Propaganda in the guise of art from the BBC News Gaza office

On April 4th a video report titled “Making art in the Gaza Strip: Mohammed al-Hawajri” appeared in the BBC News website’s ‘magazine’ section, on its main home page and on its Middle East page. The report was also apparently shown on the BBC World News programme GMT.

The synopsis to the video report as it appears on the website reads:

“The struggling artist is a stereotype that resonates throughout the world, but being a painter or sculptor in the Gaza Strip can be particularly challenging.

Mohammed al-Hawajri struggles to import the materials he needs because of border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Mohammed has been asked to participate in international exhibitions but it is so difficult for him to get permission to export his work and leave the Palestinian territory that he is staging his latest show in Gaza City.

BBC News went to meet Mohammed al-Hawajri and find out about his work.” [emphasis added]

Artist GS

The voice over to the report is narrated by Hawajri himself. [emphasis added]

“I am very interested in modern art. These are pictures that I paint of my children. We are not sure about our future here but I have use a lot of colour to show that we have hope.

My name is Mohammed al Hawajri. I am Palestinian artist from the Gaza Strip. My work is very affected by the situation here. Because of the siege in Gaza artists cannot get materials that we need. So, sometimes I make a sculpture from animals’ bones. I have done some paintings with the spices. You can smell it. This one uses curry and cumin. This is another part of my idea that you should use different senses.

This is my new project. It is an installation work. We are filming about the siege in Gaza. It is a critical of the situation but in a humorous way. It’s called ‘the red carpet’. People who support us in Gaza cannot reach us in normal ways. So the only way to enter is from the sea. I am rolling out a red carpet to welcome them and show respect.

Like everyone in Gaza I find it very difficult to get permission to leave. We can only get out through Egypt or Israel. Some galleries in Europe have shown my art work and I get many invitations to travel. My new exhibition is being shown here in Gaza City.”

No context is provided in this report with regard to why a partial blockade on the Gaza Strip exists. The words ‘Hamas’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘missile attacks on Israeli civilians’ of course have no place in this piece of filmed propaganda. Neither are viewers made aware of the fact that restrictions on the import of materials to the Gaza Strip are confined solely to dual-use goods which can be used for the purpose of terrorism.

As the lively flow of Western politicians, activists and journalists to the Gaza Strip indicates, Hawajri’s claim that “the only way to enter is from the sea” is patently inaccurate. No explanation is offered as to why the Gaza Strip does not have a functioning airport and no mention is made of the fact that thousands of people exit the Gaza Strip via the Erez crossing alone every month or that there are no restrictions on exports from the territory.

And what of Hawajri himself? Well, according to his self-composed Twitter profile he has visited Jordan, Italy, France, Switzerland and Egypt. According to his profile on the website of the Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, Hawajri visited Jerusalem, Alexandria in Egypt and Pescara in Italy in 2008 alone. An interview Hawajri gave to Ramallah Online in 2010 states:

“Although Mohammed has been fortunate to be granted permission to travel, owing to his higher status, it saddens him that so many of his peers are refused. “It is the most difficult thing. The denial of participation and transfer of their art, and also depriving them of the exchange of experience with artists of the world.” [...]

Al-Hawajri enjoys spending time abroad, but cannot stay away for long. “I like the freedoms in the West, but my thoughts and my art come from the crowded streets and markets of Gaza. Life is not natural, but my future is here”. “

According to his profile on the website of the artists collective to which he belongs, he was already working with animal bones in the year 1997 and with spices in 2002 – years before the Gaza Strip was declared a hostile entity in September 2007 and the partial blockade put in place due to the surge of terrorist activity after the violent Hamas coup. The choice of those media is therefore clearly not connected to any shortages of materials as the BBC’s report suggests.

Hawajri’s work is – according to his own description – political. Seven years after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip he described one of his exhibitions in the following terms:

“In my latest project entitled Guernica-Gaza, I express the reality of the world and of the Palestinians, the life under Israeli occupation, racial segregation, violence, destruction, murder and assassination. [..]

I have chosen this title because of the similarities between the war in Gaza in 2008/2009 and the German aggression against Spain in 1937, during which the village of Guernica was destroyed.”

In this report the BBC News Gaza office has clearly self-conscripted to the promotion of a similar context-free cocktail of propaganda, art and politics which obviously flouts BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality. 



