BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ airs falsehoods on Gaza medicine shortage (and the ramblings of Bar Hillel)

Judging by the amount of correspondence in our inbox on the morning of July 22nd, a great number of people were very dismayed by the peculiar decision made by producers of BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme to invite Mira Bar Hillel to speak as a supposedly representative voice of “British-Israeli Jews” as she was introduced by presenter Sarah Montague.

Bar Hillel’s outlandish remarks are of course about as worthy of comment as those of the average chap on the street-corner with a sandwich board and – given her previous record – entirely unsurprising. Those who wish to hear them, however, can do see here or here because the BBC evidently considers them worthy of stand-alone promotion.

One has to wonder if – twenty-four hours on and post Bar Hillel’s David Ward groupie performance on Twitter – the ‘Today’ programme team still thinks that was a good idea.

B Hillel tweet

But what is more interesting about this edition of the ‘Today’ programme that the ramblings of Bar Hillel is the introduction to the item given by presenter Sarah Montague to apparently seven million listeners. That can be heard for a limited period of time from around 01:51:00 here.

“It would be impossible not to be affected by the news from Gaza.”

Six million Israelis in air-raid shelters, missile attacks aimed at a nuclear facility and an international airport and terrorists tunneling underground to carry out atrocities in a kibbutz are apparently not news.

“More than 580 Palestinians have now been killed by Israel, many of them women and children. Most of them civilians according to Palestinians. And for everyone killed, hundreds more are injured.”

Yet again we see that no clarification is given regarding the partisan nature of the sources of casualty figures cited – but not independently verified by the BBC. And yet again we observe the now well entrenched BBC policy of failing to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties with no effort made to inform audiences how many of the dead were terrorists.Today 22 7 bar hillel

“The UN says a hundred thousand have now fled their homes, and this in a space where there is no running water and – because of Israel’s embargo – little food or medical supplies.”

There again is that now oft-promoted BBC falsehood about the shortage of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip being connected to Israeli policies along with another one which misleads listeners by claiming that Israel restricts or bans (who knows where Sarah Montague’s imagination leads her?) the entry of food into the Gaza Strip. The fact is that since the start of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th and until July 21st (the day before this programme was aired), seven hundred and seventy-eight lorry-loads of humanitarian aid (food, medical supplies and other essentials) had entered the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing.

“Israel say [sic] they are only defending themselves; that it is Hamas’ fault for firing rockets into their territory and that it is Hamas who are deliberately putting Palestinian civilians in harm’s way.”

Seeing as BBC teams on the ground have resolutely avoided adequately reporting on Hamas’ use of human shields it is perhaps hardly surprising that Sarah Montague can do nothing better than that to inform listeners of the realities of this conflict and, given her citing of unverified civilian casualty figures, the omission of any real information regarding the fact that Hamas stores and fires missiles in residential areas – and the number of deaths caused by those deliberate practices – is of course particularly significant.

Montague then goes on to cite Israeli casualty figures, failing of course to note that the reason for the lower Israeli death toll is the lengths to which Israel goes to protect its civilians and the stark contrast between its policies and those of Hamas.

“The Israeli death toll is far lower. Twenty have been killed in the past fortnight.”

She closes with a whitewashed portrayal of antisemitic rioting and agitprop.

 “Thousands have protested around the world at what they see as Israel’s heavy-handed response.”

The issue of the BBC’s repeated deliberate misrepresentation of the nature and purpose of restrictions on the entry of dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip is becoming a very serious one. The ‘Today’ programme must issue a prompt and public correction to the falsehoods promoted by Sarah Montague concerning food and medicines.

Contact details for ‘Today’: e-mail: today@bbc.co.uk, Twitter: @BBCR4Today 

Will the BBC correct its insinuations of a ‘two-tier justice system’ in Israel?

On July 17th the BBC News website published an article titled “Three charged over Palestinian Mohammad Abu Khdair murder“.

The report relates to the fact that eleven days after their arrest on July 6th, three people were charged with the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Ahu Khdeir on July 2nd.

The BBC’s report correctly notes that:

“The Israeli ministry of defence meanwhile said it now recognised the killing as a “terrorist act” and had decided to recognise Mohammad Abu Khdair as a “victim of terrorism”.”

It fails to inform readers however that the Defence Ministry’s decision means that the victim’s family will receive monthly benefits from the state and that Mohammed Abu Khdeir will be included in the list of names on Israel’s Memorial Day for victims of terror attacks.

Earlier in the month, during the four days which passed between the murder and the arrests, some BBC journalists promoted the notion of a ‘two-tier justice system’ in Israel, suggesting that Palestinians receive inferior treatment.

“… 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.” [emphasis added]

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

It would of course be appropriate for the BBC to clarify to its audiences that its insinuations of Israeli state discrimination are unfounded. 

BBC’s John Humphrys on Gaza conflict: it’s the settlements, innit?

public purposes

(source)

The BBC’s funding public might reasonably expect its journalists – and not least interviewers – to act as a medium for the conveyance of information from interviewees which contributes towards fulfilling those above defined purposes and helps them broaden their knowledge and understanding of international issues.

All too often, however, we see that instead of asking the questions which will prompt the interviewee to provide essential information, BBC presenters use the opportunity to get on their soap-box and audiences actually learn more about their personal opinions than anything else.

On July 9th the Israeli Ambassador to the UK was invited to BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme. With Operation Protective Edge having commenced the day before, this was an opportunity for listeners to hear the answers to a whole range of questions on topics which might have interested them, such as – for example – how much does it cost to defend Israeli civilians using the Iron Dome missile defence system and what sort of other national projects does Israel have to sacrifice in order to be able to provide such protection to its civilians? They might also have been interested to learn about the costs of damage to property and businesses in Israel caused by the missiles fired from the Gaza Strip and how Israel copes with such issues.

Another topic which might have interested audiences is how Israel manages to keep the flow of humanitarian aid, medicines and fuel into Gaza going even as it is being attacked by terrorists from that territory and why does it still provide electricity to and accept patients from the Gaza Strip even as conflict rages? Listeners might also have been interested in hearing about Israel’s policy of warning civilians in Gaza before air-strikes are carried out – how does it work? What are the mechanisms? They would certainly have come away with a better understanding of the issue had presenter John Humphrys asked why a ground operation might be the only way to search out the thousands of missiles stored underground by assorted terrorist organisations.

The Radio 4 ‘Today’ interview was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza invasion ‘credible option’, says Israeli ambassador“. There, the synopsis once again promotes the erroneous notion that missile fire by terrorists is a reaction to Israeli actions rather than the other way round.R4 Today 9 7 Amb Taub

“Palestinian militants have fired more rockets at Israeli cities after Israel carried out dozens of air strikes on Gaza in the early hours of Wednesday.”

