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

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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 one

As has been documented many times on these pages, whilst the BBC often provides a platform for proponents of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel and no less frequently some of its own journalists can also be found amplifying and mainstreaming that campaign, the corporation consistently fails to provide its audiences with the full facts about the aims and motivations of BDS.

The latest examples of that ongoing practice were to be found on multiple BBC platforms between July 21st and 23rd.

Viewers of BBC television news programmes saw a filmed item which was also placed on the BBC News website on July 21st under the title “Why campaigners are boycotting Israel” with the following synopsis:BDS Deas filmed

“A campaign calling for a boycott of Israel says it is trying to pressure the Jewish state to change its policies towards the Palestinians.

The international pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement has been using the same techniques as anti-apartheid campaigners who worked to bring down white minority rule in South Africa.

Israel claims groups such as BDS are really opposed to the state’s very existence.

Michael Deas, BDS Campaigns Director in London, told BBC News about the thinking behind the boycott.”

And indeed, viewers heard the following unchallenged monologue from professional activist and former LSE student Michael Deas:

“The international community consistently fails to hold Israel to account for its violations of international law. So given this failure, ten years ago – in July 2005 – Palestinian organisations came together to issue an appeal for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions similar to the boycott campaign that helped end apartheid in South Africa. And the boycott calls for non-violent pressure against Israel until it complies with international law.

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.”

A more one-sided promotion of BDS than that is difficult to imagine but nevertheless, the supposedly ‘impartial’ BBC did not see fit to provide viewers of this clip with the range of relevant information concerning the organization Deas represents.

Who funds the Palestinian BDS National Committee as it is correctly known and who are its members? What are its aims? Why does it oppose ‘normalisation’ with Israel and Israelis? What does its demand for the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees to Israel say about its stance regarding a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict and does the BDS movement recognize Israel’s right to exist and the Jewish people’s right to self-determination?

None of the answers to those questions were provided to audiences viewing this BBC facilitated exercise in delegtimisation and – despite what the BBC appears to think – inclusion of the bizarrely phrased sentence “Israel claims groups such as BDS are really opposed to the state’s very existence” in the synopsis to this clip does not meet the requirement for impartial presentation of the movement’s political aims and even suggests that the BBC does not understand the structure of the campaign.

Neither were viewers informed that Deas’ portrayal of the BDS campaign’s beginnings is inaccurate and that in fact its roots are to be found in the 2001 Durban conference, as documented by Dan Diker.

“The 2001 UN World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, has become recognized as a seminal event in the current global BDS campaign against Israel. Governments and NGOs from around the world convened for the formal Durban Conference and its parallel NGO Forum from August 30 to September 8, 2001. The PLO delegation led by the PLO’s UN representative, Nasser al-Kidwa, together with other member countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and Western NGOs, played a central role in formulating what was called the final NGO declaration.

Human rights NGOs, with input from Arab states and Iran, ensured that the NGO Forum included a final declaration that read:

[We] [c]all upon the international community to impose a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state as in the case of South Africa which means the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel.

Durban represented a watershed moment for anti-Israel radicalism. It was no irony that the above calls to criminalize and isolate Israel were accompanied by terror attacks by Palestinian terror organizations. On September 9, the day after Durban ended, a Hamas suicide bomber killed three people at the Nahariya train station in northern Israel. Durban’s radical likening of Israel to apartheid South Africa would help create international legitimacy for violence, or what both Fatah and Hamas call “resistance” against the “illegitimate” Jewish state, which set a precedent for future calls for its dismantling and actions to achieve that goal.

To that end, the Durban Conference’s NGO declaration would establish the political and ideological infrastructure for the contemporary BDS movement: economic boycotts, government sanctions, and the severing of social and cultural links with Israel were all key areas of focus.”

The BBC did not however limit its promotion of Michael Deas and his cause to this filmed item – as we shall see in part two of this post.

BBC News twists Tisha B’Av Temple Mount incident with ‘last-first’ reporting

On the morning of July 26th – the day of the fast of Tisha B’Av – Israeli security forces had to deal with an incident at Al Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

“Dozens of masked Palestinian protesters hurled rocks, Molotov cocktails and firecrackers at police officers on the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City Sunday morning, before being pushed back into the Al-Aqsa Mosque by security forces who were rushed to the area.

