BBC portrayal of the Iran nuclear deal – part three

In this series of posts we have already looked at how the JCPOA agreement between the P5+1 and Iran was framed by the BBC’s Middle East editor and its chief international correspondent on domestic and World Service radio programmes. In this post we will see an example of what viewers of BBC World News television learned – or not – about the deal’s essentials when presenter Babita Sharma interviewed Israeli minister Naftali Bennett on July 14th.Babita Sharma

Bennett’s opening comments related to the problematic aspects of the deal’s verification mechanism, including the 24-day prior notice of inspections.

Bennett: “You cannot have verifiable inspections if you have to notify them in advance, if they can object and then there’s a committee. This is not serious.”

Sharma’s response to that point prompts the very obvious question of why the BBC bothered to invite Bennett for an interview in the first place.

Sharma: “You say it’s not serious but it is very serious. A deal has been done with the world’s major powers and Iran. Israel wasn’t there. It doesn’t really matter what you say about this because this deal has been done. It will be implemented.”

When Bennett tried to answer that point she quickly interrupted him.

Sharma: “But what can Israel do? What can Israel do at this stage?”

Seventeen seconds into his reply she interrupted again.

Sharma: “And how will you do that? And how will you do that?”

Without even waiting for a reply she interrupted once more.

Sharma: “Let me just ask you though – forgive me for interrupting. I just want to ask on the point you’ve just said that you will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. You’re echoing the words of Benjamin Netanyahu some hours ago saying that we did not commit to preventing an agreement but we commit to preventing Iran from acquiring weapons. What do you mean by that? It sounds like a threat of sorts. I mean what are you proposing here?”

Eight seconds into Bennett’s reply to that, Sharma yet again interrupted him.

Sharma: “But what does that mean? Now hold on a second. You’re quite happy…let me start over…you’re very happy to share with us your views about what’s not happening and how a deal isn’t right but you’re not able to tell us how you believe Israel is able to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. So with statements like that issued into the public domain, what are we supposed to read from that if you’re not going to back it up with telling us exactly what you’re going to do?”

Did Ms Sharma and her producers really think that an Israeli minister was going to provide them with the intimate details of any plans relating to the Iranian nuclear programme? Of course not: the clue to why this exchange even took place is in the prior framing: “it sounds like a threat”. Forty-four seconds later Sharma continued her theme of an Israeli ‘threat’ by introducing a topic unrelated to the P5+1 agreement with Iran.

Sharma: “Let’s talk about the security and stability of what’s happening in the Middle East; in the region that you’re part of. Ehm…let me just begin by asking you – Israel; is it not the only country in the Middle East in 2015 that currently has a stockpile that’s capable of making up to eighty nuclear weapons? Is that correct?”

Fifteen seconds into Bennett’s reply to a question she knew in advance he was not going to answer Sharma interrupted once more.

Sharma: “Forgive me though, that’s not quite answering my question. The question was does Israel have…does Israel have a stockpile of nuclear weapons? Is it a yes or is it a no to that question?”

And three seconds later she interrupted again.

Sharma: “Does Israel have a stockpile of nuclear weapons?”

Eleven seconds after that she cut him off once more.

Sharma: “OK. Naftali Bennett I have to…Naftali Bennett I did ask you – and it was a simple yes or no – does Israel have the ability to make eighty nuclear weapons from its stockpile in 2015? Does it have that capability?”

Clearly the aim of this interview was not to provide BBC audiences with an understanding of Israel’s concerns about the JCPOA agreement. What Babita Sharma and her editorial team did however seek to do was to frame Israel as a greater threat to “security and stability” in the Middle East than the theocratic regime which has already breached its NPT obligations and sponsors terror throughout the region and beyond.

Unfortunately, such cringingly transparent ‘journavism’ no longer comes as a surprise to BBC audiences.

Related Articles:

R4 ‘Today’ expounds BBC ‘World View’ on Iran

 

BBC ‘Gaza war anniversary’ coverage continues to mislead on the causes of the conflict

Back in February 2015 the BBC decided to produce a series of reports and programmes (see some examples in ‘related articles’ below) to mark six months since the ceasefire which brought the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas – along with other assorted terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip – to an end.

The occasion of the one year anniversary of the beginning of that conflict likewise received special BBC coverage and once more, the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet was at the forefront of the corporation’s efforts.anniversary progs 2

One of many problematic aspects of the BBC’s coverage of that conflict – both whilst it was ongoing and ever since – has been the corporation’s presentation of why it began and some examples can be seen here, here and here.

As some further examples from the BBC’s generous cross-platform ‘anniversary’ coverage show, one year on the corporation is nowhere nearer to providing its audiences with an accurate and impartial account of why Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8th 2014.

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ on July 8th 2015 heard the presenter introduce an item “to mark the conflict” (from 16:10 here for a limited period of time) in the following terms.

