In which James Menendez ditches the BBC’s remit for political grandstanding

A pretty good indicator of whether a BBC interviewer’s questions are intended to promote audience “understanding of international issues” or rather designed to grandstand his or her own political messaging is whether or not audiences actually get the chance to hear the answer to the question posed.

Some examples of the unhelpful ‘deliver long statement-cum-question and then interrupt the response’ technique of interviewing were to be found in the July 30th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ when presenter James Menendez hosted Israeli minister Silvan Shalom.Menendez Newshour 30 7

The interview is available here from 35:39 and a segment of it was promoted separately on social media.

Menendez’s simplistic introduction incorrectly suggested to listeners that Israel is intrinsically opposed to an agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme.

JM: “Is there ever likely to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians? The prevailing view is not anytime soon. Certainly the main broker in all this, the United States, seems to have given up a long time ago. Relations between Israel and the Obama White House are fractious at the best of times and anyway the nuclear deal with Iran became the main foreign policy goal for this administration, further antagonising Israel, which is deeply opposed to the agreement. And yet, in the past few days there has been some movement: reports of talks described as secret between Israel’s deputy prime minister and interior minister, Silvan Shalom, and the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat. Well Mr Shalom’s in London today and came into the Newshour studio. So what did they talk about?”

Thirty-six seconds into Silvan Shalom’s answer to that question concerning his reported meeting with Saeb Erekat in Amman, a jaded and impatient sounding Menendez interrupts his interviewee.

JM: “And what are you talking about? Does the current government in Israel believe in a two state solution? Can you clear that up? Because the messages have been very confusing over the past few months.”

Shalom manages to speak twenty words before Menendez interrupts him again.

SS: “The prime minister of Israel said after the election very clear that he’s in favour of a two state solution…”

JM: “And is that what you believe as well? There can be a Palestinian state existing alongside an Israeli state?”

Shalom speaks for 28 seconds before Menendez asks:

JM: “What would a Palestinian state look like though? Would it be a Palestinian state with full sovereignty? Because there have been comments from the Prime Minister in the past that Israel would be reluctant to relinquish security control over the areas west of the River Jordan – in other words on the West Bank. Would the Palestinians be left completely alone to run their state as they see fit?”

Shalom outlines the regional threats and precedents for forty-one seconds and then – as he takes a breath – Menendez jumps in:

JM: “That sounds…that you don’t want to grant them full sovereignty. I mean it sounds like already – before the talks have even started – it’s…it’s creating conditions.”

After Shalom’s reply, Menendez raises the following red herring:

JM: “If you’re serious about peace talks why is Israel still building settlements on occupied territory? Just yesterday the US State department criticised the approval of another – 300, I think it was – homes in the West Bank. That doesn’t send the Palestinians any sort of signal that you are serious and sincere about peace talks, does it?”

Listeners are not told that the terms of the Oslo accords do not include any restrictions on Israeli construction. Neither are they reminded that a ten month-long building freeze in 2009/10 failed to bring the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table or that the complete dismantlement of all communities in the Gaza Strip and four in Samaria a decade ago failed to advance peace.  Shalom explains that the said 300 housing units in Beit El were already authorised some years ago and eight seconds later, Menendez interrupts again:

JM: “You can look at the map and you can see settlements that have sprung up over the last few years all over the West Bank. How would a Palestinian state (unintelligible) exist with all those settlements?”

Of course the notion that “settlements” have “sprung up over the last few years all over the West Bank” is inaccurate and misleading. Whilst the number of structures and people living inside the existing municipal boundaries of communities has of course grown, the actual number of authorised towns and villages has not increased in the last decade and a half – as Menendez would clearly have his listeners believe.

Ten seconds into Shalom’s reply to that, Menendez poses another ‘question’.Menendez Newshour 30 7 segment

JM: “But you know the argument, which is that you keep peace talks going for as long as you can, for as many years as you can. You keep building…ah…settlements and you never actually reach any sort of peace deal and meanwhile there is more and more Israeli housing on the West Bank and then a [Palestinian] state becomes simply impossible. In other words you’re just stalling and actually this talk about peace negotiations is just a fig leaf.”

Six seconds into Shalom’s reply Menendez interrupts again – not even allowing his listeners to hear the response to his previous allegations before changing the subject.

JM: “Can I just ask you one question on the vote in the Knesset to allow the force feeding of prisoners who may go on hunger strike. Doctors in Israel – the Doctors’ Association – calls it inhumane treatment. It is inhumane, isn’t it, to force feed prisoners on hunger strike?”

Menendez’s next question is as follows:

JM: “Do you feel isolated at the moment? On peace talks for example? You have the EU, the UN, the US all pushing for those talks. Ehm…we’ve had the Iran deal. Israel’s opposed to it. I mean you’re completely out of step with the rest of the world, aren’t you, at the moment?”

Seventeen seconds into Shalom’s reply to that, Menendez interrupts again, bringing in an irrelevant argument also seen in previous BBC programmes and reducing the very serious topic of Iran’s nuclear programme to the level of the trite and absurd.

