Why is BBC Arabic amplifying Syrian regime propaganda?

Readers may recall that some two and a half years ago the BBC got itself into hot water by promoting Assad regime propaganda on its English language website. Two days after the appearance of an article claiming that “Israeli strikes on Syria ‘co-ordinated with terrorists'” the corporation responded to considerable public outcry by amending the headline.

Apparently though, lessons have not been fully learned from that incident.

As has previously been noted here, on August 21st a report appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page amplified a claim promoted by Syrian state TV according to which five men killed in an Israeli strike following a missile attack on northern Israel were “civilians”.BBC Arabic Sana propaganda

BBC Arabic however went even further. In a report dating from August 20th relating to Israeli airstrikes on regime targets in Syria which took place in response the same day’s missile attack on Israel, readers were provided with unadulterated Syrian state news agency propaganda.

“A statement by the agency SANA that the Israeli attacks aimed at “supporting armed terrorist organizations and raise the morale collapsed,” a reference to armed groups in Syria, which is fighting to overthrow the Syrian regime.”

There is of course nothing new about this particular genre of Syrian regime propaganda and Assad himself recently promoted it in an interview with Hizballah TV.

“In an interview with Hezbollah-affiliated Al Manar television on Monday, Assad said that Syria would not directly strike back at Israel for the attacks, but would hit Israel by fighting with rebels opposing his rule, whom he claimed were the “servants of Israel.”

“The real tools that Israel is using, which are more important than the recent attacks, they are the terrorists in Syria,” Assad said.

“If we want to deal with Israel, we must first deal with its proxies inside Syria,” he added.”

In the Middle East there are already countless media outlets reporting according to a particular political or ideological agenda. It is supposed to be the job of the BBC – including BBC Arabic and other foreign language services – to distinguish itself from regime-run media by providing audiences with accurate and impartial reporting which will enable them to understand what is fact and what is fiction. Uncritical and unchallenged amplification of obviously delusional Syrian regime propaganda is clearly not conducive to achieving that goal.

Another notable point concerning this BBC Arabic report is that the caption to the main photograph illustrating it states that “The Syrian side of the ceasefire line with Israel is currently witness to frequent clashes”. Readers would naturally therefore assume that the image shows the aftermath of one of those clashes on “the Syrian side of the ceasefire line”.

BBC Arabic Sana art photo

However, the exact same image was used in another BBC article produced on the same day and there it was described as showing northern Israel: “Rockets fired into Israel caused brushfires after hitting open areas near Galilee” [sic].

BBC Arabic Sana cf photo

One of those captions is obviously inaccurate and misleading.

Related Articles:

BBC promotes Assad propaganda in Syria reports

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ promotes more Syrian regime propaganda

Michael Totten takes on a BBC headline

BBC yet again ignores Gaza missile fire – in English

Late on the night of August 26th/27th a missile fired from the Gaza Strip landed in the Eshkol region of the Western Negev. The IDF responded by targeting a Hamas weapons manufacturing facility in the central Gaza Strip. There was no coverage of the attack on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of August 27th.

ME HP 27 8 15a

This was the second case of missile fire from Gaza hitting Israeli territory since the beginning of this month (at least two additional launches fell short). The prior attack was also ignored by BBC News but – like many of the previous incidents over the past year – the Israeli response to that attack on August 7th did receive Arabic language coverage.BBC Arabic report response missile 26 8

So too was the case with latest incident: whilst there was no English language coverage of the Wednesday night attack despite the BBC clearly being aware that it took place, on the morning of August 27th an article appeared on the BBC Arabic website with a last-first headline which leads with the Israeli response.

The BBC’s record of reporting missile fire from the Gaza Strip since the end of last summer’s conflict can be seen below. Not one of the missiles hitting Israeli territory was reported in English at the time the incident happened. On one occasion the Israeli response to missile attacks was reported in English and on six other occasions it was reported in Arabic.

