Monthly Archives: October 2012

Former BBC Middle East correspondent Tim Llewellyn: “Zionists are scattered at strategic points throughout British business.”

Milne, Alibhai-Brown, Llewellyn, Rowland listening to Jenny Tonge's rant last night.

Milne, Alibhai-Brown, Llewellyn, Rowland listening to Jenny Tonge’s rant last night.

The reputation of the Jewish community was dragged through the gutter at last night’s book launch of The Battle for Public Opinion in Europe: Changing Perceptions of the Palestine-Israel Conflict. The event was staged by anti-Israel pressure group Middle East Monitor at the University of London’s Senate House.

The panelists were Tim Llewellyn (former BBC Middle East correspondent and now adviser to Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding), Jackie Rowland (Al Jazeera correspondent) and Seumas Milne (The Guardian associate editor). Yasmin Alibhai-Browne (The Independent) chaired the event.

Llewellyn and Rowland described a persistent manipulation of the British broadcast media by a well-moneyed pro-Jewish lobby. Llewellyn said, inter alia, that:

“The BBC is very sparing in the amount of delegations or visitors it allows from the Palestinian side. Whereas from remarks that have been heard from the head of BBC News, Helen Boaden, the British Board of Deputies (of British Jews), for example, practically lives at the BBC. They’re there all the time.”


“I was there (at the BBC) when we weren’t interfered with. But the last 10-12 years, since the beginning of the second Intifada, has coincided with Israel’s decision  to mount a tremendously well organised, careful, assiduous and extremely well financed propaganda campaign in this country, especially in Britain.

The BBC has completely and utterly become feeble and has misreported, in my view; misrepresenting the situation in Israel-Palestine. It has done this maybe because of intense Israeli and pro-Israeli pressure from within this country, from political elements like the Friends of Israel of our three main political parties.

Also through the higher level of pro-Israel Zionists who are scattered at strategic points throughout the British establishment, throughout British business and among the people whose voices are respected.

The propaganda can sometimes be extremely intense, it can be bitter, it can be angry, it could be violent, it can be other forms of coercion. But it’s something the suits at the BBC find very hard to resist. So what has developed over the past 10 years at the BBC, and at other broadcasting institutions like ITN, not so much Channel 4, is a kind of self-censorship.

It is known now by the reporters if they are reporting on an atrocity by the Israelis, in the occupied territories or elsewhere, that they have to add on to the end of their story some kind of appeasing story of how terrible the Palestinians are or how the Israelis have suffered.”


“The pressure of this Israeli campaign has had a tremendous effect, especially at the institutional level of the BBC and inside the political parties. These people are extremely tough, tough minded. I have just read a book by Anthony Lerman called The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist. If you studied the internecine warfare that goes on inside the Jewish community between the different groups; the anti-Zionists, the Zionists, the liberal Zionists, the non-Zionists, it is vitriolic, it is dreadful, I mean what chance have we got outside that community.”

Llewellyn even described Jews as “an alien people”. He said:

“The situation in Palestine now is the direct result of British deviousness, betrayal…dividing Syria in at least three parts; Lebanon, Syria as it is now, and Palestine, and setting the stage for the imposition and the implanting of an alien country, an alien people in that region.”

Rowland described how the BBC’s obligation for accountability, because it is publicly funded, has been “used and exploited by very well organised pro-Israeli, pro-Jewish lobby groups.”

She said that she knew someone who worked in the complaints department of the BBC who told her “that 85% of the complaints he dealt with were complaints by pro-Israeli, pro-Jewish lobby groups complaining about the perceived bias of the BBC’s Middle East coverage.”

She said this gives an idea of “how well organised, well funded people use the idea of public accountability to tie up a lot of BBC resources on one very narrow focus.”

Alibhai-Browne told of how she had been given a rent free home in England by Professor Hugh Blaschko for seven years after she fled Uganda and how he had said to her that “Israel will bring the worst out in us Jewish people”.

