Palestinian activist gets open mic for propagation of lies on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

On December 10th the afternoon version of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – hosted by Rebecca Kesby – included an item (available here from 00:45:00) concerning the death earlier in the day of Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein. Kesby introduces the item as follows:Newshour 10 12 Kesby

“Now, tensions have been high between Israelis and Palestinians in recent weeks over contested religious sites in Jerusalem and the dispute over defining Israel as a Jewish state. In the past few hours a…eh…a Palestinian minister of the government, Ziad Abu Zain [sic] has died after an altercation with Israeli soldiers near Ramallah. He was taking part in a protest against Israeli occupation. Well, Abdullah Abrama [sic] was one of the coordinators of that demonstration and a short time ago I asked him what happened.”

The person presented as Abdullah Abrama answers:

“Today is, you know, it’s the international human rights day and before one week we visited the village Turmus Aya, me and the minister Ziad Abu Ein, and we hear to the problem of the people. They told us about the settlers from Adei Ad outpost: they confiscated their land and they attack them every day, every night…”

Kesby: “OK…OK…so there was a protest. But there was some sort of argument, wasn’t there, between the minister and…err…Israeli forces there? What were the circumstances of him being taken ill?”

AA: “Yeah…for this today we organize a small action; a volunteer day to support the farmers, to go with them to plant olive trees in their land. We go in the morning. We found a big number of soldiers. They stop us. They don’t allow us to arrive the land – the private land for the farmers there – and they start to use the violence against us. One of the soldiers coming to the minister and they put them down by his helmet. They beat him by helmet…eh…his helmet to the head of the minister Abu Ein and in that time we have tear gas smoke and sound grenades smoke. He fall down and he start to stop his breath. We took him directly to the ambulance and to the hospital but for sorry he’s die.”

Kesby: “Just…in terms of being clear about exactly what happened, so you’re saying an Israeli soldier stepped forward and struck the minister over the head with his helmet. Is that what you’re saying?”

AA: “Exactly, yeah. They strike him by his helmet, yeah, and the minister fall down. They use the violence against of us, the people there. We have farmers, we have old men, we have women. They beat all of us and as I told they don’t make any consideration for the minister or for the old men.”

Kesby: “So when the minister fell to the ground, I mean, was he still alive at that point? Or was there any indication that maybe he had a heart attack or there could be some other problem he was suffering?”

AA: “When he fell down he is in a coma. We saw him in a coma and we took him directly to the ambulance and to the hospital because he’s stop talking and, ya’ani, as I say is in a coma.”

So who is the person introduced by Rebecca Kesby as “Abdullah Abrama”? There appears to be no such person but an internet search for ‘Ziad Abu Ein’ and ‘helmet’ shows that the same story of the Palestinian official being hit on the head with a helmet by an Israeli soldier was also being heavily promoted elsewhere at the same time by veteran anti-Israel activist and leading figure in the Bil’in Popular Committees Abdallah Abu Rahma (also spelt Rahmah or Rahmeh).

Screenshot from RT footage of Abu Ein after altercation

Screenshot from RT footage of Abu Ein after altercation

Obviously Abrama/Abu Rahma’s account of events is for the most part fictitious. There is no evidence in any of the filmed footage taken at the event of Abu Ein having been deliberately hit on the head with a helmet and videos also show that he clearly did not immediately ‘fall down’ – either “in a coma” or otherwise. As has already been noted here, in between the altercation with a Border Police officer and his sitting down, Abu Ein managed to give an interview to the media and it is of course highly doubtful that he did that whilst “in a coma”. Neither is there any filmed evidence to support Abrama/Abu Rahma’s claim that “all” the participants in the demonstration were beaten.

Abrama/Abu Rahma also misleads BBC audiences with regard to the circumstances of the demonstration which was in fact organized to coincide with the presentation of a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the eviction of the Adei Ad outpost.

So as we see, the corporation ostensibly committed to standards of accuracy and impartiality and claiming to be the ‘standard setter’ for international journalism has allowed its radio audiences worldwide to be completely misled by the unchallenged propaganda of a known political activist who is not even properly identified. If that were not bad enough, anyone else listening to that programme during the coming year in which it will be available on the internet or hearing it as a podcast will also be misled. Furthermore, this inaccurate and defamatory information broadcast by the supposedly reliable BBC has already been picked up and amplified by other media outlets, as this example from Radio New Zealand shows.

Obviously a media organization truly committed to the editorial standards claimed by the BBC would take steps to ensure that this grossly inaccurate item was quickly signposted as such in order to avoid misleading any more members of the public.

Related Articles:

Multiple inaccuracies in Kevin Connolly’s filmed BBC report on death of Ziad Abu Ein

BBC’s Knell at Abu Ein funeral: all the rumour not worth reporting

BBC News website’s written reports on Abu Ein continue to spread rumour

BBC showcases convicted anti-Israel activist in context-free illustration

 

 

Acid attack on Israeli children not news for BBC, false Barghouti ‘arson’ claim left standing

On December 12th a terror attack took place at the al Khader junction on Route 60, north of Gush Etzion.

“A terrorist threw acid on seven Israelis in the West Bank on Friday, including a mother with her three young daughters and her niece. Two other pedestrians were wounded in the attack. The Palestinian suspect then chased another Israeli with a screwdriver and was shot by an armed passerby.”BBC News logo

Like other non-fatal attacks, the incident has not been reported by the BBC.

Also on December 12th, a shooting attack took place at the Israeli embassy in Athens with no reported injuries. The incident was not reported on the BBC News website.

On December 7th a man wounded in the terror attack which took place at the Shimon Hatsadik light rail station in Jerusalem on November 5th died of his injuries. Sixty year-old Abd al-Karim Nafith Hamid was a resident of Jerusalem and his death brings the number of people killed in that terror attack to three. The BBC has not reported Mr Hamid’s death.