September 16th 2014 – mortar fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News but briefly mentioned in a later article on another topic.

October 31st 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News.

December 19th 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not covered by BBC News at the time but Israeli response reported in English.

April 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Sha’ar HaNegev region – not reported by BBC News.

May 26th 2015 – missile fire at Gan Yavne area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

June 3rd 2015 – missile fire at Sdot Negev region – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic

June 6th 2015 – missile fire at Hof Ashkelon area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic. Later briefly mentioned in a June 10th report by Yolande Knell.

June 11th 2015 – missile fire (fell short in Gaza Strip) – later mentioned in a June 12th article by Yolande Knell.

June 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Yad Mordechai area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

July 16th 2015 – missile fire at the Ashkelon areanot reported by the BBC in English.

August 7th 2015 – missile fire at the Kissufim area – not covered by the BBC’s English language services, but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

August 27th 2015 – missile fire at the Eshkol area – not reported by BBC News in English, but Israeli response covered by BBC Arabic.missile 26 8 Rushdi tweet

This now well-established pattern of omission of timely reporting of missile attacks in English, whilst covering the Israeli responses to those attacks in Arabic, is clearly not conducive to meeting the BBC’s pledge to audiences that it will “keep them in touch with what is going on in the world”. 

 

 

 

 

 

No BBC coverage of Abbas’ PLO resignation

Even for an organization which serially avoids serious coverage of internal Palestinian affairs, the BBC’s failure to report on a recent story coming out of Ramallah is remarkable – especially as it is obviously aware of events.

Abbas resig PLO Rushdi tweet

As readers are no doubt aware, eighty year-old Mahmoud Abbas presides over three bodies: he is president of the Fatah party, president of the Palestinian Authority (although his elected mandate expired long ago) and chair of the executive committee of the PLO. According to reports disputed by some, Abbas resigned from that latter post on August 22nd, together with several other committee members. What prompted that apparent move is explained in an article by Khaled Abu Toameh:

“Palestinian political analyst Hani al-Masri said that, if true, the resignations are merely an attempt to “reengineer” the PLO and its institutions after more than 20 years of “negligence.”

The entire move, he said, was simply made to replace some members of the Executive Committee.

“These are not real resignations,” Masri explained.

“Those who reportedly submitted their resignations have no intention to leave. They just want to use the resignations to call for an extraordinary meeting of the Palestinian National Council in accordance with Article 14 of the Palestinian Basic Law.””

The Palestinian National Council – the PLO’s legislative body and highest authority – has not held a regular session since 1996. Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are of course not members of the PLO but the former had been slated to join that body according to the ill-fated Hamas-Fatah ‘unity agreement’ of 2014. Khaled Abu Toameh again:

“Hamas responded to the reports [of the resignations]by describing what happened in Ramallah as a “play,” calling the move “invalid,” because it did not take into consideration efforts to achieve reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

Musa Abu Marzook, a senior Hamas official, said the purported resignations were designed to pave the way for allowing Abbas to have exclusive control over the decision- making process.”

Ghaith al-Omari has more about the broader significance of this story the BBC apparently did not find any interest in covering.

 

BBC licence fee payers fund more charter review PR

It was difficult to miss the BBC’s latest charter review PR efforts on social media on August 25th.

Deprivation study tweet 1

Deprivation study tweet 2

Deprivation study tweet 3

Unfortunately, despite the claims in those Tweets, the link provided does not lead to the ‘full study’ but to a press release put out by the BBC which was also amplified in the Radio Times and through video.

In that press release we learn that:

“Nationally, seven in 10 households say that they are content to pay the current level of the licence fee or more in order to receive BBC services. This study mainly focused on the minority who say the licence fee is too high or, if it was down to them, they would forgo the BBC.”

However, it later emerges that over 31% of those who took part in the exercise (and no information is provided regarding how they were identified or recruited) were not among “the minority who say the licence fee is too high” at all.

