BBC’s ‘reporter in the rubble’ theme gets its own feature

On September 15th a big feature titled “Gaza: Life amid the rubble” by Yolande Knell and no fewer than eight additional contributors appeared on the BBC News website’s main homepage and on its Middle East page, with the item being heavily promoted on various BBC Twitter accounts.

Knell feature on ME HP

Knell feature on HP

Almost two months on – and long after clarification of the circumstances of the battles in Shuja’iya – the BBC continues to misrepresent the events as partially as it did at the time, promoting many of the same themes which were evident in its initial reporting from the district.Knell Shuja'iya pt 1

The feature – which includes text, video and photographs – opens:

“More than 400,000 of Gaza’s residents were displaced by Israel’s recent 50-day military operation. Some 18,000 homes were also destroyed and many more were damaged. One of the worst affected neighbourhoods was Shejaiya, near the eastern border, where the Israeli military says it targeted Palestinian militants and their tunnels.”

Note how this conflict has been turned into “Israel’s recent 50-day military operation” with all mention of the missile attacks on the civilian population of Israel – which not only sparked the conflict but persisted until its final minutes – erased from the picture presented to BBC audiences. Notably, another article appearing on the BBC News website the previous day similarly referred to “Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in July” – suggesting that such framing is not coincidental.

As has been the case in all of its reporting from the Gaza Strip since July 8th, the BBC continues in this item to conceal from audience view the issue of buildings deliberately booby-trapped by Hamas and other terrorist organisations or those hit by missiles misfired by terrorists or destroyed as a result of their being used to store explosives. BBC audiences are hence led towards the mistaken belief that every single structure damaged or destroyed in the Gaza Strip during the seven weeks of conflict was the result of Israeli actions.

Once again, the BBC fails to adequately inform audiences of the true scale of Hamas operations in Shuja’iya, opting instead for its usual “Israel says” formulation. The fact is of course that the only reason fighting – and the resulting damage – occurred in Shuja’iya was because Hamas had turned it into a neighbourhood replete with military targets, including entrances to some ten cross-border attack tunnels, ammunition and weapons stores, missile launching sites and command and control centres.

Shujaiya comparative map

Knell’s feature continues:

“The crowded eastern district of Shejaiya in the Gaza Strip saw one of the bloodiest days of the recent conflict. Israel told the 80,000 residents to leave before it targeted the area. However, many did not believe the assault would be so serious and remained in their homes.”

Indeed, Israel did advise the residents of Shuja’iya to leave their homes four days before the operation there commenced and even delayed it in order to give people additional opportunity to relocate. This BBC report, however, deliberately misrepresents the reason why some residents failed to heed that advice, claiming that “many did not believe the assault would be so serious” and thereby concealing from BBC audiences the fact that Hamas ordered civilians to stay put. This deliberate distortion of the facts dovetails with the BBC’s policy – evident throughout coverage of the conflict – of downplaying and even denying Hamas’ use of human shields.

The feature goes on:

“On the night of Saturday 19 July, Shejaiya was pounded with heavy artillery, mortars and air strikes sending up columns of thick, black smoke. Within 24 hours, dozens of Palestinians and at least 13 Israeli soldiers were killed.

From early on Sunday morning there were chaotic scenes as thousands of local people tried to flee. They headed to Gaza City, searching for shelter at United Nations’ schools and at the main Shifa hospital, which was overwhelmed with casualties.

Battles erupted between Israeli troops and Hamas militants in the streets. Israel’s officials say the residential neighbourhood contained a fortified network of tunnels used for attacks and to produce and store rockets. The Palestinian government has described the killing of civilians as a “heinous massacre”.”

Details of the events in Shuja’iya on the night of July 19th and the day of July 20th have been in the public domain for many weeks now and so there is no excuse whatsoever for the BBC’s above incoherent account which misrepresents the sequence of events, downplays Hamas’ actions and yet again misleadingly presents the crucial issue of Hamas’ deliberate location of military assets in the Shuja’iya district in terms of “Israel says”.

Knell’s report goes on to show a graphic illustrating the locations of the houses of the four people later interviewed.

Knell Shuja'iya graphic

What that graphic of course does not show is the context of Hamas activity such as missile launching or the locations of the entrances to any of the cross-border tunnels found in the same area. Of the four houses showcased on that graphic, one is described as belonging to a “Grandmother” who, readers are later told, “lost one of her sons, Ismail, in the latest conflict”.

