BBG Watch Commentary
Ines Pohl, the Editor-in-Chief of Germany’s external broadcaster and digital media outlet Deutsche Welle (DW), has shown strong leadership on combating hate against Jews. That kind of leadership when it comes to program management is sorely lacking at the U.S. taxpayer-funded ($224 million in FY 2017) Voice of America (VOA) and its federal parent agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). Both are still in the hands of holdover Obama administration officials.
In the last few days, the Voice of America has posted online several raw footage videos with the VOA logo as a watermark in the right upper corner showing demonstrators in the Middle East burning American and Israeli flags, stomping down on them and shouting slogans against Israel and Jews.
These VOA videos shown without any additional reporting, balance or context added to the raw footage from the demonstrations became the most popular videos on the VOA Facebook page. They were obviously put there as click bait for other VOA English news content, often just as journalistically weak and highly biased.
Russia’s propaganda and disinformation channel RT did the same thing as the Voice of America, showing an even larger number of raw footage videos from the anti-American demonstrations.
BBC, DW and most other major Western broadcasters covered the demonstrations with balanced reports and videos in a way completely different from what VOA and RT did. Even Al Jazeera’s video coverage was less inflammatory if not always completely journalistically balanced.
Deutsche Welle, while reporting objectively on anti-Trump, anti-American and anti-Israeli demonstrations was particularly down on burning of Jewish flags in Germany and made its strong editorial position on this issue known to visitors to the DW website and social media pages.
Realizing the extremist symbolism of burning Israeli flags, DW and even RT had reports on anti-Semitic overtones during the recent protests.
The Voice of America showed the burning of Jewish flags multiple times without any journalistic analysis or commentary, or any kind of explanations for the raw footage videos. In a similar way, VOA and RT joined hands in fanning the crisis and hatred toward Israel and the United States.
It was a completely different story on how Deutsche Welle handled the reporting on the anti-Semitic excesses by many of the protesters in Germany and in other countries.
In addition to a special statement by DW Editor-in-Chief Ines Pohl, the German public broadcaster also posted reports on the threat of growing anti-Semitism. DW did not try to limit criticism of President Trump’s decision on Jerusalem but it reported on it and on the protests in a balanced way.
DW’s Ines Pohl issued a public statement that the protesters who burned the Israeli flag in Berlin were not using their rights to free speech. They were disrespecting fundamental German values, she said. The German public broadcaster would never produce or promote one-sided videos such the ones posted by VOA that could only encourage extremism and violence against Jews and Americans.
Deutsche Welle’s Editor-in-Chief has shown strong leadership which is reflected in DW’s online content. “Those who wish to live in Germany must accept its values,” Ines Pohl said. “That includes the country’s tough stance on anti-Semitism,” she added in her statement.
Nothing like this could be seen on Voice of America or Broadcasting Board of Governors websites from the VOA director Amanda Bennett, BBG CEO John Lansing or their deputies. Instead, VOA posted online not one but several videos showing the burning of American and Jewish flags and other forms of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism without any comment from VOA, any countervailing views or any explanations in these videos.
What should be even more disturbing to the Trump administration, and both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress is that the VOA videos showing nothing but burning of Jewish and American flags and other protests in the Muslim world against President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem are getting by far a record numbers of views on VOA’s Facebook page, with one VOA video from various anti-American and anti-Jewish demonstrations showing over 1,400,000 views. Most of VOA’s news-oriented video reports on Facebook get less than 50K views.
Most of VOA’s audience engagement on social media is embarrassingly low for such an expensive U.S. government-run media outlet funded by American taxpayers. (BBG’s total budget in FY 2017, including VOA, is $740 million.) But the Voice of America and Broadcasting Board of Governors management has discovered that anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism is popular among a certain segment of VOA’s audience. They also discovered that animal videos attract a large audience. These two categories of videos seem to be most popular on VOA’s Facebook page. While DW is countering anti-Semitism, VOA is helping to fan its ugly flames with provocative and one-sided videos showing burnings of Jewish flags.
VOA did not report on or show any video of anti-Semitic slogans during recent demonstrations in New York and Chicago. In New York, the demonstrators shouted, “We don’t want two states; we want 48,” a reference to Palestine without the state of Israel. They also shouted, “There is only one solution: Intifada revolution.” Another slogan shouted in New York was “Jews remember Khaybar; the Army of Muhammad is returning.” “Khaybar” references the time an Arab army attacked and killed dozens of Jews who were living in Khaybar. Other slogans shouted in New York included: “Long live Intifada” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” which is again a reference for eliminating Israel as a Jewish state.
