On 2nd November, the BBC published an article by Fiona Stalker, and ran an accompanying piece on Reporting Scotland. Throughout both pieces, individuals were allowed to make unfounded accusations against pro-Palestine supporters with no attempt by the BBC to acknowledge their political bias, nor verify the claims being made. At best, both pieces were very poorly researched journalism. At worst, the BBC appears content to be used by the Israel lobby to criminalise and prevent peaceful, lawful political protest in Scotland by the use of spurious and defamatory claims. Below is our complaint submitted to the BBC. (to make a complaint visit the BBC website here)   

'We are writing to complain in the strongest terms about an article on your website by Fiona Stalker, and an accompanying piece on Reporting Scotland – both from 2 November 2017. At best, both pieces are very poorly researched journalism and do not disclose the political interests of JHRW and Councillor Greig on the issues related to SPSC’s campaign highlighting the role of Dead Sea Cosmetics in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. At worst, the BBC appears content to be used by the Israel lobby to criminalise and prevent peaceful, lawful political protest in Scotland by the use of spurious and defamatory claims. 

Throughout both pieces, individuals are brought in to make unfounded accusations against pro-Palestine supporters with no acknowledgement of their political bias, nor any attempt to verify the claims being made. The worst instances are detailed below;

Jewish Human Rights Watch

This organisation is quoted extensively in both pieces, including Robert Festenstein.  The piece on Reporting Scotland used footage collected by them – presumably passed on to the BBC by JHRW members. This is problematic for a number of reasons;

  • JHRW is described as “an organisation which was set up to address a claimed rise in anti-Semitism in the UK.” Neither the article or TV piece acknowledged JHRW’s main stated purpose of opposing the international campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), as displayed prominently on their own website - ‘Jewish Human Rights Watch (JHRW) was established in February 2015 to fight the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) through recording and combating their anti-Jewish boycott movement’s action which has fuelled the rise of anti-Semitism.’
  • JHRW is an extreme, hardline pro-Zionist group, which can be clearly seen from even a brief check of their published material and social media posts. Their intimidatory tactics include sending JHRW ‘observers’ wearing chest cameras to pro-Palestine activities. The footage shown by the BBC was collected by a particularly aggressive individual who regularly attends BDS stalls in Aberdeen. This individual has had to be reported twice to the police so far for intrusive filming not only of activists, but also any member of the public who engages with the stall. It is disappointing that the BBC would in effect endorse and legitimise such activity by giving the footage collected by such means national viewing.
  • No acknowledgement was made of the fact that JHRW spokesman Robert Festenstein is a long-time campaigner for Israel, a Times of Israel blogger, was previously a Committee Member of the North West Friends of Israel, and a former vice chair of the Zionist Central Council,whose mission is to promote and defend the democratic state of Israel .

Councillor Martin Greig

Neither the article or TV piece acknowledged that Councillor Greig is a strong supporter of Israel. He is active on Confederation of Friends of Israel (COFIS) social media, and attends local events.

Motion to Aberdeen City Council

In her piece, Fiona Stalker completely misrepresents this motion. The full text of the original motion was;

That this Council;

1.       Condemns unequivocally racism, xenophobia and hate crimes and believes these have no place in this, or any other, country.

2.       Takes pride that Aberdeen is a vibrant, diverse, tolerant and multicultural city in which everyone can contribute to the local community and economy, irrespective of race, religion or social background.

3.       Believes that the best way to promote peace and harmony in the world is to build cultural, academic and economic bridges.

4.       Rejects any attempt to drive individuals, families and legitimate businesses away from Aberdeen on grounds of race, religion or country of origin and condemns any organisation that pursues such a policy.

5.       Commits itself to:

                                 i. continue to work with others to tackle and prevent racism, xenophobia and hate crimes.

                               ii. maintain Aberdeen as a welcoming and friendly international destination.

Councillor Greig commented publically that the motion being taken to Aberdeen City Council (by himself and Councillor Boulton) was targeted at “anti-Israel sentiment”.  Following debate in the Council chamber, Paragraphs 3 and 4 were voted down on the basis that these would indeed attempt to prevent and condemn legitimate boycott activity (the example of South Africa was referred to frequently), but the remaining parts of the motion were unanimously endorsed and passed. The amended motion which passed comprised paragraphs 1,2 and 3 in their entirety. Fiona Stalker’s reporting gave a completely false impression of this, implying that the motion only comprised the text of paragraph 4, and thus the entire motion being overwhelmingly defeated. 

By failing to acknowledge any of the above, both the BBC article and Reporting Scotland piece have provided an uncritical national platform for a politically motivated organisation, JHRW, and individuals to present a completely false narrative.  In addition, the BBC has made unfounded defamatory accusations against campaigners for Palestinian rights and the Aberdeen Councillors who debated and voted on the motion, in opposition to racism in any form and with full consideration of the rights to free speech and to protest. The contribution allowed to Mick Napier of SPSC (provided without having seen the content of the article or TV footage) can in no way be claimed to be addressing this appalling bias.

