Frequent BBC favourite Falk in the news

The UN’s ‘Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights’ Richard Falk is in the news again, this time due to the call on him to resign from the post which recently came from America’s Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe.

“Mr. Falk’s most recent statement, which he dramatically and recklessly included in an official UN document, … once again starkly demonstrated that he is unfit to serve in his role as a UN special rapporteur,” she said, adding: “We once again call for his resignation.”

The statement to which Ambassador Chamberlain Donahoe refers is Falk’s call for an investigation into the NGO UN Watch after that organization called for the termination of Falk’s mandate in the wake of his remarks concerning the Boston marathon terror attack which included the following:

 “The war drums are beating at this moment in relation to both North Korea and Iran, and as long as Tel Aviv has the compliant ear of the American political establishment, those who wish for peace and justice in the world should not rest easy.” […]

 “The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world.”

falk 5

Of course one would have to have one’s head pretty firmly buried in the sand not to be aware of the fact that Falk’s history of inaccurate and offensive statements goes back a very long way indeed. From his 1979 New York Times puff-piece in defence of Ayatollah Khomeini, through to his claims that the 9/11 terror attacks were orchestrated by the US government,  his repeated justifications of Palestinian terror and his public support for the ‘one-state solution’ (i.e. the eradication of Israel as the Jewish state), Falk has never been far from controversy. 

That fact was well known by the BBC when Falk took up his UN position in 2008, as an article by Tim Franks from April of that year shows. 

Falk 1

In May 2008 the BBC’s Stephen Sackur interviewed Falk on ‘Hardtalk’, where he defended his use of anti-Semitic Nazi analogies.

And yet, the BBC – despite being bound to standards of accuracy and impartiality – has continued throughout the years to quote Falk on the subject of Israel extensively, unquestioningly and without properly informing its audiences of his long-standing history of bias and open animosity towards Israel. 

Here, for example, is a 2010 article by Barbara Plett which promotes statements made by Falk on the subject of “settlements”. 

Falk 2

Here is a 2012 report by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell on the subject of Palestinian hunger strikers which – whilst neglecting to mention their membership of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – also extensively promotes statements made by Falk. 

Falk 3

And here is Knell yet again – this time in February 2013 – quoting Falk’s regurgitation of Palestinian Authority propaganda regarding Arafat Jaradat. 

Falk 4

Most recently, on June 10th 2013, the BBC published yet another article based on statements by Falk. Towards the end of that piece it is noted that “[i]n 2008, Mr Falk drew widespread criticism for comparing Israeli actions in Gaza to those of the Nazis”, but the article fails to make clear to readers the antisemitic nature of Falk’s comments and also makes no effort to explain to readers why “the US – which has also expressed concerns about Mr Falk’s alleged bias – called for his removal from the post”.  

FAlk 10 6

Why the BBC seems to feel the need to play down Falk’s long history of anti-Israel campaigning, antisemitic remarks, adherence to conspiracy theories and general offensiveness is one question. How the BBC thinks it can meet its required standards of accuracy and impartiality by unquestioningly repeating and promoting the opinions of a man it knows full well to be far removed from both of those criteria is a yet more pressing question which needs to be asked more than ever at this time. 

BBC fails to report on UN resolution to subject more minorities to violence in Syria

Almost two years ago, in January 2011, the veteran former BBC news-reader Peter Sissons wrote an article in the Daily Mail about what he termed the BBC ‘mindset’. In it, he stated:

“At any given time there is a BBC line on everything of importance, a line usually adopted in the light of which way its senior echelons believe the political wind is ­blowing. This line is rarely spelled out explicitly, but percolates subtly throughout the organisation.

Whatever the United Nations is associated with is good — it is heresy to question any of its activities. The EU is also a good thing, but not quite as good as the UN.”

Such an attitude perhaps goes some way toward explaining the BBC UN correspondent’s resounding silence on the fact that during the past year the UN General Assembly has passed twenty two resolutions singling out Israel for criticism – and only four on the rest of the world combined. 

Notably ignored by the BBC is the fact that on December 18th – when no fewer than nine anti-Israel resolutions were passed in one day – one of those resolutions called for the Golan Heights to be returned “forthwith” to Syrian control. 

As the Executive Director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, noted:

 “At a time when the Syrian regime is massacring its own people, how can the U.N. call for more people to be subject to Assad’s rule? The timing of today’s text is morally galling and logically absurd.” 

