Ex-BBC journalist on an expenses-paid propaganda trip to Israel

With the the worst brand reputation on the planet and a well-oiled international public relations campaign that is increasingly failing to pull the wool over people’s eyes, Israel has been able to call on old friends.

According to Electronic Intifada, scores of young journalists, including Zahra Ullah, formerly of BBC Wales, have travelled to Israel for a government-backed junket designed to give them “a more positive attitude” toward Israel’s policies.

The journalists are attending the Media in Conflicts Seminar (MICS) at the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya (IDC Herzliya). The Media in Conflicts Seminar is “hasbara for foreign media personnel, diplomats and youth from all over the world”, according to the website of Israel’s Ministry for Public Diplomacy, which was recently absorbed into the Prime Minister’s Office.

The seminar’s purpose, according to a fundraising appeal issued by the organizers, “is to find young journalists who will work in the world of media, as well as those who aspire to be ‘opinion makers’ in their countries, and to put them through workshops about media coverage of conflict zones”.

The MICS’s official website says that the seminar includes “A 5-day fully subsidized stay in Israel (Not including airfare)” and a “strategic tour of Jerusalem and the conflict areas”. As well as seminars on “terrorism”, and military and political topics, the participants will meet Israeli political leaders, academics and senior Israeli journalists. The lucky students of Israeli propaganda will “develop skills to face the challenges of conflict reporting, create a priceless professional network and experience the world’s most covered conflict zone”.

According to Electronic Intifada,

The Media in Conflicts Seminar bears the hallmarks of Israel’s strategy to fight “delegitimization”, laid out in 2010 by the Reut Institute, a think tank with military-intelligence ties.

In an influential report, Reut recommended that Israel “maintain thousands of personal relationships with political, cultural, media and security-related elites and influentials” around the world.

A 2009 press release says the project is “Approved by the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora”…

The Media in Conflicts Seminar was conceived by the StandWithUs Israel Fellowship recipients in 2009.

StandWithUs is the multi-million dollar US-based anti-Palestinian advocacy group that works closely with the Israeli government.

In an earlier version of this article we reported that Zahra Ullah is a current BBC employee. This was based on information available on Ullah’s Linkedin profile, which at the time of writing (8:30 p.m. British Summer Time on 2 September) still describes her as “Broadcast Journalist/Researcher at BBC News” based in Cardiff, Wales.

Zahra Ullah's Linkedin profile on 2 September 2013 describing her as a BBC employee

Zahra Ullah’s Linkedin profile on 2 September 2013 describing her as a BBC employee

However, according to the head of communications and external affairs at BBC Wales, Kate Stokes Davies, who contacted us directly, Zahra Ullah “had left the employment of BBC Wales before going on this trip”.

The BBC’s reputation for impartiality on the Palestine-Israel conflict is currently rock bottom, with a number of key figures in the corporation identified as openly pro-Israel and with recent revelations that the BBC News website’s Middle East editor, Raffi Berg, had asked his staff to belittle Israel’s aggression on Gaza.

Against this background, contradictory information about the exact employment status of a journalist who has compromised herself by attending a mega-Goebbels event in the apartheid state of Israel is hardly likely to help the BBC.

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