In light of the issues raised above, we expect from the BBC;

  • An acknowledgement and apology for not disclosing political interests of JHRW and Councillor Greig
  • An acknowledgement and apology for misrepresenting the Aberdeen City Council anti-racist motion
  • An acknowledgement and apology to SPSC for airing the JHRW video'

 

 Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign

The BBC has been criticised for its failures during an episode of the BBC Two “Victoria Derbyshire” show broadcast on 27 April – see article here. The BBC was found to have given a platform to pro-Israel campaigners without making their campaigning role clear.

BBC Scotland reporting is unsurprisingly no better.  A look at a recent article published by journalist Fiona Stalker on November 2nd (Israeli businessman claims anti-Semitic 'hounding' in Scotland) reveals many of the same faults found in the BBC2 broadcast.  These include:

  • Failing to say that Jewish Human Rights Watch, quoted heavily, are a campaigning organisation set up to counter BDS (the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign).Instead Stalker describes the group only as “an organisation which was set up to address a claimed rise in anti-Semitism in the UK”. They have repeatedly shown themselves to be obsessed with progressing “lawfare” against successful BDS campaigns in England and Wales, as well as sending threatening letters to a venue hosting an event celebrating Palestinian culture – see Ben White’s articleIsrael and friends battle the boycott in Britain”.
  • Failing to state that Jewish Human Rights Watch spokesman Robert Festenstein is a long-time campaigner for Israel, Times of Israel blogger, was previously a Committee Member of the North West Friends of Israel, and was (perhaps still is) vice chair of the Zionist Central Council whose mission is to promote and defend the democratic state of Israel.
  • Failing to highlight that Councillor Martin Greig, quoted within the article, is an active supporter of Israel, having attended a Taste of Israel event in Aberdeen in late 2016, posting on the Facebook page The Confederation of the Friends of Israel Scotland, and expressing interest in attending a celebration event marking the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

Scottish PSC will soon be submitting a complaint to the BBC about the coverage (to make a complaint visit the BBC website here).

The BBC’s kowtowing to the Israel lobby in Scotland comes hot on the heels of criticism of Police Scotland from the official police watchdog for potentially infringing on the rights of pro-Palestine campaigners (see full article here).  Previously Freedom of Information requests have revealed friendly and jovial correspondence the Crown Office and pro-Israel activists. 

Attempts to get the BBC on board with shutting down pro-Palestinian activism are just the latest in a long list of tactics deployed by the Israel lobby in Scotland, including legal threats against activists which have not been followed through, and the publishing of photos, names and occupations of individual activists online.

A stand-up's sharp take on the BBC and Palestine

"I’ve been studying Israeli Army Martial Arts. I now know 16 ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back.

"The situation in Palestine seems to be, in essence, apartheid. I grew up with the anti apartheid thing being a huge focus of debate. It really seemed to matter to everybody that other human beings were being treated in that way. We didn’t just talk about it, we did things, I remember boycotts and marches and demos all being held because we couldn’t bear that people were being treated like that."

Frankie Boyle
Obviously, it feels strange to be on the moral high ground but I feel a response is required to the BBC Trust’s cowardly rebuke of my jokes about Palestine.

As always, I heard nothing from the BBC but read in a newspaper that editorial procedures would be tightened further to stop jokes with anything at all to say getting past the censors.

In case you missed it, the jokes in question are:
"People think that the Middle East is very complex but I have an analogy that sums it up quite well. If you imagine that Palestine is a big cake, well…that cake is being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew."

I think the problem here is that the show’s producers will have thought that Israel, an aggressive, terrorist state with a nuclear arsenal was an appropriate target for satire. The Trust’s ruling is essentially a note from their line managers. It says that if you imagine that a state busily going about the destruction of an entire people is fair game, you are mistaken. Israel is out of bounds.
Frankie Boyle:  BBC is craven, cowardly and unimaginative
The BBC refused to broadcast a humanitarian appeal in 2009 to help residents of Gaza rebuild their homes. It’s tragic for such a great institution but it is now cravenly afraid of giving offence and vulnerable to any kind of well drilled lobbying.

I told the jokes on a Radio 4 show called Political Animal. That title seems to promise provocative comedy with a point of view. In practice the BBC wish to deliver the flavour of political comedy with none of the content. The most recent offering I saw was BBC Two’s The Bubble. It looked exactly like a show where funny people sat around and did jokes about the news. Except the thrust of the format was that nobody had read the papers. I can only imagine how the head of the BBC Trust must have looked watching that, grinning like Gordon Brown having his prostrate examined.

The situation in Palestine seems to be, in essence, apartheid. I grew up with the anti apartheid thing being a huge focus of debate. It really seemed to matter to everybody that other human beings were being treated in that way. We didn’t just talk about it, we did things, I remember boycotts and marches and demos all being held because we couldn’t bear that people were being treated like that.