“Now it’s exactly a year since Israel launched a military offensive against Gaza which it said was intended to stop Palestinian militants firing rockets from there. Over the next fifty days 73 Israelis died and, according to the UN, 2,200 Palestinians.”

The BBC World News channel’s website promotes Lyse Doucet’s programme ‘Children of the Gaza War’ with the following synopsis:Anniversary progs 1

“The war in Gaza is a war about children. It began when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered. A Palestinian child was later dragged into a Jerusalem forest, beaten, and burned alive.”

Listeners to the July 8th 2015 edition of the BBC World Service’s ‘BBC World Update:Daily Commute’ heard Rebecca Kesby tell them (from 03:14 here):

“Now on this day last year another war erupted in Gaza. It lasted 51 days and turned into the longest, most costly conflict of the three wars in the past six years. More than 2,100 people were killed in Gaza and 72 were killed on the Israeli side including 66 soldiers. And a very high price paid by civilians – and most of all children – became a defining issue in this confrontation.”

As we see, all three of those examples inaccurately describe the conflict as having taken place exclusively in Gaza: BBC audiences are not informed that hostilities also took place in Israel.

Completely erased from audience view are the events which led up to the launch of the operation.

“In the three weeks leading up to July 8, according the official IDF figures, militants fired 250 rockets capable of reaching Israel’s largest cities and population centers and endangering 3.5 million Israeli lives.”

Also censored from these accounts are the cross-border tunnels which made the ground operation imperative.

“In the first 48 hours of the ground operation, the IDF uncovered more than 30 tunnels, including both defensive and storage tunnels as well as offensive terror tunnels leading into Israel. The soldiers uncovered a labyrinth of tunnels dug 20 meters deep and running 2 kilometers towards Israeli territory with multiple exits. The IDF Corps of Engineers detonated and demolished the discovered tunnels.”

The BBC’s narrative does not inform audiences that the military operation could have been avoided had Hamas elected to take advantage of the ample opportunities it was given to stop the missile fire before July 8th or that the terrorist organisation chose not to do so for reasons not by any means exclusively connected to Israel.

Neither does the BBC’s version of events clarify to audiences that the conflict could have been considerably shorter – and hence less costly in human life – had Hamas accepted any of the numerous offers of a ceasefire presented before the one which finally ended the hostilities.

The distortion of the factors which led to the summer 2014 conflict has over the past year become standard BBC practice. The version of events repeatedly promoted by the BBC is obviously not accurate due to its omission of the firing of hundreds of missiles at Israeli civilians before Operation Protective Edge even began and nor is it impartial as it clearly seeks to erase Hamas’ responsibility for igniting and prolonging that conflict from audience view.

We have said it before and regrettably we have to say it again: it is high time the BBC got a grip on its serial misrepresentation of this issue. Its failure – or refusal – to do so over the past twelve months severely compromises its claim to impartiality.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part one

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part two

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part three

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part one

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part two

Lyse Doucet’s promotion of her BBC Two ‘Children of the Gaza War’ programme

Promotion for Lyse Doucet’s programme ‘Children of the Gaza War’ – timed to be broadcast on the anniversary of the beginning of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th – has been appearing, inter alia, on the BBC News website and on social media.

Doucet tweet children 1

Doucet tweet children 2

Doucet tweet children 3

Doucet tweet children 4

Doucet tweet children 5

From the second of those Tweets from Lyse Doucet we learn that whilst the BBC was filming in southern Israel on July 16th 2014 it caught an incoming missile alert and the resulting scramble of two children to their home’s fortified safe room on camera. Insofar as we are aware, that footage was not shown to BBC audiences at the time.

Visitors to the BBC News website on July 5th found a filmed report by Doucet titled “Battle scars: Gaza children living with war’s legacy” and two days later a written report by Doucet also appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the website’s Middle East page under the headline  “The children scarred by war“.Doucet art 7 7 Gaza

Of the 1,086 words making up that article, two hundred and thirty-six can be categorized as background information. The Israeli children’s side of the story is told in two hundred and sixty words and five hundred and ninety words are devoted to the stories of Palestinian children. One can only hope that the upcoming programme itself will show better balance.

Among the notable aspects of Doucet’s written report is a curious focus on why her first interviewee was where he was when disaster struck.

“A week after the fighting began, Syed’s life was shattered on the day the 12-year-old, his 11-year-old brother Mohamed, and their six cousins went to Gaza’s beach to play football.

It was the natural playground for young boys from a family of fishermen which has lived off the sea for generations.

“We didn’t know that beach was dangerous,” says Syed – his eyes still, round, sad pools, as he remembers 16 July, one of the most harrowing days of the war.” [emphasis added]

Doucet makes no effort to inform readers that – as noted in the MAG report on the incident – the location was known to be a Hamas site and that prior events made the fact that it was dangerous clear.

