Double standards on racism by the BBC

“To know only one country”, Seymour Martin Lipset often said, “is to know none”.  Indeed, if we were to compile a list of everything that journalists covering Israel and the Palestinian territories should know, this would be near the top of the list.

This is especially true with the BBC, whose consistent under-reporting of internal Palestinian affairs stands in stark contrast to their myopic focus on Israeli affairs.  This pattern was again on display recently, in their decision to cover a story about the racism by some Israeli school teachers, while ignoring a far more egregious example of Palestinian racism and extremism revealed in a report the same day.

The article they published, by Middle East editor Raffi Berg, on the BBC News website (Israeli teachers’ racist WhatsApp chat caught by pupils, March 14) informs readers of the following:

Israel’s education minister has apologised to Ethiopian Israeli schoolgirls whose teachers mocked them in a WhatsApp group on a school trip.

The girls [in a religious school in Netivot] spotted the teachers messaging each other in a chat group they created called Black School Trip…which contained disparaging comments towards the Ethiopian Israeli pupils.

The teachers involved were suspended and the incident is being investigated.

To recap: a few teachers in one Israeli school made disparaging and racist comments about Israeli students of Ethiopian descent.  The teachers were fired, the school is launching an investigation and the country’s education minister offered an official apology – in other words, exactly what you’d hope would occur in a normal democratic country following such a racist incident.

Let’s pivot now to another story, which Berg and his colleagues will – if the past is any judge – almost certainly ignore: Revelations that teachers and schools at UNRWA, the UN agency that runs education and social services for Palestinians, regularly call to murder Jews, and create teaching materials that glorify terrorism, encourage martyrdom and incite antisemitism.

This was revealed a new report by UN Watch and IMPACT-se.

The report identifies 133 UNRWA educators and staff who promoted hate and violence on social media, and another 82 UNRWA teachers and staff affiliated with over 30 UNRWA schools involved in drafting, supervising, approving, printing, and distributing racist and extremist content to students.

To cite just one of many examples: UNRWA’s Al-Maghazi Middle School for Boys B in Gaza used an UNRWA-created Arabic reading comprehension exercise for 9th graders which celebrated a Palestinian firebombing attack on a Jewish bus as a “barbecue party.”  At the same school, 5th-graders learned that martyrdom and jihad are “the most important meanings of life”

The press release by UN Watch notes that UNRWA’s annual budget includes £14 million from the UK.

Moreover, unlike in Israel, we can be sure there will be no negative repercussions within Palestinian society for the promotion of such extremism within their school system.

It should be stressed that the problem with antisemitism at UNRWA is the opposite of a one-off.

If BBC would merely allow their journalists to type in the URL of Palestinian Media Watch ( they’d be privy to nearly daily examples of antisemitism, extremism and the glorification of terror promoted by Palestinian political and religious leaders, as well as state-controlled media outlets.  They’d also better understand how this phenomenon represents one the most serious impediments to peace.

Indeed, Palestinian terrorism is not driven, as is often claimed in the media, by youth disillusioned with the failure of the ‘peace process’, but by the steady flow of hatred towards Jews, ignored by the West, that is normalised within Palestinian society.

The failure of the BBC – which, we should add, has a bureau in Gaza – to report the appalling example of Palestinian students in UNRWA schools being indoctrinated to embrace antisemitism and violence isn’t just injurious to the children being exposed to such hate curriculum.  It also does a profound disservice to license fee paying BBC consumers who rely on the corporation’s reporting to help them better understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The point, of course, isn’t that there isn’t racism in Israel. It’s that Israel isn’t a uniquely racist country in comparison to other Western-style democracies, and certainly not in comparison to its neighbors.

Per Seymour Martin Lipset, if all they know is Israel, they can’t truly know either Israel or the Palestinians.

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