Alibahi-Browne also compared Israel to apartheid South Africa.

Milne said “there are well funded and well organised organisations that campaign in support of Israel. If you’re editing in these area you will find pressure and campaigning constantly by those groups.”

During the Q&A I couldn’t resist mentioning, seeing she was in the audience, that I took the footage that contributed to Jenny Tonge’s exit from the Liberal Democrats. In a bizarre outburst right at the end she took to the microphone to announce:

“I’d like to say, I hope he hasn’t gone, a big, big ‘thank you’ to Richard Millett, the Jewish Chronicle, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the entire pro-Israel lobby who have relentlessly attacked me for eight years but making sure that the Palestinian cause gets heard.”

I have no problem at all with the Palestinian cause getting heard. The main problem for the Palestinians is that it is heard via the likes of Tonge, Milne, Rowland, Alibhai-Browne and Llewellyn.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to clarify exactly what Helen Boaden did say that led to Llewellyn’s accusation that the Board of Deputies of British Jews “practically lives at the BBC”.

Click HERE for Jonathan Hoffman’s view of last night.

Click HERE for MEMO’s version with photos.

MEMO Talk audio

Accused of racism at Amnesty after admitting to being Jewish.

Itay Epshtain (ICAHD), Kristyan Benedict (Amnesty) at Amnesty's London HQ last night.

Itay Epshtain (ICAHD), Kristyan Benedict (Amnesty) at Amnesty’s London HQ last night.

When you go to an anti-Israel event chances are you’re not more than a few feet from an anti-Semite. Last night after yet another anti-Israel event at Amnesty’s Human Rights Action Centre had finished I was immediately confronted by audience member Chris who politely asked if I was Jewish. I answered yes, obviously, but found that Chris wasn’t very happy with me .

I then switched on my recorder and this is how the conversation continued:

Chris: Jewish people feel connected by race or religion. Your support and the support of a lot of people in the Jewish community stems from that connection.
Me: What connection?
Chris: The one I just described about ethnicity and religion. That connection is the basis of the support that seems to come from the Jewish community, people like yourself.
Me: We also support a Palestinian state as well.
Chris: I think to people who are independent, which I am, I’m not Israeli, I’m not Palestinian, I’m not Jewish, to an independent observer it is so patent the immorality of what Israel is doing. And it is so patent that it is painful that Jewish people support this immorality on the basis of race and I think it is a kind of racism.

You can listen in to the full conversation by clicking on this link:

Chris on Jews at Amnesty’s London HQ.

Chris had just been at the talk by Itay Epshtain, co-director of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. Epshtain had given the usual anti-Israel talk, which included statistics about house demolitions, pictures of demolished houses and those maps of Israel and the West Bank.

Epshtain, who lives in Tel Aviv and who previously worked for Amnesty in Israel, wasn’t sure whether a one or two-state solution might be the best way forward and wanted all Jews and Palestinians to decide, but affirmed that boycott, divestment and sanctions was one “tool” to be used by “civil society” to put pressure on Israel.

Epshtain added that Israel might have committed both war crimes and crimes against humanity due to alleged breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

He then suggested that we, as in the audience, were paying for the “displacement and demolition” caused by Israel. We have to pay for the subsequent rehousing through our UK taxes and also via the EU (see clip at end).

Shame Epshtain didn’t tell the audience that we were also paying his salary and for his extravagant trips to London via ICAHD’s EU funding.

Epshtain described how Israel had “Judaised” the Galilee, which wasn’t supposed to be part of Israel under UN Res. 181, after 1948 and then used that as a template for “Judaising” the West Bank. And he claimed Palestinians get 20-30 litres of water per day compared to the WHO recommended amount of 100 per day while Israeli settlers, apparently, get 400 per day.

As for the illegality of the settlements Epshtain cited the totally irrelevant “advisory opinion” of the International Court of Justice as the main authoritative decision.