“From the factual findings collected by MPCID investigators, it arose that the incident took place in an area that had long been known as a compound belonging to Hamas’s Naval Police and Naval Force (naval commandos), and which was utilized exclusively by militants. The compound in question spans the length of the breakwater of the Gaza City seashore, closed off by a fence and clearly separated from the beach serving the civilian population. It further arose in the course of the investigation (including from the affidavits provided to the MPCID by Palestinian witnesses), that the compound was known to the residents of the Gaza Strip as a compound which was used exclusively by Hamas’s Naval Police. The IDF carried out a number of attacks on the compound in the days prior to the incident. In the course of one such attack, which took place on the day prior to the incident (15 July 2014), a container located inside the compound, which was used to store military supplies, was attacked.”

Doucet even casts doubt on the nature of the site through her use of punctuation in the following sentence:

“An Israeli investigation said its air force mistook the children for Hamas fighters when a pilot fired twice at a “compound” next to the beach.”

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

In a video clip embedded into the article, Doucet tells audiences that the apartment she visits together with a girl called Samar “lies next to the main crossing with Israel”. That information would suggest that the area is in Beit Hanoun but Doucet makes no effort to inform viewers of the highly relevant context of the terrorist activity which took place in that district.

“Of the 3,356 missiles fired at civilian targets in Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip between July 8th and August 5th 2014, 69.4% were fired from the northern part of the territory with the towns of Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun being major centres of missile fire, cross border tunnels and other terrorist activity.”

Without revealing the source of her claim, Doucet tells readers that:

“By the end of the 51-day conflict, 551 Gazan children had lost their lives.”

Throughout the past year, the BBC has repeatedly quoted and promoted casualty figures sourced from Hamas agencies and/or UN bodies relying on information from Hamas agencies and sympathisers. No independent BBC verification of the figures or of civilian/combatant casualty ratios has been made available to the public. Hence, BBC audiences cannot know whether or not the number quoted by Doucet includes child combatants, terrorists presented with false ages or even those killed by short-falling missiles fired by terrorist organisations such as the children killed in Shati on July 28th 2014.

Doucet’s article also includes promotion – including a link – of a very one-sided and context-free report from the political NGO ‘Save the Children’ which relates almost exclusively to children in the Gaza Strip and manages to avoid all use of the words terrorism or Hamas.

“A report released this week by Save the Children, A Living Nightmare, says the vast majority of children in the hardest-hit area still experience nightmares and bed wetting.”

The most remarkable part of Doucet’s article, however, is the following paragraph:

“Israel says its 2014 campaign, Operation Protective Edge, was launched to stop rocket attacks from Gaza and destroy a vast network of tunnels, some of which extended into Israeli communities. Hamas, which controls most of Gaza, said it was fighting against Israeli air strikes and incursions, and trying to ease severe restrictions on its crossings with both Israel and Egypt.”Doucet filmed 5 7

The BBC knows full well that Operation Protective Edge commenced after hundreds of missiles were fired by terrorist groups at civilian targets in Israel in the preceding weeks and following considerable efforts to persuade Hamas to stop those attacks. It also knows that thousands more rockets and mortars were fired during the period between July 8th and August 26th and what was the aim of the cross-border tunnels constructed by Hamas. It therefore has no justification for presenting that information with the qualifier “Israel says”.

Likewise, the BBC knows perfectly well that Israeli airstrikes were responses to missile fire on Israeli civilians and that the ground operation was necessary in order to decommission the cross-border tunnels. It also knows – even though it does not tell its audiences – that the border restrictions are the result of a decade and a half of terrorism by Hamas and other terror groups located in the Gaza Strip.

Doucet’s equivocal presentation of the background to Operation Protective Edge therefore does not represent an effort to meet editorial standards of impartiality but an active attempt to promote misleading ambiguity regarding the causes of the conflict.

One can only hope that a higher standard of journalism will be evident in the programme to be aired to UK audiences tonight on BBC Two and to viewers elsewhere this coming Saturday on BBC World News television.  

 

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ provides propaganda platform for Erekat yet again

The last thing that can be said about the PLO’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is that he suffers from a lack of BBC airtime but nevertheless, the end of May saw him back at one of his regular spots – ‘Hardtalk‘.Erekat Hardtalk May 2015

Not only did Erekat have nothing new to tell host Zeinab Badawi, he even recycled statements made during previous appearances on the same programme. At 10:32 in the video below, Erekat says:

“See, in my opinion Christian and Muslim Palestinians will not convert to Judaism and become Israelis. Jews will not convert to Islam and Christianity and become Palestinians.”

If that sounds familiar, that may be because only last year Erekat made a very similar statement during a previous ‘Hardtalk’ interview.

“Are Christian and Muslim Palestinians going to convert to become Israelis? Or are Jews going to convert to Christianity and Islam and become Palestinians? This is not happen.” 

And if it rang a bell even in 2014, that could be because back in 2011 Erekat told Zeinab Badawi in yet another ‘Hardtalk’ interview:

“I don’t think Christian and Muslim Palestinians would convert to Judaism and become Israelis. I don’t think that Jews would convert to Islam and Christianity and become Palestinian.”

