In previous posts (see ‘related articles’ below) we have noted how BBC coverage of the Jeremy Corbyn wreath-laying story has failed include background information relating to the claim promoted by the Labour leader’s supporters that he was honouring victims of an Israeli air strike on the PLO headquarters in Tunisia in 1985.
The context to those statements – which to date has not been provided to BBC audiences in any of the content we have seen – is the fact that the strike came in response to a Palestinian terror attack against Israeli civilians in Cyprus.
That omission was evident again in an item (from 23:26 here) aired in the August 15th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’. Presenter Mark Mardell introduced that item thus: [emphasis in italics in the original]
Mardell: “Jeremy Corbyn says when he paid tribute to the Palestinian dead in 2014 in a Tunis cemetery he was at a conference alongside many other people from other political parties. We’ll speak to one of them in a moment. Those attacking Mr Corbyn claim he helped lay a wreath honouring members of the terrorist group which murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. He vehemently denies that as a slur.”
Radio 4 listeners then heard part of an interview with Corbyn aired on Channel 4 News the previous day.
Corbyn: “I was there when the wreaths were laid – that’s pretty obvious. There were many others there who were witness to that. I witnessed many other people laying many wreaths.”
Reporter: “Did you lay the wreath?”
Corbyn: [sighs] “I laid one wreath along with many other people in memory – as I’ve said – of all those who died in the awful attack in 1985 which, as I keep repeating – you seem not to understand – was condemned by the whole world.”
Mardell did not bother to inform Radio 4 listeners that the strike was on the PLO’s headquarters in Tunis, that among those in whose “memory” Corbyn says he laid the wreath were members of the PLO terror group including leaders of Fatah’s ‘Force 17’ , that the strike came after a terror attack against Israeli civilians or that the local Jewish community in Tunisia was subsequently targeted, including in a shooting attack at the Synagogue in Djerba in which three people were murdered.
He went on to introduce a guest whose political affiliations (Liberal Democrats) were not clarified and who was allowed to present his own ‘credentials’.
Mardell: “Lord Phillips of Sudbury attended that conference. […] What did you make of the conference? Why did you go?”
Phillips: “Well I’m an oddball [laughs] in that I’m a fanatical supporter of the right of the State of Israel to exist and indeed offered to fight for them in 1973 but a profound critic of their policy in Palestine [sic] which I believe is shocking in terms of their own high standards in history and most of all I’m convinced that what they’re doing and continue to do – and indeed it gets worse – is actually jeopardising the safety of the State of Israel and so on.”
It would of course have been helpful to listeners to know that Lord Phillips’ self-declared record as “a fanatical supporter of the right of the State of Israel to exist” has not prevented him from taking part in an event organised by supporters of the Hamas terrorist group which most certainly does not share that sentiment, meeting a Hamas leader by whom he was “immensely impressed“, advocating for boycott of Israel in line with the BDS campaign which seeks to eradicate the Jewish state or indulging in ‘Jewish lobby’ conspiracy theories.
Listeners then discovered that Phillips cannot even remember where the conference he was asked to tell them about took place.
Phillips: “…I have taken advantage of I think it’s three – could be four – trips, parliamentary trips, to usually Israel and Gaza and the West Bank but on this occasion to Egypt [sic] for this conference, simply to a) inform myself directly and better in order that I can be in touch, form opinions which are factually based and thus be a better advocate for the whole situation.”
Failing to point out to listeners that the conference was also attended by leaders of Palestinian terror factions and even a convicted terrorist who tried to blow up Israeli cinema goers, Mardell asked:
Mardell: “But at this particular conference in Tunisia, were there many people who were like-minded like you who believe that the State of Israel should exist?”
Claiming that “this was quite a few years ago” (actually less than four years ago), Phillips avoided the question while mentioning “a big delegation of European representatives” and “lots of MEPs.”
Mardell next asked whether the conference (which he did not bother to inform listeners was titled the “International Conference on Monitoring the Palestinian Political and Legal Situation in the Light of Israeli Aggression”) was “hostile to Israel”.
Phillips: “I did…well this is…absolutely not.”
Phillips went on to claim that he had a “general memory” of delegates being at the conference because they were “interested in what’s going on in the Middle East”.
In response to questions from Mardell concerning Corbyn’s participation in the wreath-laying, Radio 4 listeners then heard more of the type of ‘contextualisation’ heard in a previous Radio 4 programme.
Phillips: “…this conference went on a couple of days. It was a very crushed programme with side meetings and heave knows what. And I could quite imagine he was asked to go along and lay a wreath. […] I could absolutely imagine that he was drawn into this slightly shambolic huge meeting and laid a wreath, as he thought, just for the people who died and then got caught up in what he’s now caught up with.”
Phillips – and the item – closed with listeners being told that too much fuss is being made about anti-Jewish racism.
Phillips: “And of course we live at a moment in time when the sort of antisemitic thing has in my view grown way out of all control and good sense.”
That remark hardly comes as a surprise from a contributor on record as claiming that the issue of antisemitism is used “like McCarthyism and a good way to silence people” and that people fail to ‘speak out’ on Israel “for fear of being branded anti-Semitic”. Nevertheless, it is obvious that listeners to this item gained no insight into the real nature and agenda of that ‘conference’ in Tunis but were in fact materially misled on that topic.
Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part one
Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part two
Over a third of BBC website’s Corbyn wreath laying report allocated to denials