On December 11th investigators from the Fire Department announced that the November 12th incident in which a mosque in the village of Mughayir was severely damaged by fire occurred as a result of an electrical fault and was not a case of arson as had been suggested by Fatah’s Husam Zomlot in an interview with BBC World Service radio and stated by Mustafa Barghouti in an interview with BBC News.

Zomlot: “The incitement is happening on the ground on a daily basis. When every other week we have a theft of our land, this is an incitement for violence. When every other day we have a provocation to enter mosques and burn mosques, this is an incitement every day. We Palestinians are the occupied, are the ones who are subjected to the de-Arabisation of Jerusalem.”

Barghouti: “But Palestinians are attacked. During the last week a mosque was burnt. Yesterday a Palestinian bus driver was hanged by Israeli settlers.”

Both those interviews are still available on the BBC website. To date no footnote has been added to inform audiences that the claim that Israelis had burned the mosque in Mughayir is unfounded. 

BBC News website’s written reports on Abu Ein continue to spread rumour

In addition to Kevin Connolly’s filmed report on the subject of the death of Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein after an altercation at a demonstration near Turmus Aya and Yolande Knell’s filmed report from his funeral, the BBC News website also produced a written article on December 10th titled “Palestinian minister dies at West Bank protest“.Abu Ein written 10 12

The report underwent numerous changes after its initial publication which can be seen here. However, even the later versions of the article continued to amplify unverified rumours promoted by assorted actors.

“Palestinian medics told the BBC Ziad Abu Ein had died from complications related to tear gas exposure.

But several witnesses said the minister had been hit and shoved by soldiers. One said he had been hit in the chest by a tear-gas canister fired by them.” […]

“Leading Palestinian activist Mahmoud Aloul, who was also at the protest, told the Associated Press news agency the soldiers had fired tear gas and had beaten some of the activists with rifle butts.

At one point, Mr Abu Ein was hit by a tear gas canister, Mr Aloul said.

A Reuters photographer said he had seen Mr Abu Ein being struck by a hand on the neck during an altercation with two soldiers.

An AFP news agency photographer said the minister had been hit in the chest.”

Mahmoud Aloul is actually a member of the Fatah Central Committee rather than a mere “activist” and although none of the various video reports filmed during the incident have shown that Abu Ein was hit by a tear gas canister, the BBC nevertheless elected to amplify his evidence-free claims.

Like Connolly’s filmed report, this one also misrepresents the background to the demonstration, failing to inform BBC audiences that it was organized by local councils to coincide with their presentation – together with the political NGO Yesh Din – of a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the eviction of the nearby outpost Adei Ad. 

“Mr Abu Ein, a minister without portfolio, was among dozens of foreign and Palestinian activists taking part in a protest against land confiscations.

They had planned to plant olive tree saplings on a patch of land near the Jewish settlement of Shiloh, which Palestinians believe has been earmarked for annexation by Israel.”

The report includes the following cryptic statement:

“There are reports he [Abu Ein] had a health condition that may have contributed to his death.

The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says Palestinians are likely to see the exact cause of death as a secondary issue, and it will serve to sharpen tensions.”

No attempt is made to inform readers why the actual circumstances of the incident should be considered “a secondary issue” in Palestinian circles or how the assorted and inconsistent ‘witness statements’ amplified by the BBC should be viewed in light of that legitimate observation by Connolly.

Ziad Abu Ein’s conviction for a terror attack in 1979 is presented in vague terms at the end of the report. His extradition from the US is not mentioned.

“Mr Abu Ein once received the death sentence, commuted to life imprisonment, from a court in Israel for a 1979 bombing that killed two Israeli teenagers.”

On December 11th the BBC News website produced an additional article titled earlier “Palestinian minister’s funeral held amid Israel tensions” and currently going under the heading “Palestinian minister buried amid tensions over cause of death“, changes to which can be seen here.Abu Ein written 11 12

Once again the BBC fails to contribute to its audiences’ understanding of the issue by providing them with a clear, factual, verified account of events and instead opts to juxtapose fact with rumour and propaganda which – as readers will no doubt notice – changes from article to article and even from version to version. Earlier editions of this report stated:

“Palestinians have blamed Israel for his death, saying he died after being hit by a soldier and inhaling tear gas.”

Later versions informed readers that:

“Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said Ziad Abu Ein had been suffocated and beaten by Israeli soldiers.” […]

“Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told the BBC his death had been caused by “Israeli soldiers suffocating and beating up Ziad Abu Ein”, saying he held the Israeli government fully responsible.”

As was noted here in relation to Yolande Knell’s uncritical amplification of Erekat’s claims, none of the ample video evidence shows Abu Ein being either ‘suffocated’ or ‘beaten up’ and, despite a similar lack of proof that Abu Ein was “killed”, the BBC also elected to promote the following statement from Erekat.

“He said the [pathologists’] report clearly stated that Mr Abu Ein had been “killed in cold blood”.”

The article also informs readers that:

“Earlier in the day, Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian pathologists attended a preliminary examination of Mr Abu Ein’s body, but Israel and the Palestinians issued differing accounts. […]

Palestinian pathologist Saber Aloul told reporters the main cause was a blow to Ziad Abu Ein, not natural causes.

But Israel’s ministry of health said the examination showed Mr Abu Ein had underlying heart problems, and the immediate cause of death was a blockage to a cardiac artery.”

Sharp-eyed readers will no doubt have noticed that the quoted pathologist has appeared in previous BBC reports. Back in March 2013 Dr Saber al Aloul was quoted and promoted by the BBC’s Jon Donnison when he determined (despite evidence to the contrary) that Arafat Jaradat had died of “intensive torture” whilst in an Israeli prison. Notably, the PA’s Ministry of Prisoner Affairs changed the official story just one day later to “killed by collaborators”. The same PA chief pathologist was also present at the autopsy of bus driver Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni last month.

“Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine director Dr. Chen Kogel notes that Palestinian pathologist Dr. Saber Al-Aloul, appointed by the family of the driver, was present throughout the autopsy and concurred with the conclusion that the cause of death was suicide. […]

The controversy over Ramouni’s death began with a report from the Palestinian news agency Ma’an saying that the Palestinian coroner had reached the opposite conclusion and that Al-Aloul, who attended the autopsy on the family’s behalf, believed the cause of death to be homicide and not suicide. The report did not quote Al-Aloul directly, but ascribed this claim to him. The Palestinian pathologist has neither confirmed nor denied the report since its publication.”

The Times of Israel reported that the Palestinian pathologist refrained from answering calls and as was also noted here at the time, despite the available scientific evidence the BBC promoted the notion that the bus driver had been murdered on no fewer than seven different occasions and suggested that was a relevant ‘background factor’ to the terror attack at the synagogue in Har Nof.

Obviously Dr Al Aloul has quite a history of questionable statements but nevertheless, the BBC continues to quote him without qualification.

Like the filmed reports by Connolly and Knell, this article also avoids mentioning that in between his altercation with the Border Police officer and the point at which he sat down on a rock feeling unwell, Ziad Abu Ein managed to give an interview to the media.

“Footage and images from the scene of the protest, near the unauthorised Jewish outpost of Adei Ad, showed a standoff between troops and Palestinians, followed by a scuffle between a protester and a soldier.

At one point Mr Abu Ein is seen being pushed by his throat by the border guard. He is subsequently seen collapsed on the ground. He was later taken to hospital in Ramallah but died on the way.”

And also in common with those two reports, the full background to the demonstration in which Abu Ein took part is not provided to readers.

As was the case in the earlier written report, this one also promotes the allegation made by a Fatah central committee member, despite the lack of evidence in support of that claim.  

“Palestinian witnesses and news agency journalists said tear gas was fired. Palestinian activist Mahmoud Aloul said Mr Abu Ein was hit by a tear gas canister.”

Ziad Abu Ein’s conviction for a terrorist attack was not included in this report.

As we see in both these written reports the BBC has promoted a plethora of varied and often contradictory ‘witness accounts’ of the events surrounding Ziad Abu Ein’s death. Those accounts, along with the BBC’s own descriptions of events, include “complications related to tear gas exposure”, “hit and shoved by soldiers”, “hit in the chest by a tear-gas canister”, “struck by a hand on the neck”, “hit in the chest”, “suffocated and beaten”, “grabbed by the throat”, “pushed by his throat” and “killed in cold blood”.

Clearly the sheer number of different versions of the story alone should have been enough to prompt some serious fact-checking before these two articles were published. Instead, the BBC simply published whatever rumour and second-hand hearsay came its way, once again failing to provide audiences with anything which can be described as a reliable, informative, evidence-based account of events. 

BBC’s Knell at Abu Ein funeral: all the rumour not worth reporting

On December 11th viewers of BBC television news were shown a filmed report by Yolande Knell about the funeral of Ziad Abu Ein which was also promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Thousands attend funeral for Zaid Abu Ein amid tensions“.Knell funeral Abu Ein filmed

By the time that report was broadcast well over 24 hours had passed since Abu Ein’s death, during which not only had filmed material from a number of sources come to light, but an autopsy had been carried out. One may therefore have expected that Knell’s report would be free of the many inaccuracies which marred Kevin Connolly’s filmed report from the previous day. That, however, was not the case.

Like Connolly, Knell does not adequately inform audiences of the circumstances of the demonstration attended by Abu Ein, saying:

“A day ago, dozens of protesters gathered to plant olive trees by a Palestinian village. This was meant to be a symbolic show that the land, near a Jewish settlement, is rightly theirs.”

As was noted here in connection with Connolly’s very similar representation of the subject:

“In fact, the protesters – who were organized by the councils of adjacent villages – arrived at the specific location at the particular juncture because on that day the political NGO Yesh Din, together with the same local councils, presented a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the eviction of the nearby outpost Adei Ad – as stated by the organisation’s lawyer Shlomi Zacharia in the interview here (Hebrew, from 7:24).”

Like Connolly, Knell also misrepresents the sequence of events, telling viewers that:

“…Israel’s security forces were waiting for them and Mr Abu Ein was caught up in angry scenes. At one point an Israeli border policeman briefly grabbed his throat. He fell to the ground.”

The fact that (as can be seen in filmed footage of the incident) Abu Ein engaged in physical and verbal provocation of the security forces goes unmentioned in Knell’s account of events. Likewise, she inaccurately tells audiences that Abu Ein “fell to the ground” when he actually sat down of his own accord and implies that happened immediately after the altercation with the Border Police officer, whilst in fact Abu Ein managed to give an interview to the media between the two events. Knell also fails to mention that an Israeli paramedic tried to treat Abu Ein, but that he was instead quickly evacuated by a Palestinian ambulance and died on the way to hospital.

Knell misrepresents the results of the autopsy, presenting the fact that Abu Ein was already suffering from ischemic heart disease as an Israeli claim only. She both amplifies Palestinian conspiracy theories herself and provides an unchallenged platform for Saeb Erekat to further embroider the tale.

Knell: “Israel says he died of a heart attack and had a pre-existing condition. But after a post-mortem exam, Palestinians say he was killed in cold blood.”

Erekat: “Of course, ya’ani, he could have been killed by his…eh…an explosion his main artery but what caused this? What caused this was Israeli soldiers suffocating and beating up Ziad Abu Ein. They are fully responsible. The Israeli government is held fully responsible in accordance with the autopsy report.”

There is of course no evidence to show that Abu Ein was either ‘suffocated’ or ‘beaten up’ but nevertheless Knell fails to communicate that fact to viewers.

