BBC R4’s ‘Sunday’ talks the talk on antisemitism

The Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism, John Mann MP, was a guest on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday’ on August 9th. The item (available here from 05:21) was introduced by host William Crawley as follows:Sunday John Mann

WC: “Last week it was reported that the number of incidents of antisemitism in the UK is on the rise and a common analysis of that spike in anti-Jewish prejudice is the inability or unwillingness of some people to distinguish between the religion of Judaism and the politics of the state of Israel. But antisemitism has a longer history than comparatively recent disputes about the place of the Jewish state in the Middle East and that long history is surveyed in a new book – ‘Antisemitism: The Oldest Hatred’. Its author is the Labour MP John Mann who for the past ten years has chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.”

Listeners familiar with the BBC’s response to complaints concerning a reporter who, back in January, displayed precisely such “inability or unwillingness […] to distinguish between the religion of Judaism and the politics of the state of Israel” might have found Crawley’s detached description jarring.

Following John Mann’s explanation of why he wrote the book, Crawley came in again:

WC: “It’s complex sometimes because of the language and you point this out in the book: that sometimes people use language that covers…as a cover story…for antisemitism and it can be subtle; it can be difficult sometimes to recognize. Let’s explore that a bit, can we? Where do you see subtle forms of antisemitism today?” […]

JM: “The ways it creeps in that are distinctive and unusual are because of some of the caricatures of successful Jewish people. So concepts of wealth, of ownership – for example ownership of the media, ownership of business, control of countries – and not least the United States. That comes in a lot and it allows people – sometimes deliberately, more often, more ignorantly – to cross the border of what’s acceptable in terms of discourse […] and it’s this concept that the powerful Jew, the wealthy Jew, is used a lot. One example of how that is almost in the mainstream now: in the Baltics this is the imagery that’s there – similar to the imagery used by Goebbels and the Nazis – which is of this Jewish businessman-type figure, wealthy, controlling; a hidden influence who is malevolently affecting the future of society. That is used in the mainstream in the Baltics […] and to be honest, that’s quite extraordinary for part of the European Union.”

It is of course also quite extraordinary for the UK’s public broadcaster – but nevertheless, precisely such imagery was promoted in a BBC television programme on November 8th last year and the BBC failed to respond appropriately. Moreover, promotion of the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope and claims of Jewish and/or Israeli control of the United States have been documented on numerous occasions on these pages – see for example here, here, here, here and here.

Towards the end of the item, Crawley asks John Mann “how best to challenge the normalization of that kind of prejudice?” and the reply includes the following:

JM: “…you deal with your own backyard first. You deal with those in your own local community; you deal with those in your own workplace. In politics you deal with those in your own political party.”

Until the BBC begins to ‘walk the walk’ by seriously and frankly addressing its own issues concerning the mainstreaming of antisemitic discourse in its content and on its discussion boards, items such as this one can obviously only be viewed as cynical and opportunistic lip service to a very serious topic.

Related Articles:

Report of All-Party inquiry into Antisemitism adduces BBC content

The significance of the BBC’s promotion of Peter Oborne’s Brotherhood washing

h/t JK

Much of the landmark speech on combating extremism delivered by the British prime minister on July 20th focused – naturally – on the issue of tackling extremist ideology.

“But you don’t have to support violence to subscribe to certain intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish. […]

…ideas also based on conspiracy: that Jews exercise malevolent power; or that Western powers, in concert with Israel, are deliberately humiliating Muslims, because they aim to destroy Islam. […]

First, any strategy to defeat extremism must confront, head on, the extreme ideology that underpins it. We must take its component parts to pieces – the cultish worldview, the conspiracy theories, and yes, the so-called glamorous parts of it as well. 

In doing so, let’s not forget our strongest weapon: our own liberal values. We should expose their extremism for what it is – a belief system that glorifies violence and subjugates its people – not least Muslim people. […]

Second, as we counter this ideology, a key part of our strategy must be to tackle both parts of the creed – the non-violent and violent.

This means confronting groups and organisations that may not advocate violence – but which do promote other parts of the extremist narrative.

We’ve got to show that if you say “yes I condemn terror – but the Kuffar are inferior”, or “violence in London isn’t justified, but suicide bombs in Israel are a different matter” – then you too are part of the problem. Unwittingly or not, and in a lot of cases it’s not unwittingly, you are providing succour to those who want to commit, or get others to commit to, violence.”

In light of David Cameron’s words it was remarkable that less than a week after that speech was made, the BBC (which is of course committed to “sustaining citizenship and civil society“) chose to broadcast a programme on Radio 4 made by a journalist known for promoting the notion of a scary ‘Pro-Israel lobby’ with extraordinary influence and control over British politics.

