Met manager given BBC platform to defend Klinghoffer opera

On October 20th the BBC News website’s Entertainment & Arts page published an article by Jason Caffrey titled “Klinghoffer opera ‘must be performed’, says Met“. The article opens by informing readers that:Klinghoffer opera art

“The New York Metropolitan Opera is presenting controversial work The Death of Klinghoffer this week. Its general manager tells the BBC why he is determined to press ahead despite protests at its staging.”

And indeed, that is precisely what happens in this article: it is not an interview but an unchallenged monologue by the Met’s Peter Gelb with some stage setting in the form of background information provided by Caffrey.

Whilst Gelb is given a platform for the promotion of his claims that “it’s not anti-Semitic” and “[i]t does not glorify terrorism in any way”, Caffrey makes no attempt to challenge him with the rather obvious fact that many people disagree with his evaluation or to investigate Gelb’s basis for his claims. Moreover, readers are unable to judge the veracity of Gelb’s claims for themselves because at no point in the article does Caffrey make any attempt to explain what aspects of the production have prompted the allegations which Gelb denies. 

Caffrey rightly informs readers that:

“The Met had originally planned to relay the revival – a co-production with the English National Opera (ENO) first seen in London in 2012 – live to cinemas around the world.

But after Jewish groups argued the screenings would stoke anti-Semitism outside the US, the relays were cancelled.”

However, he passes up on the opportunity to ask Gelb why he considers the live performance of the opera to be any less inflammatory than the proposed screened version which he did agree to cancel.

Caffrey also correctly states that:

“It is a piece that has attracted controversy ever since it was first staged in 1991, with some accusing it of glorifying terrorism and being anti-Semitic.”

Readers are not given any real insight into the Met’s reasons for choosing to revive that controversial mix of politics, art and entertainment at this particular juncture beyond Gelb’s assertion that “[i]t is a brilliant work of art that must be performed”.

The objections of the Klinghoffer family to the production are paraphrased by Caffrey in several short paragraphs.

“The piece has also prompted sharp criticism from Mr Klinghoffer’s family for the “exploitation” of his “cold-blooded murder”.” […]

“The Klinghoffers’ daughters, Ilsa and Lisa, issued a statement after seeing its first production.

In it they expressed their outrage “at the exploitation of our parents and the cold-blooded murder of our father as the centrepiece of a production that appears to us to be anti-Semitic”.” […]

“Gelb says he agreed to print a statement from Klinghoffer’s daughters in the opera programme, in which they lay out their objections to the piece.”

Readers are not told whether any attempt was made by the BBC to obtain a first-hand response from the family. Neither are they informed of the op-ed written by Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer the day before the publication of Caffrey’s piece in which their objections – details of which are ignored in this article – are clearly expressed. No attempt is made to bring the voices of those organizing the protests to BBC audiences.

The article closes with five paragraphs presenting Gelb’s view of the issue.

“Gelb, though, is adamant that the show will go on. “We will not bow to this pressure,” he says. “We can’t.”

The protests, he believes, are “a kind of knee-jerk reaction… fuelled by the very, very difficult times in which we’re living right now.”

The world, he says, is “more polarised than ever before” with “horrible events taking place on a daily basis”.

All the more reason, he insists, for “great art to be presented”.

“Just because a piece of art deals with a thorny subject should not mean that it should be suppressed.” “

The message which BBC audiences are intended to take away from this one-sided article is very clear. Whilst they remain none the wiser with regard to the actual substance of the objections to the opera, they have been informed in over 700 words that all those unexplained issues (including the ones raised by Mr Klinghoffer’s family) are dwarfed by “art”. 

BBC World News news

We are informed that the BBC has appointed a new director of the BBC World Service Group.

“BBC director of news Fran Unsworth has been appointed director of the BBC World Service Group.

Unsworth is the first female director in the 82-year history of the World Service. She replaces Peter Horrocks, who last month said he was to step down from running the BBC’s global news operations – the World Service, BBC World News TV channel, BBC.com/news website and BBC Monitoring – to “find a new challenge”.”

Ms Unsworth clearly has good intentions:

“I promise to be the guardian of the best of the BBC’s values of independence, impartiality and fairness in our international services, while continuing the successful modernisation of the World Service Group to take our journalism to new audiences worldwide.”

One of the operations set to come under Ms Unsworth’s authority – the BBC World News TV channel – recently lost several million viewers from its “audiences worldwide” due to the fact that the Israeli satellite television provider ‘YES’ has decided to drop the channel from the range of those on offer to its customers.BBC World News logo

“The Israeli satellite television provider YES, which serves over 500,000 households nationwide, is dropping the venerable BBC World news station from its roster of channels on offer, Globes reports. It will be replaced by France 24’s English-language international news channel.