The photographs accompanying the section on the Grandmother include one of what the BBC describes as “a poster in his memory”. As sharp-eyed readers will be able to see, that poster includes the logo of Hamas’ Izz a Din Al Qassam Brigades, which could go a long way towards explaining what Ismail was doing “on the top floor of their four-storey building” and why “it came under heavy bombardment”, although Yolande Knell does not trouble her readers with such inconvenient details which would distract them from her story.

Knell art martyrdom poster

Readers are also told:

“Now the battered district stands as a reminder of the ferocity of the latest fighting and Gaza’s unsolved political problems. Locals, like the four featured below, long to rebuild their homes but are unable to do so while tight border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt remain in place. Israel says these are for security reasons. It is worried militants will use construction supplies to rebuild tunnels and it currently allows very limited imports for international projects.”

As was noted here only recently:

“If there is one thing which should have become perfectly clear to foreign journalists since the beginning of July it is that the entry of building supplies into the Gaza Strip – which was increased in recent years due to intense pressure from assorted international bodies and aid agencies – was abused by Hamas to construct cross-border attack tunnels rather than for the advancement of projects which would have improved the lives of the people of Gaza.

However, not only has the BBC shown no interest whatsoever in discussing Hamas’ misappropriation of those building supplies or the very serious subject of the accountability of the aid agencies and international bodies which were supposed to be supervising and guaranteeing the construction projects for which those materials were destined; it continues to present the issue in terms of “Israel says”.”

Rather than investing the work of the nine BBC staff members it took to produce this feature in an in-depth investigation of how considerable sums of European tax-payers’ money has been misappropriated by Hamas over the years, the BBC has instead produced a feature designed solely to feed BBC audiences with yet more out of context images of rubble and damage in the Gaza Strip and to continue the campaign being promoted by the BBC in general – and Yolande Knell in particular – with regard to the border restrictions made necessary by the very terrorism which also brought about those images. 

Related Articles:

BBC omits vital context in reporting from Shuja’iya

Themes in BBC reporting on events in Shuja’iya

BBC’s Reynolds in Shuja’iya: still no reporting on what really happened

BBC’s Knell continues the Gaza border restrictions PR campaign

Reporter in the rubble: what is missing from BBC presentation of structural damage in Gaza?

 

More BBC promotion and amplification of lawfare NGO

On September 11th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article titled “Israel orders criminal investigations into Gaza war incidents“.MAG art

The first half of the article indeed deals mostly with the headline’s stated subject matter: the investigations announced by the Military Attorney General the previous day.  The latter part of the report states:

“Israel is facing a series of steps in the international arena in the wake of the Gaza conflict.

The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to take Israel to the International Criminal Court, while the UN Human Rights Council has set up a commission of inquiry into possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.”

Notably, the BBC refrains from pointing out to readers that the UN HRC commission’s mandate charges it with the investigation of “all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014″. In other words, the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas terrorists on June 12th is not part of this already problematic investigation’s mandate.

But the most remarkable part of this article is its amplification – yet again – of claims made by the political NGO Human Rights Watch.

“New York-based Human Rights Watch carried out its own research into what it says were Israeli attacks that damaged UN schools in Beit Hanoun, Jabaliya and Rafah, killing a total of 45 people, including 17 children.

The human rights group says that the first two attacks “did not appear to target a military objective or were otherwise unlawfully indiscriminate” and that the third incident was “unlawfully disproportionate if not otherwise indiscriminate”.

It adds that “unlawful attacks carried out wilfully – that is deliberately or recklessly – are war crimes.” “

That report was published on September 11th – the same day as this BBC article – and, as readers can see for themselves here, it is based heavily on statements from local witnesses with no military expertise or qualifications with additional ‘evidence’ from equally unqualified media reports. Remarkably, yet predictably, HRW has managed to reach its self-declared “in-depth” conclusions without input from the IDF beyond what anyone could find in the public domain and without waiting for the results of professional investigations. Notably too, the HRW report includes evidence-free assumptions such as the following:

“It is highly unlikely that at least four of the inaccurate, unguided rockets used by Palestinian armed groups hit in and around the school within a few minutes.”