According to police, the protesters had stockpiled homemade explosives, firecrackers and wooden boards inside the mosque, with the intention of attacking thousands of Jewish worshipers gathered nearby for prayers at the Western Wall on Tisha B’Av, a fast and day of mourning that commemorates the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temples.”

The portrayal of that incident provided to visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page creates a markedly different impression. The report’s headline – “Al-Aqsa mosque: Israeli police enter Jerusalem holy site” – erases any mention of what preceded the security forces’ brief entry into the mosque in typical BBC ‘last-first reporting’ style.AAM 26 7 BBC art

The opening paragraphs of the article even imply that the violence on the part of the Palestinians was a reaction to the police’s entry into the mosque.

“Palestinian youths have clashed with Israeli police who entered the al-Aqsa mosque complex in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians are said to have barricaded themselves inside the mosque and thrown stones at police, who moved in to stop them.”

As the Israeli police force noted, the sequence of events was in fact as follows:

“This morning they [the rioters] took up positions in the mosque courtyard and when they saw the police they began throwing stones and firing fireworks at them. […] Masked men and rioters ran away into the mosque and began throwing tens of stones and concrete blocks at the police officers, fired fireworks directly at them and sprayed them with an unidentified liquid.”

Only in the third paragraph are readers of the report given a euphemistic, second-hand description of the rioters’ intentions:

“Israeli media said the Palestinians had intended to disrupt visits by observant Jews to the Western Wall.”

No mention is made of the fact that the rioters had stockpiled rocks, planks, fireworks and Molotov cocktails inside the mosque in order to facilitate that ‘disruption’ or of the fact that the plan was timed to coincide with Tisha B’Av, which sees a high number of visitors to the holy sites.

BBC audiences are told that:

“The al-Aqsa mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, is in a part of East Jerusalem also revered by Jews.”

Audiences are not told that Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and, in addition to having failed to clarify that the incident occurred on Tisha B’Av, the report makes no mention of the fact that the fast commemorates the destruction of the two Jewish temples on that site.

The article states:

“The police said a number of officers were injured. There were no immediate reports of any Palestinian casualties.

Six Palestinians were arrested, an AFP news agency photographer reported.”

As the BBC could have discovered directly from the Israeli police, three Palestinians were in fact arrested rather than six and four police officers were injured.

As we see, the BBC’s report focuses on the entry of policemen into the Al Aqsa Mosque. The issue of Palestinians intending to use violence to prevent Jews from exercising their religious rights is not apparently a topic about which the BBC considers its audiences need to know more.

Resources:

Contact BBC News Online

 

Patchy coverage of Iran ‘side deals’ in BBC News reporting

An article which originally appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East and US & Canada pages on July 23rd under the headline “Iran nuclear deal: Kerry to face Senate committee” is now titled “Iran nuclear deal: Better accord ‘a fantasy’ says Kerry” and readers can view the changes made to its various versions here.Kerry art main

One interesting point to note is the disappearance and reappearance of passages of the article relating to a topic which the BBC News website’s generally on-US-administration-messaging coverage has not addressed separately.

Readers of versions one and two of the article learned that:

“[Senator] Mr Cotton, along with Mike Pompeo, a Republican Congressman from Kansas, wrote to Mr Obama on Wednesday to express their concern over what they called “side deals” nuclear inspectors were discussing with Iran.

A State Department spokesman said there were no secret deals and that there were only “technical arrangements”.”

By version three of the report, those paragraphs had been removed and the topic only reappeared in version eight, where audiences were told:

“Separately, two Republicans have complained that Congress has not been given access to “side deals” stuck between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which allegedly relate to the inspection of a key military site as well as past military activity.

Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, responded by saying the details of those deals “are not public but… we know their contents, we’re satisfied with them and we will share the contents of those briefings in full in a classified session with the Congress”.”

Version nine of the article was amended to read as follows:

“Separately, two Republicans have complained that Congress has not been given access to “side deals” stuck between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which allegedly relate to the inspection of a key military site as well as past military activity.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest rejected the suggestion they were “some sort of side deal”, saying the agreements were critical to the overall deal.

But he did admit that the details of the agreements could not be made public because it involves sensitive nuclear information.”