‘Nice country you’ve got there’ Hague gets a soft ride on BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’

The February 6th edition of the BBC Two and BBC World News programme ‘Hardtalk’ featured presenter Stephen Sackur interviewing the British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Most of the programme (which can be seen here) was dedicated to the subjects of Syria and to a lesser extent Afghanistan, but a segment towards the end related to what Sackur described as “important policy areas” and termed “Israel-Palestine”. 

That particular part of the programme was also aired separately on BBC News programmes and was in addition promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page

Sackur opened:

“The Americans, it seems, are going to publish their vision – their plan – for a two-state solution very soon. In getting ready for that, John Kerry warned the Israelis that if they reject this push for peace, he said, it is going to intensify calls for the isolation, for a boycott upon the Jewish state – upon Israel. Do you echo those sentiments? Do you see Israel’s isolation becoming more complete?”

William Hague: “Ah..he’s right to warn about that and I have warned Israeli leaders as well as Palestinians that much of the world will see this as the last chance at a two-state solution. You know, if John Kerry – and I really pay tribute to John Kerry and to the energy and the commitment that he has put into this – and many observers will say, if it doesn’t work – that if John Kerry with all of the weight of the United States, all his experience and standing in the Middle East and the world – cannot bring the two sides together to reach final status agreements, then who can?

SS: “But in talking of isolation of Israel, Kerry put Israeli government ministers’ backs up. One – Yuval Steinitz who was on my programme recently – he said in response to Kerry’s words: ‘Kerry is holding a gun to Israel’s head’. Is the EU, with its own boycott of Israeli businesses that have operations in occupied territory, is the EU putting a gun to Israel’s head?”

WH: “We don’t – just to be clear – we don’t have boycotts; we have guidelines.”

SS: “But you’re blocking loans and grants to….”

WH: “That is a different thing from a boycott. We’re not putting a gun…nobody is putting a gun to anybody’s head. In fact what the EU is offering is an unprecedented package of economic partnership and assistance to work with Israelis and Palestinians if this is successful. There is a real positive…”

SS: “And if it’s not? That’s the question: if it isn’t going to go further..”

WH: “If it isn’t, that can’t take place. And if it doesn’t happen, if there isn’t an agreement on these things, then I think it will be a very dark time both for Israelis and for Palestinians – for both sides actually. There are terrible consequences to fear. And certainly it would bring a great deal of international pressure on Israel, including at the United Nations and there’ve been many moves for Palestinians to seek greater recognition at the UN which would command a huge amount of international support. That is evident from previous votes. Britain hasn’t committed itself on that but…

SS: “But if we’re painting that scenario – exactly – if we’re painting that scenario…”

WH: “It would be difficult for Israel but it would be difficult for Palestinians as well because without embracing a two-state solution, their situation would be pretty desperate as well.”

As we see, not only did Sackur provide a platform for the promotion (and subsequent BBC amplification) of Hague’s blatant ‘nice country you’ve got there; would be a pity if anything happened to it’ tactics, but he failed utterly to clarify to viewers that Hague’s presentation of the issue as though it were all down to what the parties involved want to do – rather than what they are currently capable of doing – is plainly ridiculous.

Viewers were at no point made aware of the fact that the party negotiating on behalf of the Palestinians does not include the faction – Hamas – which secured the largest number of votes in the last PLC elections. They were not told that the current president of the Palestinian Authority lacks the authority or the ability to sign any agreement seeing as his term of office expired over five years ago and elections are long overdue and currently impossible to carry out. Neither was it made clear that the Palestinian Authority has no control whatsoever over the Gaza Strip – one of two areas projected to become part of a future Palestinian state – and Sackur avoided asking Hague how any signed peace agreement could possibly be implemented in an area ruled by a third-party terrorist group which categorically rejects the two-state solution, is committed to the destruction of one party to any potential agreement and has a significant presence (along with additional rejectionist terrorist groups) in the area which is controlled at present by the Palestinian Authority. 

But Hague also got off scot-free with regard to other issues. Sackur failed to challenge him on the subject of UK government and EU funding for organisations and NGOs which promote, support and operate the BDS movement against Israel. He failed to demand accountability from Hague regarding the doublespeak of a UK government which claims in public to be opposed to any boycott of Israel and yet, for example, funds the British Council and Arts Council England – both of which have in turn funded the BDS supporting, anti-two-state solution project known as the PalFest.  Neither did he solicit a response from Hague with regard to the recent claim published in an Israeli newspaper according to which a senior British diplomat told a reporter “It’s my job to f*** settlement factories like this one in Ein Gedi”. 

Sackur also conveniently refrained from dissecting Hague’s cringingly transparent ‘equality’ chimera of EU or UK censure of the Palestinian Authority (the same body which was recently revealed to be holding explosives and weapons in a diplomatic mission on EU soil) should peace negotiations collapse. After all, as past experience shows, even when the PA actively sabotaged the Oslo Agreements by initiating and financing an unprecedented campaign of terror against Israeli civilians in 2000, the EU continued to fund that body and even raised its contributions to the tune of an annual average of 250 million Euros. Hence, there is little reason to anticipate an about-face this time around and just as little reason to anticipate any letting-up in EU and UK funding of anti-Israel NGOs or an end to the practice of paternalistic, diplomatically illiterate finger-wagging from the hand which still feeds sections of the BBC. 

Thanks to Sackur’s ineffectual performance, the licence fee paying public remained oblivious both to the existence of many objective factors which make the culmination of the current talks in a workable agreement extremely unlikely and to the redundancy of the FCO’s pompously simplistic approach to such a serious and complex subject.

So much for the BBC’s obligation to “[e]nhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” – and journalistic independence.

Rinse and repeat: BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ enabling Roger Waters’ hogwash

h/t J

On January 1st 2014 the BBC World News programme ‘Hardtalk chose to broadcast a re-run of an interview with Roger Waters which was originally aired in September 2013 and has now been shown a total of a dozen times. 

At around six minutes into the programme, presenter Stephen Sackur says:

“And perhaps the strongest reaction you’ve got is from people who see some of the imagery – and in particular the imagery on that inflatable pig, which is a central part of the show…” 

Waters interrupts:

“Here we go..”

Sackur: “..see it as anti-Israeli and some say antisemitic.”

Waters: “Well this is…has become an old chestnut now because this whole question of this particular pig which appears in the second half of the show when I am playing the part of a fascist demagogue – or any kind of extremist demagogue if you like – is satire and it’s recognized as being that. This record has been out there with the lyrics that are contained in the work, which are part of the narrative, for – as you say – since 1979. So, the use of different symbols on the pig – which include the Star of David, the crucifix, crescent and star, the dollar sign, the hammer and sickle and all kinds of other symbols that ..emm..I felt were relevant when we were designing the show – have been there as part of the show since 2010.”

However, an Israeli who attended Waters’ show in July 2013 had a different experience:

“I came to the concert because I really like his music, without any connection to his political stance toward Israel,” says Alon Onfus Asif, an Israeli living in Belgium. “And I had a lot of fun, until I noticed the Star of David, on the inflatable pig. That was the only religious-national symbol which appeared among other symbols for fascism, dictatorships and oppression of people. 

See if you can find any other religious-national symbols in this footage from the show.

Here is what Waters told ‘Billboard’ in December 2013: [emphasis added]

“Waters says a new set of pigs were built for the South America leg of the tour and the Star of David was one of the symbols added to them. “Since then, because of the complaints from some of the Jewish community, we’ve added a crucifix and star-crescent,” Waters says.”

In other words, the claim made by Waters in the September 2013 interview with Sackur – according to which the symbols of Christianity and Islam were presented alongside the Star of David on the inflatable pig from the very beginning of the tour – was apparently not verified by the Hardtalk production team before the initial or numerous repeat broadcasts of this programme. 

No follow up on BBC’s ‘X-Factor’ Israel report

On January 16th a filmed report by Joerg Schulze of BBC World News appeared in the ‘Watch/Listen’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page, where it has remained for five days so far. Titled “Filipina carer wins Israeli X Factor“, the report’s synopsis states:

“A Filipina carer, once part of a faceless crowd of foreign workers who tend to Israel’s infirm and elderly, has surprised the country by winning one of its most popular TV singing contests.”

X Factor

Schulze expands on that theme in his commentary.

“She’s 47 years-old and in her day job she looks after an elderly lady in Tel Aviv. She’s one of about twenty-five thousand carers currently working in Israel. Their work goes widely unnoticed, so this highlight of her adventure in the limelight came as a big surprise.” […]

“She hopes her success will change the stereotype of Filipinos in Israel as domestic workers and carers. And she hopes that finally she’ll be able to fulfill her dream of becoming a professional singer. But that might be difficult, at least in Israel where – on a visa as a carer – she’ll have to apply to the Interior Ministry to allow her to earn money with her music. Until then, she says, she’ll go back to being a care worker.”

Quite how Joerg Schulze established that there exists a “stereotype of Filipinos in Israel as domestic workers and carers” or that they are “faceless” and “their work goes widely unnoticed” is of course unclear to BBC audiences viewing this report. Whether or not their situation is any different – and therefore worthy of comment – from that of foreign workers in any other Western country is also debatable.

Interestingly, the Philippine Ambassador to Israel had a rather different take on 47 year-old Rose Fostanes’ win:

“One thing that came out in this contest is that in Israel you can make it wherever you come from, no matter how old you are,” […] “Rose is 47. It brings to mind Susan Boyle, who was 52 when she showed the world her excellence. Israel is a multicultural country, a country that recognizes talent. Whoever dares to compete and has the talent has the chance to win.”

But the story actually does not end there. Less than a week after Rose Fostanes won the competition, the Ministry of the Interior gave her permission to change the status of her visa and work as a singer.

“X-Factor winner Rose Fostanes has chosen to leave caregiving after being granted a full work permit for artists that will enable her to sing for her livelihood, the Ministry of Interior has confirmed.

The Population Registry head gave Fostanes, a Philippines citizen, two options: to continue nursing the woman for whom she cares for while being allowed to sing for only a limited number of hours, or to forego caregiving for a full work permit given to artists wanting to work in their field.

After consulting with the family that employs her, Fostanes chose the second option.”

Notably, there has as yet been no follow-up by the BBC to inform audiences of this story’s latest chapter.

Related Articles:

BBC yet again promotes the notion of Israel as a racist society

BBC coverage of UK aid convoy fails to meet editorial guidelines on impartiality

As was noted in the comments to one of our previous posts (thanks to Duvid), a recent article from the Gatestone Institute highlights the promotion of extremist charities by the BBC.

“BBC’s leading current affairs program, Newsnight recently broadcast an eight-minute film in which a BBC reporter accompanied a British “aid convoy” headed to the most dangerous parts of Syria. […]

During the broadcast, the BBC did not, however, reveal the names of the charities involved with the convoy. The Aid for Syria Convoy is, in fact, managed by charities that many might justifiably regard as “extremist”: One Nation, Al Fatiha Global and Aid4Syria.”

Readers can see that ‘Newsnight’ broadcast here.

In addition to being featured on the BBC’s flagship news programme, a version of Catrin Nye’s report also appeared on the BBC’s Asian Network.

Catrin Nye BBC Asian network

Filmed and written versions of the report were promoted on Twitter and appeared on the BBC News website’s UK and Middle East pages.

Catrin Nye filmed website

Catrin Nye ME pge

Catrin Nye written website

There was also coverage on the BBC’s local TV (featuring one of the people mentioned in the Gatestone Institute report), on BBC World News, on BBC World Service radio and on Radio 4.

Catrin Nye BBC WS radio

Aid for Syria on BBC World News

As promoted on the Facebook account of one of the charities and on Catrin Nye’s Twitter account, further programming is scheduled for this coming weekend.

Aid for Syria FB

That, by any standard, is a great deal of coverage of one story. But of course the point – as made in the Gatestone Institute article – is that the BBC is telling half a story: in all of the above content it fails to inform viewers, readers and listeners at home and abroad of what lies beyond the humanitarian aid aspects of these charities, thus once again failing to meet BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality. 


We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”


BBC misrepresentation of Israel’s stance on Iran talks continues in Kim Ghattas report

A filmed report by the BBC’s State Department correspondent Kim Ghattas from November 20th 2013 also appears on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Fresh push for Iran nuclear deal”.

Ghattas filmed report 1

Ghattas opens her report:

“One by one the senators arrived for a meeting at the White House: an urgent last-minute pitch by President Obama. Don’t impose more sanctions on Iran for now, he told them. The senators appeared unconvinced.”

The report then cuts to a statement made by one of the senators – not identified by the BBC – who says:

“It was a long meeting and a lot of questions were asked and a lot of questions were answered but I think everybody’s gonna go back and seek their own council.”

Ghattas then introduces a clip showing the US president by saying:

“The president then made his case again – in public.”

Obama: “Let’s look, let’s test the proposition that over the next six months we can resolve this in a diplomatic fashion.”

Ghattas continues:

“John Kerry’s also been lobbying in congress since the last round of talks. But they’re both up against America’s best friend in the region. Israel launched its own feverish campaign against a deal with Iran – on Twitter and on television.” [emphasis added]

The image appearing on the screen as Ghattas says “on Twitter” is this one:

Ghattas filmed report 2

The image appearing on the screen as Ghattas says “on television” shows a short clip from a video made – as is clearly visible – by the Emergency Committee for Israel, which is an American organization: not “Israel” as Ghattas inaccurately claims. 

Ghattas filmed report 3

Ghattas goes on:

“In Geneva earlier this month Americans and Iranians spoke more over thirty hours than they did over the last thirty years. In exchange for halting progress in its nuclear programme, Iran would get moderate sanctions relief while negotiations continue and Iranians say the US must stick to its end of the bargain.

And at the White House they agree. This administration believes in ending wars – not starting new ones. Barack Obama is convinced that negotiations with the Iranians are the way to avoid conflict. He wants a deal with Iran if he can get it. He sees it as part of his political project – his potential legacy.

But thousands of miles away from here, Israel is already warning that a deal with Tehran in itself could provoke war.” [emphasis added]

So here we have Ghattas giving a superficial presentation of the Obama administration’s policy in overtly sympathetic tones whilst BBC audiences are once again mislead with regard to Israel’s stance on the P5+1 talks.

As we have previously pointed out here, Israel has not expressed opposition to diplomatic efforts to solve the problems presented by Iran’s nuclear programme – quite the contrary, as Israeli minister Yuval Steinitz has explained to the BBC in person. And had Ghattas and her team bothered to read other entries on the Twitter feed they used as an image in their report, they would have found ample evidence that the Israeli stance does not include a “feverish campaign against a deal with Iran”, but urges an agreement which will prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons capability. 

“Netanyahu called on the international community to stand by what he said were its original demands for an end to all enrichment of uranium by Iran, the export of all already enriched material, and the closure of the under-construction heavy water plant at Arak.”

The BBC’s repeated disingenuous misrepresentation of Israel’s approach to the P5+1 talks clearly breaches BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality as well as deliberately misleading audiences and actively preventing them from obtaining the “understanding of international issues” which it is obliged to promote under its public purposes remit.

Related posts:

Inaccuracy and distortion in BBC report of Netanyahu’s UN speech

BBC misrepresents Israel’s stance on P5+1 talks yet again

BBC Arabic’s Edgard Jallad promotes Iranian propaganda on BBC World News

According to official BBC figures from June of this year, the corporation’s global news services reach 256 million people each week. How many of those people tuned in to BBC World News on November 19th 2013 is not known, but those who did will have seen BBC Arabic TV editor Edgard Jallad in an interview on the subject of the bombings at the Iranian embassy in Beirut on that day which was also promoted on the BBC News website under the unambiguous heading “What’s behind the bombings?”.

hp link to Jallad interview

Edgard Jallad interview

According to Jallad, whose main claim to expertise according to the synopsis on the BBC website appears to be that he was “born in Beirut”:

“Such bombings are not staged for just a simple message. There will be more than one message. The first one could be related to the role of Iran in Syria and this is a major role that is, you know, affecting the whole situation and regional balances.

The second layer in this message could be that Iran is getting closer to an agreement about its nuclear programme with the United States and we’ve heard condemnation by Secretary Kerry now, moments ago, so he strictly condemned what happened and he described it as a terrorist attack. So, this will push some countries to be uncomfortable and unhappy about what’s happening and these countries are very well known. Israel is not happy and the Iranians they accused Israel openly about this.”

Interviewer: “And Israel has denied it, obviously.”

Jallad: “Yeah, and the other part – and we’ve heard it a lot through experts today – they are accusing Saudi Arabia for example because Saudi Arabia is not happy about this deal between Iran and the United States.”

The notion that the bombing in Beirut is linked to the P5+1 talks in Geneva – rather than being connected to the role of Iran and its proxy Hizballah in the Syrian civil war, as clearly stated by the group which took responsibility for the attack – is taken straight out of the Iranian regime’s PR campaign handbook.

“Iran linked the bombing to talks on a nuclear deal in Geneva, accusing Israel of trying to sabotage them and of stoking Mideast tensions, following bomb attacks on its embassy in Beirut.

“I think there is every possibility for success,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, said after meeting his Italian counterpart Emma Bonino in Rome.

“I go to Geneva with the determination to come out with an agreement at the end of this round,” Zarif said.

