BDS background the BBC fails to report

Two recent reports by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly which once again amplified the messaging of the BDS campaign (see related articles below) referred obliquely to the Israeli company SodaStream.

On July 28th that company’s CEO, Daniel Birnbaum, testified to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. More information on the purpose and outcome of that hearing can be found here and here.

Mr Birnbaum’s testimony gives some insight into the attacks on his company by BDS campaigners – insight which BBC audiences are still lacking despite the corporation’s frequent promotion and mainstreaming of the subject.

Also appearing at the committee’s hearing was Professor Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University Law School.

It is of course long past time for the BBC to tell its audiences accurately and impartially what the BDS campaign is really about.

Related Articles:

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part two

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part three

BBC’s Knell flouts impartiality guidelines with failure to inform on Susiya interviewee’s day job

In recent days the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell has produced two very similar reports on different platforms concerning illegally built structures in the South Hebron Hills.

On July 25th an article appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Susiya: Palestinian West Bank village faces bleak end“, where it remained for three consecutive days.Knell Susiya

The July 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Julian Marshall – included a report (from 30:10 here) on the same topic by Knell. In his introduction to that audio report, Marshall states:

“Earlier this year Israel’s High Court ruled against an injunction by residents of Susiya trying to stop Israeli demolition orders. Now, before an appeal is heard, they’ve been told to expect their homes to be destroyed any day.”

That portrayal is inaccurate and misleading.

“During the years while the legal proceedings were ongoing, the petitioners continued to expand their illegal construction, raising the number of structures to a few dozen. They exploited a cease and desist order that temporarily prevented Israel from demolishing the illegal structures. 

On 4 May 2015, the Supreme Court declined to issue another temporary injunction preventing demolitions. The Court found that the petitioners chose to continue to build illegally in violation of judicial rulings that were meant to facilitate the examination of the situation in its entirety, including the actions of the Israeli authorities.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in May, Israel has decided to remove only those structures that were constructed in defiance of judicial rulings or by the exploitation of judicial orders. Israel has undertaken not to demolish the remaining illegal structures before the Supreme Court renders its decision and then only with the Court’s permission. The Court will hear arguments from both sides of the case in August 2015.” [emphasis added]

Both Knell’s reports include considerable input from one Nasser Nawaja – described by her in the audio report as “one of about 350 villagers” and in the written report as a “Susiya resident”.

Whilst those descriptions may indeed be accurate, Mr Nawaja’s position as a community organizer and a field researcher for the political NGO B’Tselem is highly relevant to this story. But – in breach of the BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality which state “[w]e should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made” – Knell refrains from telling audiences about her main interviewee’s day job or his worldwide promotion of a libel which has darkly medieval overtones.

“My name is Nasser Nawajah, I’m 30 years old and a resident of a Palestinian village called Susiya in the occupied West Bank. My home is here in the Hebron hills that Israel calls an “illegal outpost” and they have demolished our town five times since 1985, even poisoning our wells.” [emphasis added]

As NGO Monitor reports, B’Tselem is one of a number of foreign funded political organisations involved in promoting the Susiya campaign.

“Khirbet Susiya (Susya) is a small Arab village in the South Hebron Hills. There are widely divergent narratives regarding the village and its history; according to Israeli authorities, the village’s structures have been illegally built. A protracted court battle ensued regarding the demolition of the village.

The Israeli Supreme Court recently cleared the legal barriers to demolition, on the grounds that the structures were constructed illegally, entirely without permits or approved plans. (Under the Oslo framework, Israel is responsible for planning and construction in Area C, which is where Susya is located.)

A number of governments, including the U.S. and European governments, are lobbying the Israeli government to prevent the demolition. […]

As with many such contentious issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict, many NGOs are active in promoting the Palestinian narrative, which is then repeated by the European and U.S. officials. These NGOs are themselves heavily subsidized by European and U.S. entities.”

A proportion of B’Tselem’s funding comes from the EU and the UK government and the involvement of those two entities in this story does not end there. As the Times of Israel reported:

“Little wonder the Europeans have rushed to Susya’s aid. Practically the entire hamlet is being sustained by EU funding. The solar panels generating its electricity were donated by the German foreign ministry; the clinic and water purifying systems were donated by Italy, and the master plan which the Israeli court is to debate on August 3 was funded by the UK. Significantly, 22 of the 37 buildings scheduled for demolition are EU-funded.”

Anyone who has travelled around Area C in the past few months will not be surprised by that revelation of pirate construction of EU-funded structures in places which according to the Oslo accords are under Israeli control – including planning and zoning. The road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, for example, offers an excellent view of dozens of relatively recent structures bearing the EU flag.

Whilst BBC licence fee payers might perhaps have appreciated some in-depth investigative reporting on the subject of why their taxes are going towards illegal construction which flouts the terms of the Oslo Accords and creates ‘facts on the ground’ despite those agreeents clearly stating that the future of Area C is to be determined by means of final status negotiations, Yolande Knell’s reports avoided all mention of the above topics with the exception of the following opaque sentence in the written report:

“European donations help sustain Susiya village, which is not connected to mains electricity or public water supplies.”

Instead, Knell’s pathos-rich accounts clearly steer audiences towards her desired take away messaging.

“Now, for the third time in three decades, villagers are facing the threat of another forced displacement.”