As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, the 20,000 or so Druze residents of the Golan Heights privately express great concern for the fate of their family members in Syria, with applications for Israeli citizenship (to which they have been entitled since Israel annexed the Golan in 1981) reaching an all-time high in recent months. 

“I believe this trend will only increase,” a Mas’ade resident who holds Israeli citizenship told the paper. “More and more people comprehend that this [Israel] is a well-managed country and it’s possible to live and raise children here. It is preferable to turning into refugees in another country.”

“In Syria there is mass murder, and if [the Druze are] under Syrian control they would likely be turned into the victims of these atrocities. People see murdered children and refugees fleeing to Jordan and Turkey, lacking everything, and ask themselves: Where do I want to raise my children. The answer is clear — in Israel and not Syria.”

The 2,000 or so Alawite residents of Ghajar, which also came under Israeli control in 1967, already have Israeli citizenship and they are certainly no strangers to arbitrary UN declarations made thousands of miles away with absolutely no relevance to the situation on the ground. As members of the minority sect to which the Assad family also belongs, one can only guess their fate were their village to be returned to Syrian control “forthwith”. 

None of these aspects of that UN GA resolution and others were reported by the BBC’s UN correspondent. She did – however- manage to put out the following Tweet:

Plett tweet 19 12

A BBC which avoids engaging in critical thinking regarding the anti-Israel obsession of the UN and hence promotes a trite, one-dimensional view of the Middle East cannot but fail in its task to increase its audiences’ understanding of the region and the complexities of the issues its residents face. 

BBC’s UN correspondent misses item about Israel

On December 21st 2012 a session at the United Nations General Assembly dealt with recommended draft resolutions on the subject of sustainable development.  

“As it took action on 36 draft resolutions and 3 draft decisions presented by the Committee, the Assembly adopted 34 of those texts without a vote and 5 by recorded vote.  Of great significance to delegations was the adoption of a draft resolution on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of United Nations operational activities for development.”

One of the resolutions – on “Entrepreneurship for Development” – was proposed by Israel, along with 97 co-sponsors. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said:

“Make no mistake. The stakes before us are high. The people we empower today will become the next Einstein, the next Picasso, the next Mother Theresa of tomorrow”.

As Daniel Carmon, head of Israel’s MASHAV Agency for International Development Cooperation wrote in the National Post:

“This groundbreaking resolution highlights the value of entrepreneurship for creating jobs in the developing world, opening up economic opportunities, and fostering responsibility in both local entrepreneurs and donor countries.” 

As the protocol of the session records:

“Turning to the draft resolution titled “Entrepreneurship for development”, the Assembly adopted it by a recorded vote of 141 in favour to 31 against, with 11 abstentions.

By that text, the Assembly emphasized the important role of partnerships with the private sector in promoting entrepreneurship, generating employment and investment, increasing revenue potential, developing new technologies and innovative business models, and enabling high, sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth while protecting the rights of workers.”

Obviously, members of the developing world would welcome such an initiative…wouldn’t they? Well, not some it seems – if it is proposed by Israel. 

Annex II

Against:  Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Yemen.

“The representative of Israel said he had hoped for consensus on the text, stressing that States in the Arab world especially could benefit from entrepreneurship.  Their people were demanding better lives, better economies and better governance, and did not wish to live with rampant corruption, discrimination against women and economic stagnation.  By voting against the resolution, Arab delegations were turning their backs on their own people and trying to turn back the clock on the important work of the United Nations.  It was now time to take the words of the resolution off the page and breathe life into them on the ground, he stressed, adding that the stakes were high.”

“Syria’s representative, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, described that statement as “truly strange”, given the criticism that Israel had received over human rights violations and denial of economic opportunities to people living under occupation.  Saudi Arabia’s representative defended his country’s record as a peace-loving nation, and his counterpart from Sudan said her country had not turned its back on its people, as the Israeli representative had said, but had instead turned its face towards those living under Israeli occupation.”

Strangely, I can’t seem to find a report on any of this from the BBC’s UN correspondent

Slogan rich, evidence free: BBC’s Plett ‘analyses’ Israeli planning decisions

December 20th 2012 saw yet another article in the Middle East section of the BBC News website about ‘settlement building’ – this time relating to the call by several European members of the UN SC to “immediately halt new construction” – which they seem to have failed to notice is not yet underway and is in fact a very long way from commencement. 

