BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ mainstreams anti-Israel delegitimisation

In June 2014, whilst appearing on the BBC radio 4 programme ‘Desert Island Discs’, Raja Shehadeh gave the following account of his family’s decision to leave Jaffa for their second home in Ramallah in the spring of 1948.

“Jaffa it’s very hot and humid in the summer and so they had a summer-house in Ramallah. When hostilities began they decided it’s safer in Ramallah because it was getting rather dangerous actually – physically dangerous – so they decided, towards the end of April, to take that short drive down to Ramallah – short drive from Jaffa – and my father always thought that if the worst happens – that is the partition – Jaffa was going to be on the Arab side so they will always be able to go back. And they took very few things with them and they were never able to go back.”

That did not prevent Zeinab Badawi from making the following inaccurate and misleading claim in her introduction to the March 16th 2015 edition of ‘Hardtalk’ shown on the BBC World News channel. The same claim appears in the programme’s synopsis on the BBC website.Hardtalk Shehadeh

“My guest today is the award-winning Palestinian author and lawyer Raja Shehadeh. For three decades he has written many books about human rights and the Israeli occupation. His family were forced to leave Jaffa in 1948 and settled in Ramallah on the West Bank where he lives today.” [emphasis added]

Notably, Badawi makes no attempt to inform her audience of Shehadeh’s activities beyond “author and lawyer”: no mention is made of his record of political activism with organisations such as Al Haq and Palfest, meaning that viewers – in clear breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – are denied the ability to put his comments into their appropriate context.

Predictably, Shehadeh uses the platform provided by the BBC to promote the well-worn language and distortions of anti-Israel campaigning. No less predictably, little effort is made by Badawi to counter that propaganda.

Audiences hear mostly unchallenged references to Israelis as ‘colonisers’, promotion of the ‘apartheid’ trope and comparison to South Africa, the claim that “Israel never left Gaza” along with description of the Gaza Strip as a ‘large prison’ and the claim that the Arab-Israeli conflict is “the most important issue in the world today” and “at the core of the problems of the Middle East”. Shehadeh distorts history both actively and by omission with viewers hearing, for example, an account of his father’s post-1967 proposals which is devoid of any mention of the Khartoum Declaration and a euphemistic representation of the 2013/14 round of negotiations which eliminates the Palestinian Authority’s decision to run those talks aground by means of its reconciliation deal with Hamas.  

And so here we have yet another example of the role played by the BBC in mainstreaming anti-Israel delegitimisation and defamation by means of a passive-aggressive failure to challenge the falsehoods and factual distortions promoted by an inadequately introduced political activist.

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BBC WS ‘Heart and Soul’ claims Israel causes antisemitism in Europe

On April 11th and 12th BBC World Service radio aired an edition of ‘Heart and Soul’ titled “Faith and Food: The Jewish Community of Paris“, presented by Hardeep Singh Kohli.Heart and Soul

First impressions suggested that the programme would provide an all too rare opportunity to record some accurate and impartial BBC reporting and that perception was encouraged at 11:12 minutes into the programme when, as part of his purported attempt to understand contemporary anti-Semitism in France, the presenter interviewed Professor Andrew Hussey. Professor Hussey gave a concise yet comprehensive summary of four factors contributing to the phenomenon: conspiracy theories prevalent in the Paris suburbs inhabited by North African immigrants, Right-wing Catholic anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial/revisionism, Islamist radicalization and ‘salon’ antisemitism.

However, despite having heard that academic appraisal of the topic, Singh Kohli found it necessary to promote his own theories in the next segment of the programme. Describing his topic as the “exodus of French Jews to Israel”, Singh Kohli opines:

“It’s obviously a controversial topic as many of the Jews moving to Israel will find homes in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Whether or not Singh Kohli has any factual evidence to support the claim that he already knows exactly where “many” of those immigrating to Israel from France will be going to live is of course highly questionable. In fact had he checked, Hardeep Singh Kohli would have discovered that the destinations of choice for those who made aliyah from France in 2014 included Ashdod, Tel Aviv, Ra’anana, Jerusalem, Ashkelon and – most popular of all – Netanya. But nevertheless, at 15:14 he repeats his theme:

“I don’t mean to be simplistic about it but the outside world looking in sees people leaving France to go to Israel, so people think well, people are coming to Israel and that increases the occupied territories which then increases antisemitism which then increases more people leaving France.”

And again at 16:14:

“I get this sense of a vicious cycle: antisemitism causing Jews to leave and then Israel continuing to expand illegal settlements on the West Bank to accommodate them. It’s one of the factors contributing to more antisemitism.

Again, Singh Kohli provides no factual source for his pronouncements but the bottom line here is that has he has found a way to place the blame for European antisemitism at Israel’s door and even to suggest that Jews themselves are responsible for anti-Jewish racism.

In doing that he elects to promote a fabricated political narrative at the expense of the route which could have actually provided listeners with informative content: serious exploration of the pointers provided by Professor Hussey.

Towards the end of the programme (24:15 and also in a clip promoted separately by the BBC on Twitter), listeners hear Singh Kohli say:

“I think if the Jews of the world retract – if they all move to Israel – then we will never grow up living next door to a Jewish family and that’s very sad. Why are they being taken away from?… why is my city?… my hometown of Glasgow has less Jews now than ever and my city is worse for it.”

