Wednesday 24 December 2014

Be prepared

For the last few days I’ve been (mostly) thinking about Danny Cohen.

The BBC’s director of television senses an ominous whiff of antisemitism in the air.  The press has shown quite a bit of interest in Cohen’s interview with Yonit Levi of Israel’s Channel 2, and a complaint by a prominent Jewish media figure about rising antisemitism in the UK begs a fair few questions.

I can’t decide how to approach this topic for “Is the BBC Biased?” 

Heavily sarcastic seems somehow wrong; yet tempting. 

“As any fule kno, the Jews control the media, therefore a complaint by a prominent Jewish media figure about rising antisemitism in the UK begs the question: if you’re so goddam all-powerful, why don’t you do something about it instead of whingeing about it in YOUR media?”

Perhaps not. Obviously I’m taking it as read that the BBC is largely responsible for the UK’s rising antisemitism. (What with the supposedly impartial BBC’s biased reporting on nearly all Israel related matters, and a ‘bend-over-backwards’ appeasement of culturally antisemitic traditions, not to mention the weirdly blinkered attitude to immigration.)

Maybe a more ruminative approach?

“Is Danny Cohen even aware of the BBC’s routinely anti-Israel stance? Who knows? Maybe he isn’t any more interested in the minutiae of the legal and political history of the Middle East than the average Gogglebox viewer. Maybe he genuinely believes that those ‘complaints from both sides’ automatically cancel each other out. 

BBC Watch painstakingly documents substantive examples of anti-Israel bias. Maybe Mr. Cohen, like his BBC colleagues, dismisses BBC Watch out of hand. Being dismissed out of hand is an occupational hazard for defenders of Israel. Defenders of Israel are deemed beyond the pale, and nothing they say will be listened to, ever. They believe defenders of Israel must be being paid by Israel.”

Or is that over generous to the person who recently:
“hit back at attacks on the broadcaster by some of its biggest stars, such as David Dimbleby and Jennifer Saunders, complaining that high-profile critics were damaging the corporation and “driving staff mad”
So that’s what’s driven him mad? (Sorry)) 
"I would like to call on those who are paid by the BBC but criticise it in media interviews and in public to think hard before they join the daily chorus of BBC-bashing that takes place in some quarters.” [...]"From now, I'd like to call on everyone who believes in the BBC to get behind it, to speak up for it, to celebrate its successes and help us explain why the BBC really matters and sits proudly at the heart of public service broadcasting and Britain's creative industries – rather than find ways to undermine it.”

Benefit of the doubt. Danny Cohen doesn’t understand the BBC’s anti Israel bias. Maybe he doesn’t recognise the myriad inaccuracies when he hears them, or perhaps he does, but he doesn’t have any clout with what is after all James Harding’s news department. 

That’s roughly what his friend Tom Gross is saying.
Mr Cohen’s friend, journalist Tom Gross, told the JC: “Danny Cohen is in a delicate position. Because he has an obviously Jewish-sounding name, he is often asked to defend what many see as BBC News’s biased coverage of Israel.” 
(So does he or doesn’t he defend the BBC’s news coverage?) 

With a friend like Tom Gross, how could Cohen possibly “not know” about the BBC’s role in inflaming antisemitism? 

Well, let’s assume he really doesn’t get it. Could his ‘uncomfortable‘ remark have been addressed to Israel? Maybe he was indirectly pleading that when devising its response to Palestinian ‘resistance’  the Israeli government should think, firstly, of the backlash?
If he refuses to grasp the concept that his BBC is has anything to do with the rise in antisemitism, maybe it was a plea to the Israelis not to be beastly to the Palestinians, because look, diaspora Jews are bearing the brunt.

Surely that’s ridiculous. Or is it?

Hugo Rifkind and Daniel Finkelstein, amongst others, have also noticed that uncomfortable feeling in the UK. Some recommend keeping a bag packed just in case, like in the final trimester of pregnancy, when you might have to make a hasty exit.

The press has put varying spin according to particular political preferences, upon this interview. The RT article, for example, is followed by a number of very nasty antisemitic comments, neatly demonstrating the antisemitism the article addresses. 

