Rare BBC Editorial Complaints Unit ruling on Edo Hecht article:

British Broadcasting Corporation White City, 201 Wood Lane, London, W12 7TS

Telephone: 020 8743 8000 Email: ecu@bbc.co.uk

Editorial Complaints Unit

AB/1400381

29 October 2014

Dear Ms Langford

“Gaza: How Hamas tunnel network grew”, bbc.co.uk

 

I am writing to let you know the outcome of the ECU’s investigation into your complaint about this article on the BBC news website. I am sorry that you were not happy with the response you received when you first raised this with the BBC. We have now read the article and reviewed the earlier correspondence and conducted research on the internet. I have considered your complaint against the BBC Editorial Guidelines concerning Accuracy, particularly that which says:

We should normally identify on-air and online sources of information and significant contributors, and provide their credentials, so that our audiences can judge their status.

The author of the article, Dr Eado Hecht, is described as

…an independent defence analyst and lecturer in military doctrine at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University.

You have complained that it is inaccurate to describe him as independent given his association with the Israeli military. This is described by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA):

Dr. Eado Hecht is an independent defense analyst specializing in military doctrine and its interpretation. He teaches military theory and military history at Bar-Ilan University, Haifa University and at the Israeli Defense Forces Command and General Staff College, and serves on the Editorial Advisory Panel of The Journal of Military Operations.

In response to your complaint, the Middle East desk at the BBC news website has made the point that as Dr Hecht is not employed full-time by BESA, or any other institution, the description is appropriate. They say:

Eado Hecht is independent in that he is not employed on any full-time basis by any institution, including the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (Besa). He is an external lecturer, who gets paid per course only.

At the time he was commissioned to write the article, Eado Hecht was not teaching at the Israel Defense Forces Command and General Staff College as his contract had ended. As he is independent, the General Staff College is one of a number of institutions where he has been paid to lecture. As pointed out in an earlier response: “If Mr Hecht was employed by the IDF he would have required the IDF’s express permission to write for the BBC, and then by [Israeli] law he would not be permitted to accept any payment from us.”

When Eado Hecht wrote the article, Besa was his only active contract.

I understand the point they are making but it seems to me that, particularly in this context, this is an unduly narrow definition of “independent” which, based on employment, is not one that the audience would be aware was being used. In this context, I believe that the average reader would take the word to mean the position of someone who is not aligned with a particular party in a dispute and who stands aside from it, offering independent analysis. This does not seem to be the case with Dr Hecht. Without wishing to cast any aspersions on his academic credentials, it would appear to me that articles published under Dr Hecht’s name reveal a clear pro-Israel perspective and offer guidance and analysis as to how Israel might better prosecute its dispute with the Palestinians.[1] I note, for example, one he co-authored in 2005, entitled: “Neglect of IDF Ground Forces: A Risk to Israel’s Security” whose executive summary says:

Dramatic cuts to the IDF budget have forced the army to reduce its ground forces capabilities. This is a mistake, as the IDF still must rely on a capable and credible ground force to deal with its strategic threats, specifically the rocket-launching capabilities of Hamas and Hizballah.[2]

In addition, Dr Hecht’s connection with BESA is not confined to that of an external lecturer paid according to the courses he teaches. His articles are also published under the imprimatur of BESA, which describes itself as advancing

…a realist, conservative, and Zionist agenda in the search for security and peace for Israel. The center conducts policy-relevant research on strategic subjects, particularly as they relate to the national security and foreign policy of Israel and Middle East regional affairs.

BESA Center publications and policy recommendations are directed at senior Israeli decision-makers in military and civilian life, the defense and foreign affairs establishments in Israel and abroad, the diplomatic corps, the press, the academic community, leaders of Jewish communities around the world, and the educated public.[3]

This is a clearly pro-Zionist agenda and unless Dr Hecht’s articles, published under BESA’s auspices, explicitly disassociate themselves from this mission statement – which they do not – it seems to me that they must inevitably be considered part of BESA’s endeavours. The fact that BESA describes him as “independent” does not dispose of this issue given the problem of definition which I have identified above.