While VOA posted multiple raw videos showing burning of Israeli and U.S. flags abroad and foreigners abroad shouting slogans against the existence of Israel, it did not attempt to tackle the same problem of anti-Semitism among some of the immigrant communities in the United States. VOA did not report on anti-Israeli demonstrations on American soil, which is extremely strange considering its mission as “voice” of America. Most of VOA reporting on immigrant communities in America presents them as victims of the Trump administration’s immigration and anti-terrorism policies.
While fanning anti-Americanism, even RT posted a few reports on the dangers of anti-Semitism in connection with the recent protests.
In addition to raw videos showing burnings of Israeli and U.S. flags abroad, VOA had a few what could be described as news reports on the demonstrations, but in striking contrast to BBC or DW reporting, these VOA reports generally lacked balance or any kind of comprehensive treatment of the issues.
A VOA report from Somalia, for example, failed to mention that the Somali government, which is a major abuser of human rights in its own country, is hardly in a position to lecture Israel on the rights of the Palestinians. Instead, the VOA report presents a picture of a legitimate foreign government deeply concerned about violations of human rights in Israel.
The reality is strikingly different and any respectable news organization would have put the protest from the Somali government in some kind of broader context. Here are some descriptions from the 2016 State Department’s Human Rights Report with regard to the Somali government, the terrorist group, al-Shabaab, and the impunity of Somali government officials when it comes to protecting human rights:
U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 2016 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT ON SOMALIA: “Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control over the security forces.
Major human rights abuses included killings of civilians by, Somali security forces, al-Shabaab, and unknown assailants. Violence and discrimination against women and girls, including rape and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), were widespread. Civilians did not have the ability to change their government through free and fair elections.
Other major human rights abuses included disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary and politically motivated arrest and detention; denial of fair public trial; use of child soldiers; restrictions on freedoms of speech and press, assembly and association, religion, and movement; forced eviction and relocation of internally displaced persons (IDPs); disruption, diversion, and seizure of humanitarian assistance; corruption; trafficking in persons; abuse of and discrimination against minority clans and persons with disabilities; social stigmatization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals; restrictions on workers’ rights and forced labor, including by children.
The State Department 2016 Human Rights Report on Somalia also says that “There was no known Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.” There are no Jews in Somalia because they would be most likely killed if they lived there.
If VOA wants to report the Somali government’s protest against human rights violations in Israel as a legitimate news than under the VOA Charter it must provide a countervailing view.
The difference between the high professionalism of DW reporting and Voice of America’s treatment of the whole story can be seen from the examples shown below.
DEUTSCHE WELLE (DW)
Those who wish to live in Germany must accept its values. That includes the country’s tough stance on anti-Semitism, says DW Editor-in-Chief Ines Pohl.
In Germany, the right to protest enjoys considerable protection. Curtailing this right is possible only if strict conditions are met. So our democratic system must accept it when political slogans are voiced on German streets that have an essentially anti-democratic character, such as the crude call of “Foreigners out!”
Germany’s Nazi dictatorship painfully illustrated what can happen when a state suppresses all criticism and outlaws street protests. That is why in today’s Germany it goes without saying that critics of Angela Merkel’s government are free to voice their dissent. And why Palestinians in Germany are free to protest in front of the US embassy in Berlin to vent their anger over plans to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
The obligation of Germany’s history
But this part of our history does not oblige us to be tolerant of anything and everything — in fact, the contrary is true. Germany is responsible for the murder of at least 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. And no matter how much time has passed since, Germany will always have a unique obligation to fight anti-Semitism. A country that has committed such a crime must not turn a blind eye to any anti-Semitic actions — and particularly those within its own borders.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the burning of Israeli symbols during protests against the US decision on Jerusalem. Germany’s interior, foreign and justice ministers also expressed criticism.
“We oppose all forms of anti-Semitism and xenophobia,” she said following a meeting of senior members of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Berlin. She added that “the state has to use all available legal measures” to combat these actions.
Read more: Jerusalem: Three things to know
On Sunday, some 2,500 demonstrators marched through Berlin’s Neukölln district and burned flags with the Star of David, the Berliner Zeitung reported, to demonstrate against the controversial decision by US President Donald Trump.