“Of those taking part,

24 households originally said they would prefer to pay nothing and not receive the BBC;

24 households originally said that they would be willing to pay less than the current licence fee for the current BBC;

22 households originally said that they would be willing to pay the licence fee or more.” [emphasis added]

Notably, the BBC’s promotion of the results of this study focuses on specific messaging:

“Thirty-three out of the 48 households who originally said they would prefer to not pay at all and not receive the BBC, or who wanted to pay a lower licence fee, changed their minds and said they were now willing to pay the full licence fee for the BBC.

Twenty-one out of the 22 households who originally said that they were happy to pay the licence fee or more still held this view, and 15 of these households believed this even more strongly than at the beginning of the study.”

No graphics were promoted on BBC Twitter accounts quoting the 15 households who did not change their minds and the BBC’s press release reveals nothing about the household who originally supported the licence fee and apparently had a change of heart.

In 2013/14 there were 25,419,296 licences in force in the UK and trends would suggest that the number would have risen since then. If, as the BBC claims, 70% of households are content with the current arrangement, that places well over seven million households in the category termed “the minority who say the licence fee is too high”. The sample size of this BBC commissioned study is obviously therefore far too small to provide results with any statistical relevance. 

It is once again unlikely that the people who paid for this study will be able to find out how much it cost. But if the BBC is keen to persuade its funding public that they are getting value for money, then surely a very basic step would be to avoid wasting resources on ‘studies’ which fail to meet the minimum standards of statistical credibility.

Differences in BBC coverage of migrants in Europe and in Israel

The August 21st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ included an item (from 34:00 here) in which, prompted by an article from Al Jazeera, participants discussed whether the people from the Middle East and Africa arriving in Europe should be called migrants or refugees.

Among those taking part in the discussion was the BBC’s head of newsgathering, Jonathan Munro, and from 40:00 listeners heard his view on the issue.WHYS migrants

“Well first of all, Ben, I think it’s a really important discussion to have and the language is really sensitive and it’s important to get it right. We’ve seen […] huge numbers of people moving; 40,000 through the Macedonia border for example this month alone, we think. The language that we use is…we’re perhaps not in the same place as Al Jazeera on this, though I think we are in the same sort of debate as they’ve been. I don’t think there’s anything wrong actually with using the word migrant and the word refugee. The vast majority of people that we’re seeing coming through those borders – whether on land or by sea – are both migrants and refugees. The issue […] is more about dehumanisation of people in the way we cover it, which isn’t just a language issue. When you’re seeing 40,000 people coming through over a period – a relatively short period of a number of weeks – what we’re hearing on our radios and seeing on our screens are images and sounds that portray the volume of people. And the way to dehumanise them is just to do that and the way to keep them human beings – and this is a much more important point it seems to me than the vocabulary – is to talk to them, to hear their stories as individuals, as human beings as opposed to as part of a trend. […] And it’s that humanity which is, you know, actually more important than vocabulary boundaries that some broadcasters might choose to put in place. We’re not in the game of saying certain words aren’t appropriate as long as they’re accurate and they reflect the story. The more important thing for us is to keep the human beings at the heart of it.”

Unfortunately, those sentiments and intentions have not always applied to the other side of the story – the people affected by sudden influxes of large numbers of migrants – in the BBC’s reporting on African migrants in Israel. Not only have BBC audiences never heard the points of view of the residents of places such as south Tel Aviv or Eilat but the BBC has used the subject matter of African migrants to actively promote the notion of Israel as a racist society.

“It’s a confluence of being non-Jewish and non-white which causes the vociferous hatred.”

In January 2014 Kevin Connolly told BBC audiences that:

“There’s a special factor, I think, in all of this in Israel which doesn’t really apply in other countries and that’s the fact that the government looks at non-Jewish immigration – legal or illegal – as a threat to the Jewish nature of the state. Israel was created specifically to be a Jewish state in the eyes of the Netanyahu government and anything which carries some sort of demographic threat to that identity in the long term, like the influx of non-Jewish African migrants, is seen as a threat to that special status. So Israel doesn’t just look at illegal immigration like this through the same prism as other countries like the countries of Western Europe or the United States; it also looks at it through that very particular prism and sees a very particular threat to its own nature.” 