“Seventy-year-old Mohammed Nawaja looks on. “Each time we’ve had to rebuild we’ve started with nothing,” he says. “I must trust in God that my grandchildren won’t have to live the same experience.”” (BBC News website report)

“Nearby local children play football. Their grandparents and parents were forced to move from their homes and now they face the same uncertainty.” (Newshour report)

In addition to failing to mention that the High Court of Justice found that the families in Susiya already have homes in the nearby village of Yatta in Area A, Knell refrains from telling her readers and listeners that the Israeli government has offered the residents an alternative.

“They have been offered plots of similar, or even better, quality in a nearby area that already conforms to planning and zoning laws. Building houses there will also improve the petitioners’ quality of life, giving them access to infrastructure and educational facilities that are not available in their current illegal locations. Additionally, they will be allowed to continue the same agricultural activities on the lands they currently claim.”

Yolande Knell’s failure to tell audiences the whole story and her concealment of the fact that her main interviewee is an employee of one of the political NGOs involved in the public relations campaign promoting the one-sided Susiya narrative is ample indication of the fact that these two reports – once again – have more to do with political activism than accurate and impartial news reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

Resources:

BBC News online – contact details

BBC World Service – contact details

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part three

In addition to the amplification of unchallenged anti-Israel messaging from Michael Deas (coordinator in Europe for the Palestinian BDS National Committee) already seen by BBC audiences on television and the website on July 21st and heard on the radio on July 23rd, an article by Kevin Connolly which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page for four consecutive days from July 23rd under the title “Israel looks for answers to boycott campaign” also featured Deas.Connolly BDS

Included in Connolly’s report is the film clip of Deas’ unchallenged monologue previously aired on television and promoted separately on the BBC News website. One hundred and sixty-six of the 1,100 words used in Connolly’s report are devoted to further amplification of Deas’ messaging also already seen on other platforms. Notably, despite its appearance in the embedded film clip, Connolly saw fit to further amplify Deas’ call to boycott all Israeli goods in the text of his article too, under the sub-heading “Beyond settlements”.

“The precise terms of the boycott are important.

Some groups want to target Israeli companies that are based in the West Bank – or those that export fruit and vegetables grown there.

Others, including Michael Deas, believe that doesn’t go far enough – and offers this reasoning: “The Palestinian call is for boycotting of all Israeli products.”

“We know some people… are only comfortable with boycotting products that come from settlements. That’s a position we can understand and can sympathise with,” he told the BBC.

“The problem is that Israeli companies… routinely lie about where their products are coming from, so the only safe way for people to avoid buying products from the settlements is not to buy Israeli products altogether.”

In other words, members of the BBC’s audience accessing a range of its content between July 21st and July 23rd 2015 were exposed on five occasions to the message that all Israeli products should be boycotted.

A photograph of workers at a winery appearing immediately after that section of the article is captioned:

“Boycott campaigners say purchasing produce from Jewish settlements helps reinforce Israel’s presence in the occupied West Bank”

Connolly’s report also includes the following quote from Deas, under the sub-heading “Colonialism charge”:

“Michael Deas, campaigns director of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) National Committee in London, clearly believes that the tide is running their way.

He argues: “There’s a growing fear inside Israel that it’s facing international isolation of the kind South Africa faced… it’s really interesting that after just 10 years the pressure that we are creating is forcing many ordinary Israelis to question whether Israeli… colonialism is sustainable in the long-term in its current form.””

Connolly of course has no way of verifying that latter spurious claim but he amplifies it anyway. He then goes on to write:

“Israelis regard the word “colonialism” as provocative in this context because it brackets the Zionist settlement of the Holy Land with the European takeovers of territory in Africa, Asia and elsewhere in previous centuries.

Israelis say they are reclaiming an ancient right to the land and shouldn’t therefore be seen as a chapter in the history of colonialism.”

Notably, Connolly makes no effort to independently explain to readers why – beyond what “Israelis say” – the politically motivated charge of ‘colonialism’ does not apply to the Jewish state and he refrains from pointing out that over half of Israel’s population has its roots in ancient Middle Eastern and North African Jewish communities.

Below that section of the article appears an archive photograph of anti-apartheid campaigners in London with the caption “Israel says comparisons with South Africa’s former apartheid regime are nothing more than a smear tactic”. Connolly makes no attempt however to clarify to readers that the BDS campaign’s use of the misnomer ‘apartheid’ in relation to Israel is rather more than just a “smear” and in fact is a deliberate attempt to brand Israel as an entity whose existence cannot be tolerated by the same ‘decent’ people whom Connolly describes as having been affected by the campaign against South African apartheid.

“…more importantly they made it a kind of litmus test of decency to refuse to buy fruit or wine from the Cape.

The precise economic effects may have been debatable but the political impact was significant – it sent a signal to the apartheid regime that it was not part of the global family of decent, developed nations.”

That, of course, is precisely the aim of the BDS campaign and hence it is all the more important for a broadcaster supposedly committed to providing its audiences with accurate and impartial information to clarify why loaded slogans such as ‘apartheid’ and ‘colonialist’ do not apply to Israel. To date, however, the BBC has refrained from doing so.

In addition to his promotion of the notion that the BDS campaign is gaining popular support through the use of phrases such as “the tide is running their way”, Connolly unquestioningly amplifies some of its unproven claims of achievement.

“But the BDS movement feels it can point to clear successes.

It believes it has forced the French infrastructure company, Veolia, to disinvest from the Israeli market through a kind of grassroots campaign asking for example local taxpayers in Europe to persuade their councils not to invest in the firm because it operated in Israeli settlements built on land captured in the war of 1967.”

Although he later half-heartedly adds an appropriate caveat, Connolly refrains from pointing out that Veolia’s business enterprises in human rights abusing Gulf states are of no concern to BDS campaigners.

“Veolia’s official press release at the time couched the decision to sell its businesses in Israel as part of a debt reduction strategy but BDS activists are in no doubt it was a win for them.”

Another photograph used to illustrate the article carries the caption “The Israeli firm SodaStream, which had a factory in the West Bank, was targeted in a high-profile boycott campaign in 2014″. SodaStream of course moved its factory from Mishor Adumim to the Negev for commercial reasons which predated the political campaign against it and not – as the inclusion of this photograph misleadingly implies – because of the BDS campaign.

Connolly’s article predictably includes the following BBC mantra:

“In most interpretations of international law of course – although not Israel’s – those settlements are illegal and are wanted for the construction of a Palestinian state.”

And after four and a half years stationed in Jerusalem, Connolly obviously refuses to understand that Israelis call Judea and Samaria by those titles because that it what they are called – and always were until the Jordanians invented the term ‘West Bank’ to try to justify their belligerent occupation and later unrecognized annexation of the region in 1948.

“One business which won’t be selling up or relocating under overseas political pressure is Yaakov Berg’s winery at Psagot in the hills of the West Bank – or Judea and Samaria as Yaakov prefers to call it, using the area’s biblical names to emphasise its ancient links with the Jews.”

Predictably, Connolly makes no effort to independently inform his readers of the real aims and motives of the BDS campaign and the little information on that topic comes from his Israeli interviewees.

“That’s the kind of reasoning which infuriates Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who sees calls for a boycott of Israel as anti-Semitic and argues that well-meaning people around the world are being misled by the BDS leaders.

“They don’t care about settlements and they don’t care about borders,” she told me, “All they care about is that Israel shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state.””

Similarly to his audio report on the same topic, Connolly closes with a prediction – in which campaigners trying to bring about an end to Jewish self-determination are whitewashed as “critics”.

“You can expect the calls for a boycott to be one of the major issues between Israel and its critics in the years to come.”

In common with the audio and filmed reports produced around the same time, this article by Connolly provides unchallenged amplification of messaging from Michael Deas, despite the obvious breach of editorial guidelines on impartiality caused by the failure to provide BBC audiences with objective information concerning the BDS campaign’s real aims.

Obviously, no media organization can honestly claim to be accurately and impartially covering a political campaign of any stripe if it consistently fails to tell its audiences to what that campaign really aspires. Like all their predecessors, these latest three chapters in the BBC’s superficial coverage of the BDS campaign exacerbate that ongoing failure.

Related Articles:

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part one

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part two

 

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part two

In part one of this post we noted the BBC’s amplification of unchallenged, inaccurate, partial and context-free messaging from Michael Deas – the coordinator in Europe for the Palestinian BDS National Committee – on BBC television news and the BBC News website on July 21st.

Two days later, listeners to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ also got a dose of the BDS campaign’s propaganda when Deas cropped up again in an item (from 26:10 here) by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly. Presenter Eddie Mair introduced the segment as follows:BDS Deas PM

“A campaign to boycott Israeli products is claiming increasing success. It says it’s defending human rights. The Israeli government accuses it of antisemitism. Reporting for PM; our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly.”

Connolly: “Israel is under pressure, looking for ways to push back against growing calls around the world for a boycott of goods produced in the farms and factories of the West Bank – land it captured in the Middle East war of 1967 and which the wider world regards as occupied Palestinian territory.”

Refraining from reminding listeners that the area was in fact part of the region allocated by the League of Nations for the establishment of the Jewish national home before it was occupied by Jordan for 19 years or why the Six Day War broke out, against the backdrop of a song Connolly goes on:

“Reggae is not Israel’s only weapon, of course. But this song does emphasis one of its key points. How, when human rights are trampled in the four corners of the earth, does it find itself the target of such a well-organised and single-minded boycott campaign?”

Listeners next hear an unidentified voice say:

“There’s a growing fear inside Israel that it’s facing international isolation of the kind that South Africa faced under apartheid. So we saw about six months ago a hundred Israeli business leaders in Israel issuing an appeal on the front page of one of Israel’s biggest newspapers urging the Israeli government to take action to stem the tide of boycotts.”

Connolly then introduces his contributor:

“Michael Deas – campaigning director of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee in London – believes the tide on this issue is starting to run their way. The holy grail for the BDS movement is to impose on Israel the kind of damage once inflicted on white South Africa by anti-apartheid campaigners. And Michael Deas says it’s not enough to boycott goods that come from Israeli settlements on the West Bank; something more comprehensive is called for.”

Listeners hear Deas deliver the same messaging previously promoted on BBC television news and on the website.

“The Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel is for a boycott of all Israeli products. Now we know that some people and some organisations are really at the moment only comfortable boycotting products that come from settlements and that’s a position that we understand and can sympathise with. The problem is is [sic] the Israeli export companies that are exporting oranges and avocados, they routinely lie about where their products are coming from so the only safe way for people to avoid buying products from the settlements is not to buy Israeli products altogether.”

What listeners do not hear, however, is any accurate and impartial information concerning the BDS campaign’s real aims or its origins which would enable them to put Deas’ claims and messaging into their correct context.

Connolly moves on to ticking his impartiality box by bringing two Israelis into his item, beginning with an Israeli winemaker.

