Saturday, 1 August 2020

Would you trust the BBC with your children?


Following on from my earlier post about James Purnell's plans to place the BBC at the heart of British education where I wrote:

Blogs hereabouts, including ours, have picked up on some shocking stuff being put out by the BBC's online resources. 

But are those just rare lapses picked up on and massively amplified by bloggers and the anti-BBC papers? 

Well, I don't know the answer to that.

At the risk of creating work for myself and others, the BBC's online education resources - and children's output -  are a massive field that blogs and websites such as this barely even touch, but surely, urgently need to tackle.

What is the BBC teaching our children already? What will it be teaching them? 

I'd really like to know.

Well, to help me get started, I've just run a quick test, checking the BBC's online education resources for 'Israel'...

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All the first four links I clicked on took me to BBC Bitesize GCSE History and to their seven 'Middle East Class Clips'.  

Though labelled a 'Middle East' GCSE History page, its entire focus is on Israel and the Palestinians (with a little crossover into Lebanon).

All of them are long in the tooth, dating from 2004, but it's not an archived resource, it's still very much alive and kicking - and presumably, widely used in schools. 

I re-ran the search because, here in 2020, after the Iran-Iraq War, the Iraq War, and the Syrian War, and everything else, I still couldn't believe that BBC Bitesize was still wholly focused on Israel and the Palestinians.

It's like a curriculum devised by Jeremy Corbyn. 

What immediately struck me on scrolling through the blurb for each of the seven BBC videos was the name of the experts mentioned in the blurb for each video. 

It's like a list of experts devised by Jeremy Corbyn. 

  • Video 1 - Yezid Sayigh
  • Video 2 - Amram Mitzna, Yezid Sayigh & Robert Fisk
  • Video 3 - Noam Chomsky
  • Video 4 - (None)
  • Video 5 - (None)
  • Video 6 - Benny Morris, Robert Fisk & Noam Chomsky
  • Video 7 - Benny Morris, Rashid Khalidi & Yezid Sayigh

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Now, anyone who follows such matters will recognise many of those names. 

Yezid Sayigh is a former Palestinian negotiator. 

Amram Mitzna is a left-leaning, 'pro-peace' Israeli liberal and former Labor leader.

Robert Fisk is a pacifist, non-voting British journalist, highly critical of Israel. 

Noam Chomsky is a famous academic/libertarian-socialist activist, highly critical of Israel.  

Rashid Khalidi is a BDS-supporting Palestinian-American academic, highly critical of Israel.

And Benny Morris? Well, back in 2004, when these videos were posted, he was an Israel 'new historian' - a controversial critic of official Israel history. He's since regretted some of the things he said back then - and how they were interpreted by people critical of Israel. 

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That's an astonishingly biased list...

...but - as I like to be thorough - on watching all the videos I found that wasn't the full list of people necessarily featured in them. The new list consists of exactly the same people, plus Avi Shlaim, another Israeli 'new historian', and Hanan Ashrawi, another (bitterly anti-Israeli) Palestinian negotiator.

The complete list shows that not one of their seven 'Middle East Class Clips' includes a voice that strays from the BBCs left-of-centre, Israel-slamming narrative. 

Not one. 

Which is quite something - to put it mildly.

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The reason is simple: All seven biased clips came from the same 2004 BBC programme - surely one of the most biased BBC programmes ever broadcast.

(What was it?)

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2004, regular readers and readers hereabouts may recall, was the very year when anger at the BBC for being so blatantly anti-Israel led to the BBC launching an impartiality study from Malcolm Balen - a study that, notoriously, still hasn't seen the light of day - despite dogged Freedom of Information campaigns. 

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Personal note: I'm absolutely reeling tonight on finding this out. 

The big questions I need to know are:

Is this grotesquely biased pile of one-sided, anti-Israel venom - presented as BBC Bitesize - still being broadcast in schools? 

And is this what James Purnell has in mind for British schoolchildren?

And is this disgustingly unbalanced material typical of the BBC's educational output?

Especially in an age of reviving antisemitism, I think we urgently need to know.

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