BBC continues to mainstream extremist group

h/t Sussex Friends of Israel

The January 31st edition of BBC One’s “moral, ethical and religious debate” programme ‘The Big Questions’ included a revival of the ‘Mossad stole my shoe’ story from last year.

The inventor of that story, Asghar Bukhari, has apparently since relocated to the UAE but the organization he previously headed – MPACUK – was represented on this BBC programme by a former assistant to the controversial ex-MP for Bradford East – who is apparently not averse to doing a bit of fund-raising for extremists in his spare time.

As readers can see in the clip from the full programme below, Raza Nadim obviously still buys into that story and unfortunately host Nicky Campbell only adds credence to the outlandish conspiracy theory.  

Of course what is really disturbing about this programme is that fact that even after the spotlight placed on MPACUK’s long-known racism and extremism by Bukhari’s ridiculous claim and despite the UK government’s recognition of conspiracy theories and antisemitism as precursors to extremism, the BBC still continues to provide a platform for an organization flagged up in the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism a decade ago (from paragraph 140, page 29, here) and included on a list of proscribed organisations holding “racist or fascist views” by the National Union of Students.

Related Articles:

Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK spokesman: “Zionists are most vile animals to walk the earth”  (UK Media Watch)

BBC One comes up trumps with documentary on Ethiopian Jews

It is always a pleasure to be able to document some good BBC reporting on an Israel-related story – especially when the subject matter has been the topic of less than satisfactory journalism in the past.Saving the Forgotten Jews

On December 13th BBC One screened a documentary titled “Saving the Forgotten Jews“.

“In the 1980s and 1990s a Manchester textiles merchant, a Mossad spy and a seasoned diplomat saved the forgotten Ethiopian Jewish community in two unprecedented and record-breaking airlifts. Flying out of Sudan and war-torn Ethiopia, they went undercover and negotiated with dictators to save the forgotten Jews in peril.”

The Jewish News reports:

“Describing the rescue mission as “impressive and admirable”, producer Richard Pearson said he was intrigued by “how far people would go in rescuing others at a time when East Africa was not the top of people’s agendas.”

He added: “It’s a very poignant story given the severe refugee issues we are witnessing at the moment.””

The programme is available in the UK on iPlayer or here.

BBC Complaints conflates opinion with facts

As readers may recall, during an edition of BBC One’s ‘This Week’ broadcast on November 19th, studio guest George Galloway was given an unfettered platform for the promotion of inaccurate information concerning Israel.This Week Galloway on HP

“Along with his guests Michael Portillo and Labour’s Liz Kendall, Andrew Neil sat in total silence as veteran anti-Israel activist Galloway opportunistically promoted the blatant lie that Israel employs a ‘shoot to kill’ policy to BBC audiences.

In addition to Neil’s failure to comply with BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy – which state “We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct them quickly, clearly and appropriately” – by correcting the materially misleading claim from Galloway immediately after it was made, the BBC has further promoted that uncorrected clip for view by audiences who did not see the programme’s original broadcast.”

The response received from the BBC Complaints department by a member of the public who submitted a complaint on that topic includes the following:

“We understand that you were angered by comments made by George Galloway regarding Israel having a ‘shoot to kill policy’ as you believe he should have been challenged on this statement.

Although we appreciate your feelings, the fact is that George Galloway is well known for his views on Israel and the Middle East and it would be reasonably be expected for him to make his strident views on the situation known to viewers, however, we do recognise that you feel Andrew should have interjected at that point regarding his remarks.

Having watched the discussion on your behalf, George Galloway was asked what he thought about Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the planned attacks on Syria. Mr Galloway made his views about the situation in a strident and articulate manner, clearly setting out his own views and opinions. We do not make editorial comment or judgement on the views expressed by contributors to our programmes, and our aim is simply to provide enough information for viewers to make up their own minds.

The show’s policy is to invite guests from all political persuasions to get a fully rounded view on the day’s issues, in this instance the vote on Syria.”

George Galloway is indeed “well known for his views on Israel and the Middle East” and that should have been all the more reason for the programme’s presenter to be alert to the probability of attempts by his interviewee to exploit the platform provided for the promotion of gratuitous, opportunistic and off-topic falsehoods.

Despite that, BBC Complaints now defends the presentation of inaccurate information to audiences by disingenuously claiming that a statement presented as though it were fact was actually an opinion – and hence BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy do not apply.

 

 

 

 

 

BBC One fails to correct George Galloway’s lie about Israeli policy

h/t LV

Among the promoted segments on the webpage of the BBC One programme ‘This Week’ one finds a clip from the November 19th edition featuring former MP George Galloway. 

This Week Galloway on HP

About six and a half minutes into that clip, host Andrew Neil asks Galloway for his reaction to the UK Labour party’s response to the recent terror attacks in Paris.

Galloway: “One has to say if anyone comes here with guns and bombs, our police will shoot them down and stop them. There’s no room for equivocation about that at all. Err…of course a shoot to kill policy in general…”

Neil: [interrupts] “That’s a different thing of course. That could give back thoughts of Northern Ireland.”

Galloway: “Indeed – Northern Ireland or what Israel does in the occupied territories and so on. Apart from being wrong, they don’t work. They make more terrorists.” [emphasis added]

Along with his guests Michael Portillo and Labour’s Liz Kendall, Andrew Neil sat in total silence as veteran anti-Israel activist Galloway opportunistically promoted the blatant lie that Israel employs a ‘shoot to kill’ policy to BBC audiences.

In addition to Neil’s failure to comply with BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy – which state “We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct them quickly, clearly and appropriately” – by correcting the materially misleading claim from Galloway immediately after it was made, the BBC has further promoted that uncorrected clip for view by audiences who did not see the programme’s original broadcast. 

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.

Resources:

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.

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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.