Clearly Jews are not being “taken away” from Glasgow or anywhere else in Europe: their reasons for deciding to leave are, as his interviewee tells him, rooted in a variety of contemporary realities evident in European society. One of those realities is anti-Jewish hatred fuelled by inaccurate, lazy and narrative-based media presentation of Israel. Hence, before he allows himself to sink any further into self-indulgent bemoaning of ‘his’ loss of neighbourhood diversity, Hardeep Singh Kohli would do well to take a critical look at his own contribution to that particular phenomenon.

 

 

BBC News compromises impartiality with link to website of political NGO

On April 10th the BBC News website published a report titled “Palestinian killed during funeral clash in West Bank” which is notable on two counts relating to context and impartiality. Readers are told that:Beit Ummar incident

“A Palestinian man has been shot dead in clashes with Israeli troops at the funeral of a militant in the southern West Bank, hospital officials say. […]

An Israeli military spokesperson said soldiers had opened fire after funeral-goers threw rocks and petrol bombs.

The clashes took place in the town of Beit Ummar, near Hebron.”

That information is broadly consistent with reports appearing in other media outlets, but some important items of context are omitted.

Beit Ummar is located along Highway 60 – the region’s major roadway – in Area B (where responsibility for security lies with Israel according to the Oslo Accords) and, as reported by Ynet:

“…during the funeral, in which some 700 Palestinians took part, violent riots developed at several locations during which rioters threw rocks and petrol bombs and rolled burning tires at soldiers stationed between the village and route 60.” [emphasis added]

AP adds:

“After the funeral, Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers manning a watchtower on a road near the town, according to witnesses.

Israel’s military said Palestinians threw rocks and firebombs, and rolled burning tires toward soldiers. It said troops used tear gas at first, but fired low-caliber bullets at the legs of four men after the soldiers felt their lives were in danger.” [emphasis added]

In other words, the incident during which the man was shot did not take place at the funeral itself, but as a result of violence initiated by Palestinian rioters after the funeral which was directed at soldiers deployed to ensure safe passage for motorists on a major highway. Those points are not made clear in the BBC’s report.

Neither is any attempt made to clarify the background to the rioting following the funeral of a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad apparently suffering from a terminal illness who had died earlier that morning in a Palestinian hospital in Hebron. The BBC’s article states:

“The funeral was for a Palestinian militant who had been recently imprisoned by Israel. He was reportedly released early because of ill health.”

Indeed, as reported by Channel 2, the Israeli Prison Service confirmed that Jaafar Awad had been released from prison three months ago because of his illness. However, the BBC refrained from reporting that various Palestinian sources had made unproven and inflammatory public statements concerning his death. Channel 2 notes that:

“According to claims from official Palestinian sources, the [PIJ] activist died of health problems which were caused whilst he was in an Israeli prison.”

Channel 10 reports:

“In the morning hours Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad published announcements blaming Israel for the responsibility for Awad’s death. Hamas spokesman Husam Bardan [located in Qatar – Ed.] blamed Israel and claimed that it intentionally neglects the health of Palestinian prisoners. He described that as “slow killing policy” and called for international bodies to deal with the issue.”

The Times of Israel reports:

“The head of a Palestinian Authority body in charge of prisoner affairs, Issa Qaraqe, issued a statement alleging Jaafar Awad had died of “medical negligence” at the hands of Israeli prison authorities.

“Israel alone is responsible for his death,” Qaraqe said in the statement, and called for an international probe.

Jaafar’s father, Ibrahim Awad, told AFP before his son’s death that Israeli prison authorities had given the 23-year-old man “an injection that made him ill and totally weakened him.””

The BBC, however, elected to refrain from informing its audience about the incitement which preceded the violent rioting which took place following Awad’s funeral.

As regular visitors to the BBC News website will be aware, links to non-BBC sites are usually accompanied by a disclaimer noting that “the BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites”. In this report a link was provided to the B’Tselem website.

“According to an Israeli military spokesperson, soldiers had feared for their lives as protesters at the funeral threw rocks and petrol bombs and rolled burning car tyres at them.

The spokesperson said the soldiers responded with non-lethal “riot dispersal means” and then with 0.22-calibre “Ruger” bullets.”

The BBC states that its reasons for linking to external websites are as follows:

BBC linking external websites

The subsection titled “Online links to third party websites” in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on “Editorial Integrity & Independence” states:

“Part of the BBC’s role is to act as a trusted guide on the web. When we create content on a BBC site we should consider which external websites it may be editorially justifiable to link to. We offer external links from the BBC public service site and from the editorial pages of the commercial site, for example, to provide additional information, source material or informed comment. We should be seen to be impartial. BBC websites which cover controversial subjects or public policy matters should normally offer links to external sites which represent a reasonable range of views about the subject. […]

We may link to external sites which give particular views of a person or organisation significant to a current news story and in such cases we may not be able to guarantee their factual accuracy. But we should not support the message, information or promotions on third party sites.” [emphasis added]

B’Tselem is a foreign-funded political NGO which is frequently quoted and promoted by the BBC without adequate information being provided to audiences on the topic of its particular agenda. Despite the provision of a link to the B’Tselem website in this article, no attempt is made to ensure that audiences are aware of the context of the political motivations of the organization behind the information promoted by the BBC and no additional “range of views” is offered.

