The BBC and the UN HRC report on last summer’s conflict – part two

In addition to the written article about the newly released UN HRC report which appeared on the BBC News website on June 22nd, the corporation produced two filmed reports for BBC television news programmes, both of which also appeared on the website.

The first report – dated June 22nd and titled “Gaza conflict: ‘War crimes by both sides’ says United Nations” – is by Lyse Doucet and – like the UN commission which revealingly titled its report as being about the “Gaza conflict” of 2014 – Doucet’s opening lines negate the fact that hostilities took place in Israel too.

“The war last summer was the third in Gaza in six years. This one was the most protracted, most punishing, between Israeli forces who attacked Gaza and Palestinian armed groups who fired rockets and dug tunnels into Israel.”

The fact that Hamas initiated the hostilities and that the fighting was protracted because time and time again Hamas refused the ceasefires offered on numerous occasions is obviously not deemed need to know information for BBC viewers. Doucet continues:

“Now an independent inquiry says both sides may have committed war crimes.”

As was the case in the BBC’s written report, Doucet makes no effort whatsoever to inform audiences of the inquiry’s ignominious beginnings or of the ensuing report’s many problematic aspects – not least its reliance on ‘evidence’ from anti-Israel activists and political NGOs engaged in lawfare against Israel. And so, with no critical analysis of the report’s value and validity offered to audiences, Doucet goes on to promote some cherry-picked quotes against a background graphic again featuring a literally one-sided picture.UN report Doucet filmed 22 6 main

“The purpose of this UN report was to gather testimony. It’s damning on both sides. On Israeli forces it says ‘impunity prevails across the board’. It also calls on Israel to break with its ‘lamentable track record of holding wrongdoers accountable’. And the attacks carried out by Palestinian militants were in its words ‘inherently indiscriminate’ and Palestinian authorities have also consistently failed to bring to justice those who violate international law.”

Doucet makes no effort to clarify to audiences that one of the report’s many shortcomings is its failure to acknowledge the fact that “Palestinian authorities” in the Gaza Strip are the exact same people carrying out the war crimes, targeting Israeli civilians and performing extra-judicial killings of political opponents.

After a clip showing the reaction of the Israeli prime minister, Doucet’s report shows Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad saying:

“I don’t know from where that they believe that Hamas focus on the civilians; that they target civilians. And I think they should blame Israel that they did not give them permission to enter Gaza and to make investigation in Gaza and to listen to people.”

Doucet makes no effort to inform viewers that Egypt too refused the commissioners entry to the Gaza Strip via its territory.

The impression audiences are intended to take away from this report is amply clear in Doucet’s closing remarks which dedicate ten words to a very sterile presentation of the Israeli side of the story and almost four times as many words to description of the Gazan side.

“Last summer Israelis lived with indiscriminate and constant rocket fire. And in Gaza we saw the huge price paid by civilians in the densely populated and impoverished territory. The report speaks of unprecedented devastation. Nearly one year on many Gazans still live in the rubble of their homes.”

Likewise, the links offered to visitors viewing this report on the BBC News website display a similar lack of impartiality.

UN report Doucet filmed 22 6 read more b

Audiences are offered the BBC’s uncritical and unchallenging written report on the same story, a BBC News report from May 2015 which amplified anonymous claims promoted by the inadequately presented political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’ (a major contributor to the UN’s report), and another BBC News report from May 2015 which amplified a report by Amnesty International (also a significant contributor to the UN report) whilst ‘contextualising’ Hamas torture and execution. Most notably, audiences are also provided with a link to a seriously flawed ‘guide’ produced by CBBC (the BBC’s children’s department) which has still not been corrected since its publication last August.

The following day – June 23rd – viewers of BBC television news programmes saw another filmed report – this time by Yolande Knell and titled “Gaza conflict: War crimes on both sides, says UN” – which again included no critical analysis of the UN report whatsoever.UN report Knell filmed

Viewers found Knell using the standard ‘Israel says’ formula in her opening sentences – employed regularly by the BBC to communicate to audiences that it does not endorse the statements which follow.

“Over fifty days last summer the Gaza Strip was pummeled by Israeli airstrikes and shelling. Israel says it was targeting tunnels used by Palestinian militants and trying to stop them firing volleys of missiles at its towns and cities. Now a report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council says it’s possible both sides committed war crimes. But Israel rejects the findings as biased. It says its actions in Gaza were meant to protect its civilians and its own inquiries found it acted lawfully.”

Like Doucet before her, Knell has nothing to tell viewers about why, when or how the report was commissioned or of the political agendas of some of the sources of the testimonies and information appearing in the report. Knell goes on to amplify the view of the terrorist organization which initiated the conflict:

“Today in Gaza the Hamas authorities said the report created a false equality between victims and their killers.

She goes on, failing to inform audiences of the political back story to the UN’s casualty figures which the BBC has been religiously quoting and promoting for almost a year.

