BBC mainstreaming of the ‘apartheid’ smear continues

In February 2014 BICOM published a study by Professor Alan Johnson called ‘The Apartheid Smear’ in which he explained why that slur is “factually wrong, malicious, politically polarising and damages the peace process”. At the time we noted that:

“Shockingly, it is not rare for the BBC to permit promotion and amplification of the ‘apartheid’ calumny on its various comments boards and even in the articlesreports and interviews which it produces and broadcasts.

The corporation’s systematic failure to tackle the subject of its enabling and amplifying of a politically motivated smear designed, as Professor Johnson notes, to advance “the demonisation of Israel as a pariah state in order to prepare the ground for its eventual destruction” is a very serious issue which obviously needs to be urgently addressed by BBC management.”

As evidenced in our archives, no such steps have been taken by the BBC in over eight and a half years between the initial appearance of that BICOM study and the publication of an updated version earlier this month.

Rather, the BBC continues to facilitate the mainstreaming and normalisation of that politically motivated trope which, addressing Amnesty International’s promotion of it, Professor Johnson describes as an example of contemporary antisemitism.

Recent examples of that BBC editorial policy include a December 2nd report in which readers found ‘as is’ promotion of a quote from Amnesty International: [emphasis added]

“Amnesty International’s Middle East director, Heba Morayef, said: “Salah Hammouri has already spent nine months in administrative detention without charge or trial this year, in retaliation for his tireless campaigning for an end to Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians.”

CAMERA UK submitted a complaint to the BBC on that issue (and others), noting that it is entirely inappropriate for the BBC to provide uncritical amplification for such falsehoods from politically motivated actors.

In the response we received the BBC stated:

“Amnesty International is an internationally-recognised human rights group and the quotes reflect its position.”

In other words, the BBC apparently rejects any obligation to validate – or even qualify – that politically motivated smear before promoting it to millions of readers around the world.

Another recent example appeared in the December 10th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Weekend’. Presenter Celia Hatton asked one of her guests – Dr Hisham Hellyer of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace – to describe his “new project examining US foreign policy towards Israel”.

During that nearly four-minute-long conversation (from 04:09 here) listeners around the world heard the following: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Hellyer: “When it comes to the Democrats, it’s very hard to push a progressive – quote, unquote – woke agenda domestically on rights and fundamental freedoms and so on and respect for minorities and at the same time kind of ignore that the United States’ major ally within the region is guilty of what many rights organisations internationally and including within Israel itself…ahm…the crime of apartheid…”

Hatton: “Hmm…”

Hellyer: “…with regards to the occupation of the Palestinians.”

Hatton: “Hmm.”

Listeners heard no challenge to that not unpredictable claim from Hellyer before Hatton moved on to her next question.

The fact that the world’s largest broadcaster is quite happy to regularly publish and broadcast such demonisation of Israel by third parties without question or challenge is cause for great concern, not least because the end result is the mainstreaming of a politically motivated and deliberately delegitimising smear.

While the BBC would not dream of normalising hate speech or racism against other national or ethnic groups, in this case it turns a blind eye to the pernicious effects of its repeated amplification of what at its root is the allegation that ‘the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour’.

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