JM: “Yeah but they [Iran] believe that you’ve got nuclear weapons. Indeed most of the rest of the world believes you’ve got nuclear weapons. Israel’s perfectly able to defend itself against a nuclear armed Iran, isn’t it?”

Throughout this entire seven minute segment listeners hoping to hear some new information on international issues from the perspective of a senior Israeli minister actually only heard him speak for just over one minute more than the person supposedly facilitating the conveyance of that information.

Audiences did however hear Menendez’s unrelenting grandstanding of his own political views (which, interestingly, appear to absolve one party to peace negotiations from all agency or responsibility) and his inaccurate promotion of the notion that new Israeli communities have “sprung up…all over the West Bank”. Apparently the BBC also intends its audiences to adopt the belief that Israeli concerns about the terms of the JCPOA deal with Iran are baseless and unjustified.

Once again the BBC’s own political messaging takes priority over its obligation to enhance “audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.

BDS background the BBC fails to report

Two recent reports by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly which once again amplified the messaging of the BDS campaign (see related articles below) referred obliquely to the Israeli company SodaStream.

On July 28th that company’s CEO, Daniel Birnbaum, testified to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. More information on the purpose and outcome of that hearing can be found here and here.

Mr Birnbaum’s testimony gives some insight into the attacks on his company by BDS campaigners – insight which BBC audiences are still lacking despite the corporation’s frequent promotion and mainstreaming of the subject.

Also appearing at the committee’s hearing was Professor Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University Law School.

It is of course long past time for the BBC to tell its audiences accurately and impartially what the BDS campaign is really about.

Related Articles:

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part two

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part three

BBC report on Jerusalem gay pride attack second guesses an unsolved crime

BBC coverage of the violent attack on six participators in the gay pride event held in Jerusalem on July 30th included:Jlem attack 30 7

A filmed report for BBC television news which was also posted on the BBC News website under the title “Man held over Jerusalem Gay Pride stabbings“.

A written report on the BBC platform aimed at younger audiences – ‘Newsbeat’ – titled “‘We marched through blood at Jerusalem Gay Pride’“.

A written report on the BBC Arabic website.

A written report titled “Jerusalem Gay Pride: Six stabbed ‘by ultra-Orthodox Jew’” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

Towards the end of that latter report, in a section describing ultra-Orthodox opposition to the event and to the LGBT community in general, readers are told that:

“Israel’s homosexual community was the target of a 2009 attack in Tel Aviv, where a gunman opened fire at a centre for young gays, killing two people and wounding 15 others.

The assailant behind that attack was apprehended.”

The case referred to in those lines is the Bar Noar youth centre shootings. Once again, however, the BBC has obviously failed to keep up to date on the details of that case and hence misleads its audiences.

The suspect arrested and charged with the murders was later released when the case collapsed after the arrest of the state witness on charges of fabricating evidence and obstruction of justice. No further developments in the investigation have been publicized since then and no motive for that attack has been established in a court of law, meaning that the BBC’s implication of motivational linkage between that attack and the one which took place in Jerusalem on July 30th is at this stage no more than speculation.

Related Articles:

BBC documentary on Tel Aviv gay pride fails to keep up with the news

BBC repeats misrepresentation of Bar Noar shooting

Weekend long read

1) At the Jewish Chronicle, Yiftah Curiel presents his analysis of the recent BBC programme ostensibly relating to the Jerusalem light rail system in an article titled “Why Panorama went off the rails“.Weekend Read

“When Wishart visits an East Jerusalem neighbourhood he witnesses a violent attack on an Israeli checkpoint; a young boy praises in Arabic those who are “attacking the soldiers, the Jews”, translated to BBC audiences as “attacking the soldiers”. In what has become a worrying trend recently at the BBC, rather than see these statements for what they are – symptoms of widespread institutional incitement within Palestinian society – editors make do with telling us that “when they say ‘Jews’, they mean ‘Israelis'”.”

2) Tablet magazine has an interesting interview with Israeli diplomat George Deek.

“He spoke slowly and softly, as someone who had given much thought to the issue. He said that his grandfather’s choice should be a model for the Arab minority in Israel as a whole: “Unfortunately, Arabs in Israel today are forced to choose between two bad options. One is assimilation—young Arabs look at their Jewish peers and decide they want to speak like them, walk like them, and behave like them. This attempt is a bit comic but also sad, since it is doomed to fail. In the end they are not Jews and will never be.

“On the other hand, and this is a far more common choice, there is an option of separatism, which is promoted by the Arab political and religious leaders. They say that we are not really Israelis, only Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, but this nuance creates dissociation. They speak about Arab cultural autonomy and about separation, which I think lead to extremism and animosity with the Jews. According to this version, a loyal Arab-Israeli must define himself first and foremost through being anti-Israeli.

“With the first choice, you lose who you are; with the second, you lose who you can become. But I believe that there’s a third way. We can be proud of our identity and at the same time live as a contributing minority in a country who has a different nationality, a different religion, and a different culture than ours. There is no better example in my view than the Jews in Europe, who kept their religion and identity for centuries but still managed to influence deeply, perhaps even to create, European modern thinking. Jews suffered from the same dissonance between their own identity and the surrounding society. Their success was not despite their distinctiveness, but because of it. I am talking about Marx, Freud, Einstein, Spinoza, Wittgenstein.”