The report opens with the adoption of one of the favourite mantras of anti-Israel campaigners such as the PSC: [emphasis added]

“The UN is stepping up pressure on Israel over its settlement building on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

It goes on to say:

Divided Jerusalem

“Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it as part of its capital, in a move never recognised internationally.”

What the BBC neglects to inform its readers, of course, is that eastern Jerusalem was artificially divided from the rest of the city – for the first time in its history – for only 19 years prior to 1967, as a result of the Jordanian capture and subsequent annexation of certain parts of the city. That annexation was also never recognized “internationally”.

Additionally, the report states:

“Also on Wednesday, Jerusalem’s planning committee granted approval for 2,610 homes in a new settlement in East Jerusalem called Givat Hamatos – the first to be built in the area since 1997.”

Interestingly, the BBC report not only neglects to mention that there are already people living in that area, but also that half the proposed housing units in Givat HaMatos are ear-marked for Arab residents. In addition, it does not inform its audience that one day prior to the decision on Givat HaMatos, over 600 houses were also approved – by the same planning committee – in the Arab neighbourhood of Beit Safafa. Strangely, the latter decision did not appear to irk either the UN SC, the EU or the BBC.

Givat HaMatos

The article goes on to quote a statement from the EU on the subject:

“If implemented, these plans would jeopardise the possibility of a contiguous, sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian State and of Jerusalem as the future capital of both Israel and Palestine”.

That theme is echoed in the side-bar of ‘analysis’ by the BBC’s UN correspondent Barbara Plett in which she claims that:

“The outcry at the UN reflects a real concern that Israel’s continued settlement building could deal a fatal blow to the chances for a two-state solution of its conflict with the Palestinians.

Its announcement of new construction plans, including the possibility of a new settlement in East Jerusalem, comes just days after its declared intent to build in a parcel of land known as E-1, which would cut Palestinians in East Jerusalem off from their West Bank hinterland.”

Plett analysis

Of course both the EU statement and Plett’s matching one – whilst high on hubris – have little connection to the reality on the ground as far as geography is concerned and as reflected in different peace proposals over the years.

The 2000 Camp David proposal – rejected by Arafat – included all of the sites of today’s proposed building in Israeli territory. 

Camp David proposal

Similarly, the 2008 Olmert proposal – widely accepted by many Israelis as representing the most they can offer to the Palestinians – also includes Ramat Shlomo, Givat HaMatos and E1 in Israeli territory.

Olmert plan

It is therefore notable that the BBC – along with members of the Quartet such as the EU – now appears to ignore all previous realistic proposals and instead embraces the rejectionist Palestinian approach to the dispute. It is also regrettable – and ridiculous – that they invent alarmist canards such as the notion that building houses in areas which – under any realistic peace plan – will remain in Israel “jeopardises” and “deals a fatal blow” to the chance of a two-state solution. 

For some eminently sensible and realistic commentary on the subject, one can do no better than to turn to Yaacov Lozowick, who recently wrote on the subject:

“When it comes to E1, he said, the Israelis and Palestinians are competing to see who gets the balloon and who gets the string. Jewish West Jerusalem, Maaleh Adumim, Rammallah and Bethlehem are all there to stay. Whoever ends up controlling E1 will have a comfortable land corridor between their two balloons while the other side will be left with a road through the other’s territory: a string. If Israel controls E1, the Palestinians will have a north-south road through it; if the Palestinians own E1, the Israelis will have an east-west road through it.

The claim whereby Israeli ownership of E1 would make for a truncated and thus non-viable Palestinian state on the West Bank ought to be about as convincing as saying a physical barrier between Manhattan and Brooklyn and New Jersey makes Manhattan non-viable.

To be clear: I’m not arguing for or against Israeli construction on E1. I’m merely pointing out that much of the verbiage on the topic is misleading.”

In addition to the five very pertinent points made by Mr Lozowick in the rest of his article, it is possible to add one other. If we assume that a peace agreement broadly based on something very similar to the two maps above will be the eventual outcome to the current dispute, then obviously significant numbers of Israelis will need to leave their current homes and livelihoods in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Rift Valley and relocate to other parts of Israel. The current zoning and long-term planning in areas which will remain within Israeli territory under such a two-state solution agreement could therefore actually speed up its implementation rather than presenting a barrier to it. 

