BBC does free PR for UN HRC

Three times a year the UN Human Rights Council turns its attentions to ‘Agenda item 7′.

“While all 193 countries of the world are addressed under Agenda Item 4, “Human rights situations requiring the world’s attention,” only Israel gets its own special treatment, under Agenda Item 7, “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories .””

It is precisely that long-existing disproportionate focus on Israel which prompted the US Secretary of State to make the following statement earlier this month:

“No one in this room can deny that there is an unbalanced focus on one democratic country,” he said, decrying the fact that no country other than Israel has a permanent agenda item on the council’s schedule. “The (council’s) obsession with Israel actually risks undermining the credibility of the entire organization.”

And of course the HRC is not the only UN body to display such politically motivated bias: just last week, for example, its Commission on the Status of Women singled out one country alone for censure in its latest resolution.

That context is obviously relevant to any article written about UN HRC statements concerning Israel but readers of the BBC’s March 23rd article titled “Israel accused at UN over Gaza war casualties” were not provided with any such objective background. Instead, readers found the following versions of the BBC’s standard ‘Israel says’ formulation in its fourth and thirteenth paragraphs:UN HRC art 23 3

“Israel has previously accused the body of being biased against it.”

“In Israel, the foreign ministry told Reuters that the UN’s annual debate about human rights in Gaza and the West Bank “negatively singles out Israel and Israel every year asks its friends on the council not to express themselves”.”

The article misleads BBC audiences by the use of unqualified quotes from the latest ‘special rapporteur’ (with no mention of the Arab League’s involvement in his appointment to the post) suggesting that the number of civilian casualties in a conflict is indication of violation of the Law of Armed Combat.

“The scale of civilian deaths in Gaza during the 2014 war with Israel puts Israel’s adherence to international law in doubt, a UN official has said. […]

At the meeting, special rapporteur Makarim Wibisono criticised Israel’s conduct during the July-August conflict.

“The ferocity of destruction and high proportion of civilian lives lost in Gaza cast serious doubts over Israel’s adherence to international humanitarian law principles of proportionality, distinction and precautions in attack,” he told the council.”

However – as noted (page 35 onwards) in the recent report ‘2014 Gaza War Assessment’– that is not a sound legal argument.

“One of the asymmetries that irregular forces seek to take advantage of against their conventional opponents – especially if that opponent is a liberal democracy – is commitment to the rule of law. States that respect their own citizens’ rights and observe the rule of law generally demand that their armed forces conduct operations in accordance with all applicable domestic and international law. This is rarely the case among guerillas, insurgents, terrorists and non-state armed groups. Unconventional adversaries frequently seek to exploit the presence of civilians, believing it will provide functional immunity from law-committed militaries.

These tactics are emboldened by widespread misunderstanding of LOAC not just among warring parties but also media, observers and the international public – a misunderstanding built on the false assumption that the law prohibits the infliction of any and all civilian casualties. In fact, LOAC tolerates the infliction of harm to civilians and destruction of civilian property during armed conflict, prohibiting such harm only when it is inflicted deliberately, or when it is assessed as an excessive incidental consequence of a deliberate attack on a lawful target. However, the persistence of misconceptions about LOAC’s content and requirements will enable continued manipulation of legal arguments, risk incentivizing further exploitation of civilian populations and thereby risk greater civilian deaths in future urban conflicts. For this reason, clarity on LOAC’s requirements is paramount.”

And, as Col Richard Kemp has noted:

“It is worth emphasizing that proportionality is not, as often believed by critics of Israel, a relationship between the numbers of casualties on either side in a conflict, but a calculation that considers whether the incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated in an attack.”

Neither does the writer of this article clarify to readers that the number of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip in July and August 2014 (which the BBC has not independently verified since the end of the conflict) is not a “high proportion” at all in comparison to other conflicts.

Readers again came across the “Israel says” formulation (a way of supposedly ticking the impartiality box without actual BBC endorsement of statements) in the following section of the article:

“He [Wibisono] lamented “acute” needs in Gaza, warning that Israel’s continued “blockade keeps Gaza in a stranglehold which does not even allow people to help themselves”.

Israel says its tight restrictions over Gaza’s northern and eastern borders and coastline are vital to protect it from attacks by militants.”

No effort is made by the BBC to provide readers with objective and factual information regarding the reasons for the border restrictions and naval blockade, including the smuggling of weaponry to terrorist organisations.

At no point since the start of the 2014 conflict has the BBC made even a semblance of an effort to speak truth to UN power. Despite the UN HRC’s record of abysmal bias towards Israel, the corporation has uncritically quoted and promoted statements made by its officials and unquestioningly adopted and amplified UN provided casualty figures – regardless of their highly problematic origins.

Any media organization which took its fifth estate role seriously and really did aspire to be “the standard-setter for international journalism” would of course do more than merely provide free pubicity for regurgitated politically motivated statements from a body which discredits itself day by day.

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Law of Armed Conflict, Gaza and the BBC

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Water, NGOs and the BBC

The topic of water most recently appeared in BBC coverage in Lyse Doucet’s series of reports on the city of Rawabi (see here and here) but the subject has also featured in numerous previous BBC reports – see examples here, here, here and here.???????????????????

Some of those reports rely on information supplied by NGOs such as Friends of the Earth Middle East and B’Tselem and as we know, the BBC’s approach to NGOs does not usually include any meaningful examination of their underlying political agenda before information is repeated and amplified.