“The world looks very different to Ya’akov Berg – an Israeli winemaker whose family home sits in rolling vineyards on the West Bank – or Judea and Samaria as he prefers to call it. The Psagot winery’s corporate video, with Old Testament figures swirling across the landscape, makes a familiar Israeli point: that the land is theirs by biblical right and is not negotiable.”

Whilst some Israelis may indeed express such views, that of course is not the legal basis for Israeli claims to Judea and Samaria. But Connolly has already passed up on the opportunity to inform audiences of the fact that those regions were included in the Mandate for Palestine in 1922, preferring to blinker listeners with the notion of “Palestinian territory”.

After a few words from Mr Berg, listeners hear unidentified shouting and chanting: “One, two, three, four, occupation no more. Five, six, seven, eight….”. Connolly refrains from providing any information about that insert but it bears remarkable resemblance to an audio track he used in a January 2014 report  which covertly promoted the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s agenda regarding the Israeli company SodaStream and his ensuing words further suggest that the audio track was recycled from that report.

“The boycott movement is clearly starting to feel it’s working with the grain of history, pointing to companies moving out of the West Bank, apparently in response to political pressure overseas – although Israel can equally argue that major international companies like Microsoft and Apple are still investing.”

Connolly’s enthusiastic amplification of redundant BDS messaging of course leaves no room for listeners to be informed that the move of the SodaStream factory from Mishor Adumim to the Negev was prompted by financial agreements which pre-dated the BDS campaign’s targeting of the company.

“There’s another reason for the move to the Negev – a multi-million dollar subsidy the company is eligible for as a result of the move to Lehavim. In a deal signed in 2012, SodaStream agreed to build a production plant in the newly established Idan Hanegev Industrial Zone, with an estimated cost of NIS 280 million ($78 million). The plant is set to employ about 1,000 people, according to Ministry of the Economy documents. In return, SodaStream is set to receive a 20% subsidy, worth as much as NIS 60 million (nearly $16 million).” 

Connolly continues:

“But what about that question of whether a South Africa moment is looming? That point where ordinary consumers overseas see a ‘produce of Israel’ label on an avocado or a pomegranate and instinctively shy away. Israel’s deputy foreign minister Tsipi Hotovely says the boycott campaign’s comparison with apartheid is offensive and wrong.”

Listeners then hear seven sentences from Hotovely before Connolly sums up.

“In arguments about Israel it’s always hard to be sure if debate is changing people’s minds or just reinforcing the opinions they held anyway. Either way, you can be sure that for both sides, the boycott debate is one of the key battle grounds of the future.”

That, of course, should be all the more reason for the BBC to present the issue of the BDS campaign to its audiences accurately, impartially and comprehensively. But instead of providing them with the full range of information concerning that political campaign’s funding, origins, claims and aims, the BBC instead acts as its cheerleader by misleading audiences with presentation of the campaign as being connected to ‘human rights’ and whitewashing of its demonization and delegitimisation of Israel.

Moreover, the BBC’s unsubstantiated and unsourced inflation of the BDS campaign’s ‘success’ and its promotion of the notion that BDS is “growing” and  “working with the grain of history” clearly has the effect of mainstreaming the campaign into public consciousness and turning the BBC into a self-conscripted activist in this political crusade to bring about the demise of Jewish self-determination.

Is that really a place in which licence fee payers would like to see their national broadcaster?

Kevin Connolly’s BDS promotion and amplification did not, however, end there. More to come in part three of this post.  

 

BBC’s Kevin Connolly erases Iranian patronage of terror, distorts history

On July 19th an article by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Winds of change blow through Middle East“.Connolly Iran

Connolly’s basic premise is that the JCPOA signed by the P5+1 and Iran last week heralds a new era.

“This was a week of change though.

Once the US and Iran glared at each other across a chasm of values: where the Iranians saw themselves as champions of Shia communities and exporters of revolution the Americans saw only sponsorship of terrorism.

That may now begin to change although we don’t know how far or how fast that change will go.

Through the gloom of the current desert storms it is hard to know for sure what sort of Middle East will eventually emerge – but it is already clear that one of the strongest winds blowing in the region blows from Iran.”

On the way to that conclusion Connolly takes readers for a stroll through the last century of Middle East history, managing to make some significant omissions along the way. Going back to the end of the First World War, he states:

“With the Turks defeated in Jerusalem and Damascus and Sinai and Gaza there was a new world to be made.

Britain, mandated by the League of Nations to govern the Holy Land, could set about honouring its commitment to the Jews of the world to build a national home for them in Palestine – probably not guessing that the issues surrounding the promise would remain a potent source of violence and discord a century later.”

Yes, the British government had produced the Balfour Declaration in 1917 but Connolly misleads readers by failing to clarify that the establishment of the Jewish national home was not merely based on a pre-existing British commitment but in fact had its foundations in the legally binding unanimous decision of the fifty-one member countries of the League of Nations in 1922, which Great Britain was charged with administering and which the United Nations reaffirmed in 1946.

In relation to the Sykes-Picot agreement Connolly makes the following vague statement and links to an article from December 2013:

“Some historians have pointed out that the agreement conflicted with pledges already given by the British to the Hashemite leader Husayn ibn Ali, Sharif of Mecca, who was about to lead an Arab revolt in the Hejaz against the Ottoman rulers on the understanding that the Arabs would eventually receive a much more important share of the territory won.”

