Back in 2002 the journalist Douglas Davis, in an article originally published in the UK’s The Spectator, explained why he had stopped accepting interview requests for BBC TV. It was because “September 11 changed all that”:
Even as the Twin Towers came crashing down, the BBC was rushing in the first of a stream of studio analysts to solemnly intone, one after another, that it was racist to assume that Arabs or even Muslims were responsible. More likely, they chorused, it was the Mossad because such an event “played into Israeli hands.”
Blaming the Mossad for the attack belongs, of course, to the outermost fringe of the loony. But the BBC’s “profound anti-Israel bias,” Davis wrote—which “reaches into virtually every British living room”—had “become ingrained in the BBC’s corporate culture.” To the point that, “wittingly or not, the BBC has become the principal agent for re-infecting British society with the virus of anti-Semitism.”
Over a decade later, has the situation changed? Not much. A year ago Adam Levick, indefatigable proprietor of the Cif Watch site, which monitors “antisemitism and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy in The Guardian,” launched BBC Watch. The BBC’s “coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Levick noted, “is often extremely misleading and egregiously biased.”
While the BBC may not be as virulent and obsessive an attacker of Israel and Jews as The Guardian, it has even greater reach. As Levick points out, “97% of the UK population—and roughly 225 million more people worldwide—watch and listen to BBC broadcasts every week….” And the BBC’s main web portal (bbc.co.uk) gets an Alexa ranking as about the 50th most trafficked site in the world.
“Settlements” worse than mass murder
On the night of March 11, 2011, two Palestinian teenagers snuck into the home of the Fogel family in the Israeli community of Itamar in Samaria (part of the West Bank). They stabbed to death or strangled the parents and three children aged eleven, four, and three months (according to some reports three-month-old Hadas was decapitated).
As HonestReporting noted, while “many media outlets…chose to politicize” the massacre, “the most shocking and callous treatment of the incident was produced by the BBC.” It responded with a story headlined “Israel approves new settler homes.” It “chose not to publish any photos or specific details of the terror incident” even though these were available.
Instead the BBC treated the Itamar attack as a tangential, secondary part of the story. The Fogels, including the children and the infant, were a “Jewish settler family.” Not simply human beings subjected to a horrific attack, they were, rather, politicized unto their appalling deaths.
The BBC claimed the attack had “shocked many Palestinians” but did not mention that Palestinians in Gaza celebrated it and handed out sweets. It strongly implied that Israeli actions—particularly the building of homes—are what produces Palestinian terror and did not inform its readers that the Israeli prime minister had emphasized the role of Palestinian incitement against Israel and Jews, which is all-out and relentless.
The BBC ended its report where it began—on the subject of settlements, asserting that they “are held to be illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.” Reality check: non-Israeli international-law experts Eugene Rostow, Stephen Schwebel, Julius Stone, and others have all affirmed the legality of the settlements.
HonestReporting noted that “the BBC is by no means the only guilty party in creating an environment where Israeli Jews living in West Bank communities are dehumanized to the point that a three-month-old is merely a ‘settler.’” The BBC, however, could not even bring itself to treat the atrocity as a story in its own right. Placing a few hundred thousand Jews—uniquely among all groups in the world—outside the pale of human empathy and moral precepts is a form of antisemitism in which the BBC is seen here leading the pack.
Israel, country without a capital
In July 2012, in the run-up to the Olympic Games in London, it turned out the BBC Sport website was listing the capital city of every competing country—except Israel. The site went so far as to list East Jerusalem as the capital of “Palestine”—even though there is no such thing as a sovereign state of Palestine, and the existing entities, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas-run Gaza, certainly are not sovereign in any part of Jerusalem.
In response the Israeli government sent letters of protest to the BBC. The BBC tried appeasing Israel: it now listed Jerusalem as Israel’s “Seat of Government,” and East Jerusalem as Palestine’s “Intended Seat of Government.”
No good, said Israel. Mark Regev, the prime minister’s spokesman, wrote again to the BBC demanding that Israel, like every other country, be presented as having a capital, not just a “Seat of Government.” Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat issued a press release stating that “irrespective of the BBC’s political agenda, Jerusalem always was, is, and will be the capital of Israel….”
The BBC stuck to the “Seat of Government” moniker. Despite continued criticism, it issued a statement saying:
…Due to an error which was made at the time the information was added onto the website, incorrect details and mistakes appeared on the Israeli and Palestinian team pages. This has since been rectified in line with BBC policy.
The BBC as an impartial broadcaster remains committed to accuracy and we regret if anyone was offended by this.
So 64 years after the establishment of the modern state of Israel, the BBC’s “impartial” and “accurate” view was that Israel lacked that essential attribute of a state, a capital city. Singling out Jews, or the Jewish state, for special discriminatory treatment is known as antisemitism.
Platform for an antisemite
Saxophonist Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel in 1963 and moved to Britain in 1994. He is possibly the most egregious living example of the phenomenon of the “self-hating Jew”—a misnomer since what such people hate is other Jews while tending to laud themselves as heroic dissidents.
Atzmon has claimed that it was Jews who declared war on Hitler rather than the opposite, saying that “I’m not going to say whether it is right or not to burn down a synagogue, I can see that it is a rational act.” He asserted that “we must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously,” and explained that “I’m anti-Jewish, not anti-Jews. I think Jewish ideology is driving our planet into a catastrophe and we must stop.”
In a 2011 review of Atzmon’s book The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics, Alan Dershowitz notes that “hard-core neo-Nazis, racists, anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers…have happily counted Atzmon as one of their own.”
None of this has stopped (in fact, arguably, the opposite) the BBC’s World Service from running a series of interviews with Gilad Atzmon over the past year or so. But as BBC Watch reports, last July the BBC “reached a new low by broadcasting an interview with Atzmon on its Persian Service.” That is, an interview likely to have been seen by millions in Iran, a country known for its “Death to Israel” rallies and sworn repeatedly by its leadership to Israel’s annihilation .
In the interview—done in English with Persian subtitles—Atzmon can be heard telling his Iranian (and Afghan, Uzbek, Tajik, and other) listeners that Israel is a “racially driven expansionist racist state” that has “repeated the Nazi crimes” and “threatens the entire region including Iran.” Iran’s own top leadership of Israel-baiting ayatollahs couldn’t have cooked it up much better.
Some will claim that the BBC’s persistently rough, discriminatory treatment of Israel does not manifest antisemitism but, rather, “criticism.” But the BBC reveals its true face by showcasing Gilad Atzmon to its vast worldwide following.