Whilst it is obvious that the BBC “is not responsible for the content of external websites”, it clearly is responsible for the implied endorsement of information appearing on websites to which it chooses to link and the subsequent compromise of its own impartiality when that information is provided by an organization with a political agenda known to – but not disclosed by – the BBC. 

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More spin than a centrifuge: BBC report on Khamenei nuclear deal speech

As has already been noted on these pages (see related articles below), the BBC News website’s portrayal of the framework agreement between the P5+1 and Iran announced on April 2nd has been based exclusively on the US administration’s presentation of its supposed terms. Not only have BBC audiences not been provided with details of the markedly different Iranian interpretation of the framework agreement; they have barely been informed of its existence apart from the following cryptic reference in an article by Barbara Plett Usher from April 5th:

“”Optics” went into play immediately. The Americans released a fact sheet describing details of what had been agreed.

“There is no need to spin,” Mr Zarif fired back on Twitter.

Senior US officials said both sides understood they would have different narratives, but wouldn’t contradict each other.

They knew Mr Zarif would present the framework agreement as one that “enables Iran the ability to access peaceful nuclear energy,” they said.”

On April 9th Iran’s Supreme Leader broke his silence on the topic of the framework agreement in a speech delivered at an event marking the Islamic Republic’s ‘National Day of Nuclear Technology’ and the BBC News website subsequently published a report titled “Iran nuclear: No guarantee of final deal, Khamenei says“.Khamenei speech art

The BBC’s account of that speech (transcript available here) amounts to the following:

“Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has cautioned against seeing a preliminary agreement on his country’s nuclear programme as the “guarantee” of a final deal with world powers. […]

In a statement on his website, Mr Khamenei said “it is possible that the untrustworthy side [the six world powers who negotiated the agreement] wants to restrict our country in the details”.

“I have never been optimistic about negotiating with America. While I was not optimistic, I agreed with this particular negotiation and supported the negotiators,” the statement went on.

Mr Khamenei also echoed earlier comments by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in which he insisted that sanctions must be lifted as soon as a final deal was implemented.”

The BBC’s report also includes a summary of the terms of the framework agreement with a link to an EU statement on the topic.

The deal stipulates Iran must slash its stockpile of enriched uranium that could be used in a nuclear weapon, and cut by more than two-thirds the number of centrifuges that could be used to make more.

In return, UN sanctions and separate measures imposed unilaterally by the US and EU will be lifted as the global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirms Iranian compliance.”

Readers are not informed that Khamenei’s speech included the following statement on the subject of inspections to confirm compliance:

“One must absolutely not allow infiltration of the security and defense realm of the state on the pretext of inspection[s], and the military authorities of the state are not – under any circumstance – allowed to let in foreigners to this realm under the pretext of inspection, or stop the country’s defense development… Any unconventional inspection or monitoring which would make Iran into a special case, would not be acceptable, and the monitoring must only be as monitoring regimes taking place all over the world and nothing more.”

A link to the US State department’s factsheet is again promoted later on in the article – as has been the case in numerous previous ones – but yet again readers are not informed of the details (or existence) of Iran’s own factsheet. Under the sub-heading ‘Snap back’ the BBC states:

“On Thursday, the US state department repeated this view. “Under the agreed-upon parameters, sanctions will be suspended in a phased manner upon verification that Iran has met specific commitments,” spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters.

It has published what it sees as the parameters of the agreement, one of which states: “If at any time Iran fails to fulfil its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.””

Again, readers are not fully informed of the content of Khamenei’s speech relating to the topic of sanctions and what bearing that has on the viability of potential ‘snap back’ of sanctions.

“Instant annulment of all sanction is one of the demands of our officials… This issue is very important, and the sanctions must all be completely removed on the day of the agreement… Should the removal of the sanctions be related to a process, the foundation of the negotiations would be senseless, since the goal of the negotiations was to remove the sanctions.”

The BBC’s vague portrayal of those statements amounts to:

“Mr Khamenei also echoed earlier comments by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in which he insisted that sanctions must be lifted as soon as a final deal was implemented.”

The BBC’s report includes some interesting ‘analysis’ from Kasra Naji of the BBC Persian service:

“Ayatollah Khamenei has decided to sit on the fence, for the time being. He says he will neither endorse or reject the agreement.

A lot of details will have to be dealt with, he says, before the preliminary agreement from last week will turn into a final agreement at the end of June – the deadline the two sides have set themselves for a comprehensive solution to Iran’s nuclear problem.

But by not rejecting it, he has, in effect, consented to the premise of the agreement – that Iran would limit its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions. And that is a major step for the hardliners in Iran, including the country’s leader.”

In fact, Khamenei made it very clear that from his perspective there is to date no agreement to either endorse or reject:

“There are those who ask, why has the Leader not made his positions known concerning the latest nuclear negotiations? The reason for the Leader not taking position is that there is nothing to take a position about. The officials of the state and those responsible in the nuclear field say no job is done and there is no necessity… If the question is posed to me: ‘Are you for or against the latest nuclear negotiations,’ I would answer that I’m neither in favor nor opposed to it, since nothing has happened yet… All the trouble arises when the details will be discussed… the White House, only two hours after the end of the negotiations, published a few pages, which in most regards was contrary to the realities, explaining the negotiations… they were producing a statement which was faulty, incorrect and contrary to the substance of the negotiations.”