Given that uncritical BBC approach, a new report by NGO Monitor on the politicization of the issue of water by NGOs makes for particularly interesting reading.

“Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have increased their exploitation of the water issue in their political warfare campaigns against Israel. This includes false accusations of water “discrimination” and “stealing water”; pressure on international corporations to boycott the Israeli national water company, Mekorot; and blatant distortions of binding international agreements between Israelis and Palestinians. […]

Unfortunately, despite the existence of cooperation between Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians, water has also become a destructive weapon in the hands of political advocacy NGOs, which use allegations regarding water rights and availability as part of their delegitimization and anti-normalization campaigns against Israel. NGOs present a distorted narrative of the water issue, ignoring the negotiated agreements between Israel and the Palestinians (e.g. the 1995 interim agreement, “Oslo II”) that determine water arrangements, internal Palestinian dynamics, and other complexities – in order to falsely accuse Israel of violating international law relating to water rights, while in reality Israel’s supply of water to the Palestinians is actually “far beyond its [Israel’s] obligation in the Water Agreement.” […]

The NGOs leading these campaigns include Al Haq, Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), BADIL, Coalition of Women for Peace/Who Profits, and EWASH (a coalition of Palestinian NGOs, international development organizations, and UN agencies). International and European NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and United Civilians for Peace (UCP – an umbrella group comprised of Dutch NGOs ICCO, Oxfam Novib, Pax (formerly IKV Pax Christi), and Cordaid), also accuse Israel of denying the Palestinians “fair access to water” and make distorted claims regarding Israel’s alleged obligations vis-à-vis Palestinian water rights.”

Readers can find the report here or a pdf version here

Elections 2015: the morning after – BBC News website coverage

No fewer than seven articles concerning the previous day’s Israeli election were published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on March 18th.

An article which originally appeared the previous evening under the title “Israel election: No clear winner, exit polls suggest” underwent numerous changes as the votes were counted overnight, ending up under the headline “Israel election: Netanyahu’s Likud storms to victory“. As was the case in much of the BBC’s prior coverage of the topic, that article and the others appearing on the same day focused audience attentions on the topic the election was not about.18 3 website 1

“Mr Netanyahu had vowed not to allow the creation of a Palestinian state, while Zionist Union expressed support for a two-state solution and promised to repair relations with Palestinians and the international community.

In the wake of the vote, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Palestinians would step up their bid for statehood.

“It is clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will form the next government, so we say clearly that we will go to the International Criminal Court in the Hague and we will speed up, pursue and intensify” diplomatic efforts, he told AFP news agency.”

An insert from the BBC’s Middle East editor added:

“He [Netanyahu] also made a series of promises that would worsen Israel’s relations with the US and Europe if he continues as prime minister. He promised thousands of new homes for settlers in the occupied territories, and said he would not allow the Palestinians to have a state.”

Jeremy Bowen produced an article titled “Israel election: Dramatic turnaround for Netanyahu” which he opened by brushing aside the topic of his organisation’s previous heavy promotion of opinion polls.18 3 website 2

“In the end Israeli opinion polls told the wrong story, yet again.”

Bowen informed readers that:

“The prime minister narrowed the gap with Mr Herzog’s Zionist Union, and then overhauled it, by turning sharply towards the ultra-nationalist Israeli right.

He issued a series of grim warnings about the consequences for Israel if he lost; Arabs with Israeli citizenship were voting, so his people needed to turn out.

Mr Netanyahu made a series of promises that would worsen Israel’s relations with the United States and Europe if he stays on as prime minister.

He promised thousands of new homes for settlers in the occupied territories. And he said that he would not allow the Palestinians to have a state.”

The BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly produced two articles, the first of which was a report from the Likud campaign headquarters titled “Likud celebrates surprise success in Israeli election” in which readers were informed that:18 3 website 3

“If a new right-of-centre coalition is formed it will be formed in the context of Mr Netanyahu indicating that he was prepared to block the formation of a Palestinian state.

International observers trying to interpret what this result means for hopes of a resumption in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians will see that as a bleak signal.

A Herzog-led government might have been a more comfortable partner for the US State Department and for European governments interested in reviving talks.

But for now, it appears that the Israeli electorate has decided otherwise.”

Connolly’s second article of the day expanded on that theme under the headline “Israel election: Netanyahu win dims peace process prospects“.18 3 website 4

“Everyone knows, of course, that the Israeli right, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, is at best sceptical about the prospect of a peace deal with the Palestinians, while the left under Yitzhak Herzog is much keener on the kind of constructive engagement that would keep the White House and the State Department happy. […]

He made it clear that in the modern Middle East with its rising tide of militant Islamism and its deepening atmosphere of instability the conditions just do not exist to create a Palestinian state.

It was a smart move invoking the image of a leader who is prepared to stand up for Israel’s interests in an uncertain world and who is not worried if his single-mindedness on the issue irritates the Europeans, the Americans or indeed anyone else.

At one point he was asked directly if his return as prime minister would mean categorically that a Palestinian state would not be established.

He answered with the single Hebrew word “Achen” – which means “indeed”.”

The BBC News website also produced a profile of Netanyahu titled “Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu: Commando turned PM” in which readers were told that:18 3 website 5

“For Mr Netanyahu, the number one issue has long been Israel’s security, and he has taken a tough line towards the Palestinians, seeing land-for-peace as too dangerous to accept.

His third term shifted from renewed peace talks, which collapsed in acrimony, to war with militants in Gaza just three months later.”

Readers are not informed that those talks collapsed because the PA decided to from a unity government with Hamas.