But he said that Israel was trying to undermine the talks, after an Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman accused Tel Aviv of being behind the attacks on Iran’s embassy — a charge immediately denied by Israel.”

When announcing those above-mentioned record viewing figures, the BBC’s Director of Global News Peter Horrocks said:

“This is a milestone for the BBC, with more than a quarter of a billion people tuning in to radio, TV and digital services every week. Today’s figures shows there is a growing worldwide audience for impartial, trustworthy journalism.”

In fact, of course, an impartial, trustworthy – and responsible – broadcaster would have taken the trouble to provide its audiences with professionally sourced information on the background to, and motives for, the baseless propaganda put out by the theocratic dictatorship which is a major sponsor and supporter of several proscribed terrorist organisations in the region and of the democidal Syrian dictatorship.

The BBC, however, chose once again to amplify, promote and spread that unquestioned and unchallenged propaganda to millions of viewers worldwide.

Related articles:

BBC amplifies Iranian propaganda over Beirut embassy bombing

BBC tones down Iranian rhetoric and extremism

Precisely what does the BBC mean when it uses the word ‘occupation’? We do not have to suppose or speculate about the answer to that question because the BBC’s Key Terms guide tells us exactly what it means.

“Occupied Territories/occupation

The phrase ‘Occupied Territories’ refers to East Jerusalem, the West Bank and strictly speaking the Golan Heights. However, it is common usage for this phrase to refer to the West Bank as a whole and not the Golan Heights (unless it is in a story specifically on the 1967 War or Syrian/Israeli relations).    

This is our preferred description. It is advisable to avoid trying to find another formula, although the phrase ‘occupied West Bank’ can also be used. It is, however, also advisable not to overuse the phrase within a single report in case it is seen as expressing support for one side’s view.”   

In other words, when it uses the word ‘occupation’, the BBC intends readers to understand that it is describing areas which came under Israeli control as a result of the Six Day War. 

So consider this August 2nd BBC headline: “Iran’s Rouhani calls Israel occupation ‘old wound’ on Islamic world“.

Rouhani speech

As others have noted, Rouhani of course made no such distinction between areas east or west of the ‘green line’: his ‘problem’ is with Israel as a whole – not just this or that particular part of it.  

The article’s strap-line further shows the BBC’s transparent attempt to tone down Rouhani’s rhetoric by insertion of the phrase “Palestinian areas”.

“Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rouhani has denounced Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas as an “old wound on the body of the Islamic world”.”

What does the BBC mean when it says “Palestinian areas”? We do not have to guess about that one either. 

“Palestinian land

This phrase has become more widely used by politicians and broadcasters to refer to the Occupied Territories - for example, to explain why the construction of settlements is considered illegal by the UN.

Critics of the phrase say it is not strictly accurate because, for example, the West Bank was captured from Jordan in 1967. 

The BBC Governors considered this issue in a complaint which was referred to in the programme complaints bulletin of July 2004. Their decision was that, although the complainant objected to references to ‘Palestinian land’ and ‘Arab land’, these terms “appropriately reflected the language of UN resolutions”.

So the use of the phrase “Palestinian areas” is clearly intended to reinforce the false impression that Rouhani was referring to land gained by Israel in the 1967 war. 

Why the BBC should find it necessary to tone down Rouhani’s remarks in a manner which it presumably thinks makes them more palatable to Western audiences is anybody’s guess, especially as other members of the Western media managed to report the geographical intentions of Rouhani’s words accurately. 

The problem is, of course, that the BBC has invested much in educating its audiences with regard to its own definition of “occupation”, but rarely bothers to clarify the fact that for other parties – including Iran and its terrorist proxies – “occupation” means every last inch of Israel. Hence, average readers would be liable to fail to grasp the real significance of Rouhani’s words quoted later on in the article:

Speaking at a rally, Mr Rouhani said: “There is an old wound on the body of the Islamic world, under the shadow of the occupation of the holy lands of Palestine and Quds [Jerusalem].

But the BBC’s whitewashing does not stop there.  

“His remarks echo those of other Iranian leaders and come on Jerusalem (Quds) Day, held every year in Iran to support the Palestinians and denounce Israel.”

 There is nothing ‘pro-Palestinian’ about the hate-filled annual event which is Al Quds day and “denounce” is a very euphemistic way to describe the aims of an event that includes demonstrations of support for an Iranian-backed terrorist organisation which also make no distinction between pre and post 1967 Israel.  As the NYT correspondent in Tehran pointed out:

“Walking among celebrators holding signs reading “Death to Israel” and pictures of maimed Palestinian children, Mr. Rouhani […] gave a preplanned statement to waiting television cameras.”