The item opens with Ambassador Taub saying:

“As you know, we have 3.5 million people today – that’s close to half of our population: 40% – who have to live their lives within reach of bomb-shelters because of these missiles being fired. But as we try to protect them, we are also trying to – as much as possible – protect the lives of Palestinians who the terrorists are hiding behind.”

Rather than taking the opportunity to expand audience knowledge on the topic of Hamas’ use of the local population as human shields, John Humphrys could only retort:

“You’ve just killed 25 civilians – or mostly civilians – including women and children.”

Of those first 25 casualties, at least six (Abdul al Saufi, Rashad Yassin, Mohammed Shaaban, Khader al Bashliqi, Amjad Shaaban and Hafez Hamad) were – according to Palestinian sources – members of terrorist organisations; mainly Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  Seven civilians – including children – were killed when they elected to act as human shields at a house in Khan Yunis.

“Also among the dead Tuesday were seven people, including three teens, who were killed in an airstrike on the three-story cinder-block house of a Hamas operative in the teeming city of Khan Younis, Hamas officials said. The operative was apparently not among the casualties.

One of the occupants of the house, Sawsan Kawarea, said she received a call from someone who identified himself as “David” from the Israeli military — apparently one of the warnings Israel says it issues to prevent civilian deaths.

“He asked for me by name. He said: ‘You have women and children in the house. Get out. You have five minutes before the rockets come,’ ” Kawarea said in an interview outside the crumbled building.

She ran outside with her children, she said. A first small missile struck the house — what Gazans call an Israeli “warning rocket.” After that strike, a crowd of young men ran into the house and up to the roof, thinking they would either protect the house from another strike or die defying the Israeli bombardment.”

Listeners to the ‘Today’ programme, however, were not informed of the complexities of the situation or of Hamas’ calls to the civilian population of the Gaza Strip to ignore Israeli warnings aimed at reducing casualties. Neither were they given any context on the topic of how Israel’s record on civilian casualties compares with that of other Western armies. Instead, Humphrys chose to promote the simplistic and misleading sound-bite ‘Israel kills women and children’.

Although much of the interview was devoted to the subject of a possible ground operation (termed by Humphrys repeatedly as an “invasion”), it was not clarified to listeners that it is the fact that terrorist organisations store weapons and missiles underground in residential area which makes such a ground operation necessary. Humphrys did however promote his own personal – and jaw-droppingly irrelevant – proposals as to how to stop a plethora of terror organisations in the Gaza Strip from indiscriminately firing military grade missiles at Israel’s civilian population.

“But you know as well as everybody else that in the end you’ve got to talk and you’ve got to talk seriously and you have to make concessions – for instance stop building settlements – as a beginning.”

As Ambassador Taub pointed out, Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip nine years ago and what the BBC terms ‘occupied territories’ are not the issue as far as Hamas is concerned. Nevertheless, we see a senior and experienced BBC presenter electing to promote the misleading and simplistic smoke-screen of “settlements” rather than clarifying to audiences the real background to and reasons for Hamas terrorism against Israeli civilians.

Whilst audiences learned little about the actual topic to which this interview ostensibly relates, those with existing knowledge of the issue did gain insight into the irrelevance of the BBC’s grasp of what lies behind the conflict between Israel and Hamas. 

 

 

 

BBC’s Bowen builds framing on Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme

Last week we noted an item which appeared in the July 3rd edition of BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme and one of several additional items of interest from the same broadcast was a conversation between presenter John Humphrys and the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen which is available at around 1:09:12 here for a limited period of time.Today 3 7

Given that Bowen is the ‘gatekeeper’ of the BBC’s Middle East reporting, it is useful to note the nature of the opinions and beliefs he holds which, in turn, shape the BBC ‘world view’ promoted to millions of viewers, listeners and readers around the world.

John Humphrys: “Tensions between Palestinians and Israelis are dangerously high. Earlier in the week the bodies of three Israeli teenagers were found in the West Bank. The Israelis say they were murdered by Hamas. Yesterday a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and murdered and the Palestinians blame Israel. I’ve been talking to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen about the wider implications of this latest outbreak of violence between the two sides.”

Jeremy Bowen: “First of all, I’m talking to you sitting in Baghdad and you look across the region and the region is boiling and in the last few years one of the relatively quieter areas has been the front between Israelis and Palestinians, but I think that while it’s been a bit out of the headlines, all the old issues have been there and I think it’s also not immune to the kinds of anger that you can see elsewhere in the region. So right around the area you see all this trouble and I’m not surprised that things have started to come to a head again between the Israelis and the Palestinians as well.”

If readers can get past the risible notion that Israel has been “out of the headlines” at any time as far as the BBC is concerned, they will note that Bowen’s ‘one size fits all’ description of the Middle East of course erases from audience view the issue of the Sunni-Shia dispute which currently fuels so much of the conflict in the region, but does not have a role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

JH: “The Jerusalem Post is writing this morning about the murder of the teenagers obviously and it says this: ‘it’s another reminder that swathes of Palestinian society continue to be irreconcilably committed to Israel’s destruction’. Is it the case that it’s not just terrorist organisations such as Hamas that are bent on Israel’s destruction, but the Palestinian people generally are irreconcilably opposed to the existence of Israel?”

JB: “No, I don’t think that’s the case. I think the vast majority of Palestinians are absolutely reconciled to the existence of Israel. What they’re not reconciled to is the continuing occupation of land taken in 1967, the growth of settlements. You know you’ve heard all this many times before and 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.”

Those who saw the two filmed reports produced by James Reynolds on July 4th – the day after this programme was broadcast – will note the remarkable similarity of messaging and promotion of the inaccurate notion of a ‘two-tier’ justice system.  Bowen continues:

“And of course there are some who would like to eliminate the Israeli state – I’ve spoken to them – but the vast majority I think are prepared to live alongside it as an equal.”

So let’s take a look at what the Palestinians themselves said in a poll commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy which was published a week before Bowen made the above statements.

WINEP 1

As we see above, the majority of Palestinians (60.3%) think that their goal over the next five years is “reclaiming all of historic Palestine from the river [Jordan] to the sea [Mediterranean]“. That of course means the elimination of Israel. A further 10.1% favour a “one-state solution” – which also means the elimination of Israel as the Jewish state. Only 27.3% favour making a two-state solution their goal and only 27.2 – 31.6% see a two-state solution as final, with the majority regarding it as a ‘stepping stone’ towards future elimination of Israel.