The BBC is widely considered to be “anti-Israel” by the public here, and YES has gotten plenty of complaints from customers on that score. […]

“Customer satisfaction with the channel is low, which is demonstrated in part by the data on the number of people watching it, which is very low,” stated YES. […]

“The British perspective, which [BBC World] presents, will continue to be represented by Sky News,” YES said.”

Clearly – as one hopes Ms Unsworth appreciates and can rectify – there is a tangible price to the failure of the corporation’s commercial services to live up to those famed ‘BBC values’ of accuracy and impartiality. 

BBC’s Israel obsession includes the price of chocolate pudding

Why on earth the producers of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ thought that an item broadcast in its October 19th edition concerning one man’s protest about the cost of living in Tel Aviv should be of interest to listeners worldwide may at first seem to be a mystery. However, once ‘Newshour’ had decided to air that item, it should obviously have been presented accurately and impartially.Newshour 19 10 14

The item (from 12:50 here) is introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy as follows:

“Now to a tale of Israeli-German relations, angry Holocaust survivors and a popular chocolate dessert.”

In fact, the story has absolutely nothing to do with “Israeli-German relations”. After a recorded jingle Coomarasamy’s inaccurate presentation continues:

“Now that’s an advert for Milky – the dessert in question – which turns out to be rather cheaper in Germany than in Israel. And when a receipt proving this fact was posted on a Facebook page, that’s when the controversy began.”

The receipt in question was actually for a comparable chocolate dessert – not the original Milky – which cannot be said to be “cheaper in Germany than in Israel” because it is not sold there. Coomarasamy then goes on to interview Naor Narkis for some five minutes, allowing him ample opportunity to make his obviously political points, but failing to provide any kind of background information which would help listeners put the story into its correct context.

Despite Coomarasamy obviously being aware of the fact that “the Facebook page was an anonymous one and seemed to suggest that Israelis should leave their country and move to Germany”, he fails to adequately explore the significance of that aspect of the story and why such a suggestion should cause controversy in Israel.

Likewise he fails to address the topic of why the cost of living might be relatively high in a country in which – unlike most European ones – it is necessary to spend so much on defence. Coomarasamy makes no attempt to verify his interviewee’s claims or to point out that – for example – most British 25 year-olds would probably have similar difficulties buying a house in central London or Manchester. And had he researched the topic a little better, Coomarasamy would be aware that Narkis’ protest is centred around house prices in one specific place – as he previously told Israel’s Channel 10 news:

“When you understand that the cost of living in Tiberias [northern Israel] is identical to that in Berlin, you don’t think twice,” he said.

“I prefer to live in Tel Aviv, but it’s too expensive for me. Here I spend 30 percent less on food and rent, and I still have money left over to go out and have fun,” he said of the German capital.

Coomarasamy should also of course have informed listeners of the inaccurate nature of Narkis’ claim that:

“…three years ago we were rioting in the streets against the high cost of living…”

Although demonstrations certainly took place, rioting did not.

Clearly, the cost of chocolate pudding and housing in Israel is not a topic of interest to anyone living outside that country, but nevertheless this item got BBC airtime because it presented an opportunity for amplification of Narkis’ repeated allegations of “failed leaders” in Israel – and that is a topic which dovetails with the BBC’s political agenda. 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Moral Maze’ does ISIS, ‘Zionist terrorists’ and ‘demonised’ Hamas

The October 15th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Moral Maze’ – repeated on October 18th and available here – was titled “Talking to Terrorists”. The synopsis on the programme’s web page reads as follows:Moral Maze

“Former US vice president Dick Cheney famously said “we don’t negotiate with evil – we defeat it.” Unfortunately history is not on his side. It seems that almost every time a new terrorist group comes along and we declare we’ll never negotiate with them, we end up doing just that. The IRA, the PLO, Taliban, Hamas to name a few – we’ve eventually talked to them all. So why not talk to ISIS? Policymakers understandably respond with righteous anger and determination after a horrible event. Negotiations can give legitimacy to terrorists and their methods and set a dangerous precedent. Yet terrorists are rarely, if ever, defeated by military means alone. ISIS may seem to be well beyond the pale at the moment, but will that always be the case? And how do we make that judgement? A former director of the Israeli security agency Shin Bet has said he’d advocate talking to anyone – even the Iranians. That way, he said “we discover they don’t eat glass and they that we don’t drink petrol.” Are people’s lives being sacrificed as conflicts drag on because we refuse to talk to preserve our moral purity? Or do we have to take a stand between right and wrong, good and evil when it comes to a group such as ISIS? Should we – can we – balance the forces of pragmatism and principle when it comes to the prospect of talking to terrorists?”