“The war left widespread destruction across Gaza and some 2,200 Palestinians were killed. The UN says most were civilians but Israel disputes that. On the Israeli side 73 were killed – mostly soldiers.”

Knell then tells viewers that:

“The UN investigators weren’t able to come here to Gaza to see scenes like this for themselves and to meet the residents because Israel refused to cooperate with them.”

As was the case in the previous day’s written article and in Doucet’s filmed report, she fails to mention that Egypt also did not grant the commission entry – even though that fact is noted in the UN report.

“The commission repeatedly requested Israel to cooperate, including by granting it access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Regrettably, Israel did not respond to these requests. Subsequently, the commission learned from a press release that no such cooperation would be forthcoming. The Government of Egypt, when requested to facilitate entry into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing, responded that it was not possible owing to the prevailing security situation.” (emphasis added.)

Knell then goes on to make the following opaque assertion:

“At the same time there’s been a lot of criticism over how Israel carried out its own inquiries into attacks that killed Palestinian civilians.”

How much is “a lot of criticism” and by whom it was levelled is not made clear to viewers. She continues:

“This was one of the most controversial incidents of the war. Four cousins aged 9 to 11 were killed by Israeli missiles while playing on the beach. The UN commissioners criticized the Israeli army’s inquiry which cleared the soldiers of any wrongdoing.”

Indeed they did, but Knell does not attempt to make any critical examination of whether or not that criticism was relevant or justified – hardly surprising perhaps when one considers that the BBC only recently elected to pass up the opportunity to correct the misleading impressions it too propagated regarding that same incident.

Knell closes by narrowing down audience attention to possible war crimes in one location alone:

“It’s calm now on the Gaza beachfront – almost a year on from the fierce fighting. But with further investigations underway, the bitter debate about whether war crimes were committed here is set to continue.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s three reports on this topic have all been superficial, uncritical and unchallenging. Audiences have had no choice but to take the slivers of the report’s content selected by BBC journalists for amplification at face value and no attempt has been made to objectively inform them of the political background to the commission and its report. Likewise, no effort has been made to put the process and content of this report into its wider context of the effect it may have upon all Western armies fighting terrorists anywhere in the world. 

 

 

More Palestinian terror ignored by BBC News

Two days after having refrained from reporting on a fatal terror attack near Dolev to its English language audiences the BBC also found fit to ignore another serious incident which took place on the morning of June 21st in Jerusalem.No news

“A Palestinian man stabbed and seriously injured an Israeli Border Police officer Sunday outside Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, police said. An officer on the scene shot the suspected assailant.

The suspect was identified as an 18-year-old Palestinian man from the West Bank, who was named by Arabic media as Yasser Yassin Tarwa of Hebron. He was seriously injured and sent to Hadassah Hospital.

The officer suffered multiple stab wounds to the neck and chest and was taken to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital after receiving treatment on site. The man was on life support in serious condition.”

Whilst still in a very serious condition, the Border Police officer was said to be showing slight improvement 24 hours after the attack.

Although Hamas did not take responsibility for the attack, the terror organisation’s Qatar-based spokesman praised it and photographs of the attacker in Hamas garb circulated on social media.

“The Facebook page of Hamas website al-Resalah.net posted two photos of 18-year-old Yasser Yassin Tarwa from the town of Sa’ir near Hebron.

In one, Tarwa is seen wearing a Hamas scarf and headband, and camouflage pants.

In another, the Hebron Polytechnic student is seen displaying the green flag of his university’s Islamic bloc, his face painted in camouflage colors. […]

Hamas spokesman Hossam Badran said in a statement Sunday that the “heroic” attack was timed perfectly to coincide with the first anniversary of the killing of Palestinian teenager Muhammed Abu Khdeir by Jewish extremists.

“The operation sends a message of resistance to the occupation whereby resisting youth are able to defy the occupation and reach its soldiers even where they [the policemen] gather,” Badran wrote.”

Another of Hamas’ cadre of spokesmen praised the previous attack on June 19th:

““Congratulations to the modest arm in the West Bank which carried out the heroic attack against the settlers against the Zionists west of Ramallah on the anniversary of the martyring of Qassam [Brigades] heroes Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abu Aysha,” wrote Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum on Saturday, referring to the killers of three Israeli teenagers last June. The two kidnappers were killed in a firefight with Israeli soldiers in September 2014, after a manhunt of several months.

“More of these quality, heroic operations rekindle the hope of our people and its faith in the spirit of jihad, after some have counted on its eradication.””

Later on the evening of June 21st a bus travelling near Geva Binyamin was attacked with firebombs and rocks and one man was injured.

The BBC’s audiences of course remain severely under-informed about the rise in terror attacks against Israelis and notably two fatal attacks which have taken place since the beginning of the year have both been ignored by BBC journalists reporting for the corporation’s English language services. Likewise, Hamas’ material and ideological support for acts of terror in Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria remains seriously under-reported by the BBC.