The bizarre reassuring spin put on Khamenei’s words by Naji according to which he “consented to the premise of the agreement” ignores the substantially conflicting views of the agreement presented in the various factsheets produced by parties to the negotiations as well as the fact that in this speech Khamenei clearly not only rejected the version of the agreement put out by the US State Department but also introduced ‘red lines’ on sanctions and inspections which do not conform to the version of the framework agreement promoted by the US and faithfully quoted and promoted by the BBC.

Following that exercise in spin, BBC audiences were pointed in the direction of the ‘real hardliners':

“The deal was celebrated by many in Iran but was dismissed by hardliners who say Iran surrendered too much in exchange for too little.

Similarly, some in the US Congress have been sceptical of the deal, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed fervent opposition.”

The BBC’s treatment of this topic continues to avoid providing its funding public with the comprehensive information needed in order to enhance their “awareness and understanding“. This particular article from the self-declared “standard-setter for international journalism” actively impedes understanding by means of the selective omission of information mixed with redundant spin-laden analysis.

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BBC News report on terror stabbing omits Hamas statement of support

On April 8th the BBC News website ran a report under the typically ‘last-first’ phrased headline “Palestinian killed after stabbing two Israeli soldiers“. Readers can gather that at least part of the information provided in the article was gleaned from the local media:Pigua 8 4 report final

“The soldiers were members of the Israeli military’s Home Front Command and had been sitting inside an ambulance placed on standby at the Sinjil junction during Passover, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.”

Hence it is notable that the paragraph below from the Ha’aretz report obviously read by the writer of this article was not deemed ‘need to know’ information for BBC audiences.

“Qatar-based Hamas spokesman Husam Bardan said that the group welcomed the stabbing attack, saying that it was a natural response to Israel’s policy of occupation. Bardan said that Israel only understands force and “the language of terror attacks.” He called on the Palestinian Authority to immediately cease security cooperation with Israel and to give freedom to opposition to the occupation in the West Bank.”

On the other hand, the writer of the BBC report did find it necessary to devote three of its thirteen paragraphs, along with the caption to its main illustrative photograph, to the response of an Israeli minister.

“An Israeli minister praised the wounded soldier for shooting rather than arresting the assailant”

“Outgoing Economy Minister Naftali Bennett of the nationalist Jewish Home party praised the actions of the wounded soldier.

“Our enemies have only one goal: to hurt as many Jews as they can. I congratulate the security forces who killed the terrorist. This must be the fate of anyone who hurts innocent Jews.”

“A serious incident must end this way and not with dreams of liberation from jail.””

The article’s final paragraph is devoted to partial description of an earlier incident which the BBC chose not to report at the time.

“Last Thursday, an Israeli soldier was stabbed by a Palestinian man during a security operation near the West Bank settlement of Oranit. The soldier suffered light wounds, while the assailant was arrested.”

Readers are not informed that the “security operation” was in fact the arrest of Palestinians trying to illegally traverse the anti-terrorist fence or that Hamas praised that attack too.

“The incident occurred when IDF Paratrooper forces approached the security fence in the area of Oranit, where a group of 6-8 Palestinian illegal aliens was attempting to cross into Israel through the fence. One of the Palestinians pounced on one of the soldiers and stabbed him. Security forces arrested the assailant, as well as the other Palestinians.

The Hamas terrorist group praised the stabbing attack in Shomron. A statement issued by the group said that the attack underscores the determination of the Palestinian people to continue its path of resistance, despite all the obstacles and difficulties.”

Having given multi-platform amplification just a week ago to Khaled Masha’al’s whitewashing of Hamas – including the claim that its activities are “certainly not terrorism” – it is sadly not surprising to see that the BBC decided to refrain from reporting his colleague’s praise and support for this incident and others. 

The BBC News website’s muddled geography confuses audiences

On April 7th a report appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Israel admits its fire killed Spanish UN peacekeeper“. Readers are told:UNIFIL art

“A Spanish soldier who was killed in Lebanon in January died as a result of Israeli fire, Israel’s military says.

Corporal Francisco Javier Soria Toledo was hit by Israeli artillery following a Hezbollah attack which killed two Israeli soldiers, according to a military statement.”

In fact, a senior IDF official had already confirmed that the UNIFIL soldier was accidentally killed by IDF fire back in January when the incident took place.

The BBC’s report continues:

“The 36-year-old UN peacekeeper was killed near the village of Ghajar, in the Shebaa Farms area, on 28 January.”

The uninformed reader would obviously take that sentence to mean that the Spanish soldier was killed in a district called the Shebaa Farms, near a village called Ghajar located in that area. Seeing as the Shebaa Farms area (Har Dov) is located on the Israeli side of the ‘Blue Line, the implication is therefore that the soldier was in Israel at the time of his death. In fact, although the soldier may have been “near the village of Ghajar” (his position was apparently around one kilometer to the north-east), he was actually on the Lebanese side of the border where all UNIFIL forces are stationed. 

In addition, the BBC’s suggestion that Ghajar is in the Shebaa Farms (Har Dov) area is in itself inaccurate: Ghajar is part of the Golan Heights and its residents are Alawites – originally Syrian and holding Israeli citizenship since 1981.

Ghajar map

Click to enlarge

Even the BBC’s own map of the region does not place Ghajar in the Shebaa Farms area but nevertheless, the latter half of this short report is devoted to the standard insert on the Shebaa Farms seen in previous BBC coverage of the January cross-border attack by Hizballah. As was the case then, that insert is superfluous seeing as the story has nothing to do with the topic of the Shebaa Farms/Har Dov dispute and the incidents which are its subject matter did not take place within that area.

