BBC’s big Bibi binge lacks substance on P5+1 deal and Congress speech

Those following Jeremy Bowen on Twitter learned on March 2nd that he was in Washington.

AIPAC Bowen Tweet

What is particularly remarkable about the BBC Middle East editor’s second statement is that in previous years, he has not found that “not to be missed” annual event unmissable.

But of course Bowen’s real interest in this year’s AIPAC conference (and readers can find his at times snide observations of that event on his Twitter feed) actually stems from the proximity of the Israeli prime minister’s appearance there to his speech in Congress the following day and the BBC has been building up to that story for some time.

In January the BBC News website’s reporting on the invitation from the Speaker of the US House of Representatives to the Israeli prime minister to address Congress was notable for its misrepresentation of Netanyahu’s stance on the issue of the P5+1 negotiations with Iran supposedly aimed at preventing that country’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.

On February 19th the BBC News website carried a report titled “Iran nuclear talks: US accuses Israel of ‘leaks’” which for the most part was devoted to amplification of allegations made by a White House official but – in common with much of the corporation’s previous reporting on the topic – failed to comprehensively inform audiences of the concerns raised by many observers with regard to the emerging end results of the P5+1 negotiations.

On February 23rd the BBC News website promoted the Guardian/Al Jazeera story which wrongly alleged that differing appraisals of Iran’s nuclear programme by the Mossad indicated that Israel’s prime minister had deliberately misled the UN on that issue in 2012.AIPAC 1

February 26th saw the appearance on the BBC News website of an article titled “Netanyahu row with Obama administration deepens” which once again was largely devoted to the amplification of US administration statements on the issue but only briefly and superficially addressed the underlying issue of concerns regarding the details of the P5+1 agreement, whilst at the same time misleadingly framing them as being confined to the Israeli prime minister alone.

On the same day, an article titled “Netanyahu ‘not correct’ on Iran nuclear talks – Kerry” also appeared on the BBC News website which further promoted the theme that concerns over the essence of the P5+1 deal with Iran are limited to Israel’s prime minister and that his presentation of the issue is based on faulty judgement.

Also on February 26th an article by Kevin Connolly appeared in the Features & Analysis section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel US: Republican invite to Netanyahu riles Obama“. Yet again concerns over what kind of deal the P5+1 is about to make with Iran were presented to readers as an ‘all-Bibi affair’.AIPAC 2

“That issue – Iran and the Bomb – is one of the defining themes of Mr Netanyahu’s career and he is alarmed that the P5+1 powers (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Russia, China, UK and France – plus Germany) negotiating with Tehran may be preparing to agree a deal towards the end of March which would be acceptable to the world powers but unacceptable to Israel.”

All of the above, however, was merely the aperitif before the BBC really got down to business.

On March 2nd visitors to the BBC News website found another article by Kevin Connolly titled “Netanyahu Congress speech a moment of high stakes“. They could also read “Netanyahu arrives in US for contested Congress Iran speech” and “Netanyahu: Speech ‘not intended to disrespect’ Obama” or watch “Netanyahu in US on controversial visit” in which BBC audiences were , as ever, told that “Tehran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons technology”.AIPAC 3 Ghattas

March 3rd saw the appearance on the BBC News website of an article by Jonathan Marcus titled “Netanyahu’s speech ‘win-win’ for Iran” and a filmed report (also shown on BBC television news) by upcoming J Street conference speaker  Kim Ghattas titled Tensions as Israeli PM Netanyahu visits US“. In her report Ghattas told BBC audiences that:

“He [Netanyahu] hasn’t said very much yet about the case he plans to make against a nuclear deal with Iran but this is all very much part of his strategy to try to undermine progress towards an agreement.”

That false information was similarly promoted by the BBC on Twitter

AIPAC BBC News US tweet

The main course of the BBC’s Bibi binge will obviously be served up with Netanyahu’s actual speech to Congress, but as is already apparent, the information being provided to BBC audiences on this topic is both voluminous and yet at the same time misleading and lacking in crucial context.

The BBC’s framing of the story as though Netanyahu were the only party concerned about the details of the P5+1 deal is plainly both wrong and politically motivated. Plenty of other parties both in the Middle East and beyond share the same concerns and yet the BBC has refrained from reporting on that issue and on the topic of the interest shown in the upcoming Congress speech.

