“Your claims involving the ‘Jewish People’ are careless at best and anti-Semitic at worst,” VP of City of David Foundation tells producer.
By Lee Harpin, Jewish Chronicle via JNS
A senior BBC producer, currently working on a new documentary critical of Israeli actions in eastern Jerusalem, has admitted sharing “inaccurate” pro-Palestinian propaganda on social media.
Rosie Garthwaite confirmed to the Jewish Chronicle that she had “un-retweeted” a false map illustration from her personal Twitter page that dramatically over-stated alleged Palestinian land loss to Israel.
The JC also discovered that the 40-year-old journalist and author has shared several other false or controversial claims about Israel on social media—including attacking “British duplicity” over the signing of the Balfour Declaration, wrongly suggesting Gaza’s “one” border is controlled by Israel and retweeting an article from the notorious Middle East Eye publication describing controversial activist Ahed Tamimi as an “icon for Palestinian resistance.”
Last week, new BBC Director General Tim Davie warned journalists at the corporation of the introduction of strict new laws on their use of Twitter and other social media in order to stop rows over impartiality.
Oxford-educated Garthwaite—who has worked for BBC2’s Newsnight, Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live in the past—is currently producing a new BBC documentary looking into the activities of Israel’s Elad and City of David organizations in eastern Jerusalem.
Last Friday, the JC contacted Garthwaite over a January post on her Twitter page featuring an image of four different maps, under the headline “The Palestinian Historic Compromise.”
The maps, which were circulated on social media in response to the announcement by Jared Kushner of U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan for the region, were held aloft by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas as he threatened to break ties with Israel and America over the proposals.
The first map wrongly suggested that after the end of the Ottoman Empire all of the land in what is now Israel, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza was controlled by the Palestinians. The final 2020 map deliberately underplayed Palestinian territory in order to make Israeli ownership of land seem more extreme and unfair.
Asked why she had chosen to share the incorrect maps of her Twitter page, a BBC spokesperson responded on Garthwaite’s behalf, telling the JC: “Rosie has actually un-retweeted that map you refer to, she realised it was inaccurate.”
But the JC has discovered a series of other tweets still visible on Garthwaite’s public Twitter feed which appear to make her own views on the conflict in the region clear.
On November 2, 2017, the same day as the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Garthwaite shared a post on her personal Twitter account which read: “Happy one hundred years of British duplicity in the Middle East, folks.”
In another post, from March 2019, Garthwaite herself wrote false claims relating to Gaza which suggested 1.85 million Palestinians were suffering in a region which has only “1 exit through an Israeli-controlled border.” Gaza also has a border with Egypt.
She also shared a tweet of an article written for the anti-Israel publication Middle East Eye which suggested controversial activist Ahed Tamimi had become an “icon for Palestinian resistance.”
Then in November 2018 she shared another post blaming Israel and a “botched uncover ops in Gaza” for breaking a ceasefire with Islamist group Hamas.
The JC has learned that only days before starting his new role at the BBC, Davie was among those to receive a letter from the vice-president of the City of David organization raising concerns over the new program Garthwaite was producing for BBC Arabia.
In a letter also sent to the BBC chairman Sir David Clementi and Garthwaite herself, it was suggested she “has repeatedly presented us with one-sided and inaccurate statements” and that the program “intends to vilify Israel, Jewish history and Jewish charities and present a number of false and misleading claims.”
The producer, who has previously worked for the Al Jazeera channel, also wrote to City of David’s Doron Spielman saying she believed the program—which she said was being made as “part of an international investigation involving major media organisations in liaison with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists”—was “going to be a fair and accurate account of events.”
Spielman agreed to give an interview for the documentary earlier this summer in which he faced questions about the role of Elad and the City of David organization in the building of Israeli settlements and the carrying out of archaeological digs in “occupied territory in East Jerusalem.”
He told the JC he did not dispute that the BBC has the right to “fully investigate the story.” But he said “what is unacceptable is that in this case and in many others involving the BBC their investigation seemed to be biased from the outset.”
BBC: ‘We Do Not Comment on Investigations’
Spielman said he agreed to give his interview after Garthwaite assured him she would produce a “fair and balanced documentary.”
He said he believed he had answered all the questions put to him but that to his “dismay, but surprise, the producer sent me a list of follow up questions.”
The JC put these claims to Garthwaite and the BBC. A spokesperson said: “We do not comment on investigations.” It was also stressed that one right of reply does not reflect an entire investigation.
In further correspondence seen by the JC, Garthwaite tells Spielman the forthcoming documentary for BBC Arabia includes claims about Russian billionaire “Roman Abramovich’s relationship with Elad.”
She tells Spielman that journalists on the program “have been investigating donations made by Mr. Abramovich to Elad in Israel,” adding that the “BBC has learned that BVI-registered [British Virgin Islands] companies that have donated $100 million to Elad between 2005-2018 are controlled and/or owned by Mr. Abramovich.”
She adds: ”Elad actively builds Israeli settlements and carries out archaeological digs in occupied territory in East Jerusalem; both of these activities are considered illegal under international law.”
Garthwaite also says the documentary “will go out in Arabic and English and many other languages across the BBC network as well as in news, radio, digital, and social media formats” later this year.
Garthwaite writes that the program will investigate the “settling of Jewish people in occupied land” and takes issue with Spielman’s claim that the Elad organization was “David to the opposition’s Goliath in terms of funding.”
She writes of Abramovich’s donations to the organization: ”Elad is supported by Israel’s richest citizen, as well as by the Israeli government” and adds that the “entire annual budget” of the Palestinian Authority is “smaller than Mr. Abramovich’s fortune.”
‘Careless at Best and Anti-Semitic at Worst’
Responding, Spielman wrote: “You state that Elad participates in illegally settling ‘Jewish people’. There are no international legal issues which apply to the ‘Jewish People’ which is an ethnoreligious group.
“If objections are made, they are regarding ‘Israelis’, which is based on citizenship, not based on ethnicity or religion.
“Your claims involving the ‘Jewish People’ are careless at best and anti-Semitic at worst. I would ask that you explain your intentions here.”
He also accused BBC journalists of approaching “summer interns” who worked at the City of David years ago, “chasing them and asking leading questions” on matters they had no knowledge of.
Garthwaite, who has presented programs for BBC World News, is also the author of a book, “How to Avoid Being Killed in a War Zone.”