BBC Monitoring digs up the dirt with cleaners non-story

In the financial year 2013-14, BBC Monitoring ceased to enjoy funding from sources such as the UK government’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence and since then it has been funded by the licence fee payer. Members of the British public therefore clearly have an interest in knowing how that department uses their money.

Stating that “our unique capabilities are highly valued”, BBC Monitoring claims to “deliver the news you need, when you need it” to subscribers and to provide “deep local insight” and “hard to reach information that is often undetected”. The department also provides material for BBC programmes and content for the BBC News website.

One example of such content appeared in the website’s ‘News From Elsewhere’ section on February 8th under the headline “Anger as Israel company ‘prices staff by ethnicity’” and with an illustrative photograph which obviously has no connection to the article’s subject matter but indicates that BBC Monitoring’s “deep local insight” does not include the knowledge that Israelis do not have brass letter boxes.BBC monitoring cleaner story

The “hard to reach information” which forms the basis of that article was sourced from two English language Israeli media organisations and no particularly “unique capabilities” are required to access their sites online. Additional links to a Hebrew language news website and the Facebook account of the Israeli journalist/blogger Tal Schneider who first promoted the story are provided.

The article relates to a flyer ‘collected’ by an acquaintance of Schneider which advertises cleaning services. In spite of BBC Monitoring’s use of the word “company” in its headline and its opening paragraph, as Ha’aretz pointed out: “the leaflet indicated no company name but only gave the phone number for someone called Irena”.

BBC audiences are told that:

“A flyer for a cleaning company in Tel Aviv has sparked anger and soul-searching after pricing its staff on the basis of their ethnicity, it seems.

Israeli journalist and political blogger Tal Schneider posted a photograph of the leaflet to her Facebook account with the statement “Blatant racism permeates Israel, pricing workers by race”…”

As distasteful as it may be, one flyer from an unknown source obviously does not support the hyperbolic sweeping allegation that “blatant racism permeates Israel”. Nevertheless, BBC Monitoring used licence fee funding to compile and promote this non-story – which actually provides more “deep local insight” into the BBC practice of swooping on any opportunity to promote a story of this genre than anything else. 

BBC backgrounders on Sunni-Shia divide downplay religiosity

Last month’s flare-up of tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia prompted many Western media organisations, including the BBC, to provide their audiences with material ostensibly explaining the background to the story.Sunni Shia 1

In an article headlined “Iran and Saudi Arabia’s great rivalry explained” which appeared on the BBC News website on January 4th, readers were told that:

“Iran and Saudi Arabia are on opposing sides of a more than 1,000-year old argument at the heart of Islam – between Sunnis and Shia.

After the death of the Prophet Muhammad, his followers split over who was his rightful heir.

It is important not to overstate the division. Sunnis and Shia share fundamental beliefs, and have co-existed for centuries – the animosity between Iran and Saudi Arabia is better understood in terms of a power struggle in the Middle East and beyond.”

On January 5th a filmed report shown on BBC television was posted on the BBC News website under the title “Saudi Arabia and Iran – The tension explained“. Viewers of that report were told that:Sunni Shia 2

“It’s not really about religion. […] It’s not a clash of religious narrative.”

Instead, viewers were told, “the geo-political, the political and the economic elements definitely play a role here”.

Of course there is nothing novel about the phenomenon of Western commentators preferring to avoid the quagmire issue of the religious dimensions of Middle Eastern conflicts and instead opting to frame them in terms of narratives more familiar to their audiences.

It is, after all, that practice which leads to the presentation of terrorism with Middle Eastern roots against Western targets as being ‘grievance-based’ and it is the same framing which facilitates the portrayal of religiously affiliated terrorist groups in the Middle East such as Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hizballah as “militants” engaged in “resistance” against a geo-political status quo.

But is especially noticeable that in this case the BBC has elected to downplay the religious aspects of a clash between two states which are theocracies: countries in which the separation between state policy and religion is non-existent.

In the filmed report BBC audiences were told that:

“In a sense there has been a cold war going on between the two – what many pundits call a war by proxy. They are in effect fighting each other through groups that they’re supporting in Syria and Yemen in particular.”

Of course those proxies are inevitably tied to their sponsors by ideology which is primarily based on religious identity.

As many Middle East experts have been documenting for quite some time, one of the side-effects of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ has been a rise in Sunni-Shia rivalry and tensions. In 2013 the late Professor Barry Rubin noted the appearance of a paper published by a Muslim Brotherhood linked organization in Britain which identified Iran as “the greatest threat” and concluded “We no longer have any choice but to defend ourselves against Iran,” which holds “a sectarian, ethnic, Persian agenda.”

Also in 2013, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center noted that “the escalating anti-Shi’ite rhetoric from Sunni clerics belonging to different schools of thought reflects an agreement that the Shi’a is the enemy of the moment—one that is more pressing than the West and Israel.”