The article links to the Cotton/Pompeo press release on the topic but no further explanation is given in the body of the report and clearly members of the BBC’s audience who happened to access any one of the five versions of this article in which the issue did not appear would remain unaware of its existence.

The bulk of the report’s word-count is devoted to representation of John Kerry’s statements made during the committee hearing, with statements made by critics of the JCPOA deal receiving 102 words less coverage. In the body of the report readers are presented with two photographs, the first of which is captioned:

“The deal with Iran has encountered plenty of opposition, from within Congress to the streets”

The caption to the second photograph reads:

“But Mr Kerry also had his supporters at the hearing”

Kerry art photos

The first picture shows a demonstration held in New York on July 22nd. Although readers are not informed of the fact, the second image shows Medea Benjamin of the radical BDS-promoting organisation ‘Code Pink’.

Code Pink photo

Readers would no doubt have found it helpful to know that one of the two images chosen to supposedly present a ‘balanced’ view of American public reaction to the JCPOA deal in fact shows a professional political activist who visited Tehran just last autumn.

“Medea Benjamin participated in the New Horizon 2nd Annual International Conference of Independent Thinkers & Film Makers, held in Tehran, Iran (September 27 – October 1, 2014), speaking on the topics of “The Gaza War & BDS Movement Strategies against the Zionist Regime” and “Different Facets of the Resistance.” The conference included past and present Iranian government officials, as well as conspiracy theorists and Holocaust deniers.”

Somehow, that pertinent information did not reach BBC audiences. 

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 yet again amplifies Arafat conspiracy theories

On July 21st the BBC News website’s Middle East page included a report titled “Yasser Arafat: French prosecutor seeks end to murder inquiry“. The article’s opening lines reasonably sum up the story as follows:Arafat art

“A French prosecutor has said there is no case to answer regarding the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

A murder inquiry was ordered by a court in Nanterre in August 2012 after his widow Suha alleged he was poisoned with polonium-210, a radioactive element.

On Tuesday, the local prosecutor concluded the case should be dismissed.”

Later on readers are told that:

“His [Arafat’s] widow objected to a post-mortem examination at the time, but agreed to allow French, Russian and Swiss experts to take samples from his remains after traces of polonium-210 were found on his personal effects in July 2012 as part of an investigation by the Qatar-based al-Jazeera network.[…]

…the French experts had concluded that the polonium-210 and lead-210 isotopes found in Arafat’s grave and in the samples of his remains were of “an environmental nature”. […]

The French findings echoed those of the Russian Federal Medical and Biological Agency, which said in December 2013 that Arafat “died not from the effects of radiation but of natural causes”.

However, Swiss scientists at the Vaudois University Hospital Centre in Lausanne said the previous month that the results of their investigation indicated “third-party involvement” in Arafat’s death and offered “moderate backing for the theory of poisoning”.”

Notably, the BBC News website refrained from reporting on the results of the French investigation at the time of their official publication although it did cover an earlier leak in two reports. Its coverage of the Russian results amounted to one article. However, coverage of the Swiss results saw BBC News website users bombarded with no fewer than thirteen reports on the topic in the space of 48 hours.

A recurrent feature appearing in most of those reports, as well as in additional BBC content, was the amplification of conspiracy theories surrounding the then 75 year-old Arafat’s death. Remarkably, even in this latest story about a French prosecutor having concluded that there is no point in pursuing the inquiry any further, the BBC promotes that same conspiracy theory no fewer than three times.

The main photograph chosen to illustrate the article is captioned:

“Many Palestinians accuse Israel of involvement in Arafat’s death – something it denies”.

In paragraph five readers are told that:

“Many Palestinians nonetheless continue to accuse Israel of involvement in his death – something it has strenuously denied.”

And just in case by the time they had read the whole article that conspiracy theory had perhaps slipped their mind, the report’s final lines tell readers that:

“Despite the Russian and French findings, a Palestinian investigative committee declared that it was certain that Arafat was “killed and that Israel killed him”.”

Just a day before this article was published the British prime minister gave a landmark speech on extremism in which he repeatedly noted the connection between conspiracy theories and radicalization and extremism.  