3) Another very interesting interview took place when the President of the Technion sat down recently with Dr Qanta Ahmed to talk about Islamist extremism, BDS, the Lancet and more.

4) An epidemiological assessment of the casualties and missile attacks during last summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas which was complied by the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention and Hebrew University Hadassah Genocide Prevention Program and was submitted to the United Nations ‘Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict’ can be found here.

“Timelines for cumulative death tolls in Gaza and missile attacks from Gaza from the start of Operation Protective Edge steadily rose during the war. Both stopped when Hamas accepted a ceasefire under terms virtually the same as other previous ceasefires. Ninety one percent of the 2127 deaths in Gaza and one hundred percent of those in Israel would have been prevented had Hamas accepted the first ceasefire.”

The significance of the BBC’s promotion of Peter Oborne’s Brotherhood washing

h/t JK

Much of the landmark speech on combating extremism delivered by the British prime minister on July 20th focused – naturally – on the issue of tackling extremist ideology.

“But you don’t have to support violence to subscribe to certain intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish. […]

…ideas also based on conspiracy: that Jews exercise malevolent power; or that Western powers, in concert with Israel, are deliberately humiliating Muslims, because they aim to destroy Islam. […]

First, any strategy to defeat extremism must confront, head on, the extreme ideology that underpins it. We must take its component parts to pieces – the cultish worldview, the conspiracy theories, and yes, the so-called glamorous parts of it as well. 

In doing so, let’s not forget our strongest weapon: our own liberal values. We should expose their extremism for what it is – a belief system that glorifies violence and subjugates its people – not least Muslim people. […]

Second, as we counter this ideology, a key part of our strategy must be to tackle both parts of the creed – the non-violent and violent.

This means confronting groups and organisations that may not advocate violence – but which do promote other parts of the extremist narrative.

We’ve got to show that if you say “yes I condemn terror – but the Kuffar are inferior”, or “violence in London isn’t justified, but suicide bombs in Israel are a different matter” – then you too are part of the problem. Unwittingly or not, and in a lot of cases it’s not unwittingly, you are providing succour to those who want to commit, or get others to commit to, violence.”

In light of David Cameron’s words it was remarkable that less than a week after that speech was made, the BBC (which is of course committed to “sustaining citizenship and civil society“) chose to broadcast a programme on Radio 4 made by a journalist known for promoting the notion of a scary ‘Pro-Israel lobby’ with extraordinary influence and control over British politics.

All the more unfortunate was the fact that Peter Oborne’s programme – apparently commissioned by the BBC and aired under the title “HSBC, Muslims and Me” on July 26th – not only whitewashed known supporters of Hamas in the UK, but did so using promotion of false “context” concerning discrimination against British Muslims in general.Oborne report R4

Two days after this radio programme was broadcast, the BBC News website’s Magazine section also saw fit to publish a written version of Oborne’s re-hash of this year-old story headlined “Why did HSBC shut down bank accounts?“. That article opens with the following words:

“Last year international banking giant HSBC suddenly closed the bank accounts of several prominent British Muslims. Anna Meisel and Peter Oborne reveal how the decision was made.” [emphasis added]

In spite of that sweeping claim, both the article and the radio programme relate to the closure of the bank account of one organization – the North London Central Mosque, also known as Finsbury Park Mosque – and one family – the al Tikriti family. Two other organisations also had their bank accounts closed around the same time – Anas al Tikriti’s ‘Cordoba Foundation’ and the Ummah Welfare Trust – although neither of Oborne’s reports clarify that fact.

The take-away message of Oborne’s two reports is to be found both in the written article’s final lines and at the end of the audio report:Oborne report written

“There is a deeper and more troubling context here.

By sending the message to law-abiding Muslims that they are excluded from the simple privileges enjoyed by all other British people, we risk encouraging rather than suppressing extremism.”

Of course that is not “the message” being sent to the millions of mainstream British Muslims who do not pop over to visit Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza at all, but Oborne’s hyperbole is amplified even more extensively in the audio version, the synopsis of which asks:

“Were the Muslims targeted by mistake or were they targeted because they are Muslims?”

Oborne posits the same hypothesis early on in the programme:

“So were the Muslims targeted by mistake, were they targeted because they really are secret terrorists or were they targeted simply because they are Muslims?”

He finds an Islington councillor who tells him that HSBC’s closure of the Finsbury Park Mosque’s account is “smearing by innuendo” and Oborne tells listeners that he has “long worried that British Muslims are being singled out for unfair treatment”. He also declares that the subjects of the programme – whom he describes as “some friends of mine” in its opening seconds – “as far as I can tell have no connection with terrorism”.

Kozbar

Mohammed Kozbar meets Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza

The three people named in Oborne’s report are Anas al Tikriti of the Cordoba Foundation, Mohammed Kozbar of the Finsbury Park Mosque (and numerous other organisations) and Mohammed Sawalha – also a trustee of the same mosque.

In the written report Oborne’s description of Sawalha is as follows:

“The World-Check entry on Finsbury Park Mosque also contained the information that Mohammed Sawalha was a trustee. Sawalha is believed to be one of the most senior Muslim Brotherhood figures in Britain. He is also alleged to have been a Hamas commander in Gaza 25 years ago. Hamas is designated by the US and other governments as a terrorist organisation.