Finally, I note that, in 2002, Dr Hecht appeared on CBS 60 Minutes, in a report investigating Iraqi and Iranian backing for terrorism, where he was described as a senior Israeli intelligence official.[4]

Taking all of this into account and bearing in mind the meaning that the average reader is likely to ascribe to the term, I do not believe that “independent defence analyst” is sufficiently accurate or informative in relation to Dr Hecht, and I am upholding your complaint.

As Andrew Bell explained in his earlier email, this is a provisional finding and you have the opportunity to comment on it before it is finalised. If you wish to take that opportunity, I’d be grateful if you would let me have your comments by 12 November. In the meantime, thank you for writing to us and giving us the opportunity to investigate your concerns.

Yours sincerely

Fraser Steel

Head of Editorial Complaints

[1] http://besacenter.org/author/ehecht/

[2] http://besacenter.org/perspectives-papers/neglect-idf-ground-forces-risk-israels-security/

[3] http://besacenter.org/about/mission/

[4] http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/760059/posts

BBC Today Programme, 19.3.15: Ya’alon

I’d be grateful to receive a reply to this complaint. Thanks.
The Today Programme Thursday 19th March 2015 showed institutional pro-Iraeli bias when, at 08.39, Sarah Montague hosted Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon. I say ‘hosted’ rather than ‘interviewed’ for the following reasons:
Ya’alon was given free rein without being challenged to claim that Palestinians “enjoy political independence,” “decided to be divided,” and that “Arabs” have “the same civil rights as we enjoy.”
Ms Montague facilitated Israel’s extremist, illegal actions by presenting them as normal. She went further, plugging the Israeli narrative and drawing out further excesses from Mr Ya’alon. By treating with kid gloves a putative war criminal representing a self-avowed racist government that has vigorously reaffirmed its determination to defy international law, Ms Montague was actively enabling war crimes.
How was it possible that she remained silent while a torrent of lies was disseminated on air? Can you tell me why she did not challenge the fantasmagoric assertion that “Actually, they enjoy already political independence. They have their own political system, government, Parliament, municipalities and so forth…We don’t want to govern them whatsoever.”
Mr Ya’alon was allowed to speak for nearly three minutes, uninterrupted, unchallenged, before Ms Montague decided to ask him another simpatico question.
Is it possible that Ms Montague has never heard of checkpoints, the apartheid wall, the military occupation under which the life of every single Palestinian in the West Bank and Gaza is jeopardised, restricted and terrorised? Where was she when white phosphorous rained down on Gaza? When whole families were wiped out? Is it possible that the BBC is more obliging to the Israeli regime than even the United States of America, whose government has today expressed concern over the racism and extremism that was manifested during the election campaign, and Netanyahu’s rejection of a two-state solution?
Had Ms Montague not heard about Mr Ya’alon’s colleague, the Israeli FM who has recommended “beheading Arabs”? Had she not heard about Mr Netanyahu’s Jim Crow warning to get the right-wing voters out: “Arabs are being bussed to the polling stations”?
Did Ms Montague not know that Israel reacted with extreme violence to the formation of a Palestinian unity government? Otherwise, how come she did not challenge Ya’alon when he concocted his fiction that “they decided to be divided into two principal entities.” Has she not heard of the UN partition plan of 1947 that imposed the State of Israel in the region and divided Palestinian land to make way for Israel?
Why did Ms Montague focus on ‘security’ issues for Israel raised by the spectre of a unitary state with equal rights for all citizens? This echoed Israel’s racist ‘demographic problem’ that manifests in ethnic cleansing, threats of ‘transfer’ and keeping Palestinians in a state of constant terror.
Ms Montague showed no concern for the victims of Israel’s extremist, apartheid policies.
While she has no such inhibitions when she interviews Palestinians – a rare occasion, admittedly, isn’t it strange that she becomes meek and obliging when ‘interviewing’ Israeli war criminals?
Yours sincerely,
Diane Langford

Claudia Jones letter to Daily Worker, 1963

For the attention of the Race Relations Committee, SERTUC regarding CLAUDIA JONES COMMEMORATION, Friday, 6th March.

Dear Colleagues,

I’m writing to congratulate you on your initiative in celebrating the life of Claudia Jones.