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Head of BBC’s ME bureau slams Israeli government criticism of Gaza reporting

On June 14th Israel’s Foreign Ministry released the following video which, whilst not the most sophisticated piece of video work ever produced, will certainly ring a bell with all those who followed the BBC’s coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas last summer.

Some people were apparently rather upset by that 49 second cartoon – including the head of the BBC’s Middle East bureau…

Coleborn MFA tweet 1

Colebourn MFA tweet 2

….and the local Foreign Press Association (where Colebourn is a board member), which released a distinctly patronising statement instructing the MFA how it should be spending its time.

FPA statement MFA vidInterestingly, the FPA appears to have forgotten about another statement it put out August 2014.

FPA statement Hamas Aug 14

And no less remarkable is the fact that the video’s critics do not seem to be overly keen to address the actual issues behind the satire.

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BBC News gets round to mentioning some of the missile fire from the Gaza Strip

On June 10th BBC audiences finally received some information on the issue of the missile fire from the Gaza Strip previously ignored by the corporation’s English language services. A filmed report produced by Yolande Knell for BBC television news also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Could Islamic State’s influence shatter Gaza ceasefire?“. The synopsis to that report reads:Knell Salafists 10 6 filmed

“In the past week, several rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza, endangering the 10-month-long ceasefire that ended last summer’s deadly war.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, holds Hamas responsible for any rockets coming from Gaza – but Islamist extremists, who claim allegiance with Islamic State, have claimed responsibility for firing them.”

The implication in both the headline and the synopsis is that the August 26th 2014 ceasefire – which reportedly includes the clause “All Palestinian factions in Gaza will stop all attacks against Israel by land, air or sea, and will stop the construction of tunnels from Gaza into Israel” – has been upheld throughout the last ten months.

That, of course, is not the case but with BBC audiences having received decidedly scant information on Hamas’ reconstruction of tunnels and building of additional infrastructure, its frequent test-firing of missiles, its recruitment drive and no fewer than seven separate incidents of missile fire over the past ten months, they are not in a position to appreciate that the ceasefire agreement has long been ‘endangered’.

Knell’s report opens with an interesting addition to the BBC lexicon. With Hamas having been previously portrayed as “conservative”, the term “ultra-conservative” is now apparently the terminology of choice to describe other groups along the same ideological scale.

“Gaza hasn’t begun to recover from last year’s devastating war with Israel and now its residents and the Hamas authorities are facing a new threat from within: ultra-conservative Jihadists who support the Islamic State group.”

Knell continues:

“Early this year the black flags of IS were on show at this protest against French cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed. Hamas allowed it to go ahead, wanting to show its own Islamist credentials. But recently there’ve been confrontations. Extremists have been emboldened by IS gains elsewhere in the region.”

In fact, the January 19th demonstration outside the French Cultural Centre in Gaza did not confine itself to harmless-sounding “protest against French cartoons” – as Reuters reported at the time.

“Today, we are telling France and world countries that while Islam orders us to respect all religions, it also orders us to punish and kill those who assault and offend Islam’s Prophet Mohammad,” said one of the protesters, Abu Abdallah al-Makdissi.[…]

Jihadist Salafis held aloft posters of the two gunmen who carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack and a third militant who killed four people two days later at a kosher supermarket in Paris. All three attackers were killed by police on Jan. 9.

“You have to await more heroes of Islam, you worshippers of the Cross,” the crowd chanted.”

In addition, Knell’s claim that confrontations between Hamas and Salafist Jihadists in the Gaza Strip are a recent phenomenon is misleading: such confrontations have been going on sporadically since 2009 and in 2012 her own colleague Jon Donnison reported on the issue. In late 2013 and early 2014, Knell herself produced reports on the subject of Gaza Jihadists going to fight in Syria.

Later on Knell tells viewers:

“Hamas blames IS for attacks on its security forces. They’ve made dozens of arrests and last week they raided the home of a prominent activist and shot him dead. Now tensions are running high in Gaza. Militants linked to Islamic State pledged revenge for what happened here and in the past week they fired rockets at Israel.”

Knell shows no interest in finding out how Gaza Strip Salafists managed to acquire military grade weaponry, but the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont whilst reporting on the same story came up with an interesting possibility.

“According to Abu Bilel – in claims that could not be independently verified – the rockets fired recently at Israel were originally Hamas rockets diverted by those sympathetic to the Salafists. The site of one rocket launch, say those familiar with it, was one used by Hamas during last summer’s war.

“We don’t have our own rockets,” he explained, adding that members of his group had also had “military training” from former members of Hamas who had defected.”

Neither does Knell clarify to viewers that the two incidents of missile fire on June 3rd and June 6th – neither of which was reported by the BBC in English at the time – were preceded by five additional incidents of missile fire (see ‘related articles’ below) on September 16th, October 31st, December 19th, April 23rd and May 26th.

She does however tell viewers that:

“Israel holds Hamas responsible and it’s hit back with airstrikes.”

