BBC’s Panorama Jerusalem train programme takes viewers on a predictable journey

On July 20th the BBC One current affairs programme ‘Panorama‘ aired an episode titled “The Train that Divides Jerusalem“. Israeli readers may be surprised to learn from the programme’s synopsis that the light rail system serving their capital city is “controversial”.Panorama light rail prog main

“On the anniversary of last summer’s brutal conflict in Gaza, film-maker Adam Wishart visits Jerusalem and rides the city’s controversial new train. Only nine miles from start to finish, some hoped it could help heal divisions between Israelis and Palestinians, but as Wishart discovers, it has only deepened the sense of resentment on both sides. Travelling through the old city, he comes face to face with the battle over one of the world’s holiest sites and asks, could it be the flashpoint for the start of another war?”

In fact, the title chosen for this programme is a self-fulfilling prophecy: Wishart clearly sets out to ‘prove’ that Jerusalem is divided and the train is merely a hook for his pre-existing hypothesis.

As anyone who has ever spent an afternoon or an evening in Jerusalem’s various parks, at the Mamilla Mall, the Malha Mall or at the restored First Station knows, Jerusalemites of all backgrounds and ethnicities shop, eat, play, work and stroll at such locations and many use public transport to reach them. That aspect of Jerusalem life had no place in Adam Wishart’s film; he has decided that the city is “divided” and he already knows why.

“It was meant to help unite this place but the train is dividing it further.”

“Now it’s easier for Jews to travel into Palestinian suburbs…”

Very early on in the film Wishart finds it necessary to establish his credentials.

“I’m Adam Wishart – a British Jew….”

Scattered throughout the film are references to his previous visit to Jerusalem “on a Zionist education course as a teenager” and to his Zionist grandparents. Apparently his own background is intended to be a claim to added credence for his current assertions.

At the outset of the film Wishart proposes to take viewers on “a journey into the heart of a city which feels more divided than ever” and his concluding remarks half an hour later indicate that he found exactly what he was looking for – including some fashionable disappointment with the people who did not fulfil the dreams of others who do not actually live in Israel.

“My journey has been heartbreaking. When my grandparents campaigned for the State of Israel they hoped for a place of refuge, of tolerance and equal rights for all. As I take the last train I just can’t believe this could be the place that they dreamt of all these years ago.”

The highly selective journey which takes Wishart to that conclusion begins in Jerusalem’s Old City – or as he portrays it: “a world divided by religious rivalry”. Temple Mount is described as follows:

“…one of the holiest sites for Muslims – home to the Dome of the Rock, the Al Aqsa Mosque and the courtyard that joins them. They’re all under Muslim control.”

That, of course, is a partial representation of the site’s actual status. Wishart goes on:

“It’s also home to the holiest site in Judaism – a Jewish temple destroyed over two thousand years ago. All that remains is the western wall of the courtyard – the Wailing Wall where Jews come to pray.”

The phrase “Wailing Wall” is of course a foreign invention: Jews and Israelis do not use that anachronism. Wishart goes on:

“Now some want to completely rebuild the temple on what they call Temple Mount. No matter that Muslim holy places are here already.”

The site has of course been known as Temple Mount for centuries – long before it was called anything else. Wishart then says:

“Once Jews only ever came as far as the Western Wall. Now one thousand Jews a month enter the courtyard – the heart of this Muslim place of worship.”

He gives generous airtime to the group of women engaged in what he calls “protest” at visits by non-Muslims on Temple Mount but avoids telling viewers who those women really are and how they are paid to harass visitors. Whilst Wishart’s Jewish interviewees actually represent a tiny fringe school of thought, no mainstream Israeli opinions on the topic of Temple Mount are heard and the issue of equal prayer rights for members of all religions on a site holy to Jews and Christians as well as Muslims obviously does not interest our ‘progressive’ film-maker.

Clearly adopting – and promoting – one very specific narrative, Wishart tells audiences:

“Today’s skirmish is part of growing hostility fueled by the competing claims of Jews and Muslims to this holy place. It has already escalated into serious violence. Last November a group of Temple Mount visitors were attacked by Palestinians. In response police entered the Al Aqsa Mosque. It may only have been by a few meters but for many Muslims it crossed a sacred line.”

The accompanying footage shows masked rioters using the mosque as a launch site for rocks and firecrackers. Wishart refrains from pondering whether that crosses any ‘sacred lines’.

Wishart’s half-hearted attempt to provide historic background is completely lacking in context.

“Back then [1948] Israel only held the western part of Jerusalem – after the so-called green line. Then in 1967 Israel occupied the eastern areas.”

Viewers are not told why Israel only held part of the previously united city in 1948 or what led to the war that resulted in its reunification in 1967 and no mention is made of 19 years of Jordanian occupation.

Wishart’s journey moves on to Shuafat.

“The Palestinians who live here remain angry at being under Israeli control. The train just adds to their grievances.”

 Interviewees’ hyperbole passes without challenge:

“This is a racist train to keep Jerusalem for the Jews only.”

“Every day the train passes they are butchering me. Every day they are killing me. This is what the train means to us.”

Concerning the latter interviewee viewers are told:

“…what used to be his land until it was taken to build this train station…”

It is called compulsory purchase, of course, and it happens all over the world. Wishart refrains from using that terminology however, telling audiences:

“He refused compensation because the taking of land fits into a broader picture. Since 1967 Israel has seized about six thousand acres of land in East Jerusalem. Walid has lost about ten acres.”

No source is provided for that information.

Whilst Wishart has plenty to say about Shuafat and clearly steers viewers towards a specific narrative, his account does not include any mention of Hamas’ activities in that neighbourhood.

“I can’t help feeling that the state of this place and the lawlessness – all enclosed by the barrier – make this part of Jerusalem a tinder box waiting to ignite.”

Interviewee: “It’s difficult to be a child born into an environment of occupation and racism. […] Nobody’s born a violent person but the segregation and disparities lead to war and violence.”

At around 17:02 Wishart says:

“Just as we’re leaving the camp [Shuafat] there’s an attack on the guards at the checkpoint.”

He later adds:

“It turns out that most of the noise comes from fireworks – the ammunition of the powerless.”

During that segment (at 17:38) viewers see a boy apparently describing the scene and his words are translated on screen as follows:Panorama light rail prog soldiers

“These are the kids that throw stones at the soldiers”

BBC Watch asked a professional translator to verify that translation and this was his response:

“…it is impossible to make out what the boy says. I listened to it over and over again, together with an expert on Palestinian dialects. There are two words that the boy says before “al-yahud”, it is impossible to make out what these words are. But “al-yahud” is clearly heard, and of course that does not translate as “soldiers””.

Once again, apparently, we have a case of ‘creative’ BBC translation which censors the Arabic word for Jews, thus depriving audiences of important insight into the context and background to a story.

An additional case of ‘lost in translation’ appears in a section of the film showing Jerusalem Day celebrations which Wishart describes as “a celebration of Israel’s 1967 capture of East Jerusalem and the Old City” with no explanation of the subject of the reunification of the city after 19 years of Jordanian occupation during which Jews were prevented from visiting their holy sites. At 22:42 viewers see the chants of Palestinian protesters translated as:Panorama light rail prog defend Palestine

“With our souls, our blood, we defend Palestine”

The accurate translation does not include the word ‘defend’:

“With our souls and our blood, we will redeem you, oh Palestine”

From 22:55 an interviewee’s words pertaining to the Israelis celebrating Jerusalem Day are translated on screen as follows:

“This scene causes great anger for all the people of Palestine. They break into the Old City of Jerusalem and provoke people with their shameful dancing. This is unacceptable.”

Our translator pointed out that the term ‘Old City’ and the word ‘provoke’ do not appear:

“This scene leads to tremendous anger from all segments of the Palestinian people. They forcefully attack the city of Jerusalem with racist incitement and this scandalous dance. This is an unacceptable act.”

Towards the end of the film, at 24:32, and despite having previously told viewers that the government of Israel has made it perfectly clear that no changes will be made to the status quo on Temple Mount, Wishart returns to his dubious hypothesis:

“When I was here 31 years ago even my most fervently Zionist friends weren’t rushing to build a temple on this site. Now the idea is gathering support from within the mainstream. Even a member of the new cabinet supports the idea. I can’t help but think that if some Jews push much further this would surely be the last stand for the Palestinians.”

And at 25:01 he manages to introduce conspiracy into what is no more than an urban public transport system:

“I’m left wondering what is the purpose of the train. Does its ultimate destination hold a clue? It travels north, through the Palestinian neighbourhoods, and snakes round the refugee camp. What’s so controversial is that the ultimate destination is an Israeli settlement. A thousand acres taken by Israel to build a beautiful suburb. Like all settlements in occupied territory, most of the international community consider them to be illegal.”

That ‘settlement’ is the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Pisgat Ze’ev and a quick search even of Pisgat Ze’ev’s Wikipedia entry would have shown Wishart that much of the suburb is in fact built on land purchased by Jews before the Second World War. In line with the usual BBC practice, Wishart makes no effort to inform viewers of the existence of differing legal opinions concerning the legality of ‘settlements’ and he also makes no effort to clarify that under any realistic scenario, Pisgat Ze’ev would be likely to remain under Israeli control in the event of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. He even promotes his hypothesis further with the following ridiculous claims:

“The train makes permanent the expansion of Israel. This settlement is built like a fortress.”

In late 2013 the BBC’s Director of Television claimed that it measures the success of its programmes by asking itself whether they are “fresh and new”. Perhaps the saddest thing about this edition of Panorama is that it is so predictable. From the standard, jaded, presentations of ‘settlements’, ‘the wall’ and ‘international law’, through the impartiality box-ticking inclusion of brief segments pertaining to terror attacks against Israelis – with no mention of the word terror – and to the failure to seriously address the political, religious and ideological roots of Palestinian terrorism whilst misrepresenting fringe opinions as “mainstream” Israeli thought, this politicized film treads a well-trodden route which is anything but “fresh and new”.

Fresh would have been to tell BBC audiences about the increasing numbers of Muslim Jerusalemites living in mixed neighbourhoods (including Pisgat Ze’ev) or to inform viewers of the extremist incitement which goes on inside Al Aqsa Mosque. New would have been to get the history of Jerusalem right and to go back before the standard BBC starting point of 1967 by including coverage of the topics of Jewish-owned lands before 1948 and the expulsion of Jews from the Old City and other neighbourhoods by Jordan.

Adam Wishart however chose to stick with the tried and trusted formula which guaranteed the airing of his film by the BBC and his bizarre shoe-horning of a light rail system into the story does nothing to disguise that fact.


Panorama – contact details

How to Complain to the BBC


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

The BBC has quite understandably devoted considerable air-time and column space to coverage of the June 26th terror attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait and some of that content (see for example here on BBC television news and here on the BBC News website) has addressed the fact that the attacks took place during Ramadan.  

One particularly interesting discussion on that topic and others took place in the June 28th edition of “Sunday Politics” on BBC One – presented by Andrew Neil – with the sensible contributions from Maajid Nawaz and Tim Marshall being especially refreshing. As Nawaz pointed out:Sunday Politics terror Ramadan

“Jihadists in particular don’t see this as a month of prayer. They don’t see this as a month of merely spiritual replenishment. They see it as a month of war or a month of jihad.”

He later added:

“Yes, we are in a war but actually the target in this war – if we see it as just ISIS we’re incredibly short-sighted and prior to that we saw it as just Bin Laden who the international community killed and yet we had something far worse than Bin Laden emerge because we are fundamentally unable – due to reasons of political correctness or fear of being accused of being racist – we are unable to identify what the problem is here. […] President Obama – who is meant to be leading on this front – has not up until now named this ideology: it’s called the Islamist ideology. “

Of course in order to be able to name the ideology, people first need to be aware of what is happening and whilst Israelis are among those who have seen a sharp uptick in the already high number of terror attacks since Ramadan commenced, most of the BBC’s worldwide audience remains unaware of that fact.

On June 19th a fatal terror attack took place near Dolev with Hamas later claiming responsibility. BBC English language services did not report the incident but it was covered in Arabic.

On June 21st a Border Police officer was seriously injured in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem and another man was injured when a bus was firebombed later the same day. The BBC did not report either of those incidents.

On June 23rd a missile fired from the Gaza Strip exploded near Kibbutz Yad Mordechai. That attack was not reported by the BBC’s English language services but the Israeli response to it did get coverage in Arabic.

On June 26th a Palestinian gunman opened fire on soldiers at Beka’ot checkpoint in the Jordan Rift Valley. There were no BBC English language reports on that incident but it was mentioned briefly in a later report in Arabic.

On June 27th an ambulance traveling near Beit El was attacked with live gunfire. There was no BBC coverage of that attack.

On the morning of June 29th a female soldier was injured in a stabbing attack at a crossing near Bethlehem. Later in the evening of the same day, four Israelis were wounded in a shooting attack near Shvut Rachel.

“The four had been driving back from a basketball game near Route 60, the main north-south artery running through the West Bank, when they were attacked. Security forces were initially unsure whether the four were shot at from a passing vehicle or a roadside ambush.”

Neither of those incidents was reported by the BBC’s English language services even after the most seriously wounded victim of the second attack died but both the earlier and later attacks were reported in Arabic. According to Palestinian media outlets, Hamas claimed responsibility for the Shvut Rachel shooting. 

As we can determine from the fact that at least some of the above incidents were reported on the BBC Arabic website, the corporation is obviously well aware of the fact that they took place. One question therefore arising is why – in a similar pattern to that already established in relation to coverage of missile fire from the Gaza Strip – the attacks are not being reported in English. An additional and related point worthy of note is that BBC audiences have not been informed about Hamas’ efforts to build up its terrorist infrastructure in Judea & Samaria.

It seems that another factor needs to be added to Maajid Nawaz’s list of reasons why some people are unable to identify the problem of Islamism. That factor is the politically motivated refusal to accurately recognise some terrorists’ motives and ideology.  

