BBC News misleads audiences on Arab-Israeli conflict

An article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 27th under the headline “Israel ‘to open UAE diplomatic mission’” opens as follows:UAE art

“Israel is to open its first diplomatic mission in the UAE, Israel says, despite the absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Israel’s foreign ministry says its office will be part of an international energy organisation based in Abu Dhabi.

Israel has opened trade and other offices in some Gulf states before, but there are no official ties.

The UAE, like most other Arab states, has not recognised Israel since the Arab-Israeli conflict began in 1948.”[emphasis added]

Whilst it is true to say that most Arab states have not recognised Israel since its establishment in 1948, the wording of that sentence inaccurately suggests to BBC audiences that the Arab-Israeli conflict began at the time of – and because of – Israel’s birth, thus erasing important historical context essential to audience understanding of the issue.

However, the BBC knows full well that the Arab-Israeli conflict did not begin in May 1948 – as its own profile of the Arab League indicates:

“The idea of the Arab League was mooted in 1942 by the British, who wanted to rally Arab countries against the Axis powers. However, the league did not take off until March 1945, just before the end of World War II.

At that time the issues that dominated the league’s agenda were freeing those Arab countries still under colonial rule, and preventing the Jewish community in Palestine from creating a Jewish state.” [emphasis added]

Indeed, as has been noted on these pages on a prior occasion:

“That same founding document – dating from March 22nd 1945 – includes an “annex on Palestine”. At its second session in December 1945 the Arab League declared a formal boycott of “Jewish products and manufactured [goods] in Palestine”, declaring them to be “undesirable in the Arab countries” and opining that “to permit them to enter the Arab countries would lead to the realization of the Zionist political objectives”.

Having already rejected the 1947 UN Partition Plan, the day after Israel declared independence the Arab League issued a statement claiming that its members “found themselves compelled to intervene in Palestine solely in order to help its inhabitants restore peace and security and the rule of justice and law to their country, and in order to prevent bloodshed” – even as five of its member countries’ armies were in the process of invading the nascent Jewish state.”

And even before the Arab League was established, the Preliminary Committee of the General Arab Conference produced the Alexandria Protocol in October 1944 which included “a special resolution concerning Palestine”.

Clearly BBC audiences cannot properly understand the factors underpinning the Arab-Israeli conflict if the BBC erases the crucial context of the Arab states’ pre-existing opposition to the establishment of the Jewish national home mandated by the League of Nations even before the State of Israel was founded.


BBC reporting on the topic of Jewish refugees from Arab lands

As Lyn Julius of Harif reminds us:

“On June 23, 2014, the Israeli Knesset passed a law designating November 30 as an official date in the calendar to remember the uprooting of almost one million Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran.

The date was chosen to recall the day after the UN passed the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine. Following bloodcurdling threats by Arab leaders, violence erupted against Jewish communities all across the Mideast. The riots resulted in the mass exodus of Jews from the Arab world, the seizure of their property and assets, and the destruction of their millennarian, pre-Islamic communities. In 1979, the Islamic revolution resulted in the exodus of four-fifths of the Iranian-Jewish community.”search Jewish refugees

Anyone searching the BBC News website for material on the subject of ‘Jewish refugees from Arab Lands’ will currently find very few results which actually do relate to that subject. At the top of the page is an article by Yolande Knell dating from 2012 which, although titled “Israel campaign throws spotlight on Jewish refugees from Arab lands“, actually devotes more of its word-count to the amplification of Palestinian views than to informing BBC audiences about the topic in its headline.

The second article appearing in that search – “London summit on Jewish refugees” – dates from 2008 and includes the following comment; curiously from an ‘Arab affairs analyst’ rather than a ‘Jewish affairs analyst’.

“The BBC’s Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says the subject is highly controversial as the numbers of Jews who left, and the conditions under which they left, are disputed.”

Over the past year, we have recorded the appearance of two items of BBC content which broadly relate to the topic of Jews from Arab Lands: a World Service radio programme about the experiences of Libyan Jews in 1967 and a written article on the BBC News website titled “The Jews of Arabia”. 