Most of the programme focused on ISIS which interestingly was described by presenter Michael Buerk as follows in his introduction:

“They’re painted with some reason as fanatics, operating on the border line between Salafist extremism and religious insanity – beyond the reach of reason.” [emphasis added]

Contrary to the impression perhaps received by readers of the synopsis there was actually very little content relating to Israel, with the exception being a couple of ‘gems’ from Michael Portillo.

“So you wouldn’t say then that the terrible things they’ve [ISIS] done – Michael Buerk listed some of them at the beginning – you wouldn’t say that that uniquely sets them apart, let’s say from Zionist terrorists…eh….who formed the State of Israel, Hamas with whom we want Israel now to speak, the Taliban with whom we have all spoken – so it doesn’t set them apart?”

“But might it also be an interesting paradox that as we come under such pressure from Islamic State that we’ll want to settle whatever we can in the region, so actually we’ll probably be pressuring Israelis to talk to the formerly demonised Hamas?” [emphasis added]

What is interesting about this programme is the glimpse it gives those of us in the Middle East into the kind of conversations among intellectuals and policy shapers in the West. Especially notable was the notion proposed by two participants that ISIS fighters are essentially frustrated Sunnis expressing their discontent with a Shia-run Iraqi government and that if that was sorted out, the ISIS balloon might be deflated.

Another remarkable point was the following argument from Michael Portillo:

“I’m amazed that in this whole discussion more weight has not been given to the impact over the last ten years or so [….] of Western violence. Now that is not to say that there is moral equivalence, but it is to say that one of the reasons why I think people are being very violent in these countries is that so much violence has happened in these countries. The alternative to violence is talk.”

As is so often the case, the really interesting aspect of this programme was what was not discussed and notably the topics of the age-old Shia-Sunni conflict and political Islam were not brought into the discussion at all.

Dr Jonathan Spyer recently wrote the following:

“Because the nature of this struggle is not widely grasped in the West, policy appears somewhat rudderless. This is reflected in the current discussion regarding the response to the Islamic State.

First, Assad was the enemy. This was made clear enough not only by his support for Hezbollah and attempts to nuclearize, but also by his unspeakable brutality and use of chemical weapons against his own citizens.

Then, when the brutality of some of the rebels became apparent, Western public interest in supporting the rebels receded. Soon the I.S. emerged as the new bogeyman. Declarations for its destruction became de rigueur, though it is far from clear how this is going to be carried out—and a de facto alliance with Iran and its clients, at least in Iraq, has emerged. This was seen in the expulsion of the I.S. from the town of Amerli, a pivotal moment in the major setbacks faced by the organization in recent days. In that town, Shi’ite militias were backed by American air power—to telling effect against the Sunni jihadis.

But is it really coherent policy to be backing murderous Shi’ite sectarians against murderous Sunni ones? It is not. Of course, when the West backs the Sunni rebels in Syria, the precise opposite is happening. Weaponry donated to “moderate” rebels then inevitably turns up in the hands of Sunni jihadis, who do most of the fighting associated with the Syrian “rebellion.” The result is that in Iraq the U.S. is helping one side of the Sunni-Shia war, and in Syria it’s helping the other side.

Only when it is understood that the West cannot partner with either version of political Islam does it become possible to formulate a coherent policy toward the Sunni jihadi forces, on the one hand, and toward the Iran-led bloc, on the other.”

Dr Spyer’s article – which, like this BBC programme, gives little cause for optimism that the West will come out of its Middle East ‘moral maze’ anytime soon – can be read here

 

 

 

BBC Complaints: we strive to describe the ‘nuanced nature’ of Hamas

A reader recently shared with us a reply received from a representative at BBC Complaints which, beyond the issue of whether or not it is a satisfactory response to a complaint made by a licence-fee payer, provides some revealing insights into the prevailing accepted wisdom in the BBC Complaints department.

Below is one portion of the response: [all emphasis added]

“With regard to your additional point on describing Hamas as militants in our news coverage [….] we feel it is worth noting that Hamas has both a political wing and a military wing and while its charter calls for Israel’s ‘nullification’ it is at the same time the democratically elected government in Gaza. Hamas’s strategy is certainly to end the occupation through armed resistance while its 1988 charter also calls for Israel’s destruction. It has, however, modified its position over time. Hamas also enjoys considerable popular support among Palestinians, particularly in the Gaza Strip where it is particularly strong.