Later on in the article, however, this example of the ‘land for peace’ formula appears:

“Despite having fiercely criticised the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians, in 1997 Mr Netanyahu signed a deal handing over 80% of Hebron to Palestinian Authority control and signed the Wye River Memorandum in 1998 outlining further withdrawals from the West Bank.”

No effort is made to inform readers that the unprecedented construction freeze of 2009/10 did not cause the PA to come to the negotiating table until one month before it expired and, as ever, the BBC fails to inform audiences accurately with regard to the significance of the Israeli demand for the PA to recognise Israel as the Jewish state:

“Mr Netanyahu’s government was criticised by some in the international community for not renewing a partial freeze on Jewish settlement-building and possibly avoiding a collapse in peace talks with the Palestinians in late 2010.

He publicly accepted the concept of a demilitarised Palestinian state, but insisted the Palestinians accept Israel as a “Jewish state” in turn and make reciprocal concessions.

In 2015 he distanced himself from accepting the prospect of a state, dismissing it as irrelevant given the rise of militant Islam across the Middle East.”

Later on in the evening the BBC News website published two articles with a US slant, the first of which – by PJ Crowley – was subtly titled “Netanyahu win gives Obama a headache“.18 3 website 6

“Over the weekend, he made explicit what many, particularly the Palestinians, had long believed.

As long as he is prime minister, there will not be a Palestinian state. He even acknowledged that his administration used settlement construction to undermine the process.

These statements sent a moribund peace process into freefall, calling into question the future of the Oslo process.”

Apparently BBC audiences are to believe that “the future of the Oslo process” was not called into question by – among other things – the failure of the Oslo Accords’ guarantors to insist upon disarmament of Hamas before the formation of a unity government together with the Palestinian Authority.

Another article titled “Israel election: US concern over ‘divisive’ rhetoric” told readers that:18 3 website 7

“During campaigning, Mr Netanyahu said he would not allow the creation of a Palestinian state if re-elected. […]

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: “It has been the policy of the United States for more than 20 years that a two-state solution is the goal of resolving the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

The US would “re-evaluate our approach” in the wake of Mr Netanyahu’s comments ruling out a Palestinian state, he said.”

The article also states:

“On a warning from Mr Netanyahu that his opponents were bussing Arab-Israeli voters to polling stations, he [Earnest] said: “Rhetoric that seeks to marginalise one segment of their population is deeply concerning and it is divisive, and I can tell you that these are views the administration intends to communicate directly to the Israelis.” “

Yet again the BBC refrains from providing audiences with the necessary context concerning the anti-Zionist parties running on the Joint Arab List and the foreign funding for organisations which ran a campaign against Netanyahu.

The article later states:

“The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, said he would work with any Israeli government that accepts the two-state solution, without which, he said, peace negotiations stood “no chance”.”

The uninformed reader seeking to understand the topic of the Israeli election from these seven articles could only arrive at the conclusion that the Likud party’s victory is the prime factor preventing a peace agreement being signed between Israel and the Palestinians. ‘Economical’ presentation of subjects such as the reason for the breakdown of previous rounds of talks coupled with the complete absence of any reference to the fact that almost a year ago the Palestinian Authority chose to form a ‘unity government’ with a terrorist organization which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and is committed to its destruction mean that the bottom line effect of these reports is to mislead audiences with regard to the peace process in general and the significance of the result of the election in particular. As we observed here in January 2013 after the previous election and again in December 2014 when the BBC first began reporting on this one:

“Most blatantly obvious is the fact that the BBC’s insistence upon framing this election almost exclusively in terms of the potential effect of its results on ‘the peace process’ reflects its own institutional attitude towards that subject, both in terms of its perceived importance and in terms of the curious notion that only what Israel does has any effect upon that process’ chances.”

Plus ça change… 

 

The Israel BBC audiences do not see

Israel’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Space – the state body responsible for setting national policy on issues such as international scientific collaborations and research and development funding – has just appointed a new deputy chief scientist.Min Science

“The deputy chief scientist is responsible for overseeing national scientific infrastructure, statewide intellectual property and the taxation of academic institutions, according to the ministry’s website.”

The appointee to that prestigious position is called Dr Tarek Abu-Hamed and he previously served as Director of the Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation at the Arava Institute.

“Abu-Hamed received his BSc in chemical engineering from Ankara University in Turkey and studied for his post-doctorate at Rehovot’s Weizmann Institute of Science in collaboration with the University of Minnesota, focusing his dissertation on oil substitutes for public transportation and renewable energy sources.”

As Yaacov Lozowick points out, what is notable about Dr Abu-Hamed’s appointment to such a senior civil service position is not his ethnicity.

“The thing about Dr. Abu Hamed is that he’s not an Israeli citizen. He’s a Palestinian of East Jerusalem, a permanent resident by legal status, but not a citizen.”

Not a story which fits into the BBC narrative… 

Elections 2015: the morning after – Doucet on BBC television news

On March 18th the BBC began to produce coverage of the results of the previous day’s election in Israel. Among those reports was one by Lyse Doucet which appeared on BBC television news and also on the corporation’s website under the title “Israel election: ‘Security fears’ seal Netanyahu victory“. Doucet opened her report as follows:

“After a night when he made political history, Mr Netanyahu’s first stop this morning was the holiest site in Jewish history – the Western Wall – for prayer and a pledge.”

A viewer responded to that obvious (but nevertheless frequently made) mistake on Twitter.

Doucet filmed 18 3 tweet

Of course that is not accurate either, as the viewer pointed out, but no correction has been made to the report since its appearance.

Doucet filmed 18 3 tweet 2

With the BBC having earlier adopted and promoted the view of some opinion polls (though not all) according to which the centre Left Zionist Union was tipped to win the election, it is interesting to see how Doucet explained its actual result to BBC viewers.

“Security fears won this election for him. Mr Netanyahu lurched to the right and promised: no state for the Palestinians, no end to Israeli settlement building.”

Whether or not there is a factual basis for Doucet’s “lurched to the right” claim is debatable – not least according to Netanyahu himself:

“I haven’t changed my policy,” Netanyahu insisted. “I never retracted my speech at Bar-Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state.”

“What has changed is the reality,” he continued. “[Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] the Palestinian leader refuses to recognize the Jewish state and has made a pact with Hamas that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, and every territory that is vacated today in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces. We want that to change so that we can realize a vision of real, sustained peace. I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change.”

DFLP logo

DFLP logo

After having brought in an Israeli journalist to back up her theory, Doucet moved the focus of her report to Ramallah:

“In the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank there’s disappointment but a growing determination to still find a way to create their own state.”

Ironically, those words are spoken whilst the image on screen shows a Ramallah street decked with DFLP flags with a logo which eradicates Israel from the map.

Doucet filmed 18 3 DFLP flags

Ignoring that particular inconvenient truth, Doucet next gave a platform to Mohammed Shtayyeh and his thinly veiled threats – which she made no attempt to clarify.

“I think it is time now that the international community should put serious pressure on Netanyahu to save the two state-solution – one, and on the other hand I think Netanyahu should not really take that big risk to be as aggressive as he used to be because the Palestinian reaction will be not pleasant for him.”

Against a background of images of the anti-terrorist fence, Doucet proceeded to further mislead BBC audiences by saying:Doucet filmed 18 3

“Across the West Bank during Mr Netanyahu’s time as prime minister security barriers have gone up, making Israelis feel more secure and Palestinians less hopeful.”

Construction of the anti-terrorist fence of course began in 2002 – seven years before Netanyahu became prime minister – and it is not located “across the West Bank” but around that area. Within the area itself, the number of checkpoints has actually been reduced in recent years: from 40 in July 2008 to 13 in February 2014.

Doucet’s mind reading of the Israeli people and their prime minister continued:

“Today there were calls from many capitals for a resumption of peace talks. That’s hard to imagine right now. Benjamin Netanyahu managed to rally a majority of Israelis around his right-wing message but it still left a divided society and a country at growing odds with the rest of the world. But for the Israeli leader, that matters much less than what he sees as the best way to ensure Israel’s security. This has long been a land troubled by conflict. Now Israelis also worry about rising threats on all their borders in this increasingly unstable region. So in the end, many voted for the man who spoke to those fears.”

Interestingly, Doucet had nothing to say about why the BBC got the election story so wrong – yet again. But her overall message to audiences is very clear: the underlying factor preventing peace and light from descending on the Middle East is not Islamist extremism, not foreign support for Palestinian terror groups, not the Palestinian Authority’s throwing in of its lot with Hamas via its ‘unity government’, not the existence of Hamas terror cells in PA controlled areas and not the absence of an elected Palestinian president and government who can truly claim to represent the Palestinian people. According to Doucet, it is the fears of Israelis which have scuppered the chance for peace. 

 

 

 

Elections 2015: round up of BBC coverage – election day website reports

In addition to running a live page titled “Israel election results: as it happened” on March 17th, the BBC News website also published its main article on the topic of election day in Israel under the headline “Israel election: Netanyahu seeks new term in tight race“. The report underwent many changes throughout the day but a couple of points appearing in most versions are worthy of closer examination.Main art 17 3

The article opens with clear signposting for readers:

“Millions of Israelis are voting in what is expected to be a close race between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party and a centre-left alliance.

The centre-left Zionist Union promises to repair relations with Palestinians and the international community.

Mr Netanyahu, whose party has trailed in opinion polls, vowed on Monday not to allow the creation of a Palestinian state if he wins a fourth term.”

Later on in the article readers are told that:

“On Monday, he [Netanyahu] made his pledge to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state in a speech at the Har Homa Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.”

But is that an accurate representation of what Netanyahu actually said in his March 16th interview with NRG? When asked if it was correct to say that “…if you are prime minister a Palestinian state will not be established”, Netanyahu replied “indeed”. Before that, however, he gave context which this BBC article does not provide to readers.

“I think that anyone today going to set up a Palestinian state – anyone going to evacuate territory – is simply giving extremist Islam territory for attacks against the State of Israel. That’s the reality which has emerged here in the recent years. Whoever does not understand that is simply putting…burying his head in the sand. The Left does that – it buries its head in the sand time after time.” [translation: BBC Watch]

We know that the BBC is aware of those words because it reported them, partially, in a previous article.

“Mr Netanyahu said that ceding lands to the Palestinians would risk leaving Israel open to attacks by Islamists.

“Whoever ignores that is burying his head in the sand. The left is doing that, burying its head in the sand time after time,” he told the nrg news website.

When asked if that meant a Palestinian state would not be established if he is elected, Netanyahu replied “indeed”.”

In this article, however, the BBC elected to remove that very relevant context from the account it presented to its audience and – coming on top of the fact that the BBC rarely reports on internal Palestinian affairs anyway – that further reduces their ability to understand the background to Netanyahu’s statement.

