BBC Business covers one terror banking story, ignores another more close to home

On September 22nd a report titled “Arab Bank found liable by US court in Hamas attacks” was published on both the BBC News website’s Business page and its Middle East page.Arab Bank art

Here is what the BBC’s ‘Style Guide’ has to say about the use of the word Palestine in BBC reporting:

“There is no independent state of Palestine today, although the stated goal of the peace process is to establish a state of Palestine alongside a state of Israel.

In November 2012 the PLO secured a vote at the UN General Assembly, upgrading its previous status as an “entity” so that the UN now recognises the territories as “non-member observer state”.

The change allows the Palestinians to participate in UN General Assembly debates. It also improves the Palestinians’ chances of joining UN agencies.

But the UN vote has not created a state of Palestine (rather, it failed in its bid to join the UN as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the Security Council).

So, in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.

But clearly BBC journalists should reflect the changed circumstances when reporting on the UN itself and at the Olympics, where the International Olympics Committee recognises Palestine as a competing nation.

Best practice is to use the term Palestine firmly and only in the context of the organisation in which it is applicable, just as the BBC did at the Olympics – for example: “At the UN, representatives of Palestine, which has non-member observer status…” ” [emphasis added]

That point does not seem to be clear to the writer of this article who – although he or she did make refreshing and accurate use of the term terrorist – also misleadingly declared locations which have yet to have their status determined in negotiations to be ‘Palestine’ and led readers to believe that such a state existed as long ago as “the early 2000s”.

“A New York jury has found Arab Bank liable for providing material support to Hamas.

As a result, the Jordan-based bank must provide compensation to victims of nearly two dozen terrorist attacks that Hamas carried out in Israel and Palestine in the early 2000s.” [emphasis added]

Another notable point about this report is that it (or any other currently appearing on the BBC News website) does not inform readers that the same court in the United States ruled on the same day that a similar case is to be reinstated. As Reuters and the WSJ reported:

“The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a federal district judge got it wrong when she threw out legal claims by about 200 U.S. victims of Hamas attacks who claimed that National Westminster Bank PLC provided banking services to a London-based charity with alleged ties to the group.

The lawsuit, which the Second Circuit sent back to federal trial court in Brooklyn, was filed under the Antiterrorism Act, a 1990 law that gives victims of international terrorism recourse in U.S. courts. […]

In the lawsuit, NatWest, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, is accused of maintaining bank accounts and transferring funds for the Palestine Relief & Development Fund, also known as Interpal, which the plaintiffs allege solicited funds for and otherwise supported Hamas.”

Although eight years have passed since the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ documentary on Interpal, many of the issues it raised are still very relevant to the topic of this revived court case. If that did not spark the BBC’s curiosity, one might at least have expected that the British public’s interests in the RBS group would have prompted the corporation to cover this development. 

Will the BBC’s Doucet report on the real reasons for lost childhoods in Gaza?

On September 21st the Guardian published an interview with the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet in which we learn that she is apparently in the process of making a documentary about children in Gaza, whom the Guardian – not unexpectedly of course – wrongly describes as being ‘targeted’ by Israel. Doucet Guardian interview

“However, even with this wealth of experience, the BBC’s chief international correspondent admits the targeting of civilians, and in particular children, she has witnessed over the past two years in Syria and Gaza has prompted “an editorial shift in my journalism”, evident in last month’s BBC2 documentary The Children of Syria. Doucet is already working on a follow-up based on her experience of reporting from Gaza during the Israeli onslaught this summer.

“The way the wars of our time are fought, as punishing, sustained attacks on neighbourhoods, towns, cities, means assaults on families and childhood,” Doucet says. “Most places I cover young children are everywhere, in Gaza they are pouring out of every crevice.” [emphasis added]

Clearly Doucet (in addition to holding extremely ahistorical notions about warfare before “our time”) is disinterested in the very significant difference between an attack on a military target intentionally located in an urban area and a deliberate attack on a residential neighbourhood.