WINEP 2

Jeremy Bowen’s received wisdom apparently does not ‘do’ updates.

Humphrys then asks:

“Living alongside people is one thing. Are there any other forces beyond Hamas who would weigh into this now; would take advantage or are likely to take advantage of this situation and spread the terror threat wider? Because it’s not that long ago, is it, that we in this country were terrified of Palestinian terrorism because it was beginning to affect us directly?”

Airbrushing from audience view the PA-instigated second Intifada and the fact that in the last PLC elections “mainstream” Palestinian political parties failed to beat Hamas, Bowen replies:

“Yes, certainly back in the 70s people were very concerned about that but the mainstream Palestinians have been engaged in various kinds of attempts at peace processes for more than twenty years now. Hamas themselves have talked about a long-term truce. While not recognizing Israel’s existence – and also saying it should go – they’ve also talked about a long-term truce. One thing that is interesting is that in recent years the Palestinians have not been swept up in the Jihadist current in the way that other Arabs have. Perhaps that will change – who knows.”

Whether or not Bowen really does not understand the tactical basis of and motivation for the often-touted proposal of a Hudna – or “truce” – is unclear, but he is certainly not going out of his way to inform listeners of the real significance and meaning of that proposal.

Likewise, Bowen’s airbrushing of the rising number and influence of Salafist Jihadist groups is distinctly odd considering that, whilst its reporting on the topic is by no means comprehensive (see here and here for example), other BBC reporters have written about the emergence of such groups both in the PA controlled regions of Judea & Samaria and in the Gaza Strip.  

Particularly in light of the template BBC reporting on the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers which included across the board eradication of any mention of Palestinian public and official celebration of the deed, it is notable that Bowen elects to end his item as follows:

“I think as well you’ve got to look at the calls for vengeance coming from the other side. Senior Israelis have called rabbis and so on to tone it down because it is heating people up after the huge anger of course following the death of those three teenagers. The head for example of Bnei Akiva, which is the largest religious Zionist youth movement, called for vengeance and that’s been criticized by Israelis. So the fact is that there are hot-heads on both sides and there are people who aren’t reconciled to the other side on both sides and that’s one of the factors that makes it an incendiary and difficult situation. And certainly if you talk to Palestinians, many of them speak about a third Intifada – a third uprising – and I have spoken to Palestinians who believe only in non-violent resistance who’ve said to me it’s only a matter of time before it happens and if it happens, it’ll come because it’ll be sparked by something. Now I don’t know if this’ll be the case on this particular occasion but what we’re seeing I think is a very good barometer – an indication – of the tension that’s there, actually on both sides as well.”

Radio 4 listeners are unlikely to be informed that – despite his later apologies – the head of Bnei Akiva is unlikely to remain in his position as a consequence of his remarks, with an emergency meeting on the issue already scheduled.

Notable too is Bowen’s promotion of the notion that a third Intifada will be “sparked by something”. As readers well know, it has been consistent BBC policy to inaccurately claim that the second Intifada was “sparked” by Ariel Sharon’s visit to Temple Mount in September 2000 and to deny the preplanned nature of that event, despite the ample documentation available.

It is therefore worth noting the manner in which the currently ongoing rioting in Jerusalem, the Triangle area, northern Israel and elsewhere is being portrayed by the BBC as ‘protests’ and ‘demonstrations’ caused by a spontaneous outburst of apparently irresistible anger after the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir last week.

That, of course, is far from the entire picture but as we see from this interview with Jeremy Bowen, the framing is already being put in place. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme broadcasts 3 minute anti-Israel diatribe

Many readers have written in over the last few days in order to bring our attention to items of BBC content on a range of platforms and we would like to thank all those who took the time to help out, especially during such an intense period.

One item which was the subject of several e-mails was a report by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell broadcast on BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme on July 3rd, along with several other items pertaining to the rioting in Jerusalem and the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir. We will address other aspects of that programme in a future post, but Knell’s item is of particular interest because in addition to being broadcast on BBC Radio 4′s flagship news and current affairs programme, it has also been vigorously promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, appearing under the inflammatory and of course inaccurate title “Cousins of Palestinian teenager: Police ‘protecting killers’“, so far for three consecutive days.

Cousins on HP 3 7

 

 

Cousins on HP

 

Cousins on HP 5 7

In the ‘Today’ broadcast, the item was introduced by Yolande Knell with the following words:

“Now when I was in the area late yesterday covering the clashes, I met two of Muhammed Abu Khdeir’s cousins – Dima and Sumoud Abu Khdeir and I asked them for their response to what happened.”

Following Knell’s audio report, during which she does not intervene at all (transcript below), presenter John Humphrys made do with the following comment:

“Well those were a couple of cousins of that teenager who was kidnapped and murdered yesterday talking to Yolande Knell…”

In other words, no effort was made either by Knell or Humphrys  - either before, during or after the interview – to provide listeners with any kind of balance or perspective which would enable them to put the three minutes of undiluted defamation and propaganda they were about to hear or had just heard into its appropriate context.

To clarify: what the cousin terms “settlements” are neighbourhoods of Jerusalem.

Cousin A: “They took him at 3:30 in the morning while he was waiting for prayer. They took him, they killed him and they burned him. In the morning we woke up to police guarding the settlements. No man woke up thinking let we go run to the settlements and let’s attack these settlements. No: they already have it in their mind that they were gonna protect these settlements. Before it was even confirmed that it was him, they were already protecting these settlements and these people that took our cousin, killed him. They’re protecting them – the murderers.”

The accusation that the Israeli security forces are “protecting” the perpetrators of the crime is of course a very serious one indeed. It is also one for which there is absolutely no factual basis and at this stage of the ongoing investigation, the police have not yet named, apprehended or charged anyone in connection with the crime. One must therefore question the BBC’s extensive and unchallenged amplification of such a serious defamation.  The cousin continues:Knell cousins

“What does that tell you about the laws?  The laws they don’t care about us. They don’t care about Palestinians. We’re second class citizens. We’re not considered citizens. We’re garbage. They killed us: one down, five million to go, right? Less than five million. Every day there’s a martyr and they go and protect their settlements. So yeah, we’re mad, we’re upset, we’re throwing rocks. That’s all we can do is throw rocks. That’s our reaction; we’re upset.”

Of course all residents of Shuafat and other Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem are entitled to apply for Israeli citizenship and the laws of the land apply equally in all regions. The interview continues with the second cousin denying Palestinian involvement in the murders of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-ad Sha’ar and the promotion of a conspiracy theory.