No comparable ‘analysis’ was proffered to BBC audiences when, twenty months later, EU member state Slovakia said it would only take in Christian refugees from Syria. Whilst reporting on attacks on centres for asylum seekers in Germany, the BBC made sure to clarify that “[t]he attacks and protests horrify most Germans” and “most Germans have been welcoming to asylum seekers, but a small minority has been vocal in its opposition”.

Also in January 2014, BBC audiences were encouraged by Richard Galpin to view Israeli policies concerning migrants as going against international norms.

“So this is why we’re seeing these demonstrations now – the people are really concerned about what’s going to happen and feel now is the time that the international community needs to act so that the laws which the Israeli authorities are applying to people here, stopping them getting asylum effectively and trying to get them to leave Israel, that those laws are changed.”

No such suggestion appeared in BBC coverage of proposals by the UK government to imprison illegal workers and oblige landlords to evict tenants who are illegal immigrants and “the language that the politicians are using” does not appear to be an issue for the BBC when politicians are British.

Particularly interesting is a BBC report from July on changes in the approaches of the Danish, Norwegian and British governments to Eritrean migrants. Readers of that report were told that:

“A Danish Immigration Service report, from November 2014, suggested that Eritrea’s policy towards returnees had become more lenient. It was based on a fact-finding mission, but did not name its sources. […]

The report was criticised by Danish media and Human Rights Watch, which described it as “more like a political effort to stem migration than an honest assessment of Eritrea’s human rights situation”.”

Interestingly, in September 2014 when Human Rights Watch produced a report concerning Eritreans in Israel, the BBC did not make do with a one-sentence quote but published an entire article titled “Israel ‘coercing Eritreans and Sudanese to leave’” – the bulk of which was a rehashed version of HRW’s press release.

The subject of migrants and refugees is a very sensitive one wherever the story happens to take place and Jonathan Munro’s points are obviously relevant. So too, however, are the issues of consistency in BBC reporting, the avoidance of double standards dependent upon geography and the elimination of any underlying political agenda of the type all too often apparent in the BBC’s reporting on Israel’s attempts to deal with an issue now also affecting Europe.

Related Articles:

Variations in BBC portrayal of fences, walls and barriers

 

No BBC follow up on PIJ cell it promoted as ‘civilians’

As readers no doubt recall, on August 21st the BBC promoted a claim aired on Syrian state TV according to which the people killed in an Israeli strike on members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell which fired four missiles into Israel the previous day were “five civilians”.

On August 23rd Israel’s Channel 10 News reported that the five men were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Syria and residents of the Al Wafdin refugee camp north-east of Damascus. The report named the men as Mohammed Taysir Shehadeh, Yousuf Fathi al Hatib, Abdo Hishan, Mohammed Hishan and Jiat Abu Aishe, adding:

“On Syrian state television it was claimed that the vehicle targeted by the IDF was a civilian vehicle belonging to residents of the Quneitra district. However a check of the vehicle’s licence plate, number 494882, indicates that it belongs to the Damascus district which is known to host the headquarters of the Islamic Jihad and the headquarters of Iran’s liason with the Syrian intelligence.”

Despite having promoted the PIJ’s denial of involvement in last week’s missile fire on Israeli civilian targets and subsequently having also amplified the claim regarding “civilians” made on Syrian state TV, the BBC has to date shown no sign of having carried out any further investigation into this story in order to present its audiences with accurate information which would improve their understanding of the story.

Mainstreaming the ‘apartheid’ trope on BBC World Service radio

As was noted here in an earlier related post, on August 18th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ included an item (available from 38:38 here) about “the Israeli columnist who’s decided it’s time to call Israel an ‘apartheid’ society”.Burston WHYS 

The BBC’s explanation of the inclusion of that item in the programme was presented by host and WHYS producer Ben James in his introduction.