“In these crises, they are no longer the kids caught in the crossfire, they are the centre. We saw that in Gaza too. I began to realise there was a story to be told from the ground up. Just do the children.” […]

“Doucet intends to take a similar approach with her documentary on Gaza. “I keep thinking of the children, the families we spent time with there. I don’t get nightmares, but we are going back and following some of the stories.”

She is cagey about saying too much but explains: “We are trying to tell a very old Middle East story in a new way.”

“This will include the impact on both sides, a method established in Children of Syria, which included two heavily politicised boys, one an Alawite in Damascus, another in a refugee camp on the Turkish border.”

So will Doucet finally get round to telling the story (so far ignored by the BBC) of the Israeli children who have lived – and died – under the threat of constant missile attacks by terrorists in the Gaza Strip for the past thirteen years? That remains to be seen.

“Doucet says she believes in being “compassionate, not emotional”, suggesting she would not go so far as Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow’s anguished online video about the children of Gaza. “Empathy is a good thing. [But viewers] don’t want to see me, or anyone falling apart. It is not about us.” “

The vast volume of BBC coverage of events in the Gaza Strip during July and August – including from Lyse Doucet – actually provided audiences with very little which did not fall into the category of ‘anguished’ and ‘emotional’ reporting. One example of that was Doucet’s written report titled “No place to hide for children of war in Gaza and Syria” which appeared on the BBC News website on July 27th.

If this new documentary is not to be merely more of the heart-string-tugging, context-free same and is actually to provide BBC audiences with some insight into why Lyse Doucet sees “childhood […] being destroyed” in the Gaza Strip, then obviously it is going to have to address the root cause of the repeated violence: Islamist terrorism.

Her interest in children means that Doucet could do a lot worse that to begin her research with these names: Wasim Rida Salhia (aged 15), Anas Yusuf Qandil (aged 17) and Obeida Fadhel Muhammad Abu Hweishel (aged 9). Two of those youths appear on the Hamas Ministry of Health’s list of children killed during Operation Protective Edge: a list extensively promoted and quoted by the BBC as readers well know. The youngest boy was also listed on Hamas’ casualty lists, but with a false age. All three of them were acting as auxiliaries for terrorist organisations (including in one case Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade) at the time of their deaths.

Doucet could also tackle in her documentary a topic which the BBC has so far studiously avoided: the summer camps run by internationally designated terrorist organisations for the children of the Gaza Strip. And of course the issue of the contribution made by Hamas children’s TV programmes to the phenomenon of “childhood […] being destroyed” is worthy of a documentary in itself.

Somehow, though, one doubts that any of those subjects are on Lyse Doucet’s “compassionate” agenda.

 

 

BBC News website silent on Labour PPC suspension over anti-Israel Tweets

The Sunday Times, the Independent, the Mirror, the Express and the Jewish Chronicle have all reported over the last couple of days that a prospective Parliamentary candidate for the British Labour Party has been suspended following a series of offensive anti-Israel Tweets. Even Ha’aretz, the Jerusalem Post and Press TV are carrying the story.

And the BBC? Well, nothing on the topic currently appears on the BBC News website page devoted to the county in which Vicki Kirby’s prospective constituency is located.

Website Surrey

Neither does a report on the matter appear on the website’s England page or UK page.

Website England

Website UK

There is plenty of coverage of the ongoing Labour Party conference in Manchester (to which Kirby was apparently en route when she was informed of her suspension) on the website’s dedicated UK Politics page, but no mention of a PPC selected by a mainstream British political party who obviously felt that it was acceptable to publicly use a Nazi analogy and to declare that she would ensure that her grandchildren learned “how evil Israel is”.

Website UK politics

Interesting…. 

BBC whitewashes 20th century Jewish emigration from Egypt

BBC Arabic’s Sally Nabil in Cairo has recently produced two items on the topic of what remains of the Egyptian Jewish community. On September 18th a filmed report for BBC television news programmes was also published on the BBC News website under the title “Egypt’s Jewish community’s lost future“. The synopsis reads:Sally Nabil Egyptian Jews

“The Jewish community in Egypt is on the verge of disappearing.