The following information and letter from Claudia Jones to the Editor of the Daily Worker, written in 1963, about the Bristol Omnibus Company’s racist employment practices, will hopefully add to the pool of information you have collected for the commemoration.

By an accident of history I came into possession of the papers of Claudia Jones. My partner, Abhimanyu (Manu) Manchanda and Claudia had a personal and political relationship. When he died, he left a room full of documents from which Claudia’s papers had to be identified and extracted. This work took me several years to complete. Most of Claudia’s papers, including her passport, were deposited at the Schomburg Library in New York and now form a collection entitled “The Claudia Jones Memorial Collection”.

Carole Boyce Davies was key to the efficient transfer of the material, including making a catalogue of the documents. She produced two outstanding volumes as a result of her work on the papers: Left of Karl Marx published by Duke University Press, 2008, and Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment published by Ayebia in the UK in 2007. The latter is a comprehensive collection of Claudia’s own writings, edited by Carole.
Photographs and writings pertaining to the West Indian Gazette were entrusted to Claudia’s WIG colleague and friend, Donald Hinds, for safe keeping and archiving.

“Carole Boyce Davies’s brilliant book, Left of Karl Marx, did so much more than recover the left and legacy of Claudia Jones. She threw down the gauntlet, forcing us to rethink many of the fundamental assumptions and conceits of Marxism and to come to terms with Claudia Jones’s radical critiques of racism, women’s oppression and colonial rule. But Davies isn’t done. In this stunning collection of Jones’s essays, speeches, autobiological reflections and poems, Davies not only underscores why Jones stands among the world’s most important radical theorists and organizers of the 20th century, but she reveals the Trinidadian-born, transnational intellectual as artist and visionary.” – Robin D.G. Kelly, Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California and author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

Before passing on the papers I transcribed some handwritten letters. A small amount of personal correspondence between Claudia and Manu remains in my hands although copies of them are included in the Schomburg Collection and the originals will end up there soon enough.

Claudia’s letter, copied below, to the editor of the Daily Worker (forerunner of the Morning Star) clearly demonstrates the difficulties she had to overcome within the Communist Party as a woman and as a Black woman. Manu, who was expelled from the CPGB for an article he wrote in the West Indian Gazette, criticizing the Soviet Union, told me they were both informed by senior party officials that the party did not want “Commonwealth” comrades in the leadership.

FROM CLAUDIA JONES TO EDITOR, DAILY WORKER:

May 7,
(year not added, but presumed written in 1963)