In other words, for four years at least Saeb Erekat has been pushing the same broken record mantra and not one BBC journalist has bothered to follow it up by informing audiences that not all Israelis are Jews – as the country’s two million strong non-Jewish population (25.1%) indicates – or by asking him why Jews cannot be citizens of a Palestinian state.

Let’s take look at some of the other falsehoods propagated by Erekat – with no disturbance from Badawi – in this programme.

“I have as a Palestinian recognized the State of Israel’s right to exist on the ’67 borders.”

“We recognize them to live in peace and security in the ’67 borders – that’s 78% of historic British mandated Palestine – and accepted to establish our state in the remaining 22% of the land.”

There is of course no such thing as “’67 borders” because the 1949 Armistice Lines were specifically defined as not being borders – as even the BBC’s style guide notes. Nevertheless, Badawi makes no effort to clarify the point to viewers.

“In one week of his government he [Netanyahu] issues more than two thousand housing units of settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. They’re moving their offices – his ministers – to occupied East Jerusalem and today, literally speaking, there are buses in Israel that Palestinians cannot use. They call it sterilized buses and there will be roads that they call sterilized roads.”

Those “East Jerusalem” apartments are in fact located in Ramat Shlomo and have been going through the planning process since 2010. One Israeli minister has approached the Finance Ministry with a request for new offices in Jerusalem. The same ministry has a long existing office in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem: an area which was classified as no-man’s land throughout the 19 years of the Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem. There are no “sterilized buses” and the restriction on travel for PA registered vehicles on certain small sections of road arises from the very real security issues which of course do not get a mention in this programme at all.

“I’m telling the Israelis if you worry about courts, stop committing crimes. […] I cannot have every two years 12,000 Palestinians killed and wounded in Gaza. I cannot leave the continuation of the settlement activities, by-pass roads – now they call sterilized road – sterilized buses. I cannot continue living a deeper apartheid system in the West Bank and East Jerusalem than the one that existed in South Africa. So what I’m telling the Israelis wake up, wake up. What you’re doing in the West Bank in accordance with the international law – the four Geneva Conventions and the 4th Convention of 1949 – are war crimes.”

Like the vast majority of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria, Saeb Erekat lives under full Palestinian Authority control. The topic of Palestinian self-rule in areas A&B is of course not mentioned at any point in this programme either and Badawi sits idly by as Erekat promotes the false and defamatory notion of a system of ‘apartheid’ worse “than the one that existed in South Africa”.

“I know I have an agreed agenda with them, signed by the Israeli government, saying that permanent status negotiations issues are borders, Jerusalem, water, security. Is Mr Netanyahu willing to utter the sentence two states on the 1967 lines? […] Is he willing to carry out his commitment – not condition – to stop settlement activities in the land that’s supposed to be the State of Palestine?”

“What is between me and the Israelis are elements of contracts, agreements signed. There are obligations emanating from those agreements signed – on me as a Palestinian and on Israel. And Israel must stop settlement activities and must accept two states on 1967 lines and must accept to sit with me to delineate the borders on the basis of the 1967 lines. If they’re willing to honour their commitments we’ll meet tomorrow.”

The “agreements” and “contracts” signed between the Palestinians and Israel are the Oslo Accords. In contrast to the misleading impression given to viewers of this programme, nowhere in those agreements is any restriction placed on building in Israeli towns and villages in Judea & Samaria or Jerusalem and nowhere do they state that the 1949 Armistice Lines – or “67 lines” as Erekat calls them – would be the final borders between Israel and a Palestinian state. That, of course, is precisely why the subject of borders is one of the issues to be discussed in final status negotiations.

“We’re willing to engage seriously on the basis of the agreed terms of reference specified in the Quartet’s statements saying that negotiations should be on the basis of two states on 1967.”

The Quartet’s February 2015 statement makes no mention of “1967” and neither does its 2003 roadmap stipulate that Erekat’s much-touted “1967 lines” are a basis for negotiations.

“The fact that Palestine became and has gained the legal status for observer state meant that it’s a state under occupation. The West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem is identified as now as a Higher [sic] Contracting Party to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. […] Palestine has a status of a state under occupation like what countries like Norway, Belgium, Holland, France, Korea, the Philippines were in the Second World War under German and Japanese occupation [Badawi: sure, sure…] so the Israelis cannot say it’s disputed territories…”

Legal experts contacted by BBC Watch in connection with Erekat’s claim that the 2012 granting of the status of UN non-member observer state automatically confers High Contracting Party status advised us that “neither joining the Geneva Conventions nor receiving observer status in the General Assembly are procedures for assigning territorial sovereignty, and neither action could give “Palestine” sovereignty over the territory of “West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.”

“Zeinab, settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem are illegal settlements. Actually, in accordance with the 4th Geneva Convention these settlements are war crimes.”

That inaccuracy is reinforced by Badawi at 07:45:

“And of course, as you say, international law says that the settlements are illegal.

