BBC Radio 4’s ‘More or Less’ does damage control on Gaza casualty figures article

On August 22nd the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘More or Less’ included an item on the topic of casualty figures from the Gaza Strip which purported to provide listeners with information pertaining to the questions “[w]hy are men over-represented in civilian death tolls and how are the statistics gathered?” The segment can be heard here and the whole programme is here with the relevant item beginning at 13:23.More or Less R4 22 8

After an introduction composed of statements from BBC news bulletins, presenter Tim Harford (also a Financial Times columnist) begins the item.

TH: “The number of civilians killed in Gaza during the conflict between Palestinian militants there and the Israeli military has raised international concern and condemnation. A UN report estimated that between the 7th of July and the 20th of August this year there were 1,999 deaths in Gaza caused by the conflict. Of those killed, the UN estimate that 70% were civilians and of those thought to be civilians, approximately 250 were women, 450 were children and 700 were men. The figures, say the United Nations, are subject to change based on verification. The same UN report states that on the Israeli side, 64 soldiers have been killed and three civilians.

Now the fact that among the Palestinian civilian casualties there are nearly three times as many men as women has been in the spotlight. Indeed an article on the BBC News website said “if the Israeli attacks have been “indiscriminate”, as the UN Human Rights Council says, it is hard to work out why they have killed so many more civilian men than women”. Well that’s a comment that attracted controversy and a number of e-mails from listeners who’ve written to ‘More or Less’ directly. It might be worth spelling out why. The comment invites people to conclude that if Israeli attacks were indiscriminate, we wouldn’t see far more men than women killed; we’d see roughly equal numbers. And joining the dots, perhaps many of the men thought to be civilians weren’t civilians at all. Now, none of that was explicitly said in the BBC article but some critics have complained to ‘More or Less’ that that’s what it was hinting at. And the Times of Israel – an online newspaper – ran an article citing the BBC’s analysis in support of these conclusions. All very sensitive stuff, needless to say. Well, Ruth Alexander’s here to help me investigate. Ruth, before we get to the issue of what’s happening in Gaza, what’s the latest on that BBC article?”

As BBC Watch readers already know, the original article by the BBC News head of statistics underwent initially unannounced changes several days after its publication – apparently because its content displeased certain parties. Four days after those changes were made a footnote acknowledging them was added to the article as it appears online.

Footnote to Reuben art

The programme’s producer Ruth Alexander then comes in:

RA: “Well that particular statement about how it’s hard to square the UN’s findings of indiscriminate attacks with the fact that more men than women had been killed….”

TH: “Yeah, that one.”

RA: “…it’s gone. The article’s been edited to remove it and a few days later the BBC added a note about a series of clarifications such as the inclusion of some possible explanations for why men were disproportionately likely to be casualties.”

TH: “I spoke about this gender imbalance to Matthias Behnke from the office of the United Nations High Commission of Human Rights on the 19th of August. Matthias was speaking from Ramallah in the West Bank.”

Indeed Matthias Behnke was in Ramallah on August 19th and obviously managed to find time to talk to the BBC either before or after he took part in a symposium at Birzeit University where he shared a platform with Sharwan Jabarin (known for his alleged ties to the PFLP) of the political NGO ‘Al Haq’ which is a leading organization on the lawfare scene. That symposium was promoted as follows:

“During the workshop, colleagues Matthias Behnke (The head of the OHCHR – Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) and Shawan Jabareen (Al-Haq’s Director) will introduce participants to the role of the ‘Independent Commission of Inquiry´ also compared to alternative investigations and comparative experiences. There will be a discussion on expectations from the said investigation and possible next steps.”

The so-called “Independent Commission of Inquiry” was announced by the UN OHCHR on July 23rd after that body accepted a draft resolution proposed by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation – the same organization which claims to have been the initiator of the ‘Goldstone Report’ and has pressed the UN to introduce a “global blasphemy law”. During the ‘debate’ on whether to establish yet another of its now infamous ‘independent’ inquiries, the UN HRC heard from assorted notable champions of human rights.

Syria said that extremist gangs of settlers had been allowed to abduct a Palestinian child and burn him alive, which had led to further massacres of the innocent, particularly women and children. Israel had continuously shown utter disregard for international law. The international community had to ensure that such crimes did not go unpunished. Syria supported the legitimate resistance of the Palestinian people.