Up until the 1950s, as many as 100,000 Jews called the country home – now, just 12 remain.

The BBC’s Cairo correspondent Sally Nabil explains why.”

However, that ‘explanation’ comes in the form of just three short sentences in Nabil’s filmed report.

“There were around 100,000 Jews in Egypt. Most of them were forced to leave in the 50s and 60s. Egypt was at war with Israel and the government suspected many of them of being spies.”

Sally Nabil also produced an audio version of her report for the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’. That item (available here from 00:49:15) was broadcast on September 18th and presenter James Menendez introduced it in a very similar fashion.

“Now there used to be about 100,000 Jews in Egypt. Most of them were forced to leave in the 1950s and 60s. Egypt was at war with Israel and the government suspected that many of them were spies.”

No further explanation of why only 12 Jews remain in Egypt today is provided in Nabil’s audio report.

Of course the persecution of Egyptian Jews  did not, as the BBC suggests, begin in the 1950s and 60s, but years before “Egypt was at war with Israel” and even before Israel existed.

“The next step was the nationality laws of 1927 and 1929, which favored jus sanguinis (or right of blood). An Egyptian was from then on defined as somebody who had Arab-Muslim affiliation.

The London Convention (1936) granted Egypt independence under King Farouk, and it was followed by a worsening of the nationality laws. According to additional nationality laws (in 1950, 1951, 1953, and 1956), autochthonous Jews became stateless: 40,000 people were turned into “foreigners” in their own country. In 1956, after the Sinai War, a new dimension was added: Egyptian nationality was taken away from anyone who committed acts in favor of enemy states or states with no relations with Egypt. In practice, all Jews were suspected of dual loyalty. This led ultimately to the accusation that all Jews were Zionists.”

“In Egypt, a long process of discrimination in the public service began in 1929. In 1945-1948, Jews were excluded from the public service. In 1947, Jewish schools were put under surveillance and forced to Arabize and Egyptianize their curricula. Community organizations were forced to submit their member lists to the Egyptian state after May 1948 and until 1950. In 1949, Jews were forbidden to live in the vicinity of King Farouk’s palaces.”

Anti-Jewish violence, rioting and economic discrimination also predated the existence of Israel.

“Jews in Egypt faced acute problems in the 1940s but these did not set their mass departure in motion. Rioting against Jews occurred in November 1945, then resumed in June-November 1948, the latter time inspired by the war with Israel. An amendment to the Egyptian Companies Law dated July 29, 1947, required that 40 percent of a company’s directors and 75 percent of its employees be Egyptian nationals, causing the dismissal and [loss of] livelihood of many Jews, 85 percent of whom did not possess Egyptian nationality.”

Clearly these two BBC reports have in no way fulfilled the claim of explaining to audiences why no Jewish community to speak of remains in Egypt and the promotion of the simplistic notion that Jews were forced to leave in the 50s and 60s because they were “suspected […]of being spies” whitewashes a much more complex story.  

Omissions, distortions and inaccurate history in BBC WW1 ‘educational’ feature

Those following the BBC’s commemoration of the World War One centenary may have noticed this Tweet on September 20th.

Tweet BBC WW1

The link leads to a feature on the BBC’s iWonder webpage titled “Does the peace that ended WW1 haunt us today?” which is presented by the BBC News diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall.  Launched in January 2014, the iWonder brand was described by the BBC as a project intended to “educate and inform”.

“To coincide with the start of the BBC’s World War One season the BBC today launches a range of exciting digital content under a new brand called BBC iWonder.

iWonder is the new brand from the BBC designed to unlock the learning potential of all BBC content. Interactive guides – curated by experts and BBC talent including Dan Snow, Kate Adie, Ian McMillan and Neil Oliver – are the first phase of this initiative.[…]

Tim Plyming, Executive Producer for BBC Knowledge & Learning says: “Digital plays a central role in the BBC’s World War One season coverage and we’re really excited to bring audiences a range of compelling perspectives of the war. The guides span life in the trenches to poetry and propaganda and we hope each one will educate and inform the curious novice as well as the history buff.” “

Audiences might therefore reasonably expect that the content posted on the iWonder site would be historically accurate.iWonder WW1 feature

The feature is composed of eight sections and section five is entitled “Diplomatic games in the Middle East”. There audiences are given potted versions of the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration.