But beyond the fact that the BBC provides promotion and amplification for HRW’s ‘report’, what is noticeable is that once again it does so without informing BBC audiences that HRW is not a neutral human rights organization but one of several political NGOs currently engaged in lawfare against Israel.

Until the BBC begins to adhere to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by ceasing the now commonplace practice of avoiding informing audiences of the political agenda of its preferred NGOs, it can only be considered as a self-conscripted party to that political warfare.

Related Articles:

Compromising public perceptions of BBC impartiality

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

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

BBC audiences again fobbed off with HRW press release presented as ‘news’

BBC News report on 8200 tells a partial story

On the afternoon of September 12th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article titled “Israeli intelligence veterans refuse to spy on Palestinians“. The report is illustrated with an unrelated image photographed during rioting in Qalandiya a month ago and carrying the amusing caption: “Intelligence gathering is a key part of Israel’s military operations”.  Intelligence gathering is of course a key part of any country’s military operations, including (one at least hopes) the UK.8200 art

Two hundred and thirty-seven of the report’s 407 words are devoted to amplification of the obviously politically motivated – and unverified – claims of a small group of apparently soon to be former reservists in Unit 8200. Ninety-five words are allotted to the IDF’s response to the letter which was promoted in local and foreign media and the rest of the report’s word-count is devoted to background, including amplification of a no less politically motivated UN position.

“Israel has occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, since 1967. It pulled its troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005, though the UN still regards Gaza as under Israeli occupation.”

Since its publication, this BBC article has not been updated to reflect the fact that on the same day another letter was also published.

“Meanwhile, over 150 reservists from the same unit signed a letter on Friday protesting the claims put forth in the original letter.

“Having been familiar with the unit for many reasons, we can’t accept the claims regarding a lack of ethical and moral guidelines in the intelligence work of the unit,” the 150-plus soldiers wrote. “Throughout our service, we bore witness to many cases in which the use of intelligence capabilities made it possible to safeguard human lives, on both sides.”

“Even when moral dilemmas arise during the work, as well as in wartime, we have witnessed, and still witnessed, a mature and responsible response which is in line with international law and the ethical and moral code of the army.”

The soldiers noted that when summoned for reserve duty, they cast their political opinions aside and “come to serve the country, as any soldier should do, particularly in a unit like ours.” “

That letter now has some 200 signatories.

Likewise, BBC audiences have not been informed of other reactions to the letter, including from the leader of the Labour party and chair of the opposition.

“Also on Saturday, Israeli opposition leader and Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog came out against the reservists’ letter. Herzog, who served in the unit during his time in the military, said on his Facebook page that he strongly opposes the refusal of military orders, and warned that at the end of the day the Israeli public will pay the price. “This unit and its operations are vital not just for wartime but also, and in particular, during times of peace,” he wrote.”

The fact that 43 reservists of a particular political stripe were able to publish such a letter (just as similar ones have been published in the past), and that some 200 others were able to publish their counter-statement, is of course testimony to Israel’s free and vibrant democracy. BBC audiences, however, have missed out on that important aspect of this story because – after having published the part which conforms to the narrative it wishes to promote – the corporation then dropped the story. 

BBC News report on Palestinian rioter shot near Ramallah fails to provide context

On September 10th a short report appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinian man shot dead in West Bank raid“.Jelazoun

“A Palestinian has been killed during an Israeli raid on a refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Palestinian medics said Issa Qatari, 22, was shot in the chest and died shortly before reaching hospital.

The Israeli military said its forces had clashed with dozens of protesters after entering the al-Amari camp on Wednesday to arrest a Hamas operative.

“A main instigator attempted to hurl an explosive device” at the troops, who opened fire in response, it added.

Witnesses in the camp gave a similar account of the incident.

Protesters “showered the invading forces with stones, and soldiers responded with live ammunition, injuring a number of other Palestinians”, one told the Maan news agency.

The Israeli military said the Hamas operative was arrested in the raid.”

The BBC’s “dozens of protesters” would have been more accurately described as rioters.

“An IDF unit sent to arrest a Hamas member in Ramallah encountered violent disturbances when approximately 50 Palestinians hurled rocks, firebombs, and burning tires, the army said. One of the rioters was seen throwing an explosive device at soldiers, according to the IDF Spokespersons Unit. Soldiers opened fire at the suspect, striking him. The man later died of gunshot wounds.”