Ghajar BBC map

Notably, a subject which is relevant to this report gets no mention whatsoever: at no point are readers informed that the task of the UNIFIL forces with which Corporal Francisco Javier Soria Toledo served is to monitor adherence to UN Resolution 1701, according to which Hizballah should have been disarmed years ago and should not be operating south of the Litani River. Had the UN made efforts to enforce that unanimous UNSC decision, the accidental death of the soldier could of course have been avoided.

Ghajar

Ghajar

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BBC audiences still getting cherry-picked information on Iran framework agreement

The BBC News website’s coverage of the recent framework agreement negotiated between the P5+1 and Iran continued on April 7th with an article titled “Iran nuclear deal: US there for Israel, warns Obama“. The article’s main purpose is to inform audiences of statements made by the American president in recent interviews with the New York Times (available here) and with NPR (available here). The article opens:Obama art

“President Barack Obama has moved to reassure Israel that the US remains its staunchest supporter, amid Israeli fears over last week’s outline agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme.

He said Iran and the rest of the region should know that “if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there”.”

That short quote is taken from the NYT interview:

“I have to respect the fears that the Israeli people have,” he added, “and I understand that Prime Minister Netanyahu is expressing the deep-rooted concerns that a lot of the Israeli population feel about this, but what I can say to them is: Number one, this is our best bet by far to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, and number two, what we will be doing even as we enter into this deal is sending a very clear message to the Iranians and to the entire region that if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there. And I think the combination of a diplomatic path that puts the nuclear issue to one side — while at the same time sending a clear message to the Iranians that you have to change your behavior more broadly and that we are going to protect our allies if you continue to engage in destabilizing aggressive activity — I think that’s a combination that potentially at least not only assures our friends, but starts bringing down the temperature.”

The BBC makes no attempt to clarify to readers that Israelis – having experienced four rounds of conflict initiated by Iranian-sponsored terrorist organisations on its south-western and northern borders in the past decade and still living under the threat of vast quantities of Iranian-supplied weapons – might be a little cautious with regard to that ‘we’ve got your back’ claim.

The article continues:

“But he [Obama] rejected a call by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu that any deal be conditional on Iran recognising Israel.

Mr Obama said such a condition would be “a fundamental misjudgement”.

The president, speaking in an interview with National Public Radio, said that it would be akin to saying the US would not seal a deal unless the Iranian regime completely transformed.

“We want Iran not to have nuclear weapons precisely because we can’t bank on the nature of the regime changing. That’s exactly why we don’t want to have nuclear weapons,” he said.

“If suddenly Iran transformed itself to Germany or Sweden or France, then there would be a different set of conversations about their nuclear infrastructure.””

The transcript of the segment of the NPR interview from which those quotes are taken reads as follows:

Interviewer: “Prime Minister Netanyahu, who you mentioned, has added a demand in recent days. He said that as part of this deal when it’s finalized, Iran should recognize the state of Israel. You’re smiling as I, as I say that.

Diplomats might see that as an obviously inappropriate demand to make in this negotiation, but it sounds reasonable on its face. Many people will find that to be a reasonable. Why not do that?”

 Obama: “Well, let me say this — it’s not that the idea of Iran recognizing Israel is unreasonable. It’s completely reasonable and that’s U.S. policy.

And I’ve been very forceful in saying that our differences with Iran don’t change if we make sure that they don’t have a nuclear weapon — they’re still going to be financing Hezbollah, they’re still supporting Assad dropping barrel bombs on children, they are still sending arms to the Houthis in Yemen that have helped destabilize the country. There are obvious differences in how we are approaching fighting ISIL in Iraq, despite the fact that there’s a common enemy there.

 So there’s still going to be a whole host of differences between us and Iran, and one of the most profound ones is the vile, anti-Semitic statements that have often come out of the highest levels of the Iranian regime. But the notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons, in a verifiable deal, on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.

The — I want to return to this point. We want Iran not to have nuclear weapons precisely because we can’t bank on the nature of the regime changing. That’s exactly why we don’t want to have nuclear weapons. If suddenly Iran transformed itself into Germany or Sweden or France, there would be a different set of conversations about their nuclear infrastructure.

So, you know, the key here is not to somehow expect that Iran changes — although it is something that may end up being an important byproduct of this deal — but rather it is to make sure that we have a verifiable deal that takes off the table what would be a game-changer for them if in fact they possess nuclear weapons.”

Later on in the BBC article, readers are told:

“Critics have accused President Obama of conceding too much ground to Iran and endangering Israel’s security.

But in an interview with the New York Times, Mr Obama firmly denied this.

“I would consider it a failure on my part, a fundamental failure of my presidency, if on my watch, or as a consequence of work that I had done, Israel was rendered more vulnerable,” he said.

Mr Obama said he recognised the concerns raised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce critic of the deal along with the president’s Republican opponents in the US Congress.

He said Israelis “have every right to be concerned about Iran”, a country that had threatened “to destroy Israel, that has denied the Holocaust, that has expressed venomous anti-Semitic ideas”.

But he insisted that the preliminary agreement with Iran – a forerunner of a comprehensive deal, due to be agreed before 30 June – was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to curb the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.”