“…we reflect the big stories, the big discussions, the things you’re taking part in discussing online and for the next ten minutes or so we’re gonna talk about exactly one of those things; an article that’s been widely shared  – 24 thousand shares last time we checked. An article; a column in the Israeli news site Ha’aretz – that’s a daily liberal newspaper in Israel – with the headline ‘It’s time to admit it. Israeli policy is what it is: apartheid’.”

James’ billing of an article with 24,000 shares as one of “the big stories, the big discussions” is of course questionable. Indeed one seriously doubts that most listeners to BBC World Service radio would have ever heard of this column had the BBC not chosen to showcase and promote it. Significantly, this article is behind Ha’aretz’s paywall and so the vast majority of listeners would not even be able to read it before engaging in discussion of its content on the WHYS Facebook page – as James encourages them to do. 

That in itself raises the question of whether a BBC programme which purports to be “a global discussion show” should promote content which audiences have to pay to view and whether facilitation of ‘discussion’ of an article which the BBC must know full well most audience members will not be able to read really does anything to contribute to fulfilling the public purpose remit of building “a global understanding of international issues” which is the basis for the production of such discussion shows.

Bradley Burston’s blog post reflects the opinions of one man with a number of criticisms to level at his country’s government. Unfortunately, he chose to voice his opprobrium under the attention-grabbing click-bait headline of ‘apartheid’ even though some of the arguments he puts forward in order to justify the use of that term do not stand up to scrutiny.

One of the claims in Burston’s post, for example, was the following:

“Apartheid means Likud lawmaker and former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter calling Sunday for separate, segregated roads and highways for Jews and Arabs in the West Bank.” (Emphasis added.)

However, as the link provided by Burston shows, Dichter did not call for separation between “Jews and Arabs” at all. [emphasis added]

“Likud MK Avi Dichter said that separating Israeli and Palestinian drivers on West Bank highways was an inevitable move. . . .

 Segregating roads, he declared, would ensure that Palestinian vehicles wouldn’t be able to enter Israeli settlements and Israel vehicles wouldn’t be able to enter Palestinian cities or villages.”

That of course is relevant given that over 20% of Israel’s population is not Jewish and Dichter’s proposal clearly relates to security issues rather than race. Ha’aretz has since amended that part of Burston’s article after being contacted by our colleagues at CAMERA’s Israel office.Burston art correctionAnother of Burston’s ‘supporting arguments’ for his use of the word ‘apartheid’ (used both in the article and the radio broadcast) is that he doesn’t like the opinions of Israel’s new ambassador to the UN.

“…the prime minister’s choice to represent all of us, all of Israel at the United Nations, is a man who proposed legislation to annex the West Bank, effectively creating Bantustans for Palestinians who would live there stateless, deprived of basic human rights.”

Burston of course neglects to mention that – as his link once again shows – the proposal in question is well over four years old and it obviously was not adopted by the government.   

Yet another claim put forward by Burston in both the article and the BBC radio interview to support his use of the term ‘apartheid’ goes as follows:

“…terrorists firebombed a West Bank Palestinian home, annihilating a family, murdering an 18-month-old boy and his father, burning his mother over 90 percent of her body – only to have Israel’s government rule the family ineligible for the financial support and compensation automatically granted Israeli victims of terrorism, settlers included.”

As the two additional guests brought into the second half of the item (Ran Bar Yoshafat and Benjamin Pogrund) pointed out, the circumstances surrounding the arson attack in Duma are not yet clear as no arrests have been announced and the Dawabshe family are not Israeli citizens (who pay national insurance contributions) and that is the real reason they are not automatically entitled to the compensation for victims of terrorism awarded to Israeli citizens of any faith or ethnic group – although they are entitled to apply. The BBC’s Ben James could of course have reminded listeners at this point that the family of Mohamed Abu Khdeir does receive such financial benefits from the state – but he did not.