What is missing from this report is of course the context necessary to enable BBC audiences to understand the background to the incident. There has been no BBC reporting of any of the recent violent rioting and attacks in Jerusalem and in Judea & Samaria. In fact, the last time visitors to the BBC News website were told anything about violence in those areas was on July 25th when Jon Donnison presented a very selective report on incidents in Qalandiya and elsewhere. BBC audiences are hence entirely unaware of the fact that the number of attacks in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem has – according to ISA reports – risen dramatically since the beginning of July with 507 attacks having taken place during that month compared to 100 the month before.

The chart below was compiled using the monthly statistics provided by the ISA but does not include separate representation of kidnappings, murders, stabbings or attacks using vehicles.

Chart jan 13 to jul 14

Of course there is nothing new about the BBC’s failure to report on security incidents, as we have frequently documented here in the past (see related articles below). However, that practice means that incidents such as the one reported in the above article are seen by BBC audiences in isolation, without the essential understanding of their backdrop.

Related Articles:

BBC silent on doubling of terror attacks since renewed ME talks

Review of the BBC’s reporting of security incidents in Judea & Samaria in January

A round-up of BBC reporting of security incidents in March 2014

Round-up of BBC coverage of security incidents – April 2014

100% of missile fire from Gaza Strip in May ignored by BBC

 

 

 

Source of the BBC’s three 2013 Iron Dome reports gets cosy with a Holocaust denier

h/t Adam Holland Twitter

On July 10th 2014 – soon after the commencement of Operation Protective Edge – the BBC News website’s Middle East page included an article by diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus in its ‘Features & Analysis’ section which was titled “What weapons are being used in the Israel-Gaza conflict“. In that article, Marcus wrote:Marcus 10 7

“As important in determining Israel’s strategic outlook as its offensive operations is the reliance that it places on missile defence – the Iron Dome system – to defend its civilian population. Indeed, as long as it is successful it is a powerful factor in crisis limitation. […]

Israel rigorously guards detailed data on Iron Dome’s performance. Its earlier use has prompted some debate among experts on its seemingly extraordinary success rate. But whatever the basic data, the evidence from its use suggests that it is having a significant effect in preventing Israeli casualties.”

The link inserted by Marcus leads to an earlier article he wrote in March 2013 promoting the claims of MIT professor Theodore (Ted) Postol which was discussed on these pages at the time. Jonathan Marcus did not like our post concerning his report and chose to respond in the comments section, informing us that:

“The report on Ted Postol’s work (with two other scientists cited) first ran in Ha’aretz. I saw this but waited until I had a chance to speak to Postol – who despite your rather nasty insinuations, is a highly respected scientist with a distinguished track record in this field. You will remember that he correctly questioned the performance of the initial Patriot system in the war to liberate Kuwait. His concerns about Iron Dome certainly merits an airing rather than criticism.”

Six weeks after the appearance of Marcus’ report – in April 2013 – the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly produced two additional reports on the same topic promoting the same claims advanced by Postol.

Well now it appears that Jonathan Marcus’ “highly respected scientist” has found a new outlet via which to promote his theories.Iron Dome

Towards the end of August 2014 Ted Postol gave two interviews to a person named Ryan Dawson who uploaded them to his Youtube channel which is titled ANC Report – “Anti-neocon Report”. In the first of those interviews Postol again promotes his claims regarding the Iron Dome (as well as his opinions on Israel in general and American domestic politics) and in the second he takes issue (as he has before) with the fact that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against civilians in Damascus in August 2013. Both interviews provide very revealing insight into Postol’s political views – and his motivations.

So who is the person with whom this “highly respected scientist” agreed to chat in such a chummy manner for an hour and a half? Adam Holland has more details on Ryan – or Ry – Dawson.

“The man behind the podcast promoting those videos, Ryan Dawson, has for over a decade used the internet to spread some pretty horrid ideas: ideas about Jews making up or exaggerating crimes committed by Nazi Germany, ideas about Israel carrying out the 9/11 attacks, even claims that the Jewish religion sanctions pedophilia, rape and ritual murder. Dawson has made clever use of the free publicity-generating possibilities provided by social media to promote some of the worst forms bigotry and conspiracy theories. On Facebook, he does this under the name “antizionist”. He’s “Anti-neocon,” “Super anti-neocon” or just “ANC” for his blog, web-forum and his podcast, the “ANC Report”.”