It remains highly problematic that the best the BBC can apparently contribute to its audiences’ understanding of the Middle East peace process is the kind of evidence-free, slogan-rich hyperbole proffered by Barbara Plett in this article.  The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on impartiality state that:

“We are committed to reflecting a wide range of opinion across our output as a whole and over an appropriate timeframe so that no significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under-represented.”

On the subject of Israeli zoning and planning decisions, the BBC is failing miserably to meet its obligation to impartiality by consistently neglecting to provide audiences with any information on the indisputably significant “strand of thought” which lies behind several past peace proposals and according to which, the existing neighbourhoods of Jerusalem with a Jewish majority beyond the ‘green line’ would remain Israeli. 

By failing to meet that obligation, the BBC also contravenes – by omission – yet another of its Editorial Guidelines:

“The BBC Agreement forbids our output from expressing the opinion of the BBC on current affairs or matters of public policy”.

A masterclass in subtle messaging from the BBC’s Barbara Plett

The BBC’s correspondent at the United Nations in New York, Barbara Plett, broadcast a report on BBC television news on November 29th 2012 (also appearing on the BBC News website) concerning the Palestinian Authority’s latest UN bid.

At 0:17 Plett says: [emphasis added]

“Last year Mahmoud Abbas applied for full UN membership, with much fanfare, but that got bogged down at the Security Council amidst US opposition. This time he’s coming to the UN for a lesser upgrade: from an observer to an observer state – like the Vatican.”

 Plett’s exclusive mention of “US opposition” to Abbas’s 2011 bid is of course inaccurate and disingenuous. In fact, the 15 member UN SC Admissions Committee was “unable to make a unanimous recommendation” – as necessary – to the Security Council. 

She continues:

“It’s a largely symbolic move, but Palestinians argue at least it will grant formal recognition to their state, which is practically being eroded by Israeli settlement building.”

The uninformed viewer hearing that sentence may well be left with the impression that a Palestinian state already exists and that it merely lacks “formal recognition”. But it is the second half of the sentence which is particularly interesting.

Plett does not say “but Palestinians argue at least it will grant formal recognition to their state, which they claim is practically being eroded by Israeli settlement building”. Instead, she states it as though it were fact. 

So our uninformed viewer may well now think that there already is a Palestinian state, and that it is becoming smaller because of Israeli settlement building. Of course Plett does not actually say that, but neither does she make any effort to refrain from leaving that impression.

At 1:02 Plett says:

“With such opposition from Israel – and therefore America – the Palestinian leadership is taking a risk.”

So American opposition is, according to Plett, a direct consequence of Israeli opposition. In other words, America cannot think for itself: it has to follow Israel’s lead.

That assertion sails very close to the age-old wind of stereotypical antisemitic motifs of Jewish power and control over governments and it is a highly inappropriate theme for a BBC journalist to advance – even through subtle messaging. 

BBC promotes the false concept of ‘1967 borders’

The BBC News website’s Middle East page of November 28th featured an article concerning France’s apparent decision to back the Palestinian Authority’s upcoming bid for ‘non-member observer state’ status at the UN General Assembly. 

In the side-box of ‘analysis’ the BBC’s Barbara Plett has, perhaps predictably, found a very euphemistic way in which to describe the OIC-led bloc which so often manages to turn UN proceedings into something between a farce and a witch-hunt. [emphasis added]

“The Palestinians are guaranteed to win the vote for an upgrade to the status of non-member state because of strong sympathy from the post-colonial nations which dominate the General Assembly.”

In the rest of the report, besides the rather glaring absence of the word ‘Hamas’ which should surely be of relevance when discussing the bid’s implications and potential results, readers will no doubt notice the erroneous use of the term “1967 borders”. 

Nowhere in this article does the BBC make it clear that the so-called “1967 borders” are in fact the 1949 armistice lines and that not only do those lines not represent any kind of territorial frontier but that, at Arab insistence, they were specifically defined as lacking any such status in the 1949 Armistice Agreement

“Article II

With a specific view to the implementation of the resolution of the Security Council of 16 November 1948, the following principles and purposes are affirmed:

1. The principle that no military or political advantage should be gained under the truce ordered by the Security Council is recognised;

2. It is also recognised that no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.

Article VI

9. The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”

The BBC’s Steve Herrmann – Editor of the BBC News website – needs to ensure that a correction is made to this article in order for it to meet Editorial Guidelines on accuracy.