by Stuart Littlewood
Poor Tim Willcox, now terrorised for doing a professional job at the Paris anti-terror march.
In a live TV report the BBC’s Willcox was interviewing people in the crowd and talking to a Jewish woman about her fears of persecution. She said: “The situation is going back to the days of the 1930s in Europe.”
Willcox replied: “Many critics, though, of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.”
She countered: “We can’t do an amalgam.”
Willcox said: “You understand everything is seen from different perspectives.”
The reporter’s remarks were widely criticised by viewers, with some calling for his resignation.
According to the Express, historian Simon Schama accused Willcox of “appalling hectoring” before tweeting: “Then he had gall to patronise her at the end – ‘you see people see it from all sides’. That Palestinian plight justifies anti-semitic murder?”
Anyway, poor Tim has had to apologise. Why? Did he say something untruthful? Was it indecent?
BBC Watch commented, without explaining the conversational context, by quoting from the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism: “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel” and implying that this was what Willcox had done. But Willcox was talking about the Israeli regime’s policy, right? Not the collective responsibility of Jews worldwide.
BBC Watch is linked to CiF Watch, which is “dedicated to monitoring antisemitism and combating the assault on Israel’s legitimacy”. And to CAMERA. All three have the same two editors.
Hadar Sela is Managing Editor. She “has lived in Israel for over three decades… and has written pre-emptive reports on several anti-Israel campaigns, including the flotillas and the Global March to Jerusalem in March 2012”. Funny, I thought the flotillas were bringing humanitarian aid to the desperate civilians cruelly imprisoned, blockaded and bombarded in the tiny enclave of Gaza. How is that deemed to be anti-Israel unless you’re a paranoid Zionist or one of the mindless criminal thugs imposing the blockade?
The other is Adam Levick, also Managing Editor of CiF Watch. He “made aliyah” in 2009. Aliya is moving your home to Israel. Since when did we or our national broadcaster take orders from a couple of Israelis?
The Board of Deputies of British Jews, the self-styled “voice of British Jewry”, can usually be relied on to jump in on these occasions, and they obliged. Quoting the same antisemitism definition they go on to say: “Not only was this remark irrelevant – after all the target of Friday’s attack were not Israeli but French Jews – it also conflates Middle Eastern politics with the murder of innocent French Jews, and implies that there was some kind of justification for the attack. This was bad, biased reporting and an attempt to misrepresent the events of Friday afternoon… Please take the opportunity to complain about Tim Willcox. You can use the the BBC’s complaints procedure…”
This is so confusing. Israel demands to be recognised as the Jewish State and has just passed laws to that effect. It claims to speak and act for Jews worldwide. Inevitably Israel’s behaviour influences how Jews are regarded locally.
Tim Willcox will remember what happened to another good BBC man, Jeremy Bowen, who was put through the mangle a few years ago by the Zionist mafia, and his caved-in bosses, for honest reporting Middle East Editor – Jeremy Bowen. No doubt they have tried to “re-educate” and re-program him.
A kindly member of our group sent Tim a word of encouragement:
“Thank you very much for saying publicly that Palestinians also suffer at the hands of Jews. I am sorry you have had to apologise; in my view those who need to apologise are those who do NOT say this at every opportunity.”
“I second Elizabeth’s remarks. Truth doesn’t count for much at the BBC any more, sadly.”
Came the reply:
“It’s been quite a heavy few days.
Thank you for your support.
If you wish to tell the BBC what you think, here is the link.
“Playing fast and loose with the language of the Holocaust”
All this is reminiscent of the flurry of outbursts early last year. The head of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Karen Pollock, succeeded in wringing an apology from a British MP for remarks in a parliamentary debate about what happened to Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe and what is happening now to Palestinians in Israeli-occupied Gaza and the West Bank.
Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East, told the House that the suffering in Gaza was intolerable.
“The state of Israel was founded because of what happened to the millions and millions of Jews who suffered genocide. Their properties, homes and land — everything — were taken away, and they were deprived of rights. Of course, many millions perished. It is quite strange that some of the people who are running the state of Israel seem to be quite complacent and happy to allow the same to happen in Gaza.
“The issue is not just about Gaza; let us think about the West Bank and Jerusalem as well. Many Palestinians are being turfed out of their homes in Jerusalem. The Israelis are the occupying power in the West Bank, where they have got rid of Palestinian homes and replaced them with hundreds of thousands of settlements, recognised by the United Nations as illegal…. The policy pursued by the state of Israel is not helping to lead to a two-state solution… Let us face it: if what is happening to Gaza, done by Israel, were happening to any other nation, the whole world would be up in arms, and rightly so.”
(from Hansard http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140205/halltext/140205h0002.htm )
Fair comment? Or something to apologise for?
As reported in The Guardian Ms Pollock accused the MP of making “offensive and inappropriate comparisons” about the Middle East. “We expect our politicians to speak responsibly and sensitively about the past and about events today. These lazy and deliberate distortions have no place in British politics… It is astonishing to think that anyone could visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, learn about the industrial nature of the Nazis’ murderous regime, even walk through a gas chamber – and then make these offensive and inappropriate comparisons.”
In the Jewish Chronicle Labour Friends of Israel director Jennifer Gerber strongly condemned the comparisons between the Holocaust and the situation in Gaza. “In her remarks, she [Qureshi] directly links Israeli policies towards the Palestinian people to the Nazis’ efforts to exterminate world Jewry. This is both deeply offensive to the memory of the Holocaust and its millions of victims, but also wilfully ignorant of the actual situation in Gaza. We would ask Ms Qureshi to apologise for her remarks, and to cease using such upsetting and offensive comparisons.”