Once again the BBC breaches its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to inform audiences of the existence of legal opinions which disagree with the politically partial line it chooses to promote.

Were viewers of this programme provided with factual information which would aid them in building an “understanding of international issues“? Regrettably, no. Were they provided with unchallenged misinformation in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality? Unfortunately, yes. That, however, is par for the course in any BBC content featuring Saeb Erekat.

Related Articles:

 BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part one

BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part two

Resources:

How to Complain to the BBC

BBC’s Sackur touts ‘racist’ Israel in Hardtalk interview with Herzog

The April 21st/ 22nd edition of ‘Hardtalk’ featured an interview with the leader of the Israeli Labour party, Yitzhak (Isaac) Herzog. Readers in the UK can find the programme on BBC iPlayer here and a podcast of the programme is available here.Herzog on Hardtalk

As is not infrequently the case, viewers and listeners heard presenter Stephen Sackur promoting his own ideas about Israel in the form of ‘questions’ and even some belated election campaign advice to Herzog.

10:42: “I tell you what you could have done – and you talk about fear – what maybe you could have done to the Israeli people is say that if we do not negotiate a two state solution with the Palestinians, then there’s only one other realistic alternative: that is we have a bi-national state – a unitary state – which includes all of the Palestinians in the occupied territories as well as Israel proper and the result of that will be in the long run, we Jewish Israelis will be in a minority. So then we either accept that in a democracy or we run an apartheid state. But you never outlined the choice in those terms.”

04:39: “Are you telling me today that you believe Binyamin Netanyahu is in essence a racist?”

06:08: “What does it say about today’s Israel that the argument that you’ve just outlined – that Netanyahu used close to polling day – was so successful? What does that tell us about Israel today?”

21:00: “Before we end, let’s just address a bigger picture thought. Not so long ago the president of Israel, who is no peacenik – he’s a former…he is a Likudnik – Reuven Rivlin, he said Israel right now is a sick society. He was talking about the signs of a new racism and discrimination amongst some elements in Israeli Jewish society. And not so long ago the great writer Amos Oz – he said there is a real danger of Israel becoming an isolated ghetto. When you hear the words of Oz and Rivlin – the worries about where Israel is today – do you share them?”

One particular section of the interview was also promoted by the BBC on social media under the title “Isaac Herzog: Time to amend the nuclear deal with Iran” and with the following synopsis.Herzog on Hardtalk clip

“Isaac Herzog is chairman of the Labour party in Israel. His party has just lost in an election to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

He tells Stephen Sackur that there are no differences between Netanyahu and himself on the crux of the Iranian challenge to Israel.

Now is the time to amend the Iranian nuclear interim deal, Mr Herzog argues.”

In that clip Herzog says:

“On the crux of the challenge of the Iranian nuclear programme there is no difference [between Labour and Likud]. And I made it clear throughout the elections that there is no difference here: there is no coalition and opposition here. This is a matter of huge impact on the world peace, on Europe, on Britain too by the way and of course on the Middle East and the moderate forces in the Middle East and the security of Israel.”

Whilst Herzog’s stance on the P5+1’s framework agreement with Iran will not come as a revelation to those with a realistic understanding of the Israeli political scene, it does shine a spotlight on the framing chosen by the BBC in its presentation of the issue in recent weeks. That choice of framing has led to a failure to clarify to BBC audiences that concerns regarding the Iranian nuclear programme straddle the Israeli political spectrum and are not – as BBC audiences have been led to believe – the exclusive concern of the Israeli prime minister.

“Mr Netanyahu has repeatedly warned a deal with Iran could threaten Israel’s security.” (21/1/15 – link to source)

“Administration officials have been hitting back at Mr Netanyahu’s aggressive opposition to the nuclear deal they’re negotiating with Iran…”  (26/2/15)

“That issue – Iran and the Bomb – is one of the defining themes of Mr Netanyahu’s career …” (26/2/15)

“To his supporters Mr Netanyahu is something of a visionary on the topic, who has devoted much of his career to warning that the revolutionary regime in Tehran is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.” (2/3/15)

“Mr Netanyahu says the deal would be inadequate to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.” (2/3/15)  [links to sources of all of the above]

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that the framework deal poses a grave danger to the region.” (30/3/15 – link to source)

“When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the most vociferous sceptics, recently addressed the US Congress. he invoked the history of World War One [sic], and actions of wartime leaders which tragically paved the way to the Holocaust.” (30/3/15 – link to source)

“There was anger though from Israel, whose leader Benjamin Netanyahu has been a vocal critic of Iran and told President Obama the deal threatened the survival of Israel.” (3/4/15 – link to source)

“Mr Obama said he recognised the concerns raised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce critic of the deal…” (7/4/15 – link to source)

As readers are well aware, the BBC has consistently failed to provide its audiences with the background information necessary for them to understand why leaders from across the Israeli political scene (among many others) are concerned by the P5+1’s framework agreement with Iran. Herzog went on to say:

“And we presented – I presented – a full-fledged plan on how to deal with the agreement that’s supposed to be agreed upon by the end of June. Right now is the time to amend whatever needs to be amended and correct and upgrade and improve a lot of issues which are open and disturbing.”