Related Articles:

The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel in May 2015

BBC Trust’s ruling on Hamas’ use of human shields makes for future inaccurate reporting

The BBC Trust’s latest publication of editorial appeals findings (March 2015 – published on 30/4/15) includes the result of requests for appeals concerning complaints made about a filmed report by Orla Guerin which was broadcast in August 2014 – available from page 84 here.BBC Trust

The requests for appeals were not granted and the BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee’s response concerning one aspect of those requests is particularly worthy of note. Summarising the original complaints, the ESC states:

“A second point of complaint concerned the reporter’s assertion that there was no evidence for Israel’s claim that Palestinian militants were using their own civilians as human shields. Complainants said there was abundant evidence.”

Summarising the appeal stage, the ESC notes that complainants stated that:

“…the report inaccurately stated that “there was no evidence of the use of human shields” by Palestinian militants when there was evidence at the time of broadcast; the reporter would have been aware of it and chose to ignore it.”

Orla Guerin’s report was broadcast on BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ on August 12th and appeared on the BBC News website on August 13th – i.e. well over a month after the commencement of Operation Protective Edge.Guerin ISM report

The ESC states:

“The [Senior Editorial Complaints] Adviser then considered the second issue raised by the complaint, that the highlighted sentence in the following section of commentary was inaccurate:

REPORTER: While there are growing claims against Israel, it claims that civilians here have been used as human shields – but so far there’s been no evidence of that. During this conflict Palestinian militants have kept a low profile, avoiding the cameras. But we know that at times they have operated from civilian areas. A rocket was fired from this waste ground about ten days ago. There was no ceasefire at the time – but you can see that just across the road, there are people living in these apartments. These images were filmed by Indian TV just up the road. They appear to show militants firing rockets near their hotel (Captions “Hamas team assembles rocket under tent” and “Hamas rocket fired from residential area”).”

In fact, Guerin said:

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.” [emphasis in bold added]

The ESC continues:

“The Adviser considered first the complainants’ concerns that overwhelming evidence existed at the time that Hamas was using civilians as human shields and that to suggest otherwise was untrue. She noted that one point of dispute was how the term “human shield” was defined – and whether it meant Hamas using the proximity of civilians to deter an Israeli response to their actions or Hamas forcibly moving or keeping civilians in a location, on the basis that it would be likely to reduce the Israeli response. She noted that the ECU [Editorial Complaints Unit] had addressed this point:

“I would accept that there may not be universal agreement over the meaning of ‘human shield’ in this context – and whether this should be understood to mean the deliberate placement of civilians near combat targets (and preventing them from leaving) or simply firing from residential areas. However I am not sure this distinction is significant in this context, given that viewers were told and shown evidence of what they had done to put civilian lives at risk.”

She also noted and agreed with the ECU’s statement in response to the script line that there was “no evidence” to support claims that Hamas had used human shields:

 “To refer to the ‘evidence’ put forward by one side would not necessarily endorse their version of events and to that extent I would agree that this might have been better worded.”

The Adviser considered, however, that the issue for her to consider was whether the choice of wording would have misled the audience on a material fact. She noted the broader context in which the sentence appeared. She noted the following extract from the ECU finding to one of the complainants:

“Given the explicit references to rockets fired from civilian areas and the inclusion of this footage I can see no prospect of audiences believing that this was not happening or that the actions of Hamas were not putting civilians at risk – which seems to me to be the central charge against them. I would accept that there may not be universal agreement over the meaning of ‘human shield’ – and whether this should be understood to mean the deliberate placement of civilians near combat targets (and preventing them from leaving) or simply firing from residential areas. However given that viewers were told and shown evidence of what they could be proven to have done to put civilian lives at risk, I am not sure this distinction is significant in this context.” […]

The Adviser concluded that the audience would have been likely to have understood that there was a case for Hamas to answer in relation to the allegation that it was using civilians as human shields and that taking the section as a whole, the reporter had gone as far as she was able, with the facts that she was able to verify.

The Adviser decided neither point of complaint would have a reasonable prospect of success and the complaint should not proceed to appeal.”

In other words, one the one hand the BBC is claiming that despite Orla Guerin’s categorical statement that there was no evidence of Hamas using human shields, audiences were not misled and would have understood that in fact it was doing just that because she went on to show footage of a residential area from which missiles had been fired. On the other hand the BBC is also claiming that it is not sure that the residents of areas from which missiles were fired were actually human shields because it thinks there is a dispute regarding the definition of human shields. Obviously any reasonable viewer would have interpreted Guerin’s sequence of commentary as supporting that interpretation of the definition of human shields as applying only to people who have been actively and forcibly placed in a certain location.

The ESC then notes that:

“Two of the complainants to the consolidated appeal requested that the Trustees review the Adviser’s decision not to proceed.”