Surprise, Surprise Epshtain didn’t mention UN Security Council Resolution 242 and the British Mandate for Palestine which, arguably, allow the settlements to be there. He didn’t mention Hamas, Gaza or the Hamas Charter, which calls for the murder of Jews. Security for Israelis doesn’t seem a major issue for ICAHD.

During the Q&A I asked why, if things were so bad in the West Bank, Palestinian life expectancy there was higher than in most countries in the world according to the CIA World Factbook. Epshtain just muttered that he didn’t know whether the CIA World Factbook was correct.

If you’d like to meet Epshtain and, probably, Chris you can attend ICAHD’s AGM on 23rd March 2013. Can you guess where it’s taking place?

Correct. Amnesty’s Human Rights Action Centre.

Here is Jonathan Hoffman’s account:

Clip of Epshtain from last night:

BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen updates profile after biased Tweeting.

Soon after my BBCWatch article about Jeremy Bowen forwarding to his 21,000 Twitter followers anti-Israel activist Joseph Dana’s one-sided narrative about the Israeli police using tear gas and stun grenades on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Bowen updated his Twitter profile (Hat tip IsraelitKan).

The profile for @BowenBBC now reads “BBC Middle East Editor. Retweets aren’t endorsements.” instead of “BBC Middle East Editor.”

Let’s hope Bowen doesn’t think that extra sentence gives him carte blanche to retweet anti-Israel propaganda at leisure.

Go to BBCWatch to see Bowen’s Twitter profile change in full technicolour, and more.

A tiny success but maybe the first step of a long journey to try to make the BBC more objective in the way it reports Israel’s attempts to defend its citizens. One day the BBC might even refer to “the terrorist group Hamas whose Charter calls for the murder of Jews everywhere”, instead of merely “the militants Hamas”.

Meanwhile, the launch of BBCWatch, including my article, was neatly picked up by Jewish News One, the world’s first Jewish-interest news channel in English. Click below to view video:

Jewish News One

BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen retweets anti-Israel activist Joseph Dana.

This article by me first appeared on the recently launched BBCWatch website.

The BBC has had many notorious anti-Israel episodes over the years – too many to mention them all – but here are a few to jog the memory.

BBC journalist Barbara Plett said she “started to cry” as Yasser Arafat left the West Bank in 2004 to go to France for treatment not long before he died. BBC governors ruled her comments “breached the requirements of due impartiality”.

In 2006 Orla Guerin reported, while standing in front of damaged buildings in Bint Jbeil, Lebanon, that the town had been “wiped out” by the Israeli air force. Meanwhile, Alex Thompson, of Channel 4 News, correctly reported “the suburbs pretty much untouched by the Israeli attack and invasion”.

More recently the Itamar massacre was hardly mentioned on the BBC despite its many TV and radio news programmes. The BBC eventually apologised and blamed its oversight on a “very busy news period”. Five Israelis being stabbed to death in their family home by two Palestinian terrorists, including a baby girl in her bed, was not deemed newsworthy enough by the BBC.

Another even more recent example was Will Gompertz’s review of Habima’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ at The Globe in May which appeared in the Entertainment & Arts section of the BBC website. In the review, which was headlined “The Merchant of Venice: A protest within a play”, Gompertz proceeded to review the disruptions by anti-Israel activists instead of the actual play itself.

Gompertz even described one of the anti-Israel activists as “a handsome grey-haired woman” and, instead of condemning the disruptions out of hand, he merely mused “about the rights or wrongs of staging a protest in a theatre where the majority of the people have paid to see a show”.

Such partiality continues to this day in the guise of Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East Editor. On October 5th 2012 Bowen retweeted to his 21,333 Twitter followers, which he has courtesy of his position at the BBC, a tweet by Joseph Dana who was “curious that Israeli forces can fire tear gas and use stun grenades next to the Al Aqsa mosque and the story doesn’t make international waves”.

