BBC Radio 4’s programme ‘The Briefing Room’ describes itself as follows:
“Series looking at important issues in the news. Presented by David Aaronovitch.”
The May 19th edition of that programme (available here) purported to address an issue which has indeed recently been making headlines in the UK.
“Labour activists, councillors, an MP and a former Mayor of London have all been suspended for comments which many regard as anti-Jewish. But why might a left of centre, progressive, pro-minority party have a problem with Anti-Semitism?”
Serious discussion of that topic would obviously not be enhanced by having one-third of the invited panel taken up by a person who subscribes to the view that it is no more than a “scam to smear Labour activists” and who has in the past collaborated with notorious propagators of conspiracy theories in order to promote her anti-Israel propaganda.
Nevertheless, the programme’s production team saw fit to give Kerry-Anne Mendoza a platform – and the results were entirely predictable. Having presented her ‘credentials’ (“half of my family are Jewish”) Mendoza went on to address:
“…the comparison – which I completely understand why it’s offensive – the comparison of Israel to Nazism or the atrocities of the Third Reich. I say well; what evidence is there for that?”
Listeners then heard the following:
“And so, well, what other state in the world do I know of in the present day who’s [sic] been behind the forced sterilization of Jewish women? That would be Israel. It was applying Depo-Provera – long term contraceptive injections – to Ethiopian Jewish women. I think that’s an anti-Semitic act. I think it has horrific echoes…eh…of some of the atrocities – not all of them – some of the atrocities perpetrated by the Third Reich and I think it’s right to call that out. I would call that out in any state, anywhere in the world where Jewish women or any other group of women were subject to forcible sterilization to prevent some sort of racial dilution which was the theory behind that process.”
Leaving aside Mendoza’s medically ignorant and obviously inaccurate portrayal of (temporary) contraception as “sterilization” (a procedure designed to be permanent), the fact is that her completely baseless slander – which has unfortunately appeared in BBC content before – was disproved in a report published by Israel’s State Comptroller in January of this year.
“There is no evidence that Ethiopian women who immigrated to Israel were required to take birth-control shots against their will, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira wrote this week in a letter obtained by Haaretz.
Shapira wrote that he had concluded his investigation into the allegations, which surfaced in December 2012, and that “no evidence could be found for the claims raised that shots to prevent pregnancy were administered to Ethiopian women under pressure or threats, overt or covert, or in any way that was improper.””
So how did the programme’s host David Aaronovitch react to that very transparent promotion of a Nazi analogy based on what is known to be a blatant lie? He allowed her to continue unchallenged.
KAM: “Do I think it’s helpful for people to go around willy-nilly attempting to bait Jewish people by calling them Nazis? Absolutely not. But do I think there is some evidential case for saying there are echoes here of some of the worst behaviour that we have committed in Europe? Yes I do. Ahm…and actually that was an opinion that was actually [laughs] given to me originally by a Jewish Israeli. I was reporting from Gaza during Operation protective Edge. I was there and witnessing it. Do I think it’s wholly comparable? No – but I don’t think any situation is. But to dismiss out of hand those concerns as intrinsically anti-Semitic – I would disagree with.”
Listeners do not get an answer to the curious question of how Mendoza managed to find “a Jewish Israeli” in the Gaza Strip nine years after all the people answering that description were evacuated from the territory, but they do get to hear David Aaronovitch pass the buck to David Hirsh.
DA: “David, how do you respond to that?”
DH: “Well, I think we need to talk about what the Nazis did. The Nazis created a racial categorization of human beings. They created an industrial network in order to round up, identify and gas and murder all of the Jews of Europe. Now, Kerry-Anne’s story about…ehm…one incident in which some people were given long-term contraception is a really good example of how particular incidents are used to kind of demonise Israel. The claim that there was a campaign to stop black people from breeding in Israel is just appalling actually. It’s not true, when in fact black people have been brought and rescued and brought to Israel and are part of Israeli society – a half of Israeli society….
KAM: “But they are not brought and rescued by Israel. They’ve been treated abysmally…”
At that point Aaronovitch interrupts and redirects the discussion elsewhere.
The question which must be asked about this particular segment of the programme (which includes additional material no less worthy of comment) is what impression the average listener would have taken away. On the basis of past evidence one can well assume that the BBC’s response to any complaint on this issue would be to claim that Mendoza’s allegations were rebutted by David Hirsh.
However, listeners would not have understood from David Hirsch’s response that an official investigation had taken place or that it found no evidence of the administration of Depo-Provera to Ethiopian women against their will. In fact, Hirsch’s reference to “one incident in which some people were given long-term contraception” would have prompted the average listener to go away with the mistaken idea that there is a factual basis to Mendoza’s deliberate smears. Moreover, the BBC itself – in the form of its presenter – made no effort to ensure that audiences were made aware of the facts behind that slander and actually left listeners to make up their own inadequately informed minds with regard to who is telling the truth – Mendoza or Hirsh.
Any serious examination of the question of “why might a left of centre, progressive, pro-minority party have a problem with Anti-Semitism?” would necessarily include recognition of the fact that a major contributing factor to that phenomenon is the deliberate demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel by far-Left activists.
In other words, by failing to adequately challenge Mendoza’s mendacious propaganda, this programme – which is also being promoted by the BBC on social media as a podcast – lent a helping hand to the spread of the blight of anti-Jewish racism it purported to discuss.
BBC Radio 4 contact details
- Times of London revives anti-Israel smear over Ethiopian blood donations (UK Media Watch)
- Three year old allegations from BBC’s Yolande Knell shown to be untrue (BBC Watch)