What this BBC report does not do is to join the dots between Obama’s statement “[w]e want Iran not to have nuclear weapons precisely because we can’t bank on the nature of the regime changing” and the fact that in another segment of the NPR interview which the BBC chose not to mention or quote (and the State Department later tried to clumsily walk back), Obama stated that in just over a decade, Iran’s break-out time will be negligible.

Obama: “Keep in mind, though, currently, the breakout times are only about two to three months by our intelligence estimates. So essentially, we’re purchasing for 13, 14, 15 years assurances that the breakout is at least a year … that — that if they decided to break the deal, kick out all the inspectors, break the seals and go for a bomb, we’d have over a year to respond. And we have those assurances for at least well over a decade.

And then in years 13 and 14, it is possible that those breakout times would have been much shorter, but at that point we have much better ideas about what it is that their program involves. We have much more insight into their capabilities. And the option of a future president to take action if in fact they try to obtain a nuclear weapon is undiminished.

So, it’s a hard argument to make that we’re better off right now having almost no breakout period, no insight, and letting them rush towards a bomb, than saying, over the course of 15 years, we have very clear assurances that they’re not going to do anything.

And at that, at the end of that period, maybe they’ve changed, maybe they haven’t. If they haven’t changed, we still have the options available to me — or available to a future president that I have available to me right now.”

Instead, BBC audiences are presented yet again with a short summary of the framework agreement as promoted in the US administration’s factsheet, but ignoring the fact that the account of the deal publicized by Iran is markedly different.

“Under the terms reached last Thursday, Iran must slash its stockpile of enriched uranium that could be used in a nuclear weapon, and cut by more than two-thirds the number of centrifuges that could be used to make more.

In return, UN sanctions and separate measures imposed unilaterally by the US and EU will be gradually suspended as the global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirms Iranian compliance.”

Once again, no effort is made to inform BBC audiences of criticism of the above aspects of the framework agreement or others.

Despite the BBC’s obligation to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”, its audiences are still being presented with a narrow, cherry-picked view of this topic which excludes comprehensive and serious discussion of any statements or opinions (for example this one and these) which do not conform to the US administration’s presentation of the issue.

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Jeremy Bowen exploits Radio 4 news bulletin for Hamas PR promotion

Listeners to the 8 a.m. news bulletin broadcast during the April 1st edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard items about the UK elections, zero hours contracts, a study concerning the drug Paracetamol, the P5+1 talks with Iran, the Nigerian presidential election, EU milk quotas, the death of a Getty heir and the hospitalization of singer Joni Mitchell.Today 1 4 15

In among those actual news stories they also heard an additional fabricated news item (from 02:06:35 here) which took up over a minute and a half of that ten-minute news segment.

News presenter: “The political leader of Hamas, Khaled Masha’al, has accused the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of killing the peace process. He also condemned the activities of Jihadist groups which he said were against the teachings of Islam. Khaled Masha’al was speaking to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

Bowen: “Khaled Masha’al nearly died in 1997 in a bungled Israeli assassination attempt on the orders of Benjamin Netanyahu; then in his first term as prime minister. Now Mr Masha’al says the re-elected Israeli prime minister has killed the peace process and the chances of a negotiated two state solution.”

Masha’al [voice-over]: “Even in the eyes of the Americans and Europeans, Netanyahu is the most extreme leader and the one who likes to shed blood the most. That’s why we’re expecting difficult times with him. And it’s the responsibility of the international community to put a stop to his stubbornness and Israeli extremism.”

Bowen: “Mr Masha’al heads an organization that’s classified as a terrorist group by the United States and Britain among many others. But he seemed to be calibrating his comments to catch the prevailing mood of anger in the White House towards Mr Netanyahu after his sharp turn to the ultra-nationalist Israeli right in the last days of the election campaign. Mr Masha’al called for a sovereign independent Palestinian state and an end to the occupation of land captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. So did the White House chief of staff earlier this week.”

Bowen’s embarrassingly puerile attempt to persuade listeners to Radio 4’s most widely heard and influential programme that the US Administration is on the same page as an internationally recognized terrorist organization of course depends on listeners being kept in the dark with regard to the fact that Hamas regards all of Israel as ‘occupied land’ – not just the areas previously occupied by Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967 – and rejects Israel’s right to exist, thus making a two state solution unviable.

Perhaps the ‘Today’ editor would care to clarify both the editorial considerations behind the omission of that and other important context and the broader decision to misleadingly present Bowen’s transparent propaganda to Radio 4 listeners as ‘news’.

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Did the BBC News website’s reporting on the P5+1 framework agreement with Iran tell the whole story?

Following the announcement that a framework agreement between the P5+1 and Iran had been reached, the BBC News website produced several articles which provided audiences with explanations of its terms.

In a report titled “Iran nuclear talks: ‘Framework’ deal agreed” from April 3rd, readers were provided with a link to a factsheet produced by the US administration.Iran deal 1

According to a US factsheet issued after the talks, the outline deal includes the following conditions:

  • Iran will reduce its installed centrifuges – used to enrich uranium – by two-thirds and reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium
  • The centrifuges that are no longer in use will be placed in storage, monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
  • All of Iran’s nuclear facilities will be subject to regular IAEA inspections
  • Iran will redesign its heavy-water reactor in Arak so that it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium
  • US and EU sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme will be lifted in phases, but can be brought back if Iran does not meet its obligations.

