More BBC cheapening of the title ‘human rights activist’

As regular readers are no doubt aware, the BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality include a section relating to “contributors’ affiliations”:

“4.3.12 We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.”

The BBC repeatedly breaches that clause in its coverage of Israel related stories but there is also an even more basic point to be made concerning the BBC’s presentation of contributors to audiences and that is the issue of how they are described.

As we saw last June for example, the BBC was quite happy to present a contributor as a “human rights activist” even though he had been arrested three times because of membership and activity in a terrorist organisation.

So what exactly are the criteria required for the BBC to describe someone as a human rights activist to its audiences? An edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ aired on August 8th (from 06:24 here) demonstrated once again that the BBC sets the bar very low indeed.  

Presenter Sana Safi introduced that item about Operation Breaking Dawn with the inevitable whitewashed portrayal of a terrorist organisation proscribed by the UK as “militants” and a misleading description of precision strikes on terrorist targets as “pounding the Gaza Strip”: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Safi: “Let’s go to the Middle East now where, after a shaky start, a ceasefire agreement to end three days of fighting between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad seems to be holding. As the truce deadline passed last night, there was a flurry of strikes with Israeli air attacks pounding the Gaza Strip and Palestinian militants firing more missiles into Israel.”

As noted here previously, the only fire after the ceasefire came into effect was carried out by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Safi continued, quoting “health officials” whom she failed to note are associated with the Hamas terrorist organisation and inflating the civilian casualty numbers while failing to mention that several civilians died as a result of PIJ shortfall rockets.

Safi: “According to Palestinian health officials more than 40 civilians have been killed since Friday. Several Islamic Jihad militants also died, amongst them two senior leaders. As part of the truce agreement Egypt, which brokered the ceasefire, will seek to ensure that two Islamic Jihad activists are released from Israeli detention.”

The source of that latter claim from Safi is unclear but Israel has already clarified that it did not agree to release Khalil al-Awawda and the PIJ terror group’s West Bank leader Bassam al-Saadi. After asking a pointless question, Safi introduced her interviewee:

Safi: “So will the ceasefire help alleviate the recent escalation? Let’s hear now from Aya al-Ghazzawi; she is a writer and human rights activist in Gaza. Aya, great to have you on the programme. You are in Gaza now. What is the latest there?”

Al Ghazzawi: “Thank you very much for having me. Ahm, I’m a Palestinian refugee living in the Gaza Strip and so as someone who lived the three days – I mean the toughest days in my entire life – ahm well it was pretty much difficult for us to, you know, to cope with this situation because Israel initiated unrepresented [sic] violence when people were relaxing, when they’re spending their time and days as usual and then Israel out of nowhere, suddenly without any prior warning, started assassinating high profile commander in the Islamic Jihad and then expanded its target bank to include civilians. As you said that Israel killed more than 40 people, actually it killed until now 44 Palestinians including 15 children and four women and also injured more than 360 people. That is what Israel and how Israel thinks. There’s a mentality thinks of Palestinians as sub-human beings. And ahm…”

Failing to challenge the lie that Israel targeted civilians, Safi asked:

Safi: “Aya, if you can give us a sense of what life in Gaza at the moment is like after the escalation. Eh, we will have the Israeli response as well later on. How did the community survive the…the airstrikes?”

Al Ghazzawi: “Of course the…during the past three days life of Palestinians in Gaza was on hold. Now somehow we gradually started to move out of our…eh…our homes. Institutions started opening their doors and trying to get back to our normal before the escalation on Gaza. But during those three days we were not able to practice our normal days and go on with our activities. We couldn’t go to schools, universities, institutions, work. Everything was halted and that’s because of the Israeli hegemony of course.”

Safi: “Aya al-Ghazzawi, thank you for joining us on ‘Newsday’.

So who is the interviewee heard by BBC audiences worldwide and is she really a “human rights activist” as claimed by Safi in her introduction?

Five months ago, 25-year-old al Ghazzawi lent her voice to Amnesty International UK’s politically motivated campaign to smear Israel as an apartheid state. There she is described as follows:

“Aya Al-Ghazzawi received her bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from al-Aqsa University in Gaza. She is an English language teacher in the Palestinian Ministry of Education. She is also a BDS activist, a writer for We Are Not Numbers and a number of websites, and a member of One Democratic State Campaign. Most recently, Aya served as the 2021 Gaza mentee at Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network”.

As well as promoting the ‘apartheid’ trope, al Ghazzawi cheerleads for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign and supports its antisemitic aim of ending Jewish self-determination in Israel:

“Now, more than ever, the world must continue this outcry. As Palestinians, we need this support. We need to escalate the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign, to isolate Israel and prevent companies profiting from its oppression of Palestinians. As in apartheid South Africa, these actions will help force Israel it to desist from its crimes against humanity.

We need to pressure western governments to halt aid to Israel. We need to stop calling for the two-state solution. We must call for a single, democratic state where all citizens have equal rights to live in freedom and have justice.”

Al Ghazzawi’s membership of the ‘One Democratic State Campaign’ is hence not surprising given its mission:

“The One Democratic State Campaign is a Palestinian-led initiative that calls for the end of the colonial Zionist regime and strives for the establishment of a single democratic state in historic Palestine, based on political, social, economic and cultural justice, in which Palestinians and Israeli Jews live in equality.”

In other words, al Ghazzawi is a ‘one-stater’. She supports bringing an end to Jewish sovereignty in Israel and denying Jews the right of self-determination, which is a form of antisemitism according to the IHRA working definition. While al Ghazzawi may claim to be a “human rights activist” in her Twitter bio, the fact that she supports the denial of the right of self-determination to Jews clearly indicates otherwise.

The BBC World Service however chose to present her using the ‘halo‘ term “human rights activist” even though a very short pre-interview internet search would have shown just how inaccurate that description is.

And so, yet again, the BBC has contributed to the worrying and growing phenomenon of the cheapening of the important issue of human rights by misrepresenting the activities of political campaigners against Israel as ‘human rights activism’.   

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  1. says: Sid+Levine

    Once upon a time the BBC’s motto was “Nations shall speak peace unto Nations” – now it appears to its disgrace to be ” Nations shall speak lies unto Nations”

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