There is something deeply and painfully ironic about the BBC having to run news items reporting the rise in antisemitism in the UK prompted – as it explains with an air of innocence – by”the current conflict in the Mid-East.”
Antisemitic hate-crime is up by a staggering 1,350 percent according to the Metropolitan Police, Jewish schools have closed or increased security, Jewish people are moving mezzuzzot from their front doors. Along with overt Jew-hate hate and what the Home Secretary Suella Braverman calls “Hate marches” at which Jihadis call for the death of Jews, we have been aware – in the days since 1,300 Israeli civilians were cold-bloodedly slaughtered by Hamas terrorists, and some 200-plus Israeli citizens were abducted – that many otherwise decent, liberal (small ‘L’) Britons were indifferent to Israel’s trauma and to the cold-blooded slaughter and mutilation of babies, young mothers, the elderly and teenagers attending a Glastonbury-style music festival.
And not only indifferent. Even if we ignore the Usual Suspects – the racists, bigots and trolls spewing Jew-hate – we are left with a horrifying level of anti-Israelism with many people seeming to think Hamas’s off-the-scale brutality was somehow “justified.” There’s a realisation in the Jewish community that sympathy for Israel ran out the second the casualty-toll in Gaza rose – which, of course, Hamas had cynically calculated it would when it embarked on its brutal slaughter.
Hamas are monsters but not fools. They deliberately and savagely targeted Israeli civilians in the certain knowledge that Israel would respond as it has, and with the certain knowledge that the apologists and the Israel-haters would respond exactly as they have. Because these apologists and the Israel-haters have been primed, groomed and indoctrinated for three decades.
What has led to the tsunami of hostility that Israel attracts these days? Why do so many people believe that Israel is – laughably, considering it is smaller than Wales – a “huge” regional super-power? And why – less amusingly – do so many think it is a “brutal occupier” and a “usurper”? And why – most woundingly for a country that has had Arab members of parliament since its first elections and is a sanctuary for persecuted LBGTQ+ people from the Palestinian territories and Arab countries – is it described as an “apartheid” state?
I ask only rhetorically what has led to this avalanche of negativity, because is clear to me (and to most of the people I know) that media coverage of Israel-Palestine is to blame. For more than two decades the coverage Israel has received in the media has led to where we are today: soaring antisemitism, a spike in antisemitic hate-crime, “Hate marches” on London streets and groups of lawyers, Labour councillors and luvvies condemning Israeli actions against Hamas in Gaza while, in some cases, failing to even acknowledge the brutal slaughter that provoked it.
While I blame coverage across most broadcast media, I especially blame the BBC. The BBC had a duty – because of its global reach, renown and the respect it commands – to be especially rigorous in ensuring that its coverage did not mislead,, did not distort truth, did not disseminate lies and libels and did not foster hate. Yet its shameful coverage of Israel-Hamas has done all of those things.
Israel has been relentlessly portrayed by the BBC as a gratuitous aggressor for its actions in responding to terrorism, threat and a rain of fire from Hamas rockets. Indeed, its coverage, often either withholding entirely relevant context and pertinent facts, or presenting them so long after the injury or harm to Palestinians has been explored in detail, that many viewers and listeners feel that BBC news teams are mere Hamas handmaiden.
News reports are consistently framed in ways that emphasise the harm to Palestinians – invariably accompanied by graphic visuals – while reports often minimise or ignore the harm or threat to Israelis and Israel. There also appears to be a willingness by the BBC – and, to be fair, other media outlets – to report unverified claims by Palestinian or Hamas propagandists, while demanding unimpeachable sources and verification in triplicate for Israel to be believed – as we saw with the Al Aliya hospital explosion.
Palestinian spin doctors who exploit the venality, vanity, ambition, bias or sheer stupidity of reporters and correspondents, are rewarded with the solemn recitation of death-tolls and casualty figures repeated endlessly across screens and in bulletins, while the reason for the sky-high Palestinian death-toll – the fact that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields and embeds its “soldiers” and terror infrastructure in residential areas, hospitals and schools – is rarely, if ever, mentioned in reports.
For 30 years, Israel has been “punished” for its refusal to allow large numbers of its citizens to die for the sake of photo-ops. It prefers not to parade its dead or injured for their PR value; it built a security wall to stop terrorists planting bombs in bars, cafes, pizza restaurants, in markets and on buses. Described by Palestinian propagandists as “an apartheid wall,” and dutifully repeated in media that is how reality is over-turned and a country traduced.
When, on October 7, 1,400 civilians were savagely butchered, Israel earned a brief – a very brief – respite from media negativity. But the moment the news cycle provided a way to focus on the new “victims” it was “Business As Usual” for the BBC, which went back to reciting casualty estimates (and often unverified claims from Hamas spin-doctors) while ignoring stories that failed to fit the “ evil Israel” narrative, such as that water and power were probably being diverted for terrorism purposes, that civilians were prevented by Hamas from reaching safety and that corruption in Gaza on a massive scale meant food aid was being sold by Hamas.
The impact of such negative coverage over the long-term has not only been to give alarming credibility to a fake narrative and amplify an erroneous belief that Israel is an “oppressor” and an “usurper” but by leading to a frenzied echo-chamber of lies, misdirection and distortion, it has also driven antisemitism.
Of course, the BBC’s very own Balen Report – commissioned and compiled in 2007 to look at allegations of anti-Israel bias – may have exonerated the BBC. But as the tax-payer-funded report has never been made public, we’re unable to judge.
The next time the BBC News runs a piece abou rising antisemitism in the UK prompted by “the current conflict in the Mid-East,” perhaps it should invite the head of news to explain the broadcaster’s role in this entirely predictable development. A “mea culpa” perhaps…