The claim that Netanyahu is trying to “undermine progress towards an agreement” is patently false and – as noted above – this is far from the first time that the BBC has misrepresented that issue.

Likewise, there is nothing novel about the BBC’s promotion of trite slogans such as “Tehran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons technology” with the concurrent avoidance of provision of a coherent picture of professional opinions on the issue, such as that given by the head of the IAEA on March 2nd:

“International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano said Monday that Iran still needed to hand over key information to the UN body necessary for its investigation of the country’s nuclear program.

The two missing pieces of the puzzle relate to alleged explosive tests and other issues related to research that may also be useful for military uses of atomic energy. According to Amano the missing pieces of data should have been addressed by Iran by last August.

“The agency is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities,” Amano was quoted by Reuters as saying.”

Unfortunately for members of the BBC’s funding public trying to understand why the Israeli Prime Minister is currently in Washington and what exactly is the basis for his (and others’) concerns about the P5+1 deal, the corporation’s correspondents are too heavily invested in both their own animosity towards the Israeli leader and their cheer-leading for the current US administration to get around to any real ‘standard-setting journalism’ on this topic.

Related Articles:

BBC misrepresents Israel’s stance on P5+1 talks yet again

BBC misrepresentation of Israel’s stance on Iran talks continues in Kim Ghattas report

What have BBC audiences been told about the P5+1 deal with Iran?

Does BBC coverage of the P5+1 deal with Iran adequately promote audience understanding of the issue?

 

 

 

More information on Gaza casualties ignored by the BBC

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre recently published another report in the framework of its ongoing investigation into casualties in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge which can be found here.

ITIC photo

Photo: ITIC

The report sums up the Centre’s findings to date as follows:

“The project’s goal is to determine which of the fatalities were affiliated with terrorist organizations and which were non-involved citizens, and to examine the ratio between them. The findings of our investigation so far (based on an examination of approximately 61% of the names of the dead) suggest that fatalities affiliated with terrorist organizations constitute approximately 48.7% of the names that have been identified, and non-involved civilians constitute approximately 51.3%. This ratio may vary in the future.”

And:

“Weighting the findings of the current examination and the findings of the previous examinations, detailed in the ITIC’s previous documents, indicates the following distribution of the 1,314 fatalities examined to date:

553 of those killed were affiliated with terrorist organizations.

583 of those killed were non-involved civilians.

178 of those killed (approximately 13.5% of all the names that have been examined) are unidentified at this stage. Therefore, it is not possible to determine whether they were affiliated with terrorist organizations or non-involved civilians.”

Readers can find the previous reports below:

Part one, Part two, Part three, Part four, Part five, Part six, Part seven, Part eight, Part nine.

Needless to say, there is still nothing to suggest that the BBC has carried out any kind of independent verification of the UN supplied casualty figures it continues to quote and promote – including in response to complaints from the public – despite the obviously problematic sourcing of that data. 

BBC’s Sommerville showcases PIJ rearmament but refrains from asking who supplied the weapons

On February 26th the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau’s Quentin Sommerville produced two reports – one written and one filmed – about the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.

The filmed report – first shown on the BBC News television programme ‘Impact’ – appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinian Islamic Jihad have rearmed and replenished ranks“. Sommerville opens the report with the same message as that appearing in the title:Sommerville tunnels filmed

“The threat of war is looming again in Gaza. These are the men of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Six months since their last battle, they’ve rearmed and replenished their ranks in expectation of their next confrontation with Israel.”

Notably, BBC audiences are not informed at this juncture or at any other point in this report (or in the written article) how the PIJ has been able to rearm or who has supplied those weapons.

Of course the likelihood of any future confrontation between terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and Israel depends entirely upon the policies chosen by the former: for as long as they elect to refrain from attacking Israeli civilians, there will be no “next confrontation”. Sommerville, however, allows one of his masked interviewees to mislead viewers with the inference that Israel is the party initiating the recurrent bouts of conflict.

“We are prepared for any aggression on the Gaza Strip.”

 A short way into the report Sommerville tells audiences:

“….right by its [Israel’s] border…120 mm mortars. There’s an ample supply and there’s more inside.”

