The Labour Party has raised “serious concerns” about a major propaganda offensive airing on 10 July on BBC One.
We have serious concerns about how they have used taxpayers’ money to produce this programme. Rather than investigating antisemitism in the Labour Party in a balanced and impartial way, Panorama appears to have predetermined its outcome and created a programme to fit a one-sided narrative.
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A spokesperson for Panorama told The Canary:
“Shoddy reporting and overt political bias”
But the record of John Ware, the journalist behind the programme, is raising concerns. In a previous Panorama episode on Jeremy Corbyn in September 2015, Ware claimed that the Labour leader had attended an event in Cairo that called for violence against British and US troops. In other words, he suggested that Corbyn himself had advocated attacks against British forces. Yet Corbyn was actually in Islington, London; and there is no evidence behind this claim.
In response, the BBC claimed that Corbyn’s team “didn’t offer any response or proof that he did not attend the conference”.
At the time, a leading scholar on the BBC – Tom Mills – took down the programme’s “shoddy reporting and overt political bias” in openDemocracy. Mills said:
Interspersed with condescending ‘vox pops’ with Corbyn supporters were interviews with luminaries of the Labour right, who were free to offer their apparently authoritative analysis unchallenged by the programme’s presenter, the veteran broadcaster and former Sun journalist, John Ware.
The BBC, meanwhile, claimed that the episode “clearly reflected the growth of support for his campaign within the party, union members and activists”.
But, in the new Panorama episode, will Hare inform viewers that accusations of antisemitism in Labour reportedly relate to 0.1% of the party’s 540,000-strong membership? Will Hare let people know that academics at the Media Reform Coalition concluded that corporate media reporting on Labour and antisemitism has been a “disinformation paradigm”? Given that the BBC played a leading role in not only the so-called disinformation paradigm but also the 2016 coup against Corbyn and the general demonisation of progressive views, that seems unlikely.
Concerns about Ware go beyond his previous conduct towards Corbyn. The Muslim Council of Britain, for example, has branded him “an agenda-driven pro-Israel polemicist”.
In 2013, the Electronic Intifada was highly critical of Ware’s portrayal of the state of Israel as the victim of Palestinian aggression in BBC documentaries. Yet it’s Palestine which is under Israeli military occupation. And despite the persecution and segregation of Palestinians living in Israel itself, Ware has said that Arab citizens in Israel “could become a fifth column” (the enemy within).
This apparent bias is problematic. Former Labour MP Clare Short summed up the connection between Israel’s occupation of Palestine and accusations of antisemitism in Labour on BBC Newsnight:
What’s happened is there’s been a widening of the definition of antisemitism to include criticism of Israel. Then, anyone who’s sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians is called antisemitic. That is what’s happened.
In September 2018, the Labour leadership adopted a definition of antisemitism that – some say – risks blurring the line between criticism of Israel and antisemitism. 24 Palestinian organisations, trade unions and networks are highly critical of the IHRA definition:
This non-legally binding definition attempts to erase Palestinian history, demonise solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality, suppress freedom of expression, and shield Israel’s far-right regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid from effective measures of accountability in accordance to international law.
Channel 4 claimed in May 2019 that there is technically still “no mention” of the IHRA definition or its examples in Labour’s 2019 rule book.
Demonisation of the official opposition
With all of the above in mind, critics are questioning how Ware – an apparent apologist for Israeli apartheid – can fairly cover this topic; especially since he made what some view as serious allegations against Corbyn in a previous Panorama episode. The BBC is supposed to be conducting impartial journalism and educating the UK public. Instead, the organisation seems to have used public money to do precisely the opposite. Those fighting for a better world should ensure their family and friends understand the BBC‘s agenda.
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