It is worth noting this is as much to do with its humanitarian wing, which provides schooling, health clinics and financial assistance, as its military wing which carries out attacks on Israelis. Our coverage follows the BBC editorial guidelines which state: “Terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones and care is required in the use of language that carries value judgements. We try to avoid the use of the term “terrorist” without attribution. When we do use the term we should strive to do so with consistency in the stories we report across all our services and in a way that does not undermine our reputation for objectivity and accuracy.”

Our coverage strives to describe the nuanced nature of the organisation in an accurate and impartial manner, allowing our audience to make up their own minds.

We don’t agree with your suggestion of bias and this goes some way in addressing your concerns.”

Let’s take that one inaccurate statement at a time.

Hamas has both a political wing and a military wing“. Notably, the former later morphs into a “humanitarian wing”: an Orwellian description which only an organization like the BBC which pedantically ignores Hamas’ persecution of religious minorities, women and homosexuals could invent. But the important point here is that the fact that Hamas runs schools and clinics in no way mitigates the fact that it has consistently terrorised, attacked and killed Israeli (and other) civilians for over a quarter of a century. For that reason Hamas is designated in its entirety by Israel, the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan, banned by Jordan and Egypt and its ‘military wing’ proscribed by Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  As readers well know, all too often the BBC fails to inform audiences of that entire range of terrorist designation of Hamas.

“..it is […] the democratically elected government in Gaza“. Hamas’ democratically elected mandate expired over four years ago, with elections not having been held since January 2006 when it won 44.45% of the votes in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Hamas is thus no longer the “democratically elected” anything, but an armed group which violently ousted its political rivals from the Gaza Strip where has held onto power despite its mandate having long since come to an end.

Hamas’s strategy is […] to end the occupation“. The territory controlled by Hamas – the Gaza Strip – has not been occupied for nine years due to the fact that Israel disengaged from the area in 2005 – two years before Hamas’ violent takeover.

“…while its 1988 charter also calls for Israel’s destruction. It has, however, modified its position over time“. In other words, the BBC Complaints department apparently believes that Hamas no longer “calls for Israel’s destruction”. Hamas, however, says differently.

Here is Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al making a ‘nuanced’ speech in December 2012:

Here is Hamas’ former prime minister (from the ‘political’ or ‘humanitarian wing’) speaking in March 2014:

Here is a Hamas MP (again from Hamas’ ‘political wing’) also speaking in March 2014:

Here is another Hamas MP (also from that same ‘political wing’) speaking in April 2014:

And here is a Hamas-produced video from May 2014:

Perhaps the BBC Complaints department would care to enlighten its funding public as to how it arrived at the conclusion that Hamas has “modified its position” on the destruction of Israel and why it employs that and other such obviously inaccurate claims in response to complaints made by licence fee payers?  

Bowen tweets reveal the BBC’s idea of ‘pressing’ news from the Middle East

It’s olive picking season in the Middle East and – seeing as of course there is absolutely nothing more pressing (sorry about the pun) going on in the region at the moment – it would appear that the BBC’s Middle East editor has plenty of free time in which to provide audiences with yet another one of those perennial political propaganda items loosely tied to the topic of the olive harvest. 

Tweet Bowen olives 1

 

Tweet Bowen olives 2

Tweet Bowen olives 3

Well that already oozes impartiality, doesn’t it? 

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Multi-platform BBC propagation of Alan Duncan’s ugly stereotypes and incitement

On October 14th an article appearing on the BBC News website was promoted under the heading “Israel criticises UK Palestine vote”. The report, which remained on the website’s Middle East page for three consecutive days and also appeared on the UK Politics page, was titled “MPs’ Palestinian vote sends troubling message, says Israel“. However, the 593 word article actually devoted less than a quarter of its content (116 words) to informing readers about Israeli government reactions to the previous day’s Commons vote.Duncan art

As well as presenting brief coverage of the views of the motion’s proposer and of the British government’s Middle East minister, the writer of this report chose to devote almost as much of his or her word-count to the views of another British MP as to the declared subject matter of the article.

“In a speech on Tuesday morning, former International Development Minister Alan Duncan said the expansion of Israeli settlements was an “ever-deepening stain on the face of the globe”.