However, he refrains from commenting on the fact that the mortar marked ‘M48′ displayed by the PIJ terrorist he and his crew filmed bears a remarkable resemblance to the Iranian-made 120mm mortars intercepted by the IDF in 2009 aboard the ‘Francop and of course he makes no effort to inquire where and how his hosts obtained their “ample supply”.

Sommerville tunnels filmed M48

M48 Francop

Iranian-made 120 mm M48 mortar found on the Francop. Photo: MFA

Later on in the report viewers are shown an image of what Sommerville describes as:

“The aftermath of an explosion on Gaza’s western border …”

The Gaza Strip’s western border is of course the Mediterranean coastline. Apparently just as geographically challenged as his colleague who recently described the Golan Heights as being west of Haifa, Sommerville is actually referring to the southern border of the Gaza Strip – as can be determined from the commentary which follows.

“Egyptian soldiers are piling on the pressure. They’re tightening the border and wiping out smuggling tunnels that have been a lifeline to Gaza. Egypt blames militants from here for aiding attacks in the Sinai.”

No effort is made to explain to viewers why Egypt makes such statements.

Throughout this report the PIJ are predictably referred to as “militants” and Sommerville informs viewers that:

“They [the PIJ] and Hamas are regarded by the West as terrorists.”

Of course there are also non-Western countries which take the same approach – now including Egypt.

In the closing interview with a masked terrorist, viewers are told that the ‘achievement’ of the PIJ during last summer’s conflict was:

“…we challenged the occupier […] we are still able to say no to the occupation.”

Sommerville fails to inform BBC audiences of the fact that the Gaza Strip has not been occupied by Israel since August 2005.

In the written version of his report  – appearing in the Features & Analysis section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Inside Gaza’s tunnels, militants get ready for the next war” – Sommerville promotes some of the same themes.Sommerville tunnels written

“Viewed as a terrorist group in the West, Islamic Jihad is committed to Israel’s destruction.”

And:

“Egypt’s soldiers move around in armoured vehicles. Border controls have been tightened and they are using explosives to destroy homes and smuggling tunnels that have been a lifeline to Gaza.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi blames Hamas and others for aiding attacks in the Sinai.”

He again makes no effort to correct the inaccurate impressions received by readers from statements made by his interviewees.

“Standing inside, his face hidden, is a fighter, with the nom de guerre, Abu Hamza.

“In the last war we noticed that every moving thing on the surface of the earth was bombed, whether it was ambulances, civilians or fighters walking on the street,” he said. [emphasis added]

And:

“Our biggest achievement is that we stood our ground, and we challenged the occupier,” said Abu Ibrahim, a commander of their Saraya al-Quds brigade.

“Unlike the whole world, we are still able to say ‘no’ to them, ‘no’ to the occupation. We are still able to resist.” [emphasis added]

Sommerville continues the practice of promoting casualty figures which have not been independently verified by the BBC.  

“The 50-day conflict in Gaza left at least 2,189 Palestinians dead, including more than 1,486 civilians, according to the UN, and 11,000 injured.”

His emotive descriptions of the Gaza Strip lack context and no effort is made to clarify to readers that the factor most hindering reconstruction in the Gaza Strip is infighting between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

“Large parts of neighbourhoods in Gaza are in ruins, and the Strip is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis which has left many thousands of families homeless.

Six months on, the rubble from the war lies mostly uncleared and there has been little rebuilding.” […]

“Gaza is being cornered, more isolated than ever before…”

Sommerville’s take-away message in both these reports is that the “next confrontation” between Israel and terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip is just a matter of time. Whilst that supposition is entirely reasonable, he fails to present BBC audiences with the information they need in order to be able to properly understand why that is the case.

The fact that he refrains from accurately defining the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas as terrorist organisations, along with his overall failure to clarify to BBC audiences that any future hostilities depend entirely upon the choices made by those groups and his concurrent promotion of myths such as the non-existent “occupation”, means that readers and viewers remain none the wiser about the real causes of the war around the corner.

In addition, Sommerville’s avoidance of the issue of the PIJ’s Iranian backing and the sources of its rearmament mean that a crucial piece of the overall picture is concealed from BBC audiences and hence, what could have been informative journalism is instead disappointingly predictable and superficial, tapping into the same themes recycled by the BBC so many times before. 