Stephen Sackur, however, was too focused on the niche topic of coalition building to take the opportunity presented by Herzog’s words to contribute to the BBC’s public purpose remit by clarifying to audiences worldwide exactly why two Israeli leaders with such different views on so many other issues see the same pitfalls in the framework agreement.   

 

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ mainstreams anti-Israel delegitimisation

In June 2014, whilst appearing on the BBC radio 4 programme ‘Desert Island Discs’, Raja Shehadeh gave the following account of his family’s decision to leave Jaffa for their second home in Ramallah in the spring of 1948.

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

That did not prevent Zeinab Badawi from making the following inaccurate and misleading claim in her introduction to the March 16th 2015 edition of ‘Hardtalk’ shown on the BBC World News channel. The same claim appears in the programme’s synopsis on the BBC website.Hardtalk Shehadeh

“My guest today is the award-winning Palestinian author and lawyer Raja Shehadeh. For three decades he has written many books about human rights and the Israeli occupation. His family were forced to leave Jaffa in 1948 and settled in Ramallah on the West Bank where he lives today.” [emphasis added]

Notably, Badawi makes no attempt to inform her audience of Shehadeh’s activities beyond “author and lawyer”: no mention is made of his record of political activism with organisations such as Al Haq and Palfest, meaning that viewers – in clear breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – are denied the ability to put his comments into their appropriate context.

Predictably, Shehadeh uses the platform provided by the BBC to promote the well-worn language and distortions of anti-Israel campaigning. No less predictably, little effort is made by Badawi to counter that propaganda.

Audiences hear mostly unchallenged references to Israelis as ‘colonisers’, promotion of the ‘apartheid’ trope and comparison to South Africa, the claim that “Israel never left Gaza” along with description of the Gaza Strip as a ‘large prison’ and the claim that the Arab-Israeli conflict is “the most important issue in the world today” and “at the core of the problems of the Middle East”. Shehadeh distorts history both actively and by omission with viewers hearing, for example, an account of his father’s post-1967 proposals which is devoid of any mention of the Khartoum Declaration and a euphemistic representation of the 2013/14 round of negotiations which eliminates the Palestinian Authority’s decision to run those talks aground by means of its reconciliation deal with Hamas.  

And so here we have yet another example of the role played by the BBC in mainstreaming anti-Israel delegitimisation and defamation by means of a passive-aggressive failure to challenge the falsehoods and factual distortions promoted by an inadequately introduced political activist.

Related Articles:

Desert Island distortions on BBC Radio 4

Elections 2015: round up of BBC coverage – election day WS radio reports

BBC’s Gaza blockade campaign continues with amplification of another NGO

As we noted in our discussion here of the plethora of reports recently produced by the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet on the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip (see related articles below), UNRWA employees were given platforms from which to promote their political campaign against Israel’s policies regarding its border with the Gaza Strip in many of those items, as well as in an additional related programme.

But UNRWA was not the only organisation to be given BBC airtime for the promotion of politically motivated messaging in Doucet’s series of reports. The video below shows a report aired on BBC World News in February in which Doucet interviewed Roger Hearn of Save the Children. Note his answer to Doucet’s request to identify “the main problem” holding up reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.

Hearn: “Look, fundamentally people can’t get the equipment and the building supplies to rebuild Gaza. Its…it’s the blockade – the Israeli blockade on Gaza that’s preventing us from moving forward. We can apply a band-aid as aid organisations but it’s a band-aid on a gaping wound and we will expect another war if we don’t actually start rebuilding soon.” [emphasis added]

Hearn was also featured in an audio report by Doucet (from 35:10 here) which was broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on February 25th. There he expanded on the above theme:

Doucet: “And what do you think has to happen if this is going to change? It seems there are so many reasons why it’s [reconstruction] failing.

Hearn: “Clearly the blockade – the Israeli blockade on Gaza – has to be lifted. Without that no amount of money can ever fix the damage that we’re seeing here in Gaza.”

Doucet: “But the border with Egypt is also closed: it’s a double whammy.”

Hearn: “It’s a double whammy but Israel has the legal responsibility to – actually as the occupying power – to…to lift the blockade. There’s a humanitarian imperative for Egypt but the clear responsibility lies with Israel.”