Similarly, when Burston claimed that “there are two million Palestinians there who do not have the right to vote”, James should obviously have clarified that Palestinians living in Areas A & B (the overwhelming majority) certainly do have the right to vote in the Palestinian elections which are relevant to the authority under which they live. 

Of course Bradley Burston is perfectly entitled to promote his opinions – no matter how flimsily rooted in reality – even by means of the careless use of hyperbolic click-bait language on the website of an eternally wilting Israeli national newspaper. The difference between that and promotion of the same article on the BBC World Service is that Israelis have enough prior background knowledge to be capable of viewing Burston’s claims within their appropriate context whilst BBC audiences are serially deprived of such information.

Coupled with the fact that – as noted above – most listeners would not have been able to read the article at all because of its being confined behind a paywall, it is obvious that the intention behind this item was not to “reflect the big stories, the big discussions” as claimed by James, but to generate a story with the effect of mainstreaming the notion of ‘Israel as an apartheid state’ into worldwide discussion.

That, of course, has deep significance because the employment of the misnomer ‘apartheid’ to describe Israel and its policies is not a matter of chance. Behind its frequent tactical use by anti-Israel campaigners (and to be clear – Bradley Burston is not one) lie clear political motives and ideologies: the branding of Israel as an entity the existence of which right-minded people cannot tolerate. Does the BBC really want to lend its weight to the casual mainstreaming of such an ideology?

BBC’s Knell continues Cremisan crusade with promotion of inaccurate information

Yolande Knell’s journalistic crusade against a section of the anti-terrorist fence near the Cremisan Valley has long been a permanent feature in BBC Middle East reporting and her latest contribution to that political campaign came on August 21st in an article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinian Christians urge help against West Bank barrier“.Knell Cremisan 21 8 main

Knell opens her article by telling readers that:

“Palestinian Christians are appealing for international support to oppose renewed construction of part of Israel’s West Bank barrier.

Residents of Beit Jala – a town along the planned barrier route – made the appeal at an open-air mass among centuries-old olive trees on Friday.

They have also been waging a long legal battle, backed by the Vatican.

The barrier will separate over 50 families from their land – but Israel says it is a vital security measure.” [emphasis added]

So BBC audiences learn that “renewed construction” of this particular section of the anti-terrorist fence (which began last week) “will separate over 50 families from their land”. That, however, is not true. The recent history of this case is as follows: [all emphasis added]

“On April 2, 2015, the High Court of Justice upheld the need for the construction of the security fence in the area on security grounds. That said, the Court found in favor of the petitioners regarding the proposed route of the security fence, and ruled that it may not separate between the Monastery and Convent and that the route must be crafted in consultation with the clergy, allowing both bodies to remain on the Palestinian side, preserving their territorial contiguity and their physical connection to the communities that they serve in the nearby villages.

Following and in line with this ruling, the Israeli authorities began work to construct 1200 meters of the security fence, excluding a 225 meter area in the vicinity of the Monastery and Convent in which no barrier will be constructed at this time. This gap enables the territorial contiguity of the monastery and convent, free approach by and to the local Palestinian population, and maintains for the Monastery unfettered access to their agricultural lands, thus respecting the High Court of Justice decision.  

Following the initiation of this construction, the 37 Beit Jala residents petitioned the High Court and requested a contempt of court order against the State in the Cremisan Valley Case (HCJ 5163/13).

On July 6, 2015, the High Court of Justice dismissed the contempt of court petition. The High Court of Justice noted that the actions of the State at present do not negatively affect contiguity between the Monastery and the Convent, nor their access to their vineyards and farmlands. Moreover, access to the town of Beit Jala is also not affected, nor is the daily routine of the population in the area. Accordingly, the current construction of the barrier in the area which excludes the 225 meter gap, are in full compliance with the April 2, 2015 High Court of Justice decision on this matter.”