But Kozbar said that Sawalha had been a trustee ever since the new management board was configured 10 years ago, with the approval of the police.”

Al Tikriti

Anas al Tikriti with Ismail Haniyeh

A similar account appears in the audio report at 32:43.

Sawalha’s days as a Hamas commander were actually spent in Judea & Samaria rather than Gaza but that minor inaccuracy is symptomatic of Oborne’s broader failure to conduct any serious research on his protagonists’ backgrounds and connections. In addition to his links to assorted Muslim Brotherhood organisationsincluding the ECESG which played a central role in organising the 2010 and 2011 flotillas – Sawalha was named in a terrorism financing trial in the US in 2008.

As was noted at the prominent British political blog ‘Harry’s Place’ last year:

Sawalha

Mohammed Sawalha (far right) with Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud al Zahar in Gaza

“On Monday 24 November 2008 a Dallas Federal court found the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) and five of its leading members guilty of funneling $12 million to Hamas. The jury convicted all defendants on conspiracy charges — conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organisation; conspiracy to provide funds, goods and services to a specially designated terrorist; and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Sawalha is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in this case.”

That information – which is amply available in the public domain (details of the case’s background even appear in the transcript to the 2006 Panorama programme linked to in the written report) – is obviously extremely relevant to Oborne’s subject matter and yet he chose not to impart it to his readers and listeners, preferring instead to amplify Mohammed Kozbar’s smoke and mirrors.

“He’s [Sawalha] been with us from the beginning when we took over [the mosque], when we had these meetings with the government, with the police and with the Charity Commission, with our local MP.”

That local MP, by the way, is Jeremy Corbyn – recently in the headlines due to his Hamas “friends”.

Kozbar and Sawalha

Mohammed Kozbar and Mohammed Sawalha in Gaza

All the more remarkable is the fact that the Harry’s Place article quoted above (and well worth reading in full) relates directly to the HSBC decision to cease providing banking services to Finsbury Park Mosque. As is noted in that July 2014 post, the BBC broke the news at the time with an article which similarly provided an unquestioning platform for the protestations of Mohammed Kozbar, Anas al Tikriti and others, even including the following quote:

“Khalid Oumar, one of the trustees of the [Finsbury Park] mosque, questioned the motives behind the letters.

“The letters that have been sent and the letters that we received do not give any reason why the accounts were closed in the first place,” he said.

“That has led us to believe that the only reason this has happened is because of an Islamophobic campaign targeting Muslim charities in the UK.””

That 2014 BBC article made no effort whatsoever to provide audiences with information concerning the links of the organisations and individuals concerned to the Muslim Brotherhood and their common denominator of support for Hamas. A year of potential research time has now passed but whilst Oborne does mention his subjects’ links to the Muslim Brotherhood, he provides nothing in the way of concrete information about that organisation’s links to terrorism or their records of support for Hamas, its terrorism and its mission of eradicating Israel.

Oborne’s all too apparent adoption of the role of advocate for individuals and organisations supportive of the terrorist organization Hamas is not unexpected and neither, sadly, is the BBC’s decision to provide a platform – and presumably payment – for his agitprop.

But there is a deeply unsettling aspect to the BBC’s decision to promote Oborne’s whitewashing of the links of known extremists by means of the canard suggesting that all mainstream British Muslims may be subjected to exclusion and discrimination just at the time when the British government is taking on the battle of combating extremist ideology and narratives.

Related Articles:

Must read article by former BBC journalist

 

One to watch out for on BBC Radio 4

This coming Monday evening, August 3rd, BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a programme titled “Women of Terror“. Its synopsis reads as follows:R4 Women of Terror

“From Russia’s 19th century Nihilists to contemporary Sri Lanka and Palestine women have played central roles in terrorist organisations. Attacks planned or executed by women attract attention and inspire fear in a way that male terrorists can only dream of.

Why are we still shocked by female terrorists? Why are they so effective? How can women be dissuaded from joining terrorist organisations? BBC Diplomatic Correspondent, Bridget Kendall investigates the motives that drive women to kill and considers the response of the media and the public to those who have planted bombs, hijacked planes and killed innocents in their quest for political change.”

The claim that the programme “considers the response of the media […] to those who have planted bombs, hijacked planes and killed innocents…” is particularly interesting given the images selected to illustrate both its webpage and an accompanying promotional article by Bridget Kendall which appeared on the BBC News website on July 28th under the title “What drives women to terrorist acts?“.R4 Women of Terror written

Of course BBC audiences are no strangers to those photos of PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled seeing as they have been used in prior BBC content – and not infrequently with linkage to the word ‘icon’ or ‘iconic’ – as seen in the caption to the photograph heading Kendall’s article: “Leila Khaled in iconic pose”. In the body of the article readers are told:

“Leila Khaled was probably the most famous female hijacker in the world in the late 1960s – beautiful, dangerous and politically committed to doing whatever might further the Palestinian cause.