Mr Obama said the deal’s implementation would be closely watched. “If Iran cheats, the world will know it,” he said, adding that the deal was based not on trust but on “unprecedented verification”.”

A link to that same factsheet also appeared in the April 3rd article titled “Iran nuclear talks: Obama hails ‘historic’ agreement“.Iran deal 2

“According to “parameters” of the agreement published by the US state department, Iran must reduce the number of its centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium into a bomb by more than two-thirds.

It also has to redesign a power plant so it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium, be subject to regular inspections, and agree not to enrich uranium over 3.67% – far less than is required to make a nuclear bomb – for at least 15 years.

“There’s new state of the art technology that will be used,” US Secretary of State John Kerry told the BBC. “We will have tracking of their uranium from the cradle to the grave.””

Another article from April 3rd – “Iran nuclear talks: Hardliners criticise nuclear deal” – described the terms of the framework agreement as follows:iran deal 3

“US President Barack Obama said the framework agreement would make the world a safer place, as it would “cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon”.

In addition to halting enrichment at Fordo, Iran will cut by more than two-thirds to 5,060 the number of centrifuges it currently operates to enrich uranium. While enriched uranium is used as fuel for nuclear reactors, it can also be used to make nuclear bombs.

Iran will also cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium from around 10 tonnes to 300kg for 15 years, and the design of the heavy-water reactor under construction at Arak will be modified so it produces no weapons-grade plutonium.

In return, UN sanctions and separate measures imposed unilaterally by the US and EU will be gradually suspended as the global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirms Iranian compliance.

The US says Iran has agreed to allow IAEA inspectors travel “anywhere in the country” to investigate “suspicious sites or allegations of covert enrichment”.”

The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus produced an article on April 3rd titled “Iran nuclear deal: A result which buys time” in which the US administration’s factsheet was again promoted with a link.Marcus art Iran

“What was expected from these talks was a fairly bland announcement that a framework agreement had been reached. In contrast the US State Department has been quick to publish a lengthy list of what it calls the “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” regarding Iran’s nuclear programme. […]

On the face of it Iran has made some significant concessions.

  • Iran will be allowed to have some 6,104 centrifuges installed out of its current 19,000 and only a little over 5,000 of them will actually be enriching uranium. All the working centrifuges are to be early, less advanced models. And everything else is to be stored under supervision of IAEA inspectors
  • Iran will reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium – the vital feedstock that would be needed to enrich further to get bomb-making material
  • There will be no enrichment at the underground Fordow site for some 15 years
  • Inspectors will have access not just to key nuclear facilities but to the supply chain supporting Iran’s nuclear programme and to uranium mines and mills
  • Iran will be required to grant access to IAEA inspectors to investigate suspicious sites or suspected clandestine activities anywhere in the country
  • The heavy water reactor at Arak that many feared would provide Iran with a plutonium route to a potential bomb is to be re-built so as not to produce weapons grade plutonium.
  • Many of these constraints will be in place for 10 years and some will last for 15.

In return

  • Iran will see US and EU nuclear-related sanctions suspended, though no clear timetable has been given for exactly how this will proceed
  • It will not actually have to close any nuclear facility altogether
  • It emerges, once the restrictions expire, with the basis for a significant nuclear industry.

Nonetheless, the level of detail is impressive and appears to have convinced nuclear experts that it does indeed provide the year-long warning of a potential Iranian break-out that has been the diplomats’ goal. That is seen as sufficient time for any Iranian effort to throw aside the deal and push towards enriching sufficient material for a bomb to be quickly spotted and action taken.

Strong verification provisions, along with continued intelligence efforts should also be sufficient to prevent an Iranian “sneak-out” – a clandestine effort to do the same thing.”

A backgrounder titled “Iran nuclear crisis: Six key points” – originally published on March 30th and previously discussed here – was updated on April 3rd but includes little information concerning the framework agreement itself except for the following:Iran talks 6 pts art

“According to the framework agreement, sanctions will be gradually phased out as the global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirms Iranian compliance.”

As we see, the BBC’s presentation of the issue was based entirely upon statements put out by the American administration. That, however, was not the only published representation of the terms of the framework agreement: the Iranians put out their own factsheet which includes a number of statements contradicting the American – and hence BBC – version of the terms of the framework agreement.

For example, whilst the BBC claims that sanctions will be “gradually phased out” according to Iranian compliance, the Iranians themselves claim that:

“all of the sanctions will be immediately removed after reaching a comprehensive agreement”

Additional examples of discrepancies between the two factsheets are highlighted by journalist Amir Taheri in his comparison of the two texts – for example:

“The American statement claims that Iran has agreed not to use advanced centrifuges, each of which could do the work of 10 old ones. The Iranian text, however, insists that “on the basis of solutions found, work on advanced centrifuges shall continue on the basis of a 10-year plan.”

The American text claims that Iran has agreed to dismantle the core of the heavy water plutonium plant in Arak. The Iranian text says the opposite. The plant shall remain and be updated and modernized.”

Similarly, Israeli journalist Ehud Ya’ari has identified six points upon which American and Iranian interpretations of the framework agreement differ.

Whilst Jonathan Marcus reassured BBC audiences that anonymous “nuclear experts” appear to be convinced that the framework agreement “does indeed provide the year-long warning of a potential Iranian break-out”, one prominent named nuclear expert has raised the question of whether a one-year break-out time is indeed effective.