This is of course far from the first time that we have seen the BBC not only failing to provide audiences with the necessary information which will help them to distinguish between reality and the chaff of rumour, hearsay and propaganda but also amplifying the latter on an equal footing with established facts. Just last month when an autopsy determined that a Palestinian bus driver had committed suicide, the BBC saw fit to promote unproven claims that he had been murdered in no fewer than seven reports on numerous platforms.

Licence fee payers are no doubt wondering what is the point of funding a news organization which cannot – or will not – distinguish between blatant political propaganda and reality and thus repeatedly fails to help its audiences understand the facts behind events. 

 

Why the BBC Middle Editor’s Northern Ireland analogy is wrong

“Now, Britain negotiated with the IRA and finally managed to make a peace agreement and Britain continued to negotiate with the IRA even when they were taking action against the British. Isn’t that the sensible way to make peace?”

That statement-cum-question was put to the Israeli prime minister in April of this year by the BBC’s Middle East editor and of course Jeremy Bowen is far from the only person within media circles and beyond to use the inaccurate Northern Ireland analogy. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that the person who has the last word on the accuracy, impartiality and tone of the corporation’s Middle East related content, as well as playing a role in defining the content of the mandatory Middle East module taught at the BBC College of Journalism, subscribes to the erroneous and misleading notion that the two conflicts – and their solutions – are comparable.

The fallacious nature of the Northern Ireland analogy was recently laid out in a detailed article by writer Eamonn MacDonagh.

“In recent years, debates over how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might be resolved have begun to make frequent reference to a fairy tale. This tale is based on the supposedly similar conflict in Northern Ireland between Great Britain and the Provisional IRA. That conflict was ultimately resolved with a peace treaty, and the suggestion is frequently made that if only Israel and Hamas could be persuaded to implement its lessons, then all would quickly be made well. […]

In fact, drawing an analogy between the conflict in Northern Ireland and the Middle East is not simply unjustified; it is an error of the grossest kind.”

Read the whole article here

Clarifications required for BBC reports on Shati incident

As we noted here the other day, the Israeli Military Attorney General (MAG) has published the findings of some of the investigations conducted into incidents which occurred in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.

One of the incidents investigated was the deaths of ten civilians on July 28th at the Shati refugee camp, along with an alleged attack on Shifa hospital on the same afternoon. The findings are as follows:Tweet Shifa

“Various media reports alleged that on 28 July 2014, an incident occurred involving a strike on medical clinics belonging to the Al-Shifa Hospital, as well as a strike on a park where children were present in the Shati Refugee Camp, and as a result of which ten persons (including nine children) were killed and tens injured. Some of these reports alleged that the strikes were carried out by the IDF. As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, it was decided to refer the incident for examination by the FFAM [Fact Finding Assessment Mission – Ed.].

Following a thorough review conducted by the FFAM, such a strike by IDF forces could not be identified. However, Israel’s technical systems recorded in real-time the path of a salvo of missiles fired from within the Gaza Strip, seemingly by Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which landed in the medical clinics and in the Shati Refugee Camp at the time of the alleged incident. Under these circumstances, and in light of the fact that the strike on the hospital was the result of rocket fire from Palestinian terrorist organizations, the MAG ordered the case to be closed.”

Material relating to those incidents which is still available to the general public on the BBC News website includes:

Gaza conflict: Disputed deadly incidents” – originally published on July 31st 2014 and discussed here.

“Gaza’s police, Civil Defence Directorate and health officials say Israeli air strikes caused the explosions. According to Al-Jazeera, Hamas denied it had fired any rockets from the area and said it was “categorically an Israeli air strike”. Hamas said it had collected shrapnel from the scene consistent with Israeli munitions, the channel’s website reported.

In a text message quoted by AP news agency, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described the incident as a “war crime” for which “the occupation” would pay the price.”

Gaza in critical condition, says UN’s Ban Ki-moon” July 28th 2014

“Police and health officials said separate Israeli airstrikes had hit the compound of Gaza City’s main hospital and a nearby playground on Monday afternoon, causing casualties.

But a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said both explosions were caused by misfired rockets that were launched from Gaza by “terrorists”.”

Gaza City and Israel’s Eshkol hit by deadly blasts” originally published on July 28th 2014

“At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in Monday afternoon’s blasts in Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said.

Palestinian officials say the 10 were killed by Israeli missile strikes, but Israel says the explosions were caused by rockets misfired by “terrorists”.”

Israel PM Netanyahu warns of ‘prolonged’ Gaza campaign” July 29th 2014

“At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in blasts in Gaza City on Monday afternoon, Palestinian health officials said. It is unclear if they were killed by an Israeli attack or a misfiring militant rocket.”

Middle East crisis: Children pay heavy price in Gaza” Ian Pannell, July 28th 2014Pannell report

“A hospital already overflowing with casualties was engulfed in chaos. Parents and relatives frantically searching for their children. The wards were full of them. Fourteen year-old Mohammed had shrapnel in his back. ‘We were playing in the street and they hit us’, he said. ‘They targeted us. Lots of children were killed.’ And next to him, four year-old Ola [phonetic]. Shrapnel cut into her small body. Israel has denied it was responsible for this.

Woman: “Then who fired it? I ran outside and found my daughters. If the Israelis didn’t do it, who did? Did my daughters launch the rocket?”

Marching up the hill to bury two small boys. They’d played together, they were killed together and now, they were going to be buried together. The boys’ father says his sons are martyrs who died for the resistance against Israel.”

All of the above are discussed here.

Clearly the BBC’s June 2014 announcement stating that “however long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it” means that all the above reports need to have a note of clarification urgently added, informing audiences of the actual circumstances of the incident. 

Multiple inaccuracies in Kevin Connolly’s filmed BBC report on death of Ziad Abu Ein

On December 10th the BBC produced several reports concerning the death of PA official Ziad Abu Ein after an altercation with Israeli security forces near Turmus Aya.