Of course with Hamas having agreed to the August 26th ceasefire deal according to which “All Palestinian factions in Gaza will stop all attacks against Israel” [emphasis added], it is obvious that it – as the authority in charge of the Gaza Strip (as Knell told her viewers right at the beginning of her report) – is responsible for the prevention of attacks both by members of its own group and others.

As has been amply evident in the past, when Hamas wants to prevent missile fire it is capable of doing so. Yolande Knell, however, closes her report with the suggestion that the future of the ceasefire agreement is beyond Hamas’ control and responsibility.

“There are fears that IS could force a fragile ceasefire deal to collapse. […] At the moment Islamic State has relatively few followers here and yet its ability to provoke and pressure local leaders could be a worrying sign for the future.”

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Knell’s report though is the absence of any information whatsoever concerning the people at the receiving end of terror attacks prompted by infighting between two different Palestinian factions. The Salafist groups which claimed responsibility for the last two episodes of missile fire of course did not aim those projectiles “at Israel” as Knell claims, but at the residents of Israeli towns and villages who, as has so often been the case in the past, do not even get a mention in the BBC’s account of events.

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The pattern continues: no coverage of Gaza missile attacks in English but BBC Arabic reports Israeli response  

Kevin Connolly continues the BBC’s amplification of anti-Israel delegitimisation

In addition to the promotion and amplification of the Palestinian Authority’s latest politically motivated attempt to undermine Israel’s legitimacy in international fora which already appeared on the BBC website on May 4th and 20th and on BBC World Service radio on May 21st, the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly produced two further reports on the same topic.

On May 28th a filmed report produced by Connolly for BBC television news programmes also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinians push for Israel football suspension“. The synopsis to that report includes clear signposting for BBC audiences:Connolly FIFA filmed

“The Palestinian Football Association is asking Fifa to suspend Israel from world football, just as it once suspended apartheid South Africa and Slobodan Milosevic’s Yugoslavia.

The PFA says the Israeli FA has violated rules relating to racism, players’ free movement and where clubs are based.” [emphasis added]

Connolly’s film opens with uncredited footage accompanied by the following narration.

“On the West Bank in occupied Palestinian territory, a routine arrest. But the Palestinian man being detained by Israeli soldiers here is Farouk Assi – a football referee on his way to take charge of a game. He never made it. The Palestinian presentation to FIFA demanding Israel’s suspension from world football also includes video of these troops arriving at the Palestinian FA headquarters. The charge: the Israeli occupation is strangling the Palestinian game.”

Viewers are not informed that the footage they are shown dates from September 2014 or that it was not filmed by the BBC but by a Palestinian film crew which apparently just happened to be conveniently on hand when a football referee travelling from Ramallah to Jericho was detained at a checkpoint.

Connolly’s report then cuts to the PFA president Jibril Rajoub.

“I would like to see the Israeli Football Association coming up with a clear-cut statement denouncing such behaviors [sic] but unfortunately the Israeli federation is not more than plastic surgeon for the ugly face of the racist [unintelligible] Israeli occupation.”

After an interview with Israeli footballer Yossi Benayoun, Connolly’s narration continues.

“But part of the Palestinian case is that teams from Jewish settlements on these occupied territories play in the Israeli league in breach of FIFA rules.”

Here, for a second time in a matter of minutes, we see Connolly’s adoption and promotion of the Palestinian narrative through the use of the politically partial term “occupied territories”. No attempt is made to clarify to viewers that all “Jewish settlements” are in fact located in Area C which more than two decades ago the representatives of the Palestinian people agreed would be under Israeli control until final status negotiations were completed.

Connolly continues:

“Israel, which staged the UEFA under-21 final at this stadium only two years ago, says the move against it at FIFA is part of a broader political campaign and not really about sport at all.”

Connolly refrains from informing viewers that Jibril Rajoub also tried to get that event cancelled and yet again we see that the topic of the affiliations of some Palestinian footballers to terrorist organisations is not mentioned in the BBC’s version of the story. Moreover, as was the case in previous BBC coverage, audiences do not get to hear an official Israeli response to the accusations amplified by the BBC.

It is, however, quite clear from his closing remarks that Kevin Connolly is fully aware of the tactics and strategies which lie behind Jibril Rajoub’s latest agitprop.

“The Palestinian strategy is internationalization – that’s bringing grievances against Israel to different global arenas. It is a new phase in an old diplomatic conflict. And for now it’s the fate of Israeli football that hangs in the balance.”

The same awareness of what really lies behind the subject matter of this story was also apparent in Owen Bennett Jones’ introduction (from 06:00 here) to Connolly’s audio report on the same topic, broadcast on May 29th on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’.Connolly FIFA audio

OBJ: “Well, FIFA delegates will also be deciding whether Israel should be suspended from world football. The vote is part of a Palestinian strategy of internationalization; bringing grievances into as many global arenas as possible.”

Connolly opened that report with a description of the same footage used in his earlier filmed report.