” [Olli] Heinonen, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s former top official for monitoring nuclear proliferation, expressed a range of concerns about the deal taking shape, warned of Iran’s history of deception, and also cautioned that the one-year framework for nuclear breakout pushed by the Obama administration might leave insufficient time for an international reaction to violations of the agreement.”

Emily Landau echoed that concern in a recent op-ed:

“… the US has made the case that 12 months is enough time to both detect and effectively deal with any violation, and that the agreed framework upholds this goal.

This can certainly be challenged, especially taking into account the chain of decisions that will need to be taken after a violation has been detected, all the way up to taking action to counter it. And this assumes there is initial agreement (among whom?) that the violation is “real” and significant enough to confront Iran. […]

But we also need to consider the second option that Iran has: the perhaps more realistic scenario whereby at some point Iran simply decides to exit the deal. In this scenario, Iran would most likely do so after accusing the West of not upholding its end of the bargain – on sanctions relief for example. So it wouldn’t be a case of an Iranian violation, but rather a decision to defect, using the excuse that the other side is not complying with the terms.

This is precisely what happened in 2004 – Iran reneged on the deal it had concluded with the EU-3 while accusing the EU-3 of bad behavior. If this happens regarding a future comprehensive deal, after Iran has ensured that it maintains a quick route to nuclear breakout, what would the options be to stop Iran?”

Clearly both the American and Iranian versions of the terms of the framework agreement were composed with political considerations – primarily domestic ones – in mind. However, the BBC chose to run with just one of those documents, promoting it as the only game in town and its content as authoritative.

Whilst those who have been following BBC coverage of the P5+1 negotiations with Iran (and related topics) for any length of time may not be overly surprised by the degree to which the corporation’s framing of this story reflects the messaging of the US administration, that narrow framing nevertheless prevents audiences from gaining a comprehensive understanding of the many questions still remaining before the BBC’s ‘best thing since sliced bread’ approach to this story can be justifiably described as accurate, impartial – and useful – reporting.  

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

BBC Jerusalem Bureau correspondent Yolande Knell has invested quite a bit of energy over the past three years into promoting the topic of the court case concerning the route of the anti-terrorist fence in the Cremisan Valley.  

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BBC’s Yolande Knell erases Jewish history in campaigning article  January 2014

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The same topic has also appeared in other BBC content.

On April 3rd 2015 Knell reported on the Supreme Court decision given the previous day (according to which the Israeli authorities will have to find an alternative route for that particular section of the anti-terrorist fence) in an article titled “Israeli court rejects Cremisan Valley West Bank barrier“.Knell Cremisan

Despite Israel’s Supreme Court having accepted a petition presented by a non-Israeli municipality and tens of individuals who are not Israeli citizens in a case concerning the route of a structure described by the court as “one of the ways of dealing with the threats of terror and with the aim of preventing and avoiding the infiltration of terrorists into Israeli territory”, Yolande Knell chose to downplay that exceptional aspect of the story, instead opting to focus readers’ attentions on the standard BBC mantras relating to the anti-terrorist fence and ‘settlements’.

“Construction of the barrier began in 2002, during the second Palestinian intifada or uprising, following a wave of suicide bombings.

Israel said it was an essential security measure to prevent attacks.

However, Palestinians see it largely as a land grab because much of it was built inside the occupied West Bank.

Jewish settlements and additional land have been left on the Israeli side.

Settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disagrees.”

As has been noted here before with regard to that last sentence:

“Though that mantra has been repeated countless times over the years, it is not accompanied by a definitive cited source (because of course there isn’t one) and its claim is erroneously presented as being contested only by the government of Israel. In other words, the BBC’s standard formulation egregiously ignores the existence of legal opinions which contradict its own adopted narrative.”

The standard BBC insert on the topic of the anti-terrorist fence, which inevitably includes the phrase “Israel says” and inaccurate description of the structure as a “land grab”, is no more impartial.

“The systematic failure to present audiences with the readily available factual evidence which proves the anti-terrorist fence’s efficiency – rather than the subjective presentation of “Israel says” – is clearly a failure to distinguish “opinion from fact” and a major “omission of an important perspective”.  The fact that a standard formula has been employed for over a decade also represents a failure to adhere to the demand for “impartiality over time”, presenting the same jaded “land grab” theme over a long period of years in which no such thing has happened.”

Knell’s description of Gilo and Har Gilo is equally political:

“In the Cremisan Valley, Israel’s defence ministry argued it was seeking added protection for the settlements of Har Gilo and Gilo. Israelis view these as Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem.”

As was the case in one of her previous articles on the subject, Knell refrains from informing audiences of the status of the land upon which Gilo was built, preferring to promote the standard Palestinian narrative of all Jerusalem neighbourhoods in areas occupied by Jordan during the War of Independence – including those on land owned by Jews before 1948 – as ‘settlements’. She also predictably avoids the topic of the terrorism directed at Gilo from nearby Beit Jala during the second Intifada.

At the beginning of her report Knell inaccurately informs readers that:

“Fifty-eight Christian families would have been cut off from their land.”

Those who bothered to read on discovered that was not the case:

“The Israeli authorities had said there would be access between the sites and for Palestinians trying to reach their land through gates operated by soldiers.”

Like the rest of Knell’s coverage of this story over a period of three years, this article passed up on the opportunity to provide BBC audiences with the comprehensive background necessary for audiences to understand both sides to the story in favour of the promotion of a specific political narrative.

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