All the more unfortunate was the fact that Peter Oborne’s programme – apparently commissioned by the BBC and aired under the title “HSBC, Muslims and Me” on July 26th – not only whitewashed known supporters of Hamas in the UK, but did so using promotion of false “context” concerning discrimination against British Muslims in general.Oborne report R4

Two days after this radio programme was broadcast, the BBC News website’s Magazine section also saw fit to publish a written version of Oborne’s re-hash of this year-old story headlined “Why did HSBC shut down bank accounts?“. That article opens with the following words:

“Last year international banking giant HSBC suddenly closed the bank accounts of several prominent British Muslims. Anna Meisel and Peter Oborne reveal how the decision was made.” [emphasis added]

In spite of that sweeping claim, both the article and the radio programme relate to the closure of the bank account of one organization – the North London Central Mosque, also known as Finsbury Park Mosque – and one family – the al Tikriti family. Two other organisations also had their bank accounts closed around the same time – Anas al Tikriti’s ‘Cordoba Foundation’ and the Ummah Welfare Trust – although neither of Oborne’s reports clarify that fact.

The take-away message of Oborne’s two reports is to be found both in the written article’s final lines and at the end of the audio report:Oborne report written

“There is a deeper and more troubling context here.

By sending the message to law-abiding Muslims that they are excluded from the simple privileges enjoyed by all other British people, we risk encouraging rather than suppressing extremism.”

Of course that is not “the message” being sent to the millions of mainstream British Muslims who do not pop over to visit Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza at all, but Oborne’s hyperbole is amplified even more extensively in the audio version, the synopsis of which asks:

“Were the Muslims targeted by mistake or were they targeted because they are Muslims?”

Oborne posits the same hypothesis early on in the programme:

“So were the Muslims targeted by mistake, were they targeted because they really are secret terrorists or were they targeted simply because they are Muslims?”

He finds an Islington councillor who tells him that HSBC’s closure of the Finsbury Park Mosque’s account is “smearing by innuendo” and Oborne tells listeners that he has “long worried that British Muslims are being singled out for unfair treatment”. He also declares that the subjects of the programme – whom he describes as “some friends of mine” in its opening seconds – “as far as I can tell have no connection with terrorism”.

Kozbar

Mohammed Kozbar meets Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza

The three people named in Oborne’s report are Anas al Tikriti of the Cordoba Foundation, Mohammed Kozbar of the Finsbury Park Mosque (and numerous other organisations) and Mohammed Sawalha – also a trustee of the same mosque.

In the written report Oborne’s description of Sawalha is as follows:

“The World-Check entry on Finsbury Park Mosque also contained the information that Mohammed Sawalha was a trustee. Sawalha is believed to be one of the most senior Muslim Brotherhood figures in Britain. He is also alleged to have been a Hamas commander in Gaza 25 years ago. Hamas is designated by the US and other governments as a terrorist organisation.

But Kozbar said that Sawalha had been a trustee ever since the new management board was configured 10 years ago, with the approval of the police.”

Al Tikriti

Anas al Tikriti with Ismail Haniyeh

A similar account appears in the audio report at 32:43.

Sawalha’s days as a Hamas commander were actually spent in Judea & Samaria rather than Gaza but that minor inaccuracy is symptomatic of Oborne’s broader failure to conduct any serious research on his protagonists’ backgrounds and connections. In addition to his links to assorted Muslim Brotherhood organisationsincluding the ECESG which played a central role in organising the 2010 and 2011 flotillas – Sawalha was named in a terrorism financing trial in the US in 2008.

As was noted at the prominent British political blog ‘Harry’s Place’ last year:

Sawalha

Mohammed Sawalha (far right) with Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud al Zahar in Gaza

“On Monday 24 November 2008 a Dallas Federal court found the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) and five of its leading members guilty of funneling $12 million to Hamas. The jury convicted all defendants on conspiracy charges — conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organisation; conspiracy to provide funds, goods and services to a specially designated terrorist; and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Sawalha is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in this case.”

That information – which is amply available in the public domain (details of the case’s background even appear in the transcript to the 2006 Panorama programme linked to in the written report) – is obviously extremely relevant to Oborne’s subject matter and yet he chose not to impart it to his readers and listeners, preferring instead to amplify Mohammed Kozbar’s smoke and mirrors.

“He’s [Sawalha] been with us from the beginning when we took over [the mosque], when we had these meetings with the government, with the police and with the Charity Commission, with our local MP.”

That local MP, by the way, is Jeremy Corbyn – recently in the headlines due to his Hamas “friends”.

Kozbar and Sawalha

Mohammed Kozbar and Mohammed Sawalha in Gaza

All the more remarkable is the fact that the Harry’s Place article quoted above (and well worth reading in full) relates directly to the HSBC decision to cease providing banking services to Finsbury Park Mosque. As is noted in that July 2014 post, the BBC broke the news at the time with an article which similarly provided an unquestioning platform for the protestations of Mohammed Kozbar, Anas al Tikriti and others, even including the following quote:

“Khalid Oumar, one of the trustees of the [Finsbury Park] mosque, questioned the motives behind the letters.

“The letters that have been sent and the letters that we received do not give any reason why the accounts were closed in the first place,” he said.