One bright note was the addition of a paragraph to the timeline in the BBC’s profile of Israel on its website:

“1949-1960s – Up to a million Jewish refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, plus 250,000 Holocaust survivors, settle in Israel.”

Nevertheless, the topic of Jewish refugees from Arab Lands remains a subject very much under-reported by the BBC.  

Abbas’ 2008 peace offer rejection not newsworthy for the BBC

Whilst the BBC’s preoccupation with the lack of diplomatic progress in negotiations to bring about an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict is by no means new, as the few examples below show, the stagnated peace process theme has frequently been used as context by BBC journalists reporting on the current wave of terror attacks against Israelis.  

“Violence does not come out of the blue. It has a context. Once again, the problem is the unresolved conflict between Palestinians and Jews. It is at the heart of all the violence that shakes this city.” (Jeremy Bowen, BBC News website, 15/10/2015)

“The current violence stems from decades of unresolved conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. At its most basic, it is a fight over land and national rights.[…]

Peace talks aimed at ending the conflict by creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel have repeatedly collapsed over the years and many on both sides have lost faith in the process.” (BBC News website, 22/10/2015)

“On the Palestinian side there is a persistent sense of resentment at continuing Israeli occupation which is intensified not just by the circumstances around the al-Aqsa compound but also by the widespread sense that the whole issue of the two-state solution has been allowed to drift off the international agenda.

It is hard to remember a time when so little diplomatic effort was put into the search for a solution to the long-running issue between Israel and the Palestinians.” (Kevin Connolly, BBC News website, 5/10/2015)

One might therefore have expected to see some BBC reporting on a related story which broke earlier this month – as our colleagues at the CAMERA Snapshots blog have recorded.HaMakor Abbas

“Palestinian Authority (PA) President and Fatah movement head Mahmoud Abbas finally admitted in an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 on Nov. 17, 2015 that he had rejected an Israeli offer of Palestinian statehood and peace in 2008.

As the Times of Israel notes, the 2008 Israeli proposal had been previously reported but had not yet been acknowledged by Abbas (“Abbas admits he rejected 2008 peace offer from Olmert,” Nov. 19 2015).

The PA president admitted that then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented him with a map that illustrated prospective borders of a future Palestinian state, with Israel giving up 93 percent of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and portions of eastern Jerusalem, in addition to all of the Gaza Strip. In the video-taped interview Abbas was asked by Channel 10 reporter Raviv Drucker about the Israeli proposal which included a swap for most of the nearly seven percent of the West Bank Israel planned to return.

“In the map that Olmert presented you,” Drucker asked, “Israel would annex 6.3 percent [of the West Bank] and compensate the Palestinians with 5.8 percent [taken from pre-1967 Israel]. What did you propose in return?”

Failing to answer the journalist’s question as to whether the PA made a counteroffer, Abbas stated that he rejected the Israeli offer “out of hand.”.”

Notably, despite its frequent promotion of the theme of a stalled peace process (and related negation of Palestinian agency or responsibility on that issue), the BBC apparently did not think this was a story its audiences needed to know about in order to “enhance” their “awareness and understanding of international issues“.

The BBC and the 1947 Partition Plan

Back in December 2013 we noted on these pages that an online BBC backgrounder on the topic of the 1947 Partition Plan (UNGA Resolution 181) had inaccurately informed all those reading it since its publication in November 2001 that David Ben Gurion had “opposed the plan”.

“Jewish representatives in Palestine accepted the plan tactically because it implied international recognition for their aims. Some Jewish leaders, such as David Ben Gurion, the first Israeli prime minister, opposed the plan because their ambition was a Jewish state on the entire territory of Mandate Palestine.” [emphasis added]

It has recently come to our attention that several months after the appearance of that BBC Watch article, the backgrounder was amended to remove that inaccurate claim and a footnote was added.

