Jewish Voice for Labour lobbies BBC over election coverage bias

Members and supporters of Jewish Voice for Labour are staging a protest at the BBC’s Portland Place centre today Sunday 8th December, calling the corporation to account for election coverage that “falls disastrously short of its own formal standards of accuracy and balance.”

Press statement – for immediate release

Jewish Voice for Labour lobbies BBC over election coverage bias

2pm Sunday December 8
Portland Place, London W1A 1AA

#StopBBCBiasNow, #Jews4Labour, #VoteLabourHateRacism

Members and supporters of Jewish Voice for Labour are staging a protest at the BBC’s Portland Place centre on Sunday, calling the corporation to account for election coverage that “falls disastrously short of its own formal standards of accuracy and balance.”

JVL points to allegations that the Labour Party is riddled with antisemitism being reported as “quasi-factual, with no indication that they are fiercely contested.” In particular the group, whose 1,000 members are active in at least half the Constituency Labour Parties in the country, takes issue with the BBC for persistently sidelining expert Jewish commentators critical of the attacks on Labour.

“In the closing stages of an acrimonious election campaign, the BBC’s coverage of antisemitism charges against the Labour Party has been both unbalanced and uncritical,” JVL co-chairs Jenny Manson and Leah Levane said in a letter on Thursday to BBC Director General Tony Hall and Director of News and Current Affairs Fran Unsworth.

The most recent example is uncritical reporting of the Jewish Labour Movement’s “leak” of its own submission to the Equality and Human Right Commission. JLM re-ran long-debunked allegations against Jeremy Corbyn and the Party, adding uncorroborated charges from individuals, many of whom have already had their testimony powerfully challenged.  A new investigation by journalist Paddy French into BBC’s Panorama programme Is Labour Antisemitic? gives many examples. French’s interim report, titled Is the BBC Anti-Labour?  is being made public on Sunday.)

BBC coverage of JLM’s manufactured “news” entirely disregarded JVL’s own submission to the EHRC which is freely available online. This was yet another example of the corporation’s disgraceful practice of editing out of the news stream material that challenges the ‘Labour is antisemitic’ narrative.

“We were pleased to receive an almost instant reply from Fran Unsworth to our letter, but we were deeply disappointed by its dismissive tone,” Leah Levane said. “We are requesting a meeting to discuss our concerns.”

The Portland Place protest coincides with a demonstration in Parliament Square purporting to represent Jewish fears about antisemitism in British society. JVL questions the motives of the event organisers, a group calling itself ‘Campaign Against Antisemitism’ (CAA), which claims unconvincingly that the rally it has called four days before the UK General Election will be “non-political”.

In a statement on the CAA rally, JVL notes the alarming rise in antisemitic attacks and the broader rise of the far right, alongside the normalisation of racist ideas. It says that over the last four years, “the CAA and others have concentrated their efforts on a concerted campaign to associate the Labour Party with antisemitism. They have chosen to minimise, if not ignore entirely, antisemitism, racism and Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and more widely.”

“It remains to be seen how the BBC reports the events planned for Sunday,” said Jenny Manson. “We hope there will be some attempt at accuracy and balance about the underlying issues that has been sadly lacking to date.”


NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. JVL LETTER TO HALL AND UNSWORTH, SENT THURSDAY DEC 5

To Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC and Fran Unsworth, Director of News and Current Affairs

URGENT – “Is the BBC Antisemitic?”

We need to register with you our deep concern that, once again, and in the closing stages of an acrimonious election campaign, the BBC’s coverage of antisemitism charges against the Labour Party has been both unbalanced and uncritical. Your reporting today of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM)’s repetition of its flimsily-based charges against the Party that it used to support falls disastrously short of the Corporation’s own formal standards of accuracy and balance. This represents what we can only call a flagrant breach, and of all times during a general election campaign, of the BBC’s legal commitment to due impartiality and fairness.

Over recent months, and with no remission during the election campaign, coverage of allegations of Labour antisemitism has featured repeatedly in the BBC News, and often as the lead item. In news programmes the allegations have been reported as quasi-factual, with no indication that they are fiercely contested. In more discursive formats such as the Today programme or Newsnight, presenters have consistently adopted a negative, attacking stance towards anyone who questions the basis of the allegations. In complete contrast, those making the allegations, usually based on hearsay rather than personal experience, are supplied with leading questions and softball follow-up.