Doucet made no attempt to relieve BBC audiences of the erroneous impression given by Hearn that the Gaza Strip is still occupied by Israel almost a decade after all soldiers and civilians were removed from that area – or even to inform them that any other view of the issue exists. Hearn (who in the past has also worked for UNRWA and Oxfam, among others) has no discernible training in international law which could form a basis for his claims. Someone who does have the relevant qualifications is Professor Euguene Kontorovich and as he explained in a two-part essay (here and here) written in November 2014:

“An occupation is traditionally defined as a power exercising “effective control” over the territory in a way that displaces the prior government. The occupying power is expected to provide law and order, essential services, and all the basic functions of government – and is thus required to have the kind of control that allows for that. As the ICJ has put it, occupation requires a territory to be “actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.” There has never been a finding of a such “remote” occupation, lasting nine years after the end of physical occupation and in the presence of a distinct and hostile local government.”

And of course even Hamas has stated that the Gaza Strip is no longer ‘occupied’.

Likewise, Doucet makes no attempt in either of these interviews to explain to audiences why Israel finds it necessary to restrict the entry of dual-use goods to the Gaza Strip (and those alone) which can be used for the purposes of terrorism against its civilian population. Hamas terrorism gets no mention at all and BBC audiences are herded towards the inaccurate belief that responsibility for “the main problem” holding up the reconstruction of buildings in the Gaza Strip lies exclusively with Israel.

As we have seen so many times before, the motivation for Doucet’s uncritical amplification of Roger Hearn’s inaccurate and misleading claims obviously lies both in a shared political view and in the BBC’s failure to treat NGOs with the same sort of journalistic standards it applies to other sectors. Hence, once again the BBC’s obligation to enhance its audiences’ understanding of international issues by means of accurate and impartial reporting is trumped by the opportunity to promote a political agenda.

The BBC self-conscripted to amplification of the campaign promoted by Hamas and assorted NGOs and ‘humanitarian’ groups against Israeli policies concerning its border with the Gaza Strip even as last summer’s conflict still raged. As we see, the exploitation of its unrivalled outreach for that purpose continues. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part one

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part two

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part three

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part one

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part two

Examining Lyse Doucet’s claim that she reported new Hamas tunnels on BBC

BBC World Service amplifies UNRWA’s political campaigning yet again

 

The BBC and the Houthi logo

Viewers of the BBC World News programme ‘Impact‘ who recently watched a report by Safa al Ahmed (which also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on January 27th under the title “Yemen crisis: BBC gets rare access to Houthi rebels“) may have noticed a certain feature which cropped up repeatedly throughout the filmed footage.

Houthis report pics

Seeing as no attempt was made to explain that logo in Safa Al Ahmed’s report, audiences might perhaps have turned to the BBC News website’s profile of the group titled “Yemen crisis: Who are the Houthis?“. There they would have found that same logo appearing in a picture captioned “Houthi supporters took part in weeks of protests calling for fuel price cuts and a new government”.

Houthi profile art pic

So does that logo have anything to do with fuel prices or demands for political reform in Yemen? Well, no – and its recurrent appearance is not coincidental because that banner is actually the official emblem of the Houthis, as explained by the New York Times:

“It includes the words “Death to America, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews.” Houthis shout it when they march, wear it on arm patches, paint it on buildings and stick it onto their car windows. When pictured, those words are rendered in red, framed by “God is great” and “Victory to Islam” in green, on a white background.

Sometimes the red words are shown dripping blood.”

One might think that, given the BBC’s remit of building understanding of international issues, the corporation would consider that information worth communicating to its audiences, along with more comprehensive information on the Houthis’ alleged links to the Iranian regime (and Hizballah) than appear in its profile.

“Regional Shia power Iran has also been accused of giving financial and military support to the Houthis – something both have denied.”

“Saudi Arabia, the main Sunni power, believes that the rebels are backed militarily, financially and politically by its Shia regional arch-rival, Iran – something both have denied.”

Remarkably, the BBC does not appear to have much interest in conducting in-depth investigative reporting on that topic

‘Hardtalk’ interview with Yehuda Glick reinforces entrenched BBC narrative

The January 7th edition of ‘Hardtalk’ – presented by Stephen Sackur and broadcast on BBC World News and on the BBC News Channel with three additional repeats – featured an interview with Yehuda Glick. The synopsis to the programme appearing on the BBC website reads as follows:Hardtalk logo

“Jerusalem boasts one of the most bitterly contested pieces of real estate in the World – known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims. Jews aren’t allowed to pray there, many Jewish religious leaders say Jews should not set foot there; but that consensus is breaking down. Hardtalk speaks to Yehuda Glick an activist who’s been variously described as a dangerous extremist, and a campaigner for religious freedom. Three months ago he survived an assassination attempt. Why does he persist with his divisive campaign on Jerusalem’s holiest ground?”

The portrayal of the campaign for equal prayer rights for non-Muslims on Temple Mount as “divisive” is in tune with themes promoted in much of the BBC’s recent reporting from Israel. Indeed, that campaign was the second most promoted factor (after ‘settlements’) used by BBC journalists to ‘explain’ the rioting, violence and terror attacks in Jerusalem and elsewhere during October and November 2014. Whilst the BBC has seen fit to employ political labels such as “extremist” and “right-wing” to describe people involved in that campaign or visiting the site, similar political labelling for those engaged in rioting, violence and terror ostensibly in response to that campaign was absent from all BBC reporting.

