Yom HaAtzmaout

Wishing a very happy holiday to all our readers celebrating Israel’s 71st Independence Day!

 

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Where did BBC News get its Essex University story quotes?

h/t M

Last week two reports relating to the same story appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Essex’ page:

February 21st: “Anti-semitism row in Essex University student society vote

February 22nd: “Anti-Semitism: University of Essex suspends worker amid row

The story was portrayed in the first report as follows:

“More than 200 students have voted against forming a new Jewish society, raising fears of anti-semitism.

The national Union of Jewish Students (UJS) said it was “shocking” there were objections to the new society at the University of Essex’s students union.

Some students said they were against society proposals to “explore zionism” and celebrate the Israeli national day. […]

…some students have said they did not object to the society in principle but to its proposals to promote the Israeli national day and explore Zionism, which they argue are political rather than religious topics.

One student who wished to remain anonymous said: “Unfortunately this manifesto excludes a huge proportion of the Jewish community and implies that all Jews support the Israeli state. Judaism should not be conflated with Israel.””

Omitted from the BBC’s account of the story – but reported by other media outlets including the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Jewish Chronicle – is the involvement of the university’s Amnesty International group in the outcome of the vote. The Jewish Chronicle reported:

“Last night, UJS issued a further statement after it was revealed that one group which had urged students to vote against the establishment of the JSoc was the university’s Amnesty International Society.

“The Jewish Society is seeking ratification in Essex, which is very important for Jewish representation in Essex, as we have not had a Jewish Society in Essex for many years”, the statement from the Amnesty Society said.

“Unfortunately, there is something very problematic and upsetting written in their manifesto. The society has written it will celebrate Israel national day, which is nothing to do with Judaism. It is a day where 700,000 Palestinians were illegally expelled from their homes and ethnically cleansed from historic Palestine.

The group said it was “against this”, adding: “Until the society is politically neutral like every other religious society we will take a stance on this. So we urge you to please vote no until they are politically neutral.”

The statement went on to claim: “We support a Jewish society that represents all Jews no matter where they lie on the political spectrum. Unfortunately this manifesto excludes a huge proportion of the Jewish community and implies that all Jews support the Israeli state. Judaism should not be conflated with Israel, as this is problematic with the rights of all in Palestine.””

Those quotes identified by the Jewish Chronicle as coming from the university’s Amnesty International group statement are remarkably similar to the ones appearing without attribution in the BBC’s report.

While the BBC is usually more than willing to quote and promote the political NGO Amnesty International, in this case it appears to have curiously chosen to erase the organisation’s link to the story.  

Related Articles:

No BBC coverage of Amnesty International’s antisemitism vote

BBC News website buries Oxford University Labour Club story

Big BBC yawn at anti-Israel incidents in UK universities

Guardian op-ed challenges the ‘rigid’ Yom Ha’atzmaut ‘orthdoxy’ that Israel should exist

Cross posted from UK Media Watch

Last week, Israel – and its supporters around the world – marked 70 years of its existence, as the country celebrated Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day. In Israel, it is a day when political differences and arguments are put to one side, as the country joins together to celebrate its achievements, and its very existence. But the Guardian naturally wasn’t going to change course, and published a typically Guardian opinion piece to mark the day.

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Michael Segalov’s opinion piece complains that Yom Haatzmaut does “not leave room for nuance”, and “only creates space for a certain type of Jew,” before reminding us that “Judaism has a long and proud history of dissent and disagreement”. He argues that Jews should follow the idea of seeing “Israel Independence Day as an opportunity for debate.”

Often UK Media Watch focuses on bias and inaccurate reporting.  But, in this case, it falls to us to dismember an incredibly weak opinion article, which surely would not have been published were it not to flatter the opinions of the editors.

The argument that Yom Haatzmaut doesn’t leave room for nuance is simply wrong. One can be right-wing or left-wing, secular or religious, Jewish or non-Jewish, pro-Netanyahu or anti, and basically subscribe to any political ideology under the sun, and celebrate Yom Haatzmaut. This isn’t just theoretical – this is the reality in Israel! Celebrating Yom Haatzmaut simply means you celebrate the existence of a Jewish state of Israel in some form. This is as basic a requirement as possible, and does not in any way preclude what form that state should take.

As often with anti-Israel articles, one sees the warped and convoluted logic when applying this “Israel-speak” to another country. Almost all countries in the world celebrate an Independence Day. The statement that “celebrating Bastille Day leaves no room for nuance, and implies there is only one way to be French,” is just a non starter. Yet such nonsense is seen enlightened when said about Israel.

Segalov’s argument is also profoundly underdeveloped, or frankly non-existent. He quotes, disapprovingly, the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, who said that Zionism is inseparable from Judaism, and counters that we should not make Zionism a part of the Jewish faith. But Judaism is not Mr Segalov’s plaything, and he does not actually present a counter argument himself. His response to the Chief Rabbi is a) that opinion only creates room for one type of Jew, and b) Judaism has a tradition of dissent.

His essential response to “Zionism is inseparable from Judaism” is a) I don’t like that, and b) Judaism allows for multiple lines of argument, even though I haven’t actually provided one.  This is not so much an opinion piece, more an I-don’t-like-their-opinion piece.

And finally, he should call a spade a spade. What is the content of the “debate” Mr Segalov is calling for? If one is calling for a debate on Independence Day, isn’t that a polite way of calling to debate the very existence of the country? One cannot “debate” in the abstract, one must debate something – an argument, a concept, a preposition. Mr Segalov stops short of saying what his proposition is, but leaves little to the imagination. In his mind, the correct way to mark Israel’s independence is to challenge its continued independence.

Here is the final irony of the article. Segalov calls for diversity, room for multiple voices. If only the Guardian had that ability to create space for another voice – for just one day a year, to put aside its qualms, and to join in recognising the tremendous achievements of Israel. Alas, until then, it seems the Guardian’s monotony of gloom and doom about Israel will continue.

Aron White has a BSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of London (Lead College: LSE), and is a graduate of the Jewish Statesmanship Center in Jerusalem. His writings have been published at the Jerusalem Post, JNS, The Daily Caller and the Algemeiner.

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Yom HaAtzmaout

Wishing a very happy holiday to all our readers celebrating Israel’s 69th Independence Day!

In honour of Independence Day, here is a quiz: how many of the twelve places below can you identify? Tell us in the comments below and the answers will appear here after the holiday.

Answers:

1) Ben Gurion’s hut, Kibbutz Sde Boker

2) Mount Tabor

3) Ancient synagogue, Baram

4) Birya Fortress  

5) Gamla

6) Bahai Gardens and Haifa port

7) Arbel Cliffs

8) Ramon Crater

9) Hatzar Kinneret

10) Hula nature reserve

11) Beit Shean national park

12) Birkat Ram, Golan Heights  

 

 

The man who missed Israel’s Declaration of Independence

Our many readers with a keen interest in Israeli history will no doubt enjoy this recent Independence Day programme from the Voice of Israel.VoI interview Zvielli

“VOI’s Gil Hoffman is joined in-studio by Jerusalem Post archivist Alexander Zvielli, who has been working at the newspaper for 70 years. Zvielli recalls his experience on the night in February 1948, when the building of what was then called the “Palestine Post” was bombed by the British – and other stories from the period during which the state of Israel was born.”

Related Articles:

Letter to a BBC Jerusalem correspondent – from 1948

A long history of complaints of BBC distortion by omission