm…I think it needs political savvy and sensitivity. I mean one of the things that we find over the years in Jerusalem is that political expression for a long time was not tolerated. Religious expression was.”

The conversation ends there, but obviously the take away message for audiences is that there is no need to worry about a religious war in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict. That clearly erroneous conclusion ignores both history and current events, as Dr Jonathan Spyer noted in a recent article well worth reading in full.SONY DSC

“An oft-repeated sentiment currently doing the rounds in discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is that it is imperative that the conflict not become a “religious” one. This sentiment, guaranteed to set heads nodding in polite, liberal company, stands out even within the very crowded and competitive field of ridiculous expressions of historical ignorance found in discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

This sentiment is connected to the recent wave of terror attacks in Jerusalem, which are the result of Palestinian claims that Israel is seeking to alter the “status quo” at the Temple Mount. As this theory goes, up until now this conflict had mainly been about competing claims of land ownership and sovereignty, but it is now in danger of becoming about “religion,” and hence turning even more intractable. So this must be prevented.
In objective reality, the conflict between Jews and Arab Muslims over the land area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea has been, from its very outset, inseparable from “religion”.”

So why did a religious affairs programme on BBC Radio 4 seek to brush aside the veteran religious component in the Arab-Israeli conflict? Well, clearly one answer to that may be that the promotion of a ‘black and white’ political narrative of the kind advanced by Dr Pullan and her colleagues becomes significantly more complicated if Western audiences are informed of the conflict’s religious dimensions. 

A strange concept of balance at BBC Radio Ulster

Last week we wrote about the BBC Radio Ulster ‘Sunday Sequence’ programme of May 19th 2013 in which Mairead Maguire was given free rein to promote Assad regime propaganda and antisemitic tropes. 

At least one member of the public who wrote to presenter William Crawley following that broadcast was told by him that ‘balance’ to that particular interview would come in the form of another one with Professor Richard Landes a week later on May 26th and in his introduction to that interview, Crawley makes the same claim.

“You’ll remember last week we interviewed the Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire regarding in particular Syria, but also wider issues in the Middle East. During that interview she spoke about the alleged role of Israel, blaming it and its supporters for contributing to a great deal of the strife in the region. We said we’d focus this week on the other side of that argument where attention is on whether or not the West should be and should have been tougher on the rise of radical fundamentalist regimes which are bitterly opposed to Israel.”

Sunday Sequence 26 5

The interview with Professor Landes can be heard here for a limited period of time and it is also worth listening to the interview immediately following it with Dr Simon Waldman of King’s College London.

However, as interesting as these two interviews are – and even presuming that those listeners who heard Mairead Maguire bothered to tune in again a whole week later to hear “the other side” – they do absolutely nothing to counter the torrent of misinformation and hate speech which Maguire was allowed to promote from a BBC platform. 

Move over Galloway: BBC Radio Ulster airs pro-Assad & anti-Israel propaganda

h/t IM

When George Galloway promotes Assad regime propaganda on Iran’s Press TV or the Iranian/Syrian funded Beirut-based Al Mayadeen TV, most of us are probably not in the least bit surprised that media outlets beholden to totalitarian regimes make no effort whatsoever to conceal their conscripted status.

However, we reassure ourselves that such blatant and unabashed amplification of the baseless lies and propaganda of a vicious dictatorship could not happen in Western countries where reliable and reputable broadcasters operate according to clearly defined editorial standards. Or could it?

We recently witnessed one instance in which the BBC ran a headline (later amended) composed of pure, unadulterated Assad propaganda.  On Sunday, May 19th 2013 BBC Radio Ulster’s ‘Sunday Sequence’ programme – which claims to “explore the week’s religious and ethical news and examine the key debates from the worlds of culture and ideas” with host William Crawley – permitted a long segment of the show to be devoted to running interference for the Assad regime, together with the promotion of anti-Israel conspiracies and tropes of an antisemitic nature. 

Sunday Sequence

The programme’s guest who was provided with a BBC platform from which to engage in that diatribe was prolific anti-Israel campaigner, Vanunu fan, Global March to Jerusalem supporter, ‘Russell Tribunal on Palestine’ “jury” member and former flotilla passenger Mairead Maguire. Host William Crawley – apparently rather over-awed by her status as a 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner – refrained from informing listeners about Maguire’s rich history of anti-Israel activity before allowing her to launch into her largely unhindered propaganda rant.

The programme can be heard here for a limited period of time, with the relevant segment commencing at 08:04. Not far into the broadcast we already hear Maguire state:

“No – Assad is not murdering his own people.”

