BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ platforms disinformation on ICJ ruling

The prime time slot on the May 9th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme was given over to the topic of a meeting about antisemitism between the vice-chancellors at some UK universities, the UJS and senior members of the government that was to take place later the same day. 

BBC presenter Amol Rajan began that item (from 2:10:29 here) with an almost four-minute-long interview with a student at one of the British universities which has seen a number of incidents in recent months.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Rajan: “But first, here’s Issy. She’s a Leeds university student who is protesting and I spoke to her a short time ago from the encampment where she’s based.”

Despite the BBC editorial guidelines concerning ‘contributors’ affiliations’, Rajan failed to adequately identify his guest and made no effort to inform audiences whether or not she is the person with the same first name who is a member of the Socialist Worker Student Society which for months has been organising agitprop that has included hounding a Jewish chaplain off campus.

Issy: “Our first demand is that the university acknowledges the genocide happening in Palestine and we also demand that the university cuts ties with arms companies like BA Systems that make parts [sic] like the F35 jets that Israel uses to bomb Gaza. We demand that they cut ties with Israeli universities on occupied Palestinian land. We demand that there are no war criminals on campus. We demand that they stand with the student movement for Palestine.”

According to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s “University Complicity Database”, the University of Leeds does not have investments in “arms companies”. Five years ago, the university’s lecturers’ union “affirmed that any relations between Leeds University and Ariel University would be illegal” but Rajan nevertheless failed to ask Issy whether or not she believes that the other nine universities in Israel are “on occupied Palestinian land”. Neither did Rajan bother to ask whether or not her definition of “war criminals” is limited to people who have been found guilty of such crimes in a court of law or in fact includes anyone she and her fellow activists choose to brand with that smear.

Rajan continued:

Rajan: “Just on the first of those then, ehm…the claim that there’s a genocide of the Palestinian people would, as you know, be vigorously challenged by many people of several faiths and of no faith. And how can you expect individuals at your university who don’t agree with you on that point to sign up the whole institution to your position, with all the controversy that would bring?”

Issy: “Ehm…I think we can look to the International Court of Justice and the South African case against apartheid and genocide that they brought to the ICJ. The ICJ ruled that it was…Israel is committing plausible genocide. Our university should not be standing for this genocide; not be complicit in it.”

As noted here last month, on April 25th the BBC itself aired an interview with the former head of the ICJ in which she clarified that point.

Sackur: “…would it be fair to say that the key point — that you made your initial order and ruling upon — was whether or not there was a plausible case that should be taken on by the court of genocide in the case of Israel’s actions in Gaza after October 7 — and you quite clearly decided that there was a plausible case? Is it right to say that’s at the heart of what you decided?”

Donoghue: “I’m glad to have a chance to address that because the court’s test for deciding whether to impose measures uses the idea of plausibility — but the test is the plausibility of the rights that are asserted by the applicant, in this case South Africa. So the court decided that the Palestinians had a plausible right to be protected from genocide and that South Africa had the right to present that claim in the court.

It then looked at the facts as well. But it did not decide — and this is something where I’m correcting what’s often said in the media — it didn’t decide that the claim of genocide was plausible.

It did emphasise in the order that there was a risk of irreparable harm to the Palestinian right to be protected from genocide. But the shorthand that often appears — which is that there’s a plausible case of genocide —isn’t what the court decided.”

Nevertheless – and despite the fact that a clip from that interview is still available on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page – Amol Rajan failed to inform ‘Today’ listeners that his interviewee’s claim that “the ICJ ruled that […] Israel is committing plausible genocide” is inaccurate and misleading.

Moreover, when approached by the Telegraph on that matter, the response from the BBC was as follows:

“The BBC spokesman said: “The student who was interviewed offered what has been a widespread interpretation of the ICJ ruling. This wasn’t the focal point of the interview, and we made appropriate challenges in other areas.””

If the BBC is of the opinion that any and every “interpretation” of the ICJ ruling is legitimate broadcast material, one must wonder why it bothered to air that interview with the former president of the ICJ in the first place and whether ‘interpretations’ of any other rulings by that court or others are similarly legitimate and worthy of air-time as far as the corporation is concerned.