Another section of the article states:

“He [Netanyahu] also posted a video message on his Facebook page, saying: “Right-wing rule is in danger. Arab voters are going to the polls in droves. Left-wing organisations are bringing them in buses.”

He later took the unusual step of calling the media to his official residence to issue a statement while voting was under way, to repeat his concerns about the opposition winning.”

In the next line of that Facebook post, Netanyahu referred to the V15 organisation but seeing as the BBC had avoided the topic of that group’s campaign in all of its election coverage up to that point, readers were unaware of its existence.

“The model V15 tried to implement here was the system that brought Barack Obama to the White House in the United States: a campaign to encourage voter turnout with personal appeals, through telemarketing or by going door-to-door, based on precise statistical segmentation and with an emphasis on areas that leaned toward the preferred camp – all in an effort to convince despairing voters to vote. V15, short for “Victory 2015,” also hired Jeremy Bird, the national field director of Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign, to help organize its efforts. […]

The main element of the funding came from a hook-up with the OneVoice Movement – an organization founded in 2002 by the Mexican-born, U.S.-based businessman and philanthropist Daniel Lubetzky. OneVoice describes itself as “an international grassroots movement that amplifies the voice of mainstream Israelis and Palestinians, empowering them to propel their elected representatives toward the two-state solution.”” 

BBC audiences therefore also remained in the dark with regard to the way in which that foreign-funded campaign was viewed by some Israeli voters, just as they lacked insight into the perception of some voters concerning the fact that the Joint Arab List includes anti-Zionist parties such as Balad.

“…the catchy slogan that launched V15 – “Just change” – was a good fit with the feelings on the street and the flattering polls for Herzog. However, the underlying tectonic changes were actually going in the opposite direction, it turned out: the louder the “Anyone but Bibi” cry sounded, the more voters returned home to him.

“I don’t think we ran a campaign that was based totally on ‘Anyone but Bibi,’” said Weizmann, the morning after Election Day, ignoring the fact that the group’s campaign directly called for Netanyahu’s head.”

In contrast, readers of this article were presented with the following information:

“Zionist Union leader Yitzhak Herzog said his rival represented the “path of despair and disappointment”.

Mr Herzog told the BBC that his government would work to “correct the unfairness in [Israel’s] economy”, strengthen the country’s relationship with the US and revive negotiations with the Palestinians.

He expressed support for a two-state solution, saying: “It’s very important for the future of Israel that we separate from the Palestinians.

“We must find the right partners to negotiate with them.””

The BBC’s superficial black and white portrayal of the choices facing Israeli voters is cringingly transparent in this report. Its failure to provide readers with adequate context and background information on factors which did affect the results of the election (together with the notable absence of any reporting whatsoever on additional ones such as the speech by a participant at the Left’s rally on March 7th attended by Kevin Connolly) means that audiences were presented with a caricature view which did nothing to contribute to their real understanding of the subject. 

Elections 2015: round up of BBC coverage – election day WS radio reports

The BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ devoted part of its March 17th afternoon edition to the subject of the elections being held in Israel on that day.Newshour 17 3 aft

In the first part of the programme (from 00:45 here) listeners heard from Tim Franks talking briefly to voters at a polling station in the Kiryat Yovel neighbourhood in Jerusalem before conducting interviews with Yitzhak Herzog and Likud campaign manager Aron Shaviv.

The more notable part of the programme however came at 26:40 when the focus switched from the subject of the people contending and voting in the election to a topic the BBC has stubbornly shoehorned into a great deal of its election coverage, with presenter Razia Iqbal saying:

“Let’s hear now about a group often at the centre of the debate in any Israeli election, though not this one. Whilst much of the focus this time has been on internal social and economic issues and the perceived security threat from Iran, there’s been relatively little debate about the conflict with the Palestinians. From Ramallah in the West Bank, Yolande Knell reports now on the Palestinian view.”

Knell’s report was in fact just a version of her filmed report from Ramallah which had been slightly modified for radio and it included the same inaccurate claim about the voting rights of some Jerusalem residents and the same misleading propaganda from Fatah’s Husam Zomlot.

But that obviously did not satisfy the BBC’s urge to make this story about something it was not and so Iqbal then conducted a lengthy interview with Raja Shehadeh whom she described merely as an “award-winning Palestinian writer and human rights lawyer”, without making the required effort to inform listeners of Shehadeh’s political activities which are obviously very relevant if audiences are to be able to put his contribution into its correct context.

Predictably – and with more than a little help from Razia Iqbal – Shehadeh painted a picture in which Palestinians were portrayed solely as passive victims.

RS: “Unfortunately the Palestinians in the past used to hold their breath when there were Israeli elections and hope for a more moderate party or unity government. But they’ve hoped so often in the past and been disappointed…”

Iqbal made no attempt to remind listeners that, for example, the Palestinian Authority initiated the second Intifada during the office of a Labour government headed by Ehud Barak and following the Camp David talks.

RS: “Well you know the problem is that Israel has moved to the right and so even the Herzog party – the Zionist Unity [sic] party – doesn’t offer the minimum that Palestinians look for in order to have hope because they do not promise to remove any settlements, they do not promise to share Jerusalem as a joint capital for the Palestinian state and the Israeli state. The minimum that they are willing to offer comes below the minimum that Palestinians believe is necessary to move forward in the peace process.”

In addition to failing to challenge the chimera of “Israel has moved to the right”, Iqbal also refrained from questioning Shehadeh with regard to the results of the 2005 removal of all Israeli villages from the Gaza Strip and some in Samaria – a move which clearly did not prompt the Palestinians to make any “move forward in the peace process”.