Sudan said with 650 dead, thousands wounded and many thousands more displaced, the violations committed by Israel represented a policy of racial and ethnic cleansing, a massacre and genocide at a time when mankind had rejected the racist law of the jungle and moved into a time of human dignity. The Council must recognize that Israel was an occupying power supported by a superpower that could do whatever it wanted.

Iran said the brutal use of force by Israel against the Palestinian people, including in residential areas, hospitals and schools, added to the long list of violations by Israel over the past 60 years, in systematic and flagrant breach of international law. The international community must not repeat previous mistakes; it must take some responsibly for the situation. The Council must also identify the Israeli officials who had perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

According to BBC Editorial Guidelines on impartiality Tim Harford should have informed listeners that his supposedly objective interviewee represents a body which – even before the conflict has ended – has initiated a politically motivated and already controversial ‘inquiry’ which is part and parcel of the lawfare campaign in which the topic of civilian/combatant casualty ratios is used as a tool. Harford however failed to meet that obligation. Listeners then hear Behnke:

MB: “Men will generally be more exposed. They will move around more. Even when they are in shelters they will be staying outside; not inside the buildings but in the hallways outside. They will go back to check on their homes. They will go out to get food and water whereas children and women will usually be more sheltered and protected.”

Ruth Alexander continues by bringing in another interviewee from an organization which – as we documented here last month – is both one of the primary sources of UN casualty statistics and is also engaged in lawfare against Israel. Like her colleague, Alexander breaches BBC Editorial Guidelines by failing to clarify that fact to listeners.

RA: “Other researchers have told us that men are usually over-represented in counts of civilian casualties in war. It can be about the tasks men undertake, how they socialize, and also that they may be in general more of a target – more easily mistaken for fighters. We’ve been speaking to Mahmoud Abu Rahma from the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza which is a Palestinian group which has researchers on the ground gathering information and statistics on who has been killed. He gave an example of an attack that hit a beach café where people were watching a World Cup match.”

MAR: “Now in a place like this in southern Gaza Strip this café is more or less man only during the evening hours at least. So you have many explain. Our colleague was killed because he was on a motorcycle and Israelis suspected him. So many more men die because of the suspicion, I believe, than women.”

Harford goes on:

“So this idea that combatants are wrongly being counted as adult male civilian casualties – it’s not necessarily true. Or at least that high male civilian death toll isn’t strong evidence that a miscount is happening. There are several groups who are publishing casualty figures and their estimates vary. For example the UN says that about 70% of casualties are civilian. The Israeli Defence Force has been reported as saying civilian casualties are 50% but when we called the IDF they said they weren’t able to confirm that. Well the UN numbers are seen as perhaps the most authoritative but they’re not without their critics. So, how are they gathered? Here’s Matthias Behnke, the man in charge of them.”

MB: “They’re gathered in partnership with a number of organisations working in Gaza. There are Palestinian, Israeli and international organisations that gather data and we compile the information in a data base that we run which we also cross-check and verify with data provided in the public domain, whether that be the Ministry of Health, the IDF, even the armed groups sometimes provide information on websites and other social networks about their dead. On top of that we have a team on the ground also checking and cross-referencing these figures so it’s quite a comprehensive process. We by no means claim that it’s a final, perfect figure. We stress very clearly that these re subject to further verification which we do as we go along.”

TH: “Some people have criticized these figures on the basis that fundamentally the source of the numbers is the Ministry of Health and that’s basically a Palestinian organization – it’s controlled by Hamas. How would you respond to that criticism?”

MB: “I would say as I said before; that the Ministry of Health figures are one of our sources. It’s certainly not the main source. For instance the Ministry of Health does not differentiate in their figures between combatants and civilians. Furthermore, you will maybe have seen at times our figures have actually been a bit higher than the Ministry of Health because we have more sources to rely on.”

TH: “I wanted to press Matthias for further detail about how exactly his statistics are created and how these armed groups figure in the process. But he said he couldn’t give any more information. Perhaps that indicates how politically sensitive these numbers are.”

