How did BBC News cover this summer’s anti-Israel demonstrations in the UK?

The phenomenon of demonstrations on the streets of cities in Europe and elsewhere in supposed ‘spontaneous’ reaction to this summer’s conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip came as no surprise to anyone familiar with the activities of the broad auxiliary network which provides support of various descriptions for Hamas’ international PR campaign.

Some of the hundreds of anti-Israel demonstrations organised by groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Stop the War Coalition which took place in the UK were covered by the BBC, with reports appearing inter alia on the BBC News website – including on its Middle East page – as shown in the few examples below.

July 13th: “Manchester protesters march against BBC coverage and Gaza bombings (discussed here). In that report the BBC informed readers that the protest was called ‘Drive for Justice’ and that “[a] second rally was organised by the Stop the War Coalition in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens”. No attempt was made to clarify the political agendas of either of those organisations. Here, for example is an image posted on the official ‘Drive for Justice’ Facebook account which reflects an ideology of which BBC audiences should have been made aware in order for them to be able to put the corporation’s amplification of that group’s agenda into its correct context.

FB drive for justice

July 19th: Thousands march through London over Gaza crisis (filmed version under the same title here). That report informed readers that “[t]he event was organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and is part of a national day of action” but made no effort to inform audiences of the PSC’s political agenda or of its links to Hamas – a proscribed terrorist organization in the EU.

July 26th: London rally will ‘boost morale of Palestinians in Gaza’ in the synopsis to that filmed report, BBC audiences were told that the demonstration was organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign but once again that organisation’s agenda was ignored and – as documented here – an interviewee linked to the PSC was misrepresented as a mere “protester”.

July 27th: Violence breaks out during Gaza protest march in Cardiff. The synopsis to that filmed report informed audiences that the demonstration was “organised by Cardiff Stop the War Coalition” but again no effort was made to clarify that organisation’s political motivations or affiliations.

August 9th: Tens of thousands of protesters march in London for Gaza, Thousands protest in London against Israeli offensive in Gaza, ‘Israel started this war’ – Tariq Ali at Gaza rally in London – discussed here. Readers of the written article were informed that the demonstration was “organised by the Stop the War coalition and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign” and yet, after four weeks of reporting these various demonstrations, the BBC still had not come up with any sort of background information on those groups which would allow audiences to put the demonstrations themselves or the propaganda amplified in its own reports into context.

Significantly, whilst audiences read, saw and heard copious amplification of the demonstrators’ anti-Israel propaganda in the BBC’s reports, one recurring phenomenon at those demonstrations was not covered: the frequent use of antisemitic slogans and imagery. Moreover, the BBC actually produced an item in which it gave a platform to the PSC’s Hugh Lanning to lie through his teeth on that issue by saying “antisemitism or any form of racism isn’t tolerated on any of our protests”.

Equally remarkable was the lack of BBC coverage of pro-Israel demonstrations during the same period of time.

By failing to provide audiences with a comprehensive picture of the records and political agendas of the fringe groups which organized these demonstrations – along with the highly relevant topic of their links to repressive regimes in the Middle East – the BBC created the false impression that those demonstrations galvanized around a consensus issue for ordinary members of the British public. By refraining from reporting on the antisemitic imagery and slogans used on numerous occasions by some participants in the demonstrations, the BBC denied audiences a view of the real motivations underpinning their organization and messaging.

That, of course, is not journalism; it is self-conscription to giving a leg-up to a political cause. Whether that self-conscription came about as a perceived need to compensate for the well publicised criticism of the BBC’s coverage of the conflict organised by those same organisations from its very beginning is unclear but what is obvious is that the BBC failed to give its audiences an accurate and impartial picture of those demonstrations or to provide the relevant background information necessary for them to be put into their correct context as part of the PR war waged by Hamas support groups in the UK. 

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