Jews are as diverse as any other substantial group in society. Yet people whose representative status is highly doubtful are routinely presented by the BBC as ‘representatives of the Jewish community’. Surely you can ensure that your broadcasting staff know the facts and convey them appropriately. The Board of Deputies, for example, has no supervised electoral process – and in any case its synagogue-based membership covers no more than one third of the UK’s Jewish population.  Secular Jews make up at least 50% of British Jews and have no voice through the Board of Deputies.

In particular the voices of the large numbers of Jews who are Party members, who know how atypical the quite rare examples of antisemitic behaviour in the party are, and who are enthusiastic supporters of a Corbyn-led Labour government have been almost entirely ignored. The BBC has allowed itself to be used as a megaphone for deeply contested charges.

The BBC’s Guidelines state that when a partisan political position is put forward, an opposing one, if it exists, should be broadcast too. The Labour Party does have many Jews who support it and who are prepared to speak out, notably in the organisation Jewish Voice for Labour. Our many requests to be able to present our experience and our perspective are routinely ignored, and in the rare exceptions have never been given equal weighting with the negative voices.

The BBC’s coverage of the JLM’s release of its evidence to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s inquiry (into any discrimination in Labour’s processes for handling complaints of antisemitism) is a prime example of the BBC’s systematic imbalance. This deliberately-timed attempted destabilisation of the Labour Party’s position by JLM has appeared in virtually every main news bulletin today, including live coverage – uncontested – of the JLM news conference on BBC News Channel.

The evidence that Jewish Voice for Labour gave to the EHRC inquiry was made public at the time and is publicly available on our website. This evidence is directly relevant to your news item but was not even mentioned in today’s extended BBC coverage. It seems that the BBC is treating us as the ‘wrong sort of Jew’.

All Jews are not the same. Asserting that they are is an aspect of antisemitism. The BBC should be ashamed of its record in openness to the multiple voices of British Jewry.

By behaving in the way that it has (and today’s JLM coverage is only the latest example) the BBC has, constructively, been contributing to an assiduously promoted anti-Labour agenda.

We look forward to immediate corrective action.

This letter will be published on our website. [It was, here]

Sincerely,
Leah Levane and Jenny Manson, co-chairs JVL


2. JVL STATEMENT ON CAA RALLY IN PARLIAMENT SQUARE

Why we cannot support Sunday’s CAA Rally

We note that the organisation that calls itself ‘Campaign Against Antisemitism’ (CAA) has arranged a rally, that it claims to be non-political, but which will take place just four days before the UK General Election. We seriously question its motives.

The main billed speakers at the CAA rally are known for their hostility to Labour.  Non-political? Where are the ‘non-political’ speakers known for their criticisms of the Conservative Party or even of the far right?  There are none.

Jewish Voice for Labour stands firmly against all forms of racism: antisemitism, Islamophobia, and racism towards Black and Asian people. We note with alarm the rise in antisemitic attacks and the broader rise of the far right, but also the normalisation of racist ideas and the othering of different communities. But over the last four years the CAA and others have instead concentrated their efforts on a concerted campaign to associate the Labour Party with antisemitism. They have chosen to minimise, if not ignore entirely, antisemitism, racism and Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and more widely. While specific attacks from far right groups have been mentioned by CAA, they have been treated as isolated incidents, rather than as part of a deeply worrying trend.

Thankfully Britain is currently one of the safest places to be Jewish. Long may this continue and improve. However, the London Bridge and other attacks make clear that comparatively safe is not safe enough. There are worrying and rising levels of racism of all kinds, including antisemitism. All research evidence shows that the threat is overwhelmingly from the far right.  The CAA can obfuscate this clear fact only by rolling Israel-critical statements into its version of antisemitism.

Many of the most high-profile allegations against the Labour Party, have been shown to be spurious, as JVL has repeatedly exposed. For example, Louise Ellman’s allegations about her treatment by her Liverpool Riverside CLP have been comprehensively debunked. The Jewish Chronicle has been forced to publish a damning IPSO indictment of its misrepresentation of what took place in Riverside.