However, absent from this section (and all others) is any mention of the San Remo Conference, the Treaty of Sèvres or the terms of the Mandate for Palestine which Great Britain was entrusted to administer on behalf of the League of Nations. Instead, a map appearing in that section inaccurately informs BBC audiences that “Britain took control of Palestine”.

Veteran BBC watchers will not be surprised by the BBC’s erasure of the agreements and treaties which form the legal foundations of the Jewish state. In fact, a search for ‘San Remo Conference 1920′ on the BBC News website turns up just one result – and that is in the corporation’s profile of Syria. BBC audiences searching the website for ‘Treaty of Sèvres 1920′ will find a result pertaining to Iraqi Kurdistan and a reference to it in an article about the Armenian church in Turkey but nothing to inform them of that treaty’s commitment to the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine.

Treaty of Sevres Article 95

Treaty of Sevres Article 95

Section six of the feature is titled “The Middle East: What happened next?”. There – with no mention of the fact that the territory concerned had originally been part of that assigned to the creation of the Jewish National Home – readers are informed that:

“In Jordan, Faisal’s brother Abdullah declared himself Emir. The British acquiesced, keen to have a friendly regime that would not threaten oil pipelines coming from Iraq. Jordan became independent in 1946, and Abdullah’s descendants still rule over the country today.”

The sub-section titled “In Palestine” informs BBC audiences that:

“The numbers of Jews emigrating to Palestine increased under British supervision, especially after Hitler came to power in 1933. Arab resentment also increased.”

The average reader of that paragraph would understand it to mean that Britain facilitated immigration of Jews to Palestine as a response to the persecution of Jews in Europe. Of course the historic facts show that in fact the British limited Jewish immigration (though never Arab immigration) and Jewish land purchase throughout much of the mandate period, with the 1939 White Paper – approved by the House of Commons just weeks before the outbreak of World War II – restricting immigration to 75,000 over a period of five years and ruling that illegal immigrants would be deducted from the quota and immigration would be halted at the end of the five-year period.  

The section continues:

“After the Holocaust, in which over 6 million Jews were killed, there was a surge of Jewish immigration to Palestine. Britain struggled to contain the crisis, and handed the task of deciding the future of Palestine to the United Nations.

The UN voted to divide Palestine into two states: one Arab, one Jewish. In 1948, Israel declared its independence; the first Arab-Israeli war began the moment the British left.”

Once again we see that the BBC continues to mislead its audiences by pretending that the 1947 Partition Plan is a thing. UNGA resolution 181 was of course a non-binding recommendation, the implementation of which depended upon the agreement of the parties concerned. Whilst Jewish representatives accepted the proposal, the Arabs rejected it outright meaning that it has no contemporary relevance whatsoever. Likewise, the BBC’s suggestion that violence commenced with the departure of British forces in May 1948 is of course an inaccurate representation of history.

Section seven of the feature is titled “Does the peace still haunt us today?” and it includes a contribution from Professor Beverley Milton-Edwards. Those familiar with Milton-Edwards’ work and with her history of associations with Alastair Crooke and his ‘Conflicts Forum’ will not be surprised by the political overtones of her contribution which includes the specious claim that “radical Islamism” arose as “a reaction to foreign intervention and control”.

The trouble is, of course, that the majority of BBC audience members hoping to be educated or informed by this feature will not be aware of Milton-Edwards’ agenda and – in contradiction of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – no attempt is made to inform them of that important factor.

This feature’s distortions, inaccuracies and omissions will come as no great surprise to anyone familiar with the BBC’s existing record of representation of Middle East history in general and the establishment of Israel in particular. Although BBC audiences might expect editors of a feature specifically intended to “educate and inform” to take special care to adhere to BBC guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, political motivations have once again triumphed over historical fact in this feature. That fact is particularly worrying given that presumably the item is intended to remain in the public domain for years to come as part of the BBC’s “historical records“.  