“A major force driving the schism is the escalating anti-Shi’ite rhetoric from Sunni clerics who belong to different schools of thought. Of particular note is a speech given on May 31, 2013 by Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, considered by many the current spiritual leader of the Sunni world, in which he said he regretted the many years he had spent on attempts at Sunni-Shi’ite rapprochement. He said that Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi clerics were right to consider Shi’ites as infidels, and adopted their terminology when talking about the Shi’a (“Hezbollah is the Party of Satan”).”

Rhetoric of a similar stripe is no less apparent on the other side of the divide, as documented by Phillip Smyth in his 2014 paper “The Shiite Jihad in Syria and its Regional Effects“.

“Following Assad’s lead, Iran and its proxies have since fall 2012 engaged in an extensive media campaign casting the Syrian rebels, whatever their actual beliefs, as takfiris, or Muslims who accuse other Muslims of apostasy. In turn, when a takfiri accuses other Muslims of apostasy, this marks those “apostates” for death. In Shiite usage, the term is often synonymous with the extremist Sunni Wahhabis, who have historically predominated in Saudi Arabia.

Through the early propagation of the inaccurate view that all Syria’s rebels embrace radical Sunni ideology, Iran and its Shiite proxies have effectively stirred visceral support among their coreligionists. The message especially struck those who feel oppressed in their various cultural and national contexts. “

The BBC’s downplaying of the religious aspects of the latest chapter in the long-standing power struggle between Sunni and Shia and the attempt to portray the issue primarily in terms of “geo-political, political and economic elements” clearly does not enhance the corporation’s funding public’s “awareness and understanding” of the background to this important story.

Has the BBC opted out of ISIS terrorist’s Gaza convoy links story?

The investigation by the Washington Post and Buzzfeed which revealed the identity of a British member of an ISIS execution cell which murdered journalists, aid workers and others has naturally raised keen interest in most of the UK media. Among the many outlets which have reported the story are the Telegraph, the Independent, the Mirror, the Daily Mail and the Sun.

The reports include information about Alexanda Kotey’s participation in the 2009 ‘aid convoy’ to the Gaza Strip organised by former MP George Galloway’s ‘Viva Palestina’ group. The Washington Post writes:

“Kotey left Britain in 2009, when he traveled to the Gaza Strip on an aid convoy of 110 vehicles organized by George Galloway, then a member of British Parliament. Nine volunteers on the Viva Palestina mission were arrested under the United Kingdom’s Terrorism Act the day before departure. Galloway, a controversial figure in Britain for his radical views, described the arrests as an effort to “smear and intimidate the Muslim community.””

The Daily Mail reports:

“Mr Galloway told ITV news he does not remember meeting Kotey. His spokesman Ron McKay said: ‘There were 500 people on that convoy and George can’t ever remember laying eyes on this guy. It’s possible he was there but George doesn’t remember meeting him.’ 

He said there was a vetting procedure for those who applied to be on the convoy but he had never heard Kotey’s name before.”

This is not the first time that the ‘Viva Palestina’ “vetting procedure” has been shown to be unreliable and, courtesy of Harry’s Place, it can be seen that Kotey’s name appeared on its list of participants in that particular convoy.

Kotey on VP list

At the time of writing the BBC News website does not carry any coverage of this story on its international, national or local pages. However, seeing as George Galloway is a regular guest on BBC programmes, we can surely anticipate that it will not be long until a BBC journalist quizzes him on the topic of the criteria he laid down for his organisation’s “vetting procedure”, what exactly it was intended to check and the question of whether the organisation he headed exercised due diligence. After all, it would surely be in the public interest to hear the answers to such pertinent questions from a man who now aspires to run Britain’s largest city. 

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BBC euphemisms hobble audience understanding of Iranian terror financing

The BBC News website’s coverage of the Iranian president’s visit to Europe late last month included two reports – “Rouhani in Europe: Italy covers nudes for Iran president“, January 26th and “Rouhani arrives in Paris as Iran drums up business with France“, January 27th – in which audiences were told that:Rouhani art 1

“Iran has been accused of funding militant groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Obviously that choice of minimalist phrasing does not clarify to readers who has accused Iran of funding “militant groups” (the BBC standard euphemism for terrorist organisations) or whether or not there is any basis to those accusations. It also obfuscates the fact that at least one Iranian official has acknowledged that Iran provides support to Hizballah. 

A reader looking for more information might therefore have turned to the BBC’s profile of Iran which appears at the bottom of both reports. However, the only reference that topic to be found there is a no less coyly worded side box which fails to provide audiences with any relevant factual information.

insert Iran profile Hizballah

The BBC’s profile of Hizballah is equally uninformative on the issue of the financial and material backing received by that organization from Iran.