“That has led us to believe that the only reason this has happened is because of an Islamophobic campaign targeting Muslim charities in the UK.””

That 2014 BBC article made no effort whatsoever to provide audiences with information concerning the links of the organisations and individuals concerned to the Muslim Brotherhood and their common denominator of support for Hamas. A year of potential research time has now passed but whilst Oborne does mention his subjects’ links to the Muslim Brotherhood, he provides nothing in the way of concrete information about that organisation’s links to terrorism or their records of support for Hamas, its terrorism and its mission of eradicating Israel.

Oborne’s all too apparent adoption of the role of advocate for individuals and organisations supportive of the terrorist organization Hamas is not unexpected and neither, sadly, is the BBC’s decision to provide a platform – and presumably payment – for his agitprop.

But there is a deeply unsettling aspect to the BBC’s decision to promote Oborne’s whitewashing of the links of known extremists by means of the canard suggesting that all mainstream British Muslims may be subjected to exclusion and discrimination just at the time when the British government is taking on the battle of combating extremist ideology and narratives.

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Must read article by former BBC journalist

 

One to watch out for on BBC Radio 4

This coming Monday evening, August 3rd, BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a programme titled “Women of Terror“. Its synopsis reads as follows:R4 Women of Terror

“From Russia’s 19th century Nihilists to contemporary Sri Lanka and Palestine women have played central roles in terrorist organisations. Attacks planned or executed by women attract attention and inspire fear in a way that male terrorists can only dream of.

Why are we still shocked by female terrorists? Why are they so effective? How can women be dissuaded from joining terrorist organisations? BBC Diplomatic Correspondent, Bridget Kendall investigates the motives that drive women to kill and considers the response of the media and the public to those who have planted bombs, hijacked planes and killed innocents in their quest for political change.”

The claim that the programme “considers the response of the media […] to those who have planted bombs, hijacked planes and killed innocents…” is particularly interesting given the images selected to illustrate both its webpage and an accompanying promotional article by Bridget Kendall which appeared on the BBC News website on July 28th under the title “What drives women to terrorist acts?“.R4 Women of Terror written

Of course BBC audiences are no strangers to those photos of PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled seeing as they have been used in prior BBC content – and not infrequently with linkage to the word ‘icon’ or ‘iconic’ – as seen in the caption to the photograph heading Kendall’s article: “Leila Khaled in iconic pose”. In the body of the article readers are told:

“Leila Khaled was probably the most famous female hijacker in the world in the late 1960s – beautiful, dangerous and politically committed to doing whatever might further the Palestinian cause.

She featured in an iconic photo – sultry-eyed, a Kalashnikov at her side, headscarf carefully draped over her head.” [emphasis added]

Kendall’s 1,277 word article has two hundred and twenty-six words devoted to Khaled alone and the only one of the female terrorists she mentions who is deemed worthy of an insert carrying a further 140 words of biography is Leila Khaled.

As recently as last December another BBC Radio 4 programme also purported to examine “how media organisations tread the fine line of giving publicity to terrorists and reporting the news” but was plagued by accuracy and impartiality issues in its portrayal of Leila Khaled’s organisation’s Dawson’s Field hijackings.

It remains to be seen whether Bridget Kendall’s efforts will be any more successful but her promo article’s romanticised embellishment of the Khaled ‘icon’ does not bode well.

Related Articles:

BBC R4 gives a platform to terrorist Leila Khaled

BBC R4 programme on terror and the media rebrands PFLP terrorists

 

 

BBC R4 recycles Jeremy Hardy’s stereotyping of Israelis

h/t JK

Last September BBC Radio 4 aired an edition of the programme “Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation” titled “How to Define Oneself in Terms of Regional, Cultural and Geopolitical Identity Without Tears” in which comedian-cum-political-activist Hardy promoted crude stereotypes and factual inaccuracies.Jeremy Hardy R4

“Nevertheless, even some of Israel’s most passionate critics today are people who supported its founding in 1948. They argue that although Israeli governments are increasingly racist and colonial, the founding principles were noble. Other critics would see even that view as rosy-spectacled but whatever you think about that period, the State of Israel exists and one of the frequent demands of its government is that others recognize its right to exist. I’m not sure any state has rights. Whether a person has rights is a moral question – they’re not like kidneys – but at least ethical judgments apply more sensibly to human beings. We’d all say a person has a right to a house. We wouldn’t say the house has rights. No-one thinks a house has a right to exist: certainly not an Israeli driving a bulldozer.

Let’s imagine that all Israel’s critics recognize its right to exist as a de-facto state. That wouldn’t guarantee its continued existence in its present form or any other. Even now we don’t even know where its borders are supposed to be, so what are we ratifying? That’s what happens when you’re greedy: you keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger – people have trouble recognizing you. [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time:

“Given Hardy’s track record of collaboration with the ISM, one would probably not have expected anything other than the exploitation of a ‘comedy’ show for the promotion of his own embarrassingly uninformed politics. That, of course, is a factor of which Radio 4 editors must have been aware in advance but, as we have seen before, the BBC seems to think that the promotion of inaccurate information and crude national stereotypes is perfectly acceptable – just as long as a ‘comedy’ label is appended.”