One of those reports was a filmed item by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly which appeared on BBC television news programmes as well as on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinian minister dies during West Bank protest“. In fact, Abu Ein was not a “Palestinian minister” at the time of his death; his title (since September 2013) was head of the PLO’s ‘Commission Against the Separation Wall and Settlements’. Previously Abu Ein had held the position of deputy minister for prisoners’ affairs. The synopsis to that report amplifies assorted unverified rumours concerning the cause of his death:Abu Ein filmed Connolly

“A Palestinian minister has died after a confrontation with Israeli troops at a protest in the West Bank.

Palestinian medics told the BBC Ziad Abu Ein had died from complications related to tear gas exposure.

But several witnesses said the minister had been hit and shoved by soldiers. One said he had been hit in the chest by a tear-gas canister fired by them.”

The report opens with Kevin Connolly informing viewers that:

“The Palestinian protesters came to Turmus Aya in the occupied West Bank because they believe Israel has earmarked this land for its own future development. It’s near an existing Jewish settlement. The demonstrators came to plant olive trees: a way of saying the land is theirs.”

In fact, the protesters – who were organized by the councils of adjacent villages – arrived at the specific location at the particular juncture because on that day the political NGO Yesh Din, together with the same local councils, presented a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the eviction of the nearby outpost Adei Ad – as stated by the organisation’s lawyer Shlomi Zacharia in the interview here (Hebrew, from 7:24). Connolly continues:

“Israel’s security forces were waiting for them. The clashes were nothing new in this bitterly contested place. Israeli troops used tear gas as the confrontation developed. Ziad Abu Ein appeared, breathless, before the cameras to condemn Israel.”

Viewers then see footage of Abu Ein speaking to the media with a voiceover translation of his words:

“They are assaulting us. This is the terrorism of the occupation. This is a terrorist army, practices terrorism against the Palestinian people. Nobody threw a stone and nobody fought back.”

The BBC News website also saw fit to publish a separate filmed item under the title “They’re assaulting us – Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein” with a synopsis also amplifying unverified rumour.Abu Ein filmed 2

“There are conflicting reports about his death – medics told the BBC he died from complications related to exposure to tear gas, but several witnesses said the minister had been hit and shoved by soldiers.”

Returning to Connolly’s report, he then tells viewers:

“Then, Mr Abu Ein – a veteran Palestinian official – emerged at the centre of the angry scenes. Apparently grabbed by the throat at one point by an Israeli border police officer, he fell to the ground and was treated at the scene. But minutes after these images were captured, he had died on his way to hospital.”

Connolly’s chronology of events is in fact inaccurate. Reporter Roy Sharon from Channel 10 was at the scene and standing by Abu Ein at the time of the altercation. According to Sharon, who also filmed the events (see here from 8:25 and here from 3:16 – Hebrew), the security forces used tear gas in response to an attempt by the protesters to approach the outpost (not mentioned by Connolly), the altercation between Abu Ein and the Border Police officers took place about 15 minutes after the tear gas had been used and the interview given by Abu Ein to the media took place after his provocation of the security forces – not before as Connolly claims. Some four minutes later Abu Ein sat down on a rock feeling unwell, an Israeli paramedic approached him to offer help and roughly five minutes after that an ambulance arrived to transport him to hospital. Sky News correspondent Tom Rayner who was also at the scene tweeted:

Abu Ein Rayner tweet

A subsequent autopsy showed that Ziad Abu Ein died of a heart attack.

“The deceased suffered from heart disease, and there was evidence that plaque buildup were clogging more than 80% of his blood vessels, as well as signs that he had suffered heart attacks in the past.”

Connolly’s report goes on to show an interview with Hanan Ashrawi who, despite not having been present at the scene as far as is known, states:

“Ziad was guilty of nothing more than planting olive trees where Israel would uproot trees, was guilty of nothing more than ensuring that we remain on the land where Israel was trying to expel people.”

Despite seeing fit to amplify Ashrawi’s baseless propaganda, Connolly did not find it necessary to inform BBC audiences that Ziad Abu Ein was a convicted terrorist responsible for the deaths of two Israeli boys and the wounding of thirty others in a bomb attack on the market in Tiberias in 1979. Neither were audiences informed that when the terrorist leader Marwan Barghouti was arrested by Israeli forces in 2002, he was hiding in Abu Ein’s house.

Connolly closes:

“As news of Ziad Abu Ein’s death spread the Palestinian Authority declared three days of mourning. It hasn’t said how it will respond politically but Mr Abu Ein’s death will further escalate the tension that’s been steadily rising here. Israel says it’s sorry for his death, is investigating and has offered to help with the autopsy. But Palestinian anger runs deep.”Abu Ein Davies Tweet

In fact, shortly after the incident Jibril Rajoub stated that the PA would halt security coordination with Israel – although such a move does not appear to have been implemented so far.

One thing, however, is certain: inaccurate reporting of the kind seen in Connolly’s report and on from BBC employees on social media can only add to the already incendiary cocktail of rumour and propaganda surrounding Abu Ein’s death and hence contribute to a potentially dangerous escalation of tensions.  

More BBC wind in the sails of NGO’s lawfare campaign

On December 9th the BBC News website published an article titled “Amnesty: Israeli strikes on Gaza buildings ‘war crimes’” on its Middle East page. Ninety-one of the article’s 535 words are devoted to BBC produced background information. Of the remaining 444 words, two hundred and eighty-three are repetition or paraphrasing of Amnesty International’s claims and one hundred and sixty-one represent Israel’s response to the report.AI report

Whilst the article uncritically repeats the various claims made by Amnesty International – including that of “collective punishment” – it does not inform BBC audiences of the dubious methodology used in the report’s compilation. Neither are readers informed that the report was written without AI having access to information regarding the military value of the sites beyond the hearsay its unnamed researchers gleaned from members of the public in the Gaza Strip and cherry-picked quotes from media reports.