As for the excuse that “this wasn’t the focal point of the interview”, the term genocide was used seven times throughout this nearly four-minute item. In other words, tarring Israel with the ‘genocide’ brush was a very significant part of it and clearly one of the aims of the interviewee.

Rather than challenging his guest on that point, Rajan continued:

Rajan: “Just to be clear about antisemitism -which is the subject which is…the reason the vice-chancellors been called in to Number 10 today – you want to be quite emphatic and clear, I presume, that you’re opposed to antisemitism – is that right?”

Issy: “Of course we’re opposed to antisemitism. We’re opposed to all forms of oppression.”

Rajan: “Are you also an anti-Zionist?”

Issy: “I would agree that I think Zionism is an ideology that has led to the oppression and genocide of thousands of people.”

Rajan: “You see a lot of people would say…a lot of Jews would say that, you know, they’ve been brutally persecuted for centuries and Zionism, which they see as the pursuit of a safe place that they can call home in the Middle East, is central to their Jewish identity. And those that are being anti-Zionist might imply that you think that perhaps Israel itself ought not to exist. What’s your position on that?”

Amol Rajan did not bother to inform his listeners that according to the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism, “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” is indeed a manifestation of antisemitism. Neither did he question his guest’s repeated allegations of ‘genocide’ in relation to a population which increased by 155% in just 32 years before she went on to make the claim that “millions” of Jews are anti-Zionist. 

Issy: “I think that we should acknowledge the millions of anti-Zionist Jews that would disagree with that statement. I think we also need to look at the logic of Zionism as a defeatist one. Zionism claims that the only path to liberation is to give up the fight and carve out a place elsewhere that belongs exclusively to one people. But then if we, as an oppressed people, reject defeatist logic and fight it and oppression, we can find a better answer to antisemitism and make a more peaceful world for people everywhere.”

Making no effort to inform BBC Radio 4 listeners of the long history of the failure of assimilation to protect Jews in Europe, Russia and Arab countries, Rajan continued with a question it is difficult to imagine the BBC asking about any other country on the planet:

Rajan: “So do you think that Israel has a right to exist?”

Issy: “I think that since its creation 75 years ago the State of Israel has stood…for the Palestinian people who are currently undergoing genocide and have been undergoing oppression for 75 years, the State of Israel represents something that has harmed many, many people. I think that the State of Israel for many Jewish people represents a safe haven, but I think that isolating people is not the answer to oppression. I think liberating people worldwide, fighting antisemitism at home and abroad, is the only answer.”

Rajan: “I hear your point about being opposed to antisemitism as the intellectual position very clearly but I put to you that the practical implication of your not being able to say emphatically that you think that the State of Israel – a haven for Jews in the Middle East after centuries of persecution and after the Holocaust – the fact that you can’t emphatically say that Israel has a right to exist – a lot of Jews would say that has genocidal implications because that suggests that the home for Jews, after centuries in which they had no home, ought not to be theirs.”

Issy: “And I think that I’m saying that a home for Jews does exist and it is with everyone else. Everyone should be able to lead lives that are free from oppression, together and united.”

Under the terms of its charter, the BBC is obliged to provide “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of all parts of the United Kingdom and of the wider world”. Giving an almost four-minute-long platform to an inadequately presented interviewee from which to repeatedly promote the baseless ‘genocide’ smear while making no effort to alert listeners to the inaccuracy of her claim concerning the ICJ ruling on that point does not meet the public purposes to which the corporation is obliged to adhere.

Related Articles:




More from Hadar Sela
BBC News touts Israel’s choice of capital city as ‘contentious’
On October 29th the BBC News website published a report headlined “US...
Read More
Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. says: Grimey

    Most intelligent people in the UK have given up entirely on the IPC (aka BBC).
    It is now a pure advertisement for the “religion of peace” and it is a disgrace to the Western world.

Leave a comment
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *