BBC Monitoring coverage of Ramadan soaps – the sequel

As was noted here last week, BBC Monitoring recently produced a written report for the BBC News website about the popular soap operas and dramas shown on television in the Middle East during Ramadan. That article refrained from informing audiences of the antisemitic and anti-Israeli content traditionally seen in many of those programmes.

On June 26th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Fifth Floor’ also devoted part of its content to the same topic.fifth floor

“It is the holy month of Ramadan – a month of prayer and fasting and for some also accompanied by a lot of television. TV soaps and dramas are commissioned for the season and often bring in the highest ratings. BBC journalist Doaa Soliman is something of a connoisseur of Ramadan TV. Not only has she watched a lot for pleasure, but in her current role with BBC Monitoring, she is also tasked with keeping a professional eye on the current selection. This is Doaa’s guide to what to watch this Ramadan.”

A clip of that segment of the programme can be found here and once again it is notable that the long tradition of antisemitic content in Ramadan entertainment is concealed from BBC audiences. 

BBC Monitoring euphemises terror, whitewashes antisemitism, claims Egyptian Jews ‘vanished’

On June 18th an article appeared in the features section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Ramadan: Historical TV dramas break with past in Muslim world“. Written by BBC Monitoring, the piece correctly notes in its opening paragraphs that:Ramadan TV art

“The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is associated with TV dramas and soap operas across the Arab and Muslim world.

Millions of Muslims in the Arab World spend hours watching TV during and after breaking their fast.

It is during Ramadan that commercial TV channels get their highest ratings for the year. Egyptian and Syrian TV productions predominate.”

But how does the “break with past” described in the article’s headline manifest itself? The only very vague clue to that comes in this section of the report:

“Egypt goes further with historical dramas breaking tradition with a drama sympathetic to Egypt’s vanished Jewish community.

The Jewish Quarter depicts a time when Jews and Muslims lived together harmoniously.”

What BBC Monitoring refrains from telling readers is that in many cases, the television dramas produced for Ramadan are rife with antisemitic content and anti-Israel messaging. And whilst this new Egyptian series ‘The Jewish Quarter’ [Haret el Yahood] may indeed be “sympathetic” to Egyptian Jews – who did not mysteriously ‘vanish’ as this article suggests but were actually expelled or coerced to emigrate by Egypt – it too is apparently not without a specific political slant.

“The show, which presents the Jew­ish com­mu­nity in Egypt in the 40s through a love story between a Jew­ish girl and a Mus­lim Egypt­ian army offi­cer, attempts to present the dif­fer­ence between “good” Jews and “bad” Jews; the good Jews are the ones who are loyal to Egypt and sup­port its war against Israel while Zion­ist Jews, who are loyal to Israel, are depicted as wicked, liars, evil and try­ing to betray Egypt. Mid­hat Al-adl, who wrote the script for the show, told Al Jazeera that the show “con­demns Israeli Zion­ism and racism.””

Two additional segments of this article are also worthy of note. [all emphasis added]

“Another series – Darb al-Yasmin – takes place in a southern Syrian village during the late 1990s and focuses on the military and intelligence work of the resistance against Israel.”

“Also popular this Ramadan is The Soil and Salt – a Lebanese TV series about Islamic resistance against Israel.”

As veteran Arab affairs analyst Ehud Ya’ari has pointed out:

“The literal translation of the Arabic word muqawama is “resistance,” but that does not reflect the full meaning of the term. A more correct translation would be “the doctrine of constant combat,” or “persistent warfare,” which is how Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas’s Khaled Mashal define it.” 

‘Resistance’ is in fact an English language euphemism for violence and terrorism conducted by those negating Israel’s existence. The fact that the mainstream BBC chooses to adopt and amplify the term uncritically and without any proper explanation to audiences of what that euphemism really means is as worthy of note as its concealment of the long tradition of antisemitic content in Ramadan television programmes.

BBC Monitoring plays down Saudi concerns over Iranian nuclear programme

As was noted here last week, the BBC’s coverage in the run-up to the Israeli prime minister’s recent address to the US Congress on the subject of the Iranian nuclear programme was remarkable for the fact that its framing steered BBC audiences towards the inaccurate view that Israel is the only country in the region with concerns on that issue.

In what might at first glance appear to signal an attempt to correct that distortion, the BBC News website published an article in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of its Middle East page on March 6th under the title “Saudi and Israel Iran anxieties align“. Written by BBC Monitoring media analyst Steve Metcalf, the piece opens as follows:Metcalf art on ME pge

“That Saudi commentators should make approving remarks about a speech by an Israeli prime minister – as they did this week – is not surprising given the subject of Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress on Tuesday: the threat from Iran.

Despite their many differences, Saudi Arabia and Israel have long shared a common concern about Iran’s growing regional influence and increasing military capabilities.”

Oddly, no link is provided to the articles written by Saudi commentators and no quotes from them are included in order to provide audiences with a sense of the actual nature of those “approving remarks”.

Moreover, having presented a very soft, misleading – but revealing – portrayal of Iran’s assorted interventions across the Middle East which notably excludes its material support for terrorist organisations, Metcalf closes his article with the suggestion that those Saudi commentators may actually be concerned about issues other than the Iranian nuclear programme.

“It is debateable [sic] whether Iran’s increased profile and military involvement across the region is the result of a grand strategic design, an opportunistic exploitation of events, or an indication of the desperate straits that some of its allies find themselves in.

Although there few signs [sic] of public domestic opposition, it must be taking its toll on a budget that also has to cope with the cost of international sanctions and falling oil prices.

So Saudi support for the Israeli prime minister’s warnings about a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme could be as much about concern over an Iran freed from sanctions as about its nuclear capability.”

But is Metcalf’s assertion supported by the statements made in the op-eds which are the basis for his article and his theory?

In a March 2nd article for the Saudi Arabian daily Al-Jazirah, Dr Ahmad Al-Faraj wrote:

“Since Obama […] is working to sign an agreement with Iran that will come at the expense of the U.S.’s longtime allies in the Gulf, I am very glad of Netanyahu’s firm stance and [his decision] to speak against the nuclear agreement at the American Congress despite the Obama administration’s anger and fury. I believe that Netanyahu’s conduct will serve our interests, the people of the Gulf, much more than the foolish behavior of one of the worst American presidents.”

Obviously the Iranian nuclear programme is of concern to that particular Saudi commentator.Metcalf art

On March 3rd Faisal J. Abbas – the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya English – wrote:

“The Israeli PM managed to hit the nail right on the head when he said that Middle Eastern countries are collapsing and that “terror organizations, mostly backed by Iran, are filling in the vacuum” during a recent ceremony held in Tel Aviv to thank outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz for his role during “challenging” times.

In just a few words, Mr. Netanyahu managed to accurately summarize a clear and present danger, not just to Israel (which obviously is his concern), but to other U.S. allies in the region. […]

Just to be clear, nobody disagrees that ridding Iran of its nuclear ambitions is paramount. And if this can be achieved peacefully, then it would be even better. However, any reasonable man CAN’T possibly turn a blind eye to the other realities on the ground. […]

… the real Iranian threat is not JUST the regime’s nuclear ambitions, but its expansionist approach and state-sponsored terrorism activities which are still ongoing.”

Clearly Mr Abbas is concerned not only about Iran’s regional interventions but also about its nuclear programme.

Had readers been provided with links to both those articles, they would have been able to judge for themselves the relevance of Steve Metcalf’s rather transparent attempt to downplay Saudi (and wider Gulf region) concerns about the Iranian nuclear programme. But they weren’t – and so BBC audiences remain inadequately informed with regard to that issue. 

BBC Monitoring amplifies Iranian Charlie Hebdo conspiracy theory

On January 8th the BBC News website published an article titled “Charlie Hebdo attack: World press united in defiance” in which BBC Monitoring presented a round-up of media reactions to the previous day’s terror attack in Paris, opening thus:Monitoring Hebdo

“Newspapers around the world have united in defiance against the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

In Arab countries, some papers wonder whether the West has done enough to counter the spread of such terror attacks.

Some papers in Muslim countries fear an anti-Islam backlash in Europe.”

The article highlights the reactions in some newspapers in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Russia before moving on to the Turkish and Arabic language print media. Towards the end of the article the Iranian press is reviewed and the writer and editor of the report found it appropriate to include the following: 

Monitoring Hebdo 2

Yes, really: somebody at the BBC News website found that ridiculous conspiracy theory newsworthy and fit for amplification to audiences worldwide. 

How the BBC cherry-picked its Jihadist terrorists

In recent days quite a few people have let us know via e-mail or social media that they were surprised to find that a BBC special feature on “Jihadist attacks” during the month of November did not include Israelis murdered during that month by terrorists linked to organisations such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.countries Jihadists

After all, in a fourteen day period during that month, nine Israelis were killed by Palestinian terrorists and a tenth victim injured in the November 5th attack died of his wounds a month later. Despite that fact, Israel does not appear on the list of countries in which, according to the study carried out by the BBC and the ICSR, Jihadist attacks took place. Notably too, the word terrorism does not appear in the BBC’s main feature on the topic – “Jihadism: Tracking a month of deadly attacks“, December 11th – although it is evident in the complimentary article by Professor Peter Neumann, “Jihadist violence: The devastating cost“.

The reason for the absence of any data concerning Israel in that study is to be found in a document detailing the study’s methodology. There, the interpretation of the term Jihadism used in the study is explained as follows:

definition Jihadism

Neither Hamas nor the PIJ are of course Salafists or Wahhabists and they do not belong to the Deobandi or Ahl e Hadith traditions. Hence, those two Palestinian terrorist organisations are not included in the BBC’s study despite the fact that Israel is cited as a ‘motive’ and even though some of their aims and ideologies dovetail neatly with those of groups which are defined as Jihadists and they have certainly proved their “readiness to kill” to achieve their religiously motivated aims.

It is, of course, much easier to promote (even by omission) the notion of a fundamental difference between Hamas and Salafist Jihadists such as Ansar Beit al Maqdis which does appear in this study if one ignores the relationship between them (as the BBC has largely done) and if one presents (as the BBC consistently does, according to its own politically motivated narrative) the Hamas raison d’être exclusively as politically inspired ‘resistance’ to ‘occupation’ whilst ignoring the religious elements underpinning it as demonstrated, for example, in article 11 of the Hamas charter.

“The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day. This being so, who could claim to have the right to represent Moslem generations till Judgement Day?

This is the law governing the land of Palestine in the Islamic Sharia (law) and the same goes for any land the Moslems have conquered by force, because during the times of (Islamic) conquests, the Moslems consecrated these lands to Moslem generations till the Day of Judgement.”

It is probably pretty safe to assume, therefore, that we will not be seeing the outcome of acts by Palestinian terrorist organisations classified as “Jihadist violence” by the BBC anytime soon and hence its audiences will continue to lack crucial information on the issue of terrorism against Israelis. 


On BBC Monitoring’s fantasy ‘ban’ and short skirt syndrome

On June 16th BBC Monitoring informed audiences – in an article titled “Israel: Hitchhiking continues despite kidnap dangers” on its ‘News From Elsewhere’ page on the BBC News website – that the Israeli prime minister had ‘banned’ hitchhiking.BBC Monitoring hitchhiking

“Travellers are likely to ignore a directive from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that “bans” hitchhiking in the wake of the disappearance of three teenagers, it seems.

According to the Ma’ariv Hashavu’a newspaper, the prime minister has directed “all settlers and travellers in Judea and Samaria [West Bank] not to take rides offered by strangers”. The order comes as Israel makes scores of arrests and blames Hamas for the disappearance of one 19-year-old and two 16-year-old youths near an Israeli settlement in the West Bank on their way home from lessons.”

The link to Ma’ariv Hashavua appearing in BBC Monitoring’s piece leads to its main page rather than to the source of that quote, but the same website did report on June 13th that:

“The Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, today requested to convey a guidance to residents not to travel by hitchhiking, following the disappearance of three youths from Judea and Samaria.”

Other media outlets reported “Netanyahu to residents of Judea & Samaria: don’t travel by hitchhiking” (Ynet) and “Netanyahu also expressed his sympathies to the families in Judea and Samaria and urged its residents not to hitchhike” (Jerusalem Post). So – in contrast to the claims made by BBC Monitoring (which apparently seriously over-estimates the Israeli prime minister’s authority)  – no “ban”, no “order” and no “settlers”.

The more remarkable aspect of this article, however, is its promotion and amplification of an ‘analysis’ piece which appeared in Ha’aretz less than 72 hours after the kidnappings.

“However, as Anshel Pfeffer points out in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, neither the fact that people have gone missing nor any government discouragement will stop young Israelis from hitchhiking. The culture of “tremping” (hitchhiking) is deeply ingrained in the country’s youth, despite the dangers of accepting lifts from strangers. Tremping, Pfeffer says, is a “hallowed institution”, and teenagers are more likely to continue tremping in defiance.”

The link provided by BBC Monitoring to Anshel Pfeffer’s article lies behind a pay wall, meaning that the majority of readers will not be able to view it in full. Most will therefore be unaware that, beyond the curious suggestion that hitchhiking is a mode of transport used only by “teenagers” (in fact, many people who have long since ceased to belong to that category also hitchhike in Israel) as a form of “defiance”, Pfeffer also has some additional cod psychology theories which BBC Monitoring apparently saw fit to amplify.