There are few, if any, publicly funded bodies as influential and far-reaching as the BBC. Its content reaches nearly every British household and hundreds of millions more around the world. The information it produces is used by policy-shapers, decision-makers, academics and educators and passed on to the next generation because it is considered to come from a respectable, reliable source.

So when the BBC repeatedly and knowingly amplifies baseless conspiracy theories, they are legitimized and mainstreamed into public consciousness and – to borrow a phrase from Mr Cameron – the BBC too becomes part of the problem which British society is so urgently trying to address.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s Arafat overdose

BBC goes into Arafat overdose mode – again

BBC Arafat binge continues to promote conspiracy theories

Comparing BBC coverage of Arafat ‘poisoned’ vs ‘not poisoned’ stories

Four times less BBC Online coverage of Arafat ‘not poisoned’ stories

Why we need to talk about the BBC’s promotion of Middle East conspiracy theories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC continues to avoid independent verification of Gaza casualty ratios

On August 15th 2014 the BBC added a footnote to an article titled “Caution needed with Gaza casualty figures” which, after originally appearing on the BBC News website on August 8th, had undergone a series of very significant changes three days later. The last line of that footnote read:

Original version - dated August 8th

Original version – dated August 8th

“We expect to return to this subject at a later date.”

Not only has the BBC never bothered to explain to its funding public why an article written by its own Head of Statistics was so radically altered but it has also not returned to the subject of casualty ratios during the 2014 conflict in any meaningful way, preferring to quote UN supplied figures sourced from political actors and with no independent BBC verification of those figures apparent.

One organization which has carried out meticulous identification of the names appearing on the casualty lists supplied by Hamas and additional actors is the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Centre and it recently published its eleventh report on the topic – available here. Links to the previous ten reports can be found here.

Notably, this latest ITIC report studies fifty names which did not appear on the lists of casualties supplied by Hamas. All of those 50 casualties belonged to assorted terrorist organisations and most of them were Hamas operatives.

The ITIC report states:

“The findings of our investigation so far (based on an examination of approximately 61% of the names of the dead) suggest that terrorist operatives constitute 48.7% of the names that have been identified, and noninvolved civilians constitute approximately 51.3%. This ratio may vary in the future, but not significantly, in our assessment.” […]

“This ratio differs from the findings of the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry, indicating that 1,462 civilians were killed, out of 2,251 Palestinians fatalities, i.e., around 65% of all the casualties were civilians. Thus, by implication, according to the UN report, around 35% of the dead were terrorist operatives, although the report refrains from saying explicitly that all the others are operatives affiliated with terrorist organizations (the report uses the phrase “Palestinian armed groups”‘).”

A media organization truly committed to accuracy and impartiality would clearly have made good on its stated intention to “return to this subject at a later date” in order to ensure that the information it continues to quote and promote is indeed accurate, that its rulings on complaints on the topic are fact-based and fair and that its impartiality is not compromised by the failure to provide audiences with accurate civilian/combatant casualty ratios on one side of the conflict – as was for example evident in the BBC’s recent prolific coverage of the conflict’s anniversary.

“Now on this day last year another war erupted in Gaza. It lasted 51 days and turned into the longest, most costly conflict of the three wars in the past six years. More than 2,100 people were killed in Gaza and 72 were killed on the Israeli side including 66 soldiers. And a very high price paid by civilians – and most of all children – became a defining issue in this confrontation.” (Rebecca Kesby, ‘BBC World Update: Daily Commute’, BBC World Service, 8/7/2015) [emphasis added]

Of course the longer the BBC fails to address this topic openly and honestly, the more it fosters the impression of a political motivation behind the both changes made to its August 8th 2014 article and its subsequent presentation of the subject of civilian/combatant ratios in the Gaza Strip.

Related Articles:

BBC promotion of the inaccurate notion of exceptional civilian casualties in Gaza

BBC Complaints defends its use of Hamas supplied casualty figures

What connects Hamas supplied casualty figures to the BBC’s expedited complaints procedure?

 

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

An article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 18th with the headline “Iran nuclear: Ayatollah Khamenei chastises ‘arrogant’ US” purported to summarise in its 319 words a speech made by Khamenei on the same day.Khamenei speech art 18 7

An English translation of that speech is available via Potkin Azarmehr’s blog and it runs to 1,769 words. Mr Azarmehr notes:

“Unlike Western Media’s translation of the speech, Supreme Leader never once refers to a “deal” but consistently calls it a document and that is the most important thing about the Supreme Leader’s speech.”