Editor,
Daily Worker,
75 Farringdon Road,
London EC1

Dear George Matthews,

I thought it best to follow up our telephone discussion of this morning on the matter I raised with you re: the current news story entitled “Economic Ban-Not Colour-Sir Learie” in this morning’s issue of the Daily Worker.
I hope you’ll find it possible to print my letter in your columns, except of course, the first and last paragraphs.
[Letter for publication follows]
The news article captioned “Economic Ban-Not Colour-Sir Learie” appearing in the May 7 issue of the Daily Worker was most unfortunate. Coming as it did in the midst of a widespread protest by West Indians in Bristol and their Labour-Progressive and student allies, following the refusal of the Bristol Omnibus company to hire an 18 year-old West Indian, Guy Bailey, on the clear-cut ground that the company refused to hire ‘coloured’ workers, it can only have the effect of mitigating the struggle and confusing the issue. If this is not a clear-cut case of colour-bar, I don’t know what is.
Yet the Daily Worker story was captioned “Economic Ban-Not Colour says Sir Learie.”
The essence of Sir Learie’s remarks as quoted by you gave the impression that the issue of colour bar no longer exists, and in fact was not the issue at all in this case.
The lead paragraph of the story ran:
“The non-employment of West Indians on the Bristol buses is not a colour-bar issue at all, Sir Learie Constantine, High Commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago, said in Bristol last night.”
But actually, in the context of your story, Sir Learie after being quoted as denying the existence of a colour-bar, went on to say: “It is something more fundamental. It is due to fear generated by the small wage paid to the people employed by the bus company, who augment it with overtime. The service is certainly not properly staffed, and everybody is afraid that if it is properly staffed overtime will be lost.”
If the burden of Sir Learie’s remarks on Bristol television was to emphasise that underlying colour bar practices and actions, there is an economic basis, that’s one thing, and is a useful point. Colour bar is profitable to capitalism, to the employers and serves as a divisive tactic to the unity of the workers.
But it is quite another thing to counterpose the existence of colour-bar to the economic fears of the workers, whether on buses or elsewhere in this country. The economic fears of all workers is what is always played on when the issue of colour-bar comes to the fore. The white worker is encouraged in his fears to fight not the bosses, but the coloured man who “threatens” his job. The coloured worker is told to “understand” that the economic recession means he can’t take away other men’s jobs etcetc. Hence, to counterpose the economic issue (or economic fears) to the fight against the colour-bar or to deny its existence as a factor, accelerates the disunity of the workers which only benefits the employers, the racialists and the Tories whose policies brought about the situation in the first place. To stress one without the other, in an instance where there is clear evidence of both factors, is to renege on our responsibility of exposing colour-bar practices and manifestations.
What other implication can be drawn when one reads in the text of the same story “it was easy to talk about a ‘colour-bar’ to hide the real issue which was an economic one”??? This, surely, was not Sir Learie’s quotation.
In the story’s context this should have been made clear, otherwise, it appears what we have is a counterposing of the economic issue to the fight against the colour-bar, which, of course, could provide a handy excuse to those who do not wish to fight it, or who use the real question of the workers’ economic fears as an excuse to justify their actions. But this would only result in making West Indians or other coloured workers additional “scapegoats” to be last hired, first fired in an economic recession, or as in this case not to be hired at all. ) How often have we heard similar excuses in the field of housing, from prejudiced landlords: We would of course take West Indians in our homes, but our neighbours would object, or from prejudiced employers, “The workers object to the hiring of coloured workers,” hence the maintenance of a colour bar in its employment policy, etc.
We should be mindful of the fact that often when colour-bar issues exist, the retort is that it is economic. But such an approach could well mean the delay, postponement (or failure to expose) the fight against the colour-bar, when clearly, in the context of British economic life (and political considerations of Commonwealth coloured workers among the British working class today) the question of discrimination of coloured workers must be squarely faced and fought as inimical to the unity of the workers.
The implications of the phrase “it is easy to talk about ‘colour bar’ ”
is to dangerously minimise this issue. Assuredly, it is far from “easy” to talk about colour bar – far more experience this indignity, and most coloured workers would prefer forthright struggle for its elimination rather than “talk” about it.
It is this element that was witnessed in Bristol when the community (or a section of it) took action to end it, which deserves the wholehearted support of all progressives.
Completely eliminated from the story is the earlier statement of discrimination in the refusal of the company to hire an 18 year-old Jamaican who applied for a job. Instead, your article quoted Mr. Ian Patey, general manager of the Bristol company, as saying, “There are no vacancies for bus crew anyway. We have a waiting list for jobs, so that when these are available, there are local men to fill them.”
“Local,” meaning native? Is this not another manifestation of a colour bar that they will hire no outsiders only those native to Bristol? And if this was the situation in the first place, how explain the earlier statement of the company that they will not hire coloured workers?
The statement of the Bristol Communist municipal candidates condemning the bus colour-bar and other political forces, the action of Bristol University students in their swift support and the original protest of West Indians themselves, should be highly commended. It is our job to expose these incidents, to fight and support all efforts that will bring to the fore instances of colour-bar not recognised yet by many British workers and even progressives, to speed its elimination from British life.
[End portion of letter submitted for publication].

All in all, I’m afraid I must agree with you as you indicated on the telephone, that I read this in a different context than you say did the Daily Worker staff. This does not as you imputed, however, mean that I expect you to fight “colour bar only”. I quite naturally expect that The Daily Worker as a communist journal would be foremost in fighting colour bar and I would hope that it will increasingly recognize the subtleties in the struggle against it must be fought lest we unwittingly fall into an opportunist position. It behooves us to be alert to these trends, even if the views obscuring them are mouthed by certain West Indian leaders. (You should also know that I am awaiting results from my call to the Trinidad Office and it is not yet clear whether he was quoted out of context or not. I will keep you posted.)

With all good wishes,
Yours fraternally,
Claudia Jones

In sollidarity,
Diane Langford