The ESC’s decision was as follows:

“The Committee acknowledged the complainants’ reference to international law. However, Trustees considered that it was clear from the report that the correspondent attached a precise meaning to her words when she said there was “no evidence” so far that civilians “had been used as human shields”.

The Committee observed that the complaints, whilst clearly made in good faith, were predicated on testing the content by isolating a single sentence rather than considering the report overall and by a misinterpretation of what the reporter had actually said. It noted, for example, the section of commentary which followed:

“During this conflict Palestinian militants have kept a low profile, avoiding the cameras. But we know that at times they have operated from civilian areas. A rocket was fired from this waste ground about ten days ago. There was no ceasefire at the time. But you can see that just across the road there are people living in these apartments.”

The Committee agreed that the subsequent sequences offered further clarification and would have accurately informed the audience that, even without actual evidence of civilians being coerced, there was substantial circumstantial evidence that Hamas had a case to answer.

The Committee therefore agreed with the Adviser that the complaint would not have a reasonable prospect of success were it to proceed to appeal.”

As we see, assorted BBC bodies state that the definition of human shields is unclear and appear to adopt a stance according to which if civilians have not been coerced, they are not acting as human shields. Those claims, however, do not stand up to scrutiny.

“The prohibition of using human shields in the Geneva Conventions, Additional Protocol I and the Statute of the International Criminal Court are couched in terms of using the presence (or movements) of civilians or other protected persons to render certain points or areas (or military forces) immune from military operations.[…]

It can be concluded that the use of human shields requires an intentional co-location of military objectives and civilians or persons hors de combat with the specific intent of trying to prevent the targeting of those military objectives.”

Likewise, as pointed out by Tali Kolesov Har-Oz and Ori Pomson:

“In international humanitarian law (IHL), the term “human shields” concerns “civilians or other protected persons, whose presence or movement is aimed or used to render military targets immune from military operations.” The use of human shields both in international armed conflicts (IACs) and in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) is considered a violation of customary international law (von Leeb, 15 ILR 395, n.1; ICRC, Rule 97). Treaty law directly prohibits such practice in IACs (GCIV 28; API, art. 51(7)) and indirectly in NIACs (e.g., CA 3 with Category ‘C’ Claims, 109 ILR 441). […]

The specific elements relevant to the definition of the crime of using human shields in the International Criminal Court’s Elements of Crimes document are as follows:

The perpetrator moved or otherwise took advantage of the location of one or more civilians or other persons protected under the international law of armed conflict.

The perpetrator intended to shield a military objective from attack or shield, favour or impede military operations.

In order to fulfil the required actus reus in Element 1 of the crime, it is not necessary to force civilians to relocate close to a military objective. The mere placement of military assets in the vicinity of civilians fulfils this requirement. [emphasis added]

Since the actus reus of this crime is rather broad, it seems that great emphasis is placed on the mens rea. Thus, in order to be considered a crime of using human shields, the actus reus must be performed with the intention to “shield a military objective from attack or shield, favor or impede military operations.” Additionally, this crime does not require any result; rather, it focuses solely on the acts and intention of the belligerent fearing an attack.”

Whilst the ESC notes that it “considered that it was clear from the report that the correspondent attached a precise meaning to her words when she said there was “no evidence” so far that civilians “had been used as human shields””, it does not acknowledge that by the time Orla Guerin produced her report, there was in fact ample evidence of that practice [see also related articles below].

“It is widely reported that the acts of Hamas clearly fall within the actus reus of the crime, through the placement of ammunition, rocket launchers and other military assets in civilian homesmosqueshospitals and schools. While this practice has been the focus of widespread condemnation (see here a statement by the US Secretary of State), Hamas has openly and explicitly endorsed this policy. For example, a Hamas spokesperson called on Palestinians in Gaza to “oppose the Israeli occupation with their bodies alone,” explaining that this was an effective way to thwart Israel’s attacks. This was followed by other, similar statements, such as this one by Hamas’s Interior Minister. These are all examples of the ways in which Hamas “took advantage of the location of one or more civilians.” The particular intent behind these acts is also easily established. In these statements, Hamas officials admit openly and explicitly that their intention is to use the civilian population in Gaza in order to shield their rockets and operatives.”

Neither does the ESC examine the relevant question of why the BBC had not only failed to report adequately on the issue of Hamas’ use of human shields throughout the month of conflict which preceded Guerin’s report, but in some cases had broadcast content which even denied the phenomenon – a practice which one BBC editor also continued outside his organization.

The BBC Trust is charged with the task of ensuring that the BBC delivers its mission to inform, educate and entertain its funding public. Not only does the ESC’s ruling on this subject serve to compound the issue of the BBC’s self-censored reporting on Hamas’ use of human shields throughout last summer’s conflict, but it also does nothing to ensure that in relation to other or future conflicts, audiences will benefit from a higher standard of journalism which will ensure that the BBC meets its public purpose remit of building ” a global understanding of international issues”.