Obviously then neither the issue of access to agricultural lands nor the previously cited topic of separation between the convent and the monastery is the real reason why political activists are still opposing the construction of this section of the anti-terrorist fence.

Knell then throws some  additional ‘reasons’ into her cocktail, including further promotion of the myth of locals ‘losing access to their land’ and an absurd claim relating to Palestinian Christians: [all emphasis added]

“The mayor of Beit Jala has written to diplomats from the European Union and the United States, asking them to put political pressure on Israel not to continue.

“We want people outside to come and say ‘enough is enough’,” says the mayor, Nicola Khamis. “Christians all over the world must stop being silent.”

“What Israel is doing here is against peace. It will prevent a two-state solution [to the conflict].”

Last year, Pope Francis met residents who stand to lose access to their land in the Cremisan Valley, when he visited nearby Bethlehem.

Foreign dignitaries have also expressed their concerns to Israeli authorities, listing the separation barrier among pressures that are pushing Christians to leave the Holy Land.”

Knell continues with the following obviously inaccurate paraphrasing of the Israeli side of the story:

“Israel says the barrier is needed in the valley as a security measure to protect the Jewish settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo.”

Despite the fact that legal status has no bearing on the need for security measures, she then inserts the standard BBC mantra:

“Settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disagrees.”

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC has done little over the years to inform its audiences of the fact that the fence has proven to be effective in thwarting suicide bombers and other types of terrorist attacks and Knell’s half-hearted ticking of the context box does little to enhance audience understanding of the issue.

“Construction of the Israeli barrier began in 2002, during the second Palestinian intifada or uprising, after a series of suicide attacks.

In the Beit Jala area, at this time, there was shooting at the settlements.”

She then predictably inserts a specious claim regularly touted by the BBC over the last thirteen years:

“Palestinians believe the ultimate aim of the barrier – which includes stretches of high concrete walls and barbed-wire fences – is to grab land.”

Towards the end of the article readers are presented with the following opaque information which does nothing to clarify that Knell’s earlier allegations regarding access to land are inaccurate.

“In April, Israel’s High Court appeared to rule against proposed routes for the barrier in the Cremisan Valley, a local beauty spot filled with olive groves and orchards.

However, the court later said this prevented work only in a small area near a Salesian convent and school, and a monastery and winery.”

Knell ends her piece with the following hyperbole:

“Local church leaders – Latin Catholic and Greek Orthodox – have been involved in the campaign to prevent the construction of the barrier.

“When you kill the olive trees, you kill the people here,” said the Catholic priest, Faisal Hijazin, during the mass. “We pray for God to protect the olive trees, the land and the people.””

Seeing as they do not even get a mention in this report, it is obvious that the 1,100 Israelis actually killed between 2000 and 2006 and the thousands more maimed and injured by Palestinian terrorists are of much lesser concern to both the quoted priest and his BBC amplifier.

It of course comes as no surprise to those who have followed Yolande Knell’s self-conscription to this political campaign and others over the years to find such inaccurate, misleading and one-sided ‘reporting’ on the BBC’s website.  Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that the BBC is supposedly obliged to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” by means of accurate and impartial reporting and that its editorial guidelines on accuracy state that “[t]he BBC must not knowingly and materially mislead its audiences”.

By telling readers that the renewed construction of the anti-terrorist fence near the Cremisan Valley “will separate over 50 families from their land”, Yolande Knell has done precisely that.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

Knell’s follow up on Cremisan Valley marred by BBC mantras

Variations in BBC portrayal of fences, walls and barriers

Resources:

BBC News Online – contact details

 

BBC’s Hamas ‘spy dolphin’ story raises a serious question

On August 20th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published a tongue-in-cheek article under the headline “Hamas ‘seizes Israeli spy dolphin’ off Gaza“.Dolphin story

“Hamas claims to have captured a dolphin being used as an Israeli spy off the coast of Gaza, local media report.