She featured in an iconic photo – sultry-eyed, a Kalashnikov at her side, headscarf carefully draped over her head.” [emphasis added]

Kendall’s 1,277 word article has two hundred and twenty-six words devoted to Khaled alone and the only one of the female terrorists she mentions who is deemed worthy of an insert carrying a further 140 words of biography is Leila Khaled.

As recently as last December another BBC Radio 4 programme also purported to examine “how media organisations tread the fine line of giving publicity to terrorists and reporting the news” but was plagued by accuracy and impartiality issues in its portrayal of Leila Khaled’s organisation’s Dawson’s Field hijackings.

It remains to be seen whether Bridget Kendall’s efforts will be any more successful but her promo article’s romanticised embellishment of the Khaled ‘icon’ does not bode well.

Related Articles:

BBC R4 gives a platform to terrorist Leila Khaled

BBC R4 programme on terror and the media rebrands PFLP terrorists

 

 

More misleading BBC reporting on Tisha B’Av Temple Mount rioting

In addition to the written report (since slightly, but not significantly, amended) about the rioting on Temple Mount on July 26th which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page and was discussed here, BBC television news audiences saw two filmed reports on the same topic.

Both reports also appeared on the BBC News website. The earlier one – by Mariko Oi – is titled “Palestinians and Israeli police clash at al-Aqsa mosque” and, like the written report, its synopsis misleads audiences on cause and effect, erasing the premeditated nature of the violence.AAM 26 7 filmed 1

“Palestinian youths have clashed with Israeli police who have entered the al-Aqsa mosque complex in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians are understood to have barricaded themselves into the mosque on Saturday.

Israeli media said the Palestinians had intended to disrupt visits to the area known to Jews as the Temple Mount.”

The filmed footage in that report does not show the rioting on Temple Mount at all. Nevertheless, Oi’s commentary is as follows:

“Palestinian youths have clashed with Israeli police at the Al Aqsa complex in East Jerusalem – one of Islam’s holiest sites. The Palestinians occupied the mosque on Saturday and Israeli police said they were planning to disrupt visits to the area which is also sacred to Jews, who call it Temple Mount. When police moved into the mosque they were hit by a barrage of stones. They then forced the Palestinians to back into the mosque and away from the area visited by Israelis.”

Once again this report fails to make any mention of the fact that a high volume of visitors to the Western Wall and Temple Mount was expected on that day due to the fast of Tisha B’Av. Like the written report, this one too leads audiences to believe that violence came as a result of the arrival of the police at the Al Aqsa mosque rather than the other way round.

Later on in the day, viewers of BBC television news programmes saw a second filmed report on the same subject – this time from Alan Johnston. Despite being headlined “Fighting flares at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque“, that film too includes no footage of the actual rioting on Temple Mount. Its synopsis on the BBC News website reads as follows:AAM 26 7 filmed 2

“Palestinian youths have clashed with Israeli police who entered the al-Aqsa mosque complex in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians are said to have barricaded themselves inside the mosque and thrown stones at police, who moved in to stop them.

The mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, is in the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif site also revered by Jews.”

The opening lines of Johnston’s commentary suggest to viewers that the violence was sparked by Jews observing the fast of Tisha B’Av – which he neither names nor explains.

“Rage in the Holy City. Extreme tension in the alleyways in the heart of old Jerusalem. The trouble came as Jewish worshippers were being drawn into the area in large numbers; coming to gather here at the Western Wall to pray on a particularly significant day in their religious calendar.”

Johnston goes on to portray the premeditated violent rioting as “protest”:

“But up above there was trouble. According to the Israeli side there was a Palestinian protest at the Al Aqsa mosque.”

After a brief interview with the spokesman for the Israeli police force, Johnston continues his narrative whilst on screen viewers see still photographs from the scene.

“The police had forced their way into the entrance of this holy place, cleared barricades, then slammed the doors with the demonstrators inside.”

Although filmed footage of the rioting on Temple Mount on July 26th is available in the public domain, the BBC has chosen not to show it to audiences. The footage below – filmed by the Israeli police spokesman’s unit – shows the scenes which the above words from Johnston purport to describe.

Johnston closes his report as follows:

“Inevitably, the tensions up on the sacred site spilled into the surrounding neighbourhood. But it’s more than just religious feeling that gives rise to scenes like this. Decades of Israeli occupation fuels an endless, simmering frustration among Palestinians and that always feeds into this kind of violence in Jerusalem.”

Johnston’s messaging for BBC audiences is amply evident. In addition to the implication that this particular bout of violence was brought about because Jews went to pray “in large numbers”, viewers are clearly told that the problem of violence in Jerusalem in general is also caused by Israelis and their “occupation”.

According to Johnston’s narrative ‘frustrated’ Palestinians are devoid of any agency or responsibility and there is no room in his account for uncomfortable facts such as the racist hatred, incitement and glorification of terror regularly preached in the Al Aqsa mosque and others, propagated by official PA media and schoolbooks and promoted by Palestinian leaders. Neither does Johnston’s narrative include any mention of the female ‘guardians of the compound’ – paid by the Hamas-linked Northern Islamic Movement to harass non-Muslim visitors to Temple Mount – or of the paid rioters at the same site.