KC: “We’re in the West Bank, near Ramallah, and Palestinian Farouk Assi is under arrest. Blindfolded, handcuffed and told to shut up by the Israeli soldiers who surround him. Palestine TV is on hand to film the arrest. This is not a rare event but Mr Assi was a football referee on his way to a match in Jericho which had to be abandoned because he was detained. Now the video is part of a Palestinian presentation to FIFA, designed to have Israel suspended over incidents like this. The Palestinian FA official Jibril Rajoub is spearheading the campaign.

Rajoub: “I am going to FIFA to ask to end the suffering of the Palestinian footballers, to end the humiliation.”

Connolly: “But the reality is that the policies you’re talking about are carried out by the Israeli army or Israeli intelligence agencies and not carried out by the Israeli Football Association.”

Rajoub: “You are right. I would like to see the Israeli Football Association coming up with a clear-cut statement denouncing such behaviors [sic].”

Once again, no effort was made by Connolly to provide listeners with the necessary background information which would help them understand why the Israeli army and intelligence services should be interested in the activities of people such as Mahmoud Sarsak or Omar Abu Rois. And whilst Connolly again interviewed Israeli footballer Yossi Benayoun along with former Israeli diplomat Alan Baker, neither of those interviewees represent an official Israeli response.

As readers may be aware, in the end Jibril Rajoub withdrew his original motion from the FIFA agenda – for the time being at least and much to the chagrin of many. Interestingly, there has to date been no coverage of that development in the story on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

The outstanding feature of all the BBC’s coverage of this latest Palestinian attempt to delegitimize Israel in the international arena is of course that – in common with its coverage of stories relating to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – the corporation has on the one hand failed to adequately explain to its audiences the political motivations lying behind the move whilst simultaneously giving uncritical and unqualified amplification to spurious labels such as “racism” and “apartheid”.

That editorial policy makes the BBC a self-conscripted partner in the carefully orchestrated campaign to portray Israel as an entity which no right-minded person can countenance and that of course is an issue upon which the publicly funded broadcaster must be held to account. 

BBC’s Yolande Knell back on the ‘one state’ bandwagon

On May 15th the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell produced a filmed report for the corporation’s television news programmes which was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “How will new Israel government affect two-state solution?“.Knell Har Homa

The synopsis appearing on the website includes the following statement:

“The government includes conservative, far-right, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties who would fight any recognition of a Palestinian state.”

The accuracy of that statement is of course contestable – not least in relation to the stance of coalition member party Shas, which has traditionally supported the two-state solution.

If viewers thought that the title of this report indicated that they were going to get some reliable background information on the new Israeli government’s approach and policies, they were sorely mistaken: Knell’s report is just one more addition to her long record of partial and inaccurate political propaganda.

Knell opens her report as follows:

“Har Homa: it’s one of Israel’s most controversial housing projects on land the Palestinians want for their state. Here, Bethlehem is cut off from Jerusalem.”

Does Har Homa in fact cut Bethlehem off from Jerusalem? A look at the map shows that the answer to that is no, with two routes bypassing Har Homa available for travel.

map Har Homa

Knell continues:

“Back in the late 1990s this is the same hill before building began. Now there are about twenty thousand Jewish residents and ahead of his re-election, the prime minister came promising to expand settlements. They’re seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees.”

As ever, Knell makes no attempt to comply with BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing her viewers of the existence of opinions which contradict the BBC’s standard “illegal under international law” insert. Neither does she bother to inform them of the fact that the majority of Har Homa (Homat Shmuel) is built on land purchased by Jews prior to 1948 – a fact recognized even by the PLO.

Knell goes on:

“He [Netanyahu] also said he wouldn’t allow a Palestinian state.”

That context-free representation of the Israeli PM’s words relates to an interview given to the Israeli website NRG, the full text of which can be found here. Notably, Knell also ignores the subsequent clarifications made by Netanyahu.

She proceeds to explain a map inserted into the footage:

“This is where the Palestinians seek full sovereignty: in East Jerusalem which they want as their capital, the West Bank and Gaza – areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.”

No attempt is made to inform viewers why war broke out in 1967 or of the legal status of the areas she describes before they were conquered and occupied by Jordan and Egypt in 1948.

Next, with no effort made to conform to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing audiences of the political aims of the NGO he represents, Knell introduces her first interviewee.

Knell: “In his Bethlehem office Jad Isaac monitors settlement growth. He no longer believes in a two state solution to the conflict with Israel.”

Isaac: “This is not realistic; anybody who sees things on the ground will come to that conclusion.”

Knell: “Dr Isaac faces losing his own land because of new construction in Har Homa. He tells me the International Criminal Court should act.”

Isaac: “This is the last resort. We have to go to the international justice – to the international community – to see what they say about this occupation. Displacing people, bringing Israeli citizens to live inside the West Bank – the occupied territory – is a war crime.”

Again, Knell makes no effort whatsoever to clarify to viewers that Isaac’s “war crime” claim is highly debatable to say the least. She then goes on to ostensibly present a differing viewpoint but fails to tell viewers that her next interviewee is not only a journalist, but also the former director of the political NGO the New Israel Fund.  