Despite that, ten months later on July 23rd 2015, BBC Radio 4 saw fit to broadcast that programme once again. 

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part two

In part one of this post we noted the BBC’s amplification of unchallenged, inaccurate, partial and context-free messaging from Michael Deas – the coordinator in Europe for the Palestinian BDS National Committee – on BBC television news and the BBC News website on July 21st.

Two days later, listeners to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ also got a dose of the BDS campaign’s propaganda when Deas cropped up again in an item (from 26:10 here) by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly. Presenter Eddie Mair introduced the segment as follows:BDS Deas PM

“A campaign to boycott Israeli products is claiming increasing success. It says it’s defending human rights. The Israeli government accuses it of antisemitism. Reporting for PM; our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly.”

Connolly: “Israel is under pressure, looking for ways to push back against growing calls around the world for a boycott of goods produced in the farms and factories of the West Bank – land it captured in the Middle East war of 1967 and which the wider world regards as occupied Palestinian territory.”

Refraining from reminding listeners that the area was in fact part of the region allocated by the League of Nations for the establishment of the Jewish national home before it was occupied by Jordan for 19 years or why the Six Day War broke out, against the backdrop of a song Connolly goes on:

“Reggae is not Israel’s only weapon, of course. But this song does emphasis one of its key points. How, when human rights are trampled in the four corners of the earth, does it find itself the target of such a well-organised and single-minded boycott campaign?”

Listeners next hear an unidentified voice say:

“There’s a growing fear inside Israel that it’s facing international isolation of the kind that South Africa faced under apartheid. So we saw about six months ago a hundred Israeli business leaders in Israel issuing an appeal on the front page of one of Israel’s biggest newspapers urging the Israeli government to take action to stem the tide of boycotts.”

Connolly then introduces his contributor:

“Michael Deas – campaigning director of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee in London – believes the tide on this issue is starting to run their way. The holy grail for the BDS movement is to impose on Israel the kind of damage once inflicted on white South Africa by anti-apartheid campaigners. And Michael Deas says it’s not enough to boycott goods that come from Israeli settlements on the West Bank; something more comprehensive is called for.”

Listeners hear Deas deliver the same messaging previously promoted on BBC television news and on the website.

“The Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel is for a boycott of all Israeli products. Now we know that some people and some organisations are really at the moment only comfortable boycotting products that come from settlements and that’s a position that we understand and can sympathise with. The problem is is [sic] the Israeli export companies that are exporting oranges and avocados, they routinely lie about where their products are coming from so the only safe way for people to avoid buying products from the settlements is not to buy Israeli products altogether.”

What listeners do not hear, however, is any accurate and impartial information concerning the BDS campaign’s real aims or its origins which would enable them to put Deas’ claims and messaging into their correct context.

Connolly moves on to ticking his impartiality box by bringing two Israelis into his item, beginning with an Israeli winemaker.

“The world looks very different to Ya’akov Berg – an Israeli winemaker whose family home sits in rolling vineyards on the West Bank – or Judea and Samaria as he prefers to call it. The Psagot winery’s corporate video, with Old Testament figures swirling across the landscape, makes a familiar Israeli point: that the land is theirs by biblical right and is not negotiable.”

Whilst some Israelis may indeed express such views, that of course is not the legal basis for Israeli claims to Judea and Samaria. But Connolly has already passed up on the opportunity to inform audiences of the fact that those regions were included in the Mandate for Palestine in 1922, preferring to blinker listeners with the notion of “Palestinian territory”.

After a few words from Mr Berg, listeners hear unidentified shouting and chanting: “One, two, three, four, occupation no more. Five, six, seven, eight….”. Connolly refrains from providing any information about that insert but it bears remarkable resemblance to an audio track he used in a January 2014 report  which covertly promoted the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s agenda regarding the Israeli company SodaStream and his ensuing words further suggest that the audio track was recycled from that report.

“The boycott movement is clearly starting to feel it’s working with the grain of history, pointing to companies moving out of the West Bank, apparently in response to political pressure overseas – although Israel can equally argue that major international companies like Microsoft and Apple are still investing.”

Connolly’s enthusiastic amplification of redundant BDS messaging of course leaves no room for listeners to be informed that the move of the SodaStream factory from Mishor Adumim to the Negev was prompted by financial agreements which pre-dated the BDS campaign’s targeting of the company.

“There’s another reason for the move to the Negev – a multi-million dollar subsidy the company is eligible for as a result of the move to Lehavim. In a deal signed in 2012, SodaStream agreed to build a production plant in the newly established Idan Hanegev Industrial Zone, with an estimated cost of NIS 280 million ($78 million). The plant is set to employ about 1,000 people, according to Ministry of the Economy documents. In return, SodaStream is set to receive a 20% subsidy, worth as much as NIS 60 million (nearly $16 million).” 