 

BoD weighs in on BBC’s rejection of Willcox complaints

The Jewish Chronicle informs us that the Board of Deputies of British Jews (the main representative body of Jews in Britain) has commented on the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit’s rejection of complaints made by members of the public about statements from Tim Willcox during a report from Paris on January 11th.Willcox

“The Board of Deputies has condemned the BBC for not taking action against Tim Willcox after his interview with a Jewish woman about the terrorist attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris sparked anger. […]

Board vice president Jonathan Arkush said: “It’s remarkable that the BBC could have reviewed the evidence and dismissed the complaints against Tim Willcox so airily and it raises very serious questions over the objectivity of the inquiry.

“The BBC is clearly unfit to be the judge and jury in cases when it is also the accused.” “

Related Articles:

BBC ECU rejects complaints about Tim Willcox’s ‘Jewish hands’ remarks

OFCOM’s response to complaints about remarks from BBC’s Tim Willcox

DCMS report on the future of the BBC

 

BBC inaccurately promotes Banksy propaganda as a ‘documentary’

The Oxford dictionary defines a documentary as:

“A film or television or radio programme that provides a factual report on a particular subject.”

The key word in that definition is of course ‘factual': defined as “concerned with what is actually the case”.

So, when the BBC describes something as a documentary, it is in fact telling its audience that the information in that film is true and endorsing its content as fact.Banksy report website

A filmed report which appeared on the BBC News website (as well as on BBC television news programmes) on February 26th was accompanied by a synopsis which opens:

“One of the most famous graffiti artists in the world, Banksy, has turned his attention to the streets and walls of the Gaza Strip for a new documentary.”

On its Youtube channel, BBC News presented the same report under the following title:

“Gaza: Banksy artwork for a new documentary – BBC News”

However, that short video is not a documentary at all, but a puerile exercise in propaganda which propagates existing clichés and politically motivated allegations about the Gaza Strip which are not based in fact.

banksy vid 1

banksy vid 2

Banksy vid 3

(footage from Qalandiya checkpoint – not the Gaza Strip)

banksy vid 4

banksy vid 5

The BBC’s own filmed report on the topic – by Rushdi Abualouf – also promotes inaccurate clichés such as the notion of a “siege” on the Gaza Strip and “occupation” which has not existed there for almost a decade.

“I think, yes, it’s clear that the watchtower means the siege and means occupation.”

The BBC was far from the only media organization to provide PR for Banksy’s propaganda stunt, as our colleagues at CAMERA have documented. However, other media outlets are not bound by editorial guidelines which state, inter alia:

“We must not knowingly and materially mislead our audiences with our content.”

By presenting a piece of agitprop as a “documentary” the BBC has, however, done exactly that. 

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part three

Lyse Doucet’s second filmed report from the Gaza Strip (the first was discussed here) seen by viewers of BBC television news on February 25th took the now well-worn ‘reporter in the rubble’ theme to its logical conclusion by having Doucet deliver a two and a half-minute monologue while standing on a pile of earth, metal and concrete in Shuja’iya.

The report also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page where it was titled “Caught in a wasteland: Gaza six months after the ceasefire“.Doucet filmed Gaza 2

“Gazans, the international community, certainly didn’t expect Gaza to look like this. Six months ago there was a welcome, there was a celebration among Gazans, among Israelis – particularly in southern Israel – that a ceasefire had been reached. But look at this now. It’s like a wasteland. You could be forgiven for thinking there’d been a natural disaster here.”

Whilst Doucet made copious use of those ‘wasteland’ and ‘natural disaster’ themes in all of her latest reporting from the Gaza Strip, at no point did she bother to try to put the scenes of destruction she promoted so enthusiastically on radio, television and social media into their correct context. BBC audiences were not informed that the scenes from the neighbourhood of Shuja’iya upon which her reports focused are not representative of the situation in the entire Gaza Strip.

That same practice was already in evidence six months ago when BBC reporters likewise nudged audiences towards the mistaken belief that the isolated images of structural damage which had been selected to appear in BBC reports reflected the situation as a whole. Doucet continues:

“But this was the result of 51 days of war as Israeli forces entered on the ground and carried out airstrikes and artillery fire looking for the network of underground tunnels in what they had described as a Hamas stronghold.”