Connolly omits any mention of the fact that the Hussein-McMahon correspondence did not include Palestine, as Sir Henry McMahon himself pointed out in a letter to the Times in 1937.

McMahon letter Times

Later on in his article Connolly presents the following hypothesis:

“But we got a feel for some of the forces that will shape the new order in Vienna this week when the world’s great powers – the UN Security Council plus Germany – struck a deal with Iran.

The talks were convened of course to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions – and so they did.

But they were a kind of acknowledgement too of Iran’s status as a regional power – a sense that in effect nothing can be settled in the modern Middle East without the Iranians.”

Avoiding discussion of the obviously vital question of whether or not Iranian policy is really designed to ‘settle’ Middle East disputes and conflicts, he goes on to present the following attenuated portrayal of Iran’s fingers in the regional pie:

“Iran after all is the main force propping up the faltering Syria regime of Bashar al-Assad, and it is using Hezbollah, the militia it founded and funded in neighbouring Lebanon to bear the brunt of the fighting.

Iranian-backed Shia militias have been fighting in Iraq against Sunni extremists – often filling vacuums left by the country’s armed forces.

The Houthi rebels in Yemen too are part of this Iranian regional movement.”

Hizballah, of course, is not merely an Iranian proxy “militia” as Connolly leads readers to believe: it is an organization with a long history of terrorist and criminal activity both in the Middle East and much further afield. But Connolly’s whitewashing of Iranian patronage of terrorist organisations does not end there: he fails to make any mention of the theocratic regime’s material and ideological support for other terror groups such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Moreover, the extremist religious ideologies which are the foundations of the Iranian regime itself and the reason behind its patronage of Shia and Sunni terrorist organisations are portrayed by Connolly in markedly muted terms.

“Iran is the great power in the world of Shia Islam, just as Saudi Arabia would see itself as the leader of those who follow the Sunni tradition.

There are plenty of small wars in which their proxy armies fight each other in what sometimes feels like a looming regional confessional conflict.”

In other words, a BBC Middle East correspondent who has been located in the region for over four and a half years would have audiences believe that hostilities rooted in religious doctrines may be (perhaps; he’s not quite decided) just around the corner.

As long as Connolly and his colleagues continue to downplay Iranian sponsorship of terrorist groups motivated by religious ideology BBC audiences will obviously be unable to fully comprehend the reservations voiced by many in the Middle East concerning the “winds of change” bolstered by the terms of the JCPOA agreement or to fully understand the “international issues” likely to develop as a result.

Related Articles:

BBC’s summary of Khamenei speech censors pledge to support terror

No wonder BBC WS presenter Razia Iqbal got Iranian threat to Israel wrong

BBC News website flunks story of PA arrests of Hamas operatives too

In addition to the ‘Newshour’ report previously discussed here, BBC coverage of the Palestinian Authority’s recent arrest of Hamas operatives also included a written report appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 3rd under the headline “Palestinian forces arrest dozens of Hamas members in West Bank“.PA arrests website

Despite the arrests having taken place in areas controlled by the PA, the article opens:

“The Palestinian Authority’s security forces have arrested more than 100 members of the militant Hamas movement in the occupied West Bank.” [emphasis added]

Bearing in mind that the BBC has refrained from informing its audiences about Hamas’ attempts to strengthen its presence in PA controlled areas and that English language coverage of the recent uptick in terror attacks against Israelis has been virtually non-existent, readers must have found the following paragraphs very confusing.

“The PA, which is dominated by the rival Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas, said it wanted to prevent Hamas undermining the territory’s security.” […]

“A spokesman of the Palestinian Authority, Adnan al-Dameri, said those arrested would be put on trial on the charge of threatening security and stability.

“We will not let Hamas undermine our security and draw our country to bloodshed. We will not let Hamas carry out attacks in the West Bank,” he told the Associated Press.”

Also included in the report were the following statements:

“A Hamas spokesman said the arrests were an effort to stop a spate of deadly attacks on Israelis in the West Bank.

Husam Badran accused Palestinian security forces of working for Israel and said Hamas held Mr Abbas personally responsible.

The Islamist group, which dominates the Gaza Strip, called for the immediate release of its members and warned of “consequences”.”

BBC audiences were not informed that Husam Badran was named in connection with the recently publicized exposure of Hamas activity in Nablus (Schem) and hence are unable to put his amplified claims into their correct context. The exposure of that Hamas cell was not reported by the BBC at the time and in this article readers are merely told that:

“Earlier, Israel’s internal security agency said it had uncovered a Hamas militant cell operating in the Nablus area of the West Bank.”

Readers are also informed that:

“The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says the issue of security co-ordination between Israel and PA security forces remains highly sensitive.”

“Highly sensitive” to whom is not clarified but it is notable that only a few weeks earlier the BBC told its audiences that the Palestinians were to end security cooperation with Israel.

The article goes on:

“Such developments will raise concerns about renewed divisions between the two factions despite a formal reconciliation deal last year and the creation of a unity government, our correspondent adds.”

As anyone who followed the progress of the short-lived Palestinian Unity Government will be aware, the divisions between Hamas and Fatah are far from “renewed” and “reconciliation” never got off the ground.

Next comes a highly sanitized description of Hamas’ violent coup in the Gaza Strip with no mention made of the fact that the legitimate elected mandates of Hamas, the PLC and the PA president long since expired.

“The two factions had governed separately since Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in 2006, ousted Fatah from Gaza in 2007, leaving the PA governing just parts of the West Bank.”