Footnote Partition Plan art

The above section of the article now reads:

“Jewish representatives in Palestine (the Jewish Agency) accepted the plan tactically – though with reluctance – because it implied international recognition for their aims of establishing a state, but on lesser territory than they considered a legal and historical right to.”BBC UN PP

Of course all those who received the inaccurate information throughout the twelve years and five months it took to correct it are unlikely to be aware that the backgrounder has been amended because (as pointed out in our submission to the DCMS charter review consultation) the BBC News website does not have a dedicated corrections page.

That backgrounder is far from the only one which would be found by a student or member of the public conducting a search on the BBC News website for information on the subject of the 1947 Partition Plan and perusal of the material available reveals a lack of both consistency and accuracy in the corporation’s presentation of the topic.

Another backgrounder dating from 1997 fails to inform readers that the recommendation for partition was rejected outright by the Arab States and hence became a dead issue.

“The Palestine partition plan was approved by the United Nations in its 128th plenary session November 29, 1947. This is the official text of the resolution which divided Palestine and created one Jewish and one Arab state.

The resolution was approved by the general assembly – 33 votes in favour, 13 votes against, with 10 abstentions.”

Similarly, the timeline appearing in the BBC’s online Israel profile also fails to inform readers that the UN recommendation was opposed by the Arab States and hence became irrelevant:

“1947 – United Nations recommends partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with international control over Jerusalem and its environs.”

Other BBC material available to audiences does clarify that the Partition Plan was never implemented although in much of that content, the rejection is inaccurately portrayed as coming from one particular source and the role of the Arab nations in opposing the plan (and threatening violence should it be implemented) is erased from audience view.

“The United Nations General Assembly decided in 1947 on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem to be an international city. The plan, which was rejected by the native Arabs, was never implemented.” [emphasis added] (source)

“The UN set up a special committee which recommended splitting the territory into separate Jewish and Palestinian states. Palestinian representatives, known as the Arab Higher Committee, rejected the proposal; their counterparts in the Jewish Agency accepted it.” [emphasis added] (source)

“The United Nations General Assembly decided in 1947 on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem to be an international city. The plan, which was rejected by the Palestinians, was never implemented.” [emphasis added] (source)

Despite their numerous faults and inaccuracies, those examples of BBC content do indicate that the corporation is aware of the fact that the 1947 Partition Plan never got off the ground.

That of course makes the BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee’s claim that “a UN resolution passed in 1947 has not been rescinded” – the claim which is the basis for the BBC’s refusal to call Jerusalem the capital city of Israel – all the more bizarre.

Lawfare agenda of BBC’s sources on Gaza casualty figures revealed once again

During and after the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, BBC reporting on the subject of casualty figures in general and the civilian/combatant ratio of those casualties was based on information from two main sources: the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry and the UN.

As BBC Watch pointed out at the time, the UN figures were themselves based on information provided, amongst others, by Hamas and NGOs active in the lawfare campaign against Israel.

“Katleen Maes informed us that UN OCHA’s three primary sources are B’Tselemthe PCHR and Al Mezan – all of which are political NGOs with a less than pristine record on impartiality in Israel-related matters. Maes added that the secondary sources used by UN OCHA to arrive at its 77% civilian casualty rate figures are the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, the Palestinian Red Crescent and the local Arabic media in Gaza, some of which is also run by Hamas and with the rest operating with Hamas consent, of course.”

Readers will also no doubt recall that the BBC complaints department defended the corporation’s use of those sources and that complaints made by members of the public on that topic have been rejected – despite the fact that since the end of the conflict, there has been no evidence of any independent BBC verification of casualty figures and/or the civilian/combatant ratio.Knell filmed PCHR

A representative from the NGO Al Mezan was interviewed on a BBC Radio 4 programme on the subject of Gaza casualty figures which was broadcast in August 2014. Throughout the summer 2014 conflict, the PCHR was showcased on numerous occasions in BBC content and allowed to make evidence-free accusations of ‘war crimes’, ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘deliberate’ targeting of civilians.