Eleven people were detained and cited for offenses, including illegally covering the face, police said.
On Friday, around 1,200 anti-Israel and anti-American protesters gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, near the US Embassy,
The Berliner Zeitung reported the 12 people are being investigated for disturbing the peace and violating laws prohibiting the desecration of the flags of foreign states. Police said 10 people were detained.
Flag burning ‘unacceptable’
Germany’s interior minister has also criticized the burning of Israeli national symbols in Berlin.
“We don’t accept it when Jews or the state of Israel are disgraced in this way,” Thomas de Maziere told the Monday edition of mass daily Bild.
Germany is “bound in a special way to the state of Israel and people of Jewish belief,” he said.
He added that freedom of speech and protest is respected, but those rights must be carried out peacefully.
Germany’s interior minister has joined the chorus of politicians expressing concern over the burning of Israeli flags in Berlin. Germany’s Central Council of Jews has been calling for an anti-Semitism commissioner.
Acting Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in an interview with German national newspaper Bild am Sonntag that he supports creating the position of anti-Semitism commissioner in the next German government.
The conservative De Maiziere said his support for the commissioner went beyond the most recent incidents — in which Berlin protesters burned Israeli flags to demonstrate against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — and was also based on the recommendation of an independent commission of experts.
Germany’s Central Council of Jews has also called repeatedly for an anti-Semitism commissioner to be part of the chancellor’s office.
In the interview, de Maiziere expressed his concern over the increase in anti-Semitic agitation in Germany.
“Each crime motivated by anti-Semitism is one to many and shameful for our country,” he told the paper. He also said that occurrences of derogatory comments, inappropriate jokes and discrimination towards “our fellow Jewish citizens” were on the rise.
“Hatred towards Jews must never be allowed to take hold again in Germany,” he added, alluding to Germany’s historic responsibility for the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed.
Recent protests in Germany witnessed some demonstrators burning Israeli flags or imitations thereof. Speaking to DW, Ambassador Jeremy Issacharoff gave his reaction to the demonstrations.
Protesters who burned Israeli flags in Germany over the weekend represented a minority view and should be condemned, Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, told DW on Tuesday.
Over the weekend, thousands of demonstrators gathered in Berlin to protest US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. Images showed some protesters burning flags or other material adorned with the Star of David, a symbol of Judaism and the state of Israel.
“It made me feel very sad to see such an event in Berlin … a city that welcomed me almost four months ago in such a warm way,” he said. “I’m sure it doesn’t represent the feelings of the German government and the German people as a whole.”
Calling the perpetrators a “fringe element,” Issacharoff said: “It’s not that they disagree with Israel’s policy, but they don’t agree with the fact that Israel can have a position.”
“The burning of a flag is like burning one’s own integrity and one’s own tolerance,” he said. “It is something that should be condemned in a very profound way.”
Read more: Head of German Jewish Council calls for stronger laws against anti-Semitic protests
Jerusalem will be part of final peace deal
Asked about Trump’s plan to move the embassy to Jerusalem and thereby recognize the city as the Israeli capital, Issacharoff said that any final peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians would include Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Asked whether Israel would accept a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, a demand repeatedly made by Palestinian negotiators in previous peace talks, the ambassador said: “I think that we should … appreciate that there is a lot more potential for coexistence in this city.”
He also said the city would remain open to people of all faiths: “There will be no change in the present, very steadfast policy of freedom of access [and] freedom of worship in Jerusalem.”
Read more: Chancellor Angela Merkel condemns burning of Israeli symbols in Berlin
Trump did not jeopardize final settlement
Issacharoff believed Trump did not intend to undermine a final peace deal. “In no way did he try in his words to prejudice a final settlement,” he said.
He also suggested other Middle Eastern countries follow Egypt and Jordan in signing peace accords with Israel. “This can also happen with the Palestinians,” he said.
Issacharoff warned leaders throughout the region against denying the Jewish identity of Jerusalem, saying: “We also have a stake in this enterprise.”
The Israeli flag was recently burned at a protest in Berlin — and with it the Star of David. That it happened in Germany is particularly scandalous, because it awakens memories of the Nazi persecution of the Jews.
Israeli flags were burned at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin earlier this week during protests against the decision of US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The scenes quickly became an issue for almost all political parties in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the acts, as well as all ministers and the parties represented in German parliament, the Bundestag. “Those who set the Israeli flag on fire in German squares not only show intolerable hatred of Israel, but also do not understand or respect what it means to be German,” said President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
This week Steinmeier made a special call to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and spoke of “deeply disturbing expressions of anti-Semitism.” The president expressed his shock and shame that something like this would happen in Germany in 2017.