Selective reporting is rife. After the dreadful attack on November 29th on a Rabbi visiting the UK from Israel, Jeremy Corbyn not only expressed his horror at the attack, he also directly contacted Rabbi Gluck who heads up the Shomrim (an organisation that mounts volunteer Jewish civilian patrols in North London).  Rabbi Gluck welcomed the approach from the Labour leader and noted that Jeremy Corbyn was the only political leader to do so.  Curiously we did not see this reported in the CAA bulletin.

The campaign by CAA and others across all media has successfully established in the public mind the untruth that the Labour Party is a hotbed of antisemitism. Their “non-political” rally is yet another scarcely veiled attack on the Labour Party at this most political of times in this most political of atmospheres, when the country is at its most divided.

Jewish people share the same needs and concerns as all British citizens. Our shared Jewish experience highlights the importance of standing with all oppressed groups, who, like us, have also suffered centuries of abuse, discrimination, and murderous attacks – some of them from the same Nazi regime that murdered so many European Jews.  Today this must mean solidarity with Black, Asian and Muslim people, with disabled people, LGBT+ communities, and others facing discrimination. Seeing antisemitism as somehow a worse form of discrimination than all others deprives us of the strength that comes from wider solidarity.

This so called non-political rally is, in fact, a political rally against Labour. Labour offers the best hope for those suffering poverty, and for the regeneration of our public services. Labour’s policies offer the best way of removing the breeding grounds for all forms of racism, and for combatting the division between communities, especially those targeted by the far right. If you genuinely oppose all forms of racism, including antisemitism, you will be voting Labour on 12th December.

* Advertised speakers include: Colonel Richard Kemp (retired), highly critical of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn and accused of serious levels of Islamophobia; Satish Shama, hostile to Labour for its stand in solidarity with the people of Kashmir and criticism of the Modi government; Fayaz Mughai, who has claimed – in contrast with Baroness Warsi – that the problems of Tory Islamophobia do not compare with antisemitism in the Labour Party; and Tracy Ann Oberman, the level of whose contributions is captured in her allegation that labour activists are “pretending to have lost family in [the] Holocaust to counter anti Semitism claims”.

 

 

 

Comments (23)

  • Barbara watson says:

    Thank you for coming forward to defend labour and Jeremy Corbyn it’s about time the BBC come clean and admitted their political bias it’s pretty obvious to anyone with a modicum of intelligence. It’s disgraceful what they have put Jeremy through but I’m hopeful voters have not been hoodwinked

  • Edward Hill says:

    No change by the BBC detectable on Pienaar’ s Politics today (ironically the podcast is entitled “Truth and Lies”.) Interviewing Rebecca Long-Bailey, Pienaar quoted in full the Rabbi Marvin Heir statement “No one has done more to mainstream anti-semitism into the political and social life of a democracy than the Jeremy Corbin led Labour Party.” He added: “When you see a quotation like that from a source like that, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, it must chill your blood.” He responded to Rebecca’s reply with: “Yet we have evidence from The Jewish Labour Movement who say Labour Party were told to upload information on cases on memory sticks in secret and hand them privately to the leader’s office. That’s a system that’s supposed to be independent. You’ve seen the allegation, haven’t you, backed by 70 serving and former members of staff. That sounds..it’s not good, is it?” Fortunately Rebecca avoided saying anything controversial like questioning the impartiality of the allegations. Another irony perhaps:the issue of anti-Semitism was raised by another programme contributor, Pippa Crerar of the Daily Mirror, who referred to the front page of today’s “Sunday Times,” and “to the Jewish Labour Movement, who are saying …”

  • Marlene says:

    It’s disgraceful the lies that are being edited by the bbc should be brought to book that’s all they trying to is bring Jc down what about the Islamic phobia with the torys boris as not had any confrutation on this ???😡

  • Roberto says:

    Thank you for expressing your concern on BBC biased coverage of antisemitism in the Labour Party. Thank you, above all, to highlight the increase of intolerance, racism and somehow, ostracism towards all aspects of social, religious, ethnic minorities as a direct consequence of a ferocious and deliberate language mainly from members of the Conservative and Brexit Party. Thank you also to say clearly and loudly that the silence of the press on reporting the far right hostility toward the minorities living in the UK must be accounted as press complicity.

  • Dave Clinch says:

    This is so important in the struggle against attacks on the Labour Leader smearing him with the charge of antisemitism. This is m an attack on the Labour Leadership by right wing Jews.