Cousin B: “Five thousand prisoners. Palestinian prisoners in their jails and three of them we didn’t kill them and we all know that it’s a play from Netanyahu to kill all these kids. Your aim is kids? Kids?”

Cousin A: “Yeah. A kid was almost kidnapped – a child from his mother was almost kidnapped two days ago in front of my uncle’s store. Thank God our community is strong enough to protect this woman and her child. Unfortunately it was 3:30 in the morning when this kid got kidnapped in front of the mosque. No-one saw them. There was a few people that saw them but they got away before they could help ‘cos it was 3:30 in the morning. And they know it’s Ramadan. They know it’s Ramadan. They took him during Ramadan.”

Cousin B: “What would a kid do to you? He’s a kid. Seventeen years old. What he can do to you? To all your weapons, your sick things. Your sick settlements. There are settlers they are just killing us. Living in our land and killing us. That’s sick.”

Cousin A: “Stolen property and stolen children. Stolen. Now they’re stealing our kids and killing them. Our kids; not adults. Not people that are – hey, I’m pro-Palestinian, I wanna – no: children that haven’t even passed the [unintelligible]. Let them get into college. Let them live life a minute before you go kidnap and kill them. No-one cares. Who’s….the media doesn’t….I mean obviously you’re talking to me; you’re part of the media, but there’s something crazy going on. But for the most part no-one talks about the Palestinian situation, the Palestinian case. It’s quieted, it’s shushed because most people support the Israeli government. No-one cares if six people are missing, ten people die, two kids are kidnapped, ten women are killed. No-one cares about Palestinians.”

Cousin B: “We’re nothing, we’re nothing, we’re nothing.”

There is nothing in this uninterrupted three-minute diatribe which could possibly contribute to the enhancement of BBC audiences’ knowledge and understanding of the facts behind the event to which it supposedly relates – quite the opposite, in fact.  And yet, an editorial decision was made not only to broadcast the item on Radio 4, but also to further amplify it on the BBC News website. 

BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme continues template coverage of teens’ abduction

The June 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item concerning the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers on June 12th which again adheres to the editorial template currently in use by the BBC to frame coverage of that topic.

Presented by James Naughtie, the item can be heard from 02:37:14 here for a limited period of time.Today prog 24 6

That editorial template is composed of:

  • Ambiguous presentation of the kidnappings and lack of presentation of the context of dozens of previous attempts and plots to kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians.
  • Eradication of any mention of both public and official Palestinian praise for the kidnappings.
  • Patchy mention of concurrent missile attacks from the Gaza Strip solely in the framework of reporting on Israeli responses to those attacks.
  • Eradication of any mention of caches of weapons and explosives discovered during the search.
  • Emphasis on the notion of the search as ‘punishment’ of the Palestinians.
  • Portrayal of the search for the teenagers as escalating tensions, rather than the kidnapping itself.
  • Implication that the search for the kidnap victims will bring about the collapse of the PUG, rather than the kidnappings’ perpetration by a party to the Palestinian unity deal.

James Naughtie introduces the item – which conforms to all of the above points – as follows: [all emphasis in bold added]

“The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has given his support to people who’re trying to establish the whereabouts of three Israeli teenagers who’ve been missing for three days after apparently – for several days actually; there are three of them – after apparently being kidnapped. The incident’s caused great tension on the West Bank. The Israeli armed forces say they have detained 361 people since the students went missing on June the twelfth. The mother of one of them, Rachel Frenkel, is in Geneva. She’s appealing for international support in her efforts to find her son and his friends. A few minutes ago I spoke to her and she recalled what happened to them.”

Rachel Frenkel: “They were on their way back from school and that was already twelve days ago. My son texted me; he’s on his way home. And then they never showed up. Over the night we discovered that this is…that they’re missing, that this is serious and ever since, everybody’s trying to find them.”

JN: “What do you believe happened to them?”

RF: “They were obviously kidnapped. The government thinks it’s done by Hamas. And we’re waiting for any sign of life, any….We had no contact with them whatsoever.”

JN: “And you want people to rally round, really, to try to help the search for these three teenagers and perhaps to put pressure on those who may have taken them.”

RF: “Yeah well, this is not a political issue at all; this is on the humanitarian level. They are three kids; three boys on their way home from school. Their parents are waiting for them; their siblings are waiting for them. We have no idea where they are and we just want anybody who has anything to do with….in any way… that they can help. We came here to Geneva to try to speak to officials and to speak in the assembly of human rights. We could use any help we can…”

Notably, Naughtie makes no mention of the abundant examples of Palestinian public and official praise for the kidnappings on the streets or in both social and mainstream media before he goes on to say:

JN: “Now, clearly there will be people…ahm…on both sides of the divide, in a divided country, who will share your horror on this…ahm…including Palestinians.”

RF: “Surely. We got many supporting messages from Palestinians – they’re horrified by this story. Abu Mazen himself condemned it. This is not a political issue: children should be kept out of this game. There’s no reason to use children as tools in any struggle. 

Rachel Frenkel speaking at the UN in Geneva, June 24th

Rachel Frenkel speaking at the UN in Geneva, June 24th

JN: “You believe they were kidnapped by Hamas. Has that organisation said anything about this case?”

RF: “No they haven’t.”

JN: “They’ve said nothing?”

RF: “No.”

In fact, James Naughtie should have been able to tell Rachel Frenkel that whilst she was travelling to Geneva on the evening before this interview, Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al was doing an interview of his own with Al Jazeera, in which he said of the kidnappings:

““No one claimed responsibility so far. I can neither confirm [Hamas's responsibility] nor deny it,” Mashaal said, quickly adding that the circumstances of the kidnapping were more important than the perpetrators.

“Blessed be the hands that captured them,” Mashaal said. “This is a Palestinian duty, the responsibility of the Palestinian people. Our prisoners must be freed; not Hamas’s prisoners — the prisoners of the Palestinian people.””

That statement joins others made by Hamas officials, including the one made on June 19th by Salah Bardawil in which he stated that “the Palestinian resistance” had carried out the kidnappings. Naughtie goes on:

JN: “Whereas Mr Abbas – Abu Mazen as you call him – has said something.”

RF: “Yes, sure; he condemned it.”

JN: “Ahm…what is your hope now?”

RF: “Well we have every reason to believe they’re alive. This definitely looks like a kidnapping; an abduction that was meant to keep them alive. And we have no counter-indication that anything happened to them. So they’re just being hidden and kept and not… You know; just the time that the kidnappers are waiting is just…it’s just excruciating suffering. We just hope to get them back – sound and safe and healthy – and our problem should just be getting them back in life.”

JN: “Rachel Frankel: the mother of one of those teenagers apparently kidnapped on June the twelfth.”