As we see, Doucet is still unwilling to tell audiences the facts about Shuja’iya without ‘Israel says’ style qualification. She goes on:

“But there was a huge human cost as well. And today you can see behind me, in the shell of that home, there’s one pneumatic drill hard at work. In most neighbourhoods we go to we see one digger, one drill. It’s not enough. And just take a closer look at these mounds of slabs of concrete and twisted wires: the white signs that have been posted. Each sign says…gives a description of what stood there once – you can hard….you don’t know what it is now – what stood there, which family lost it and a telephone number to call when aid is going to arrive.  

But unfortunately, a lot of the aid hasn’t arrived. And so people – you see clothing lines – people are living in what’s left of their houses and here – right across this crossing here – we’ve been seeing a man in the window of his home, waiting every day, hoping against hope that someone – the United Nations, the Palestinian authorities – someone will come to deliver money.”

Whether or not there is any substance to Doucet’s pathos filled suppositions about a man viewers do not hear or see, we do not know. She continues with more use of the famous ‘Israel says’ formula, which BBC audiences have been very well trained to interpret as actually meaning ‘the BBC refuses to take a position on whether or not this is true’.

“Now, Israel says it has allowed some construction materials in.”

But, as we noted in our previous post:

“In January 2015 alone, 15,205 tons of construction materials were imported into the Gaza Strip. Since the end of the conflict, 50,000 tons of building materials have entered the Strip and more than 42,000 residents have purchased them.”

There was, therefore, no reason whatsoever for Doucet to use the ‘Israel says’ formula here. She could have easily verified the exact amounts of construction materials which have been imported into the Gaza Strip over the last six months and informed her viewers accurately and impartially on that topic. Significantly, she chose not to do that. Doucet’s monologue goes on:

“The international community – the UN – says some donors have been generous and given some aid.”

Once again, Doucet avoids providing audiences  with factual information about the factors which have caused other donors to be less forthcoming and instead opts for dramatic and emotive generalisations.

“But look at the scale of this. The United Nations in the summer said that nearly 20,000 homes and schools were completely destroyed. There’s not enough aid and construction materials to rebuild these homes and certainly not enough to rebuild lives. But in Gaza nothing is ever simple. They’re caught in the politics of disunity between Hamas and the Palestinian authority. Caught in the ongoing conflict with Israel, tensions with Egypt which also keeps its border shut. The appeal of Gazans today to the aid agencies is don’t let the people suffer because of the politics.”

So far we have looked at three reports from Shuja’iya put out by Lyse Doucet in the last few days. All of those reports were lacking in detailed, factual information which would help BBC audiences to understand why reconstruction in Gaza is happening so slowly or to appreciate what has been done so far. All three reports placed the focus on emotive, generalized, over-dramatic, context-free descriptions more suited to a telethon appeal than to contributing to viewers’ or listeners’ fact-based knowledge and one report was replete with Hamas propaganda. The bottom line of all these reports is that Doucet avoided adequately explaining to BBC audiences that the reconstruction of housing in the Gaza Strip has been hampered primarily by the Palestinians themselves.

Lyse Doucet is not some rookie reporter or even a local bureau staffer: she is the chief international correspondent of the world’s biggest media organization. The fact that she appears to believe that reports of this mediocre quality contribute anything to fulfilling the BBC’s obligations to its funding public should be cause for considerable concern.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part one

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part two

BBC yet again fails to clarify the ‘particular viewpoint’ of Cage and Asim Qureshi

Consumers of BBC content on February 26th could not have failed to notice the story promoted as ‘exclusive’ (but also published on the same day by the Washington Post) in which the identity of the ISIS terrorist nicknamed ‘Jihadi John’ was revealed.Emwazi breaking

Among the plethora of reports appearing across all BBC platforms were several which included comment from the organization ‘Cage’ and its representative Asim Qureshi. As readers may recall, we have previously noted here that Qureshi’s appearances on the BBC have been remarkable for the fact that introductions and descriptions of the organization he represents have breached editorial guidelines by failing to comply with the clause which commits the BBC to “clearly summarising the standpoint of any interviewee where it is relevant”.

So did the BBC make efforts to rectify that problem in its latest batch of reports?