Johnston’s messaging is of course symptomatic of the BBC’s general approach to this issue. After the rioting on July 26th, Hamas issued calls for one of its ubiquitous ‘days of rage’ this coming Friday (July 31st).

AAM Hamas day of rage 2

AAM Hamas day of rage 1

BBC audiences have of course been told nothing about that by the media organization supposedly committed to building “a global understanding of international issues”.  

BBC’s Knell flouts impartiality guidelines with failure to inform on Susiya interviewee’s day job

In recent days the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell has produced two very similar reports on different platforms concerning illegally built structures in the South Hebron Hills.

On July 25th an article appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Susiya: Palestinian West Bank village faces bleak end“, where it remained for three consecutive days.Knell Susiya

The July 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Julian Marshall – included a report (from 30:10 here) on the same topic by Knell. In his introduction to that audio report, Marshall states:

“Earlier this year Israel’s High Court ruled against an injunction by residents of Susiya trying to stop Israeli demolition orders. Now, before an appeal is heard, they’ve been told to expect their homes to be destroyed any day.”

That portrayal is inaccurate and misleading.

“During the years while the legal proceedings were ongoing, the petitioners continued to expand their illegal construction, raising the number of structures to a few dozen. They exploited a cease and desist order that temporarily prevented Israel from demolishing the illegal structures. 

On 4 May 2015, the Supreme Court declined to issue another temporary injunction preventing demolitions. The Court found that the petitioners chose to continue to build illegally in violation of judicial rulings that were meant to facilitate the examination of the situation in its entirety, including the actions of the Israeli authorities.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in May, Israel has decided to remove only those structures that were constructed in defiance of judicial rulings or by the exploitation of judicial orders. Israel has undertaken not to demolish the remaining illegal structures before the Supreme Court renders its decision and then only with the Court’s permission. The Court will hear arguments from both sides of the case in August 2015.” [emphasis added]

Both Knell’s reports include considerable input from one Nasser Nawaja – described by her in the audio report as “one of about 350 villagers” and in the written report as a “Susiya resident”.

Whilst those descriptions may indeed be accurate, Mr Nawaja’s position as a community organizer and a field researcher for the political NGO B’Tselem is highly relevant to this story. But – in breach of the BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality which state “[w]e should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made” – Knell refrains from telling audiences about her main interviewee’s day job or his worldwide promotion of a libel which has darkly medieval overtones.

“My name is Nasser Nawajah, I’m 30 years old and a resident of a Palestinian village called Susiya in the occupied West Bank. My home is here in the Hebron hills that Israel calls an “illegal outpost” and they have demolished our town five times since 1985, even poisoning our wells.” [emphasis added]

As NGO Monitor reports, B’Tselem is one of a number of foreign funded political organisations involved in promoting the Susiya campaign.

“Khirbet Susiya (Susya) is a small Arab village in the South Hebron Hills. There are widely divergent narratives regarding the village and its history; according to Israeli authorities, the village’s structures have been illegally built. A protracted court battle ensued regarding the demolition of the village.

The Israeli Supreme Court recently cleared the legal barriers to demolition, on the grounds that the structures were constructed illegally, entirely without permits or approved plans. (Under the Oslo framework, Israel is responsible for planning and construction in Area C, which is where Susya is located.)

A number of governments, including the U.S. and European governments, are lobbying the Israeli government to prevent the demolition. […]

As with many such contentious issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict, many NGOs are active in promoting the Palestinian narrative, which is then repeated by the European and U.S. officials. These NGOs are themselves heavily subsidized by European and U.S. entities.”

A proportion of B’Tselem’s funding comes from the EU and the UK government and the involvement of those two entities in this story does not end there. As the Times of Israel reported:

“Little wonder the Europeans have rushed to Susya’s aid. Practically the entire hamlet is being sustained by EU funding. The solar panels generating its electricity were donated by the German foreign ministry; the clinic and water purifying systems were donated by Italy, and the master plan which the Israeli court is to debate on August 3 was funded by the UK. Significantly, 22 of the 37 buildings scheduled for demolition are EU-funded.”

Anyone who has travelled around Area C in the past few months will not be surprised by that revelation of pirate construction of EU-funded structures in places which according to the Oslo accords are under Israeli control – including planning and zoning. The road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, for example, offers an excellent view of dozens of relatively recent structures bearing the EU flag.

Whilst BBC licence fee payers might perhaps have appreciated some in-depth investigative reporting on the subject of why their taxes are going towards illegal construction which flouts the terms of the Oslo Accords and creates ‘facts on the ground’ despite those agreeents clearly stating that the future of Area C is to be determined by means of final status negotiations, Yolande Knell’s reports avoided all mention of the above topics with the exception of the following opaque sentence in the written report:

“European donations help sustain Susiya village, which is not connected to mains electricity or public water supplies.”

Instead, Knell’s pathos-rich accounts clearly steer audiences towards her desired take away messaging.

“Now, for the third time in three decades, villagers are facing the threat of another forced displacement.”