Mr Duncan, who left the government in last summer’s reshuffle, told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One: “Having illegal settlements all the time is simply not acceptable and anyone who supports them, I consider to be an extremist.”

He said “the starting point in principle is that these settlements are illegal”, adding that the UK government “must be prepared to state this principle more strongly”.”

Predictably, the BBC’s report went on to present the usual mantra which is promoted any time the topic of ‘settlements’ arises and yet breaches its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to clarify to audiences that alternative legal opinions on the topic exist.

“About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

The October 14th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World at One’ referred to in that article can be heard here for a limited period of time with the relevant item commencing at 38:00.Duncan World at One

Presenter Martha Kearney opens by inaccurately informing listeners that:

“The former international development minister Sir Alan Duncan has launched a scathing attack on the Israeli government.”

As we will see in a moment, Duncan’s attacks went far beyond criticism of “the Israeli government”. She continues:

“He condemns Israeli settlements as an act of theft, saying ‘occupation, annexation, illegality, negligence, complicity: this is a wicked cocktail which brings shame to the government of Israel’. His attack comes less than 24 hours after MPs voted in favour of recognizing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Sir Alan, who left the government in the summer reshuffle, is now the Prime Minister’s special envoy to Oman and Yemen. This is very strong language you’re using.”

Duncan: “Yes, and we always go on about the peace process but it’s very important I think to go on about the principles behind it and the fundamental principle which I think governs the entire…eh….setting of the process is the fact that settlements are illegal. They are illegal in international law and they are supported every single day in their expansion by the Israeli government and I think this is unacceptable. And if Israel, as a democracy, says that it deserves to be treated as a democracy, then it should behave like one and having illegal settlements all the time is simply not acceptable and anyone who supports them, I consider to be an extremist.”

Predictably, Kearney makes no attempt to inform listeners of the existence of the many legal opinions which contradict Duncan’s oft stressed claims regarding the legality of ‘settlements’. She goes on:

“Well the view of the Israeli government is that the long-term future of the settlements is a matter for peace negotiations.”

Kearney fails to clarify to listeners that the Oslo Accords – willingly signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people – also define the issue of ‘settlements’ as a topic for final status negotiations and that nowhere in those agreements is any limit placed on either Israeli or Palestinian construction.

Duncan: “Ehrr…that of course is largely true but it doesn’t mean that they’re not illegal in the first place and this fundamental principle must be admitted by the Israeli government as the starting point for those negotiations. We all accept that the 1967 borders are going to encroach into the West Bank and that the borders of Israel are going to be larger, but the starting point in principle is that these settlements are illegal.”

Kearney makes no effort to inform BBC audiences that there is no such thing as “1967 borders” or that the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan specifically – at the request of the Jordanians – states that those armistice lines are not borders and that “[t]he provisions of this article shall not be interpreted as prejudicing, in any sense, an ultimate political settlement between the Parties to this Agreement”. Instead Duncan is allowed to continue uninterrupted:

“And every single time there is a step in the so-called process – even when Prime Minister Netanyahu is knocking on the door of the White House to see the President – they announce further settlements, insultingly and in defiance of international law.”

Kearney: “You can speak more strongly now you’ve left ministerial office but do you think the UK government should be speaking the same kind of language as you are?”

Duncan: “I think the UK government must be prepared to state this principle more strongly and perhaps diverge from the United States when doing so ‘cos we all know the United States is very much in hoc to a very powerful financial lobby which dominates its politics.”

There is no reaction whatsoever from Kearney to the promotion of that unmistakable ‘Jewish lobby’ trope by a prominent British politician on the BBC’s airwaves and neither of course does she bother to ask Duncan whether or not his political views are “in hoc” to the government of Oman in light of the financial contributions he has received in the past from that source.  Duncan goes on:

“But we, I think, a hundred years after the Mandate in the region…eh – second half of which we began to complete last night in the vote in the House of Commons in wanting to recognize Palestine – should make it absolutely clear that international law must be upheld and that anyone who thinks that they can defy international law or support that defiance is adopting an extreme position which is undemocratic, not acceptable and should not be part of our politics.”

The programme continues with an interview with Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, the introduction to which Kearney exploits for further BBC promotion of the misguided comments made by the MP for Croydon South during the previous evening’s parliamentary debate.

Kearney’s use of a quote from Duncan’s speech to the RUSI in her introduction to this item indicates that before deciding to invite him to appear on this programme in order to further publicise it, ‘World at One’ staff read that speech (which, incidentally, does not include even one reference to Palestinian terrorism) and decided that its writer’s messages were appropriate content for unchallenged promotion by the BBC.