That’s “Death to Israel”, dear BBC – not “Death to the bits of Israel east of the ‘green line’ “. 

Iranians carry anti-Israeli placards during a rally to mark al-Quds Day in Tehran, Iran, 02 August 2013. Photo: EPA

Iranian man carrying the Hizballah flag at an anti-Israeli rally to mark al-Quds Day in Tehran, Iran, 02 August 2013. Photo EPA

al-Quds Day rally in Tehran

Iranians attend al-Quds Day rally on August 2, 2013 in Tehran, Iran. Photo: Maryam Rahmanian

Iran's new president calls Israel an 'old wound'

An Iranian man holds an anti-Israeli placard with a portrait of Hezbollah leader Nasrallah during an annual Al-Quds Day rally in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Aug. 2, 2013. Photo: AP

Another BBC report on the subject of Rouhani’s inauguration appeared on the BBC News websites’s Middle east page on August 3rd. In that article too, the BBC misleads readers as to the meaning of Rouhani’s remarks.  [emphasis added]

“The day before he took office, Mr Rouhani said Israeli occupation was an “old wound on the body of the Islamic world”, as Iran marked its annual Jerusalem (Quds) Day.

His remarks echo those of other Iranian leaders on the day dedicated to supporting the Palestinians and denouncing Israel.”

It appears that the BBC is having difficulty sobering up after its ‘Rouhani the moderate reformer’ binge following the June elections and that, rather than engaging in a critical review of its own misguided stance, is now attempting – fingers placed firmly in ears – to bend reality to fit its own narrative.

That policy of course does nothing to meet the corporation’s obligation to enable its audiences to “build a global understanding of international issues”. 


An edition of a BBC World News programme has the BBC Persian service’s Rana Rahimpour translating Rouhani’s words as follows: 

“The occupation of the holy land of Palestine and Quds – which is Jerusalem – is an old wound on the body of the Muslim world.”

Rahimpour hastens to add:

“But he never mentioned Israel or the Zionist regime, as Iranian politicians refer to Israel…”

Of course Rouhani had no need to mention Israel by name: his audience at what Zeinab Badawi ridiculously insists upon calling the “pro-Palestinian rally” would have understood his intention perfectly well, given the Iranian regime’s record and its long-standing support for terrorist organisations which do not accept Israel’s existence in any form. BBC audiences, however, will remain in the dark due to this latest bout of the syndrome described by Sohrab Ahmari and James Kirchick in 2012 as “We Are All Persian Grammarians Now“.

Clearly, the BBC could have avoided this case of inaccurate and misleading reporting had it simply been more vigilant in its use of quotation marks in that headline. 

BBC’s Brook misleads on Israeli film

On July 25th a filmed item headlined “Home movies tell Israel’s story” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East and Arts & Entertainment pages. The clip is from Tom Brook’s ‘Talking Movies’ film news and review programme which is broadcast on BBC World News. 

Talking Movies - kach rainu

The report relates to a film called Kach Rainu (‘This is how we saw it’) in Hebrew and ‘Israel: A Home Movie’ in English, which was made by Israeli film-makers Arik Bernstein and Eliav Lilti and which is composed exclusively of footage from home movies filmed in Israel between the 1930s and 1970s. As one reviewer of the film wrote:

“A prismatic meditation on an entire nation, Israel: A Home Movie is history as abstraction. Culled from hours of 8mm, 16mm, and Super 8 film from the 1930s to ’70s, the film chronicles the Israel timeline not as objective documentation, but as a living memory, with scenes so fleeting as to emulate the transitory nature in which we witness real-life events and how they’re stored.”

And as another reviewer noted:

” “Israel: A Home Movie” is neither a newsreel or documentary film, but a tapestry of images woven together by a group of master film weavers under Eliav Lilti’s direction. It offers no political message, but instead wishes to convey visually the story of a people and its unique connection with a land.”

Brook and the BBC, however, insist upon categorising the film as a documentary, with Brook saying in his summing up at the end of the report:

“To appreciate this documentary you need to have a good knowledge of Israeli history. Sometimes you can’t fully understand what’s going on because even with the voice-over narration, insufficient context has been given.”

