Follow-up on the BBC and Oxford University

June 29, 2003

[Note by Tom Gross]

This is a follow-up to yesterday's email dispatch concerning the BBC and Oxford University, titled Israel breaks links with BBC in anger at "demonization". (If you haven't read that dispatch yet, I suggest you read that first.)



Oxford University has now apologized; the BBC has yet to do so.

I attach a press release (full text, below) issued by Oxford University.

Also, today the first British media report on the Oxford controversy is published in the Sunday Telegraph, Britain's second highest circulation Sunday newspaper. ("Outrage as Oxford bans student for being Israeli," By Julie Henry, Education Correspondent, Sunday Telegraph (London), June 29, 2003.)

A British journalist who is a subscriber to this email list adds:

"The full text of Professor Wilkie's apology" as stated in yesterday's Oxford University Press release is different from the statement made by Professor Wilkie in an email he sent to me this morning (Sunday June 29, 2003) in response to my journalistic questioning. He has now added the following words, which were not previously included in the official apology:

"I realise that I took the wrong action."
"The student's case will be taken forward."


Naomi Ragen (one of Israel's best-selling novelists, and also a subscriber to this email list) adds: We have started to look around to see who has accorded Wilkie and others like him the power and position which he now wields against Israelis, who keeps him in a position of such authority, and who thereby legitimizes his point of view by their acquiescence. In May 2003 (before his recent appointment as an Oxford professor), Wilkie's reputation was enhanced due to the offer he received to be appointed a Fellow at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Interestingly, the "Master" of Pembroke College is Sir Roger Tomkys, former British Ambassador to Syria.

Tom Gross adds: Even though Sir Roger Tomkys has been Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, since October 1992, it appears he still takes a keen interest in the Middle East. For example, last month he flew all the way to Japan to give a lecture (on May 29, 2003) titled "A British View of the Middle East".

Sir Roger Tomkys is listed on the Cambridge University web site as "Manager of the [Cambridge University] Sheikh Zayed Fund for Islamic Studies."

This appears to be the Sheikh Zayed Fund which has also recently and controversially contributed to Harvard University in America (See my dispatch Harvard and the Holocaust, June 2, 2003). The Zayed Center is an Arab League "think tank," used in part as a platform for Holocaust denial. Among other publications, the Zayed Center has published a book titled "Those Who Challenged Israel," containing the thoughts and theories of Holocaust deniers David Irving and Roger Garoudy, and hosted academics such as Mohammed Ahmad Hussain of Cairo University, who said Jews invented the Holocaust as part of a "long term orchestrated campaign aiming at the perpetuation of the 'persecution of the Jews' or what they call the Holocaust." In April 2003, the Zayed Center hosted Saudi Professor Umayma Jalahma, who declared that "the Jewish people must obtain human blood so that their clerics can prepare for holiday pastries."

Sir Roger Tomkys has also been criticized by Amnesty International. An Amnesty International website carries, for example, the following letter to "The Times" of London, published on 16 March, 1999.

Letters to the Editor, 16 Mar 99
From Alan Brooke

"Sir, in his eulogy on the Amir of Bahrain (letter, March 12) the former British Ambassador, Sir, Roger Tomkys, omits some important qualities of this "warm and sincere friend" of Britain. The US State Department describes Bahrain as "a hereditary emirate with few democratic institutions and political parties" (Bahrain Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998). It is a country where "the denial of the right of citizens to change their government: extra-judicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrest, incommunicado and prolonged detention; involuntary exile; infringement on citizens' privacy rights... [and] limitations on or the denial of the right to a fair public trial have led to the arrest and torture of hundreds of people."

Yours Sincerely,
A. Brooke,
59 Magdale, Honley,
Huddersfield HD7 2LX
March 12.


Here is some additional information on the contents of the program which aired yesterday on BBC World, and which the Israeli government has called the "final straw" in the BBC's campaign to demonize the state of Israel. (The program aired several hours after my dispatch "Israel breaks links with BBC in anger at 'demonization'" was sent, which is why I include this new information in this follow-up dispatch.)

The program compared Israel's democracy to the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. Both were said to possess weapons of mass destruction.

The BBC claimed (wrongly) that an Israeli commission of inquiry found Ariel Sharon "personally responsible" for the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon.

