By Fionn Grunspan
The BBC has a long history of alleged antisemitism which the state broadcaster, has denied and covered-up, since its founding in 1922. Over the years, the BBC has come under criticism for many of their reports which have included but is not restricted to; bias when it comes to reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and more recently false reporting on the Chanukah attack which took place on the 29th November 2021 and will be explained in detail further on in this article. In its tally of the top anti-Semites of 2021, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre ranked the BBC at number three – just behind terror organisation, Hamas and Iran.
The BBC’s history with accusations of antisemitism goes back decades. In 1993, the British morning daily, The Independent, reported on research on how antisemitism in the higher ranks of the Foreign Office and the BBC during the Second World War led to a policy which suppressed news about Germany’s attempt to exterminate European Jews.
Starting from 1933, the BBC had reportedly declined to adequately cover the Holocaust component of Nazism. The explanation from the top was that Jews were:
“not reliable reporters”.
During World War II, the BBC collaborated with the Foreign Office, to maintain control of propaganda and information to the British public. The Foreign Office’s Victor Cavendish Bentinck, cast doubt on the Holocaust. Bentick was quoted as saying:
“I think we weaken our case against the Germans by publicly giving credence to atrocity [propaganda] stories for which we have no evidence.” (27/8/1944).
British Foreign Office official, Roger Allen, stated: “It is true that there have been references to the use of gas chambers in other reports; but these references have usually, if not always, been equally vague, and since they have concerned the extermination of Jews, have usually emanated from Jewish sources.”
Roger Allan later followed this with the statement:
“Personally I have never really understood the advantage of the gas chamber over the simpler machine-gun, or the equally simple starvation method.”
Antisemitism and the Holocaust, had become ‘forbidden topics’ within the BBC by 1942. BBC Director, G R Barnes, complained about an interview which strayed into forbidden territory by discussing antisemitism: “Personally I don’t want to touch the subject, except by implication in talks on other subjects.” (9/2/1943) The BBC which held a monopoly over British news, would effectively censor information about the Holocaust and antisemitism in the UK.
The modern State of Israel was established in 1948 and the United Kingdom officially recognised the country in 1950. This began an anti-Israel bias of the BBC’s coverage that has persisted to this day. The way it framed the narrative in its reportage, revealed a reshaped antisemitism shifting from a distaste of Jews to an antipathy of the country of the Jews – Israel!
.The BBC has come under frequent condemnation for antisemitic reporting regarding Israel. BBC journalist, Tala Halawa was recently exposed by media watchdog, HonestReporting for tweeting about Israel using hashtags “more #Nazi than #Hitler” “#HitlerWasRight”. She was dismissed.
In early 2020, Orla Guerin, the BBC’s international correspondent, made an offensive reference at the end of an interview with Holocaust survivor, Rena Quint ahead of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
At the end of the interview, which included images of Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem, Guerin said:
“In Yad Vashem’s Hall of Names, images of the dead. Young soldiers troop in to share in the binding tragedy of the Jewish people. The state of Israel is now a regional power. For decades, it has occupied Palestinian territories. But some here will always see their nation through the prism of persecution and survival.”
Jewish leaders and a former BBC executive criticised the report as antisemitic. The former executive said he had been careful not to criticise the BBC since leaving almost five years prior, knowing the amount of unfair criticism it often receives, but that in this case he could not stay silent.
“Orla Guerin’s report on the Holocaust and forthcoming 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz should be widely condemned,” he said. “The attempt to link the horrors of the Holocaust to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is deeply offensive and upsetting. It was unnecessary, insensitive and particularly ugly in the days before Holocaust Memorial Day. Adding insult to injury, the report uses pictures of Holocaust victims in Yad Vashem during the sequence in which this link is made. This is inexplicably and unjustifiably offensive.”
The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) made a formal complaint to the BBC, and threatened to refer the matter to Ofcom, which regulates the corporation. The CAA said Orla Guerin’s report fell within the international definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by the British government, which includes “drawing comparisons between Israeli policy and the Nazis”.
The BBC denied the accusation. “The brief reference in our Holocaust report to Israel’s position today did not imply any comparison between the two and nor would we want one to be drawn from our coverage,” said a spokeswoman.
There have been numerous other accusations over the years but perhaps one of the most vociferous areas of concern has been coverage of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. This even prompted a report commissioned by the BBC in 2004 to investigate allegations that their coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is biased.
The man at the centre was Malcolm Balen. Balen was a senior editorial adviser at BBC, and he analysed hundreds of hours of television and radio material, from television. He focused on specific details like words and phrases that journalists used in their reporting, as well as the corresponding footage in stories related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The results were damning. What is very concerning is that the BBC buried the report and today there is a growing chorus for it to be made public.
Recently, the broadcaster came under intense condemnation after the attack on a bus in Oxford Street, London, which the BBC falsely reported that Jewish youth on board had used anti-Muslim slurs, which had motivated them to attack the bus. Those on board the bus were heard speaking Hebrew, to call for help after being attacked. The BBC article drew wide condemnation from Jews and sympathetic Muslims, including the group “Muslims Against antisemitism”.
The reporter who covered the Oxford Street incident, Senior Journalist Harry Farley remains – with the support of the BBC -unrepentant.
A Rabbi who broadcast with the BBC for 30 years resigned recently citing antisemitism as the reason for his resignation. In this YouTube clips, he explains more:
The BBC has systematically and falsely reported on the plight of Jews and the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The BBC has gone to great lengths to deny and cover up its action, but they can no longer be denied. The BBC must be held accountable for its actions.
About the writer:
Fionn Grunspan is a sign language translator previously working for a number of charities. Since being a community teacher and activist within his Jewish community from his mid-twenties, Grunspan today, through his “Clubhouse Page”, promotes news and information about the Jewish world, focusing on Israel.
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).