Most of the excerpts from the film which Brook elects to show his own audiences are not accompanied by explanation on his part, with the notable exception of images of an Egyptian plane in Sinai on the opening day of the Yom Kippur war and footage of Palestinian refugees, with Brook saying in the voice-over:

“There are images that have rarely been seen: Palestinian refugees fleeing a small town in 1948 with their possessions, thought to be heading for Jordan.”

But as other reviews of the film – along with its trailer – indicate, the footage which Brook elected to overlook is no less significant.

“Even more powerful is the section of the film that draws on footage from the early ’60s, juxtaposed with a soundtrack of poet Ronny Someck recounting his introduction as an Iraqi Jewish schoolboy, growing up in Israel, to the Holocaust. A neighbor’s wife commits suicide and when Someck innocently asks what she died of, the widower replies, “She died of Buchenwald.” This cryptic remark sends the kid back to his mother who explains with startling immediacy, triggering a lifelong concern for Someck.”

That particular section of the film can be seen in Hebrew here and footage of the ‘marbarot’  (temporary camps for the new immigrants, including many who had fled Arab lands) in the harsh winter of 1951 can be seen here. It is not unreasonable to assume that images such as those “have rarely been seen” by BBC audiences either – and perhaps even less than they have seen footage of Palestinian refugees.

Despite having been told in the interview with Arik Bernstein that the raw material for the film was gathered from members of the public by means of adverts in the papers, word of mouth and appeals on radio shows, in his final summing up of the film – on the back of his misleading categorization of it as a documentary – Brook opines:

“Also missing are home movies shot by Israeli Arabs…”

Israelis, it seems, will not be allowed to have their own intimate moments of recollection without the BBC demanding that they be more objective about it than any other nation remembering its history. Some might call that double standards.

BBC guest ‘expert’ is ‘Veterans Today’, ‘Rense’ contributor

A BBC audience member who happened to be looking on that organisation’s website for information about the escape of hundreds of convicted Al Qaeda terrorists from two prisons in Iraq on July 21st would have come across a number of items on the subject.

Iraqi jailbreak hp

In the main article audiences could read that:

“Al-Qaeda has said it carried out two mass jailbreaks in Iraq, which freed hundreds of prisoners including senior leaders of the Islamist militant group.” [emphasis added]

Alternatively, they could listen to the BBC’s Arab affairs analyst Rami Ruhayem being interviewed by Mishal Husain in a television news programme and hear him refer to the perpetrators of attacks which apparently involved suicide bombings, car bombings, mortar fire and the killing of some twenty Iraqi security guards as “militants”.

“It’s really strange that given how well-known it [Abu Ghraib] is, that the militants want to attack these prisons and try to free the prisoners inside, especially those serving life sentences or who have been handed death sentences.”

In addition, audiences were given the option of listening to Rami Ruhayem in an item originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme on July 23rd and also featured on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. 

Today prog 23 7 iraq

In that broadcast listeners could also hear analysis from Sharmine Narwani, who is described as “a middle east expert at St Anthony’s College, Oxford”. As we know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state that:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

In this case (as in others), the BBC most definitely did not make it clear to listeners that despite the neutral-sounding academic description, there is rather more to Ms Narwani than the BBC is letting on. 

In addition to some aggressive anti-Americanism, Narwani peddles anti-Israel, pro Assad,  pro-Iranian regime and pro-Hizballah rhetoric.  As well as having blogged at the Huffington Post - until her pro-Assad stance apparently became too much - Narwani has written for the Guardian and the pro-Hizballah/pro-Assad Lebanese outlet Al Akhbar English.

She also appears to have something of an affinity with antisemitic  conspiracy theorists, writing for the ‘Veterans Today website – which has links, via its editor, to Iran’s Press TV – and its sister site ‘Veterans News Now’ (I won’t link to those sites: do a search), as well as – according to her Twitter account – recently appearing on Rense Radio.  

Narwani Rense

Narwani’s ‘analysis’ for the ‘Today’ programme naturally takes on a whole new light when one is aware of her ideological and political leanings. Audiences, however, would not be able to appreciate that because she is misrepresented – in contravention of BBC editorial guidelines – as a neutral academic ‘Middle East expert’.

And then of course there is the important question of whether ‘analysis’ from a mouthpiece of the Iranian and Syrian regimes who hobnobs with racist, Holocaust denying conspiracy theorists is really the best the BBC can offer the public which pays it £145.50 a year in order to be better informed on international issues. 

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BBC selected ‘expert opinions’ and transparency