That is followed at 11:19 by Maguire’s ‘explanation’ of the ‘reasons’ behind potential Western intervention in the Syrian civil war.

“And do you know what the agenda is? The agenda is Israeli security. The agenda is taking over Syria so they can destroy Iran and then we move from Iran to North Korea.”

But Maguire really gets into her stride from 18:10 onwards when Crawley asks: 

“Why do you think – why do you believe – the Syrian crisis is really about Israel?”

MM: “The President of Syria took a very strong stand against the Iraqi war. The President of Syria has taken a very strong stand in defence of the rights of the Palestinian people. He has not bowed down or cowed down to the Israeli and the American agenda. So in that situation he runs the risk of being someone outside who’s not doing as he’s told.”

Of course neither Maguire nor Crawley bother to inform listeners that the Assad dynasty’s supposed “defence of the rights of the Palestinian people” has never extended to Palestinians living in Syria

“Between 70 and 90 thousand refugees arrived in Syria, the majority from Tzfat, Haifa, Tiberias and Acco. In 1954 they were awarded partial rights, which did not include political rights. Until 1968 they were forbidden to hold property. Syrian law allows any Arab to obtain Syrian citizenship as long as his permanent residence is in Syria and he is capable of supporting himself economically. But the Palestinians are the only ones excluded from the terms this law. Even if they are permanent residents and affluent, the law prevents them from receiving citizenship. 

Only thirty percent of those still considered for some reason ‘Palestinian refugees in Syria’ live in refugee camps. In fact, they should have been considered as Syrians from all points of view a long time ago. They were part of the Arab national identity, they are linked by family connections, they should have been integrated into economic life. Yet despite this, as a result of political brain-washing, they remain in Syria as a foreign body, dreaming endlessly of ‘the right of return’, and beaten by their inferior situation. Most of them are at the bottom of the career ladder, in service industries (41%) and construction (27%). But there is nothing like the field of education to clarify their situation. 23% do not even get to elementary school and 3% only get academic education.”

At 19:28 Maguire goes on to say: 

“Somebody has to say to the Americans and to the Israelis you need to make peace out here or you’re going to destroy the whole Middle East and that will affect the whole world. Israel doesn’t want peace. I’ve been many, many times to Israel and Palestine – they don’t want peace.  They have chosen land. And as long as Israel chooses land, then it will continue to cause a slow genocide of the Palestinian people, stealing their land. And America says nothing because America’s afraid of Israel and President Obama is afraid of the Israeli [sic] vote in America because it is powerful. But America has to take a stand. It’s funded to the tune of millions of pounds – the militarization of Israel. And Israel with its nuclear weapons is the greatest threat in the Middle East.”

That barrage of downright lies, factual inaccuracies, defamations and antisemitic tropes is met with a tepid “there are two sides to this story, aren’t there?” reaction from Crawley, but he makes no effort to correct the erroneous impressions audiences have already received from Maguire. At 20:34 Maguire claims:

“Well you see when we were in Syria, Israel attacked Syria. Two planes over Syria. 

Crawley interjects:

“Because of concerns about chemical weapons.”

MM: “No – because it wants to control…”

WC: “But that is their explanation.”

MM: “But I mean this idea that there are chemical weapons – the Syrian government, immediately this myth was put out – immediately wrote to the UN and said send in anybody you want because we can prove we don’t have chemical weapons. And the UN never even answered their letters. But that kind of thing has sort of slowed down now because they knew it was disinformation to destroy Syria.”

The Syrian regime has of course refused entry to UN weapons inspectors and the existence of its chemical weapons stockpiles is common knowledge, but Maguire’s lies go uncorrected by Crawley, who instead poses a question which one seriously doubts he would ask in relation to any other country:

“Do you believe that Israel has a right to exist?” 

Maguire’s presumably unintentionally clichéd reply to that is:

“I totally believe that Israel has the right to exist and I love my Jewish friends. I have very many Jewish friends. But I totally oppose the policies being carried out by Israel. Israel has not the right to attack other countries and feel that it will not be held accountable under international law.”

The programme continues with what is presumably supposed to be a ‘balancing’ phone interview with Professor Beverly Milton-Edwards, which will do little to correct the perverted impressions listeners have already received from Maguire – not least because of its dismal sound quality and the fact that it lasts far less than half the time which she was allocated.

The Assad regime and its Iranian backers will no doubt be very impressed with the latest BBC voluntary contribution to the cause of spreading classic Syrian dictatorship propaganda – although the MP for Bradford West might be somewhat put out at no longer being the only star of the Assad makeover show. Real journalists – particularly publicly funded ones bound by standards of accuracy and impartiality – should, however, know better.