Notably, throughout that entire interview, Naughtie never asks Rachel Frenkel her son’s name or any other personal details about her, her family or the other abducted youths. He goes on to inform listeners that it is the search efforts which are causing “tension” – not the kidnappings themselves – and fails to inform listeners that the vast majority of the “people” arrested are members of Hamas.

“We can go to our correspondent Yolande Knell. I mentioned, Yolande, in introducing Rachel Frenkel there, the tension on the West Bank – there is always tension – but this episode has really been something that has ratcheted it up. I mean I mentioned that the Israeli armed forces say that they have detained 361 people in the last few days.”

Knell responds by throwing in a gratuitous mention of “Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank” and once again uses her pet “sworn enemy” phrase which steers audiences towards a mistaken view of Israel’s operations against Hamas as motivated by emotion – rather than by the legal obligation to defend its citizens from terrorist activity, as in fact the case.

Yolande Knell: “That’s right and overnight this huge military operation continued the search for the missing teenagers. It’s now in its twelfth day. They were studying at Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank when they went missing. Ahm…now, the Israeli military has made clear that its operation has two objectives. First; to find these three Israelis but second; to also target the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas – its sworn enemy – in the West Bank. Hamas hasn’t said it was behind the teenagers’ disappearance but the Israeli prime minister has said there’s unequivocal proof that it’s responsible.”

She then goes on to promote once again the falsehood of “punishment” of the Palestinians.

“And really there’s a lot of resentment on the Palestinian side. Palestinians say that the search goes beyond just finding the missing teenagers or even targeting Hamas: that all kinds of offices and businesses have been raided that have no Hamas connection. More than one and a half thousand premises have been searched and it’s putting a lot of political pressure on the Palestinians. We’ve also seen four Palestinians killed in the past week by Israeli soldiers as there have been clashes as they’ve gone about their raids.”

Naughtie then interjects, adding his shoulder to the promotion of the notion of Israeli actions as the cause of tensions, rather than the kidnappings themselves, and in contrast, notably neither he nor Knell appear to have any interest in informing listeners about the current mood on the Israeli street. Notably too, Naughtie fails to inform audiences that the kidnappings themselves are an act of political violence.

The mothers of Naftali, Gil-ad and Eyal, Geneva, June 24th

The mothers of Naftali, Gil-ad and Eyal, Geneva, June 24th

JN: “It’s interesting because Rachel Frenkel said several times in the course of my conversation with her about half an hour ago that she did not regard this as a political issue; she doesn’t want it to turn into a political issue, but the truth of it is that in the circumstances that pertain there, it’s bound to become that and the minute the Israeli military crank up their operations as you’ve just described, naturally on the Palestinian side there is outrage – even among some people who might feel passionately that these young people should be found and brought safely home.”

YK: “Yes, that’s right. I mean there are huge political implications for all of this. It’s putting a lot of pressure on the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He has condemned what he called the kidnapping of the teenagers and he said that his security forces were cooperating with the search for them. He’s since criticised what he’s described as Israeli aggression, but really you can see that he’s lost a lot of support over his stance on all of this. There have even been protests by Palestinians against the Palestinian security forces because of the security coordination – that’s been quite an unusual development.

And all of this is threatening to break the new Palestinian unity government. It’s only just been set up as part of the reconciliation deal between Mr Abbas’ secular Fatah movement and Hamas: the two main Palestinian factions. This government’s made up of technocrats and it’s supposed to pave the way for new elections. Israel’s opposed it from the start because it sees Hamas as a terrorist group and that now…this new government….it’s very unclear whether it will really be able to get to work.”

As has been the case in all BBC coverage of the Palestinian unity government, Knell fails to inform audiences of its obligation under the terms of existing agreements to take action against just such instances of terrorist acts, instead promoting the notion that it will be Israel’s fault if the PUG collapses. She also neglects yet again to accurately define Hamas’ terrorist designation or to inform audiences of inflammatory (if not downright delusional) statements made by that “technocrat” government’s foreign minister – a man with prior links to the PFLP.

“Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki claimed on Sunday that Israel may have staged the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers 10 days ago to deflect international criticism from it, arguing that the Jewish state had no proof that Hamas was behind the abduction.”

Clearly this across the board template reporting of the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-ad Sha’ar is shaped by a particular political viewpoint which erases uncomfortable facts and distorts others. It is certainly doing nothing to enable the BBC to fulfil its purpose of building “a global understanding of international issues”. 

 

 

 

BBC’s Evan Davis promotes notion that search for kidnapped teens is ‘collective punishment’

Listeners to the June 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme (available here for a limited period of time) heard the following during the news bulletin two hours into the programme.Today 16 6

“Reports from the West Bank say Israeli soldiers searching for three teenagers who haven’t been seen since Thursday, have shot dead a Palestinian man near the city of Ramallah. Palestinian medical officials say he was killed during clashes that started after soldiers conducted house to house searches in a refugee camp.”

Of course when that announcement was broadcast – around 08:00 GMT – that report had not been confirmed. 

Later on in the programme, from around 02:36:08 in the recording above, listeners heard presenter and Wikipedia fan Evan Davis introduce an item ostensibly on the subject of the kidnappings of the three Israeli teenagers. As readers will soon see, that item rapidly became a platform for political campaigning, both by his first guest and by Davis himself, with his adoption and use of the language and narrative used by anti-Israel campaigners quickly dispelling any impression of that famed BBC ‘impartiality’.

Evan Davis: “Three Israeli teenagers are missing. The three are students at a seminary on the occupied West Bank and they were taken while hitch-hiking on Thursday night. Israel blames Hamas and in searching for the three, Israeli troops did kill a Palestinian youth overnight.”

Again, Davis repeats an unconfirmed report and gives no context regarding what the “youth” was doing at the time. He continues:

“With me in the studio is the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, but first let’s talk to Dr Mustafa Barghouti who’s an independent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and joins us on the phone. Good morning.”

So, in an item supposedly about three kidnapped Israeli citizens, the BBC elects to open not by providing listeners with factual information about the incident or how it is affecting the families of the missing boys or Israel as a whole, but by giving a platform to one of its favorite serial Palestinian propagandists.

Mustafa Barghouti: “Good morning.”

ED: “Do you have a suspicion as to where these teenagers are or who would have taken them?”

MB: “Well there is no…nobody has any idea about where they are but I think Mr Netanyahu’s government is jeopardizing the lives of these young people by putting them in illegal settlements inside the West Bank. And the whole situation is very explosive because of the fact that 260 Palestinian prisoners who are detained without charges by Israel for…some of them for more than two years, are now on hunger strike for over 50 days and some of them might die at any moment. Eh…if Israel did release these prisoners and had a way to solve the fact that five thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails could be released, I think we would have avoided all these problems.”