In relation to the Joint Arab List, Shehadeh claimed:

“But they have problems of their own and the system in Israel does not give them much leverage over what they can do in terms of policy….that will affect the Palestinians in the occupied territories.”

Iqbal failed to clarify to listeners that the Joint Arab List had already ruled out joining a coalition government – and hence having any input “in terms of policy” – before the election even took place. She also failed to remind listeners that it was Netanyahu’s government which froze building for ten months in Judea & Samaria in an attempt to kick-start talks in 2009/10 and released dozens of convicted terrorists in 2013/14 for the same reason when Shehadeh said:

“…my view is that Netanyahu has been such a negative person – a negative approach and impact on the whole atmosphere in the region – that perhaps if he goes there might be a little more hope even though the policies of the parties who are expected to win are not much better.”

Neither did she challenge this fanciful statement:

“…the Palestinian Authority certainly has indicated over and over and over again that they are willing to make peace on the basis of a two-state solution but the Israelis are not listening at this point.”

In other words, the entire five-minute interview with Shehadeh was – like Knell’s interview with Husam Zomlot – no more than opportunistic use of the Israeli election to promote political propaganda which steers BBC audiences towards an inaccurate view not only of the election itself, but of the wider issue of the Palestinian Israeli conflict.

The evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on March 17th (from 00:30 here) also featured contributions from Tim Franks in Jerusalem focused around the topic of the exit polls which had just been announced. Listeners heard from Kevin Connolly and Yolande Knell at the Likud and Zionist Union HQs respectively as well as short interviews by Mark Lowen with two Israeli voters in a Tel Aviv pub. Franks was joined by Israeli journalist Emmanuel Rosen but, despite the opportunity that presented to finally inform listeners about the background to the main issues of the election, Franks yet again (as we have already seen in much of the BBC’s other coverage) brought the focus back to the topic the election was not about.Newshour 17 3 evg

“The rest of the world cares about Israel not because of the economy – which has been a central issue in this election – but because of its regional relations and of course its relations with the Palestinians. Were there to be a national unity government – as some people, including you, suggest could well be a possibility – will that just mean that there is no chance of any political breakthrough one way or the other with the Palestinians?”

When Rosen pointed out that the fate of negotiations “depends on the Palestinians” too, Franks responded:

“Indeed, but in terms of a new initiative from the Israelis?”

Later on in the programme (from 26:30) Franks interviewed candidates from the Labour and Likud parties. Like Emmanuel Rosen before him, Nachman Shai noted the “deciding power” of Moshe Kahlon and his Kulanu party in the formation of any coalition, but Franks again passed up on the chance to finally provide BBC audiences with some background to that new party, despite the fact that the BBC had barely covered the topic. Notably, Franks cut off Sharon Haskell as she spoke about a factor which had important influence on the election results: the intervention of foreign funded interest groups. Hence, BBC audiences did not get to form any understanding of how the final results of the election were affected by that factor.

From 33:20, Franks once again took the focus away from the issues upon which the election was fought.

“Well, given that this election was in large part about the economy but it did also turn on differing visions of whether there should be a Palestinian state at all, what’s the view from Ramallah – the Palestinian city of Ramallah? Sabri Saydam is an advisor to the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.”

Saydam presented the following uninterrupted monologue:

“It’s obvious that we’re repeating history now. We’re seeing the old lessons being repeated again where there is no bloc that’s to lead Israel. If anything, whether Right or Left, we’re talking about a Zionist movement in Israel that’s picking up momentum. We see the resurrection of Barak’s ‘no promises to the Palestinians’ now being resurrected with Herzog. We see Netanyahu moving to the right or centre right by saying there will be no Palestinian state, so there is no mood of celebration for the Palestinians. The only glimpse of hope is the united front of the Arab parties that have now formed the third bloc in Knesset and can veto any government that comes into being: that’s the only hope. Other than that there is no excitement here and there is no hope in any future government that comes into the scene. Only one indication in the Palestinian street that says maybe the comeback of Netanyahu will be an excellent thing to have because Netanyahu is the only person that can make a blunder out of PR and can really misrepresent Israel in every possible way that serves the Palestinians.”

As readers have no doubt concluded from these and other reports already covered on these pages, the BBC has insisted upon dragging the focus of much of its coverage of the Israeli election away from the issues it was actually about and deflecting audience attention to the topic of its choosing. Back in December 2014 when the election was first announced Tim Franks said to an Israeli interviewee:

“You make Israel sound like a normal country when you’re talking about economic problems, about value added tax, housing and so forth. But of course the reason the outside world is so interested in Israel is because of the wider issues with the conflict, with the Palestinians and so forth.”

Three and a half months later we hear him saying:

“The rest of the world cares about Israel not because of the economy – which has been a central issue in this election – but because of its regional relations and of course its relations with the Palestinians.”

In other words, members of the BBC’s audience who perhaps thought they would gain some insight into what this election was all about, what worries Israelis and the complex political system in Israel had no chance of their expectations being fulfilled because the BBC decided long ago that the story itself would not set the agenda. Instead, it chose to devote its coverage to the issue upon which it thinks audiences should be focusing. The result of that is that more airtime was given to ‘views from Ramallah’ than to informing audiences about the views of the people who actually determined the result of the election in places where the BBC rarely treads such as Kiryat Shmona, Shlomi, Sderot and Arad. 

