An investigative journalist has unearthed an article penned by Jeremy Corbyn more than ten years ago in which he said Israeli “influence” in the British media explained a BBC decision not to broadcast a Gaza appeal.
In the Morning Star article, published on 28 January 2009 and shared on Thursday by Iggy Ostanin, the then backbencher blasted the BBC’s “absolutely astonishing” decision not to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Gaza aid appeal because it was worried about impartiality.
“What this embarrassing saga demonstrates is the contempt the BBC directors appear to have for the views of the licence fee payers and the unbelievably high levels of influence that Israel’s government appears to have in the upper echelons of parts of the media,” Corbyn wrote.
A working example from the newly-adopted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism lists the accusation that Jews control the media, but a spokesperson for the Labour Party rejected the idea that Corbyn was peddling an age-old trope.
“The suggestion that Jeremy was talking about Jewish people, when he commented on the greater level of media influence the Israeli government has than the Palestinian leadership, is entirely false, and itself relies on a damaging antisemitic trope,” the spokesperson said.
More than 100 MPs condemned the BBC’s 2009 decision not to broadcast the DEC appeal and Corbyn’s late Labour colleague Tony Benn MP told a BBC interviewer that “the reason the BBC has done it is very simple: the Israeli government objected”.
John Kampfner, a former New Statesman editor and head of Index on Censorship, said “Israel has amassed a formidable PR operation… much better funded and more professional than anything the Palestinians have mustered,” adding: “I wonder whether – when confronted by governments, media and other organisations that wield real power over it – the BBC remains too cowed.”