The Al Aqsa Mosque is on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem; one of the potentially most explosive square kilometres on earth, should something go decidedly wrong there. Tear gas and stun grenades would be used only in extreme circumstances. One can imagine the sensitivity with which a respectable journalist should be reporting any story to do with a place considered so holy by both Jews and Muslims.

Any responsible journalist would check out such a story, especially considering its prospect for “international waves”, before reporting it either on twitter, TV or radio. Not Bowen, though, who apparently decided that the story as it stood sounded too good to resist reporting.

Had Bowen bothered to have a brief browse he would have found articles giving him the all-important context.

Ynet reported that several hundred Arab worshippers stoned the Israeli police before the police “used crowd-control measures to disperse the crowd.” Israel Hayom reported how “police came under a barrage of rocks”. The Times of Israel reported how “hundreds of Arabs threw stones at security guards”.

In addition to the stone-throwing, The Jerusalem Post reported that “an Arab man tried to stab a police officer” and that “rioters on the Mount threw rocks in the direction of the Western Wall Plaza, but police officers were able to stop them before any rocks reached Jewish worshippers below”.

Joseph Dana, who lives in Ramallah and is a prolific anti-Israel activist, is hardly an objective and reliable source for reporting on Israeli matters. Appearing in November 2011 at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London to give a talk, Dana answered – when asked by an audience member whether Zionism was “the work of the devil” – that he, Dana, had managed to free himself from a “Zionist indoctrination programme”. It really is ludicrous for Bowen to quote Dana as a serious source on Israel.

The recent Leveson Enquiry on media ethics addressed the media’s reporting of individuals but, sadly, did not get round to addressing how the media reports on countries.

Individuals have a right to sue for defamation; a country has not, but the knock on effect for Jews around the world of biased reporting against Israel can be deadly as we saw in Toulouse where a Rabbi, two of his children and another child were shot dead outside a Jewish school when Mohamed Merah seemed driven to revenge by one-sided reporting of Israel’s defensive operations in Gaza.

Britain likes to think it has a good record on multiculturalism. However there is a vicious anti-Israel culture in this country supported by more than a few politicians, university academics, charities and certain media organisations such as The Guardian and The Independent. Therefore, when British Jews go to synagogue to pray, the sad fact is they have do so surrounded by the strictest security.

This is not something for Britain to be proud of. And it is also a culture contributed to by many journalists at the BBC; Jeremy Bowen being the prime example.

Holocaust analogies and calls for Israel’s destruction at SOAS’ Centre for Palestine Studies.

Naomi Foyle, Rachel Shabi, Bidisha, Miranda Pennell, Selma Dabbagh last night.

Naomi Foyle, Rachel Shabi, Bidisha, Miranda Pennell, Selma Dabbagh last night.

This article by me also appears at CIFWatch

The London Middle East Institute (LMEI), which is based at the School of Oriental and African Studies, used to give serious lectures. Not any more. The recently established Centre for Palestine Studies (CPS) now sits like a cuckoo in the nest of the LMEI.

Last night the first LMEI lecture of the new academic year was presented under the auspices of CPS. Palestine Now: Writers Respond was all about attacking Israel; nothing about studying the Palestinians.

Bidisha (The Guardian), Rachel Shabi (The Guardian), Selma Dabbagh (author), Miranda Pennell (film-maker) and Naomi Foyle (British Writers in Support of Palestine) had simply come to talk about how to fight for “the Palestinian cause” and against “Hasbarah”.

New students heard calls for the destruction of Israel dressed up as justice for the Palestinians, racist calls to boycott Israel and a totally gratuitous Holocaust analogy. Shame on LMEI for allowing this.

Dabbagh, Pennell and Foyle said they supported BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against Israel.

Dabbagh explained that she writes in order to get more people involved in the Palestinian cause and told of how she refused to speak at Jewish Book Week (JBW), when asked to, because of its Israeli government funding.

Bidisha suggested it might have been better for Dabbagh to go to JBW and get her message across to the audience, but Dabbagh said she felt she couldn’t break the call to boycott Israel.