Remarkably – as readers have no doubt already noticed for themselves – despite the plethora of Palestinian interviewees seen and heard in BBC coverage of the Israeli election, at no point did any BBC journalist raise the topic of the absence of democratic elections in the PA controlled areas during the last decade and how that factor – and the underlying reasons for it – might be having an effect on the peace process. 

Related Articles:

Elections 2015: round up of BBC coverage – the run-up

Elections 2015: round up of BBC coverage – election day filmed reports, part one

Elections 2015: round up of BBC coverage – election day filmed reports, part two

 

BBC’s Gaza blockade campaign continues with amplification of another NGO

As we noted in our discussion here of the plethora of reports recently produced by the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet on the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip (see related articles below), UNRWA employees were given platforms from which to promote their political campaign against Israel’s policies regarding its border with the Gaza Strip in many of those items, as well as in an additional related programme.

But UNRWA was not the only organisation to be given BBC airtime for the promotion of politically motivated messaging in Doucet’s series of reports. The video below shows a report aired on BBC World News in February in which Doucet interviewed Roger Hearn of Save the Children. Note his answer to Doucet’s request to identify “the main problem” holding up reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.

Hearn: “Look, fundamentally people can’t get the equipment and the building supplies to rebuild Gaza. Its…it’s the blockade – the Israeli blockade on Gaza that’s preventing us from moving forward. We can apply a band-aid as aid organisations but it’s a band-aid on a gaping wound and we will expect another war if we don’t actually start rebuilding soon.” [emphasis added]

Hearn was also featured in an audio report by Doucet (from 35:10 here) which was broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on February 25th. There he expanded on the above theme:

Doucet: “And what do you think has to happen if this is going to change? It seems there are so many reasons why it’s [reconstruction] failing.

Hearn: “Clearly the blockade – the Israeli blockade on Gaza – has to be lifted. Without that no amount of money can ever fix the damage that we’re seeing here in Gaza.”

Doucet: “But the border with Egypt is also closed: it’s a double whammy.”

Hearn: “It’s a double whammy but Israel has the legal responsibility to – actually as the occupying power – to…to lift the blockade. There’s a humanitarian imperative for Egypt but the clear responsibility lies with Israel.”

Doucet made no attempt to relieve BBC audiences of the erroneous impression given by Hearn that the Gaza Strip is still occupied by Israel almost a decade after all soldiers and civilians were removed from that area – or even to inform them that any other view of the issue exists. Hearn (who in the past has also worked for UNRWA and Oxfam, among others) has no discernible training in international law which could form a basis for his claims. Someone who does have the relevant qualifications is Professor Euguene Kontorovich and as he explained in a two-part essay (here and here) written in November 2014:

“An occupation is traditionally defined as a power exercising “effective control” over the territory in a way that displaces the prior government. The occupying power is expected to provide law and order, essential services, and all the basic functions of government – and is thus required to have the kind of control that allows for that. As the ICJ has put it, occupation requires a territory to be “actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.” There has never been a finding of a such “remote” occupation, lasting nine years after the end of physical occupation and in the presence of a distinct and hostile local government.”

And of course even Hamas has stated that the Gaza Strip is no longer ‘occupied’.

Likewise, Doucet makes no attempt in either of these interviews to explain to audiences why Israel finds it necessary to restrict the entry of dual-use goods to the Gaza Strip (and those alone) which can be used for the purposes of terrorism against its civilian population. Hamas terrorism gets no mention at all and BBC audiences are herded towards the inaccurate belief that responsibility for “the main problem” holding up the reconstruction of buildings in the Gaza Strip lies exclusively with Israel.

As we have seen so many times before, the motivation for Doucet’s uncritical amplification of Roger Hearn’s inaccurate and misleading claims obviously lies both in a shared political view and in the BBC’s failure to treat NGOs with the same sort of journalistic standards it applies to other sectors. Hence, once again the BBC’s obligation to enhance its audiences’ understanding of international issues by means of accurate and impartial reporting is trumped by the opportunity to promote a political agenda.

The BBC self-conscripted to amplification of the campaign promoted by Hamas and assorted NGOs and ‘humanitarian’ groups against Israeli policies concerning its border with the Gaza Strip even as last summer’s conflict still raged. As we see, the exploitation of its unrivalled outreach for that purpose continues. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part one

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part two

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part three

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part one

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part two

Examining Lyse Doucet’s claim that she reported new Hamas tunnels on BBC

BBC World Service amplifies UNRWA’s political campaigning yet again

 

CAMERA Panel on UK Media, European Antisemitism

With antisemitic violence on the rise in Europe, CAMERA convened a panel discussion in Jerusalem on March 1 entitled “Framing Israel: Framing Jews: Examining the effects of UK media coverage of Israel on EuropeanEvent 1 3 15 antisemitism.” In light of recent polling which indicates that over 80 percent of British Jews believe that biased coverage of Israel incites antisemitism, the panelists explored how UK media coverage of Israel influences attitudes towards Jews in Europe and fuels extremism.

Speakers on the panel included Professor Robert S. Wistrich, Neuberger Chair of Modern European and Jewish History at the Hebrew University Jerusalem, Head of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism and author of A Lethal Obsession: Antisemitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (2010); Lucille Cohen, former President of the Zionist Central Council and the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and representative to the Board of Deputies of British Jews; Adam Levick, managing editor of UK Media Watch(formerly CiF Watch), a CAMERA affiliate and Hadar Sela, managing editor of BBC Watch, a CAMERA affiliate.

Readers can watch the video of the event here.