The US State Department defines Iran as one of the “State Sponsors of Terrorism” according to the following criterion.

“To designate a country as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, the Secretary of State must determine that the government of such country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.”

The department’s report for 2014 (published in 2015) states:

“Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2014, including support for Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, Lebanese Hizballah, and various groups in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. This year, Iran increased its assistance to Iraqi Shia militias, one of which is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), in response to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) incursion into Iraq, and has continued to support other militia groups in the region. Iran also attempted to smuggle weapons to Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza. While its main effort focused on supporting goals in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Iran and its proxies also continued subtle efforts at growing influence elsewhere including in Africa, Asia, and, to a lesser extent, Latin America. Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East. The IRGC-QF is the regime’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.” […]

“Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). These Palestinian terrorist groups have been behind a number of deaths from attacks originating in Gaza and the West Bank. Although Hamas’s ties to Tehran have been strained due to the Syrian civil war, in a November 25 speech, Supreme Leader Khamenei highlighted Iran’s military support to “Palestinian brothers” in Gaza and called for the West Bank to be similarly armed. In December, Hamas Deputy Leader Moussa Abu Marzouk announced bilateral relations with Iran and Hamas were “back on track.”” […]

“Since the end of the 2006 Israeli-Hizballah conflict, Iran has also assisted in rearming Lebanese Hizballah, in direct violation of UNSCR 1701. General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the IRGC Aerospace Force stated in November that “The IRGC and Hezbollah are a single apparatus jointed together,” and Lebanese Hizballah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem boasted that Iran had provided his organization with missiles that had “pinpoint accuracy” in separate November public remarks. Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Lebanese Hizballah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of its fighters at camps in Iran. These trained fighters have used these skills in direct support of the Asad regime in Syria and, to a lesser extent, in support of operations against ISIL in Iraq. They have also continued to carry out attacks along the Lebanese border with Israel.”Rouhani art 2

Those looking to BBC profiles for information on the financing of Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad would find no reference to Iran.

One of the foremost experts on Hizballah financing, Matthew Levitt, has noted that:

“Iran is believed to fund Hezbollah to the tune of at least $100 million per year. Recently, Western diplomats and analysts in Lebanon estimated Hezbollah receives closer to $200 million a year from Iran. […]

Some of this financial support comes in the form of cash funds, while much is believed to come in the form of material goods such as weapons. Iranian cargo planes deliver sophisticated weaponry, from rockets to small arms, to Hezbollah in regular flights to Damascus from Tehran. These weapons are offloaded in Syria and trucked to Hezbollah camps in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. In the wake of the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Hezbollah reportedly received an additional $22 million from Iranian intelligence to support Palestinian terrorist groups and foment instability.”

More recently Mr Levitt has noted that:

“Iran has not changed its policies regarding the sponsorship of militants since late 2013, when nuclear talks began in earnest. “Iran continued to sponsor terrorist groups around the world, principally through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF)…These groups included Lebanese Hizballah, several Iraqi Shia militant groups, Hamas, and Palestine Islamic Jihad,” according to the State Departments June 2015 report on terrorism. In addition, the State Department accused Iran of “prolonging the civil war in Syria, and worsening the human rights and refugee crisis there.” The report described Iran’s terror sponsorship as “undiminished.” It also noted that Iran increased training and funding for Iraqi militias in 2014, supplying them with advanced weaponry. Iran also “provided hundreds of millions of dollars” to Hezbollah and “trained thousands of [the group’s] fighters at camps in Iran.” The State Department concluded that it did not expect Iran’s behavior in Syria to change anytime soon, in part because “Iran views Syria as a crucial causeway in its weapons supply route” to the Shiite political party and militia Hezbollah, a key pillar in Tehran’s “resistance” front. Indeed, Iran continued to provide the Lebanese group with “training, weapons, and explosives, as well as political, diplomatic, monetary, and organizational aid.””

There is clearly ample information about Iran’s funding of terrorist organisations available in the public domain for the BBC to be able to fulfil its public purpose remit of building “a global understanding of international issues”. Instead the corporation chooses to sell its audiences short with euphemistic phrasing which fails to contribute to their knowledge of this pertinent issue.

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BBC News still promoting ‘cycle of violence’ myth

Following the sentencing of two of the three murderers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir by the Jerusalem District Court on February 4th the BBC News website produced an article titled “Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Two Israelis jailed“.Abu Khdeir sentencing art

As has been the case in previous BBC reports concerning the same subject matter, the article materially misleads audiences with regard to the cause of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations in the Gaza strip.

“Abu Khdair was killed in apparent revenge for the murders of three Israeli teens in the West Bank.

The killings were part of an escalating cycle of violence, culminating in a war between Israel and militants in Gaza.”

