A June 25th segment on Channel 4 News by reporter Fatima Manji centered around incidents in cities such as London, Manchester and Leeds during the May war between Israel and Hamas, where students were engaging in pro-Palestinian activism on school grounds.
The segment (“Schoolchildren complain of being unfairly punished for taking part in pro-Palestine protests“) purported to explore the question of what rights students have to engage in such political activism. However, not only was the report overtly sympathetic to the pro-Palestinian students, but it almost completely ignored the relevant context: the dramatic surge of antisemitic incidents in the country during the war driven by such anti-Israel activity.
Here’s the full segment:
Here’s exactly what the Channel 4 journalist said about CST’s concerns in the matter, between 2:53 and 3:06 into the segment:
The Community Security Trust [CST], a Jewish group which monitours antisemitism, say Jewish schoolchildren are being intimidated by anti-Israel protests. They say such cases rise when the conflict in Palestine and Israel is escalating”.
We were immediately concerned that Manji wasn’t accurately characterising the views of the charity, so we reached out to a CST spokesperson, who replied as follows:
Our complaint is twofold: firstly, that they attempted to represent CST’s view without asking us what our view was; and secondly, that as a consequence of that unprofessional behaviour they got our view wrong.
Specifically, they said it is CST’s view that “Jewish school children are being intimidated by anti-Israel protests”. This may well be the case but it isn’t really the point: the main problem is that Jewish school children and teachers are being singled out and targeted by some students in some schools because they are Jewish. This sometimes involves explicit antisemitic abuse, but mostly it is the use of pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel language being used to target and harass them because they are Jewish. This has happened in record numbers and it is a problem that the Channel 4 report minimised or ignored.
So, contrary to Channel 4 News’s claim, the main problem, according to CST, isn’t pro-Palestinian protests per se, but those protests concerning Israel and the Palestinians which include antisemitic behavior. Also, those watching the Channel 4 segment would know nothing of the dangerous rise in antisemitic incidents during and related to the conflict.
BBC accurately framed the problem in an article published today.
From 8 May to 7 June, 460 incidents were reported to the charity – the highest monthly total since records began in 1984 – with 316 happening offline and 144 online. Dave Rich, CST’s head of policy, says 416 of the 460 incidents “used language or some other evidence” related to Israel.
To put it another way: during that time frame, 90% of the 460 reported antisemitic incidents – a record number for any given month – were perpetrated under the guise of advocating for ‘Palestine’ and/or criticising Israel.
BBC got the information right because, unlike Channel 4 News, they actually cited CST statistics and quoted CST professionals.
If the network wanted to report fairly and honestly on the row over student-led pro-Palestinian protests, they would have acknowledged what should be obvious: that, though the students profiled in the segment may not be guilty of anti-Jewish racism, British pro-Palestinian activists are, in general, dramatically more likely to be antisemitic than the general population.
Antisemitism is not a bug within the pro-Palestine movement. It’s a feature.