In its background information, the article informs readers that:

“The 50-day conflict in Gaza between Israel and militant groups led by Hamas left at least 2,189 Palestinians dead, including more than 1,486 civilians, according to the UN, and 11,000 injured. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed, with scores more wounded.”

Let’s look at that oddly phrased claim more closely. The BBC tells its audiences that “at least” 2,189 Palestinians died, of whom “more than” 1,486 (a very precise number) were civilians. But how many more? If the BBC is sure that “more than” the 1,486 were civilians, why can it not tell audiences exactly how many of the casualties were civilians and how many were combatants? Of course what these quoted numbers also mean is that the BBC is informing audiences that at the very most, 703 of the casualties were not civilians. In other words, a maximum 32% of the casualties were, according to the BBC, combatants.

As we know, the BBC has been uncritically quoting Hamas and UN supplied casualty figures (for details on how the UN arrives at those figures, see here) from the beginning of the summer conflict itself and ever since. However, nearly four months after the conflict came to an end we have still not seen evidence of any effort by the BBC to independently confirm the figures it repeatedly promotes.

The ITIC has to date examined approximately 54% of the names of casualties provided by Palestinian sources. Its research so far indicates that some 52% of those casualties were terrorist operatives and 48% civilians. That is obviously a very different picture than the one presented by the figures the BBC chooses to quote and yet, at no point has the BBC adhered to its own impartiality guidelines by informing audiences of the existence of the ITIC’s research.

As regular readers will be aware, this is far from the first time that the BBC has provided uncritical amplification of reports or statements from political NGOs in general and Amnesty International in particular. Examples of BBC promotion of Amnesty material relating to Israel during the past year alone can be seen here, here, here, here and here.  

The raison d’être of Amnesty International’s latest report is, once again, not difficult to determine.

“These attacks need to be independently and impartially investigated, as do all serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law alleged to have been committed during the conflict. Amnesty International’s view is that no official body capable of conducting such investigations currently exists in Israel. It is therefore all the more important that the Commission of Inquiry set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council in July 2014 is allowed to conduct its investigations without hindrance.”

In other words, this report is part of the lawfare campaign initiated just days after the start of the summer conflict by Amnesty International and additional political NGOs (several of which have also been extensively promoted by the BBC). And once more, that campaign is getting uncritical BBC wind in its sails.

One cannot but be reminded of the words of Matti Friedman in his recent article on the topic of foreign media coverage of Israel.

“The best insight into one of the key phenomena at play here comes not from a local reporter but from the journalist and author Philip Gourevitch. In Rwanda and elsewhere in Africa, Gourevitch wrote in 2010, he was struck by the ethical gray zone of ties between reporters and NGOs. “Too often the press represents humanitarians with unquestioning admiration,” he observed in The New Yorker. “Why not seek to keep them honest? Why should our coverage of them look so much like their own self-representation in fund-raising appeals? Why should we (as many photojournalists and print reporters do) work for humanitarian agencies between journalism jobs, helping them with their official reports and institutional appeals, in a way that we would never consider doing for corporations, political parties, or government agencies?”

This confusion is very much present in Israel and the Palestinian territories, where foreign activists are a notable feature of the landscape, and where international NGOs and numerous arms of the United Nations are among the most powerful players, wielding billions of dollars and employing many thousands of foreign and local employees. […]

In my time in the press corps, I learned that our relationship with these groups was not journalistic. My colleagues and I did not, that is, seek to analyze or criticize them. For many foreign journalists, these were not targets but sources and friends—fellow members, in a sense, of an informal alliance. This alliance consists of activists and international staffers from the UN and the NGOs; the Western diplomatic corps, particularly in East Jerusalem; and foreign reporters.”

As we see above, the BBC continues to indulge its ‘journavism’ habit of uncritical repetition and amplification of claims made by political NGOs of a certain genre.   

Related Articles:

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part two

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part three

Antisemitic comments (again) on BBC WHYS Facebook post… about show on antisemitism

The December 9th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ came from Brussels, where presenter Rabiya Limbada met with members of Belgium’s Jewish community. The programme (available for a limited period of time here) is titled “Is anti-semitism on the rise in Europe?” and its synopsis states:WHYS prog page

“World Have Your Say is live in Belgium’s captial [sic] Brussels looking at anti-Semitism in Europe. Is it on the rise? If it is, what’s causing it?”

The first half of the programme was devoted mostly to the topic of the personal experiences of members of the panel whilst the second part addressed the issue of the causes of rising antisemitism in Europe. Among the factors identified were the conflation of Jews and Israelis (blaming European Jews for perceived Israeli wrongdoings), the demonization of Jews and the rise of hate speech on the internet.

As usual, the programme’s host invited listeners to comment on the topic under discussion on the WHYS Facebook wall. Given the subject matter, one might perhaps have expected that a particular effort would have been made this time around to avoid the appearance of antisemitic comments, defamation, demonisation and hate speech – as has been the case on that programme’s Facebook wall (as well as other BBC discussion boards) in the past.

Here are some examples of comments left standing after moderation.

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WHYS 2

WHYS 3

WHYS 4

WHYS 5

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As we remarked here only a month ago in connection with the same programme:

“The BBC’s casual acceptance of antisemitic comments on the public discussion boards intended to meet its remit to “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues” is an increasingly worrying aspect of the corporation’s interpretation of that particular “public purpose” as defined in its constitutional document.”

Clearly the BBC’s moderation mechanism is not fit for purpose. So far, it is not apparent that any action is being taken by the BBC on this issue.