So that’s it then: listeners are not told exactly how the UN gathers its information or of the political motivations of its primary sources. Neither are they informed of the results of the ongoing work of those who take the trouble to cross-reference Hamas-supplied information with announcements on the websites of terrorist organisations such as the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Centre. Harford goes on:

“There are several reasons the count of the dead may differ between organisations. Yes, there are of course politics but these groups are trying to make sense of what’s going on in the fog of war.”

Ruth Alexander then introduces a representative from yet another political NGO which is one of the UN’s primary sources, but does not inform listeners either of that fact or of B’Tselem’s political agenda.More or Less chapter

RA: “Hagai Elad from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has researchers on the ground in Gaza and he gave us a picture of how dangerous and how difficult their work is.”

HE: “For instance there would be news about the IDF ordering the evacuation of a certain Palestinian hospital in the northern Gaza Strip. Ideally we would want our own researcher to go there and independently tell us what is the situation on the ground. But sometimes trying to drive over there could be dangerous and sometimes being in a location itself could be dangerous. So the confusion and the general intensity of the numbers are, I would say, the number one difficulty in analysing the data.”

RA: “And how easy is it for researchers collecting statistics on the ground to tell who was a fighter and who wasn’t? I mean they can ask people but will they always get a straight answer? Here’s Hagai Elad again.”

HE: “Sometimes there’s a desire…it’s more courageous for someone to have died as a combater [sic] for some families. In other cases maybe there’s a desire to show that the percentage of non-combatants that died is high. So yeah – there will be pressures; no question about that.”

For more on B’Tselem’s methodology – see here. Ruth Alexander concludes the item by saying:

“This is why they and the other groups we’ve spoken to say that they do cross-checks. They don’t take what they’re told at face value. But counting the cost of war is always hard and usually controversial.”

So what did listeners to BBC Radio 4 get in this nine minute-long item? Well, they learned for a start that the BBC is ‘squeezy': it will amend an article written by its head of statistics not because it is inaccurate, but because of pressure from people who, for political reasons, don’t like what it says. It will then alter and add to that article to present a viewpoint more in line with its critics’ agenda and will even produce a nine-minute radio item as further damage control – because this is actually what Tim Harford and Ruth Alexander’s item actually is.

Harford and Alexander have brought listeners interviewees from three organisations which are all connected but without informing audiences of their ties or of their mutual political agenda. Beyond several opaque references to “politics”, they have failed to clarify to audiences  how civilian/combatant casualty ratios are used in the campaign of lawfare against Israel and to generate a specific climate of public opinion and they have failed to make any mention of the related directives issued by Hamas instructing that all casualties should be described as civilian.

Remarkably too they have framed this issue as one concerning a civilian/combatant ratio caused by Israeli actions alone, with no information provided to listeners regarding the very significant fact that the practices of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip such as launching missiles (a significant proportion of which fall short) and storing weapons and explosives in residential areas and booby-trapping houses all cause civilian casualties which of course are then attributed to Israeli actions – as the BBC should know only too well.  

In addition to the fact that this programme will be available on the BBC website for the coming year, it will also be repeated on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday, August 24th at 20:00. It would of course be appropriate for its numerous failures to meet BBC Editorial Guidelines on impartiality to be corrected before that happens by means of the addition of full disclosure of the political agendas of its interviewees and their role in the lawfare campaign against Israel.

The BBC’s funding public might also be interested in some frank disclosure concerning the editorial policies behind the growing list of BBC contributions (including this programme) to that same campaign.  

Contact details for ‘More or Less’ can be found here and the programme’s e-mail address is moreorless@bbc.co.uk . 

 

‘From Our Own Correspondent': a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’

Readers no doubt remember that on July 5th – three days before Operation Protective Edge commenced – the BBC’s World Editor Andrew Roy appeared on the World Service’s ‘Outside Source’ programme to explain how the BBC ensures equal coverage of what the programme termed “Israel-Palestine”.

Andrew Roy: “Well we try to look at the entirety of our coverage. We’re not minute counting. We are ensuring that across the whole thing we can look back on our coverage of this and say we did give fair balance to each side. So it’s not a minute by minute thing, no.” […]

Presenter: “When you get people complaining that they feel one side has been given more air-time or more favour than the other, what do you do?”