Failing to meet BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy by neglecting to clarify to listeners that Barghouti’s statement omits any mention of the terror offences of which the prisoners he promotes were convicted, Davis goes on.

ED: “Right. So listening to you, sorry, Dr Barghouti.  Listening to you I would – if I knew nothing about this case – would assume that someone on the Palestinian side had abducted these..err…youngsters as a political – an act – a political act of some kind. Because you’ve mentioned the settlements – the illegal settlements – you’ve mentioned the desire to release prisoners; that would suggest…I mean anyone thinking like you…that you’d take the teenagers, maybe as a bargaining chip or you’d take the teenagers as some kind of revenge.”

Note that Davis fails to meet BBC guidelines on impartiality by presenting audiences with the notion of “illegal settlements” without any accompanying clarification of the fact that there exist many differing views of that topic.

MB: “It could be the case that some Palestinian…it could be the case – nobody has the proof of course – but it could be the case that some Palestinians decided that the only way to release the prisoners whose life is at stake is to have Israeli prisoners as well…”

ED: “Mmm…”

MB: “…like has happened with Gilad Shalit before, after which Israel had to release the one thousand prisoners who were in jail for more than 30 years or 25 years.”

Again, Davis makes no attempt to clarify to listeners that those released under the terms of the Shalit deal were convicted terrorists.

MB: “So, but the original root of the problem is the fact that Israel is maintaining illegal occupation…”

Davis interrupts with another display of deliberate and active breach of editorial guidelines on impartiality:

ED: “Illegal settlements.”

MB: “..for 47 years and this occupation has transformed into a system of apartheid and discrimination…”

ED: “Doctor…”

MB: “….and the solution to this problem is not by conducting what Israel does now which are acts of collective punishment against the whole people including killing people as happened this morning in Ramallah.”

Not only does Davis fail to challenge Barghouti’s use of the defamatory and inaccurate ‘apartheid’ trope or his ridiculous promotion of the notion of “collective punishment” to describe an ever increasingly urgent search and rescue operation but – as readers will soon see – he adopts and promotes the latter propaganda himself.

ED: “Ah, Dr Barghouti; thank you for that and maybe wait on the line and listen to Daniel Taub the Israeli Ambassador. Good morning to you.”

Daniel Taub: “Good morning.”

ED: “And I know you weren’t willing to discuss with Dr Barghouti in this case. Has Israel any evidence that Hamas is actually the guilty party in this case?”

DT: “The answer is yes. Obviously I can’t share intelligence with you, but we can point to a number of things. The fact is, since the beginning of 2013 we’ve had tragically over 64….64 attempts to kidnap Israelis and we know that the majority of those were actually orchestrated by Hamas. We have Hamas leaders who have been calling for an increase in attempts – not just general terrorist attacks – but attempts to kidnap Israelis. And of course we have the Hamas leadership which still today is calling the people that perpetrated this atrocity as heroes.”

ED: “If you know it’s Hamas, and you appear to – in your own mind – be clear about that, why would you be arresting people or going into the West Bank and taking people, searching places, that are not related to Hamas – which is certainly the accusation the other side is making.”

DT: “What we’re doing at the moment is what I think any government in this situation would be doing. We are detaining for questioning anybody that may have any intelligence that can help us identify the whereabouts of these three teenagers.”

ED: “Including non-Hamas people?”

DT: “We are detaining the people that we think may have any intelligence.”

ED: “Right, but if you know it’s Hamas, why would you be detaining non-Hamas people?”

DT: “You know I’m not going to go into the details of intelligence gathering operations. As the British intelligence services know, those are complicated.”

ED: “Right, but…”

DT: “Our only goal is to bring these three boys home.”

ED: “What you do get into though is the notion of collective punishment for a whole community for the sins of maybe a few people within that community…”

DT: “I don’t think…it’s not a question of collective punishment but there is a question of collective responsibility. The fact is we have a leadership here in the Palestinian Authority which has engaged in a national unity government with Hamas. You know, they assured us, they assured the international community that in fact that Hamas would become more moderate, would sign up to the international principles of the Quartet, would renounce violence; that we would see Gaza becoming more like the West Bank, and tragically what we’re seeing is actually the West Bank becoming more like Gaza. And if President Abbas wants to be the president of a unity government the first thing that he has to do is ensure that he has a monopoly on the use of force; that he exercises responsibility over all parts of his government; dismantles Hamas and exercises authority over Gaza as well.

Once more breaching BBC guidelines on impartiality, Davis then also suggests to audiences that the blame for the kidnapping of the three teenagers lies with Israel.

Found in Nablus area, 16/6/14

Found in Nablus area, 16/6/14

ED: “Do you think your approach is working? Illegally settling those areas and having young people wandering around them. Is that working for Israeli security?

DT: “Ahm…the youngsters that we’re talking about were people that were born in this situation. These are not youngsters that you can blame for having moved somewhere. Obviously, the solution that we would like to see is a peaceful negotiation…”

ED: “You’re not denying though…it would generally have been regarded as Palestinian territory until the Israelis…”

DT: “I tell you I don’t accept that that has anything to do with this case because we know that Hamas makes no distinction. Think about it: since the beginning of this year we’ve had from Gaza over two hundred missiles fired on towns and villages inside Israel. Just yesterday we has two more…two more missiles found…people who are not living over the green line, but living in Ashkelon.”

Davis then takes it upon himself to act as telepathic pollster of the Palestinian people and yet again finds a way of promoting the notion that Israel is to blame for terror attacks against its citizens.pic Avi M

ED: “Hamas may not make the distinction that you draw between the occupied and the unoccupied territories, but the rest of the Palestinian community may make that distinction and the ability of Hamas to operate in the way that you say it is operating may have been enhanced by the fact that you’re occupying what would generally have been regarded as Palestinian…”

DT: “I have to say that if you look at the experience of recent years, what Dr Barghouti is advocating doesn’t make sense to most Israelis. We have today 170,000 missiles that are directed at Israel and the vast majority – almost all of those – are located in areas that Israel has pulled out of, whether it’s in South Lebanon or the Gaza Strip. The notion that pulling out of these areas without a responsible authority that is going to take control, do what any responsible government would do, is not an intelligent move. It’s unfortunately much closer to suicide.”

The item ends at that point, with Radio 4 audiences none the wiser about how the kidnappings took place, who the kidnapped boys and their families are, how the incident is being dealt with at an operative level or what is the reaction of the Israeli public. Neither, of course, are listeners told anything about the celebratory reactions on the Palestinian street and the inflammatory statements made by Hamas and Fatah officials – as has indeed been the case in all BBC coverage of this incident so far.