A few years ago I watched a documentary about life in Palestine. There’s a section where a UN dignitary of some kind comes to do a photo opportunity outside a new hospital. The staff know that it communicates nothing of the real desperation of their position, so they trick her into a side ward on her way out. She ends up in a room with a child who the doctors explain is in a critical condition because they don’t have the supplies to keep treating him. She flounders, awkwardly caught in the bleak reality of the room, mouthing platitudes over a dying boy.

The filmmaker asks one of the doctors what they think the stunt will have achieved. He is suddenly angry, perhaps having just felt at first hand something he knew in the abstract. The indifference of the world. ‘She will do nothing,’ he says to the filmmaker. Then he looks into the camera and says, ‘Neither will you’.

I cried at that and promised myself that I would do something. Other than write a few stupid jokes I have not done anything. Neither have you.

Full statement by Frankie Boyle here at chortle.co.uk

BBC Radio 4's  World at One yesterday, Tuesday 28th August, can be heard here for a week after transmission.  The programme covered the verdict which exonerated the Israeli military of any blame for the death of Rachel Corrie, crushed  under an Israeli military bulldozer carrying out one its frequent missions to bulldoze Palestinian homes. 

Regev was never challenged on his claims
On this occasion the BBC have strayed from their frequent dishonesty by omission or weasel words to outright untruth.  A number of Israeli soldiers did not die in any incident related to "what happened that day", i.e. the day of the killing of Rachel Corrie, the subject of the interview.  

You can listen to the original piece and judge for yourself.

 

TIME:
18:32     Slot on the Rachel Corrie verdict starts.

19:00     BBC reporter gives usual 'balanced' report, careful not to suggest Israeli Army has been lying.

20:39     Craig Corrie, Rachel's father presents his case for 2minutes 16 seconds, arguing that the judge was just a  mouthpiece for the Israel Army lawyers.

23:25      Mark Regev is given 3 minutes 14 seconds to claim, unchallenged, that "Israeli courts are known for their independence ...internationally", that "Palestinians know that our courts give justice" and to question whether Rachel Corrie and other supporters of Palestinian rights are "rational" since "the area was a war zone".

25:03     Martha Kearney says to Regev:  "Clearly Rachel Corrie was one of the casualties of what happened that day and I know Israeli soldiers died too."

During the interview, Regev denied that Israeli bulldozers that day were demolishing Palestinian homes, one of several of Regev's lies, unchallenged by Martha Kearney.

Kearney's language on supposed military casualties in Gaza on the day of Rachel Corrie's killing is extremely vague, but is clearly designed to offer help to Regev. Kearney is actually peddling a naked lie here and Regev eagerly accepts the untruth and builds on it. 

Martha Kearney could not know that "Israeli soldiers died too...casualties of what happened that day" because no Israeli soldiers died in Gaza in the three weeks before Rachel Corrie's death on March 16th or in the following five weeks.

A soldier of the occupation forces, Sgt Doron Lev, was killed in Gaza on February 23rd 2003 by a resistance fighter. Cpl. Lior Ziv was killed on April 20th. The exhaustive Israeli archives - http://bit.ly/fyqm - list no other Israeli military fatalities in Gaza between those dates.

An Israeli man, Zachar Rahamin Hanukayev, not then serving in the Iraeli Army, was killed at Karni Industrial Crossing at the opposite end of Gaza from Rafah on April 15th.

The record shows clearly, therefore, that Kearney was spreading disinformation favourable to the Israeli version of events and clouding the story of an unarmed American peace activist.

There were nine Palestinian deaths at Israeli hands the day Rachel Corrie was bulldozed under the ground, including a four year-old girl and a 90 year-old man.  This was covered in the Observer, but barely merited attention from other UK media.  We are used to this treatment of spilt Palestinian blood as water and Israeli blood as precious, but the development from naked bias to shameless lies to help Israel spin the killing of Rachel Corrie is shocking.  Though not surprising to anyone who remembers the BBC refused to even broadcast the humanitarian appeal on behalf of Gaza from British charities.

Mick Napier
Edinburgh 29 August 2012
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BBC Panorama’s John Ware aired a documentary on 30 July 2006 aimed at showing how funds raised by British charity Interpal have helped Hamas.

Subsequent criticisms of Ware have pointed out that the Board of Deputies of British Jews had to settle out of court with Interpal last year after calling them a 'terrorist organisation'. It has to be noted though that Ware was more clever. All he is saying is that Interpal had 'helped build Hamas into the popular movement it is today'. As such, these are still preposterous grounds for a documentary. It is something intangible that nobody could know or prove. Ware consequently had to clutch at various straws to try and construct a case. He also employed some very questionable methods.

Spinwatch August 2006, read more

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The struggle between Israel and the Palestinians is not unique -- whatever the news media may suggest. Lorenzo Veracini argues that the conflict is best understood in terms of colonialism. Like many other societies, Israel is a settler society. Looking in detail at the evolution of other colonial regimes -- apartheid South Africa, French Algeria and Australia -- Veracini presents a thoughtful interpretation of the dynamics of colonialism, offering a clear framework within which to understand the middle east crisis.

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