The militant Palestinian Islamist group, which dominates Gaza, says the mammal was equipped with spying devices, including cameras, according to the newspaper Al-Quds (in Arabic).

It was apparently discovered by a naval unit of Hamas’s military wing and brought ashore.

No photographs of the alleged marine secret agent have been released.

Al-Quds said that the newest recruit was “stripped of its will” and turned into “a murderer” by the Israeli security services.

It shows the extent of Israel’s “anger” and “indignation” at the formation of Hamas’s naval combat unit, the paper reports.”

Apart from ignoring it, there is of course not much to do with such a silly story other than poke fun at it. However, the fact that the BBC clearly recognizes this latest Hamas claim for what it is and correctly places it within the context of the regional penchant for Israel-related animal conspiracy theories prompts a much more serious question.

Only a year ago the BBC was uncritically quoting civilian casualty figures supplied by the same terrorist organization which now wants us to believe that it has captured a well-equipped spy dolphin. 

So how does the BBC explain to its audiences – and more crucially, to itself – its obvious cognitive dissonance concerning the reliability of Hamas as a source of credible information? Why can the BBC see a fishy story about a marine mammal on a mission of espionage for what it is but fail to acknowledge the need to independently verify other claims and allegations produced by the same source? 

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints defends its use of Hamas supplied casualty figures

BBC’s Sinai Hamas kidnapping story tells a partial tale

On August 20th BBC correspondents in the Middle East tweeted the following news:

Sinai kidnapping Abualouf

Sinai kidnapping Sommerville

As was stated in the report which appeared later the same day on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Hamas members seized from bus near Egypt-Gaza border“, those “4 Palestinians” later turned out to members of Hamas but the BBC did not clarify that they belong to its Izzadin al Qassam Brigades.

“Masked gunmen have seized four members of the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas from a bus travelling to Cairo from the Gaza Strip, officials have said. […]

The driver was assaulted and the Hamas members captured after their identity documents were checked.”

The incident took place during a rare three-day opening of the Rafah crossing by Egypt. The border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip has been mostly closed for the last two years and the last time it was opened was during Ramadan in June 2015. Nevertheless, the photograph used to illustrate this article is laconically captioned “Egypt occasionally opens the Rafah border crossing with Gaza”.Sinai kidnapping main

Whilst not stating so outright, like the above tweets this report clearly steers readers towards the impression that the four Hamas men travelling on the Cairo airport bound bus were abducted by members of the ISIS affiliate ‘Sinai Province’ which operates in Sinai.

“The road from the Rafah border crossing runs through northern Sinai. The most active militant group in the area is an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State.”

However, as the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reports, Hamas appears to believe otherwise.

“Initial reports claimed that the four – members of Hamas’s Izzadin Kassam armed wing – were kidnapped by an extremist Islamist group affiliated with Islamic State.

Sources close to Hamas, however, accused the Egyptian authorities of kidnapping the men, who were among 50 Palestinian passengers who left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing.

The sources claimed that one of Egypt’s security apparatuses was behind the abduction and held its government fully responsible for their safety.

They said that the four Palestinians were kidnapped about 200 meters from the Egyptian side of the Rafah terminal.”

Whether this incident turns out to indeed be an operation by the Egyptian security services or an attempt by Sinai-based Jihadists to pressure Hamas due to its recent crackdown on Salafists in the Gaza Strip remains to be seen. Clearly though, BBC audiences cannot be said to have been provided with the full range and depth of information they require to understand this developing story when the corporation continues to employ unhelpful statements such as this one:

“Egypt has previously accused Hamas of supporting militants in the Sinai desert, who seek to topple the Cairo government. Hamas has denied that allegation.”

Whilst the issue of the Gaza branch of Hamas’ relations with Sinai-based Jihadists is clearly an important component of this story, it continues to be seriously under-reported by the BBC.

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More selective BBC reporting on Middle East Jihadists

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