 

Yolande Knell’s Gaza borders campaign continues on BBC Radio 4’s PM

h/t JK

Since July a prevalent theme in BBC reporting on the recent conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip has been the context-free amplification of Hamas’ demands to lift border restrictions imposed by Egypt and Israel in response to the activities of that terror organisation and others.

Initially, Hamas declared that the lifting of border restrictions was a precondition to any negotiations on a ceasefire and the BBC provided plenty of publicity for that obviously unrealistic demand – see examples here, here, here and here. Notably, the BBC also adopted Hamas terminology as part of its amplification of the terror group’s demands and began to inaccurately describe very specific restrictions on the entry of dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip as a “siege”.

Later, Hamas found itself obliged to climb down from that particular tree and demands for the lifting of border restrictions joined others, such as the construction of a seaport and an airport, as part of what Hamas promoted as its conditions for a long-term ceasefire. Those demands were also given ample promotion by BBC correspondents – see examples here, here, here, here, here and here.  

Even before the August 26th ceasefire agreement was reached the BBC’s focus turned to promoting the topic of the lifting of border restrictions via the subject matter of reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. With BBC representation in the area having returned to pre-conflict staffing levels, most of that particular advocacy campaign has been carried out by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell who has in recent weeks produced several ‘reporter in the rubble’ items all designed to impress upon BBC audiences that those same border restrictions must be lifted in order to facilitate the reconstruction of houses destroyed or damaged during the conflict. Examples can be seen here, here and here. PM 18 9  

On September 18th the BBC Radio 4 news magazine ‘PM’ broadcast an audio item by Yolande Knell (available for a limited period of time from 50:52 here) which recycles material from two of her previous reports for television and the BBC News website.

The programme’s presenter Eddie Mair introduces the item with citation of Gaza Strip casualty figures which fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants.

EM: “The human toll of the most recent violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza is well known. More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed. Sixty-six Israeli soldiers and seven civilians were killed. As our correspondent Yolande Knell reports, the physical damage to Gaza is also significant.”

Knell opens:

“There’s a single bulldozer working to clear a path through an enormous pile of rubble in Shuja’iya in Gaza. The scale of destruction here is overwhelming. Last month this area was pounded with tank fire and airstrikes as the Israeli military said it set out to destroy a network of tunnels used by militants for cross-border raids and storing rockets. Dozens of local people were killed and thousands were left homeless.”

There is of course absolutely no editorial justification for Knell’s use of the phrase “as the Israeli military said”. Knell and her editors know full well that Hamas turned the Shuja’iya neighbourhood into a district overflowing with military targets including missile launching sites and the entrances to some ten cross-border attack tunnels. There is also no reason to assume that Knell is unaware of the fact that among the “dozens of local people” killed in Shuja’iya were a significant number of terrorists who engaged in fierce fighting with Israeli forces tasked with decommissioning the tunnels. And yet Knell deliberately refrains from communicating that fact to listeners, who next hear a local man – who cannot have been unaware that his neighbourhood had been used by terrorists as a missile launch site – feigning surprise that those sites came under attack.

Man: “I was shocked. I didn’t expect to see my house, my street, my neighbours’ houses destroyed like this. Now the war is ended but really we suffer from now here diseases. We suffer from no water, no electricity. Everything is destroyed really.”

Knell: “Abdel Karim Abu Ahmed is an English teacher. As the chickens run through the ruins of his house he shows me where he sleeps on a mattress alongside his brother and sons.”

Man: “Now we haven’t furnitures, we haven’t blankets, we haven’t walls. This is a problem. But we have – inshallah – to rebuild these houses. We hope through negotiation – inshallah – they will bring what we need here.”

Abdel Karim Abu Ahmed the English teacher also appeared in Knell’s recent feature on the BBC News website which included an aerial photograph of the location of his house in Shuja’iya.  

English teacher's house

As can be seen from the IDF’s aerial map of the neighbourhood, at least five missiles were fired from close proximity to Abu Ahmed’s house and yet Knell neglects to inform listeners of that fact and amplifies his feigned surprise at the consequences.