Andrew Roy: “We answer them by giving them the evidence that we’ve tried to put the other side as often as we can.”

Let’s take a look at the accuracy and validity of Roy’s claims by using a test case: BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’.FOOC

Between July 8th (commencement of Operation Protective Edge) and the present, eight editions of the programme have been broadcast. The first two (July 10th and July 12th) did not include any content related to the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The July 17th edition included an item by Yolande Knell (available here from 00:42) which was introduced by presenter Kate Adie using the description ‘fasting under fire’. Knell’s report focuses entirely on the presentation of life in the Gaza Strip with descriptions of shortages of food, frightened children, reduced business in markets and evacuees. Much focus is also put on the topic of border restrictions with Knell twice quoting interviewees referring to a “siege” which of course does not exist and no explanation given regarding the terrorism which brought about the border restrictions.

On July 19th the programme featured an item by Jeremy Bowen which is available here from 00:45. Whilst the item is introduced as being about the whole Middle East, the BBC’s Middle East editor has his sights firmly set on one tiny part of that region. Using the language of Hamas Bowen tells listeners:

“Gaza’s economy is definitely not able to support a population of 1.7 million people but that’s because of the siege imposed by Israel and Egypt.” [emphasis added]

Like Knell before him, Bowen makes no attempt to tell listeners about the Hamas terrorism which brought about border restrictions.  He later continues:

“And there’s been a reminder in the last few days of the terrible potency of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. [..] But the new war in Gaza shows how the Palestinian –Israeli conflict still has resonance across the world as well as in the region. People care about it, get angry about it in a way that they don’t about other crises and wars. I’m calling what’s happening in Gaza a war though I’m aware that it perhaps is not a perfect description. Some people have even told me I shouldn’t use the word because of the enormous imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians. I disagree. Wars are increasingly fought between the strong and the weak. By the way, it’s wrong to pretend that there’s any kind of equality between what Israeli citizens are going through and the experience of Palestinians. The trauma of Israelis caught up in mass attacks is unquestionable but the trauma in Gaza is of an utterly different degree. The only long-term way to end this chronic killing is through a permanent settlement of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. It has to be one both sides can tolerate. An imposed peace would just contain the seeds of the next war. But at the moment peace is not conceivable. Even a long-term absence of war is unattainable. What’s the alternative? If nothing changes more and more of these mini wars, which will eventually become major wars.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s Middle East editor makes no effort to inform listeners that Hamas is not interested in the kind of “permanent settlement” which has been on the table for two decades, neglecting to inform them that Hamas was one of the Palestinian factions which rejected the Oslo accords.

On July 26th listeners to ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ heard Paul Adams. That item is available from 00:50 here and includes the following. [all emphasis in bold added]

“Generations have experienced nothing but occupation, embargo, blockade, war and death. It’s had a slow, brutalising effect. Perhaps that’s why some of them are seized by such a furious desire to tunnel out and seek revenge. For Gaza is a giant prison surrounded by a wall, watch towers and the most sophisticated military in the Middle East.”

Although he makes no effort to inform listeners of the fact that nine years ago, when Israel withdrew, Gaza stood at a crossroads which could have taken it in a very different direction had its leaders not chosen terrorism as their raison d’être, notably Adams does tell of things which – like the rest of his colleagues – he failed to report whilst he was in Gaza

“Of course it would be wrong to suggest that this prison 66 years in the making is full only of the innocent. There are men of violence here. Men who will never, ever accept Israel’s right to exist in the land they still regard as theirs. Men who will store weapons in mosques and schools and take great pride in launching almost entirely indiscriminate rockets from the midst of populated areas, hoping – in the name of resistance – to cause death and fear on the other side. During a week in Gaza I caught occasional glimpses of them; weapons stuffed under shirts, furtive in civilian clothes, moving with purpose through the ravaged streets of Shuja’iya looking for a fight. But when so many of those dismembered and burned by Israeli rockets and shells are not the fighters but women, old people and especially children, then it’s really, really hard not to conclude that the Palestinians are being collectively punished.”