That, of course, does not only apply to conflicts involving Israel and Hamas: unless it intends to apply a different standard in the case of other conflicts, the ESC’s adoption of an unsourced interpretation of the definition of human shields which includes only civilians forcibly relocated close to a military objective is bound to affect the accuracy of the BBC’s reporting in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere.

Related Articles:

BBC fails again to report Hamas order to civilians to act as human shields

BBC’s Bowen tries to persuade TV audiences that Hamas does not use human shields

BBC films Hamas human shields policy in action: fails to explain to audiences

The return of the template BBC response to complaints

BBC WS presenter: filmed evidence of Hamas’ misuse of hospitals is ‘rumours on the internet’

Indian TV network shows what the BBC does not

Hamas PR department invokes BBC’s Bowen


BBC bread and circuses on Question Time

As readers are perhaps already aware, the February 5th edition of the BBC One weekly debate show ‘Question Time‘ (made for the BBC by the independent production company Mentorn) was the subject of controversy even before it was recorded and broadcast. 

The decision to invite MP George Galloway – who is considerably more renowned for his anti-Israel agitprop, his support for terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hizballah and his parallel career at media outlets financed by assorted repressive regimes than for his record of representing the people of Bradford West in Parliament – to join the panel at a location in a constituency with a particularly high proportion of Jewish residents was criticised, among others, by MP Mike Freer who described it as “deliberately provocative“.

Galloway’s presence on the panel and his entirely predictable derailing of the conversation to make it all about him detracted from any significant debate on the subject of the worrying report on antisemitic incidents in the UK published by the CST on the same day.

As ever, Galloway subsequently tried to frame himself as the victim of that debate and predictably, sections of the media collaborated with his antics.

The producers Question Time of course knew exactly what they were doing when they invited Galloway to appear in Finchley. Unfortunately, the mission to attract rating by means of the tawdry ‘shock factor’ provided by fringe figures such as Galloway was obviously deemed more important than the quality – or the subject – of the debate itself. And that (rather than Galloway’s inevitable self-indulgent showmanship) is the issue which should be the real cause of concern for the members of the public who funded this programme.  

HMD edition of BBC One’s ‘The Big Questions’ not exempt from political propaganda

A tweet sent from the account of BBC One’s “moral, ethical and religious debate” programme ‘The Big Questions’ on January 25th has understandably caused something of a stir.

Big Questions tweet

In fact, the provocative question posed in that promotion was not the “one big question” discussed in the edition of the programme broadcast on the same day as readers unable to access BBC iPlayer can see for themselves below. No less contentious than the wording of that tweet was the fact that the programme’s subject matter was allowed to be exploited for opportunistic promotion of political propaganda by Nira Yuval-Davis of the University of East London.

“And part of the problem that we see is that on the one hand we see how Israel is using – very cynically unfortunately – this very important memory of the Holocaust. […]

[…] the fact [is] that the prime minister of Israel, whenever there is a diplomatic visit, he’s taking people to Yad Vashem – the memorial museum – and in order to show them this [is] what happened to Jews in the Holocaust as a preventative measure for any critique of Israeli policies.”

To be clear, the people sitting on the front row are invited guests and like all panel members appearing on ‘The Big Questions’ they would have been ‘vetted’ by the production team before their appearance on live television. That means that Nicky Campbell and his team must have known full well that they had invited an anti-Zionist, BDS-supporting proponent of the notion of the establishment of Israel as a project of “settler-colonialism” to appear on the panel of the edition of their programme advertised as part of the BBC’s Holocaust Memorial Season.




Should BBC News allow its agenda to be dictated by social media?

December 28th saw the appearance of a filmed report in the technology section of the BBC News website (also apparently shown on that day’s edition of BBC Breakfast on BBC One and the BBC News channel) under the title “What news event got us tweeting and posting in 2014?“.

Regarding what he described as “the top three news events shared on social media this year”, presenter Graham Satchell told audiences:

“At [number] three, the month-long bombardment of Gaza: a conflict with Israel seemingly without end.”

Those words were presented with a background of two images: notably both black and white photographs whilst the rest of the report is of course in colour.

Satchell filmed image 1

Satchell filmed image 2

No further context was provided. Probably much like the Tweets and posts which made this topic the third most shared of the year, Satchell’s report made no effort to inform audiences that “bombardment” of Israeli villages, towns and cities also took place throughout the fifty days of the conflict or that what led to its outbreak were over 280 incidents of missile fire by Gaza Strip based terrorist organisations at Israeli civilian targets between June 14th and July 8th and the later discovery of cross-border tunnels constructed for the purpose of terror attacks.