Dabbagh, who is also a lawyer, has been living in Bahrain from where she said she has been helping to sue, not the Bahrain police, but the British police!

Bemusingly, Shabi said that she agreed with the ‘D’ of BDS (divestment) but not the ‘B’ (cultural boycott) which she viewed as a “witch-hunt”. Bidisha said she was equally “ambivalent” about the boycott.

During the Q&A I asked whether any of the panelists had accepted funding from a government whose actions they disagreed with and what the panelists were doing about the oppression of gays, women and dissidents under Hamas rule. I said BDS was racist and that it calls for the destruction of Israel by demanding “the return of Palestinian refugees”.

Naomi Foyle refused to accept that Israel would be destroyed by BDS. Using a crude Holocaust analogy she explained:

After the Holocaust Jews, who suffered in the Holocaust, were allowed reparations. They had their property returned to them. They were allowed to sue. Of course they were allowed to do it. That was their right. The Palestinian refugees, whose population has mushroomed, are living in squalid conditions, horrendous conditions with no passports, no freedom of movement, no sanitation, no hospital care. These people have keys to their family homes and their right to these family homes must be recognised. Once that right is recognised then the negotiations can begin on what this means for Israel as a state; whether it will become one state, whether it will become a secular state. No one is calling for the destruction of Israel. Is South Africa destroyed now because the blacks in South Africa have human rights? Israel is being asked to evolve.”

Obviously Israel would be destroyed as a Jewish state, but it would have been decent for another panelist to have pointed out to Foyle that it was slightly impossible for 6,000,000 Jews to have had their property returned because they were actually dead, having been murdered by the Nazis. However, no one uttered a word; not even Shabi.

And ignoring that more than 50 rockets had landed in Israel on Monday alone without condemnation from any quarter Foyle stated:

“Palestine is shrinking by the day. We have to say no, we have to put moral pressure on. Palestinians haven’t been allowed, in international opinion, to fight back with armed resistance. That’s been a complete disaster for them.”

Foyle continued that BDS doesn’t call for Israelis to go unfunded by the Israeli government, as “that’s their right as taxpayers”. She said it merely calls for Israelis not to leave Israel to perform and for performers not to go to Israel.

She said she had taken funding from the Canadian and British governments to support her writing and education, and then added:

“If there was a boycott of Great Britain that had any hope of helping the people of Afganistan or Iraq and all I was being asked to do was not travel abroad to a foreign festival; it’s a no brainer.”

This all goes to show that boycotting Israel has nothing to do with objecting to settlements. It is a racist boycott of Israel per se.

Anti-Israel activists neatly try to evade accusations of racism by claiming that “Palestinian society” has called for BDS. In reality, such a call has merely come from a large group of tiny anti-Israel NGOs posing as “Palestinian society”.

Shabi, who described herself as a British/Israeli/Iraqi, then told of her research for her book which involved her seeing how easy it is to buy a house in a settlement and how she had to perfect a “back story” to do this. She said she knew her back story was perfect when her neighbour asked why she was disguised as a “British Jewish religious tourist”.

Meanwhile, Dabbagh admitted that she was “uncomfortable with the way women and gays are treated by Hamas”, but blamed Israel’s “siege” for keeping Hamas in power.

And Bidusha, addressing me directly, said that Palestinian children are brutalised by “the siege of Gaza”. I replied that Egypt is also conducting “the siege”. She had no answer.

As for the future, Shabi concluded that there was already “one-state on the ground” and the discussion in Israel was now just centred around whether it will be a left-wing or right-wing state. This is, of course, pure fantasy from Shabi.

While this brainwashing of new students was taking place a brave girl, Malala Yousufzai, who is 14, was still recovering in hospital after being shot in the neck and head by the Taliban for standing up for women’s education in Pakistan.

SOAS’ students should look to the likes of Yousufzai, not to phoney human rights activists, for inspiration in fighting against real injustice.