English teacher's house missiles fired

Knell continues with promotion of the main purpose of her report.

“But so far, nothing’s changed to ease the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt and that means reconstruction can’t yet begin. By the Kerem Shalom crossing lorries are bringing in commercial goods – mainly food – but Israel bans the import of building materials for private use, saying that militants use them to build tunnels.”

Again, Knell’s presentation of Hamas’ proven misappropriation of construction materials for the purposes of terror in terms of “Israel says” has no editorial justification. She also fails to clarify that construction materials for the private sector were imported into the Gaza Strip until last October when a cross-border tunnel was discovered. Knell continues with a Norwegian Refugee Council official who also appeared in one of her previous filmed reports.

“Now international aid agencies are calling for a rethink. Ruth Allan represents the Shelter Cluster. It’s worked out there would still be a housing crisis in Gaza even if this crossing ran at its full capacity.”

Allan: “We’ve calculated that it would take 20 years to rebuild the homes. This is not including schools, not including hospitals, not including any other civilian infrastructure – oly houses. Basically 17 thousand homes were destroyed in this last war. Also, there is huge population growth and therefore there is a shortfall of homes.”

Next comes promotion of propaganda straight from the Hamas horse’s mouth.

“In Gaza City I meet another Palestinian inspecting his damaged house. Mahmoud Zahar knows that he was Israel’s intended target here as a founder and leader of the Islamist movement Hamas. He insists the recent conflict was a great victory.”

Al Zahar: “Now I think if we are going to make any election in any area in Palestine, Hamas will be number one – just because this is the first war that Israel failed to achieve any of its goals. Destruction of the tunnels: tomorrow we are going to start doing more tunnels. Tunnels was a self-defence. Rockets was a self-defence. Resistance was our style. Israel started the war and they finished by big losses.”

Knell makes no effort to ensure that listeners are not misled by the inaccurate claims of a man who, despite being on record as having legitimised the murder of Jewish children anywhere in the world and despite UK legislation on the encouragement of terrorism, is apparently still deemed by the BBC to be an appropriate interviewee with something to contribute to audiences. She continues:

“Such attitudes have angered the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who heads a unity government backed by Hamas. He’s warned they hamper efforts to rebuild Gaza. As far as Israel’s concerned, they justify its caution, particularly when it comes to construction supplies. Mark Regev is the Israeli prime minister’s spokesman.”

Regev: “As to materials that could be syphoned off by Hamas to once again rebuild their terror machine, well we’re taking now to the international community – to the United nations, to relevant governments – of how we can have mechanisms in place that will prevent Hamas stealing what is ultimately supposed to reach the people of Gaza. I mean the amount of cement that went into those terror tunnels could have built a dozen hospitals; let’s be clear.”

Knell concludes:

“Back in Shuja’iya residents are trying to clean up their homes. While Gaza’s now calm, they know there’s still no political solution to its underlying problems and now they’re feeling them more acutely than ever.”

Despite al Zahar’s clear declaration of intent to re-engage in the construction of terrorist infrastructure, Knell fails to join the dots and clarify to listeners that there is no chance of success for any “political solution” to the Gaza Strip’s “underlying problems” which does not include adherence to the PA’s existing agreements with Israel – i.e. the disarming of all terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. Neither is she apparently concerned by the fact that her own role in the BBC’s repeated advocacy for Hamas’ political campaign to lift border restrictions is likely to contribute to the current calm in the Gaza Strip being very short-lived. 

Reader secures correction to BBC News website article

Earlier this month we noted here that a report which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 27th misled audiences with regard to UN World Food Programme supplies of food aid to the Gaza Strip.correction

The BBC article stated:

“On Wednesday, the UN’s World Food Programme said one of its convoys had entered Gaza for the first time since 2007, carrying enough food to feed around 150,000 people for five days.

Fishing boats also ventured out to sea as restrictions were eased.”