Other articles almost gratuitously include the pro Palestinian accusations that the BBC  failed to properly represent their case.  The only article I’ve seen that gives an honest appraisal of the BBC’s part in fuelling this situation is here, in Commentary Magazine

“there is no escaping the fact that both the BBC and the Labor Party have played a role in stoking the kind of contempt for the Jewish state that leads directly to the increasingly common verbal and physical attacks on British Jews.”
 “Danny Cohen only took over as head of BBC television in May 2013, and so can hardly be held responsible for the BBC’s long legacy of slanted reporting on Israel.’
“So many of the accusations thrown at Israel today echo far older incarnations of Jew-hatred. Once it was accusations of Jews murdering and kidnapping Christian children, and now the accusation is of Israelis imprisoning minors and bombing Palestinian children. Once it was said that the Jews poisoned wells and caused the crops to fail, now that waste water from settlements pollutes Palestinian fields and drinking water. Similarly, the prominent depiction of blood and Palestinian children in contemporary political cartoons about Israel mirrors so precisely the imagery found in medieval anti-Semitism. What was particularly remarkable about medieval anti-Semitism was that whether it was the show trials of the Talmud, the Spanish Inquisition, or the numerous blood libel cases, time and again the names of Jewish converts who had risen high in the Church establishment are found littering the history books on account of the unique role they played in putting anti-Jewish ideas into non-Jewish heads. Perhaps there really is nothing new under the sun.”

Keep your bags packed. 


  1. The rise in anti-semitism in the UK can nearly all be traced to the huge demographic changes that have taken place. The millions of Sharia followers (Sharia law is explicitly anti-semitic) and the millions of people from Eastern Europe (where anti-semitism never really went out of fashion) have begun to change the flavour of public discourse.

    The BBC has said before - correctly in my view - that it could not be neutral on Apartheid. Likewise it should not be neutral on Sharia which, like Apartheid, seeks to create second class citizens subject to a range of legal penalties.

    Dan Read

    1. No doubt the abrupt rise in overt antisemitism is due to mass Muslim immigration, but the BBC’s pro-Arab reporting dates back decades - from almost immediately after the six day war, when the ‘plucky little Israel’ effect began to wear off.
      The ‘first-last’ reporting has been going on as far back as I can remember - long before I took a serious interest in the myths and facts aspect of the conflict.

      Yes, a more virulent, overt form of antisemitism has taken hold in the UK since the divisive, disruptive influx of Muslim immigration, and yes, the BBC reflects public opinion and creates it.
      BBC Watch (and before that, Biased-BBC) provides example after example of the BBC’s bias by omission, commission and emotion. The BBC’s apparent satisfaction with ‘half-a story’ reporting (e.g. the article featured here) is a case in point.

      The ease with which the BBC allows reporters to present Israel-bashing activists as neutral ‘experts’, to leave out chunks of vital information, to relay unverified rumour and gossip and perpetuate lazy, inaccurate speculation by politically motivated individuals tells me that (at the very least) the BBC is content to say ‘That’ll do - it’s good enough - no-one will know the difference’. But it isn’t good enough at all. It’s inflammatory and dangerous and it smacks of 1930s Germany.

  2. Who's being driven mad by the criticism, though? Dimbleby and Saunders aren't complaining about the rank and file: they're complaining about Cohen and his cohorts at the top. Saunders, like Victoria Wood before her, can't do a thing to affect change from within. They're hired comedy guns, not middle management. Dimbleby long ago gave up caring about anything except maintaining his QT paycheck and chair of election coverage. He can't - or won't - even do anything to change the way QT producers recruit activists for their audience, which is a very popular complaint 'driving staff mad'.

    Cohen knows about the anti-Israel attitude prevailing at the BBC. He has no defense against that criticism, so blames the critics instead. He may be blinded by his relationships with various people in news and current affairs, thinking they have integrity and would never let their personal opinions influence their journalism. I think he does know, and has nothing to say, so dodges the issue.

    He'll probably regret even opening his mouth about rising anti-Semitism in Britain now. After all, the BBC certainly isn't reporting it much. I bet his inbox is filled with venom from colleagues angry that he's opened up a sore spot. You won't see Cohen wonder why his BBC colleagues aren't wringing their hands over a possible backlash against Jews every time Israel comes up as the villain in the news. Like a conservative about politics, he probably has to keep his mouth shut about Israel around the office. Or, perhaps, make the right-on anti-Israel noises instead.

    1. Dunno about his inbox, but on Twitter most of his Tweets concern football, and I did notice that on 16th he ill-advisedly Tweeted:

      “Impossible to understand the psychology that leads to the massacre of children”

      Own goal, or what.

    2. He probably hears that same stuff at Islington dinner parties every week. But the immediate leap to complain to him about unrelated Zionist evil just because of his Jewish name proves both his and my own points about rising anti-Semitism.


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