The August 2nd edition of the programme included an item by Chris Morris, available here from 00:42 or here. In addition to Morris’ very graphic descriptions, audiences hear the following. [emphasis added]FOOC Morris

“Because things have got worse; much worse. Could anyone have imagined that twenty years on this would be their fate? Bombed from land, sea and air. Stuck inside the world’s largest prison with nowhere to run. […]

That’s why Hamas’ main demand is now in tune with public opinion: lift the siege of Gaza, open the borders, give people a chance to live.”

Like his colleagues, Morris of course makes no attempt to explain to listeners that it was Hamas terrorism against Israeli civilians which brought border restrictions into being.

On August 9th listeners heard a report by Tim Whewell: the first (and last) making any attempt to portray the Israeli side of the story. That item can be heard here or here from 00:45. Especially, given the track record of his BBC colleagues as far as promoting the notion of a mythical ‘siege’ and failing to report on the context and background of border restrictions is concerned, one interesting part of Whewell’s report is this:

“Why, they [Israelis] demand, don’t you – foreign correspondents – ever report that? And again and again I slip into the same argument. We do report the reasons but we also have to report the results and then much of the audience for our reporting concludes that being afraid or traumatized like Honi [phonetic] is bad, but not nearly as bad as being dead – as so many more Palestinians now are. We’re talking now uncomfortably about hierarchies of suffering and Israelis reply ‘so what do you want? More dead Jewish children? Do we also have to die just to make you report the story fairly?’ “

The August 16th edition of the programme featured a report by Kevin Connolly on the children of Gaza already discussed here and with the audio versions available here from 06:00 or here.

As we see, between July 17th and August 16th six editions of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on BBC Radio 4 included items pertaining to the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Only one of those items presented an Israeli point of view, with the other five not only presenting the opposite viewpoint, but often promoting the terminology of a terrorist organization and failing to provide essential context.

Surely even Andrew Roy cannot possibly claim that any attempt was made to “give fair balance to each side” in that series of programmes.

Related Articles:

BBC pats itself on the back for its ME coverage

Half a picture, half a story: how the BBC compromises its own impartiality in Gaza

 

 

 

BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Gaza: high on pathos and sunsets, low on accuracy and facts

The BBC Radio 4 version of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ featured an item by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly in its August 16th edition which can be heard from around 06:56 here or as a podcast here. A very similar written version of Connolly’s report appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 17th under the title “Gaza: What does the future hold for the children?“.FOOC 16 8

Kevin Connolly is currently located in the Gaza Strip and, as the title of his report suggests, his last few days there seem to have understandably prompted him to worry about the children living in that territory.

“For children in Gaza, living through war must seem like an habitual part of life. Is it possible to imagine what the future may hold for them? […]

The children fizz with energy and curiosity, singing out their names across the gap between the buildings and demanding to know ours.

They quickly learn to wait until we are on air using the balcony’s portable satellite dish, before shouting across. They know that our desperate requests for quiet then have to be mimed, much to their amusement.

I find myself worrying what the future holds for them. […]

If you are a six-year-old in Gaza, you have already lived through three separate wars – the ugly and brutal confrontations with Israel which flared in 2008, 2012 and again this year. It is as though Gaza is a kind of junction box where the dysfunctional neural wiring of the Middle East fused a long time ago.”

Of course if you are a six year-old less than a mile away in Sderot you have also lived through those same three wars and if you are a thirteen year-old from any of the towns and villages surrounding the Gaza Strip, you have never known life without the constant missile fire from the Gaza Strip which – whenever the terrorist organisations there choose to escalate it – is the cause for the “brutal confrontations” which Kevin Connolly ambiguously describes as having “flared” without explaining why that is the case.

Interestingly though, since Connolly arrived in the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau in June 2010, neither he nor any of his colleagues have been sufficiently worried about the children in Sderot to make the 90 minute drive down there and ponder their future. The last BBC correspondents to do anything of that sort were Nick Thorpe in 2006 and Tim Franks in 2008. Perhaps some insight into Kevin Connolly’s comprehension of the situation can be gleaned from this segment of his report:

“And yet, decisive victory seems to elude Israel, just as it eludes Hamas. The fighting will probably end in ways which are ambiguous and unsatisfactory, just as it has in the past.

That will be tough on the civilians of southern Israel, who will almost certainly find themselves running for their air-raid shelters again in future.