Via NGO Monitor we now learn that:

“On November 23, 2015 four European funded Palestinian NGOs, Al-Haq, Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, Aldameer and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) submitted a document to Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) claiming evidence and testimonies of alleged Israeli “war crimes” perpetrated during the 2014 Gaza war (Operation Protective Edge).

These four NGOs are all leaders in anti-Israel activities (including boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns), and this submission is part of the ongoing “lawfare” campaign exploiting international institutions in general and the ICC in particular for anti-Israel campaigns. This tactic was adopted at the NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban Conference, and is an integral part of the Durban Strategy which seeks to demonize and delegitimize Israel.”

The BBC has yet to provide its funding public with a satisfactory explanation as to why its reporting on the topic of casualty figures was based on unverified information provided by organisations which make no secret of the fact that they are involved in a political campaign of lawfare against Israel or why it rejected complaints which challenged the BBC’s use of that obviously politically partisan information.

BBC programme flagged up in CST report on Antisemitic Discourse

The Community Security Trust (CST) recently published its annual report on the topic of Antisemitic Discourse in Britain for the year 2014.BBC Papers on website

Readers of the report – which can be found in pdf format here – will note a reference to a BBC programme from November 2014 on page 35 under the heading “BBC DISCUSSION – JEWISH DONORS, JEWISH LOBBY, MANSION TAX”.

A link to the broadcast concerned is available here. Discussion of that programme can be found in the BBC Watch article titled “More BBC promotion of the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope” and information regarding the BBC’s response to criticism of the broadcast is available in the subsequent article “BBC doubles down on presenter’s ‘mansion tax’ comment“.

BBC Watch London community event on video

The BBC Watch community event held at Kinloss Shul on November 10th can be found in full on video here.

Also available are separate videos of the talks given at the event:

Dr Denis MacEoin speaking about the media in the Middle East:

Lesley Klaff speaking about how media coverage of Israel affects attitudes towards British Jews:

Jonathan Turner on the topic of the legal aspects of the BBC’s charter and how the complaints system can be used effectively:

Hadar Sela outlining BBC Watch’s submission to the public consultation on the subject of charter review:

Related Articles:

BBC Watch submission to the DCMS BBC Charter Review consultation


No BBC News follow-up on Golan paraglider story

Given the BBC’s longstanding – but recently intensified – preoccupation with ISIS and considering that on October 25th it published a report titled “‘Israeli Arab paraglider’ sparks Syria border operation“, it was surprising to see that BBC News chose to ignore the follow-up story to the incident portrayed in that article.Paraglider art

On November 18th the Israeli security services released a statement concerning the indictment of members of a cell of ISIS sympathisers from Jaljulia.

“Security forces services recently busted a group of six Israeli Arab men who planned to travel to Syria with the intention of fighting alongside the radical Islamic State group. A seventh member of the group succeeded in flying across the Israel-Syrian border on the Golan Heights on a hang glider last month.

In a statement Wednesday, the Shin Bet security service said the six suspects, all residents of the northern Israeli-Arab town of Jaljulia, had been planning for months to make their way to Syria. […]

The seventh member of the group, Nadal Hamad Salah Salah, 23, flew a hang glider across the border from the Golan Heights and into Syria on October 24, setting off an intensive investigation by security services.

As a result of the initial investigation, later the same evening two brothers were arrested, Jihad Nadal Yousef Hagala, 26 and Ahab Nadal Yousel Hagala, 22.

The brothers were known to police as supporters of the Islamic State group, the Shin Bet said. The elder brother, Jihad, spent six months in Syria in 2013 fighting with IS and was arrested after his return to Israel. He was tried, sentenced to prison, and released in November 2014.

During the investigation, it emerged that the brothers had helped Salah to make his exit to Syria to join IS, the indictment said. In recent months Salah had allegedly agreed with Jihad Nadal Yousef Hagala to use hang gliders to get to Syria. The pair planned to glide over the border because Hagala was concerned that, due to his history, he would be flagged and stopped by Israeli security if he tried flying out of Ben Gurion Airport on a commercial flight.”