Elections 2015: round up of BBC coverage – election day filmed reports, part two

In addition to Yolande Knell’s propaganda laden view of the Israeli election from Ramallah, March 17th saw the appearance of several filmed reports for television news programmes from various BBC correspondents.

Lyse Doucet produced a report titled “A closer look at Israeli politics and the election” in which viewers were told that:

“Likud is hawkish on security and critical of the nuclear negotiations with Iran.”

Audiences reading, viewing and listening to content on other BBC platforms on that day would have noticed that the adjective ‘hawkish’ – defined as “advocating an aggressive or warlike policy, especially in foreign affairs” and “supporting the use of force in political relationships rather than discussion or other more peaceful solutions” –  was very popular with BBC correspondents, despite the fact that the outgoing Likud-led Israeli government engaged in nine months of negotiations with the PLO and went to considerable lengths to try to avoid all out conflict with Hamas and other terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip last summer.

Another filmed report was produced by BBC Arabic’s Issam Ikirmawi under the title “Israel elections: Voting in Nazareth“.Bowen filmed 17 3

BBC television audiences also saw a filmed report by Jeremy Bowen which purported to enlighten them on the topic of “What do Israeli voters want?” and opened with the sarcastic quip:

“Not the drums of war – for once. These were beating time at the Jerusalem marathon.”

Bowen’s suggestion that the previous government had put “expensive Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territory ahead of the cost of living” failed to clarify to BBC audiences that the status of Area C (in which all Israeli towns and villages are located) is in fact subject to negotiation according to the terms of the Oslo Accords and his categorization of that land as “occupied Palestinian territory” is hence misleading. Similarly, on a helicopter ride Bowen purported to show viewers “…the barrier that separates Israel from the Palestinian West Bank…” without any mention of the issue of final status negotiations and with no clarification of the reason why that anti-terrorist fence had to be built. According to Bowen, the anti-terrorist fence”…shows Israel’s security preoccupation with the Palestinians…” but again, no effort was made to explain to viewers what that actually means, or why.

Whilst he acknowledged that economy related issues were of prime importance to Israeli voters in this election, Bowen failed to provide audiences with any meaningful factual background on that topic, instead – like so many of his colleagues – constantly bringing the focus of his reporting back to the issue upon which Israelis did not go to the polls to decide.

“…but in the election the political future of that relationship [with the Palestinians] has not been a big issue. House prices are much more important and that’s because Israelis – like Palestinians – have got very cynical about the chances of a peace agreement. Up to now the negotiations have failed.”

A more accurate word than ‘cynical’ to describe the approach of a nation which still overwhelmingly supports a two-state solution in theory but cannot see a partner for that aspiration on the horizon, would have been ‘realistic’.

Despite being aware that “polls aren’t reliable” – as he noted at the end of his report – Bowen nevertheless earlier promoted the notion that “Yitzhak Herzog of the new centre Left alliance Zionist Union has turned the polls around…”.Bowen filmed 17 3 exit polls  

Soon after voting came to an end at 10 pm and the first exit poll results became available, Jeremy Bowen produced a report titled “Israel election: No clear winner, exit polls suggest“. Once again, his reliance on informal polls – coupled perhaps with over-confidence in his own understanding of the Israeli political system and Israelis – caused him to provide BBC audiences with inaccurate information.

“In a country where it’s possible to live very well, economic pressures became the most potent issue in the campaign. Never mind the pursuit of the high life: falling living standards for many Israelis took votes away from the prime minister.”

“Isaac Herzog, the leader of the Zionist Union alliance, did not let up on social and financial issues and led the polls through the last weeks of campaigning.”

“The Israeli people have not voted for any kind of radical change but they haven’t given Mr Netanyahu a resounding vote of confidence either.” [all emphasis added]

Part of Bowen’s report focused on the Joint Arab List and residents of Jerusalem, Acco, Jaffa, Ramla, Lod, Ma’alot-Tarshiha and elsewhere might have been surprised to hear that:

“One significant development came from Haifa in the north: about the closest Israel gets to a mixed city where its Jewish and Arab citizens can live in relative harmony.” [emphasis added]

He continued:

Ayman Odeh […] heads the Joint List – an alliance of parties mainly representing the 20% or so of the Israeli citizens who are from Palestinian families who didn’t flee or get expelled when Israel was created in 1948. He told me this day would be historic as his party would push the Right Wing off into opposition. That might not happen. But the Joint List has shown that Israel’s Arab citizens are ready to flex some new political muscles, potentially providing crucial support for the centre Left.”

In fact, by the time Bowen made that declaration the Joint Arab List had already indicated ten days previously that it had no intention of supporting any shade of the Israeli Left when it refused to collaborate even with Meretz on a surplus vote sharing agreement.

“Last week, Herzog and Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On tried to broker a deal by which the Zionist Union would sign a vote-sharing agreement with Yesh Atid, and Meretz with the Joint List.

Herzog called all the heads of the Arab parties that make up the Joint List, but Balad leader Jamal Zehalka refused to pick up the phone.

Joint List head Ayman Odeh was in favor of signing the deal with Meretz, but Balad ruled it out because it did not want to cooperate with a Zionist party in any way. Zehalka even threatened to remove Balad from the Joint List, a threat that at this stage is not permitted by law.”

The Joint Arab List secured 13 places in the Knesset in this election (just two seats more than the combined number secured by its component parties running separately in the previous one) indicating that Bowen’s prophesy of “new political muscles” was – like much of the rest of his analysis – based more on his own ideas of how Israel should be than on objectively viewed reality.