First thing in the morning, we, the participants on CAMERA’s Annual Leadership and Advocacy Training Mission to Israel departed our hotel to Kfar Haruv, a kibbutz located in the southern Golan Heights to meet Hadar Sela, the managing director of BBC Watch. Before hearing from Sela, we were entranced by the ambiance of the charming village and the majestic view of the Sea of Galilee.

Students visiting Hadar Sela’s kibbutz during the CAMERA trip.

Engaged in Sela’s talk on western media distortions, we couldn’t help but think about all the times we have been unknowingly led astray by the media. Prior to Sela’s talk, we would have thought that it would be fair to assume such a renowned and profound international broadcaster, established by a Royal Charter, would be a valid and credible source of information and news, but after Sela’s talk we changed our minds.

According to Sela, the BBC is guilty of using incorrect and unrelated photographs, misleading headlines and excluding vital parts to a story, and much more in order to distort public opinion.

Hadar Sela showing the students the view from her kibbutz

Immediately after returning to London, Sela’s voice echoed into my head. On the 8th of July the BBC broadcasted a documentary on the Children of the Gaza War, portraying the lives of Israeli and Gazan children during and after Operation Protective Edge last year. Mirroring the BBC’s normal fashion, the audience was given incorrect information. For example, the seemingly peaceful beach filled with children in Gaza, which was a regular rocket target, was actually a well-known Hamas-inhabited territory. The BBC is infamous for using statistics given by Hamas, an EU-designated terrorist organization, as a reliable and credible source for data, information and statistics.

This time however, something else was striking. There was a deliberate mistranslation in the subtitles. A Gazan child in the program says that the “yahud are massacring the Palestinians.” The word yahud  is the Arabic word for “Jew.” The BBC made the conscious decision to replace the translation in the subtitles; with the word “Israelis” for “yahud,” making the sentence read “the Israelis are massacring the Palestinians.”

After complaints of this mistranslation, the BBC then defended its decision, claiming that the children meant to say “Israelis” and that they were given advice by the translators to make it read that way as well. In changing this word the BBC clearly ignored the difference between the words “Jew” and “Israeli.” The assumed interchangeability of the words “Jew” and “Israeli” is a major problem that needs to be highlighted. By the BBC’s standards, if Jew and Israeli can be interchanged, could the words anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism be interchanged? I hope not.

What the boy was saying versus what the BBC interpreted brings up the question of how we associate the two words and why we do so. Anti-Zioinism is the hostility toward the Jewish state, whereas, Anti-Semitism is the hostility toward Jewish people, which are very different. Anti-Zionism is  seen as politically correct versus anti-Semitism, which is deemed socially unacceptable, especially in the West. Is one simply widely accepted disguise of the other, or are they two different doctrines that need to be distinguished?

Giving the BBC the benefit of the doubt, this boy was expressing his hatred for Israel and not the Jews, but because of the blurred lines between these two words nowadays,the hatred of Israel could give rise to the hatred of Jews and vice-versa.

Clearly, we are faced with a rise in anti-Semitism acreoss Europe, not to mention an increase in anti-Zionist sentiment, the latter masked by glamorous titles such as BDS or pro-Palestine. The world was shocked by the Chrile Hebdo shootins in January, followed by violent shootings by the Hyper Kacher supermarket in Paris’s porte de Vincennes-home to one of France’s more prominent Jewish communities. A legal neo-Nazi rally was carried our in Richmond Terrace, London only weeks ago; a city that boasts and accepting, multi-cultural environment suddenly shocked by individuals campaigning against the “Jewification of Britain.”

Interestingly, what is denominated “far-right” in the political spectrum was very obviously disclaimed by the presence of a Palestinian flag in the protest.

Should we not be making up our minds? Are we anti-Semitic or pro-Palestine?


This was contributed by King’s College London CAMERA Fellow, Joelle Reid.

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