Notably, the BBC also refrained from reporting on a previous story concerning an ISIS cell in northern Israel which came to light at the beginning of October.



More inaccuracies and political propaganda from the BBC’s Lyse Doucet

h/t: DK

In addition to the filmed report she recently produced in Beit Sahour, the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet also recorded an audio report on the same topic in the same location. That report – which includes different but no less egregious inaccuracies and political propaganda than the filmed version – was broadcast on the November 24th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour” and can be found from 45:09 here.Doucet Newshour 24 11

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item using a dose of the kind of equivalence seen all too frequently in BBC reporting:

“He is not promising a recipe for peace but, on his first visit to Israel and the West Bank in a year, the US Secretary of State John Kerry has said he is trying to find ways to restore calm. Today he condemned the recent wave of stabbing attacks by Palestinians on Israelis as ‘acts of terrorism’. Well, tensions remain high between Israelis and Palestinians and the lives of young people on both sides are being affected. Two and a half years ago two Danish activists and a Palestinian basketball player started a group of runners. What began as a Palestinian marathon has grown into a global event that’s as much about proclaiming rights as it is about athletic prowess. Newshour’s Lyse Doucet went to meet the co-founder of the Right to Movement in the West Bank city of Beit Sahour.” [emphasis added]

As was the case in her filmed report, Doucet interviews George Zeidan without making any attempt to conform to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by telling listeners of the political agenda behind the organization he represents.

Zeidan: “My name is George Zeidan and right now we’re walking on the place where we found[ed] the Right to Movement group.”

Doucet: “And we’re walking along a dirt road and it’s taking us through olive groves and some terraced fields: absolutely beautiful countryside here in the West Bank. And it…but it’s very much reflecting of the political situation. This is a Palestinian village…the city of Beit Jala – very close to Bethlehem. And here on this hilltop is a Jewish settlement.”

Zeidan: “The settlement of Har Gilo. It’s an old….quite an old settlement on the Palestinian territory.  It’s very important for us to emphasise on the importance of our right to movement on our own property. And we believe that this land’s our own property. This is what the United Nations and the international world has given us. So we’re not asking for anything else.”

Doucet fails to relieve listeners of the inaccurate and materially misleading impression that the United Nations “has given” that particular portion of territory – or any other – to the Palestinians. She goes on to provide Zeidan with the cue for promotion of more political propaganda.

Doucet: “But you’ve stopped running here – why?”

Zeidan: “With the current…the current unstable situation…we don’t feel that it’s the best idea to take a risk and come here very close to a settlement. So we just try to stay away from this issue.”

Later on in the report Doucet promotes more political propaganda using a cue from another one of the people she describes as “running for exercise, running to make a statement about their right to move here”.

Woman: “My story is to destroy the wall.”

Doucet: “The wall that Israel erected to separate off Israeli…Israel from Palestinian areas – they say to stop suicide bombings.”

Apparently the BBC’s chief international correspondent has no qualms about deliberately misrepresenting the reason for the construction of the anti-terrorist fence.

Listeners later hear another woman claim that the Palestinian terrorists who have carried out the recent attacks against Israelis are “doing it because they’re seeing, like, their families being stabbed or killed or hurt by them”.

The item closes with George Zeidan saying:

“It will be better if we soon can run from Bethlehem to Jerusalem without being stopped on a checkpoint. So that’s what we look forward to.”

Doucet’s narrative has no room for clarification to BBC audiences of the fact that checkpoints did not exist anywhere in the area before the Palestinians decided to launch the terror war known as the second Intifada fifteen years ago.

Once again Lyse Doucet has produced a report which does nothing to contribute to the BBC’s public purpose remit of building “understanding of international issues” but which is a vehicle for the amplification of opportunistic political propaganda by both herself and members of an inadequately presented NGO.

It is precisely reports such as these which undermine the BBC’s reputation as an accurate and impartial broadcaster and it is especially disturbing to see such a senior BBC correspondent engaged in blatantly political reporting.