From that – along with the fact that no attempt was made by Martha Kearney to correct any of Duncan’s inaccuracies or to distance the BBC from his use of an antisemitic trope – we can conclude that the programme’s producers, along with the BBC News website editors who also obviously found Duncan’s messages worthy of propagation to BBC audiences, were unperturbed by his employment of a multitude of lies such as “settler-only motorways” which of course do not exist and “persistent annexation of the West Bank” which has never happened.

We can also conclude that BBC staff found nothing offensive in Duncan’s crude and cheap caricature of half a million people: an intentional attempt to create a stereotype which many would regard as deliberate and dangerous incitement.

“In addition to being illegal, settlement activity is very often violent, nasty, and brutal. Not all, but many settlers are heavily armed and aggressive.

It is no exaggeration to say that many settlers are state-supported militia, defying international law, driving out the rightful inhabitants from their land, and creating an illegal economy at the expense of those who have been cruelly displaced.”

But Alan Duncan’s courting of mob mentality is not just confined to demonizing and delegitimizing half a million Israeli men, women and children because of their postcodes: he also seeks to brand anyone, anywhere, who does not agree with his falsehood-based conclusions and crude stereotyping.

“Anyone who considers settlements acceptable places themself outside the boundaries of democratic principle. Settlement endorsement should be put on a par with racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism. Indeed, just as we quite rightly judge someone unfit for public office if they refuse to recognise Israel, so we should shun anyone who refuses to recognise that settlements are illegal.

No settlement endorser should be considered fit to stand for election, remain a member of a mainstream political party, or sit in a Parliament. How can we accept lawmakers in our country, or any country, when they support lawbreakers in another? They are extremists, and they should be treated as such.”

Alan Duncan’s deliberate public promotion of illiterate and ahistorical populist lies should clearly be a cause of great concern to British voters in general and members of his party in particular – especially those who have previously spoken out against similar rabble rousing by George Galloway and the use of antisemitic tropes by David Ward. Duncan’s intentional propagation of crude stereotypes and his ugly incitement ought to render him unsuitable for public office – especially at a time when antisemitic incidents have just reached record levels in the UK and hence public figures should be doing their utmost to set an appropriate example.

The fact that the BBC has elected to amplify Duncan’s pernicious message entirely uncritically both on radio and on its website is yet another dismal example of the way in which the corporation – all too often unable to resist any opportunity to promote content which reflects its own ‘progressive’ political agenda – contributes to the spread of bigotry which propagates the stereotypes that are seeds of the weed of antisemitism seen not only on Britain’s streets but, even more gravely, in its supposedly most respectable institutions.

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Blatant political messaging in BBC report on Cairo donor conference

The second of the BBC News website’s reports on last weekend’s donor conference in Cairo was a report currently headlined “Donors pledge $5.4bn for Palestinians at Cairo summit” which underwent numerous changes after its initial appearance on October 12th.Cairo conf art

The article’s most notable feature is its repeated promotion of a specific theme.

“Earlier the Palestinian and Egyptian presidents called on Israel to commit to a long-term peace initiative.

Mahmoud Abbas and Abdul Fattah al-Sisi urged Israel to give up land seized in the 1967 Middle East war and accept a fair solution for Palestinian refugees in exchange for full recognition.” […]

“He [John Kerrry] added that anything other than a long-term commitment to peace would be a “band-aid fix”.

At the opening of the conference, President Sisi urged “the Israelis, both the people and the government” to put an end to the conflict.

“We should turn this moment into a real starting point to achieve a peace that secures stability and flourishing and renders the dream of coexistence a reality,” he said.” […]

“Announcing the UK’s $32m donation in Cairo, International Development Minister Desmond Swayne said the international community could not continue to pick up the pieces of the conflict indefinitely.

“It is critical that reconstruction efforts now form part of a process of meaningful political change,” he said.”

However, despite the repeated amplification of that theme, at no point in the article does the BBC bother to inform readers that the terrorist organization which still controls the Gaza Strip, which is party to the current PA unity government and to which the incumbent President of the PA has already stated that he will cede control in the event of its victory in the supposedly upcoming elections, not only opposes holding negotiations in order to reach a peace agreement with Israel, but rejects the very existence of the Jewish state.

Likewise, the related and highly relevant topic of the failure of the Palestinian unity government to disarm Hamas in accordance with existing agreements with Israel  – by which it declared it would stand (and yet failed to do so) when that government was inaugurated in June – is not introduced into this article.