The last eight paragraphs of the article are a hodge-podge of unrelated news.

“Also on Friday, an Israeli general accused Hamas of providing support to an affiliate of the jihadist group Islamic State in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Maj-Gen Yoav Mordechai, named members of Hamas’s military wing who he alleged were involved in training militants from the affiliate, known as Sinai Province, and smuggling those wounded in clashes with Egyptian security forces into Gaza for medical treatment.

“We know that Hamas, and I have verified information, that Hamas in Gaza is assisting Sinai Province both in organisation and armaments,” he said. […]

Hamas has repeatedly rejected accusations of collusion with IS and said Gen Mordechai’s comments were an attempt to damage its relations with Egypt.”

Those wishing to view Major General Mordechai’s interview with Al Jazeera Arabic (interesting not least for the ‘journalistic’ approach taken by the interviewer) can do so here.

The BBC’s article closes:

“In a separate development in the West Bank on Friday, an Israeli officer shot and killed a 17-year-old Palestinian who was throwing stones at his vehicle. The Israeli military said the brigade commander had first fired warning shots at the boy.”

Details of that incident can be found here.

Despite chronic under-reporting of the subject of Hamas’ attempts to undermine the PA by strengthening its presence in PA controlled areas and the lack of adequate coverage of the recent rise in terror attacks, like their colleagues at the BBC World Service the website’s journalists made no attempt to provide audiences with information needed to properly understand this story and its wider implications. Very rarely does the BBC cover internal Palestinian affairs and hence such superficial reporting is all the more unfortunate. 

When the BBC proclaimed imminent peace in the Middle East

h/t Presspectiva

An article which appeared in the print version of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot on June 30th opens with the following anecdote:Yediot art

“In June 1999 the heads of the BBC invited Guy Spiegelman, one of the journalists at its Israel office, for a talk. ‘We are making cuts in personnel’ they told Spiegelman, who quickly understood the hint. Before going on his way, he asked his British editors about the reasoning behind staff cuts in one of the most vibrant news areas in the world. The answer surprised even him: the peace which would soon dawn between Israel and the Palestinians following Ehud Barak’s election as prime minister. ‘It was a little weird, but I assumed they knew what they were talking about’ he says.” [translation BBC Watch]

As events later proved, they obviously did not…

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Yet again: Gaza missile attack ignored by BBC News but Israeli response reported in Arabic

At around 10 p.m. on the evening of June 23rd residents of Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip once again had to scramble for cover from incoming missile fire.

“The rocket landed in an open area near the Yad Mordechai Kibbutz just north of the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. […]

There were no reports of injuries or damage directly after the alarms, which sounded in the communities of Zikim, Karmia, Netiv Ha’asara and Yad Mordechai just after 10 p.m., the IDF said.”

Several hours later Israel responded with a strike on the rocket launcher used in the attack.

Following the now established pattern, there was no reporting of the missile attack on the BBC News English language website but the Israeli response to it was reported on the BBC Arabic website.missile 23 6 BBC Arabic

In the months since the end of last summer’s conflict between Israel and Palestinian terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip the ceasefire has been broken on multiple occasions by missile fire – with none of those incidents having received dedicated coverage by the BBC in English at the time.

September 16th 2014mortar fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News but briefly mentioned in a later article on another topic.

October 31st 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News.

December 19th 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not covered by BBC News at the time but Israeli response reported.

April 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Sha’ar HaNegev region – not reported by BBC News.

May 26th 2015 – missile fire at Gan Yavne area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

June 3rd 2015 – missile fire at Sdot Negev region – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic

June 6th 2015 – missile fire at Hof Ashkelon area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic. Later briefly mentioned in a June 10th report by Yolande Knell.

June 11th 2015 – missile fire (fell short in Gaza Strip) – later mentioned in a June 12th article by Yolande Knell.

June 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Yad Mordechai area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

To sum up, five separate incidents of missile fire aimed at Israeli civilian communities in the last month have been covered as follows on the BBC News website (June 12th):

“Three rockets have since been fired at Israel and a group calling itself the Omar Brigades said via social media that it was responsible. On Thursday, a fourth rocket was launched but fell short inside Gaza.

While the missiles have not caused injuries, they have drawn Israeli air strikes in response – some targeting Hamas military sites – and endangered a 10-month-long ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.”

Like this on BBC television news (June 10th):

“In the past week, several rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza, endangering the 10-month-long ceasefire that ended last summer’s deadly war.”

And as follows (from 00:50) on BBC World Service radio (June 11th):

“In the past few days several rockets have been fired from Gaza towards Israel jeopardizing the ceasefire that ended last summer’s war.”

“…militants linked to IS fired several rockets at Israel. It holds Hamas responsible and hit back with airstrikes.”

The focus of all three of those reports was the threat posed to Hamas rule in Gaza by Salafist Jihadists and the danger to the ceasefire agreement.

Once again, the BBC has not produced any reporting whatsoever from the regions in Israel targeted by those missile strikes and audiences remain uninformed with regard to how people who have been terrorized by the constant threat of missile fire from assorted terrorist groups for over fourteen years and suffered fifty days of intense attacks less than a year ago are now coping with the deteriorating security situation.

If audiences are to be provided with the “understanding of international issues” laid out in the corporation’s public purpose remit, the BBC must obviously tell that side of the story too. The current curious practice of omission of timely reporting of missile attacks in English, whilst covering the Israeli responses to those attacks in Arabic, is clearly also not conducive to meeting the BBC’s obligations.