However, in the BBC’s account of the speech readers are told four times that Khamenei used the words ‘deal’ or ‘agreement’.

The BBC report states: [all emphasis added]

“Iran’s stance towards the “arrogant” US will not change despite the nuclear deal reached earlier this week, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said.”

And readers are told that Khamenei said:

“Even after this deal our policy towards the arrogant US will not change.” […]

“We have repeatedly said we don’t negotiate with the US on regional or international affairs; not even on bilateral issues.”

The relevant section of the translated speech reads as follows:

“The next point is that our policy towards the arrogant government of America will not change in any way despite these negotiations and the document that has been prepared. As we have said many times, we have no negotiations with America on different global and regional issues. We have no bilateral negotiations with America.”

Khamenei went on to say:

“Sometimes, we have negotiated with them in exceptional cases such as the nuclear issue and we have done so because of our interests. The nuclear issue was not the only case. There were other cases as well which I have referred to in my previous public speeches. The American policies in the region are 180 degrees the opposite of the policies of the Islamic Republic. The Americans accuse Hezbollah and the Lebanese Resistance – who are the most self-sacrificing forces in their country in the area of national defense – of terrorism. There is no injustice worse than this. This is while they support the terrorist child-killing government of Zionism. How can one do business, negotiate and reach an agreement with such a policy? There are other cases as well and I will expand on them in other speeches.”

The BBC’s representation of that was as follows:

“In a speech marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, he said Iran still had sharp differences with the US, above all over the Middle East.”

And audiences were told that Khamenei said:

“There are some exceptions like the nuclear programme that we negotiated with Americans to serve our interests… US policies in the region are diametrically opposed with Iran’s policies.”

The BBC tells readers:

“Iran would continue to back Syria, Iraq, the Palestinians and “oppressed people” in Yemen and Bahrain, he said.”

And:

“”Whether the [nuclear] deal is approved or disapproved, we will never stop supporting our friends in the region and the people of Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.”

The relevant section of the translated speech in fact reads:

“The next point is that whether this document is ratified or not, we will not abandon our regional friends: the oppressed people of Palestine, the oppressed people of Yemen, the people and government of Syria, the people and government of Iraq, the oppressed people of Bahrain and the sincere mujahids of the Resistance in Lebanon and Palestine. These people will always enjoy our support.”

In other words, the BBC has censored Khamenei’s pledge of support for the Syrian regime and for terrorist organisations including Hizballah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

BBC audiences are told that:

“The supreme leader also denied that Iran was intending to create a nuclear bomb.

“The Americans say they stopped Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” he said in his speech at the Mosala mosque in Tehran.

“They know it’s not true. We had a fatwa [religious ruling] declaring nuclear weapons to be religiously forbidden under Islamic law. It had nothing to do with the nuclear talks.”

The relevant section of the translated speech reads as follows:

“Another point is about the Americans’ blustering in recent days. In the recent days that the negotiations have been concluded, the American excellencies – their male and female officials – are busy blustering. Each of them is blustering in a different way. Of course, this is alright with us. Their domestic problems force them into blustering. They claim that they have dragged Iran towards the negotiating table, that they have made Iran surrender, that they have obtained such and such concessions from our country and other such claims. However, the truth is something else. They say that they have prevented Iran from building nuclear weapons, but this has nothing to do with our negotiations with America and other countries. They themselves know this and sometimes they have spoken about the importance of the fatwa that bans nuclear weapons.

According to the commands of the Holy Quran and Islamic sharia, we consider building, keeping and using nuclear weapons as haraam and therefore, we will not do so. This has nothing to do with them and with these negotiations. They themselves know that this is the truth. They know that what prevents the Islamic Republic from building nuclear weapons is not their threats and intimidating behavior. There is a religious barrier behind this and they know the significance of this fatwa, but they still claim that it was they who prevented Iran. They are not honest with their own people and they do not tell them the truth. On various other matters, they say that they have adopted such and such a measure about Iran’s nuclear industry and that they have forced Iran to surrender, but they can only see Iran’s surrender in their dreams.”