Instead, BBC audiences are fed the following trite version of events:

“The Gaza Strip, sandwiched between Israel and Egypt, has been a recurring flashpoint in the Israel-Palestinian conflict for years.

Israel occupied Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war and pulled its troops and settlers out in 2005.

Israel considered this the end of the occupation, though the UN continues to regard Gaza as part of Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory.

Israel exercises control over most of Gaza’s borders, waters and airspace, while Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border.”

As we see, the elephant-in-the-room issue of Palestinian terrorism is completely ignored in this account, with the BBC clearly trying to promote the politically motivated myth of an ‘occupation’ of the Gaza Strip which has not existed for nine years. As has been the case on numerous previous occasions, the BBC misleadingly proposes that Israeli control over “Gaza’s borders, waters and airspace” is evidence of continuing ‘occupation’ but deliberately refrains from informing audiences that the representatives of the Palestinian people were party to the creation of that arrangement when they signed the Oslo Accords and further confirmed it when they signed the later Agreement on Movement and Access in November 2005 following Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

An additional notable factor in this report is its continued promotion of casualty figures which have still not been independently verified by the BBC and with no transparency regarding the partisan nature and political background of their sources.

“The seven-week Gaza conflict, which ended in a truce on 26 August, killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, the UN says, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel.”

Cairo conf art graphic

As has been the case in all BBC reports to date, no effort is made to inform audiences of the existence of other estimates of the civilian/combatant casualty ratio in the Gaza Strip. The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre, which has so far carried out detailed examination of 42% of the casualties named by Palestinian sources has so far identified 49.8% of those names as terrorists and 50.2% as civilians. Yet again, no attempt is made by the BBC to inform audiences of how the civilian/combatant casualty ratio in Gaza compares to that of other conflicts.

This report – ostensibly a news item – once again demonstrates that the BBC’s practical interpretation of its obligation to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” is shaped by the political messaging it aspires to promote rather than by any genuine commitment to accurate and impartial reporting of events and the provision of all relevant information which would allow audiences to fully and comprehensively understand the issues at stake. 

BBC’s Knell turns planned mixed Jerusalem neighbourhood into ‘Jewish settlement’

The BBC News website’s efforts to promote the topic of last weekend’s donor conference in Cairo were evident before, during and after the event.

On October 11th – the day before the Cairo conference – an article by Yolande Knell titled “After Gaza war, Palestinians seek new path to statehood” appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the website’s Middle East page.Knell Cairo conf art

Roughly half of Knell’s article is devoted to amplification of the PA’s various current unilateral strategies, with her closing sentences so encumbered by redundant understatement that they fail to inform readers of the true significance and implications of the PA’s breach of its existing commitment to a negotiated solution to the conflict in favour of additional headline-grabbing unilateral moves.

“The Palestinians know that their latest plan to return to the Security Council, which has been criticised by Israel, is very likely to fail. However, they hope for a show of support for statehood.

A draft resolution calls for an Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territory by November 2016 and for an international presence in East Jerusalem to protect the Palestinian population.

The Palestinian back-up plan is to sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to pursue legal action against Israel.

Both moves would stir up tensions with the US and other major donors to the Palestinian Authority. While they will raise the political profile of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, they are unlikely to bring a real peace deal much closer.”

Knell’s characterization of the PA’s attempts to bring about externally imposed actions rather than negotiated agreements as merely “unlikely” to bring about an end to the conflict is clearly absurd. Notably, she fails to make any mention of the fact that one partner in the current PA unity government – Hamas – refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist and is not a member of the body with which Israel negotiates – the PLO.

 No less remarkable is her earlier misrepresentation of an existing construction project in the Jerusalem district.

“But in the coming days, Palestinian officials hope a series of events will put their cause back in the spotlight.

At a donors’ conference in Cairo on Sunday, President Mahmoud Abbas will seek $4bn (£2.5bn) for Gaza reconstruction.

A day later the British parliament is scheduled to hold a non-binding vote on whether the government should recognise Palestine as an independent state within the boundaries of the ceasefire lines which existed prior to the 1967 Middle East war.

Later this month there is a plan to ask the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for recognition and to set a deadline for Israel to pull out from occupied Palestinian territory.