“But there are much deeper reasons, that go beyond logistical necessity. For mitzvah-observant adolescents who have been going to gender-segregated schools since before puberty, there are few places where they can feel as free and as unregulated as on the road. And for them, the roads of Judea and Samaria — the West Bank — are not the dangerous, ominous regions they seem to most Israelis. To them it’s home, and no one, certainly not the IDF officers who periodically warn the settlement elders of the perils of allowing their children to hitch rides, will tell them they can’t travel freely throughout their homeland. Trempim to them aren’t just a way of getting around — they’re a rite of passage, a way of life, a declaration of independence and of ownership of the land.”

Whilst Pfeffer does point out in his pay-walled article that (as is the case in many countries) public transport in remote rural areas is often infrequent, inadequate and expensive, BBC Monitoring does not adequately clarify that point to audiences, stating only that hitchhiking continues to be “attractive” rather than, in many cases, necessary.  Neither does it bother to remind readers that not too long ago, a bus ride anywhere in Israel (not only in Judea & Samaria) was literally a life and death gamble due to the appalling frequency of attacks by suicide bombers and that Israeli public transport is still a target for terror attacks.

But what is really interesting is the decision by the BBC – an organization one presumes would define itself as holding liberal and progressive values – to promote Pfeffer’s ‘short skirt syndrome’ approach to this topic.

The fact that a person carries the title ‘journalist’ does not of course immunize him or her from producing content intended to advance a particular political viewpoint or mean that every notion promoted is written in stone. One can be fairly certain that the BBC – which as we know defines itself as “the standard-setter for international journalism” – would not see fit to promote and amplify an article from another country claiming that despite past incidents of rape, young women continue to wear short skirts “in defiance”.

Remarkably though, BBC Monitoring elected to focus audience attentions on the ‘short skirt’ presentation of hitchhiking in Israel rather than any of the numerous articles or opinion pieces dealing with the actual problem – Palestinian terrorism – which have appeared in the Israeli media concurrently. 

BBC Monitoring’s news: repetition of an anonymous BTL comment

h/t DM

On June 18th BBC Monitoring brought readers of the News From Elsewhere section of the BBC News website the horrific news that some Lebanese football fans are being forced to watch the World Cup on an Israeli TV station.BBC Monitoring Lebanon world cup art

“Football supporters in Lebanon have apparently been tuning in to Israeli television for their World Cup fix, rather than pay cable fees.

Qatari cable television provider Sama was granted exclusive rights to broadcast the games in the Middle East, but many households have been unable to pay the fees demanded by the sole agent in Lebanon. Instead, the Al-Nahar newspaper reports, “Israeli commentators’ voices in Hebrew can be heard everywhere in south Lebanon; in people’s houses, balconies and courtyards because the country has failed to allocate money to enable them to watch the games,”.”

That, apparently, has now changed but notably the writer of this report chose to end it with the following paragraph.

“The decision to air the matches free-to-air can’t end soon enough for one viewer, who complained to Al-Nahar that the Israeli commentators were biased against “the Muslims of Bosnia” during their match against Argentina.”

Did BBC Monitoring even bother to fact check that anonymous accusation from a person writing in the below the line comments to an internet article before electing to highlight and amplify it on the pages of the BBC News website as “news”?  

BBC’s ‘Echo Chambers’ blog promotes inaccurate information on kidnapped teens

h/t BK

The BBC News website blog titled ‘Echo Chambers’ (edited by Anthony Zurcher) purports to present audiences with “a review of the best commentary on and around the world”. Its June 18th edition included a section titled “BBC Monitoring’s quotes of the day” with the sub-heading:

“Israeli and Palestinian commentators offer their views on the three missing Israeli teens the Israeli government believes were kidnapped by Hamas militants.”

The first of those selected quotes comes from the pro-Fatah Palestinian daily Al Ayyam.

Echo Chambers 1

As we see, the words “of the three settlers” have been added to the quote in square brackets – presumably by BBC Monitoring.

The term “settlers” is of course used pejoratively by the BBC to describe people – specifically and exclusively Jews – living in towns and villages in geographical areas in which, according to the BBC’s political views, they should not be living. Those geographical areas are located on a particular side of the 1949 Armistice lines and apparently even children or teenagers whose parents decided to make their homes where the BBC thinks they should not have done so can be termed “settlers” , even if they had no part in that decision themselves or were actually born there.