Once again we see that the BBC promotes the notion of a “cycle of violence” whilst completely erasing from audience view the escalation in missile fire from the Gaza Strip which began immediately after the disappearance of the Israeli teenagers on June 12th and continued throughout the three weeks of search and rescue operations.

It was of course that incessant missile fire on Israeli civilians – which is repeatedly erased by the BBC in its portrayal of events – that was the reason for the military operation, with the later discovery of dozens of cross-border tunnels prompting the subsequent ground operation. The military operation could have been avoided had Hamas elected to take advantage of the ample opportunities it was given to stop the missile fire before July 8th 2014, but the terrorist organisation chose not to do so – for reasons by no means exclusively connected to Israel.

“A Hamas official, who did not give his name to Palestinian news agency Sawa, said overnight Friday-Saturday [July 4th /5th 2014] that “those who expect Hamas to stop the rocket fire [on Israel], should to turn [Palestinian Authority Prime Minister] Rami Hamdallah.”

The official was alluding to the fact that the salaries of 40,000 Hamas clerks in Gaza were still unpaid, which was reportedly a key Hamas demand since agreeing to a unity government deal in late April with the Palestinian Authority.”

The article closes with the following words:

“The case has been closely watched by Palestinians who often claim of prejudice in Israel’s justice system, the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem reports.”

As readers may recall, the BBC’s past reports have included amplification of claims of a ‘two-tier’ justice system.

 “… it was interesting as well – and telling, I think – to see the mother of the Palestinian teenager who was killed saying Palestinians have no rights and I think that they feel that there’s one law for Israelis and one law for themselves and that they’re never going to be in a better place until they get independence, get their own state and that, I think, is the prevalent view among Palestinians.” (Jeremy Bowen, ‘Today’, BBC Radio 4, July 3rd 2014)

“But Palestinians at Muhammed’s funeral don’t trust Israeli justice. They want Israel to leave Palestinian towns and cities so that they can build a state and a justice system of their own.” (James Reynolds, BBC News, July 4th 2014)

Yet again, however, the BBC fails to clarify to its audiences in this report that the allegations of Israeli state discrimination it has promoted are unfounded. 

BBC Africa misrepresents campaigning reports as ‘scoop’

It is not difficult to discern when the BBC is running a campaign rather than merely reporting a story. One indication is the promotion of an item on multiple platforms and such was the case on February 3rd when listeners to the 6 am news bulletin on BBC Radio 4 were told that:

“The BBC has found evidence that Israel is sending unwanted African migrants to third countries under secretive deals which may be in breach of international law. Migrants from Eritrea and Sudan say they’re fleeing violence. Israel says they are a threat to security but strongly denies acting illegally.”

The news bulletin on the same station one hour later – at 7 am – further expanded the topic.

“The BBC has found evidence that Israel is sending unwanted African migrants to third countries under secretive deals which may be in breach of international law. There are about 45,000 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants in Israel. Kathy Harcombe has more details.

KH: The Israeli government calls them infiltrators who pose a threat to the security and identity of the Jewish state. But the migrants from Eritrea and Sudan say they’re fleeing violence and persecution. Israel doesn’t forcibly deport them but has introduced a policy that gives the choice to leave for a third country in Africa or be jailed indefinitely. Those third countries, the BBC has been told, are Rwanda and Uganda. Lawyers taking the Israeli government to the Supreme Court argue that increasingly tough measures against the migrants amount to a breach of the UN Refugee Convention. Israel however says that it has no doubt that it is acting legally. Rwanda has never confirmed the deal and the Ugandan government has denied that any such agreement exists. It’s also told the BBC it’s now investigating how migrants who claim to have been sent from Israel are entering the country.”

Listeners to BBC Radio 3 Breakfast show on the same day also heard similar promotion of that story in the 8 am news bulletin.

“The BBC has found evidence that Israel is sending unwanted African migrants to third countries under secretive deals which may be in breach of international law. It’s alleged the migrants are made to choose between going to prison indefinitely and being sent away. Israel’s government says it’s acting legally.”

All that, however, was only the aperitif. Throughout the day, reports from BBC Africa’s Kathy Harcombe were to be found on a variety of BBC platforms.Migrants story Newsday

BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newsday’ broadcast an audio report which was also promoted separately on social media under the inaccurate and misleading title “Israel accused of illegally deporting Africans“. Harcombe’s expertise in her subject matter was demonstrated in her opening sentence:

“Deep in the Negev desert in Israel – hours away from the capital Tel Aviv – is the Holot detention centre.” [emphasis added]

Using very questionable wording with religious associations, the BBC News website promoted a written article by Harcombe headlined “Israel’s unwanted African migrants” on several of its pages including the Magazine, Middle East and Africa pages.

migrants stroy on ME pge

Filmed reports shown on BBC News television programmes were also promoted on the website under the headlines “Israel ‘sending away African migrants’” and “Life in Israel camp is a ‘waste of time’“.migrants story filmed 1

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘PM’ programme heard another audio report  – from 38:59 here – which also included an inaccurate reference to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital and was introduced by Eddie Mair as follows:

“BBC Africa has gathered evidence that Israel is sending unwanted African migrants to third countries under secretive deals which may be in breach of international law.”