Related Articles:

Antisemitism on BBC WS ‘World Have Your Say’ Facebook page

Nazi analogies and ‘apartheid’ defamation on BBC World ‘Have Your Say’ Facebook account

BBC’s WHYS promotes Gaza interviewee with a penchant for antisemitic imagery

 

Jeremy Bowen’s olive harvest feature fails to offer BBC audiences anything new

As readers are aware, the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen’s audio report titled ‘Olive Wars’ was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on December 7th. The programme is available here from 01:25.Bowen olives audio

In order to appreciate the rationale behind Bowen’s report it is useful to look first at his closing remarks.

“Now, in its own way, what’s happening in this valley is a microcosm of the entire conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. One fundamental aspect of it – not the only one, but a vital thing to understand – is the fact that there is one piece of land and historically there have been two peoples who want it. The whole point of the peace process – now collapsed, of course – was to find a way to divide it between them. Travelling around the harvest I’ve seen that what they have instead is no kind of acceptable status quo. Ask Bassem and Naja Rashid; the couple whose olive trees were cut down by settlers. Or in Israel, the olive producer Yaniv Zaban; looking on uncomfortably as he sees Palestinian farmers’ trees being destroyed. Jewish settlers like Avraham Herzlich in Tapuach seem fairly content under the current Israeli government: the force is with them. But the way things are there isn’t just a risk of more bloodshed: it’s certain. That’s not good for any Palestinian or Israeli and – at a time when the whole world can feel the impact of the tumult in the Middle East – that’s not good for the rest of us either.”

The take-away message for BBC audiences is therefore that the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is all about land, that it can be solved by the division of that land and that as long as it remains unsolved, it will affect “the rest of us” negatively because the Middle East’s mess is spreading beyond the region.

Leaving aside Bowen’s obviously specious linkage between events such as the Syrian civil war, the rise of ISIS and other Islamist Jihadists and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – and his transparent attempt to inflate the latter’s regional and global significance – the obvious question is why did Bowen seek to convey his take-away message through the medium of the olive harvest? The answer to that is found in the opportunities it presents for framing the story in a manner which advances an already well-worn political narrative.

One very dominant theme in Bowen’s report can be summed up as old versus new, ‘authentic’ versus modern, ‘traditional’ and ‘artisan’ versus industrial. In his opening sentence he informs listeners that “the olive harvest is all about tradition”. Two and a half minutes into the item he goes to visit “the oldest olive tree in these parts”, located near “ancient terraces” and there he – and of course BBC audiences – are told that the supposedly four thousand year-old tree:SONY DSC

“…stands as a symbol to the Palestinian people – the history and civilization.”

The report’s opening message is clear: like their olive trees, the Palestinians have been there since time immemorial, with no history worth mentioning having existed beforehand – or indeed since.

Bowen next visits the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane where he links the local olive trees to Christian tradition and the New Testament. At no point are listeners told what the original Hebrew name for Gethsemane – Gat Shmanim – means or that olive oil production was integral to ancient Jewish culture. Bowen tells listeners:

“…and from up here on the Mount of Olives you get the classic view of old Jerusalem but you can see the modern parts of the city  as well, including the settlements for Jews that Israel has built on the territory it captured during the 1967 war. That’s forbidden by international law and it’s taken big chunks out of the land that the Palestinians want for an independent state.”

Bowen’s partisan representation of “international law” of course breaches BBC editorial guidelines by not informing listeners of the existence of alternative legal opinions on the issue and his claim that the Jerusalem neighbourhoods he chooses to brand “settlements” were built “for Jews” is inaccurate: residents of other faiths (or none) and ethnicities also live in those districts.  

Later on listeners are told by Bowen that:

“Palestinian farmers get a quarter of their incomes from olives but it’s about more than money. The trees are the most powerful symbol of Palestinian attachment to the land.”

Bowen also visits an olive farm at Moshav Sde Uziahu in the Be’er Tuvia district where he compares farming methods.SONY DSC

“I’ve crossed from the West Bank to Israel and it’s a very different approach here in the olive harvest. The farm here’s called The Olive People; they have seven thousand trees. Flat land – not mountainous like the West Bank – and they’re using a machine to harvest the olives: an extraordinary sight. The machine grabs the trunk of the tree, gives it a good shaking. Some of the workers hit the branches as well to get the olives off. It is a very, very big contrast to the old, artisanal methods they use in Palestinian areas.”

Bowen’s travels also take him to another unnamed area:

“I’ve come from Israel into the occupied West Bank to a beautiful area of hills. But this is a controversial place because up over to my right are a number of Jewish settlements – quite radical, ideological ones – and here on the adjoining hill there is a timeless area of terracing and olive trees and Palestinians farming them.”

An additional theme promoted by Bowen is the contrast between the physical Palestinian attachment to the land symbolized by their “ancient” and “timeless” connection to the olive trees and Israeli claims to the land – which are framed exclusively by Bowen in terms of intangible religious belief.

“I’m at the home of Bassem Rashid and his wife Naja and they’re harvesting their olives here. […] Now, this couple have other trees up near the settlement of Tapuach where there are Jews that believe that this land should belong to them. And they are not able to get to those trees and worse still, they heard only a couple of days ago that those trees up there – some they say are a hundred years old – have been cut down by the settlers.”

Note how later on in his closing words (see above) Bowen transforms something the Rashid’s have heard – but has obviously not been independently verified by the BBC – into fact. Significantly, Bowen refrains from making any direct reference to instances in which Palestinians have caused damage to Israeli agriculture. Quoting the highly partisan UN OCHA, he unquestioningly informs listeners:

“According to the UN office for humanitarian affairs, attacks by Jewish settlers in the last five years on Palestinians and their property have destroyed around fifty thousand fruit trees – mainly olives. […] The Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, breeds violence. Jewish settlers and Palestinians attack each other. Some Jewish settlers moved to the occupied territories to get cheap housing but extremists in ideological settlements believe the land is theirs alone and the trees are a legitimate target.”

Interestingly, Bowen later on uses the term “settlers” in a different context.

