Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

The BBC, Bell and the Blood Libel

January 31, 2013 1:56 am 0 comments

Steve Bell, interviewed on the BBC, attributed calls of Antisemitism to the "Zionist Lobby"

On January 29th 2013 the Radio 4 ‘Today’ program brought in Stephen Pollard – editor of the Jewish Chronicle – and Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell to discuss the subject of Gerald Scarfe’s cartoon which was the subject of much objection when it appeared in the Sunday Times on Holocaust Memorial Day, and for which the paper’s owner Rupert Murdoch has personally apologized, as has its acting editor.

The entire programme can be listened to here or alternatively a podcast of the relevant section can be heard here.

At 1:38 in the podcast Steve Bell says:

“I think apologizing for this cartoon, which in fact, for once, wasn’t a bad cartoon…I think Stephen Pollard invokes terms like ‘the blood libel’ and kind of genocidal hate rage, he’s attributing this to a cartoon which is actually, it’s sort of like a mirror image of the cartoon that Scarfe did the week before which was about President Assad doing exactly…I think it was clutching the head of a baby the week before which is even considered to be more offensive. Not a squeak about that.”

Not a squeak from the programme’s presenter either – who apparently saw no problem in Bell’s attempt to compare a cartoon of a dictator waging a civil war – which has claimed more lives in under two years that the entire Arab-Israeli conflict – with one of a democratically elected prime minister. Crucially, as Stephen Pollard pointed out on his Editor’s blog:

“It’s a fair point to say that the previous week Scarfe depicted Assad in a similar way, and he’s entitled to his view of Netanyahu, just as the Sunday Times are entitled to print it.

But there’s never been an anti-Alawite blood libel, and the context matters. The blood libel is central to the history of antisemitism.”

Bell goes on: [emphasis added]

“Ahm..the problem with the State of Israel and the – if you like – Zionist lobby is that they never acknowledge the crime of ethnic cleansing upon which the state was founded and that’s a permanent problem. It’s always going to be a difficult issue. It’s always going to set people at odds like this…”

No intervention from the presenter in the name of accuracy or impartiality there either.

Bell continues:

“If you use the term blood libel as loosely and as ridiculously as that… the blood libel refers I think to a medieval belief that the Jews actually ate their own children – or ate Christian children – which is not actually a current..ahm…idea that’s abroad. Nobody’s actually saying…”

So now we learn that Bell, whom the BBC invited to talk about a cartoon judged by many to be offensive because it invokes the blood libel, does not actually know what the blood libel is. Needless to say, the presenter did not bother to correct Bell’s erroneous assertions on that point and neither did he trouble his audience – many if not most of whom will not have a clue as to what the blood libel is – with a factual explanation of its historic roots and modern interpretations. The BBC’s written ‘explanation’ of the term here also leaves much to be desired.

The BBC's questionable definition of the blood libel.

Later on Bell says: [emphasis added]

“The problem with this argument is, it’s extraneous notions like ‘blood libel’ and.. err.. are dragged in and sensitivities are talked up when there actually don’t….the very word antisemitic – it becomes devalued. They throw it around with such abandon and if there is real antisemitism, it’s actually getting ignored.”

Of course the audience is not informed who “they” are, but we do not need a cartoonist’s imagination to understand Bell’s intentions.

So what did Radio 4 audiences learn from Bell’s participation in this discussion? They found out that there’s a “Zionist lobby” that ignores “ethnic cleansing” of which Israel is guilty and that there is something called the blood libel which involves beliefs about Jews eating children. They also learned that “they” accuse people falsely of antisemitism, which may or may not be real, by invoking the term blood libel.

Had Radio 4 actually tried to get as many erroneous and offensive notions about Jews and Israel as possible into a seven minute item, it would have had difficulty topping this. And yet, the ‘Today’ presenter allowed Bell a free rein, at no point stepping in to correct his distortions.

This broadcast yet again raises the subject of BBC interviewees who use the platform provided to them to promote untruths – either due to ignorance or as deliberate politically motivated propaganda.

Can the BBC shirk its obligations concerning accurate and impartial broadcasting by hiding behind the defense that these are an interviewee’s opinions – no matter how wrong or offensive? Or does the BBC have an obligation to correct misleading assertions presented as ‘opinion’ in order to meet its own standards of accuracy and impartiality?

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Jewish former CNN host Larry King asked a Saudi Arabian fan if taking pictures with Jews is allowed in his country, before agreeing to pose for a photo with the man, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The world-famous interviewer was leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C. with a New York Times reporter when a “dark-skinned man” approached and asked to take a picture with him, according to the publication. Whereupon, King asked the fan where he was from. When the man said Saudi […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    British-Jewish business tycoon Lord Alan Sugar joked on Wednesday that London synagogues will likely be empty during Yom Kippur with congregants fleeing to watch the match-up of two leading English soccer teams known for having hordes of Jewish fans. “Spurs V Arsenal cup game drawn on most important Jewish festival,” Lord Sugar pointed out on Twitter. “Both teams have loads of Jewish fans. Conclusion Synagogues will be empty.” North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC will go head-to-head in the Capital One Cup third-round […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Two Jewish men were the only unwitting participants in a social experiment conducted by Jimmy Kimmel, for his popular TV show. As part of a candid-camera-like sketch featured Monday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host devised different street scenes to observe human behavior — in particular, to see how long it would take people walking down California’s bustling Hollywood Boulevard to notice and interact with others in distress. One scene involved a man in a Spongebob Squarepants costume who had “fallen down” on the sidewalk and needed help […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    A major Jewish organization rebuked actress Natalie Portman on Monday for saying in a recent interview that Jews put too much emphasis on teaching about the Holocaust relative to other genocides. The Israeli-born movie star told the U.K.’s Independent that the Jewish community needs to examine how much focus it puts on Holocaust education over other issues. She said she was shocked when she learned that a genocide was taking place in Rwanda while she was in school learning only about the horrors of the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    JNS.org – A new book that draws parallels between the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba (the Arabic term for the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel’s War of Independence) has sparked outrage ahead of an official book launch, to be hosted by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on Sept. 7. The Zionist organization Im Tirtzu wrote a letter to the institute demanding that it cancel an event it planned in honor of the book’s authors, under the title The Holocaust and […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Famed actress Natalie Portman warned on Friday against the use of Holocaust education to evoke fear and paranoia. In an interview with the U.K. Independent she added that the trauma should make Jews more empathetic to others who have also experienced hatred. “Sometimes it can be subverted to fearmongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen,’” the Israeli-American star said. “We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, antisemitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    The Tribalist, by Louis Marano, is ostensibly a work of fiction but at its core a kind of love song by a gentile journalist for the State of Israel, and especially its secular Zionist core. (Because of the relentless attacks by left-wing polemicists on Israel’s allegedly “messianic” fringe, it’s often forgotten that most of Israel’s founders and all its leaders have been secular Zionists.) The author, the product of an Italian-American family in Buffalo, served two tours of duty in […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    JNS.org – Rugelach (singular: rugala) are a beloved traditional Jewish pastry, with a quirky history to boot, but they often present a kosher conundrum. Though parve rugelach are often a preferred dessert after a meat meal for those observing kosher laws (which stipulate a waiting period between eating meat and dairy), some of today’s most popular rugelach are known for their dairy fillings. Pastry chef Paula Shoyer—author of the books “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy” and […]

    Read more →