All of the above news bulletins and reports present the story as though it were a BBC scoop, with repeated use of the claim that “the BBC has gathered evidence” or “found evidence”.

In fact, there is nothing new or “secretive” about this story at all: it has been in the public domain for nearly two years and related court cases initiated by a coalition of NGOs (which includes ACRI, Kav LaOved and Physicians for Human Rights)  have been going on since April 2015. Lawyer Anat Ben Dor, who appears in most of Harcombe’s pieces, has provided legal representation for that coalition of NGOs in these court cases but that fact and the name of the organization she represents is not adequately communicated to BBC audiences in some of the reports.

Harcombe steers audiences towards the mistaken belief that the migrants in Israel are without exception refugees with commentary such as this from her audio and filmed reports:

“The people here say that they came to Israel to seek refuge from conflict or persecution. But the Israeli government has granted asylum to fewer than 1%.”

She does not clarify what that percentage actually means (1% of the total number of migrants? 1% of those requesting asylum?) and she does not inform audiences that in fact, whilst almost 50,000 Sudanese and Eritreans have illegally entered Israel, only about 1,800 of them had requested asylum as of January 2014. 67% of the mostly younger male migrants who entered Israel via Egypt come from Eritrea and 25% from Sudan and – as Harcombe should know because the BBC has reported the story – the status of migrants from Eritrea has also come under discussion in Europe – including in the UK.

Harcombe’s headline-grabbing claims of “breach of international law” are based on her assertion that:

“By failing to ensure the safety of its unwanted African migrants, some legal experts say Israel is in breach of its obligations under the UN Refugee Convention.”

A decision from Israel’s Supreme Court in 2015 (paragraph 4) provides information concerning Israeli efforts to ensure the welfare of those leaving Israel for a third country, including the inspection and confirmation of implementation of agreements with that country by envoys of the Israeli government (including meetings with migrants) and the appointment of a personal contact in Israel’s Population and Immigration Bureau for each person moving to a third country in order to facilitate communication if problems arise.migrants story written

BBC audiences are not told how Harcombe managed to locate and contact the “two men who say that they were abandoned as soon as they got off the plane” whose stories form the basis of the allegations in these reports and the backbone for the claim of a scoop.

However, it is not unreasonable to assume that contact with those two men may have been facilitated by the campaigning NGOs which are obviously the source of this story. Last year a representative of one of those organisations – Sigal Rozen who is interviewed in Harcombe’s written article – produced a report that includes remarkably similar stories which were collected by Harcombe’s other interviewee, lawyer Anat Ben Dor. The background to the BBC’s repeated claims that it has “found evidence” or “gathered evidence” therefore requires clarification.  

Clearly, this BBC ‘scoop’ is in fact a self-conscripted contribution to the PR efforts of a campaign being run by a coalition of political NGOs.  That in itself does not come as much of a surprise: the BBC has a record of reporting on the issue of African migrants in Israel which includes the regurgitation of a report from Human Rights Watch, the amplification of allegations of racism from a very dubious anti-Israel campaigner and one-sided reporting which has serially failed to present the viewpoint of the people of the neighbourhoods of south Tel Aviv where the majority of the migrants live.

However, the BBC’s funding public has the right to know that such an energetically promoted multi-platform ‘scoop’ is in fact part of a political campaign. Audiences also have the right to expect transparency concerning any third-party involvement in locating and recruiting interviewees and BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality dictate that the political agendas of the campaigning NGOs which are obviously the source of these multiple reports should have been made known to viewers, readers and listeners. 

 

BBC News reports Jerusalem terror attack with politicised description of location

Early on the afternoon of February 3rd a terror attack took place at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.

“Three terrorists committed a combined stabbing and shooting attack Wednesday afternoon at Jerusalem’s Damascus gate, wounding two female Border Police officers and a young man. […]

The three attackers arrived at the scene armed with Carl Gustav rifles, knives and explosive devices. The Border Police unit noticed them and became suspicious. One terrorist presented a national ID card to a Border Police officer as another pulled out his weapon and opened fire.

The two wounded officers’ colleagues opened fire on the terrorists in response. According to Palestinian sources, the attackers – Ahmed Abu Al-Roub, Mohammed Kamil and Mohammed Nasser – came from the Jenin area, and were aged between 20 and 21. Two of the attackers had been barred from entering Israel by the Shin Bet, and all three crossed over illegally.