Perhaps Jonathan Marcus would be kind enough to tell us in the comments below whether he thinks it appropriate for the BBC to still be promoting on its website the bizarre claims of someone who collaborates with a known antisemitic Holocaust denier?  

 

 

Interesting insight into how the job of Trust chair is seen by BBC staff

On August 30th the BBC’s Media and Arts correspondent David Sillito reported on the appointment of Rona Fairhead to the position of chair of the BBC Trust. In his filmed report Sillito made the following statement:Sillitoe filmed

“The BBC chair is a big job. […] You are overseeing the BBC but you are also in many ways responsible for being the cheerleader, defending it when politicians have got something to say about the BBC.”

A very similar version of that statement also appeared in a written article on the BBC News website’s Entertainment and Arts page on August 31st.

“Being in charge of the BBC Trust is a “big job”, said BBC media and arts correspondent David Sillito.

“You are overseeing the BBC, but you are also in many ways responsible for being the cheerleader, defending it when politicians have got something to say about the BBC,” he added.”

Obviously the first interesting point about that statement is that Sillito appears to rule out the possibility that politicians might have something valid to say about the BBC which may in fact not merit defence on the part of the Trust’s chair.

Secondly, it is particularly remarkable that the role’s main function does not appear to enter into the BBC’s media correspondent’s understanding of the job.

The Royal Charter defines the role of the BBC Trust as follows:

“Within the BBC, there shall be a BBC Trust and an Executive Board of the BBC. These two bodies shall each play important, but different, roles within the BBC. In summary, the main roles of the Trust are in setting the overall strategic direction of the BBC ,including its priorities, and in exercising a general oversight of the work of the Executive Board. The Trust will perform these roles in the public interest, particularly the interest of licence fee payers.” [emphasis added]

The Charter further stipulates:

Role of the Trust

Guardians of the licence fee and the public interest

The Trust is the guardian of the licence fee revenue and the public interest in the BBC.

The Trust has the ultimate responsibility, subject to the provisions of this Charter, for—

(a) the BBC’s stewardship of the licence fee revenue and its other resources;

(b) upholding the public interest within the BBC, particularly the interests of licence fee payers; and

(c) securing the effective promotion of the Public Purposes.”

It would appear that one of Ms Fairhead’s first tasks may have to be to clarify to BBC staff why she is there and exactly whose interests her position is tasked with safeguarding. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC audiences again fobbed off with HRW press release presented as ‘news’

On September 9th the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel ‘coercing Eritreans and Sudanese to leave’” on its Middle East page and the main thing BBC audiences are able to learn from it is that a BBC staffer read a press release put out by the political NGO ‘Human Rights Watch’ on the same day.HRW PR art

The article is 555 words long, not including its headline, photo captions and sub-headings. It includes a recycled filmed report by Richard Galpin from January 2014 which was previously discussed here. One hundred and forty-five words of the report can be described as original BBC content; mostly dedicated to the response solicited from the Israeli foreign ministry. The other four hundred and ten words are rehashed statements from the HRW press release, as shown below.

BBC: “Israel is unlawfully coercing almost 7,000 Eritrean and Sudanese nationals into leaving the country at great personal risk, Human Rights Watch says.”

HRW: “Israeli authorities have unlawfully coerced almost 7,000 Eritrean and Sudanese nationals into returning to their home countries where they risk serious abuse, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.”

BBC:  “They have been denied access to fair and efficient asylum procedures and detained unlawfully, a new report says.”

HRW: “Israeli authorities have labelled Eritreans and Sudanese a “threat”, branded them “infiltrators,” denied them access to fair and efficient asylum procedures, and used the resulting insecure legal status as a pretext to unlawfully detain or threaten to detain them indefinitely, coercing thousands into leaving.”

BBC: “Eritreans and Sudanese began arriving in Israel through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in large numbers in 2006. By December 2012, about 37,000 Eritreans and 14,000 Sudanese had entered the country.”

HRW: “In 2006, Eritreans and Sudanese began arriving in Israel through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in large numbers, fleeing widespread human rights abuses in their countries. By the time Israel all but sealed off its border with Egypt in December 2012, about 37,000 Eritreans and 14,000 Sudanese had entered the country.”