According to press reports, no mention was made by the BBC that a Christian Lebanese militia committed the killings, or that the 1983 Kahan Commission stated that "no Israeli was directly responsible for the events which occurred in the camps." (Sharon, who was then defense minister, was chastised for not anticipating that the Christian Phalangists would attack Palestinian civilians in revenge for the various PLO massacres of Christian civilians in Lebanon.)

The program also quoted Palestinians who accused Israel of using new, mysterious gases against Palestinians.

When asked by the BBC why Israel would not reveal its military secrets, Shimon Peres told the BBC: "You are now having a dialogue with yourself."

Tom Gross adds:

The BBC is the world's biggest television and radio news broadcaster. BBC World "The BBC's 24 Hour Global TV News Channel" is now widely watched as the international television station of choice in many Middle East, Asian and African countries.

BBC World Service Radio also attracts 153 million listeners daily.

The BBC's reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been widely criticized in Israel and elsewhere as unbalanced and supportive of Palestinian terrorism. Israeli cable television operators dropped the BBC World news channel from their roster of stations in April.

Here are some other examples of BBC reporting extracted from my own previous writings on the subject:

* In 2001, the BBC's then chief Jerusalem correspondent Hillary Anderson began a report by saying: "Deep underground in Bethlehem are the remnants of an atrocity so vile, so far back in history, King Herod's slaughter of the innocents." (The camera then shows a pile of skulls without identifying them.) Then Anderson moved on to the deaths of Palestinian children, evoking Herod's Massacre of the Innocents, to remind the viewer that Jews, who tried to kill the infant Christ, are busy killing innocent children once again.

The allegation that Israel deliberately kills Palestinian children is horrible and deeply upsetting to anyone who cares about the truth. But equally upsetting is the possibility that Hillary Anderson and her producers at the BBC, are so ignorant of the history of anti-Semitism, that they do not know that the myth of Herod's slaughter is the original anti-Semitic blood libel, which arguably gave rise to centuries of persecution and pogroms, culminating in the Holocaust.

* In June 2001, a flagship BBC "Panorama" documentary, entitled "The Accused" singled out Ariel Sharon from among all the world's leaders and suggested he should be indicted for war crimes. (Shortly after this, attempts to have Sharon indicted in Belgium for "war crimes" intensified. The BBC program was shown in Belgium, as elsewhere.) The BBC regarded this "Panorama" program as so important that they aired it four times in a single weekend (a highly unusual policy for the BBC).

In the 1980s Sharon successfully sued Time Magazine for similar libels in connection with his alleged failure to prevent the Sabra and Shatilla massacre. The BBC has simply ignored the overwhelming evidence and ruling for Sharon in the case against Time magazine.

* On May 6, 2001, Fayad Abu Shamala, the BBC's Arabic service Gaza correspondent for the past ten years, told a Hamas rally in Gaza on that "journalists and media organizations [are] waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people." The best the BBC could do in response to requests at the time from the Israeli government that they distance themselves from these remarks, was to issue a statement saying, "Fayad's remarks were made in a private capacity. His reports have always matched the best standards of balance required by the BBC."



Press release by Oxford University public relations office.
June 2003

Concerning Comments by Professor Andrew Wilkie

A spokesperson for the University of Oxford said:

"Our staff may hold strongly felt personal opinions. Freedom of expression is a fundamental tenet of University life, but under no circumstances are we prepared to accept or condone conduct that appears to, or does, discriminate against anyone on grounds of ethnicity or nationality, whether directly or indirectly. This candidate is entitled to submit an application and to have it dealt with fairly according to our normal criteria.

"Professor Wilkie has issued a personal apology regarding remarks he made by e mail to an applicant for a research degree at Oxford. An immediate and thorough investigation of this matter is now being carried out in accordance with the University's procedures and a report will be presented to the Vice-Chancellor next week."

Note to news editors from Oxford University:

The full text of Professor Wilkie's apology is:

"I recognise and apologise for any distress caused by my e mail of 23 June and the wholly inappropriate expression of my personal opinions in that document. I was not speaking on behalf of Oxford University or any of its constituent parts. I entirely accept the University of Oxford's Equal Opportunities and Race Equality policies."

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.