As we wrote at the time:

“Now of course most readers would understand those words to mean that the UN’s World Food Programme has not been able to supply people in the Gaza Strip with food aid since 2007. Given that the report’s previous sentences relate mostly to statements made by the Israeli prime minister and the subsequent sentence uses the words “also [….] as restrictions were eased” in relation to the fishing zone, readers might well also assume that the fact that a WFP convoy had not been able to enter the Gaza Strip since 2007 had something to do with restrictions implemented by Israel.”

In fact, the WFP’s statement related to entry to the Gaza Strip from Egypt, but that was not made clear in the BBC’s report and neither was the fact that the WFP has been able to supply food aid to the Gaza Strip via the Israeli-run Kerem Shalom crossing.  

A reader complained to the BBC about the inaccuracy of the report and received the following reply:

“You are quite correct and we would like to apologise for this error. We have amended the article and also added a correction notification at the bottom to outline the change.”

The above paragraph now reads:

“On Wednesday, the UN’s World Food Programme said one of its convoys had entered Gaza from Egypt for the first time since 2007, carrying enough food to feed around 150,000 people for five days.”

A footnote has been added to the article:

Correction WFP art

Unfortunately though, in the continuing absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website, it is unlikely that those who read the original version of the report during the three weeks in which it stood uncorrected would have reason to return to this article and see that footnote. One must therefore once again ask the BBC what exactly is the point of amendments and corrections to reports appearing on its website if no effort is made to ensure that audiences receive the corrected version?

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A BBC News report tells readers: ‘ceasefire has held’ and ‘mortar fired’

On September 17th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “UN brokers agreement to rebuild in Gaza Strip“. The report is made up of nineteen paragraphs and in the sixth and seventh ones readers are informed that:reconstruction article

“Israel launched a major military operation in Gaza on 8 July, with the stated aim of stopping militants firing rockets and mortars at its territory.

Following several short-lived ceasefires, both sides agreed to an open-ended truce on 26 August which has so far held.”

However, those who bothered to read right down to the end would no doubt be confused when they discovered in the final paragraph that:

“The Israeli military also reported that a mortar shell fired from Gaza had landed in southern Israel, the first since the ceasefire came into force.”

Indeed, a mortar fired from the Gaza Strip did hit the Eshkol area on September 16th – as the BBC was aware but did not report separately at the time. Obviously a ceasefire cannot be accurately described as having “so far held” when mortar fire has taken place.

The BBC’s description of the actual subject matter of this report’s headline – an “agreement” on reconstruction in the Gaza Strip – is very vague and provides little factual information.

“Robert Serry, special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process, said the Palestinian Authority would play a lead role in the reconstruction effort. […]

Mr Serry announced that his office had brokered an agreement to enable large-scale reconstruction, involving the private sector in Gaza and giving a “lead role” to the Palestinian Authority, “while providing security assurances through UN monitoring that these materials will not be diverted from their entirely civilian purpose”.

The Israeli government is worried that they might be used to rebuild tunnels under Gaza’s frontier from which attacks have been launched.”

Whilst the lack of information concerning the actual details of the agreement is not the fault of the BBC (the UN has not publicised exactly how it intends the agreement to work), it would nevertheless have been in order to clarify several issues to BBC audiences.

One important point is that from the information available this agreement does not appear to be very different from previous arrangements beginning in 2010 whereby construction materials were imported into the Gaza Strip for projects guaranteed and supervised by the PA and international bodies. Despite those guarantees and that supervision, Hamas managed to misappropriate construction materials for the building of dozens of cross-border attack tunnels and other military projects. The question of how “security assurances through UN monitoring” will be any more effective this time round than, for example, its past inability to prevent missiles being stored in UN schools did not apparently prompt the writer of this article to summon enough journalistic curiosity to chase up Robert Serry’s office. Instead BBC audiences have to make do with a rehashed version of ambiguous statements from a UN press release.

