The BBC Uses Biden’s Visit to Lie About Israel Being an ‘Apartheid’ State
In a July 14 TV report about President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East, the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen highlighted banners put up by the political NGO B’Tselem, and chose to amplify politically-motivated “apartheid” smears against Israel.
That, however, was not the only example of BBC journalists casually mainstreaming the apartheid canard in reports about the presidential visit.
In a news bulletin aired earlier on the same day, on BBC Radio 4’s ‘”Today” program (from 2:04:50 here), the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman chose to highlight one sole topic raised in a 13-minute interview:
Bateman: “In an interview for Israeli TV, Mr. Biden was asked about voices in the Democratic Party who describe Israel as an apartheid state. He called those voices few and wrong.”
And the trend continued.
One of the editions of the BBC World Service radio program “Newsday”— aired on July 15 — included an interview (from 49:29 here) with Issa Amro, who was presented as a “Palestinian activist based in the West Bank city of Hebron.” Unchallenged by presenter James Copnall, Amro told listeners worldwide:
Amro: “So two sets of law in the area for different people, it’s apartheid.”
Amro: “…and we want him [Biden] to talk and describe that it’s apartheid and it’s occupation.”
The same day’s edition of BBC Radio 4’s “Today” included a report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell (from 37:36 here), in which she also amplified the latest chapter in a B’Tselem campaign.
Knell: “[A]nd an Israeli anti-occupation NGO has paid for signs all along the route to the presidential headquarters saying ‘this is apartheid, Mr President.’”
Readers of an article by Yolande Knell published on the BBC News website’s “Middle East” page on July 15 likewise found promotion of the PR drive: “Signs put up by an Israeli anti-occupation NGO, B’Tselem, read: “This is apartheid, Mr President” – a label that Israeli and US authorities strongly reject.”
Introducing Yolande Knell at 05:37, presenter Audrey Brown claimed that the same signs had been placed by Palestinians rather than by a political NGO:
Brown: “So Yolande, there’s been a lot of opposition to the visit with Palestinians hanging out banners saying they live under apartheid…”
At 08:26 Brown introduced her sole non-BBC interviewee, Mariam Barghouti, who was presented to listeners as a “Palestinian writer and researcher.”
After asking Barghouti about the “similarity between Palestinian protest against oppression and the Black Lives Matter movement in the US,” Brown noted that it has been 16 years since the last Palestinian election, to which her interviewee replied:
Barghouti: “…and do you expect us to be able to do anything when there is an apartheid system functioning? When we’re focusing on not being dispossessed?”
The BBC is of course well aware that the “apartheid” smear is deliberately employed by anti-Israel pressure groups and their supporters (such as Mariam Barghouti) with the aim of delegitimizing Israel and turning it into a pariah state. Despite knowing just how incendiary the trigger terminology of apartheid is, the BBC has nevertheless facilitated its amplification and mainstreaming for years, be it by BBC journalists themselves.
As we see above, in just two days of BBC coverage of Joe Biden’s visit to the region, such banal amplification was evident on multiple BBC platforms, indicating that BBC editors continue to be entirely unperturbed by the fact that they are facilitating the mainstreaming of a politically motivated lie that deliberately hinders audience understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Hadar Sela is the co-editor of CAMERA UK — an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), where a version of this article first appeared.