    Jewish Voice for Labour has again defended Jeremy Corbyn with courage, supported by the evidence showing his exemplary record in fighting antisemitism and racism.

    With love and solidarity

    Dave Clinch 💚💚
    Torrington
    North Devon

  • Nick Owen says:

    So many of us are sick and tired of the pro Government bias of the BBC. It would be a miracle if the BBC gave this the attention it deseves

  • It’s not just the BBC. Since last Year LBC have launched an unfair tirade of abuse at Labour and Jeremy Corbyn in particular. The main culprits are their Right Wing Broadcasters such as Nick Ferrari, Tom Swarbrick who was Theresa Mays Press Officer and Ian Dale a previously failed Conservative General Election Candidate. There inclusion of callers have been mainly from a certain section of The Jewish Community and have often been allowed repeated call time.
    The BBC have given prominent exposure to anti-Corbyn rhetoric in particular in their Daily Politics programme and also on Question Time.

  • marina hourston says:

    So glad this has come out but the BBC need to put a prime time apology on twice a day for a week so that not one person misses it such as the damage they might have done so near to the election could cost Labour the election Jeremy Corbyn is not a Racist and it’s the most ridiculous thing to say so THE BBC IS NOTHING MORE THAN A TORY PROPAGANDA MACHINE JC4PM 🌹🌹🌹

  • Carl Criticz says:

    Great work everyone.

  • Geoff Loader says:

    Totally agree. The bbc is supposed to inform and entertain. I have never heard them inform about anti semitism and anti Zionism…..pro tory commentators and right wing Jews like to combine the two and there are jewish groups who, I believe, are anti Zionist But this is never mentioned or discussed…..well done the JVL.

  • different frank says:

    Please post video of the event.

  • David Plank says:

    Dear Team Labour,

    Thank you for your email. I agree Party members are “amazing”. Why then are we let down once again by John McDonnell’s comments this morning on antisemitism. As with all alleged racist acts, they must be investigated thoroughly and the Party’s values enforced – and there clearly are some such acts. But the vast majority of members are not in any way antisemitic, as the Party’s own data shows, and the vile slurs and false claims made against us, as fully evidenced by Dr Alan Maddison, Bob Pitt and others e.g. in “Bad News for Labour” **, should not be countenanced. Nor should our standing up against Israel’s brutal and illegal treatment of the Palestinian people ++, be allowed to be equated with antisemitism, as many of our critics do.

    These allegations are in effect made against all members of the Labour Party, when, for example, we are accused of being institutionally antisemitic. That is a false and strongly resented claim – to which no apology should be made in my name – nor that of other Party members – as John McDonnell did this morning, and as other Shadow Cabinet members have done before. Many of those Party members are Jewish and also deeply resent being cast as antisemitic, and have their voice for Labour marginalized and silenced – witness the treatment of Jewish Voice for Labour. Many of them have talked and written about the Party being a safe space for them over decades, with no reduction in this safety since the Party’s membership expanded as a result of Jeremy’s deserved election as our Leader. Why then are we traduced by our own people in this way?

    Despite this lack of support from our leadership, I will continue to pull out all the stops, including contributing financially, for Labour – For the Many not the Few – of all races, creeds and beliefs.

    In solidarity

    David
    ** Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, The Party & Public Belief. Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller. Pluto Press, 2019
    ++ See, for example, the various reports of the United Nations Human Rights Special Rapporteurs and Independent Commissions of Inquiry

  • Rod taylor says:

    At long last & thank goodness that a credible voice is being raised against the BBC’s long & sustained disgraceful behaviour towards Corbyn! I have complained directly to the BBC but my single & anonymous voice has only ever been completely dismissed with derision & contempt!

  • Philip Ward says:

    The JLM has now taken various actions that are so extreme (it is now longer really anything to do with the Labour Party) that perhaps there are even some members who are questioning what it does. As far as I can remember, it held an AGM some time ago, at which less than 5% of its claimed membership were present, where it first announced it was against having a Labour government under Corbyn. Does anyone know what is happening inside the JLM? Does it still have its claimed 2,000-3,000 members? What happened to Newmark?

  • carrol nurse says:

    at last! BBC being held to account about its blatant bias!