As three families endure a tortuous wait for news of their loved ones and an entire nation stands anxiously between hope and fear, Davis’ politically motivated attempts to place the blame for their abduction upon Israel and frame search efforts as “collective punishment” are frankly obnoxious. The BBC has no editorial guidelines concerning its presenters’ good taste and social skills, but it does have guidelines on accuracy and impartiality which Evan Davis, in his rush to amplify his own chosen political narrative, tramples just as much as he does plain old common decency. 

Related Articles:

Don’t mention the baklava: BBC reports on kidnapping of Israeli teens

Still no BBC reporting on Palestinian celebrations of kidnappings

 

Desert Island distortions on BBC Radio 4

The June 15th edition of BBC Radio 4′s ‘Desert Island Discs’, presented by Kirsty Young, featured Raja Shehadeh in the guest seat. The programme can be heard here.

Desert Island Discs

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the programme is its across the board erasure of Palestinian and Arab violence over the decades, but other parts of the context-free political narrative it promotes and amplifies are also notable.

After the introduction, in which she mentions Shehadeh’s role as co-founder of Al Haq but fails to inform listeners of that organisation’s political agenda, its use of ‘lawfare’ and its support for BDS, Kirsty Young says:

“You have chosen to stay living in Ramallah. You’ve written a lot – very successfully – about the changing landscape around you. What does it look like now?”

Raja Shehadeh: “The way it looks now is rather sad because many of the lovely hills have been destroyed by settlements and also expansion of Ramallah into the hills, but mainly the settlements which are literally on every hilltop.” [emphasis added]

A quick look at the map is sufficient to be able to appreciate the lack of accuracy in Shehadeh’s statement – or perhaps his misunderstanding of the word ‘literally’.

Map Ramallah

He goes on:

“And it has caused me a lot of pain to see this change, but I don’t want to sound heroic for living in Ramallah and under occupation….”

Under the terms of the Oslo Accords Ramallah – which is of course in Area A – was passed over to full Palestinian Authority control in 1995. In other words, Shehadeh has lived under Palestinian rule – rather than ‘occupation’ – for nineteen years already.

Explaining his first musical choice, Shehadeh tells his host:

“…we used to go to the Dead Sea [...] this was before the occupation of course […] the Dead Sea was not a border as it is now between Israel and the West Bank and Jordan…”

Conveniently, Mr Shehadeh neglects to mention that at the time of his childhood trips to the Dead Sea it, along with the rest of the area, was under a Jordanian occupation unrecognized by the international community. His host of course refrains from clarifying that point to listeners too.

Later on, Shehadeh opts for the ‘Israel denial’ option.

KY: “So tell me Raja Shehadeh a little bit about the importance and meaning of land; and I’m talking here not just about negotiations over pieces of land and incursions and so on; I’m talking about the land around you – the land you walk in…”

RS: “Well first of all the land in Palestine in general is a very attractive land…..We have in essence one of everything. One real mountain – which is in Syria actually – one major river and one lake – Lake Tiberias. I’m talking of historic Palestine…” […]

“But more recently, because of the colonization essentially of these hills by the settlers who claim a greater love for the land and are in the process of destroying it by cutting through the hills with roads, putting settlements where the land should not be disturbed really…”

Shehadeh goes on to complain that Israeli counter-terrorism and security measures (made necessary of course by the terrorism neither he nor his host mention throughout) disturb his country walks.

RS: “More recently it’s become better to walk in larger groups because of the possible unfortunate encounters that you can have.”

KY: “These are military encounters?”

RS: “Military encounters – yeah. […] Well, it destroys the poetry of the thing.”

Later, Shehadeh gives his version of the story of his family’s decision to leave Jaffa for their second home in Ramallah.

RS; “Jaffa it’s very hot and humid in the summer and so they had a summer-house in Ramallah. When hostilities began they decided it’s safer in Ramallah because it was getting rather dangerous actually – physically dangerous – so they decided, towards the end of April, to take that short drive down to Ramallah – short drive from Jaffa – and my father always thought that if the worst happens – that is the partition – Jaffa was going to be on the Arab side so they will always be able to go back. And they took very few things with them and they were never able to go back.”

Beyond the fact that by late April 1948 a full five months had passed since the Arabs rejected the partition plan, Shehadeh’s euphemistic description of “hostilities” of course conceals from audiences the Arab violence which both preceded and followed the UN’s recommendation of partition in November 29th 1947. Kirsty Young further muddies the waters by then coming up with the following bizarre and inaccurate statement:

KY: “Because of course this was a displacement that led up to the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948. They were never allowed to go back.” [emphasis added]

The declaration of the State of Israel a couple of weeks after the Shehadeh family decided to travel to their summer home in Ramallah of course had nothing whatsoever to do with the “displacement” of those who decided to leave their homes. 

Young’s subsequent cameo of the Six Day War is no more accurate.

RS: “…just before ’67 things started heating up because there was feeling that war was imminent…”

KY: “We should just remind people, of course; it was the Six Day War that took place in 1967. Jordan lost control of Ramallah, which was then occupied by Israel.”

No context is given regarding the attack on Israel by surrounding Arab states and particularly Jordan’s decision to enter that war despite the Israeli request not to do so.

Shehadeh then goes on to describe his father’s post-war plan for what he describes as a “two state solution”.

RS: “He became very active politically. He managed to get quite a good number of people from all around the West Bank and Gaza who, together with him, submitted and were ready to do this but the Israeli government was uninterested.”

No mention is made of the Arab League’s Khartoum Declaration in response to Israeli offers  of peace immediately after the war.

Shehadeh later whitewashes terrorism by implying incorrectly that it began after – and because of – the war in 1967 (the PLO was of course formed three years before any ‘occupation’ existed).

RS: “However, what was happening to most people was that they were dealing with the indignity of defeat by having thoughts of resistance and a lot of armed resistance….”

Two further instances of whitewashing of Palestinian violence come towards the end of the programme.

RS: “In 2002 there was another invasion of Ramallah by the Israeli army and we were stuck at home for months….”

The missing context is of course the PA-initiated second Intifada and specifically the Park Hotel massacre which led to Operation Defensive Shield.

KY: “You got married in 1988 in what you call an Intifada wedding.”

RS: “We enjoyed our wedding, which was a simple wedding. Everything was complicated; there were curfews.”

Again – the context of Palestinian violence and the first Intifada is erased from the picture.