Connolly continues:

“But what about that question of whether a South Africa moment is looming? That point where ordinary consumers overseas see a ‘produce of Israel’ label on an avocado or a pomegranate and instinctively shy away. Israel’s deputy foreign minister Tsipi Hotovely says the boycott campaign’s comparison with apartheid is offensive and wrong.”

Listeners then hear seven sentences from Hotovely before Connolly sums up.

“In arguments about Israel it’s always hard to be sure if debate is changing people’s minds or just reinforcing the opinions they held anyway. Either way, you can be sure that for both sides, the boycott debate is one of the key battle grounds of the future.”

That, of course, should be all the more reason for the BBC to present the issue of the BDS campaign to its audiences accurately, impartially and comprehensively. But instead of providing them with the full range of information concerning that political campaign’s funding, origins, claims and aims, the BBC instead acts as its cheerleader by misleading audiences with presentation of the campaign as being connected to ‘human rights’ and whitewashing of its demonization and delegitimisation of Israel.

Moreover, the BBC’s unsubstantiated and unsourced inflation of the BDS campaign’s ‘success’ and its promotion of the notion that BDS is “growing” and  “working with the grain of history” clearly has the effect of mainstreaming the campaign into public consciousness and turning the BBC into a self-conscripted activist in this political crusade to bring about the demise of Jewish self-determination.

Is that really a place in which licence fee payers would like to see their national broadcaster?

Kevin Connolly’s BDS promotion and amplification did not, however, end there. More to come in part three of this post.  

 

BBC fails to report the conclusion to a story it covered four years ago

Back in 2011 the BBC devoted substantial coverage to what it described in an edition of the World Service radio programme ‘Assignment’ as “The Mystery of Dirar Abu Sisi“.Assignment Abu Sisi 2011

Additional content on the same topic included:

Palestinian ‘abducted’ in Ukraine due in Israel court” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website, 29/3/2011

“His friends and relatives reject Israeli reports that the engineer is affiliated to militant groups in the Gaza Strip and are calling on the Ukraine authorities to intervene.”

‘Abducted’ Palestinian engineer appears in Israel court” – BBC News website, 31/3/2011

“Mr Abu Sisi accuses Israel of “kidnapping him for no reason”.”

“On Thursday, the Palestinian ambassador in Kiev, Mohammed al-Assad, called Israel’s arrest “an international crime that must be punished”.”

‘Abducted’ Palestinian Dirar Abu Sisi on Hamas charges” – BBC News website, 4/4/2011

“Mr Abu Sisi’s lawyer says the charges against him are untrue and they will seek to have the case dismissed.

Mr Abu Sisi, the manager at Gaza’s main power plant, has accused Israel of kidnapping him “for no reason”. He and his family have denied any links with Hamas.”

Israel, Ukraine and the mysterious case of Dirar Abu Sisi” – Gabriel Gatehouse, BBC News website, 25/8/2011

“His lawyers, and his wife, say he has nothing to do with Hamas, and knows nothing about rocket technology.”

The Mystery of Dirar Abu Sisi” – ‘Crossing Continents’, BBC Radio 4, 29/8/2011

“So who is Dirar Abu Sisi? Did he really study rocket science at a Ukrainian military academy, as the Israeli indictment claims? Is he a senior Hamas operative? Or is he an innocent victim of mistaken identity?”

The ‘mystery’ of Abu Sisi came to an end in March 2015 when he was convicted after admitting the charges against him.

“The Be’er Sheva District Court convicted Dirar Abu Sisi, known in the Shin Bet security service as the “father of the rockets,” in a plea bargain arrangement. Abu Sisi, an engineer, is said to have been responsible for extending the range of Hamas’s Kassam rockets. […]

Abu Sisi has been under arrest in Israel for four years, As the commander of the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, he was a senior partner in the production of missiles and mortars of various types, and of developing and extending the range of rockets used to fire into Israel.

Abu Sisi was convicted on Thursday after he admitted to the charges, according to the updated indictment from which many of the original charges of attempted murder were dropped, while those of belonging to an unauthorized organization, planning to commit murder, producing weapons, activity in a terror organization and other weapons charges all remained.

According to the indictment served by attorney Moraz Gez of the Southern District prosecution, after Operation Cast Lead, “Abu Sisi was appointed by Mohammed Deif and Ahmed Jabari to set up a military academy. In this role he built a program that would serve as the basis for establishing such a military academy and that trains to this day the command level of Hamas for the purpose of hostile activity against Israel. Abu Sisi has a doctoral degree in electrical engineering from a military academy in Ukraine, and in the past even specialized in control mechanisms for Scud missiles. During his studies in Ukraine he acquired great experience in the field of developing and controlling missiles. In his interrogation he recounted his part in Hamas’ array of missiles and the improvements he introduced in the organization’s ability to launch missiles.””