READ MORE: The Star of David and Germany’s national interest | DW
Sigmar Gabriel has said Germany has a special role in fighting anti-Semitism. While official statistics attribute most such crimes to right-wing extremists, a new study argues anti-Semitism is widespread among refugees.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has announced that he will advocate a new law prohibiting the burning of national flags in Germany.
At a meeting with the Kreuzberg Initiative Against Anti-Semitism (KIgA e.v.) he declared: “I do not believe that the flags of other countries should be shown less respect than that afforded the German flag.”
The statement refers to the burning of Israeli flags at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate last week by demonstrators protesting US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Read more: German laws on burning the Israeli flag: What you need to know
The foreign minister emphasized that anti-Semitism encompasses not only the issue of tolerance towards Jews but also the state of Israel’s right to exist. “It is Germany’s task to protect Israel. We are obliged to guarantee that Holocaust survivors have at least one place they can always go.”
The meeting was attended by a number of groups, most prominently, representatives of Muslim associations and communities that are actively fighting anti-Semitism. Gabriel also emphasized the fact that anti-Semitism is not just a problem related to immigrants or Muslims, saying: “My father was an anti-Semite until the day he died.”
Read more: Opinion: Burning the Israeli flag has nothing to do with freedom of speech
VOICE OF AMERICA (VOA)
VOICE OF AMERICA (VOA)
TOTAL VIEWS DEC. 2017 FOR RAW FOOTAGE VOA VIDEOS SHOWING BURNING OF U.S. AND ISRAELI FLAGS AND OTHER PROTEST: 3,596,000
“Protests in Istanbul” | VOA 193,000 Facebook Views as of Dec. 19.
“Clashes in Ramallah, Bethlehem” | VOA 486,000 Facebook Views as of Dec. 17.
“Rallies in Pakistan condemning Pres. Trump declaring Jerusalem…” | VOA 785,000 Facebook Views as of Dec. 17.
“Protests around the Muslim world over Jerusalem” | VOA 1,400,000 Facebook Views as of Dec. 17.
“Scuffles in Jerusalem” | VOA 370,000 Facebook Views as of Dec. 17.
“Israeli undercover forces arrest Palestinians during clashes” | VOA 360,000 Facebook Views as of Dec. 17.
VOICE OF AMERICA (VOA)
Somalia, Djibouti Say Trump’s Recognition of Jerusalem is ‘Dangerous’ as seen online at 9:30 PM ET, December 8, 2017
December 08, 2017 11:32 AM
Mohamed Olad Hassan
[AP Photo Not Reposted]
Somalis protest against President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Mogadishu, Somalia Dec. 8, 2017.
Two East African countries say U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is “dangerous” and could spark an international crisis.
“We are urging the U.S. government to seriously reconsider the risks that its decision could have on the future of the Middle East and the world in general,” said a statement Friday from Somalia’s foreign ministry.
“We call for Arab, Muslim and other nations to redouble their efforts to find a solution to the Palestinian issue in order to end the crisis in the region,” said the ministry.
The government said it and the Somali people are prepared to support Palestinians’ struggle for their rights.
Neighboring Djibouti says it rejects the U.S. decision on Jerusalem. “This grave decision, contrary to international law and United Nations resolutions, is potentially dangerous insofar as it fears an escalation of tensions in the Middle East and beyond.”
“The Republic of Djibouti reiterates its commitment to the two-state solution, living side by side in peace and security with East Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Palestinian state.”
[AP Photo Not Reposted]
Somalis protest against President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Mogadishu, Somalia Dec. 8, 2017.
The statements came as hundreds of residents protested in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, against President Trump’s decision.
“We have gathered here to express our reaction and show our solidarity with Palestinians who are suffering from Israeli aggression,” protester Abdullahi Dabar said. “This is unacceptable, and Trump’s decision, as Muslims, only unites our hearts and minds.”
Another protester, Garad Hassan, said “Trump cannot give a historic Islamic city to Israel, and we will fight against any such move to the last drop of our blood”.
The protesters, led by several imams of the city’s major mosques, rallied at the bustling K4 junction, where they chanted anti-Israel and anti-Trump slogans including “Down, Trump!”
END OF VOA REPORT