Whether or not Kirsty Young and her producers actually intended this programme to be an exercise in the Sunday morning promotion and amplification of Raja Shehadeh’s well-worn context-free politically motivated narrative, it certainly turned out that way. So much for editorial standards on accuracy and impartiality. 

Related Articles:

‘Comment is Free’ contributor claims 1967 Six Day War was act of Israeli aggression

Guardian interviewee casually suggests Israel is attempting to ethnically cleanse Palestinians

The Guardian, PalFest and the ‘culture’ of anti-Israel activism

 

 

A ‘peace wall’, a ‘separation barrier’ and a question for the BBC

h/t DL

A particularly dominant theme running through BBC coverage before and during the Pope’s recent visit to the Middle East was that of the anti-terrorist fence or, per the BBC’s “acceptable generic descriptions”, the barrier, separation barrier or West Bank barrier. We have previously addressed the BBC’s far from impartial approach to that topic on these pages, noting the following factors which form the backbone of the presentation of the issue to BBC audiences.

1) The BBC’s frequent description of the anti-terrorist fence as “controversial”.

2) The BBC’s misrepresentation of the anti-terrorist fence as a structure designed to “separate” two areas, its focus on the inconveniences caused to the Palestinian population and its failure to accurately inform audiences regarding the years of terrorism which were the background to its construction.

3) The uniform presentation of the fence’s purpose in terms of “Israel says the barrier is a security measure” and the failure to provide BBC audiences with the readily available factual evidence of the fence’s effectiveness in preventing terror.

4) The equally uniform amplification of the evidence-free narrative according to which “Palestinians call it a land grab”.

5) The misrepresentation of the physical nature of the structure; for example – “the concrete barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank”.  

6) The BBC’s refusal (ostensibly “in order to avoid political connotations“) to call the structure a security fence.

Of course Israel is far from the only country in the world to have built such a structure in order to safeguard its civilians and one example lies right on the BBC’s doorstep. Over fifteen years have passed since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and yet some 48 peace walls – the first ones having been constructed in 1969 – still stand in Northern Ireland.

The BBC’s Ireland correspondent Chris Buckler recently produced a very interesting and informative programme titled “Northern Ireland: A Bitter Legacy” which was broadcast on BBC Radio Four’s ‘File on 4′ programme on June 10th. The entire programme is well worth a listen; not least in order to appreciate how a long and bitter conflict can be reported with empathy for the people on both sides and in non-judgmental terms. The portion of the programme particularly relevant to the discussion here begins at around 04:50.File on 4 peace walls

Chris Buckler: “In East Belfast paint-marks are the scars left by recent attacks on St Matthew’s Catholic Church. The Short Strand is an area surrounded by so-called peace walls; huge barriers built in flash-point areas to separate nationalist and loyalist housing estates and to try to prevent trouble.

Northern Ireland’s First and Deputy First Ministers say they’re committed to building a shared future without peace walls. They want all of them removed within a decade. But here at St Matthew’s, a new one has just gone up.

If we just take a look at this big structure here; they call it a peace curtain rather than a peace wall but it’s a big metal structure and how high would you say it was?”

Willie Ward: “It’s between 25 and 30 feet high and it stretches for thirty yards.”

CB: “Willie Ward is a church worker here. And we can see houses just behind there, so this is towering over houses.”

WW: “Yes – that was to prevent petrol bombs and missiles being thrown at these houses and it has actually worked to a certain extent. I’m living in this area, talking to the people, and the people who live beside the walls here; there’s no chance of these walls being taken down – and I’ll tell you – in my lifetime.”

CB: “In your lifetime?”

WW: “I cannot see those walls being taken down in my lifetime.”

CB: “Yet we have this strategy from the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister saying that they wanted to take down all the peace walls in Northern Ireland within ten years.”

WW: “Well you just tell them to come and live in the Short Strand. We’ll see; do the people want the walls taken down? They don’t live here. They don’t have to put up with this. They’re living in their ivory towers; we’re not. There has been a massive reduction in violence. There are no daily bombings or shootings or things like that.”

CB: “That’s a massive step, isn’t it?”

WW: “Yes it is a massive step, but this is the next part they have to tackle.”

CB: “But those bombings and shootings can’t be forgotten; not least by people who were caught up in attacks at a time of dreadful conflict.”

Notably, in this report and in other coverage of the same topic, the BBC has adopted – and uses – the terminology of  ‘peace walls’ or ‘peace fences’, apparently identifying no need to come up with its own “acceptable generic descriptions” in order “to avoid political connotations” in this case.

The purpose of the barriers, the reasons for their construction and their effectiveness are all made perfectly clear to audiences. The BBC’s correspondent does not suggest to audiences that the aim of the peace walls might be anything other than the Northern Ireland government’s stated reasons and no ‘alternative’ politically motivated narrative concerning their existence is promoted. Their physical properties are not misrepresented, their existence is not presented to BBC audiences as “controversial” and the people who oppose their dismantling are not allocated pejorative political or religious labels by the BBC.

The question which the BBC should be asking itself, therefore, is why this standard of accurate and impartial reporting is not met when it reports on a similar structure with the same aims as Northern Ireland’s peace walls, but which happens to be located in Israel.

Related Articles:

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3  (includes links to parts 1 & 2)

Bowen misleads BBC audiences with irrelevant Northern Ireland analogy

Wall to wall political messaging in BBC coverage of Pope’s visit

Where can terrorism be named as such by the BBC?

The politics of BBC approved terminology on Israel’s security fence

Nick Cohen on BBC favourite regular guest Mo Ansar

Well over fifteen months ago we commented here on an edition of  BBC Radio 4′s “Beyond Belief” dealing with the subject of contemporary antisemitism which included a guest described by the presenter as “a social and political commentator” who, during the broadcast, promoted Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi as a source of “nuanced understanding”.Mo Ansar  

It is encouraging to see that others are finally catching on to Mohammed (‘Mo’) Ansar too and Nick Cohen’s recent piece on the subject is worth a read.

“Until recently programme makers were happy to oblige. Broadcasters made him the voice of British Islam, even though no electorate had voted for him, and no organisation had appointed him its spokesperson. Ansar was not an Islamic scholar. He had not published a book or led a movement. He was a planning manager at Lloyds-TSB in Winchester until 2006, and has had no visible means of support except appearance fees and state benefits for years.”

Read the rest of Nick Cohen’s article here.

Will BBC producers in future pay more attention to the subject of who they invite to appear on their various shows with such remarkable regularity? That remains to be seen, but if the case of Abdel Bari Atwan is anything to go by, it may perhaps be prudent to take Mo Ansar’s current media wane with some salt.