“Seventy-year-old Mohammed Nawaja looks on. “Each time we’ve had to rebuild we’ve started with nothing,” he says. “I must trust in God that my grandchildren won’t have to live the same experience.”” (BBC News website report)

“Nearby local children play football. Their grandparents and parents were forced to move from their homes and now they face the same uncertainty.” (Newshour report)

In addition to failing to mention that the High Court of Justice found that the families in Susiya already have homes in the nearby village of Yatta in Area A, Knell refrains from telling her readers and listeners that the Israeli government has offered the residents an alternative.

“They have been offered plots of similar, or even better, quality in a nearby area that already conforms to planning and zoning laws. Building houses there will also improve the petitioners’ quality of life, giving them access to infrastructure and educational facilities that are not available in their current illegal locations. Additionally, they will be allowed to continue the same agricultural activities on the lands they currently claim.”

Yolande Knell’s failure to tell audiences the whole story and her concealment of the fact that her main interviewee is an employee of one of the political NGOs involved in the public relations campaign promoting the one-sided Susiya narrative is ample indication of the fact that these two reports – once again – have more to do with political activism than accurate and impartial news reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

Resources:

BBC News online – contact details

BBC World Service – contact details

BBC India provides another example of BBC double standards on terrorism

h/t J

Last month we noted on these pages that whilst in its coverage of the June 26th attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait the BBC made ample use of the word terror, that term was absent from its coverage of the November 2014 attack on worshippers at the synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem – as is generally the case in BBC reporting on terrorism in Israel.

Despite the professed policy of “achieving consistency and accuracy in our journalism” which appears in the BBC’s Guidance concerning “Language when Reporting Terrorism“, there is in fact a lack of consistency in the corporation’s coverage of that subject, as has been recorded here on numerous occasions.

And whilst the guidance claims that “[w]e try to avoid the use of the term “terrorist” without attribution” and “we don’t change the word “terrorist” when quoting other people, but we try to avoid the word ourselves” on the grounds that “[t]he word “terrorist” itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding”, the BBC’s coverage of the recent memorial services for the victims of the 2005 London terror attacks rightly did not “avoid the word”.

BBC 7 7 tweet

On July 27th the BBC India Twitter account promoted an article about that day’s attack in Gurdaspur, Punjab with the following oddly worded Tweet.

BBC India tweet Punjab

The dozens of angry replies to that Tweet are worthy of note.

According to the local police:

“….the attackers first targeted a roadside eatery and took off in a white Maruti 800 with Punjab registration number. They shot dead a roadside vendor near Dinanagar bypass.

They opened fire on passengers of a moving Punjab roadways bus before targeting a community health centre adjacent to Dinanagar police station.

The gunmen barged into the Dinanagar police station and opened indiscriminate fire. The terrorists also targeted another part of the complex where the families of police personnel reside and hurled grenades.” 

In other words, the attacks on civilian targets including a bus, an eatery and a health centre indicate that the method used to carry out this attack was terrorism.

Once again we see that the BBC fails to distinguish between method and aims and as has been noted here previously:

“The result of that is that when a perceived cause is considered acceptable and justifiable, the description of the means is adjusted accordingly.

Until BBC editors do indeed begin to separate the means from the ends, it will of course be impossible for the corporation to present a consistent, uniform approach to the subject of terrorism, to adhere to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality and to fulfil its purpose to educate and inform.” 

Related Articles:

BBC News website does ‘one man’s terrorist’

The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part three

In addition to the amplification of unchallenged anti-Israel messaging from Michael Deas (coordinator in Europe for the Palestinian BDS National Committee) already seen by BBC audiences on television and the website on July 21st and heard on the radio on July 23rd, an article by Kevin Connolly which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page for four consecutive days from July 23rd under the title “Israel looks for answers to boycott campaign” also featured Deas.Connolly BDS

Included in Connolly’s report is the film clip of Deas’ unchallenged monologue previously aired on television and promoted separately on the BBC News website. One hundred and sixty-six of the 1,100 words used in Connolly’s report are devoted to further amplification of Deas’ messaging also already seen on other platforms. Notably, despite its appearance in the embedded film clip, Connolly saw fit to further amplify Deas’ call to boycott all Israeli goods in the text of his article too, under the sub-heading “Beyond settlements”.

“The precise terms of the boycott are important.

Some groups want to target Israeli companies that are based in the West Bank – or those that export fruit and vegetables grown there.

Others, including Michael Deas, believe that doesn’t go far enough – and offers this reasoning: “The Palestinian call is for boycotting of all Israeli products.”

“We know some people… are only comfortable with boycotting products that come from settlements. That’s a position we can understand and can sympathise with,” he told the BBC.

“The problem is that Israeli companies… routinely lie about where their products are coming from, so the only safe way for people to avoid buying products from the settlements is not to buy Israeli products altogether.”

In other words, members of the BBC’s audience accessing a range of its content between July 21st and July 23rd 2015 were exposed on five occasions to the message that all Israeli products should be boycotted.

A photograph of workers at a winery appearing immediately after that section of the article is captioned:

“Boycott campaigners say purchasing produce from Jewish settlements helps reinforce Israel’s presence in the occupied West Bank”

Connolly’s report also includes the following quote from Deas, under the sub-heading “Colonialism charge”:

“Michael Deas, campaigns director of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) National Committee in London, clearly believes that the tide is running their way.