An additional point which is not adequately clarified to readers is that according to the above UN press release, this agreement was reached with Israel and the Palestinian Authority (the BBC’s report says merely “Palestinian officials”). The Palestinian Authority’s government is of course currently the same Palestinian Unity Government (PUG) which in theory has controlled the Gaza Strip since June 2nd 2014 and yet failed to honour existing agreements with Israel and did nothing to stop the escalation in missile fire by terrorist factions (including Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade) from June 12th onwards which led to the conflict and the consequent need for an agreement on reconstruction. The BBC article states:

“Mr Serry added that the UN stood ready to provide “increased technical assistance” to the Palestinian unity government, which was formed in June by the Fatah movement of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, the militant Islamist group that dominates Gaza.

Relations between the two factions have deteriorated and it is unclear whether Hamas will be part of the unified Palestinian delegation at the second phase of the ceasefire talks in Cairo.”

With Hamas having sidelined the PUG into irrelevance by continuing to run its own de-facto government in the Gaza Strip throughout the conflict and with details of a Hamas plot to overthrow the PA having emerged in recent weeks, the question of whether the PA can realistically be expected to oversee reconstruction in the Gaza Strip in a manner which will prevent Hamas from getting its hands on building materials is a very relevant one which the BBC elects not to examine.

Likewise the corporation is silent on the fact that when the PUG was formed, the UN (along with the EU and the US) attached conditions to its recognition:

“Both the UN and EU have welcomed the new government, on the basis of the assurances that it will abide by its commitments of recognition of Israel, non-violence and adherence to previous agreements.”

Clearly those assurances have not been met and yet – despite its platitudes at the time – the UN is now doing deals with the same body which blatantly ignored existing agreements and, moreover, appointing it to a “lead role” in a reconstruction project which, if not stringently monitored, could well create the spark for further rounds of conflict.

An organization truly committed to the public purpose of building “a global understanding of international issues” would of course ensure that audiences were made aware of the above issues.  

 

More on the BBC’s ‘Dutchman returns Holocaust medal’ story

Readers may recall that last month we noted here that two reports – one written and one filmed – which appeared (and are still available) on the BBC News website failed to inform audiences of a very significant factor in the story they told.Anna Holligan report

That story was recounted by the BBC as follows:

“A Dutchman honoured by Israel for hiding a Jewish child during World War Two has handed back his medal after six of his relatives were killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza.

Henk Zanoli, 91, wrote to the Israeli embassy in The Hague to say he could no longer hold the honour.

He said an Israeli F-16 had destroyed his great-niece’s home in Gaza, killing all inside, in the recent offensive. [….]

His great-niece is a Dutch diplomat who is married to Palestinian economist Ismail Ziadah, who was born in a refugee camp in central Gaza.

Mr Ziadah’s mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law and nine-year-old nephew were all killed after their family home was hit by Israeli aircraft.”

However, the BBC did not inform readers and viewers that in addition to Mr Zanoli’s family members, a “guest” was also present in the house at the time: Mohammed Mahmoud al-Maqadma – a member of Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades. As we noted at the time:Ziyadeh poster

“That information was in the public domain for almost a month before BBC News ran this report. It is a very relevant part of the story which provides context important to proper audience understanding. And yet, the BBC elected to refrain from providing that information to readers and viewers.”

Now further research by Elder of Ziyon reveals that al Maqadma was not the only Hamas terrorist present in the Ziadah family home on July 20th. Omar Ziadah – Mr Zanoli’s great-niece’s brother-in-law – was a field commander in Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades.

The BBC’s written report ended with amplification of the following statement from Mr Zanoli:

” “Against this background it is particularly shocking and tragic that today, four generations on, our family is faced with the murder of our kin in Gaza. Murder carried out by the State of Israel,” he wrote in the letter addressed to Israeli ambassador Haim Davon.”

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality should mean that – having elected to amplify that very serious accusation – the BBC is now obliged to inform audiences that in fact one of Mr Zanoli’s relatives was a member of Hamas and a combatant.

And perhaps the BBC’s correspondent in the Hague who produced the original filmed report might care to ask the Dutch government how a diplomat from an EU member country – in this case the Deputy Head of the Netherlands’ mission to Oman and former policy advisor on the Middle East to the Dutch MFA – happened to have a relative who was a member of a terrorist organization proscribed by the EU.