Has Ms Gerber been to Gaza to see the “actual situation”? Ms Qureshi replied that she had not intended to draw a direct parallel especially as she had visited one of the most notorious death camps. “The debate was about the plight of the Palestinian people and in no way did I mean to equate events in Gaza with the Holocaust. I apologise for any offence caused.” She didn’t withdraw the remark, however.
Two years ago Liberal Democrat MP David Ward was in hot water for his “use of language” in condemning the Jewish state’s atrocities against the Palestinians while the horrors of their own suffering at the hands of the Nazis were still fresh in memory. He wrote on his website a few days before Holocaust Memorial Day: “Having visited Auschwitz twice — once with my family and once with local schools — I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.”
The sky immediately fell on him. Karen Pollock and Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, launched a vicious attack Lib Dems condemn MP’s criticism of Israel ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day with Pollock claiming that Ward “deliberately abused the memory of the Holocaust” and his remarks were “sickening” and had no place in British politics.
Benjamin said he was outraged and shocked by Ward’s “offensive” comments. They demanded the party withdraw the whip. Such was the pressure that wobbly LibDem bosses appointed a team to lay down language rules, determine whether Ward was “salvageable” and then “re-educate” him.
After that, in Brighton, the Sussex Friends of Israel turned on MP Caroline Lucas. During a pro-Israel lobby day in Parliament Lucas accused Israel of “blocking humanitarian aid” and “humiliating” the people of Gaza. Simon Cobbs, a founding member of the Sussex Friends of Israel, told The Algemeiner: “The problem we have with Caroline Lucas is that she’s taken a side over and above her own constituency needs.”
Ms Lucas’s remarks were perfectly valid and there was no way Cobbs could deny it. He should have put his point to the 80 percent of Conservative MPs and MEPs who have signed up with Friends of Israel, an organisation that flies the Israeli flag in the British parliament and promotes Israel’s interests. Such activities are not only “above the needs” but very probably detrimental to the interests of their constituencies.
Then Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell, speaking during a debate on the national schools curriculum, put a question to Education Secretary Michael Gove about world history lessons, saying: “On the assumption that the 20th century will include the Holocaust, will he give me an assurance that the life of Palestinians since 1948 will be given equal attention?”
“These remarks are a shocking piece of Holocaust denigration,” said Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Jeremy Newmark. “There is simply no comparison between the two situations. It is worrying that so soon after the David Ward affair another MP thinks it is acceptable to play fast and loose with the language of the Holocaust in this context.”
Prickly Ms Pollock also pounced on Russell: “To try to equate the events of the Holocaust – the systematized mass murder of 6 million Jews – with the conflict in the Middle East is simply inaccurate as well as inappropriate.”
But, as everyone and his dog knows, it isn’t a “conflict”. It’s a brutal occupation and blockade in which millions of innocent civilians have been dispossessed at gunpoint and put to flight, or collectively punished for decades by a military force armed to the teeth with high-tech weaponry, and unable to move feely in their own country. BBC Watch should note that Israel is especially good at collectively punishing Gazans for the alleged crimes of Hamas. As for the atrocities carried out in Nazi-occupied Europe and Israeli-occupied Palestine there is no equivalence in terms of scale. But some similarities are inescapable to those who go and see for themselves. The crucial message of the Holocaust, that such cruelty must never be allowed to happen again, seems lost already among those who are supposed to promote it.
And it’s that time of year again. Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK is 27 January. Stand by for more prickliness, more ructions and more “re-education”.
As I was signing off, news came in that MP David Ward had landed himself in hot water again Israel protests to Nick Clegg over MP’s Netanyahu tweet. The Israeli ambassador Daniel Taub has written to Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg expressing “abhorrence” at “offensive and shocking” comments made by Ward about Netanyahu’s presence at the solidarity march in Paris on Sunday.
Ward had tweeted: “#Netanyahu in Paris march – what!!! Makes me feel sick”.
Taub writes: “At a time when leaders were united in condemnation of extremist atrocities, Mr Ward’s statement is a disgraceful attempt to politicise suffering, delegitimise Israel, and justify acts of terror.” He also said that “more shocking still is the continued impunity that [Ward] seems to enjoy from his party”.
Taub himself would do well to curb his language. Israel is in no position to lecture on extremist atrocities or impunity. Many people, besides Ward, watching the march and Netanyahu’s antics must have kept a sickbag in reach. It was widely reported how the Israeli prime minister, who arrived uninvited (and, I hear, was actually asked to stay away), has been widely criticised for pushing his way to the front of the parade, positioning himself centre-stage, linking arms with the invited guests and waving inappropriately on such a solemn occasion to real or imaginary ‘admirers’ in the crowd.
On past form the LibDems will buckle and prostrate themselves before the Israeli bullies. Their spokesperson has already said the MP ‘s tweet was “clearly in bad taste”.
Poor David can look forward to more loony “re-education” in the LibDems’ house of correction, assuming they consider him “salvageable”. The party however isn’t. It’ll likely be wiped out at the coming general election.
Stuart Littlewood worked on jet fighters in the RAF then pursued a career in industrial marketing.
More recently he worked as a freelance and with innovation consultancies. Psychology degree Exeter University, Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Served as a Cambridgeshire county councilor 1993-97 and on the Police Authority. Associate of the Royal Photographic Society. Since retiring has been a newspaper columnist and produced two photo-documentary books. He is a regular contributor to a number of internet news magazines.
Stuart’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, tells the plight of the Palestinians under brutal occupation. It can now be read on the internet by visiting RadioFreePalestine.org.uk.
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