Later on, two explosive devices were found at the scene along with two guns. The explosives were neutralized.

Hamas praised the attack, calling the terrorists “heroes” and saying that the incident proved that “the Palestinian people will persist with the intifada.””

One of the injured Border Police officers – 19 year-old Hadar Cohen – later died of her wounds.

Version 1

Version 1

The BBC News website’s initial report on the attack was titled “Israeli border guards shot in Jerusalem attack” but after news of the death of one of the victims broke, that headline was changed to read “Jerusalem attack: Israeli border guard dies after shooting“. Obviously neither of those headlines supplies readers with any information concerning the perpetrators of the “Jerusalem attack”.

Later on additional amendments were made to the article but all versions state that two victims sustained wounds during the attack rather than three. All versions also open with a politicized description of the location of the attack.  

Version 1: “Two female Israeli border guards have been shot and wounded in an attack by three young Palestinian men in occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli police say.”

Versions 2 & 3: “A female Israeli border guard has died in hospital after an attack by three young Palestinian men in occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli police say.”

That is presumably the result of the fact that the BBC relies on maps from political NGOs which, inter alia, describe the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City as being a “settlement” and depict areas which were in fact classified as ‘no man’s land’ in the 1949 Armistice Agreement – including the area in front of Damascus Gate – as “Palestinian”.

Damascus Gate map

The first two versions of the article inform readers that:

“In the past four months, 28 Israelis have been killed in a wave of stabbing, shooting or car-ramming attacks by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs.”

That number was later changed to 29 but the BBC apparently does not find it newsworthy that additional people who did not hold Israeli citizenship have also been killed in this ongoing wave of terror which has claimed 31 victims since it began. The articles also include the usual “Israel says” caveat with regard to Palestinian attackers.

“More than 160 Palestinians – mostly attackers, Israel says – have also been killed in that period.” [emphasis added]

As has been noted here before on numerous occasions, the BBC has had ample opportunity to verify the information independently and should by this time be able to tell its audiences in its own words that the majority of those killed were in the process of carrying out terror attacks at the time.

Version 2

Version 2

All versions of the report include commentary from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly in which he describes almost daily terror attacks as “sporadic”, adopts the standard BBC approach of whitewashing incitement from official Palestinian sources and even manages to apportion blame to Israel for “inflaming the mood”.

“Our correspondent says the wave of violent incidents shows no sign of abating, and although the attacks are sporadic they are persistent.

Some Israeli politicians accuse Palestinian politicians of incitement and many Palestinians blame the readiness of the Israeli security forces to resort to lethal force for further inflaming the mood.

But, our correspondent adds, it does seem as though the incidents are spontaneous, with attackers drawing motivation from material on social media rather than following orders from any militant organisation.”

Hours after this attack took place, Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party was already praising the perpetrators on social media but BBC audiences were of course not informed of that part of the story.

As the BBC report itself states, the three attackers were armed with knives, automatic weapons and improvised explosive devices. Nevertheless, Kevin Connolly tells readers that such a heavily armed and obviously pre-planned attack was “spontaneous”. 

Once again we see that the BBC has no intention of carrying out any serious reporting on the issue of the incitement and glorification of terrorism from official Palestinian sources which fuels the current wave of violence. 

BBC News promotes ‘one-state’ stepping stone and political messaging

Last week marked ten years since elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council were held and the resulting split between Hamas and Fatah began. The BBC did not produce any content relating to that anniversary, the subsequent decade long Palestinian political paralysis and its effects upon an issue much touted on BBC pages and airwaves – the peace process.

Writing at Newsweek, Jonathan Schanzer of the FDD outlines the contemporary significance of that ten year-old event.

“Ten years on, the intra-Palestinian conflict is a glaring blind spot among Western policymakers. The enmity between the two factions challenges longstanding assertions of a unified Palestinian national identity. The Palestinian battle for primacy also injects new complexities into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The conflict, in fact, is now a three-way tug-of-war between Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, where any one move can impact the delicate balance between the three.

After a decade of failed reconciliation efforts and a collapsed unity government in 2015, the intra-Palestinian conflict now appears intractable. The Gaza Strip remains firmly in the hands of Hamas, while the Fatah faction clings to the West Bank with the help of Israeli security and intelligence. There are two separate Palestinian governments with their own bureaucracies, two sets of cadres of political elites, two distinct economies, and increasingly two different cultures.