Notably, no effort has been made by the BBC to date to examine the real issues behind opposition to equal prayer rights at a site holy to members of three religions. Whatever one’s opinion on the issue of the implementation of such rights (and the Israeli government has made it perfectly clear on numerous occasions that it has no intention of changing the status quo according to which non-Muslims are not allowed to pray at the site), there is clearly a wider discussion to be had about the acceptance of limits on freedom of religion in the 21st century and the ideologies which form the basis for violent opposition to equality for members of all faiths.

Stephen Sackur, however, passed up on the opportunity to use this interview to present a more in-depth view of the topic to BBC audiences and elected instead to further promote the standard BBC approach to the issue. As readers can see for themselves below, viewers of this edition of ‘Hardtalk’ were not even informed who tried to kill Yehuda Glick on October 29th and that would-be assassin was certainly not depicted as a “provocative figure” or an “extremist” – as Sackur did describe his interviewee. In fact at one point (05:50), Sackur’s unfortunate turn of phrase appears to justify violence.

Glick: “…there is no reason in the world why that [non-Muslims praying on Temple Mount] should cause others to be violent towards…”

Sackur: (interrupts) “Well of course there is a reason because it contravenes the agreement upon which access to Temple Mount is currently governed…”

Purporting to explain the underlying issue to audiences, Sackur promotes inaccurate information:

“For some people watching this who don’t know the situation today, let us just lay it out in simple terms if we can. You know, the Temple Mount as you call it obviously is the site of the first and second ancient Jewish temples built by the kings, you know, thousands of years ago. That matters deeply to you. It is also, right now, today, the site of the third holiest Muslim shrine: the Al Aqsa Mosque – it’s known as Dome of the Rock. Of course generally; the compound described as the Noble Sanctuary. Deeply important to Muslims around the world and the arrangement is and has been for many years that Jews do not go into the compound to pray and have limited – very limited – access to the compound as long as they don’t pray.  

The Al Aqsa Mosque is of course not “known as Dome of the Rock”: the two are separate structures. Notably, Sackur’s explanation does not clarify that Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism – or why – and his claim that under the terms of the status quo agreement Jews have “very limited” access to Temple Mount is inaccurate, with the right of access also protected by the Protection of Holy Places Law.

Notably, every time the conversation does approach the issue of religious freedom, Stephen Sackur interrupts and redirects it elsewhere in accordance with his all too obvious agenda of reinforcing the framing of this story already so well entrenched in previous BBC coverage.

 

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack – the TV news interview

Four months ago, during the summer conflict, we noted here that the BBC has a number of guidelines relating to the subject of the broadcast of images of people killed or injured in violent circumstances.

The corporation’s guidance on “Violence in News and Current Affairs“, for example, instructs on the issue of consistency.

“News teams should apply consistent editorial values to content, regardless of the availability of material.” 

“News teams should apply consistent editorial values to content, regardless of where it comes from.”

That topic was raised here because of the BBC’s recurrent use of graphic images of casualties filmed in the Gaza Strip during this summer’s hostilities, with one example being the filmed report by Jeremy Bowen from July 14th which showed particularly graphic footage taken in a morgue. At no point during the seven weeks of BBC coverage of the conflict were BBC audiences shown comparable images filmed in Israel, indicating a clear lack of application of “consistent editorial values”.Bowen filmed 14 7

It is of course highly unlikely that a film crew would be permitted to film at all inside a morgue in Israel (or other Western countries) and extremely doubtful whether such footage – even if it were filmed – would be considered appropriate for broadcast by BBC editors. But the fact that it is socially acceptable to film such explicit images in a certain society or country does not – according to the above guidance – provide automatic legitimacy for their broadcast.

Nevertheless, BBC editors somehow did apparently find it editorially justifiable to show graphic images from one side of the summer conflict but not from the other, despite those instructions to “apply consistent editorial values”.

This topic now comes up again because on November 18th during an interview with BBC World News about the terror attack which took place in the synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem just hours beforehand, Minister Naftali Bennett held up a photograph of the scene of the attack which included one of the victims. Bennett was immediately told by the presenter:

“Sorry, we don’t want to actually see that picture: if you could take that down.”

It would be understandable if the BBC did not wish to show images it has not previously seen and deemed editorially justified according to the numerous related guidelines – although that is clearly not the message conveyed by the presenter. However, the fact is – as has been pointed out elsewhere – that from the point of view of the content itself, no less graphic images from the Gaza Strip were shown to BBC audiences during the summer with the only difference being that they were usually filmed by the BBC itself – obviously in many if not most cases with Hamas permission (and presumably encouragement) to record footage in the hospitals and morgues it runs and the areas it controls.

As long as only Gaza is allowed to bleed on BBC television news, the lack of consistency in BBC editorial decisions will of course remain an issue for public discussion.