But it will be tougher still for those children on the roof next door. They have no air-raid shelters and very little chance of escaping to the wider world as long as Israel and Egypt maintain strict controls on all movement across Gaza’s borders.”

Connolly makes no effort to inform his listeners or readers that the reason Israeli children have air–raid shelters is because their country invests considerable resources in the protection of its citizens and the reason the children in Gaza do not have air-raid shelters is that Hamas invests considerable resources in acquiring missiles and using concrete to build cross-border attack tunnels rather than air-raid shelters. Like the rest of his colleagues he of course refrains from mentioning that those controls on Gaza’s borders with Israel are necessary precisely because of those Hamas policies.

So whilst Connolly tugs at listeners’ heart strings with his artistic descriptions of Gaza and its young residents, he manipulatively blocks any mention of the root cause of the picture he paints from audience view.Connolly FOOC written 17 8

He also returns to the BBC practice of trivialising terror attacks against Israeli civilians by promoting the jaded ‘homemade rockets’ theme.

“These confrontations are hopelessly asymmetrical. Many of Hamas’s rockets are out-of-date or home-made, compared with Israel’s powerful and sophisticated weapons.”

Likewise, Connolly fails to convey to listeners and readers the fact that it was Egypt’s belligerency which eventually resulted in the Gaza Strip coming under Israeli control in 1967, that Israel withdrew from that territory nine years ago and that Israel controls the coastal waters and air-space of the Gaza Strip because the representatives of the Palestinian people – the PA – signed agreements stipulating those conditions two decades ago.

“In the Six Day War of 1967 Israel came back and has occupied Gaza – or controlled life inside it – ever since.”

Obviously, if Connolly’s statement were accurate and Israel did control life inside the Gaza Strip, there would not have been thousands of missiles fired at Israeli civilians from that territory or cross-border attack tunnels dug over the years. Connolly is no less inaccurate when he tells audiences:

“At one point, Hamas appeared to be navigating the treacherous cross-currents of the Arab Spring effortlessly. It seemed able to count, at different points, on the support of Syria, Egypt and Iran – all powerful regional players.

Now, through a combination of misjudgement and misfortune, it can count on none of them.”

The great misfortune of the children of the Gaza Strip is of course that the place they live is under the control of a nihilistic terrorist organization which puts their welfare way down its list of priorities and the terrorisation and murder of Israeli children at the top. Had Kevin Connolly bothered to properly explain that crucial point to BBC audiences instead of making do with flowery clichés and trite descriptions of sunsets, he might actually have made a step towards doing what the BBC exists to do: informing its funding public not just what is going on in the world, but why. 

 

Two BBC programmes claim criticism of Israel brings accusations of antisemitism

h/t: DL, Amie

One annoying aspect of being an Israeli, or a person with family in Israel, at a time like this is having to listen to pundits (who it is quite safe to assume have never had to grab their children and rush to a bomb-shelter within seconds because of missile fire from terrorists) sitting safely in a studio thousands of miles away and pontificating about the rights and wrongs of a conflict upon which they apparently believe they are qualified to comment because they have read about it in the papers or watched it on television.Any Questions

This last weekend the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Any Questions?’ had on its panel the former (2000 – 2004) BBC director general Greg Dyke, former LibDem MP Susan Kramer, Harper’s Bazaar editor Justine Picardie and MEP Dan Hannan. In the section of the programme which related to the current hostilities (available here from around 33:13 or here on iPlayer), listeners heard the editor of a fashion magazine opine that life in Gaza “is like living in a big prison”. They also heard a British MEP describe the Gaza Strip as a “sealed concentration camp almost” and then add “I should say sealed refugee camp”. Most interestingly though, they got to hear the following remarks from the man who headed the BBC during most of the second Intifada before resigning his position in the wake of the Hutton Report.