The BBC and the UN HRC report on last summer’s conflict – part one

On June 22nd the UN HRC published the long-anticipated report by its self-styled ‘independent’ commission of inquiry into what it revealingly calls the “Gaza conflict” of 2014. Readers can find the full report here and will not be surprised to discover that – like its predecessor the Goldstone Report – this document too is heavily based on anonymous testimony and contributions from political activists such as Mads Gilbert and tens of political NGOs, indicating that ‘independent’ can be a relative term. Hence, it is not surprising to find among the report’s text ‘gems’ such as the ones below highlighted by Avi Issacharoff.UNHRC report BBC breaking

“The report notes that the probe “cannot conclusively determine the intent of Palestinian armed groups with regard to the construction and use of these tunnels. However, the commission observes that during the period under examination, the tunnels were only used to conduct attacks directed at IDF positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.”

With regard to warnings, the UN report risibly interpreted threats by Hamas that it would target Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport as concrete warnings to Israeli civilians.”

One of many examples of the way in which the report’s reliance on selective information provided by interested parties and political NGOs affects its findings can be seen on page 142.

“On 25 July 2014, three Palestinian men – Hashem Abu Maria, Sultan Za’qiq and Abdelhamid Breighith – were killed during a demonstration that took place in the village of Beit Umar in the Hebron area to protest against the hostilities in Gaza. In its assessment of the incident, the commission relied on eyewitness testimony, as well as information gathered by OHCHR and NGOs. […]

Hashem Abu Maria was quickly transferred by protesters to an ambulance and taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Mohammad Awad survived the incident. Hashem Abu Maria was a well-known civil society activist, who worked for the NGO Defence for Children International, in the Hebron area.”

As was pointed out here last July in light of a problematic report by the BBC’s Jon Donnison on that same incident, Hashem Abu Maria was described by the PFLP terrorist organization as one of its ‘commanders’ and the charity where he held his day job is known for its PFLP links.PFLP Abu Maria

Another example of the report’s many shortcomings is seen on page 134:

“According to information received by the commission, after the abduction of the Israeli youths, tensions were further fueled by a rise in extreme anti-Palestinian rhetoric by some Israelis, notably in social media, inciting revenge and hatred against Palestinians; as well as reported harassment; and sometimes, attacks on Palestinians and damage to businesses employing Palestinians. The anti-Palestinian rhetoric included sexual and negative references to female relatives of persons connected with armed groups and individuals killed during the conflict.”

However, no mention whatsoever is made of the celebrations on the Palestinian street which followed the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers or of the related incitement and glorification of terrorism promoted by Hamas, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority.

The BBC News website’s article on the subject of the report currently appears under the title “Gaza conflict 2014: ‘War crimes by both sides’ – UN” and the many changes made to it since its initial publication on June 22nd can be viewed here. The caption to the main photograph at the top of that report reads:UN HRC report main

“Israel and Palestinian militants fought for 50 days before agreeing to a ceasefire”

An accurate representation would have clarified that Hamas refused numerous ceasefire offers and, as was pointed out here at the time, that:

“The real story behind the August 26th ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is of course the fact that Hamas could have accepted the same terms six weeks earlier and thereby prevented hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure and unquantifiable suffering for the people of the Gaza Strip.”

The BBC’s report is predictably superficial and uncritical. With the BBC itself still quoting UN supplied casualty figures despite the subsequent information which has since come to light, it is little wonder that no effort is made to inform audiences of their highly problematic sourcing.   

“On the Palestinian side, 2,251 people, of whom 1,462 were civilians, were killed, the report said. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers were killed along with six civilians, it noted.”

The BBC’s standard ‘Israel says’ formula is employed.  

“Israel says it launched the offensive on Gaza to put an end to rocket fire and remove the threat of attacks by militants tunnelling under the border.”

The article misleads readers by once again inaccurately suggesting that Israel was the sole party to object to William Schabas’ appointment as head of the commission.

“The head of the inquiry, William Schabas, quit part-way through amid Israeli allegations of bias, acknowledging he had previously done work for the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).”

The article also states:

“It [the commission] said Israel had refused to allow its team into the West Bank or Gaza, which made it difficult to carry out the investigation.”

Audiences are not informed that Egypt also did not permit entry into the Gaza Strip from its territory – as noted in the UN report:

“The commission repeatedly requested Israel to cooperate, including by granting it access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Regrettably, Israel did not respond to these requests. Subsequently, the commission learned from a press release that no such cooperation would be forthcoming. The Government of Egypt, when requested to facilitate entry into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing, responded that it was not possible owing to the prevailing security situation.” (emphasis added.)

Whilst the article highlights selected statements and conclusions from the 183 page report, no effort is made to provide BBC audiences with objective analysis of its many very obvious shortcomings, such as the fact that it ignores Israel’s efforts to avoid the conflict and Hamas’ repeated breach of agreed ceasefires.

And of course nowhere does the BBC’s report – including the insert of ‘analysis’ from Yolande Knell – clarify to audiences the fact that the UN report is built upon the foundation of political NGOs, many of which concurrently engage in lawfare against Israel.

“B’Tselem was the most referenced NGO with 69 citations, followed by Amnesty International (53), Palestinian Center for Human Rights (50), and Al Mezan (29). UNWRA and UN-OCHA were also featured throughout the report.”