This week Dirar Abu Sisi was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

Curiously – particularly considering the fact that all the above content is still available online and hence potentially subject to editorial complaints – the BBC has not found it necessary to provide audiences with any follow-up reporting on the story it covered so extensively four years ago and thereby relieve them of the mistaken impressions received across that coverage. 

BBC portrayal of the Iran nuclear deal – part one

BBC coverage of the P5+1 deal with Iran which was closed on July 14th has been coming in thick and fast and those familiar with the BBC’s track record on that topic would not have been surprised by the tone and content of the plethora of reports.  It is, however, worth taking a look at specific items of BBC content in order to appreciate how the BBC has chosen to portray the subject.PM 14 7

The edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ broadcast on the day the deal was announced included analysis (starting at 14:54 here and available for a limited period of time) from the person ultimately responsible for all the corporation’s Middle East content, Jeremy Bowen. The Middle East editor’s conversation with presenter Carolyn Quinn included some interesting between-the-lines messaging.

1) Downplaying the Iranian regime’s role in the Middle East’s ongoing conflicts and the influence that the deal’s lifting of sanctions and cash influx to Iran is likely to have on regional stability.

Bowen: “…and there are people within Iran – people in the…ehm…the…ehm…Revolutionary Guard Corps – who…ah…do want to cause trouble around the region in the way that [previous interviewee] Frum was talking about it there. But the counter-argument to what he was saying is that the…President Rouhani was elected because people hoped that he would end Iran’s isolation and thus improve the economy. So the windfall that they will be getting eventually, which is made up of frozen revenues – oil revenues especially –around the world, ah…there are people who argue that look; that will go to try to deal with loads and loads of domestic economic problems and they’ll have trouble at home if they don’t do that. If people – the argument goes on – are celebrating in Iran about the agreement, it’s not because they’ll have more money to make trouble elsewhere in the region; it’s because things might get better at home.” [emphasis added]

Bowen’s dubious portrayal of the IRGC as though they were a bunch of naughty schoolboys is telling enough but his presentation of an Iranian regime concerned about and influenced by domestic public opinion obviously ignores the fact that even when economic sanctions were affecting the Iranian people most severely, the regime still found the funds to sponsor assorted terrorist proxies in the region, to intervene in regional conflicts and, of course, to develop its nuclear programme and military industries.

2) Promotion of Israel as the belligerent party and the notion that conflict has been avoided – rather than at most postponed – by means of the agreement.

Bowen: “You know I think that this is actually a pretty spectacular diplomatic achievement. Ah…two years ago when Israel was threatening to bomb Iran’s nuclear…ah…installations and it seemed as if – even though Netanyahu was sort of reluctant to do it – they were on that course, it looked two years ago as if that was going to happen and now it looks very, very…it’s not going to happen actually. It’s not. The Israelis are not going to do anything like that at this point. Err…and to go in the space of two years from looking at what seemed to be a dead cert Middle East war into a diplomatic achievement, at a time especially when the Middle East is so full of turmoil, is a major diplomatic achievement.”

In 2013 Bowen similarly portrayed Israel as the belligerent in a report promoted on several BBC platforms. Speculations concerning the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities have featured in BBC coverage since at least early 2012 – see examples here, here and here.

3) Promotion of the notion of a ‘moderate’ Iranian Supreme Leader.

Bowen: “The biggest problem the agreement faces right now are hardliners in Washington and in Tehran. In Tehran the Supreme Leader is likely to deal with those hardliners. They wouldn’t have made this deal if the Supreme Leader Khamenei had not been behind it.”

Bowen did not clarify to listeners that the terms of the deal now conform to conditions set by Khamenei back in April and provide sanctions relief for some of those very same “hardliners” who “make trouble in the region”. Neither did he point out that nothing in this deal has brought change to Iran’s long-standing approaches and policies.

Bowen’s messaging – and omissions -provide useful insight into the BBC’s editorial approach to the presentation of this agreement to its audiences.  

BBC’s Keyworth mainstreams an inaccurate political narrative

Listeners to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on July 11th heard a prime example how a one-sided, inaccurate, politically motivated narrative can be mainstreamed into the public consciousness even in content which is not overtly political.

Presenter Kate Adie introduced the item (from 22:40 here) as follows, adhering to the now standard BBC practice of presenting last summer’s conflict between Palestinian terrorist organisations and Israel as an affair which took place exclusively in one location.

“It’s been a year now since the war in Gaza. Seven weeks of fighting, Israeli shells and Palestinian rocket attacks and much destruction in Gaza. Eighteen thousand properties there were destroyed, many people are still homeless today. Several hundred people crowded into a square in the centre of Gaza City on Wednesday to watch the armed wing of Hamas stage a rally marking the occasion. What were described as new missiles were put on show. Marie Keyworth recently spent the day with a Gaza family, watching them at work, going shopping with them at the market and joining them for lunch.”

If readers are curious about that Gaza City rally, which was not reported by the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau staff, more information can be found here.