An article titled “‘Jihadi John’ named as Mohammed Emwazi from London” which appeared on the BBC News website on February 26th described ‘Cage’ as follows: [emphasis added]

“In a news conference, Asim Qureshi, the research director of the London-based lobby group Cage, which had been in contact with Emwazi over a number of years, explained how he had been approached by the Washington Post for the story and detailed the difficulties Emwazi had had with security services in the UK and overseas.”

The report goes on to state:Emwazi tweet Ed Husain

“Mr Qureshi said Emwazi, who is understood to be about 27, had been “extremely kind, gentle and soft-spoken, the most humble young person I knew”.”

And:

“He [Qureshi] said he did not know what had happened to Emwazi, adding: “When we treat people as if they are outsiders they will inevitably feel like outsiders – our entire national security strategy for the last 13 years has only increased alienation. A narrative of injustice has taken root.” “

An additional report also published on the BBC news website on the same day under the title “Islamic State: Profile of Mohammed Emwazi aka ‘Jihadi John’” described ‘Cage’ as follows: [emphasis added]

“They were interrogated and Emwazi later claimed to Cage, a campaign group in London, that they had been subject to harassment and abuse.”

Yet another article from the same day  – headlined “‘Jihadi John’ UK harassment claims revealed in emails” – informs readers that: [emphasis added]

British advocacy group Cage has disclosed an exchange of emails it says it has had with Mohammed Emwazi, the Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John”.

Cage campaigns against “state policies developed as part of the War on Terror” and says Emwazi first contacted it in 2009 to complain about being interrogated by a British official at Schipol Airport after trying to visit Tanzania.”Emwazi filmed Qureshi

A filmed report appearing on the BBC News website (as well as on BBC television news) under the title “IS ‘Jihadi John’ suspect ‘a beautiful young man’ – Cage” states in its synopsis:

“The man who has been named as Islamic State militant “Jihadi John” was a “beautiful young man” according to Asim Qureshi, the research director of the London-based campaign group Cage.” [emphasis added]

As we see, despite its extensive promotion of ‘Cage’ and amplification of the bizarre statements from Asim Qureshi, the BBC once again failed its audiences by neglecting to enable them to put that organization and the allegations of its representative into their correct context by means of clarification – as demanded in its own editorial guidelines – of the “particular viewpoint” they represent. 

Media and Israel: Friday night long reads and listens

Adam Levick – managing editor of our sister site UK Media Watch (formerly CiF Watch) – recently spoke with Judy Lash Balint on her Voice of Israel radio show. Readers can listen to the interview here.Adam on VoI

Those interested in joining us in Jerusalem this coming Sunday for our event titled ‘Framing Israel, Framing Jews’ can still register here.

On a related note, writers Ben Judah and Josh Glancy have an interesting interview in Tablet with novelist Howard Jacobson.

“Jewish north London starts just three miles up the road, but conceptually you could not be further from its prim suburbs. Jacobson doesn’t belong there. In that world, the rise of anti-Semitism is the talk of the Shabbat dinner table. People mutter that since the Gaza war last summer there has been “something in the air.” They check property prices in Herzliya with increasing regularity, just in case they need a bolt-hole. […]

“Israel has become the pretext [for anti-Semitism] not because I choose it to be, but because they have,” he says in his gruff but melodious north Manchester accent, still with him despite decades of living in London. “All the unsayable things, all the things they know they can’t say about Jews in a post-Holocaust liberal society, they can say again now. Israel has desacralized the subject. It’s a space in which everything is allowed again.”

The difficulty all British Jews face with growing anti-Zionism is how to interpret it. What is legitimate criticism and what is something else? Sometimes it is clear when the line has been crossed, such as when swastikas and the Magen David start appearing on placards together. But other times it is far less clear, woven into a complex mix of genuine and excessive outrage. Jacobson’s strength on this issue is his ability to sort the anti-Semitic wheat from the anti-Israel chaff. Like many secular Jews he is clearly uncomfortable with the Bennettist millenarian nationalism that has grown in influence there. But he thinks “everyone’s always banging on about that.” Instead the war he chooses to wage is against anti-Zionism; the language, the sophistries, and the double standards. In recent years he has become England’s anti-Zionism code-reader-in-chief.”

Read the whole article here.

 

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part two

On February 25th viewers of BBC television news saw two filmed reports from Shuja’iya in the Gaza Strip by the corporation’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet. One of Doucet’s other reports produced during the same visit was previously discussed here.