That, however, comes as no surprise because – as has been documented here in the past – the BBC itself quotes and promotes many of the same NGOs uncritically and unquestioningly.

In addition to this written article, the BBC also produced two filmed reports on the same topic which will be discussed in a later post. 

 

 

BBC News gets round to mentioning some of the missile fire from the Gaza Strip

On June 10th BBC audiences finally received some information on the issue of the missile fire from the Gaza Strip previously ignored by the corporation’s English language services. A filmed report produced by Yolande Knell for BBC television news also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Could Islamic State’s influence shatter Gaza ceasefire?“. The synopsis to that report reads:Knell Salafists 10 6 filmed

“In the past week, several rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza, endangering the 10-month-long ceasefire that ended last summer’s deadly war.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, holds Hamas responsible for any rockets coming from Gaza – but Islamist extremists, who claim allegiance with Islamic State, have claimed responsibility for firing them.”

The implication in both the headline and the synopsis is that the August 26th 2014 ceasefire – which reportedly includes the clause “All Palestinian factions in Gaza will stop all attacks against Israel by land, air or sea, and will stop the construction of tunnels from Gaza into Israel” – has been upheld throughout the last ten months.

That, of course, is not the case but with BBC audiences having received decidedly scant information on Hamas’ reconstruction of tunnels and building of additional infrastructure, its frequent test-firing of missiles, its recruitment drive and no fewer than seven separate incidents of missile fire over the past ten months, they are not in a position to appreciate that the ceasefire agreement has long been ‘endangered’.

Knell’s report opens with an interesting addition to the BBC lexicon. With Hamas having been previously portrayed as “conservative”, the term “ultra-conservative” is now apparently the terminology of choice to describe other groups along the same ideological scale.

“Gaza hasn’t begun to recover from last year’s devastating war with Israel and now its residents and the Hamas authorities are facing a new threat from within: ultra-conservative Jihadists who support the Islamic State group.”

Knell continues:

“Early this year the black flags of IS were on show at this protest against French cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed. Hamas allowed it to go ahead, wanting to show its own Islamist credentials. But recently there’ve been confrontations. Extremists have been emboldened by IS gains elsewhere in the region.”

In fact, the January 19th demonstration outside the French Cultural Centre in Gaza did not confine itself to harmless-sounding “protest against French cartoons” – as Reuters reported at the time.

“Today, we are telling France and world countries that while Islam orders us to respect all religions, it also orders us to punish and kill those who assault and offend Islam’s Prophet Mohammad,” said one of the protesters, Abu Abdallah al-Makdissi.[…]

Jihadist Salafis held aloft posters of the two gunmen who carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack and a third militant who killed four people two days later at a kosher supermarket in Paris. All three attackers were killed by police on Jan. 9.

“You have to await more heroes of Islam, you worshippers of the Cross,” the crowd chanted.”

In addition, Knell’s claim that confrontations between Hamas and Salafist Jihadists in the Gaza Strip are a recent phenomenon is misleading: such confrontations have been going on sporadically since 2009 and in 2012 her own colleague Jon Donnison reported on the issue. In late 2013 and early 2014, Knell herself produced reports on the subject of Gaza Jihadists going to fight in Syria.

Later on Knell tells viewers:

“Hamas blames IS for attacks on its security forces. They’ve made dozens of arrests and last week they raided the home of a prominent activist and shot him dead. Now tensions are running high in Gaza. Militants linked to Islamic State pledged revenge for what happened here and in the past week they fired rockets at Israel.”

Knell shows no interest in finding out how Gaza Strip Salafists managed to acquire military grade weaponry, but the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont whilst reporting on the same story came up with an interesting possibility.

“According to Abu Bilel – in claims that could not be independently verified – the rockets fired recently at Israel were originally Hamas rockets diverted by those sympathetic to the Salafists. The site of one rocket launch, say those familiar with it, was one used by Hamas during last summer’s war.

“We don’t have our own rockets,” he explained, adding that members of his group had also had “military training” from former members of Hamas who had defected.”

Neither does Knell clarify to viewers that the two incidents of missile fire on June 3rd and June 6th – neither of which was reported by the BBC in English at the time – were preceded by five additional incidents of missile fire (see ‘related articles’ below) on September 16th, October 31st, December 19th, April 23rd and May 26th.

She does however tell viewers that:

“Israel holds Hamas responsible and it’s hit back with airstrikes.”

Of course with Hamas having agreed to the August 26th ceasefire deal according to which “All Palestinian factions in Gaza will stop all attacks against Israel” [emphasis added], it is obvious that it – as the authority in charge of the Gaza Strip (as Knell told her viewers right at the beginning of her report) – is responsible for the prevention of attacks both by members of its own group and others.

As has been amply evident in the past, when Hamas wants to prevent missile fire it is capable of doing so. Yolande Knell, however, closes her report with the suggestion that the future of the ceasefire agreement is beyond Hamas’ control and responsibility.

“There are fears that IS could force a fragile ceasefire deal to collapse. […] At the moment Islamic State has relatively few followers here and yet its ability to provoke and pressure local leaders could be a worrying sign for the future.”

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Knell’s report though is the absence of any information whatsoever concerning the people at the receiving end of terror attacks prompted by infighting between two different Palestinian factions. The Salafist groups which claimed responsibility for the last two episodes of missile fire of course did not aim those projectiles “at Israel” as Knell claims, but at the residents of Israeli towns and villages who, as has so often been the case in the past, do not even get a mention in the BBC’s account of events.

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