As readers will recall, Marie Keyworth visited the Gaza Strip and PA controlled areas in May on behalf of the BBC’s business department. Her latest report  – which also appeared as a written article titled “Love in a time of conflict” on the BBC News website’s ‘Magazine’ and Middle East pages on July 13th – is not about business matters but ostensibly tells a whimsical tale of romance. In among, however, listeners and readers are fed statements which are presented without any context or qualification.Keyworth FOOC

“Gaza is more often associated with conflict than love …”

“Of course it doesn’t take a genius to work out that some palm leaves trussed together with twine would do nothing to protect Ahmad and his siblings from the shells that fall on Gaza whenever a conflict erupts there.”

 “But what the shelter does provide is something equally important – a kind of psychological security. Something painfully absent from Gazan lives, and something Ahmad clearly craved.”

“You could almost forget you were in one of the most densely populated and frequently bombed places on earth.”

“But of course the reality for Gaza is the constant threat of war.”

“After all, it’s far more fun to talk about stolen kisses than it is to talk about bombs.”

Keyworth’s narrative is one of entirely passive “Gazan lives” in a place where “conflict erupts” – apparently all by itself – and where “the shells that fall” when it is “frequently bombed” do so for no discernible reason. In Keyworth’s world there is no cause and effect, no responsibility and no agency. And of course, there is no terrorism.

That banal and inaccurate portrayal obviously not only does nothing to meet the BBC’s remit of building understanding of “international issues” but even deliberately entrenches a politically motivated false narrative which is already disturbingly prevalent.

Resources:

From Our Own Correspondent on Twitter

Radio 4 – contact

How to Complain to the BBC

 

More BBC multiplatform mainstreaming of an anti-Israel trope

Obviously not content with the previous amplification of propaganda rhetoric used by anti-Israel campaigners on BBC World Service radio last month, the BBC recently decided to promote business reporter Roger Hearing’s mainstreaming of the same ‘open air prison’ trope on several of its other platforms too.Hearing ice cream Gaza written

The June 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ includes a piece from Hearing introduced by presenter Kate Adie (from 22:27 here) as follows:

“It’s nearly a year now since Israeli forces launched air and ground attacks on Gaza in response – they said – to a series of rocket attacks launched from inside the Palestinian territory. More than two thousand people were killed in the conflict and many homes and business properties in Gaza were damaged or destroyed. Rebuilding started soon after a ceasefire was announced last August but progress has been slow. A blockade on the territory imposed by Israel has delayed the arrival of construction materials. Roger Hearing has been to see how one business has carried on despite the difficulties.” [emphasis added]

So, in addition to casting doubt on the reasons for the outbreak of hostilities on July 8th 2014 (almost a month of incessant attacks on civilians, with hundreds of missiles fired rather than “a series”), Adie also fails to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties, refrains from noting Egypt’s closure of its border with the Gaza Strip and misleads audiences with the inaccurate claim that the slow pace of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip is because of Israeli restrictions on the import of dual use goods whilst making no effort to inform them of the terrorism which is the cause of those restrictions.

‘From Our Own Correspondent’ also has a BBC World Service radio version presented by Pascale Harter and Hearing’s report was featured in that programme’s June 20th edition too. Harter’s introduction to the item (from 17:55 here) was notably more accurate and impartial than the one heard by listeners to Radio 4.

“But right now, a glimpse of Gaza as you might not know it. It’s nearly a year since Israeli forces launched air and ground attacks there after weeks in which hundreds of rockets were fired into Israel from inside the Palestinian territory. More than two thousand people were killed in the conflict and many homes and business properties in Gaza were destroyed. It is a very difficult business environment but Roger Hearing finds one entrepreneur winning fame if not fortune.”

A written version of that audio report from Hearing was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East and Magazine pages on June 21st and in addition that version of the report was translated into Arabic and promoted on the BBC Arabic website.

All four versions of the report include overly dramatic, context-free descriptions from Hearing.

“…despite the apocalyptic destruction in parts of the city from last year’s war, you do also see a lot of giggling, playing children among the ruins.”

All four versions also fail to inform audiences that, in addition to ice cream making equipment, the Rafah area smuggling tunnels have of course been used to import weapons into the Strip and that metal piping of assorted types is regularly used by terrorists to manufacture missiles.

“He proudly showed us the shiny Italian gelato machines installed in the back rooms of his cafe building. When he was trying to import them, it was hard to convince the Israelis apparently that there wasn’t some other, more threatening purpose for the tall chrome boxes with pipes and chutes and nozzles.

It’s likely at least some of the machines were hauled through the tunnels under the border with Egypt, until that smuggling operation was closed down a few months back. Now that’s a strange image: young men in pitch darkness, sweating to drag huge boxes through rickety holes in the sand, and all so that Gazans could eat fine ice cream.”

Whilst BBC audiences remain serially unaware of Hamas’ activities in Judea & Samaria and in Turkey, they do now at least know that Hamas officials in Gaza like ice cream.

