Last Monday was not a happy day for Elisha Manasseh. He had had a
third complaint rejected by OFCOM, which adjudicates on complaints to
He first complained to the BBC in 2018, claiming that its reporting on the MENA constantly refers to
Palestinian refugees, while ignoring Jewish refugees.
“I have now been through the whole system with the BBC,” he says.
Manasseh argued that the BBC had breached its own guidelines on
accuracy and impartiality when it failed to mention Jews displaced from
Arab countries in a background ‘explainer’ to the Eurovision Song
Contest in May 2019, held in Tel Aviv.
The BBC retorted that ‘impartiality’ did not mean that every reference
to one side had to be matched with a reference to the other side. For example, a
reference to Israel’s security concerns needed not be matched by a
reference to Hamas security concerns. They claimed that Jewish refugees
arising out of the’ Arab/Israeli conflict’ were ‘irrelevant’ to the
Israel/Palestinian conflict. Finally, they said, the Oslo Accords
allegedly addressed Palestinian refugees but makes no mention of Jewish
In fact this statement is incorrect, as the Oslo Accords deferred such
difficult topics as borders, Jerusalem and refugees to be discussed as
final status issues. The Clinton Parameters of 2000 did mention Jewish
refugees. The BBC does mention the Palestinian ‘right of return’ – a euphemism for the destruction of Israel
by overwhelming the country with thousands of returnees. It is
essential to the audience’s understanding to explain this
point, but the explanation is never given.
The BBC’s position confuses claims with facts. Both sets of
refugees – Jewish and Arab – arose out of the same conflict
and both should be mentioned in the context.
Some 90 percent of the Jews of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen fled
to Israel within three years of 1948. Some 90 percent of Jews fled
Arab countries in the 15 years since 1948 (and many more of
those would have left earlier, but were officially banned from
leaving ), making this one the most dramatic examples of
ethnic cleansing in the 20th century.
There was an exchange of refugee populations between Israel
and the Arab world. The BBC regularly mentions the exchange between
India and Pakistan and gives equal weight to both parties.
A radio programme with the historian Simon Schama marking Israel’s 70th anniversary did mention Jewish refugees, but the
Jewish side deserves equal time, not a solitary mention on
a single programme.
It appears that a lone complainant will remain a voice in the wilderness unless the Jewish refugee issue is consistently and loudly raised by the Jewish establishment and Israeli spokespersons.
Will Elisha Manasseh now give up complaining?
“What I will be doing is just carrying on, waiting
for the next time they mention the subject, and
there will be a next time, I will start all over
again,” he declares, undaunted.