Greg Dyke: “I have to say, I do find the Israeli response massively over the top. [applause] I look at…and I look at what’s been happening this week with horror. I also….the problem is, if you criticize Israel you are – by certain sections of the Jewish community around the world – immediately accused of being antisemitic – which I am not in any way. And we have got to overcome…and you have to look at why is the American response always so limited; why do the Americans actually….because they’re scared of the Jewish community and the Jewish vote in America. We somehow have got to separate the concept of antisemitism…and supporting an Israeli government that I think is not supportable or doing things that are not justifiable. [applause]“

Presenter Jonathan Dimbleby then says:

“Greg, as you will know, historically the BBC has come under great external pressure from the interest groups in this – very severe. At the moment the criticism seems to be coming principally not from the Israelis for the BBC coverage but from those who think that the Palestinians and those who live in Palestine are not being fairly, adequately represented with enough background information to form a clear judgement. Yet…is the BBC eternally locked in that or does the BBC have something to answer for?”

Dyke: “It’s incredibly difficult. I mean I was director general of the BBC for four years in a period of conflict. There was no doubt there was more pressure on me from the Israelis than any other state anywhere in the world. To the extent that in the end I stood up and said look I’m sorry – you cannot be the judge of impartiality. You are so one-sided in this you have got to leave it to us to be the judge of impartiality but we have got to be impartial and we have got to try to be impartial. I do find – I have to say – this week I have found every time the BB…eh…BBC news talks about Israel and then militant Palestinians, I find that a difficult…if I’d been director general this time, I’d be saying hang on – this is…is this not judgemental? We call one bunch a government and the other bunch we call militant Palestinians and the word militant implies somehow illegitimate.”

So, apparently the man who was at the helm whilst the BBC spread the lethal narratives of the ‘Jenin massacre’ that never was and the Al Dura story is more concerned about the risk of implying via terminology that a person who indiscriminately fires military grade missiles at civilians is “illegitimate” than he is with those acts themselves. One can only wonder if that ‘gem’ crops up in the Balen Report of 2004 which the BBC has spent ten years and hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money avoiding publishing.

Another programme broadcast by the BBC this last weekend was the July 27th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Weekend’ – available here for a limited period of time. It is worth listening to the programme in full in order to hear the context-free descriptions of the Gaza Strip from Chris Morris and Ian Pannell, including further promotion of Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demand to “lift the economic blockade” – described as a “smart demand” by Morris.WS Weekend

That programme also has two guests: one a woman in Paris called Vaiju Naravane – a novelist and former European bureau chief for the India’s Hindu newspaper, which apparently qualifies her to discuss the issue of this conflict although the fact that she describes Israeli towns and villages in Judea & Samaria as “colonies” is probably sufficient clue as to her political orientations. Right at the end of the programme she is given a platform to promote the following notions.

“Oh I think it’s a huge challenge [covering the story in the Gaza Strip]. I mean this is bigger than anything we faced in the Balkans in the 1990s for instance. […] and we’re not talking also about the essentials of the problem. I mean when France was occupied during the Second World War there were people who were planting bombs and there were people who were undertaking terrorist acts in order to get rid of the Germans from here and they were hailed as heroes. Now the same thing is not being applied to Hamas. I have no sympathies for Hamas because I think they’re extremists and all that. But at the same time you cannot in any moral sense have the kind of occupation – the way in which these people – this 1.4 million population is living in 140 square meters [sic] of territory without any kind of access and this is going on year after year after year and Israel’s demand seems to me to be submit, don’t do anything, don’t hit back and we’ll be OK with you but we will not remove the blockades, we will not remove the restrictions we place on your life. Now what sort of an argument is that?”

The other guest on that programme was Robert Fox – formerly a BBC defence correspondent and currently an occasional BBC contributor. Notably, Fox came up with the same claim promoted by Greg Dyke the day before.

“One of the difficulties that I’m having is that every time you criticize Israel… somebody of my position who’s been at the game for 47 years….ah, but you’re being antisemitic. That is a confusion of language. It’s a monstrosity… [..] This is a debate. There is an argument on all sides because what the criticism of Israel…what Israel is doing – and it’s a fundamental of international law – it is disproportion.”

So there we go: two ‘cultured’ BBC radio programmes in one weekend – both of which include promotion of the notion that it is not possible to criticize Israel without being accused of antisemitism – with one of the speakers making his own none-too-veiled insinuations based on the ‘Jewish power’ trope and another who – through her claim that Hamas is like the French Resistance and her comparison of Israel’s non-existent occupation of Gaza with that of Germany in France in WWII  – using a Nazi analogy.

Could it get more surreal than that?  

 

 

 

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”.