He argues: “There’s a growing fear inside Israel that it’s facing international isolation of the kind South Africa faced… it’s really interesting that after just 10 years the pressure that we are creating is forcing many ordinary Israelis to question whether Israeli… colonialism is sustainable in the long-term in its current form.””

Connolly of course has no way of verifying that latter spurious claim but he amplifies it anyway. He then goes on to write:

“Israelis regard the word “colonialism” as provocative in this context because it brackets the Zionist settlement of the Holy Land with the European takeovers of territory in Africa, Asia and elsewhere in previous centuries.

Israelis say they are reclaiming an ancient right to the land and shouldn’t therefore be seen as a chapter in the history of colonialism.”

Notably, Connolly makes no effort to independently explain to readers why – beyond what “Israelis say” – the politically motivated charge of ‘colonialism’ does not apply to the Jewish state and he refrains from pointing out that over half of Israel’s population has its roots in ancient Middle Eastern and North African Jewish communities.

Below that section of the article appears an archive photograph of anti-apartheid campaigners in London with the caption “Israel says comparisons with South Africa’s former apartheid regime are nothing more than a smear tactic”. Connolly makes no attempt however to clarify to readers that the BDS campaign’s use of the misnomer ‘apartheid’ in relation to Israel is rather more than just a “smear” and in fact is a deliberate attempt to brand Israel as an entity whose existence cannot be tolerated by the same ‘decent’ people whom Connolly describes as having been affected by the campaign against South African apartheid.

“…more importantly they made it a kind of litmus test of decency to refuse to buy fruit or wine from the Cape.

The precise economic effects may have been debatable but the political impact was significant – it sent a signal to the apartheid regime that it was not part of the global family of decent, developed nations.”

That, of course, is precisely the aim of the BDS campaign and hence it is all the more important for a broadcaster supposedly committed to providing its audiences with accurate and impartial information to clarify why loaded slogans such as ‘apartheid’ and ‘colonialist’ do not apply to Israel. To date, however, the BBC has refrained from doing so.

In addition to his promotion of the notion that the BDS campaign is gaining popular support through the use of phrases such as “the tide is running their way”, Connolly unquestioningly amplifies some of its unproven claims of achievement.

“But the BDS movement feels it can point to clear successes.

It believes it has forced the French infrastructure company, Veolia, to disinvest from the Israeli market through a kind of grassroots campaign asking for example local taxpayers in Europe to persuade their councils not to invest in the firm because it operated in Israeli settlements built on land captured in the war of 1967.”

Although he later half-heartedly adds an appropriate caveat, Connolly refrains from pointing out that Veolia’s business enterprises in human rights abusing Gulf states are of no concern to BDS campaigners.

“Veolia’s official press release at the time couched the decision to sell its businesses in Israel as part of a debt reduction strategy but BDS activists are in no doubt it was a win for them.”

Another photograph used to illustrate the article carries the caption “The Israeli firm SodaStream, which had a factory in the West Bank, was targeted in a high-profile boycott campaign in 2014″. SodaStream of course moved its factory from Mishor Adumim to the Negev for commercial reasons which predated the political campaign against it and not – as the inclusion of this photograph misleadingly implies – because of the BDS campaign.

Connolly’s article predictably includes the following BBC mantra:

“In most interpretations of international law of course – although not Israel’s – those settlements are illegal and are wanted for the construction of a Palestinian state.”

And after four and a half years stationed in Jerusalem, Connolly obviously refuses to understand that Israelis call Judea and Samaria by those titles because that it what they are called – and always were until the Jordanians invented the term ‘West Bank’ to try to justify their belligerent occupation and later unrecognized annexation of the region in 1948.

“One business which won’t be selling up or relocating under overseas political pressure is Yaakov Berg’s winery at Psagot in the hills of the West Bank – or Judea and Samaria as Yaakov prefers to call it, using the area’s biblical names to emphasise its ancient links with the Jews.”

Predictably, Connolly makes no effort to independently inform his readers of the real aims and motives of the BDS campaign and the little information on that topic comes from his Israeli interviewees.

“That’s the kind of reasoning which infuriates Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who sees calls for a boycott of Israel as anti-Semitic and argues that well-meaning people around the world are being misled by the BDS leaders.

“They don’t care about settlements and they don’t care about borders,” she told me, “All they care about is that Israel shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state.””

Similarly to his audio report on the same topic, Connolly closes with a prediction – in which campaigners trying to bring about an end to Jewish self-determination are whitewashed as “critics”.

“You can expect the calls for a boycott to be one of the major issues between Israel and its critics in the years to come.”

In common with the audio and filmed reports produced around the same time, this article by Connolly provides unchallenged amplification of messaging from Michael Deas, despite the obvious breach of editorial guidelines on impartiality caused by the failure to provide BBC audiences with objective information concerning the BDS campaign’s real aims.

Obviously, no media organization can honestly claim to be accurately and impartially covering a political campaign of any stripe if it consistently fails to tell its audiences to what that campaign really aspires. Like all their predecessors, these latest three chapters in the BBC’s superficial coverage of the BDS campaign exacerbate that ongoing failure.

Related Articles:

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part one

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part two