Ofcom slams BBC over bias

By Charles Gardner

Broadcast watchdog Ofcom has slammed the BBC for failing to observe its own editorial guidelines over its reporting of a December 2021 anti-Semitic attack against a bus carrying Jewish children celebrating Chanukah.

The verdict is a victory for The Jewish Chronicle, which has launched a petition calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the BBC over its coverage of Jews and Israel.

The Ofcom report also marks a win for the Board of Deputies (of British Jews), which commissioned a forensic report, dismissing the BBC claim that one of the Jewish victims of the attack had described their attackers as “dirty Muslims”.

Following the Ofcom ruling, senior parliamentarians and Jewish activists have reiterated the need for a parliamentary inquiry into BBC bias over Israel.

The call for a parliamentary inquiry comes amid deep concern in the Anglo-Jewish community over a string of reporting errors by the BBC.

Ofcom’s statement comes just days after the BBC issued a landmark apology in which it acknowledged years of “unacceptable” handling of complaints about anti-Israel bias in its Arabic output.

Ofcom launched an investigation into the BBC in January 2022 after the corporation released a partial apology for their reporting of the Oxford Street attack involving a busload of Jewish teenagers harassed by a group of young men who spat at their bus and chanted anti-Israel slogans.

Comeback victory for Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu has won a decisive comeback victory in Israel’s national elections, held for the fifth time in less than four years. His Likud party secured 32 seats in the 120-member Knesset, but a coalition with several smaller parties (Religious Zionist Party, Shas and United Torah Judaism) added up to a total of 64.

Meanwhile rumours of affiliation with Messianic Jews (Jewish followers of Jesus) among high-profile politicians were stirring on Israeli social media in the run-up to the elections. But it seems the reports are exaggerated.

It is true, however, that in 2019, Yair Netanyahu, son of Benjamin, took to Twitter to defend Jesus’ true heritage when Palestinian activists tried to claim him as one of theirs. He even quoted the New Testament and, a year later, said he would like to see Europe become a stronghold of Christianity again. Then, earlier this year, he said Easter – commemorating Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection – was a Jewish affair.

Queen’s support for Jews – and Jesus!

Reminiscences of our late Queen’s devotion to duty, and to God, keep coming to light.

Queen Elizabeth II
Photo: Thomas Tam McDonald (Royal Navy), Wikimedia Commons

One of the first charities to which she pledged patronage after her royal accession in 1952 was the Council of Christians and Jews, founded ten years earlier in the middle of World War II by Archbishop William Temple and Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz.

Her commitment to the authority of the Bible, described at her coronation as “the most valuable thing that this world affords”, was absolute, as was her faith in Jesus.

“Although we are capable of great acts of kindness,” she shared with TV viewers one Christmas, “history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.”

It was this understanding that no doubt inspired her courageous act of forgiveness in shaking hands with ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness, whose terrorist comrades murdered her cousin Lord Mountbatten.

The Queen also shared a long friendship with evangelist Billy Graham, who preached to the royal family on several occasions.

If you would like to share the Queen’s assurance of God being with you through thick and thin, why not pray this prayer:

“Lord Jesus, I believe you can make a difference to my life, as you did for our Queen. Please forgive my sins and come into my heart. Amen.”

Sunak caves in over embassy move

Despite being described as pro-Israel, new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has apparently caved in to pressure over the possibility of re-locating the British embassy to Jerusalem mentioned by his predecessor Liz Truss.

Truss, forced to resign from office after just 44 days, had signalled her intention to look seriously at such a move. Most embassies have remained in Tel Aviv ever since 1980 when nations were threatened with Arab oil embargoes if they recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“It has been looked at,” Sunak’s spokesperson stated, adding: “There are no plans to move the British embassy.”

Sunak was reportedly warned that the “entire governmental system” would be in an uproar if he carried out the move.

For my longer comments, see ‘The Archbishops’ unwelcome intervention’ at www.heartpublications.co.uk

‘It’s time we recognised Jerusalem!’

Responding to suggestions of re-locating Britain’s Israeli embassy to Jerusalem by Liz Truss, while campaigning for what turned out to be her brief role as Prime Minister, MP Robert Jenrick, now a Home Office minister, said: “It is time we took responsibility and…recognised that the true capital of the State of Israel is obviously Jerusalem.”

Momentum for this outcome appears, however, to have ground to a halt since Rishi Sunak replaced her.

Biden on Armageddon risk

As Russia spoke of the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons after suffering big setbacks following their invasion of Ukraine, American President Joe Biden said that the risk of nuclear ‘Armageddon’ was at the highest level since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which of course also involved an aggressive Russia.

Skeletons come alive!

As we anticipate Holocaust Memorial Day in January, read this moving account of how three sisters survived to literally fulfil an ancient prophecy

The promised land: A view of Tel Aviv from the ancient port of Jaffa (formerly Joppa), not
too far from the area where the sisters first settled shortly after their liberation (Photo: Chares Gardner)

Fresh evidence for the absolute reliability of God’s Word is now enshrined in the truly amazing testimony of three courageous Jewish sisters.

Their remarkable story – how they emerged as virtual skeletons from the Holocaust nightmare to play a key role in building modern Israel – is powerfully documented in a new book by Australian author Heather Morris, hot on the heels of her best-selling account of ‘T’he Tattooist of Auschwitz’.

They shared beds with lice and fleas while enduring regular bouts of fever and disease

Although not aiming to back up any particular theological line, ‘Three Sisters’ (Zaffre, 2021) is perfect testament, in my opinion, to the veracity of Ezekiel’s 2,500-year-old prophecy predicting both the Holocaust and the miraculous rebirth of Israel.

