Friday, December 18, 2009

BBC slanders pro-Palestine debate

A friend drew my attention to this story at the BBC. [Note: since this post was first published, the story has been substantially edited. See below.] It alleges that one Jonathan Hoffman appeared at a SOAS debate on Palestine and, when he mentioned his name (they helpfully point out that it is of German-Jewish extraction) he was booed and called 'Jewish' as if it were an insult. This is the video:

The BBC doesn't mention that there are Jewish people on the panel and in the audience. Steven Rose is Jewish, and Ronnie Kasrils is also of Jewish descent. Several members of the audience identify themselves as Jewish, and are subject to no racist opprobrium. The BBC doesn't mention that Jonathan Hoffman is a member of the Zionist Federation, and is responsible for some of the most disgustingly racist apologias for Israel's attack on Gaza last winter. That is why he was booed. Readers of Jews Sans Frontieres will be familiar with some of his work. They also cite an 'anti-racist' campaigner as a source for the claim that the hostility to Hoffman was racist, and that he was attacked for being 'Jewish'. The BBC doesn't mention that the campaigner, Raheem Kassam, is an executive member of Conservative Future, the 'youth wing' of the Conservative Party. They incorrectly identify his organisation, Students Rights, as a group of 'anti-racism' campaigners. In fact, their explicit remit is to "counter political extremism", and threats to "free speech". The latter includes the attempts by some students to prevent military recruitment on campus.

Update: Raheem Kassam has asked me to clarify that while he was a member of Conservative Party, he no longer is, having allowed the membership to lapse a year ago. As such, he is no longer on the executive of Conservative Future.

Update II: The original BBC story has been substantially edited. The headline has been altered, and 'balancing' quotations from those present at the meeting have been introduced. The head of Student Rights, who I can confirm was not present at the meeting and only viewed the online footage, was initially the only source cited in the story. Student Rights is no longer referred to, falsely, as a group of 'anti-racist' campaigners. A success for those complaining, I think.