The latter two steps are likely to be little more than symbolic but the Palestinians hope to increase political pressure on Israel, which has recently continued to expand its settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Jewish settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The location of the “settlements” to which Knell refers is indicated by an accompanying photograph with the following caption:

“Israel has been criticised this month for approving new settlement construction in Givat Hamatos neighborhood in East Jerusalem”

Knell Cairo conf art pic

Seeing as it already reported on the same planning application in 2012, the BBC should be aware of the fact that there is nothing remotely “new” about the plan to build housing in the Givat HaMatos district of Jerusalem. Knell, however, refrains from informing readers that the neighbourhood was the site of temporary housing for new immigrants from the former USSR and Ethiopia from 1991 onwards. She neglects to state that initiatives to replace caravans with proper housing were first proposed nine years ago and that the plans approved by the district planning committee in late September allocate around half of the planned apartments to Arab residents of nearby Beit Safafa - which itself straddles the 1949 armistice line and yet of course is never referred to by Knell and her colleagues as a “settlement”.  

Had she made sure to accurately and impartially inform BBC audiences of the above facts, Knell would of course have found it rather more difficult to make use of the BBC’s misleading standard editorial guideline breaching insertion “Jewish settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this”. The Givat HaMatos project is not a “Jewish settlement” but a planned mixed neighbourhood of Jerusalem in an area which would remain under Israeli control according to any realistic scenario of a negotiated two-state solution.

In other words, Yolande Knell has once again ditched her commitment to the BBC’s supposed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality, as well as her obligation to enable audiences to reach an “understanding” of international issues, in favour of exclusive amplification of the PA’s political narrative. 

 

Extremist links of charities ignored in BBC reports

The BBC’s Julia Macfarlane recently showcased a trip to the Gaza Strip by four British surgeons in a series of reports across a variety of BBC platforms.Macfarlane art main

On October 10th a feature titled “A war within a war: The battles fought by Gaza’s medics” appeared on the BBC News website where it remained for five consecutive days. A filmed version of the report – which also appeared on BBC television news – was posted on the same webpage on the same day under the title “Gaza conflict: UK surgeons help treat wounded“. On October 11th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’, presented by Julian Marshall, included an audio version of Macfarlane’s report – available from 12:25 here.  

The subject of the organizations behind the doctors’ trip to the Gaza Strip is not raised at all in the radio version of the report. In the televised version, one of the doctors says:

“I think myself as part of a charity like Ideals and MAP can actually now start setting something to try to sort these people out.”

Very few viewers of course are likely to be aware of the fact that the acronym MAP is in fact Medical Aid for Palestinians. The written version of Macfarlane’s report states:

“The surgeons belong to the charity Ideals, and were sent to Gaza by Medical Aid for Palestinians to visit the main hospitals there to carry out assessments and to perform post-traumatic, reconstructive surgeries.”

The same written feature also includes the following graphic displaying information provided by MAP.

Macfarlane art graphic

Like the rest of the content in all of Macfarlane’s context-free reports, this graphic makes no attempt to inform BBC audiences of the real reasons behind the information presented. There is of course nothing novel about that: from the very first day of the seven-week conflict the BBC misled its audiences by stating or implying that shortages of medical equipment in the Gaza Strip are a consequence of border restrictions imposed by Israel. On no occasion has any effort been made to clarify to BBC audiences that the permanent shortage of drugs and medical supplies in the Gaza Strip is the result of ongoing disputes between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and that Israel does not place any restrictions whatsoever on the entry of such items into the Strip.

Notably, the same context-free theme was also promoted by the BBC during Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012, including in an interview with the then WHO representative Tony Laurance who has since become the chief executive of MAP.

All of these reports by Julia Macfarlane were obviously made with the collaboration of the charities involved in organizing and funding the doctors’ trip.

The charity ‘Ideals‘ states on its website that its ‘donors/supporters’ include Interpal – a UK charity with known connections to Hamas which is designated a terrorist entity by the United States and was the subject of a ‘Panorama‘ programme in 2006.

Macfarlane art Ideals

 

One of Interpal’s associates is Dr Paola Manduca who, together with MAP founder and honorary patron Dr Swee Chai Ang, was at the centre of a recent controversy caused by their publication (with others) of a highly defamatory and politicized letter in The Lancet. That controversy further escalated after the discovery of their promotion of antisemitic material.

According to Julia Macfarlane, the UK doctors’ trip was jointly funded by the British tax-payer (via DFID). The MAP website states that more such DFID-funded missions are planned in the future and that “… MAP will continue to work with the Ministry of Health in Gaza to identify key areas of need and offer specialised medical interventions”.

Both the issue of public funding and the collaboration, via MAP, with the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry should have made the extremist links of the charities showcased by the BBC even more of a matter of public interest, but yet no effort was made whatsoever to inform audiences of those links or MAP’s political agenda in any of Macfarlane’s reports.