Social media is of course by nature both superficial and easily manipulated to create a level of ‘noise’ way beyond the actual significance of a story by focusing on its eye-catching sound-bites alone. How many of the Tweets and posts which placed the “bombardment of Gaza” in third place actually originated from a small number of political activists and how such activism serves the interests of Hamas’ PR war is not a topic which Satchell saw fit to address.

Satchell stated:

“What we like, share is now influencing everything – including the news.”

That of course can only be the case if news services allow social media to influence their agenda. Among the questions BBC audiences may be asking is why they even need the mainstream media to act as an intermediary between them and what they can already discover for themselves (for free) and do they actually want the content provided by their news service to be dictated by the Tweets and Facebook posts of interest groups and anonymous subscribers to those services and others.

The BBC’s contract with its funding public obliges it to “inform, educate and entertain“. The issue of whether context-free amplification of topics popular on social media – as seen in this report – can be said to meet the terms of that remit is one which readers are invited to discuss in the comments below.

One to watch: BBC’s Panorama on ‘The War of the Tunnels’

An edition of ‘Panorama’ titled “The War of the Tunnels” – which has already been postponed twice for reasons unknown – is now scheduled for broadcast on BBC One on Monday, September 15th with repeats on the BBC News channel and BBC Two as shown below.

Panorama Corbin

The programme’s synopsis states:

“For seven weeks Hamas rockets roared over the border into Israel while Israeli bombs pounded Gaza. Panorama’s Jane Corbin goes deep into the underground tunnels where battles have been fought to investigate the war that has devastated Gaza.

What has each side really gained in this war and can there be a solution to the conflict which is fuelling hatred and fear all over the world?”

As readers are no doubt aware, Jane Corbin’s previous Israel-related documentaries have included the January 2010 programme titled “A Walk in the Park” which was extremely problematic and generated numerous complaints.  

In August of the same year Jane Corbin produced another documentary titled “Death in the Med” which related to the May 2010 ‘Mavi Marmara’ incident in which anti-Israel activists attacked soldiers trying to prevent the ship of that name from breaching the naval blockade. In that case Corbin’s reporting was considerably more accurate and impartial but nevertheless was the subject of complaints – partially at least as the result of an organized campaign by the PSC.

Assuming that “The War of the Tunnels” is finally aired, it will be interesting to see which of the above styles of reporting it more resembles.


It would appear that this programme’s broadcast in the UK has been cancelled yet again with the BBC One Panorama webpage currently informing visitors that “There are no upcoming broadcasts of this programme”. However, viewers of BBC World News not located in either the Middle East or Europe will apparently now (perhaps) be able to watch the programme on September 20th and 21st.

Panorama update







BBC One serves up BDS at Breakfast

h/t AL

It is not unusual to see Hollywood actors appearing on television shows as part of the promotion of their latest film and so the March 26th interview with Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson on BBC One’s ‘Breakfast’ was unremarkable – until presenter Louise Minchin decided to re-route the hitherto light-hearted chat by throwing in some out-of-context global politics. BBC One Breakfast

The interview can be viewed here for a limited period of time.

At 4:42 Minchin asks Johansson:

“And just on a serious note before we go on – and I know you’ve got to go – with regards to what happened with SodaStream; will it change your view on what you choose to do – the way you make choices – in the future?”

After the interview ended, audiences were informed by Minchin (not shown in the above clip) that SodaStream has a factory in a ‘Jewish settlement’ in the ‘occupied territories’.

In other words, the BBC’s amplification of the PR of the anti-peace BDS campaign continues – even with your cornflakes.

Related Articles:

BBC News recycles second-hand SodaStream slur, fails to explain BDS

BBC’s ‘Today’ programme ‘should know better’ than to engage in covert promotion of the PSC’s agenda

BBC displays its campaigning colours in SodaStream story coverage

Oxfam’s Ben Phillips on BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’







BBC’s Simpson mainstreams trope used by anti-Israel campaigners

On September 30th the BBC News website published two items by World Affairs Editor John Simpson. One of them was a filmed report titled “Has the world order changed?” which was broadcast on the BBC 1 programme “The Editors” and also appeared on the website’s Middle East page.

Simpson filmed

On the same date, a written version of that report – titled “September 2013: The month America’s ‘moral mission’ ended” – was also published on the BBC News website. 

Simpson written

In that article Simpson writes: [emphasis added]

“Have we, perhaps, just witnessed a moment like that in 1975, when the Americans evacuated Saigon and their power in South East Asia was brought to a close?

That may be going too far. As the international protector of Israel, the US will still have a major part to play in the central dispute in the region, even though the Israeli tail usually seems to wag the American dog.”

Simpson 3

As has already been pointed out, there is something very revealing in the fact that Simpson – and presumably his editors – are still pushing the line that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the “central dispute in the region” after nearly three years of turmoil in the Middle East.