BBC: “HRW says that over the past eight years, the Israeli authorities have employed various measures to encourage them to leave.”

HRW: “Over the past eight years, the Israeli authorities have applied various coercive measures to “make their lives miserable” and “encourage the illegals to leave,” in the words of former Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai and current Israeli Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, respectively. “

BBC: “They include “indefinite detention, obstacles to accessing Israel’s asylum system, the rejection of 99.9% of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum claims, ambiguous policies on being allowed to work, and severely restricted access to healthcare”, it alleges.”

HRW: “These include indefinite detention, obstacles to accessing Israel’s asylum system, the rejection of 99.9 percent of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum claims, ambiguous policies on being allowed to work, and severely restricted access to healthcare.”

BBC: “In September 2013, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that a 2012 amendment to an anti-infiltration law, which allowed for the indefinite detention of people for illegal entry, was unlawful.

In response, the Israeli parliament passed another amendment to the law in December that established the Holot facility in the remote Negev desert for those considered “infiltrators”.”

HRW: “Since June 2012, the Israeli authorities have indefinitely detained thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese for entering Israel irregularly, that is, without entering through an official border crossing. After the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in September 2013 that such detention was unlawful, the Israeli authorities responded by renaming their detention policy and began requiring Eritreans and Sudanese to live in the Holot “Residency Center” in Israel’s remote Negev desert in conditions which amount to detention despite the change in name.”

BBC: “Hundreds of Eritreans and Sudanese have since been ordered to report to the centre, where they live in conditions that HRW says breach international law on arbitrary detention.”

HRW: “Detaining people in Holot breaches the prohibition under international law on arbitrary detention because people are confined to a specific location where they cannot carry out their normal occupational and social activities.”

BBC: “The Israeli authorities say they are not detained because they can leave for a few hours at a time. However, they are required to report three times a day and to be in the centre at night. The only way for them to secure their release is to be recognised as a refugee or leave the country.”

HRW: “The only way for detainees to secure their release is to be recognized as a refugee.”

BBC: “In February 2013, Israel allowed Eritreans and Sudanese to lodge asylum claims in significant numbers. However, as of March 2014, the authorities had only reviewed slightly more than 450 “detainee” cases, and the rejection rate has been almost 100%, HRW says.”

HRW: “In February 2013, Israel allowed Eritreans and Sudanese to lodge asylum claims in significant numbers. However, as of March 2014, the authorities had only reviewed just over 450 detainees’ claims, while Israeli refugee lawyers said there was no evidence that the authorities had reviewed a single claim by Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers living in Israeli towns and cities. The rejection rate has been almost 100 percent.”

BBC: ” “Destroying people’s hope of finding protection by forcing them into a corner and then claiming they are voluntarily leaving Israel is transparently abusive,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report.

“Eritreans and Sudanese in Israel are left with the choice of living in fear of spending the rest of their days locked up in desert detention centres or of risking detention and abuse back home.” “

HRW: “Destroying people’s hope of finding protection by forcing them into a corner and then claiming they are voluntarily leaving Israel is transparently  abusive,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “Eritreans and Sudanese in Israel are left with the choice of living in fear of spending the rest of their days locked up in desert detention centers or of risking detention and abuse back home.”

BBC: “HRW says Israel is violating the international principle of “non-refoulement”, which forbids states from returning refugees and asylum seekers to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened.”

HRW: “Eritrean and Sudanese nationals who agree to return from Israel to their own countries under threat of indefinite detention should be considered victims of refoulement, Human Rights Watch said. Refoulement, under international law, is the forcible return “in any manner whatsoever” of a refugee or asylum seeker to a risk of persecution, or of anyone to likely torture or inhuman and degrading treatment.”

There is of course a term for this sort of ‘news report': churnalism.

“‘Churnalism’ is a news article that is published as journalism, but is essentially a press release without much added.”

This is not the first time that the BBC has produced a churnalism piece based on a HRW press release and far from the first occasion on which the BBC has amplified the allegations of political NGOs without informing audiences of the part those organisations play in anti-Israel campaigning.  As has been noted here previously:

“[…] the sheer number of organisations putting out statements for use by the media makes it important for BBC journalists not just to make do with identifying the source of the press release, but also to inform readers of any political and/or ideological affiliations which may have a bearing upon the impartiality of the information put out by the organization concerned – as indeed they are required to do by the Editorial Guidelines with other outside contributors.”