Both filmed reports also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, with the earlier one going under the title “Gaza resident: ‘Everyone has forgotten us’“. In Doucet’s dramatic introduction to that report we learn that she does not understand the difference between smoke and dust.Doucet filmed Gaza 1

“War pulled life from the heart of Gaza. It left a wasteland. Smoke still rises. Today it’s only a digger clearing some of the rubble. Gazans put up signs to describe what stood here, which family lost it, what number to call to deliver help. But almost none has arrived.”

Offering no factual evidence for her claim that a house in a neighbourhood riddled with missile launching sites, booby-trapped Hamas command centres and weapons stores was destroyed by “Israeli artillery fire” and failing to clarify that the cause of death she cites has not been confirmed by medical professionals, Doucet continues:

“The Khesi family’s home was destroyed in Israeli artillery fire. Just before the ceasefire six months ago, their first son, Wadie, was born. Last month he froze to death in what is now another battle just to survive.”

She goes on:

“His grandmother Fati’a [phonetic] points an accusing finger at all Arab countries, saying they haven’t helped Gaza. Wadie’s mother says nobody did.”

Voiceover mother: “All countries take care of their children and people. All countries except here. Here the people in charge just sit on their chair. They care only for their own children. They forget about us.”

Doucet: “Now they just want to rebuild their home so that their two girls will survive.”

This would obviously have been an appropriate juncture to explore the subject of the performance of both Gaza’s de facto Hamas government and the Palestinian Unity government (which supposedly has been in charge of the Gaza Strip since last June) in helping the local population to get back on its feet after the summer war initiated by Hamas. Doucet’s treatment of that topic is exceptionally superficial. She continues:

“Everyone talks about rebuilding Gaza but nobody’s doing it. And as always here, there’s more than one reason. Israeli restrictions, Palestinian infighting, the failure of donors to keep their promises. And why would there be much rebuilding when everyone fears there’ll be another war?”

Doucet then interviews UNRWA’s deputy director of Gaza operations, Scott Anderson.

Doucet: “Ten thousand Gazans still live in UN schools and that number may rise when families’ money runs out.”

Anderson: “You think conflict’s inevitable, whether it’s internal conflict or another conflict between Gaza and Israel. Unless the situation on the ground changes there will be no other action for people to take other than the resumption of violence.”

Doucet apparently has no comment to make regarding the promotion by a UN representative of that very thinly veiled threat of violence in the absence of cash handouts which comes straight out of the Hamas handbook. She goes on:

“And Hamas fighters are ready: they don’t hide it. I’ve seen marches like this on almost every visit in recent months.”

The question BBC audiences will no doubt be asking themselves at this juncture is why, if that is the case, it has taken Doucet six months to get around to mentioning those marches organized by a terrorist organization she declines to name as such. Doucet then gets Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad on camera but, instead of posing any incisive questions about his organisation’s responsibility for the conflict and its aftermath, she merely provides him with a stage from which to promote the usual propaganda unhindered.

Hamad: “Main reason for all this catastrophe is the occupation. Now Gaza’s turned to be like a big prison. There’s no exit, no import, no export.”

Not only does Doucet fail to clarify to viewers that the Gaza Strip has not been under “occupation” since August 2005, she makes no effort to correct the inaccurate impression received by audiences as a result of Hamad’s lies.

In January 2015 alone, 15,205 tons of construction materials were imported into the Gaza Strip. Since the end of the conflict, 50,000 tons of building materials have entered the Strip and more than 42,000 residents have purchased them. 804 tons of agricultural produce were exported from the Gaza Strip to the PA controlled areas in January, bringing the total tonnage of merchandise exported to that destination since September 2014 to 2,130. 11,826 people crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip in January alone – 2,038 of them for humanitarian reasons. 3,054 tons of gas entered the Gaza Strip during January, along with 1.8 million litres of fuel, 6.8 million litres of gasoline and 76,000 litres of oil.

Doucet continues:

“But there are reports – credible reports – that Hamas is again digging tunnels, that Hamas has been test-firing missiles in preparation for the next war.”

Hamad: “Look, I think this time – that’s right – but I think that Hamas is doing this in order to protect our people here. We don’t want to be surprised with a new war – a new aggression against us.”