No less notable is the fact that the country Simpson describes as “the international protector of Israel” has – along with its British allies – recently opted for a policy on Syria which halts the decline of the Assad/Iran/Hizballah conglomerate in that country – and legitimizes it – as well as taking the pressure off an overstretched Hizballah in Lebanon. 

But what of Simpson’s totally unnecessary use of the ‘tail and dog’ phrase?  That of course has undertones of classic “Jewish lobby” antisemitism. Taking a look at who else uses that idiom we find it, for example, on websites such as the Iranian regime’s ‘Press TV’ by antisemitic conspiracy theorist Mark Glenn of the ‘Crescent and Cross Solidarity Movement’. 

We also find the same phrase used on the Far-Left website ‘Solidarity‘, by anti-Israel campaigners Kathleen and Bill Christison, on the anti-Israel blog ‘Mondoweiss‘ and on Russia’s government radio station ‘The Voice of Russia’.

Is that really the sort of ideological company the ‘impartial’ BBC thinks its World Affairs Editor should be keeping?

Related articles:

Antisemitic Dogs and Denying Antisemitism

BBC’s Simpson misleads on potential US targets in Syria

A BBC template response to complaints


BBC’s Bowen downplays Iran’s nuclear programme

On May 20th 2013 the BBC One programme The Editors included a filmed report by Jeremy Bowen which was also promoted on the Middle East page of the BBC News website and by BBC World News on its Youtube channel. 

BBC 1 The Editors

Bowen The Editors

Bowen’s report is – interestingly – titled “Will Israel bomb Iran because of nuclear threat?”. He does not appear to be interested in getting his audience to think too much about the no less relevant counter question: will Iran bomb Israel? The item’s synopsis states:

“Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen explores what might happen if Iran continues with its nuclear programme.

Iran insists it does not want nuclear weapons but Israel and the United States refuse to believe its denials.

Our correspondent visits Israel and finds a widespread fear and distrust of Iran.

Could it be that Israel and the US will launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran, possibly launching a wider Middle East conflict?”

Right at the beginning of the video – at 0:21 – Bowen makes sure to inform viewers:

“Iran says it doesn’t want nuclear weapons. Israel already has them.”

Tellingly, Bowen makes no attempt to provide any sort of evidence to back the claim that Iran is not engaged in a military nuclear programme – beyond repeating regime statements. Obviously, the level of international activity surrounding the subject means that – unlike Bowen – those familiar with the subject are less inclined to take the rhetoric of a theocratic dictatorship at face value. 

At 1:06 Bowen – in a very interesting choice of location at the Yad Mordechai Holocaust Museum – says:

“These days Israel is the most powerful country in the Middle East. But history makes some Israelis feel insecure.”

The theme of Israel as the most powerful country in the region is one of Bowen’s stock favourites, repeated in a variety of differing contexts. Quite how he defines “powerful” and the relevance of such a description in the context of Israel being surrounded on numerous borders by terrorist non-state actors backed by other regional powers is irrelevant. Bowen wants his audiences to reach the conclusion that Israeli concerns about Iran’s nuclear designs are exaggerated, irrational and even hysterical – with roots in the traumas of the past – and he implies that, inter alia, through his choice of location. 

At 1:42 we find Bowen in Kibbutz Nachal Oz – situated right on the border with the Gaza Strip. With absolutely no relevance to the subject matter of the report, Bowen gratuitously states:

“In the twenty years or so that I’ve been crossing this border many more Palestinians than Israelis have been killed.”

He continues:

“But Israelis here, including Yael Lachiani, say Iran is now making it more dangerous for their families.”

In other words, audiences are given to understand that Iranian material and financial support to the terrorist organization Hamas is more a matter of Israeli opinion than cold, internationally recognised fact. They are also encouraged – by a man who is supposed to be an expert on the region – to relate to the subject of casualty numbers as an indicator of threat and danger, without any contextualisation of the intent behind those numbers. 

Bowen’s speculations – and that is all they really are – regarding the likelihood of what he terms “a wider Middle East war as a result of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities” are notable not just because of the fact that they bring no new information to BBC audiences. The really remarkable aspect of this report is its deliberate blinkeredness: its wiping out of the equation the threat which Iran presents to Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia, its failure to place Iranian nuclear aspirations within the context of the wider Sunni – Shi’a conflict taking place right now on the Syrian, Iraqi and Lebanese stages and its underlying suggestion that there is not already a “wider Middle East war” going on at present.

But for Bowen it is enough that his audiences go away with the impression that if, as he states, “war becomes more likely”, it will be the “powerful” Israelis – spurred on to no small extent by hysteria and an irrational “widespread fear and distrust of Iran” – who are to blame for that.