  • ALAN MADDISON says:

    It seems that those Jewish and non-Jewish groups who have peddled lies and gross exaggerations about antisemitism in the Labour Party have won. They have managed to convince millions of something that is clearly false.

    This has only been possible because there is such political bias across the media that available evidence to expose the lies is never examined nor presented.

    What motivates such bias? Is it fear, intimidation, corruption or simple dishonesty?

    Labour may lose this GE because of this, leading, I fear, to further loss of democracy as the extreme right strengthens its grip on the Tory Party.

    More propaganda, more blaming immigrants for the economic downturn, and an increase in the more violent far right version of antisemitism.

    The Left may be too weakened, marginalised and disheartened this time to defend our Jewish neighbours. I hope not. But to avoid yhis risk we must continue, by all means, to sort out our dysfunctional media.

  • Ana Lena Stipancic says:

    Dear JVL,

    I am not Jewish and I am not a Labour supporter (as in ‘a fairly recent immigrant’, not as in ‘a different party supporter’). However, I’ve been following this election as only one who is European and has had no say can. Since the first feature about Chief Rabbi Mirvis’ letter on the BBC news, the attacks on Labour, and Corbyn particularly, for antisemitism have been vicious and relentless. This has been reflected in other media too, but isn’t BBC a respected institution and benchmark for all other media? The use of marked language, and constant iteration of the same allegations which went unchallenged jarred with reason. Clearly this was something else, (something political). Thank you very much for standing up for the truth! In times like this it is much needed, otherwise we are gaslighted into doubting our own powers of reason. Furthermore, I am wary of the intolerance emanating from the evermore right-wing Conservative party, which was used to fuel anti-EU sentiment, but is now an end in itself and the very means by which the Conservatives intend to win the election.
    It is quite likely that this has destroyed Labour’s chances of doing better than expected at the GE (perhaps they can sue the BBC, I’d be happy to volunteer or fundraise), but if we keep saying the truth it will be on record in the end.
    I’ve complained to the BBC about this too, waiting for 2nd level reply (conveniently after the GE). I understand that the Chief Rabbi Mirvis is an eminent person, but that doesn’t make him automatically infallible or impartial.

    No balanced reporting, and no apology from the BBC for the past two weeks.

    Thank you again,

    Ana Lena Stipancic

  • linda we says:

    i have been heartbroken at the vicious slander of jeremy Corbyn an utterly good and honest manwho has fought all forms of racism and predjudice all his life, with vicious lying slurs regarding a willful conflation of Zionism and Judaism. the evidence provided on the rare occasion it was asked for amounted that Jeremy had been seen talking to someone who had made anti zionist comments or conversattions. you stitched up this election british media. boris johnson having gained confidence from this media attack does not hesitate to slur Jeremy cor byn.

  • Harold De Vries says:

    JVL has 1000 members so you are NOT representative of Jewry.

    You are a tiny group , whose opinions are interesting but irrelevant

  • Gerry Glyde says:

    Harold, JVL is representative of those who support its views and are equal to such organisation as the JLM or the Jewish Leadership Council. The latter who seem to be some some of self selecting group. It is suggested that the BoD represent a fraction of orthodox Jewry so there is not a single Jewish representative organisation

  • Edward Hill says:

    BBC news online has a report dated 10th December, stating: “A Bristol councillor has been suspended from the Labour Party following allegations of anti-Semitism. Harriet Bradley, who represents Brislington West on Bristol City Council is being investigated by the party after comments were posted on social media.She allegedly shared a post from Jewish Voice for Labour, with the comment “The right kind of Jews I.e..left voters.”
    The report fails to mention that JVL had used the term “wrong sort of Jew” in a letter arguing that the BBC’ s coverage of anti-Semitism charges in the Labour Party has been both unbalanced and uncritical. The news item ends: “Mrs Bradley has not yet responded to a BBC request for comment.” Is it too much to hope that the BBC will acknowledge this letter publicly?

  • Margaret West says:

    The question is then – who IS representative of Jewry? As a non Jew I like to
    look at all opinions and it seems to me that JVL and others of like opinions
    are being ignored.

    As a matter of interest though – how many members does JLM have and what
    are the rules – if any – of membership eligibility?

  • Doug says:

    Could vexatious claims of anti semitism be considered a hate crime

Comments are now closed.