“The first Jewish settlers – the early Zionists – were mainly secular. Their conflict with the Palestinians was first of all about possession of land. But religion is more prominent now on both sides. Some Jewish settlers, like Avraham, believe that God gave the land to them and Islamists on the other side are a big part of Palestinian nationalism. If you think you’re doing God’s will, there isn’t much room for negotiation.”

Of course the pre-state conflicts between Jews and Arabs were by no means limited to disputes about land, as the fact that the riots of 1929 were directed particularly at the ancient Jewish communities in Hebron, Jerusalem and Tsfat indicates. Bowen downplays the long-standing influence of religion on the conflict and elects not to explain to listeners the concept – in particular relevant to Islamists such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood – according to which ‘Muslim lands’ cannot be given up or negotiated away.

But what is most noticeable about Bowen’s framing of the issue is that it completely erases from audience view the very relevant subject of the Mandate for Palestine and the fact that the area designated for the creation of the Jewish National Home included Judea and Samaria – later conquered (with more than a little help from their British friends) and belligerently occupied by Jordan for the nineteen years between 1948 and 1967. Of course any reference to that key point would have undermined Bowen’s use of the term “Palestinian land”, which features in another of the themes he promotes in this item: the anti-terrorist fence.

Apparently describing the terror attack of October 22nd, Bowen tells listeners:

“Tension’s always high around here and in this part of Jerusalem there’s just been an attack on some Israelis so the police, the military are out in force. You can see guns, there are sirens, there’s confusion. Palestinians argue that if there wasn’t an occupation there wouldn’t be attacks.”

He refrains from informing audiences that, inter alia, the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip long since disproved that claim and continues:

“The Israeli government disagrees and insists it must protect its people by building walls and fences: the so-called West bank separation barrier. But that doesn’t follow the boundary Israel had before it captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. It cuts through Palestinian land and separates some Palestinian olive farmers from their trees.”

Along with his misrepresentation of the 1949 Armistice Line as a “boundary” (the Armistice Agreement specifically states that it is no such thing), Bowen refrains from informing listeners of the fact that the “Palestinian land” he describes was previously occupied by Jordan, administered by Britain and prior to that, controlled by the Ottoman Empire for five hundred years. He also avoids mentioning the campaign of terrorism during the second Intifada which brought about the construction of the anti-terrorist fence as a result of public pressure on the Israeli government and, significantly, he fails to clarify that the terror initiated by Arafat came after Israel had handed over control of Areas A and B to the Palestinian Authority, indicating once again that the evacuation of land by Israel does not prevent terror attacks. Later on Bowen even egregiously and entirely unnecessarily promotes the defamatory and inaccurate term “apartheid wall”:

“I’m right up against what the Israelis call their security fence. Palestinians call it an apartheid or segregation wall and the problem for the people of Anin – the farmers here – is that yes; they do get access during the harvest and the gate is only open even then for limited periods during the day, but for the rest of the year when they want to maintain the land, look after the trees, they can’t get at it. It’s a once a year visit that they do to harvest the olives themselves.”

Bowen later meets the owner of the Canaan olive press, Palestinian-American Nasser Abu Farha, although Mr Abu Farha’s American citizenship apparently did not fit in with his promoted themes. Neither apparently did the tanks used to store the olive oil at Canaan Fair Trade (see related articles below) – in contrast to similar ones seen at Moshav Sde Uziahu which Bowen took the trouble to describe as “modern stainless steel vessels”. Bowen alleges:SONY DSC

“Now, not far from here there are Jewish settlements which are known for mounting raids on the trees, cutting them down, burning them, sometimes stealing the finished oil. From your point of view, what does that say to you about the situation here?”

Abu Farha: “I wouldn’t blame it all on the settlers. I think the settlers are more encouraged in the areas where the government have fenced these areas as security buffer zones for their settlements. Somehow this fencing and barring the farmers from regularly tending their farms becomes a perception to the settlers that maybe this farmer shouldn’t be there in the first place. I would put more blame on the system.”

Notably, the issue of Palestinian responsibility for bringing about the construction of the anti-terrorist fence does not arise because in this entire report Palestinians are portrayed as weak, passive and without any agency whatsoever.

 Bowen’s report is very obviously tailored for his British Radio 4 audience. “Authentic”, “traditional” Palestinian farmers engaged in Fair Trade production of olive oil from ancient trees pushes a lot of sympathetic buttons. So too does the notion that these farmers have to grapple with violent, religiously motivated extremist settlers and an “apartheid wall” to get to “Palestinian land”.

In his introduction to this item Bowen states:SONY DSC

“The olive harvest is about politics. Everything is politicized here and it’s the politics of the struggle for land between two peoples who want it. And in that struggle, the olive tree has become a very potent symbol and the olive harvest has at times become a very serious flashpoint.”

Of course much of the annual politicization of the olive harvest is attributable in no small part to the mutually beneficial collaboration between Western media outlets and local political actors, with this report being no exception. Whilst Bowen made it clear right from the beginning that BBC audiences were not going to learn anything about the non-political aspects of the olive harvest, his report is nothing more than a tediously predictable collection of well-worn clichés which do not contribute anything new to deeper audience understanding of the real political issues behind his subject matter and merely retread the routes taken by Bowen and his colleagues on countless previous occasions.

BBC audiences have already been told hundreds of times about ‘illegal settlements’ and their supposedly belligerent residents. The ‘evils’ of what the BBC mistakenly calls the ‘separation barrier’ have been done to death and audiences are already more than used to the BBC’s inflation of the Palestinian Israeli conflict into the major issue in the Middle East. In fact, apart from the licence fee payer-funded opportunity for Jeremy Bowen to purchase some cheap olive oil and the chance for yet more transparent promotion of the BBC’s chosen political narrative, there appears to have been no journalistic point to this exercise whatsoever.   

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BBC serves up political propaganda with olives