In addition to displaying no interest whatsoever in questioning Hamad about where the money and materials for rehabilitation of Hamas’ military capabilities are coming from and why Hamas is doing nothing to improve the lives of the ordinary people it holds hostage, Doucet also makes no attempt to enlighten viewers with regard to the fact that Hamad’s faux victimhood is mere propaganda. Instead of pointing out that Hamas initiated last summer’s conflict she closes with yet more drama and unsupported speculations.

“In the ruins of Gaza young men train in Parkour – the sport of overcoming obstacles. Resilient Gazans are good at that. But after three wars in six years, even the strongest are starting to break.

Clearly BBC audiences learned nothing new from this superficial and mediocre reporting which merely regurgitates the same themes promoted by the BBC time and time again. Moreover, in addition to failing to provide viewers with the real facts and background to the issue of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip, Doucet once again self-conscripted to the cause of promotion of Hamas propaganda. The BBC’s funding public which paid for Lyse Doucet’s trip to Gaza must surely be asking themselves how her reporting can possibly be termed value for money.

Doucet’s second filmed report will be discussed in an upcoming post. 

DCMS report on the future of the BBC

On February 26th the British Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee published the findings of its inquiry into the future of the BBC.BBC building

The BBC’s own reporting on the issue focused mainly on the topic of the licence fee although the report covered many additional subjects.

The committee’s conclusions are as follows:

  • In the short-term there is currently no better alternative to the licence fee but as a minimum the licence fee must be amended to cover catch-up television as soon as possible.
  • Criminal penalties and enforcement for non-payment of the licence is anachronistic and out of proportion with responses to non-payment for other services. However, decriminalisation needs to be accompanied by measures to prevent increased evasion.
  • A broadcasting levy on all households is the preferred alternative but a degree of subscription for BBC services could be a possibility in the future.
  • The BBC has tried for too long to provide “something for everyone”: it should reduce provision in areas where others are better placed to deliver excellence and better value for money, and make bigger, braver decisions on its strategy.
  • The BBC should seek to do more in partnership with others. It should also support local media through extending the indie quota to include local news.
  • The BBC must demonstrate transparency to eliminate suspicions of cross-subsidy of its commercial work if it is to produce content for others.
  • The BBC Trust should be abolished and new arrangements made for the governance, regulation and oversight of the BBC.  
    The BBC should have a unitary board with a non-executive Chair, who would be known as the BBC Chairman.
  • A new rigorous and independent Public Service Broadcasting Commission (PSBC) should be established with the role of scrutinising the BBC’s strategic plan, assessing the BBC’s overall performance, and determining the level of public funding allocated to the BBC and others. A small amount of public funding should made available for other public service content priorities.
  • The National Audit Office (NAO) must now be given unrestricted access to the BBC to provide assurance that the Corporation is spending money wisely. 

One proposal included in the report which will no doubt be of interest to many of our readers is that OFCOM should replace the BBC Trust as “the final arbiter of complaints about BBC content, including matters of impartiality and accuracy”. The report notes that:

“Our inquiry did not examine the way complaints about BBC’s output are handled in any depth but a significant amount of correspondence that we receive as a Committee relates to the BBC and its output and also the way complaints are handled by the BBC and the Trust. Given the importance of the BBC’s impartiality, it is nearly always the case that it is inappropriate for us to intervene in individual cases. Nevertheless, a common theme we have noted is that members of the public who believe they have reason to complain are often dissatisfied that their complaint or point of view has not been considered independently. For many the BBC Trust is essentially part of the BBC and as such the Corporation is seen as a self-regulating body and there is great dissatisfaction that there is no option for an impartial adjudication of a complaint about the BBC by an independent body. “

BBC Watch submitted evidence to the committee on the issue of the BBC complaints system based on the wealth of information provided by our readers over the years. 

The report states:

“We recommend that Ofcom become the final arbiter of complaints over BBC content including matters concerning impartiality and accuracy, but that complaints should be considered by the BBC in the first instance. Ofcom should be given additional resources for taking on this role which are commensurate with the responsibility and estimated workload. We believe this transfer of responsibility will, if anything, strengthen the independence of the BBC, and also make the complaints process simpler, and appear more transparent and fair.”

Readers can find the committee’s full report here and a pdf version of the same report here.