Nevertheless, Washington continues to call for a single Palestinian state. It’s a call that echoes across most Western capitals, too. The overriding assumption is that deft diplomacy coupled with Israeli territorial concessions could pave the way for the Palestinian Authority, unpopular and corrupt as it may be, to regain the moral and military high ground from Hamas and somehow bring the Gaza Strip back under its jurisdiction. These plans remain vague, to say the least. […]

The near collapse of the post-colonial system since the Arab Spring has challenged almost all of our assumptions on how to bring order to the chaos of the Middle East. Yet, the perceived need to create a single Palestinian state spanning the West Bank and Gaza has endured. Ten years on, the Palestinians are still divided—both ideologically and territorially. It may be time to acknowledge that if they can’t peacefully resolve their own territorial conflict, they certainly are not likely to resolve the one with Israel.”

What the BBC did see fit to publish last week, however, was an article titled “Israel-Palestinian conflict: Is one homeland the solution?” which was promoted in the ‘features’ section of its website’s Middle East page for four consecutive days.Thrope article

“As support for a two-state solution to their conflict declines among Israelis and Palestinians, a different approach to finding a peaceful settlement is being proposed.

Called “Two States – One Homeland”, the group, led by Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport and Palestinian politician Awni Almashni, is advocating the creation of an Israeli-Palestinian confederation.

They say that their plan, now picking up public and official backing, can solve the difficult issues – Israeli settlements, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the fate of Jerusalem – that have scuttled past negotiations.”

The article’s over-enthusiastic portrayal of the supposed popularity of a scheme few in the region will have heard of includes only minimal coverage of opposition from “the Palestinian street” whilst totally ignoring the Hamas elephant in the room.

“The group has also encountered opposition. Its inaugural public conference last June was moved from the Palestinian city of Beit Jala to nearby Jerusalem after Palestinian supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement threatened to disrupt the gathering.”

The article also fails to clarify to readers that – at least according to an article written by Mr Almashni – the plan is merely a stepping stone on the route to something other than “two states”.

“A quick glance at these ideas shows that they meet all the demands of anyone who believes in the two-state solution – taking into account that the two states are fully independent and sovereign, and within in the 1967 borders. Nevertheless, maintaining freedom of crossing, movement, and residence – that is, an open border between the two states – leaves the door ajar for a single future [binational] state, once the trust and the relationship [between the two peoples] have developed.” […]

“Ultimately, this solution reflects the desire of all who support the traditional two-state solution – it includes all the principles of the two states, as well as the actualization of the right of return. It [also] constitutes a giant step towards a single state, if the two peoples want to reach it – because it strengthens what they share, and thus opens the way to this direction.” [emphasis added]

Not content with failing to present its subject matter accurately, the writer of the article, Samuel Thrope, also misrepresents other related subjects.

“The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. UN General Assembly resolutions, meanwhile, endorse a Palestinian right of return.”

Regular consumers of BBC content are of course used to seeing the BBC frequently fail to meet its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by refraining from informing them of the existence of legal opinions which contradict its own adopted political stance on “the settlements”.

Now we see a new addition to the BBC’s repertoire of politically partisan messaging; promotion of the inaccurate claim that “a Palestinian right of return” is endorsed by the 1948 UN GA resolution 194 – which was opposed by Arab states at the time and in fact includes one clause pertaining to refugees in general but does not include the word “Palestinian” or guarantee an unconditional ‘right of return’.

As long as BBC reports continue to include unqualified promotion of Palestinian talking points, the corporation should not of course be surprised that its impartiality is so frequently called into question.  

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BBC News portrays counter-terrorism measure as ‘collective punishment’

On the morning of January 31st a terror attack took place at a checkpoint north of Ramallah.

“Three Israeli soldiers were wounded on Sunday when a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces opened fire at an IDF checkpoint near Beit El in the West Bank. He was shot dead by forces at the scene.

Magen David Adom emergency services said that two victims were in serious condition with wounds to the neck and thigh, respectively, and one was lightly hurt.

The shooter drove up to the Focus checkpoint in a car, was asked for his ID, got out and opened fire with a handgun, injuring the three soldiers. Palestinian reports named him as Amjad Sakari, 35, and said he was a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces who was working as a bodyguard for the Ramallah district attorney.”

There was no BBC coverage of that attack at the time and so audiences were not informed of the Palestinian Authority police force’s glorification of the terrorist.

“In a statement it released following the attack, the Palestinian police announced that “with great pride, the members of the Palestinian police eulogize the brave martyrdom of their colleague, Master Sergeant Amjad Sukkari, “Abu Omar”, who committed the operation at V.I.P checkpoint in Beit El.””

poster PA police

Neither did they learn of similar praise from the PA’s dominant faction Fatah.

poster Fatah

The fact that the terrorist was later buried with honours at a PA organized funeral was also not reported to BBC audiences.  

“The Palestinian Authority on Monday held a military funeral for Amjad Sukkari, the Palestinian policeman who carried out the shooting attack near Bet El a day earlier. Three IDF soldiers were wounded in the attack. […]

Senior PA officials, including the governor of Nablus, Akram Rajoub and Fatah Central Committee member Mahmoud Al-Aloul attended the policeman’s funeral.”