Knell: “On the Jerusalem side of Har Homa I get another perspective from an Israeli journalist who lives nearby.”

Ya’ari: “This whole…eh…expressions of two state solution is almost like a cover up on something different.”

Knell: “Unusually, Eliezer Ya’ari visits his Palestinian neighbours. Israel made their villages part of Jerusalem when it unilaterally extended the city’s boundaries but it views them as residents – not citizens. Mr Ya’ari thinks they should have the same political rights as he does.”

Ya’ari: “OK – we are now tangled together. What does it mean? From my point of view Israel has decided that Jerusalem – its own capital – will be a bi-national city and I don’t think that all Israeli citizens actually understand what it means.”

This is not the first time we have seen Yolande Knell deliberately mislead BBC audiences with regard to the status of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem: she made the exact same inaccurate claim in November of last year, failing to clarify that they are entitled to apply for citizenship should they so wish and that those who choose not to exercise that right (and hence to disenfranchise themselves as far as voting in parliamentary elections is concerned) are nevertheless entitled to vote in municipal elections and to receive social security benefits and healthcare. We have also seen the BBC promoting similar misinformation in additional past reports.

Knell closes her report:

“The view has changed dramatically since battles were fought over this land nearly fifty years ago and as Israel’s political landscape continues to alter even moderate voices are looking at alternatives to established peace plans.”

This is also not the first time that we have seen Yolande Knell promoting ‘alternatives’ to the two state solution, whilst failing to clarify to her audiences what that actually means. Her latest misrepresentation of this as being the approach of “moderate voices” exposes the political agenda actually being promoted in this so-called ‘news’ item.  

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BBC coverage of terrorism in Israel in April 2015

Throughout the month of April the BBC produced one report on the topic of terror attacks in Israel:

April 8th: “Palestinian killed after stabbing two Israeli soldiers” – discussed here.Pigua 8 4 report final

In addition to reporting on the incident of that day at the Sinjil junction in which two soldiers were stabbed, the article also makes a brief reference to an incident (not reported by the BBC at the time) which took place on April 2nd near Oranit in which one soldier was stabbed.

In other words, as far as BBC audiences are aware, two separate non-fatal stabbing attacks on three members of the Israeli security forces took place throughout the month of April.

The Israel Security Agency’s monthly report for April 2015 shows that the total number of attacks during that month was one hundred and twenty-one. 82 attacks took place in Judea & Samaria and 38 in Jerusalem along with one incident of missile fire from the Gaza Strip. One person was killed and nine injured in three stabbing attacks and two attacks using vehicles. In addition, seven attacks were carried out using explosive devices and 108 attacks with petrol bombs.

A terror attack in Jerusalem’s French Hill neighbourhood on April 15th in which one person was killed and another seriously injured was not reported by the BBC.

A missile attack from the Gaza Strip on April 23rd did not receive any BBC coverage.

A stabbing incident in Hebron and a car attack in Jerusalem on April 25th were also not reported.

In other words, BBC audiences were informed of less than 2% of the total number of attacks which took place during April and the corporation’s coverage did not include the fatal attack on civilians which took place at a location less than a twenty-minute drive from the BBC’s offices in Jerusalem.  

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BBC’s Connolly mistaken on coalition formation in Israel

Since the Israeli election in March, the BBC has not reported on the subsequent process of the formation of a new government. That however changed on May 6th and 7th with the appearance of two articles on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.coalition art

May 6th: “Israel’s Netanyahu faces deadline to form coalition

May 7th: “Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu agrees coalition deal

The second article includes the following analysis by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly.

“In the 67 years of its history, Israel has never known any form of government but multi-party coalition – no-one has ever won an outright parliamentary majority. But rarely can the process have come right down to the wire quite like this.

Benjamin Netanyahu was granted a total of seven weeks to build a new coalition and as the clock ticked towards midnight he had 53 of the 61 seats he needed.”

The seven week – 42 day – time-frame for the formation of a coalition is of course not exclusive to this particular government or the politician trying to assemble it: that time-frame is laid out along with the rest of the process in Israeli law.

“When a new government is to be constituted, the President of the State, after consulting with representatives of the parties elected to the Knesset, assigns the task of forming the government to a Knesset member. This Knesset member is usually the leader of the party with the largest Knesset representation or the head of the party that leads a coalition with more than 60 members.

Since a government requires the Knesset’s confidence to function, it must have a supporting coalition of at least 61 of the 120 Knesset members. To date, no party has received enough Knesset seats to be able to form a government by itself; thus all Israeli governments have been based on coalitions of several parties, with those remaining outside the government making up the opposition.

The Knesset member to whom the task is assigned has a period of 28 days to form a government. The President may extend the term by an additional period of time, not exceeding 14 days.

If this period (up to 42 days) has passed and the designated Knesset member has not succeeded in forming a government, the President may then assign the task of forming a government to another Knesset member. This Knesset member has a period of 28 days for the fulfillment of the task.