Human Right Watch’s dismal record was called out by its founder in 2009. Its increasingly deteriorating reputation on Israel-related issues took further blows throughout the recent conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip and it is one of several political NGOs currently conducting a lawfare campaign against Israel under the guise of ‘human rights’ – as the BBC should be well aware seeing as it has made its own contributions to that campaign.

And yet, rather than providing readers with the essential relevant information on HRW’s lack of objectivity which would enable them to place the NGO’s allegations (and motivations) on the very complex issue of African migrants in Israel into their correct context, the BBC once again self-conscripts to providing nothing more than parroted PR amplification for HRW’s politicised claims.

The British government’s Culture Secretary recently voiced the opinion that the size of the BBC suggests that more savings could be made and articles such as this add weight to Sajid Javid’s view. After all, rather than having a member of staff waste all that time rehashing HRW’s press release, the BBC News website could have shortened the process considerably by simply providing the link to it and adding “we think it’s super”. The end result as far as informing BBC audiences is concerned would clearly not have been any different. 

 

On the BBC’s unwarranted use of legal terms during Operation Protective Edge

The following words will no doubt resonate with readers who have been following the BBC’s coverage of the recent conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip and have hence heard and read BBC employees and interviewees alike using the terms below on a disturbingly regular basis.EG

“War crimes. Disproportionate response. Collective punishment. Targeting civilians. Throughout Operation Protective Edge, these terms have been fired off at Israel with the same intensity and frequency as Hamas’ rockets. Arab government spokesmen constantly refer to Israel’s actions as “aggression.” In extreme cases, Israel is accused of “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.” “

Unfortunately for the BBC’s reputation as a provider of accurate and impartial news, those loaded labels were liberally employed and promoted without evidence-based justification for their use and before any proper and professional investigations into the circumstances of the events described in that legal language had been carried out.

In a very interesting article in The Tower the writer of the above words, David Daoud, explains “Everything You Need to Know about International Law and the Gaza War” and it is well worth the long read. Another recent interesting article on a similar topic is titled “The Ethics of Protective Edge” and it was written by Professor Asa Kasher.

Throughout the seven weeks of conflict the BBC made remarkably little effort to explain to audiences the actual meaning of terms such as ‘disproportionate’, indiscriminate’,  ‘collective punishment’, ‘targeting civilians’ or ‘war crimes’ which were so frequently bandied about by its reporters and guests. One of the few efforts which were made came in the form of an eight-minute item (unfortunately no longer available) broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘PM’ show on July 29th in which David Turns of Cranfield University spoke about the meaning of “disproportionate” in international law.

“There is a general misperception that if any civilians at all are killed, then that is automatically disproportionate. But what such people generally fail to say is what something is disproportionate to, and you’ve got to consider; the law requires consideration of the legitimate military objectives of the other side as well.”

Apparently though, there was no BBC memo informing its own employees that the indiscriminate and unwarranted use of such terms is both inappropriate for an organization professing to adhere to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality, as well as misleading to audiences who would quite reasonably (but wrongly) assume that the BBC’s frequent employment of such language must mean that a legal justification for its use exists. Obviously too, BBC presenters and producers had not been issued with any sort of guidelines on the topic of the legal definitions of such labels and the resulting significance of their use by correspondents and interviewees whilst no proven justification was available.

That in itself speaks volumes about the BBC’s lack of commitment to impartial reporting of Operation Protective Edge and it is an issue on which the BBC’s Director of News and Current Affairs obviously needs to provide answers to the corporation’s funding public.  

How is the Washington Post different from the BBC?

As readers are most likely aware, the BBC frequently uses the term “Palestinian land” to describe places in Area C of Judea & Samaria with a very recent example having appeared in the September 1st report discussed here.Error

In fact, the BBC’s ‘style guide’ has a section titled “Palestinian Land”:

“This phrase has become more widely used by politicians and broadcasters to refer to the Occupied Territories, for example to explain why the construction of settlements is considered illegal by the UN.

Critics of the phrase say it is not strictly accurate because, for example, the West Bank was captured from Jordan in 1967.