As has been the case in the past, the controversy surrounding the topic of that apparently unwritten fatwa is not clarified to BBC audiences and as has been noted here before, readers may find this essay by a former BBC Persian analyst helpful in understanding the significance – or lack of it – of such a fatwa.

BBC audiences are told that:

“The supreme leader said it was now necessary for Iranian politicians to scrutinise the nuclear agreement and make sure that Iran’s national interests were being preserved.”

The relevant section of the translated speech reads:

“Of course in order to ratify this document, there is a clear legal procedure that, by Allah’s favor, has to be taken. We expect that these officials take the interests – interests of the country, interests of the people – into consideration by paying careful attention, so that when they deliver the matter to the people, they can do so with their heads held high in front of Allah the Exalted as well.”

As we see, the version of Khamenei’s speech presented to Western audiences by the BBC  replaces the word ‘document’ with ‘deal’ or ‘agreement’. It also censors the Iranian regime’s expression of continued support for terrorism and, of course, its anti-Israel content.

BBC audiences trying to understand the significance and implications of the JCPOA signed between the P5+1 and Iran would obviously have found that information beneficial to their understanding of the reservations raised by many parties in relation to the likely effects of sanctions relief on Iran’s patronage of terrorist groups in the Middle East and beyond. The BBC, however, chose to censor that information.

Related Articles:

More spin than a centrifuge: BBC report on Khamenei nuclear deal speech

BBC presents airbrushed picture of Rouhani NBC interview

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2015 & Q2 2015

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks during June 2015 (Hebrew) shows that throughout the month a total of 123 incidents took place: 69 in Judea & Samaria, 51 in Jerusalem and three incidents of missile fire from the Gaza Strip. Two Israeli civilians were killed and eight people wounded in those attacks. The agency recorded 98 attacks with petrol bombs, two stabbings, four shooting attacks and 16 attacks using explosive devices.

The three separate incidents of missile fire from the Gaza Strip occurred on June 3rd, June 6th and June 23rd and in some cases multiple projectiles were fired in what the agency records as one incident. None of those attacks were reported by BBC News in English at the time but the Israeli responses to them were reported on the BBC Arabic website. A BBC News website article which appeared on June 10th made a vague reference to some of the incidents prior to that date.

BBC News ignores missile attack from Gaza but BBC Arabic reports response

The pattern continues: no coverage of Gaza missile attacks in English but BBC Arabic reports Israeli response

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

Neither of the two fatal shooting attacks which took place on June 19th and June 29th were reported by the BBC in English but they were mentioned in articles appearing on the BBC Arabic website.

BBC ignores another terror attack on Israelis – in English

BBC coverage of Ramadan terror ignores attacks in one country – in English

Non-fatal incidents which took place during June were also ignored.

More Palestinian terror ignored by BBC News

In short, with the exception of one brief and very vague later reference to missile attacks during the first week of the month, there was no BBC reporting on terror attacks against Israelis throughout June 2015.

Throughout the first quarter of 2015 the BBC reported on less than 1% of the terror attacks which actually took place. During 2015’s second quarter 0.76% of terror attacks were reported by BBC News but none of the three fatal attacks which took place received any coverage whatsoever in English.

In summary: throughout the first six months of 2015 English-speaking BBC audiences were informed of just 0.85% of the terror attacks against Israelis and received no coverage of any of the attacks which resulted in fatalities.

Q2 terror

The BBC Trust’s definition of the corporation’s public purpose remit titled ‘Global Outlook’ states:

“BBC viewers, listeners and users can rely on the BBC to provide internationally respected news services to audiences around the world and they can expect the BBC to keep them in touch with what is going on in the world, giving insight into the way people live in other countries.”

Clearly that pledge is not being met with regard to terrorism against Israelis and the knock-on effect of that omission is that audiences are unable to comprehend the context to the Israeli counter-terrorism measures such as border restrictions, the anti-terrorist fence or checkpoints which do feature extensively and regularly in BBC content.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel in May 2015

BBC coverage of terrorism in Israel in April 2015

What percentage of Q1 2015 terror attacks against Israelis was reported by the BBC?

BBC claims attacks on Israelis in Judea & Samaria are “rare”