In his ‘Valley of dry bones’ vision, the prophet sees flesh and breath reviving skeletons and opening graves. Great men – both Christian and Jewish – have rightly interpreted Ezekiel’s vision (in chapter 37) as a picture of the Shoah (Hebrew for Holocaust) and the subsequent establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. I am referring particularly to legendary Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon and four times Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Photos from The Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire

Abducted from their Slovakian home, lively teenagers Cibi and Livi Meller (Magda was only captured later) were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau where they lived out miserable lives on starvation rations while being forced into hard labour for long hours over the next three years.

Sharing beds with lice and fleas while enduring regular bouts of fever and disease, they were reduced to skeletons, in daily fear of not knowing whether they would live or die. And after over two years of being separated from their mother and grandfather, they were only able to catch a brief glimpse of them as they were marched directly from the train platform to the gas chamber. It was a living nightmare and Livi, the youngest, cried herself to sleep for ten years afterwards.

It’s a story of heartbreak and horror, yet also of profound hope and redemption. I wonder if we have ever truly considered the pain these Jewish people went through.

Renee Salt
Renee Salt, a Holocaust survivor, was interviewed for the Forever Project, an award-winning virtual experience at the National Holocaust Centre and Museum in Laxton, Nottinghamshire. Thanks to voice recognition and artificial intelligence, the Forever Project enables viewers to ask questions to the survivor as they share their testimony.
Further information on Renee Salt is at htt ps://www.holocaust.org.uk/renee-salt (Photo: holocaust.org.uk)

The sisters eventually escaped the jaws of death to start a new life in the Promised Land. On their return from the camps, they discovered their home had been stolen from them, that anti-Semitism was still alive, and that they had fled one prison, only to be trapped in another, as communism had filled the vacuum left by the retreating Nazis in Eastern Europe.

Marina Smith receiving her MBE in 2005
Marina Smith receiving her MBE in 2005, pictured with her sons, Dr James Smith CBE (left) and Dr Stephen Smith MBE (Photo: holocaust.org.uk)

In many ways, their story is a fulfilment of Ezekiel’s aforementioned prophecy. Cibi and Livi, who had learnt the art of construction from their Nazi tormentors as they were forced to build new barracks, were able to put this to good use as, with their bare hands, they helped to create the Jewish homeland within a few short years of their liberation. It was reminiscent of Joseph’s experience in ancient Egypt, where he saved his people from famine despite being cruelly treated by his brothers, telling them: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

Livi took her place as maid to the wife of Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann

The Meller sisters endured the curse of hell before becoming part of the resurrection experience of modern Israel, marrying and having children as they blessed the new land with their love and labours.

I pray their story will stir hearts afresh with a love and tenderness for the Jewish people. I was encouraged by the reference to Christians helping to train would-be immigrants for the rigours of cultivating near-virgin territory because they understood God’s plans for Israel’s restoration. Would that Christians everywhere were as keen to back the Jewish state, surrounded on every side by enemies wishing their destruction!

With their bare hands, they helped to create the Jewish homeland

Marina at her final public speech
Marina Smith giving her final public speech in October 2021. Marina passed away on 26 July 2022, aged 87 (Photo: holocaust.org.uk)

When her sister Magda fell pregnant, Livi took her place as maid to the wife of Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann. From being a mere number among millions of despised prisoners, they were elevated to dizzy heights – again akin to Joseph’s experience in becoming Prince of Egypt after all his troubles.

In fact, both Jew and Gentile collaborated in promoting the dream of a revived Jewish homeland. One of Israel’s greatest pioneering heroes, Weizmann played a particularly significant role in befriending evangelical Christian politician Arthur Balfour, whose subsequent declaration of solidarity with Zionism was the defining moment of Israel’s rebirth, though its full restoration has yet to be fully realised. The physical land has been resettled, but Israelis are not yet reconnected (as a nation) with their Lord and Messiah, Jesus the Jew, who will soon reveal himself to his long-lost brothers, as Joseph did of old.

Club loses sponsorship over Palestinian support

English Football League club Forest Green Rovers has been accused of bringing the game into disrepute by flying the Palestinian flag and displaying anti-Israel slogans at home matches.

The Gloucestershire club, which won promotion into League One last season, also lost a sponsorship deal over its stance, which came to light after the ethical pet care company’s Jewish owner attended a game as match-ball sponsor.

Gay man beheaded

A 25-year-old gay man, who fled the Palestinian Authority after his sexual orientation was revealed, was reportedly kidnapped and brutally beheaded in Hebron. In a horrifying video circulated on social media, Ahmed Hakm Hamdi Abu Markhia’s dismembered body was seen lying on the side of the road.

Mothers send their children to fight

A Palestinian official faced calls for his resignation after questioning the practice of sending children to fight.

In a rare criticism that sparked a local backlash, Nablus (Shechem) governor Ibrahim Ramadan spoke out against mothers who encourage their children to participate in fighting that will lead to their deaths.

“Is that what a mother does? This isn’t a mother,” he said in a radio interview.

Award for South African leader

Former Chief Justice of South Africa Mogoeng Mogoeng, forced to resign for his pro-Israel stance, was presented with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s annual Nehemiah Award during this year’s Feast of Tabernacles celebration. Presented in front of more than 2,000 pilgrims from over 70 nations, the award is made each year to a Christian leader who has distinguished himself for his support of Israel.