The only very brief mention of that terror attack came over 24 hours later in an article titled “Israel restricts entry to Ramallah after shooting attack” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on February 1st.

“The restrictions were imposed after a Palestinian policeman shot and injured three Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint outside the city before being killed.”

Whilst the short closure was in fact lifted several hours after the BBC’s report appeared, that information was not added to the article, which still remained on the website hours after it was no longer relevant.

The BBC’s report refrained from informing readers of the reason for the closure.

“For the first time in more than a decade, the IDF on Monday placed a partial daylong blockade around the large West Bank city of Ramallah. […]

The IDF’s Central Command imposed the closure after security consultation. It had received concrete alerts about future attacks originating from Ramallah, security sources told The Jerusalem Post.” [emphasis added]

Instead, the BBC elected to misrepresent a counter-terrorism measure to its audiences by means of amplification of Palestinian propaganda.

collective punishment

Had BBC audiences been made aware of the facts behind the partial one-day closure of Ramallah and had they been told that the quoted spokesman’s organization publicly glorified his colleague’s act of terror, they may have been able to put his irrelevant claim into more appropriate context.

But at the same time as it eagerly provides uncritical amplification for such propaganda, the BBC continues to embrace an editorial policy according to which PA incitement and glorification of terrorism are taboo subjects, thus undermining the corporation’s public purpose remit of enhancing audiences’ understanding of international issues.

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BBC gives amplification to Middle Eastern conspiracy theories

When locals in the southern Lebanese village of Bint Jbeil captured and abused a griffon vulture which recently strayed from an Israeli nature reserve, the BBC could have done a story about the considerable efforts on the part of Israeli nature conservation organisations to protect that species of bird and others.  It could also have used the opportunity to highlight the problem of illegal hunting of wild birds in the Mediterranean area.

Gamla nature reserve

Gamla nature reserve

“About 25 million birds are illegally hunted and killed or captured every year in countries bordering the Mediterranean, and many of these countries have adopted a policy of looking the other way when it comes to the mass killing of the winged creatures, a report released over the weekend by the group BirdLife International claims. On the other hand, Israel, the report says, has the best record among Mediterranean countries when it comes to bird conservation.

The most wide-scale slaughter is being committed in Egypt and Italy, says the report from BirdLife International, the world’s largest organization dedicated to the protection of birds, while the island nation of Malta has the worst record in relation to its size. Many of the avian creatures are killed or captured in the course of their seasonal migration between Europe and Africa.

After Egypt and Italy, the worst offenders on the list are Syria and Lebanon, which together account for the deaths of six and a half million birds every year. “

Instead, the self-styled “standard setter for international journalism” chose to take a different approach to the story, focusing on the obviously groundless and downright ridiculous suspicions of the Lebanese villagers that the captured griffon vulture was carrying espionage equipment. The BBC was far from the only media organization to report the story from that angle, but at least the Guardian, for example, made the essence of the story quite clear to readers.

“Conspiracy theories are endemic in the Middle East.”

The BBC, however, elected to add credence to such silly conspiracy theories with wording such as “Lebanon returns Israeli vulture cleared of spying” – presumably written with a straight face.Vulture story

“A huge vulture detained in Lebanon on suspicion of spying for Israel has been returned home after UN peacekeepers intervened, Israeli officials said.”

“The Lebanese media says the villagers freed the vulture after it became clear it was not on a spying mission.”

“It is not the first time a griffon vulture has been taken to be an agent of the Israeli spy agency Mossad.

Saudi Arabia captured one, also with a Tel Aviv University tracker, in the desert city of Hyaal in 2011, sparking rumours of a “Zionist plot” that were dismissed by Israeli officials.” [emphasis added]

No better was Julian Marshall’s introduction to an item (here from 39:28) concerning the same story which was broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on January 30th and billed in the synopsis as being about ‘Animals as “spies”‘.

“Now to a tale of airborne espionage and conspiracy. Last night a griffon vulture was released by Lebanese authorities – cleared of spying for Israel after UN peacekeepers intervened.”

Despite the fact that the story is obviously not about “airborne espionage” at all, Marshall further stoked the fires in his conversation with his interviewee.

“Ahm…and what made the villagers suspicious was a tracking device attached to its tail. But I suppose that could equally have been a camera, couldn’t it?”

When the BBC reports on the abuse of endangered birds of prey in its own domestic arena it does not find it necessary to ‘explain’ the story by pandering to ridiculous conspiracy theories. As one of the representatives of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority put it:

“In the 21st century we expect people to understand that wild animals are not harmful.” 

The question that therefore arises is why the corporation does not similarly report stories from the Middle East – and especially those which it makes available to audiences in that region – in an equally factual and accurate manner.

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