If a government still has not been formed, an absolute majority of Knesset members (61) has the option of applying in writing to the President, asking him to assign the task to a particular Knesset member. Such a precedent has yet to occur.

When a government has been formed, the designated prime minister presents it to the Knesset within 45 days of publication of election results in the official gazette. At this time, he announces its composition, the basic guideline of its policy, and the distribution of functions among its ministers. The prime minister then asks the Knesset for an expression of confidence. The government is installed when the Knesset has expressed confidence in it by a majority of 61 Knesset members, and the ministers thereupon assume office.”

And what of Connolly’s claim that “rarely can the process have come right down to the wire quite like this”? Well, history does not back up Connolly’s assertion that seldom has it taken 42 days to form a coalition after elections in Israel as the chart below from the Israel Democracy Institute shows.

Chart formation of government

“Historically, the length of time taken to form a government in Israel has ranged from 20 to 100 days. This is within the norms of time that it takes to form a government in other parliamentary democracies, where it has sometimes taken even longer. Belgium is actually the record holder in this area: no less than 541 days elapsed between the elections in June 2010 and the swearing in of the new government in December 2011. In Holland, 208 days elapsed from the general elections of 1977 to the swearing in of the new government. Similarly, in Austria, it took 123 days to form a government after the elections of 1999.

As can be seen from the figure above, the process of government formation generally took longer during the first two decades of Israel’s history than it does today. In 1955, no less than 100 days elapsed between the elections for Israel’s third Knesset and the swearing in of the new government. After the elections for the fifth Knesset (1961), it took 79 days until the new government was sworn in. During the last two decades, however, the process has taken a maximum of 50 days. (Note that these figures refer to the total number of days between Election Day and the day that the government is sworn in. If the time between Election Day and the day when the President of Israel assigns the formation of the government to one of the members of the Knesset were to be deducted, the amount of time required would be shorter.)”

The new government must be sworn in by next Wednesday – May 13th – at the latest (although it may take place before that) meaning that a maximum of 57 days will have passed between the election and the swearing-in.  After elections took place on January 22nd 2013, fifty-five days went by until the government was sworn in.

In other words, the time-frame for the building of Israel’s latest government is nowhere near as ‘rare’ as Kevin Connolly would have BBC audiences believe. 

No BBC reporting on last week’s fatal terror attack in Jerusalem

Israel’s Remembrance Day (Yom HaZikaron) commemorates not only those who fell defending the State of Israel, but also the civilian victims of war and terrorism. The most recent of those is twenty-five year-old Shalom Yochai Sherki who was killed when a Palestinian driver from Anata rammed his vehicle into a bus stop at French Hill in Jerusalem on April 15th.BBC News logo 2

“A Palestinian driver deliberately rammed his car into a Jerusalem bus stop this week and killed an Israeli man in a “horrible attack,” Israel Police chief Yohanan Danino said Saturday.[…]

He ruled out initial suggestions that it had been an accident.

Shalom Yohai Sherki, 25, and Shira Klein, 20, were seriously injured in the attack on the bus stop in East Jerusalem.

Sherki, the son of prominent rabbi Ouri Sherki who is well known in the city’s francophone community, died of his injuries on Thursday morning and was buried later that day.

The driver, Khaled Koutineh, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, was also injured and arrested by the police.”

The second victim is still undergoing treatment in hospital and the perpetrator has since admitted that the attack was deliberate.

That terror attack joins the numerous others which were also not reported by the BBC.

Also on April 15th, the Israeli security forces announced the arrests of twenty-nine Hamas activists.

“Security forces arrested 29 suspected Hamas members in the West Bank city of Nablus overnight Tuesday, including some who have been imprisoned in Israel in the past.

Among those detained were senior members of the Palestinian terror group, the army said.

The operation, carried out by the Shin Bet security service, the IDF, and the Israel Police, came amid concern that the activists were preparing to carry out attacks against Israeli targets.

The suspects were to be questioned by the Shin Bet.

The army noted an increase in Hamas activity in the West Bank and said members of the group have been acting on the instructions and funding of its leaders abroad.”

The subject of the Hamas terror cells in Palestinian Authority administered areas which are controlled and funded by Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip and abroad – and threaten not only Israeli civilians but also the PA itself – is one which the BBC has largely managed to avoid in past months.  

Clearly BBC audiences’ understanding of events in both Israel and the PA controlled areas is not enhanced by the absence of any serious reporting on this topic.