The BBC Governors considered this issue in a complaint which was referred to in the programme complaints bulletin of July 2004. Their decision was that, although the complainant objected to references to “Palestinian land” and “Arab land”, these terms “appropriately reflected the language of UN resolutions.” “

In other words, even though the final status of Area C is – according to agreements signed by Israel and the internationally recognized representatives of the Palestinian people – subject to negotiations between those two parties, the BBC nevertheless elects to define the district as belonging to one party alone before those negotiations have even begun.

The Washington Post recently published an article which also referred to “Palestinian land” and our colleagues at CAMERA contacted the newspaper, pointing out that the area in question is:

” . . . disputed territory. Its status is to be resolved by negotiations anticipated by U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian interim accords, the 2003 international “road map” and related diplomatic efforts taking 242 and 338 as reference points. The co-authors of resolution 242, U.S. Under Secretary of State Eugene Rostow, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Arthur Goldberg, and British ambassador Lord Caradon made clear at the time and subsequently that Jews and Arabs both had claims in the territories, no national sovereignty over the territories had been recognized since the end of Ottoman rule and negotiations would be necessary to resolve competing claims.”

Readers can see the result of that correspondence here.

Would that the BBC were as committed to journalistic accuracy and impartiality. 

 

NYT sheds new light on the topic of BBC expert guests

A New York Times article titled “Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks” from September 6th makes for fascinating reading. There we discover, for example, that there is such a thing as the Norway lobby and that one of the prominent contributors to the Brookings Institution – from whence came the US special envoy to the last round of negotiations between Israel and the PLO and to which he returned – is Qatar; the country which harbours the Muslim Brotherhood’s antisemitic, homophobic and misogynistic ‘spiritual leader’ Yussuf Qaradawi and which of course finances Hamas.Riyal

“Some scholars say the donations have led to implicit agreements that the research groups would refrain from criticizing the donor governments.

“If a member of Congress is using the Brookings reports, they should be aware — they are not getting the full story,” said Saleem Ali, who served as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar and who said he had been told during his job interview that he could not take positions critical of the Qatari government in papers. “They may not be getting a false story, but they are not getting the full story.” “

The article also reveals details of foreign funding to other think-tanks such as the Atlantic Council (UAE, Kuwait and others) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (UAE, China, Saudi Arabia and others).

“More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington. And it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom: Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research. […]

The arrangements involve Washington’s most influential think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Atlantic Council. Each is a major recipient of overseas funds, producing policy papers, hosting forums and organizing private briefings for senior United States government officials that typically align with the foreign governments’ agendas.

Most of the money comes from countries in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia, particularly the oil-producing nations of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Norway, and takes many forms. The United Arab Emirates, a major supporter of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, quietly provided a donation of more than $1 million to help build the center’s gleaming new glass and steel headquarters not far from the White House. Qatar, the small but wealthy Middle East nation, agreed last year to make a $14.8 million, four-year donation to Brookings, which has helped fund a Brookings affiliate in Qatar and a project on United States relations with the Islamic world.”

The appearance of such scholars as expert guests of the media is of course not a rare occurrence and the BBC is no exception. In the past couple of months alone the Atlantic Council has, for example, been represented by Damon Wilson, Shuja Nawaz and Bilal Saab on BBC World News. Employees of the Center for Strategic and International Studies cite BBC appearances as part of their biographies – see for example here and here. In July 2014 an article titled “Will Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood return to political violence?” appeared on the BBC News website. That analysis was written by Dr Omar Ashour  – a Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center.

The NYT article informs us that:

“… in 2012, when a revised agreement was signed between Brookings and the Qatari government, the Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself praised the agreement on its website, announcing that “the center will assume its role in reflecting the bright image of Qatar in the international media, especially the American ones.” Brookings officials also acknowledged that they have regular meetings with Qatari government officials about the center’s activities and budget, and that the former Qatar prime minister sits on the center’s advisory board.”

Perhaps it is little wonder then that whilst the above article informed BBC audiences that “[i]n Gaza, Hamas, an ideological affiliate of the Brotherhood, is currently in its third war in six years with Israel”, no mention was made of Qatar’s funding of that terrorist organisation.

As we know, the BBC’s guidelines on impartiality state that:

“We 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.”

Obviously the New York Times’ revelations mean that expert guests and contributing writers from foreign-funded think-tanks – whom BBC audiences might very reasonably assume to be objective – should also have their less transparent connections made clear; especially if the topic under discussion happens to be connected to one of their organisations’ foreign funders.