In the case of the three kidnapped teenagers who are the subject of this quote, the assertion that they are “settlers” is not only loaded with political intent; it is also inaccurate. Sixteen year-old Gil-ad Sha’ar comes from Talmon: a village founded ten years before Gil-ad was born which is located in Judea & Samaria and hence would be classified as a ‘settlement’ by the BBC. Naftali Frenkel – also aged 16 – comes from Nof Ayalon and nineteen year-old Eyal Yifrach lives in Elad. Both those two latter communities are on the ‘right’ side of the 1949 Armistice lines according to the BBC world view.

map yishuvim

As we see, however, the BBC has chosen to describe all three of the kidnapped youths as “settlers” even though that description is both inaccurate and – quite frankly – irrelevant. Unless the BBC is trying to press a political point to readers of this blog post (and if it is, that is another topic altogether which goes far beyond mere inaccuracy), then the politically motivated epithet allocated according to the location (mistaken or not) of the family homes of the three missing boys is of no consequence to the story itself.

The second selected quote promoted in this post comes from ‘Filastin Online’ and there the three abducted youths are inaccurately described as “soldiers”.

Echo Chambers 2

No effort is made by the BBC to clarify to readers that this “quote of the day” includes inaccurate and misleading information.

As a reminder, BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality apply to all BBC content. 

No translation necessary, but BBC Monitoring embroiders

On May 8th a short item compiled by BBC Monitoring appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Israel: Testimonies on founding of the state go online“.BBC Monitoring

The article is based entirely upon a report by Mitch Ginsburg about Eric Halivni’s project ‘Toldot Israel’ which appeared in the Times of Israel on May 5th. The BBC’s article states:

“The Times of Israel highlights the case of Elad Peled, who was 20 when he became the commander of Hebrew forces in the majority-Arab city of Safed in the spring of 1948.”

Indeed, in his report Mitch Ginsburg did bring readers the story of Maj. Gen. (ret.) Dr Elad Peled as recounted at the recent press conference announcing the partnership between Halivni’s project and the National Library. Ginsburg’s article ends with the following words:

“Today, Peled said that while he feels privileged to have taken part in the founding of a state — a claim only a small percentage of people in the world can make — there is “a mixed feeling” about the end result.

“Not exactly what we thought would happen,” he said of today’s state of affairs and of the absence of peace, “but that’s life. It’s not a textbook.” “

BBC Monitoring, however, chose to represent Ginsburg’s account of Dr Peled’s words thus:

“Today Peled says he feels privileged to have taken part in the founding of a state, but he has mixed feelings about the end result. The continuing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians 66 years after the declaration of independence is “not exactly what we thought would happen”, he says, adding “That’s life. It’s not a textbook.” ” [emphasis added]

Whether or not Dr Peled’s words indeed referred specifically to the Palestinian–Israeli conflict or to the wider Arab-Israeli conflict or perhaps even to something else, we do not know from the account published in the Times of Israel. And neither does BBC Monitoring. Nevertheless, someone in that department apparently thought that the embroidering of that account to focus on one possible interpretation was acceptable within BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy. 


BBC Monitoring amplifies PA outlet’s propaganda

Among the considerable coverage of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal which has appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in the past few days was an article dated April 24th which was compiled by BBC Monitoring and is titled “Media divided over Palestinian unity deal“.

In that round-up of reactions to the deal in the Palestinian and Israeli press, the section dealing with the former ends with the following paragraph.

“The Jerusalem-based paper, Al-Quds, notes Washington’s expression of “disappointment” that the deal could seriously complicate peace talks, while Al-Hayat al-Jadidah says that Israel’s immediate reaction to the announcement was to bomb Gaza.” [emphasis added]

HF deal BBC monitoring

Israel of course did not “bomb Gaza” as a “reaction” to the announcement of the deal at all. What did happen – as even the BBC itself reported at the time – is that coincidently shortly after the deal was announced, a terrorist about to perpetrate a missile attack on Israeli civilians was targeted in the Beit Lahia area. Here is how BBC News reported the incident eventually:

“Shortly after Wednesday’s reconciliation deal was announced, five people were injured in an Israeli air strike in northern Gaza, Palestinian medics said.

Israel said it had targeted militants preparing to fire rockets. On Monday, seven rockets were launched from the territory into southern Israel.”

BBC Monitoring however makes no attempt to inform the readers of this report that the claim made by the Palestinian Authority mouthpiece Al-Hayat al-Jadidah is inaccurate both in terms of its suggestion that the incident was in “reaction” to the announcement of the deal and in terms of its misleading assertion regarding the scope of the incident: one man in Beit Lahia was attacked: not “Gaza”.

It is of course highly unfortunate that BBC Monitoring – with disturbing similarity to Al-Hayat al-Jadidah – appears to consider the unqualified amplification of misleading defamatory falsehoods promoted by the Palestinian Authority to be part of its repertoire.