“Very nice,” said Ghazi Hamed, the deputy foreign minister for Hamas. “Everyone here knows Kazem’s.”

All four of these reports conclude with the same canard promoted by Hearing a month earlier in one of his radio reports from the Gaza Strip.

“And I have to say – and this is one of the oddest things – from the decrepit heart of a half-destroyed city in a besieged and blockaded enclave, sometimes described as the biggest open air prison in the world, comes the best ice cream I have ever tasted.” [emphasis added]

The Gaza Strip is of course not “besieged” at all and those who inaccurately describe it as “the biggest open air prison in the world” do so out of clear political motivations. Thousands of people exit and enter the Gaza Strip every year – as anyone who follows the daily reports publicized by COGAT online and on social media will be aware.

But, electing to ignore the facts behind the deliberate misnomer which he has so vigorously promoted over the past few weeks, Roger Hearing continues to mainstream the baseless rhetoric of anti-Israel delegitimisation in a style more suited to the Hamas supporting Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s PR department than a media organization supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting. The BBC is undoubtedly capable of identifying the motives and agenda behind the promotion of the inaccurate notion of Gaza as an ‘open air prison’. The fact that it chooses to adopt, amplify and repeatedly mainstream such propaganda on multiple platforms tells audiences all they need to know about the BBC’s supposed ‘impartiality’.

Related Articles:

Mainstreaming anti-Israel rhetoric on the BBC World Service

Resources:

‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on Twitter

Roger Hearing on Twitter

BBC World Service contact & complaints

BBC Radio 4 contact

How to Complain to the BBC

BBC’s ECU upholds complaint from the UK’s pro-Hamas lobby

As readers will recall, last month the BBC rejected complaints concerning Jeremy Bowen’s interview with the head of the Hamas terrorist organisation and last week the head of the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit finalised his dismissal of complaints concerning remarks made by Tim Willcox during an interview with a member of the Parisian Jewish community in January.Complaint pic

However, those who do not make a habit of visiting propaganda outlets such as ‘Electronic Intifada’ and the Russian state-run ‘RT’ may be unaware of the fact that complaints concerning another BBC interview conducted in March 2015 have apparently been upheld by the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit.

Writing at her regular ‘Electronic Intifada’ slot, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Amena Saleem claims that:

“A BBC investigation has found that one of its senior presenters, Sarah Montague, breached the organization’s editorial standards on impartiality in a radio interview she conducted with Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon in March.

The investigation was carried out following allegations of pro-Israel bias against Montague’s interview by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and a number of concerned individuals who complained to the BBC.”

According to RT, the PSC’s complaint included the following point:

“In Montague’s interview with Ya’alon, the senior BBC journalist failed to address misleading statements by the Israeli defense minister.

According to a transcript, Ya’alon said Palestinians “enjoy already political independence. They have their own political system, government, parliament, municipalities and so forth. And we are happy with it. We don’t want to govern them whatsoever.”

The PSC has challenged Ya’alon’s statement, claiming Palestinians live under occupation and, in Gaza, under siege.”

Amena Saleem informs her readers that the same BBC employee who refused to acknowledge the antisemitic nature of Tim Willcox’s “Jewish hands” remarks in Paris came up with the following ruling.

“Last week, all complainants received an email message from Fraser Steel, the BBC’s head of editorial complaints, on behalf of the ECU.

Steel, announcing that he would be upholding the complaint, wrote: “Mr. Yaalon was allowed to make several controversial statements … without any meaningful challenge, and the program-makers have accepted that the interviewer ought to have interrupted him and questioned him on his assertions.””

Yes – Fraser Steel apparently accepts that it is “controversial” to state self-evident, provable facts about the Palestinian Authority’s political system. That of course is all the more bizarre given the BBC’s frequent description of Hamas as “the democratically elected” ruling body in the Gaza Strip. 

Ironically, on numerous occasions in the past the BBC has failed to conform to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality when interviewing both Amena Saleem and other members of the opaquely funded anti-Israel, pro-Hamas lobbying and campaigning group with which she is associated.

For some time now the nature of the BBC’s relationship with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been a topic of interest and the corporation’s swift capitulation to political pressure following the publication of an article last summer about Hamas-supplied casualty figures and the subsequent ‘top-down’ dictated alterations made to that article – along with additional ‘damage control’ – brought the issue further into public view.

In addition to further highlighting that subject, the upholding of this blatantly politically motivated complaint by the head of the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit also serves to indicate yet again the inherent flaws in the BBC’s self-regulating complaints system and the urgent need for that topic to be addressed.

Related Articles:

BBC’s capitulation to political pressure on Gaza casualty figures: tip of a bigger iceberg?

Selective PSC outrage over BBC impartiality and integrity

BBC Breakfast’s Jenny Hill enables PSC antisemitism washing

Unhindered promotion of PSC speaker’s propaganda by BBC News

Why does the BBC Trust’s ESC pretend that the 1947 Partition Plan is a thing?