BBC’s Yolande Knell promotes Muslim Brotherhood messaging

“…there were many interviews with members of the Brotherhood itself – some rank-and-file, some described as leaders. All of these stressed that their movement favoured freedom and democracy, and did not seek to impose an Islamic order on people against their will. Some of the expert commentators accepted these statements more or less at face value, stressing the Brotherhood’s evolution towards pragmatism during its long years in opposition and semi-clandestinity…”

Source: ‘A BBC Trust report on the impartiality and accuracy of the BBC’s coverage of the events known as the “Arab Spring”’ – June 2012

One might have perhaps thought that in the four years which have passed since the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt, BBC correspondents would have had the opportunity to garner enough understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood to prevent them from repeating the same face value acceptance – and amplification – of its messaging as was seen in BBC coverage of the events at the time.Knell MB art

However, if the article titled “Muslim Brotherhood: From rapid rise to sharp decline” produced by Yolande Knell on April 13th is anything to go by, not only is that is definitely not the case, but Edward Mortimer’s description of Muslim Brotherhood statements being naively “accepted … at face value” by BBC “expert commentators” may be in need of review.

Knell has no comment to add on the use of the phrase “democratic process” by a supporter of an organization which states that its intention is to create a state ruled by religious law which discriminates against women, non-Muslim minorities and others.

“On Saturday, a court confirmed death sentences on the group’s General Guide, Mohammed Badie, and others for planning attacks against the state.

But another man, Ahmed, insists they have done nothing wrong.

“God willing, we’ll see the democratic process get back on track soon,” he says.”

Neither does Knell make any effort to explain the reasoning behind her promotion of the notion that the Muslim Brotherhood as a whole is ‘relatively moderate’.

“Yet many in Egypt accept the clampdown on the Brotherhood, believing it failed its test in power, and across the entire region the fate of this relatively moderate Islamist organisation has undergone a dramatic turnaround.”

The Oxford Dictionary defines the political sense of moderate as “not radical or excessively right- or left-wing”. The aim of running a state ruled by Sharia law cannot accurately be described as anything other than radical and right-wing and of course there is little evidence of ‘moderation’ on the part of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood or the movement’s Qatar-based  ‘spiritual guide’ Yusuf al Qaradawi.

‘Moderate’ political organisations obviously do not support terrorism or cultivate links with its perpetrators – but a journalist who uses the makeover term “political faction” to describe a terrorist group which just months ago launched thousands of missiles at civilians will obviously be oblivious to that nuance.

“Not far away, in the Palestinian territories, Hamas – which is aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood – is also suffering from the organisation’s demise.

Its leaders were treated like VIPs in Egypt during the Brotherhood’s brief reign.

But in February, a court in Cairo joined Israel, the United States, the European Union and others in pronouncing Hamas a terrorist organisation.

In Gaza, which is controlled by the political faction, ordinary people feel more isolated than ever. […]

Across Gaza, the green flags of Hamas still flutter defiantly above the mangled metal and rubble of homes destroyed in last summer’s war with Israel.” [emphasis added]

Knell’s take-away message to readers comes right at the end of her article:

“But throughout much of the Middle East, there is a sense that times are changing.

And what worries many is that just as the Muslim Brotherhood, the grandfather of Islamist groups in the region, is in decline, so fanatical ones – like Islamic State – are gaining momentum.

The danger is that efforts to suppress the Brotherhood could radicalise its younger supporters and help swell the ranks of the extremists.”

Yolande Knell does not reveal to her readers the identities of the worried “many” who apparently believe that the political aspirations of young Middle Eastern Muslims are to be found exclusively on a scale lying between ‘moderate’ Islamists and ‘fanatical’ ones and hence promote the highly debatable claim-cum-threat that the decline of the Muslim Brotherhood could “swell the ranks of the extremists”.

However, a clue to the potential source – and background motivations – of that claim promoted and amplified by Knell comes in the form of a report published by Associated Press about the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan which appeared almost a month before Knell’s article saw the light of day. Interestingly, the two pieces show some curious similarities.

In a section of her article about the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood Yolande Knell writes:

“A new, officially licensed branch defines itself as strictly Jordanian, saying it has cut ties to the regional movement, so it is not identified as militant.”

The earlier AP article states:

“The new, officially licensed Brotherhood offshoot defines itself as a strictly Jordanian group, saying it cut ties with the regional movement to avoid being branded as militant.”

Yolande Knell writes:

“The legal status of the other, larger faction is less clear, but it is keeping its links to the wider Brotherhood.”

The earlier AP article states:

“The larger Brotherhood faction, still loyal to the regional movement, alleged the government engineered the division to weaken the group.[…] The status of the second faction now remains unclear.”

Yolande Knell writes:

“The danger is that efforts to suppress the Brotherhood could radicalise its younger supporters and help swell the ranks of the extremists.”

Readers of the AP report were informed that:

“In Jordan, some warned that the government’s apparent divide-and-control policy could backfire by pushing more Brotherhood supporters into the ranks of extremists like the Islamic State group, seen as the main threat to the country’s stability.”

And:

“Some warn the government crackdown could radicalize Brotherhood supporters and help swell the ranks of the Islamic State group.”

In other words, Yolande Knell’s supposedly impartial take-away message to Western audiences on the topic of the Muslim Brotherhood appears to have come straight (or perhaps via AP) from the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood horse’s mouth.

So much for ‘standard-setting’ journalism.

Related Articles:

The BBC and the Brotherhood

Must read article by former BBC journalist

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality