NYT sheds new light on the topic of BBC expert guests

A New York Times article titled “Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks” from September 6th makes for fascinating reading. There we discover, for example, that there is such a thing as the Norway lobby and that one of the prominent contributors to the Brookings Institution – from whence came the US special envoy to the last round of negotiations between Israel and the PLO and to which he returned – is Qatar; the country which harbours the Muslim Brotherhood’s antisemitic, homophobic and misogynistic ‘spiritual leader’ Yussuf Qaradawi and which of course finances Hamas.Riyal

“Some scholars say the donations have led to implicit agreements that the research groups would refrain from criticizing the donor governments.

“If a member of Congress is using the Brookings reports, they should be aware — they are not getting the full story,” said Saleem Ali, who served as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar and who said he had been told during his job interview that he could not take positions critical of the Qatari government in papers. “They may not be getting a false story, but they are not getting the full story.” “

The article also reveals details of foreign funding to other think-tanks such as the Atlantic Council (UAE, Kuwait and others) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (UAE, China, Saudi Arabia and others).

“More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington. And it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom: Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research. […]

The arrangements involve Washington’s most influential think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Atlantic Council. Each is a major recipient of overseas funds, producing policy papers, hosting forums and organizing private briefings for senior United States government officials that typically align with the foreign governments’ agendas.

Most of the money comes from countries in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia, particularly the oil-producing nations of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Norway, and takes many forms. The United Arab Emirates, a major supporter of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, quietly provided a donation of more than $1 million to help build the center’s gleaming new glass and steel headquarters not far from the White House. Qatar, the small but wealthy Middle East nation, agreed last year to make a $14.8 million, four-year donation to Brookings, which has helped fund a Brookings affiliate in Qatar and a project on United States relations with the Islamic world.”

The appearance of such scholars as expert guests of the media is of course not a rare occurrence and the BBC is no exception. In the past couple of months alone the Atlantic Council has, for example, been represented by Damon Wilson, Shuja Nawaz and Bilal Saab on BBC World News. Employees of the Center for Strategic and International Studies cite BBC appearances as part of their biographies – see for example here and here. In July 2014 an article titled “Will Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood return to political violence?” appeared on the BBC News website. That analysis was written by Dr Omar Ashour  – a Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center.

The NYT article informs us that:

“… in 2012, when a revised agreement was signed between Brookings and the Qatari government, the Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself praised the agreement on its website, announcing that “the center will assume its role in reflecting the bright image of Qatar in the international media, especially the American ones.” Brookings officials also acknowledged that they have regular meetings with Qatari government officials about the center’s activities and budget, and that the former Qatar prime minister sits on the center’s advisory board.”

Perhaps it is little wonder then that whilst the above article informed BBC audiences that “[i]n Gaza, Hamas, an ideological affiliate of the Brotherhood, is currently in its third war in six years with Israel”, no mention was made of Qatar’s funding of that terrorist organisation.

As we know, the BBC’s 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.”

Obviously the New York Times’ revelations mean that expert guests and contributing writers from foreign-funded think-tanks – whom BBC audiences might very reasonably assume to be objective – should also have their less transparent connections made clear; especially if the topic under discussion happens to be connected to one of their organisations’ foreign funders. 

 

‘Hardtalk': a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’

As has been noted here previously, on July 5th – three days before Operation Protective Edge commenced – the BBC’s World Editor Andrew Roy appeared on the World Service’s ‘Outside Source’ programme to explain how the BBC ensures equal coverage of what the programme termed “Israel-Palestine”.Hardtalk Osama Hamdan

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

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

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

Since the beginning of this year the BBC World News programme ‘Hardtalk’ has conducted interviews with numerous people in connection with the Palestinian – Israeli conflict or touching on that issue as part of the conversation.

The year kicked off with a repeat of an interview with anti-Israel activist Roger Waters on January 1st.  

The following month the programme hosted the PLO’s Saeb Erekat on February 18th and Israel’s Minister of the Economy Naftali Bennett on February 24th.

On April 28th the programme’s guest was Ahmed Kathrada and part of that interview was devoted to the topic of his anti-Israel activism.Hardtalk Yasser Abed Rabbo

June 30th saw an interview with the anti-Zionist campaigner and academic Ilan Pappe.  

The next month saw interviews with former Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold on July 8th, Hamas’ spokesman Osama Hamdan on July 10th, Israel’s former deputy Defence Minister Danny Danon on July 24th and Hamas political bureau leader Khaled Masha’al on July 25th.

On August 18th ‘Hardtalk’ interviewed anti-Israel activist Mads Gilbert and on August 28th Israel’s Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz appeared on the programme.

September 1st saw Stephen Sackur interviewing the Secretary General of the PLO’s Executive Committee Yasser Abed Rabbo and on the next day, September 2nd, Sackur’s guest was journalist Gideon Levy.

Since the beginning of the year, therefore, regular viewers of ‘Hardtalk’ have seen interviews with four guests presenting a mainstream Israeli point of view – three politicians and a former Ambassador. They have also heard from two members of Hamas and two representatives of the PLO. In addition, they have viewed interviews with three foreign anti-Israel campaigners and two Israelis: one of whom is also an anti-Israel campaigner and neither of whom can be said to represent the mainstream Israeli viewpoint. 

Can ‘Hardtalk’ producers look back at that content and honestly say – as Andrew Roy claims – “we did give fair balance to each side”?

Related Articles:

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

 

 

One to watch: BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ hosts Gideon Levy

The BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ team has been visiting the Middle East and the September 2nd edition of the programme on BBC World News will feature an interview with the Israeli journalist Gideon Levy. According to the synopsis:

“HARDtalk is in the city of Tel Aviv which lies only a short distance up the coast from the Gaza Strip. Stephen Sackur speaks to Gideon Levy, a journalist who has made it his mission to tell Israelis what it really means to live in an occupying power. He calls himself a truth-teller but many Israelis see him as a traitor.”

BBC audiences cannot be said to have been deprived of the opinions of this writer for a newspaper read by fewer than 6% of Israelis during the past few weeks. Gideon Levy appeared on the BBC World Service’s ‘World Have Your Say’ on July 29th and on ‘World Update’ on July 28th with his own self-focusing ‘war stories’ being prime subject matter.

Broadcast times can be seen below.

Hardtalk Gideon Levy

 

BBC World News’ Dani Sinha to Israeli minister: ‘why are you killing innocent people?’

We have previously documented here some of the BBC News website’s efforts to distort chronology with regard to the events which brought an end to the ceasefire which was supposed to expire at midnight on August 19th but was violated by terrorists in the Gaza Strip some eight and a half hours beforehand. Those efforts are not however confined to the website.

Below is an interview with Israel’s Minister of the Economy on BBC World News on August 20th. Presenter Dani Sinha gave a taste of things to come in the following Tweet.

Tweet Dani Sinha

Of note are Sinha’s jaw-droppingly ignorant questions and her promotion of Hamas terminology.

“Why did you choose this particular time then, or this particular moment, to end the ceasefire? After all, there have been other occasions when Hamas have fired rockets.”

Even after having been told that it was Hamas which violated the truce, she continues to promote her own revisionist version of events.

“Some will though question the timing of course when you ended the ceasefire – or indeed whether you say Hamas ended this ceasefire – because of course it does coincide with your strike – the Israeli airstrike – on a top Hamas commander.”

In actual fact, the strike on the Al Dalou house took place at 21:59: six and a half hours after the truce had been violated by the firing of three missiles at the Be’er Sheva district and also after at least four additional barrages of missile and mortar fire at Netivot, Hof Ashkelon and communities near the Gaza Strip border.

Sinha’s next ‘question’ is as follows:

“Let’s talk about the people though who are being killed because whatever way you look at this there are an unequal number of casualties. More than two thousand Palestinians killed; mostly civilians. That’s against 66 Israelis; mostly military. Well the figures just don’t add up. Why are you killing innocent people?”

We next see what happens when a journalist with no military understanding tries to pretend otherwise.

“When the ceasefire actually started though, you said that you’d destroyed all you needed to destroy regarding the tunnels. Does this mean that your operation has now failed?”

“Why did the talks then fail in Cairo? Your delegation have now gone home.”

And then a bit of promotion of inaccurate Hamas terminology: 

“Hamas want you to lift the siege. I mean why is it so difficult for Israel to do that if it will bring about peace?”

Apparently the BBC does not think that audiences have had enough of the “news presenter aggressively promoting her own political agenda regardless of the facts” party trick.  

Related Articles:

BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis to Israeli spokesman: “You killed them”

Not enough Israelis killed by “home-made contraptions” for BBC’s Mishal Husain

 

BBC’s Bowen promotes accusations of Israeli ‘war crimes’

On July 14th the BBC News website’s Middle East page promoted a filmed report by Jeremy Bowen under the title “Israel-Gaza conflict enters seventh day” which was also aired on the BBC World News programme ‘Newsday’.Bowen 14 7 Newsday Sourani

In that report the PCHR’s Raji Sourani is once again given a BBC platform from which to promote his unproven allegations.

Bowen: “Back in Gaza in the bombed fishing port, Raji Sourani – a Palestinian human rights campaigner – said Israel’s tactic of destroying the homes of men it says are Hamas fighters guarantees it will also kill non-combatants: neighbours, families, children.”

Sourani: “They know they committed war crimes, crimes against humanity – and deliberately. Intending to destroy houses where civilians living in it that’s totally illegal in a clear-cut way Geneva Convention article 52 paragraph 3.”

Bowen makes no effort to inform viewers that Sourani’s interpretation of Article 52 is less than “clear-cut” with regard to buildings used, for example, as weapons stores or missile launching sites.  

Seeing as this report is the fourth item of BBC content in less than a week which has promoted assorted unproven accusations made by Raji Sourani of the PCHR and seeing as the BBC does not apparently consider it necessary to wait for any kind of investigation or proof before broadcasting and amplifying Sourani’s grave accusations concerning the ‘deliberate targeting of civilians’, ‘war crimes’ or ‘crimes against humanity’, it is obviously imperative to take a closer look at the record of Mr Sourani and his organization.

That necessity is further compounded by the fact that as was recently revealed here, the UN OCHA civilian casualty figures which the BBC is currently quoting across the board are based on information coming from three primary sources, one of which is Mr Sourani’s PCHR.

Founded in Gaza City in 1995, the PCHR rejects the Oslo Accords and promotes the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees. It consistently refers to the IDF as IOF (‘Israel Occupation Force’) and engages in‘lawfare’ – including lobbying against the changes made to the ‘universal jurisdiction’ law by the British Parliament. The PCHR also engages in the use of the ‘apartheid’ trope and accusations of the ‘Judaisation’ of Jerusalem and ‘ethnic cleansing’. In 2000 the PCHR described Hizballah as “the legitimate Lebanese resistance against Israeli occupation in Lebanon”, comparing the Iranian-backed terror organization to the French Resistance during World War II. In 2010 the PCHR claimed that the rededication of the restored Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem (destroyed by the Jordanian Arab Legion in 1948) was a “war crime”. 

After Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9 the PCHR alleged that “1,167 non-combatants (82.2%) and 252 resistance activists (17.8%)” were killed. As is well known, even the Hamas Minister of the Interior later admitted that between 600 and 700 of the casualties were members of Hamas and other terrorist groups; figures which matched the Israeli assessment of 709 casualties from terrorist factions.

Throughout that same operation, the PCHR put out statements claiming that Israel was committing “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” and engaging in “collective punishment” and “indiscriminate killing”. When Richard Goldstone retracted the substance of his ‘Goldstone Report’ on Operation Cast Lead, Raji Sourani attributed that to a “psychological war orchestrated by Jewish and Israeli groups”.

After Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012, the PCHR claimed that 105 of 160 casualties were civilians. A study by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre showed that 101 of 169 casualties identified (60%) belonged to terrorist organisations.

Readers no doubt recall the tragic incident in which the infant son of a BBC employee was killed in November 2012 by what the BBC – and the PCHR – claimed at the time was an Israeli airstrike.

“…an Israeli warplane fired a missile at a house… Two members of the family (a woman and a toddler) were killed: Hiba Aadel Fadel al-Masharawi, 19, and Omar Jihad al-Masharawi, 11 months.  Additionally, a child from the same family was wounded”.

A UN HRC report later determined that the deaths had been caused by a short-falling missile fired by one of the terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip.Bowen 14 7 Newsday PCHR pic

In short, the record of Mr Sourani and his organization clearly shows a distinct lack of reliability and objectivity, as well as clear political motivation behind figures provided, statements given and accusations made. Whilst many people may perhaps expect nothing less from an organization which operates under the assumed mantle of ‘human rights’ whilst inviting a leader from an internationally designated terrorist organization to one of its conferences, for the BBC (and UN OCHA) the penny has obviously not yet dropped.

Mind you, that may well be explained by Bowen’s closing statement in this report.

“Smoke from burning buildings spread across Gaza as Palestinians buried men they said were fighting in a legitimate resistance. Israel calls them terrorists.”

So does the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan – as the BBC’s own profile of Hamas clearly states and as any journalist with integrity would report. In addition, Jordan and Egypt have banned Hamas and Australia designates Hamas’ Izz al Din Al Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organization, as do New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

The irreversible damage being done by Jeremy Bowen to the BBC’s reputation as a provider of accurate and impartial news over the last five days since his arrival in the Gaza Strip continues to pile up. 

 

 

BBC World News’ Maryam Moshiri amplifies PA spin

The political spin promoted by the Palestinian Authority after the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-ad Sha’ar on June 12th, and the subsequent launch of the search for the abducted teenagers throughout Judea & Samaria, included in its early days two very specific claims.BBC WN

One of those claims, made the day after the abductions on June 13th, was that the Palestinian unity government could not be held responsible for a kidnapping which took place in Area C.

“Adnan Dmeiri said the PA was not responsible for the safety of settlers [sic] and had no way to prevent the possible kidnapping of the teenagers. […]

Dmeiri was quoted as saying that the PA had no information about the missing settlers [sic], noting that Gush Etzion, the settlement [sic] from which the teenagers are believed to have disappeared, “is under Israeli security control.” “

The other inaccurate claim – made by the PUG spokesman Ehab Bessaiso on June 15th and later repeated by other PA officials – was that the Israeli searches for three missing youths constitute “collective punishment” of the Palestinian population.

“Bessaiso also said that the detention of 80 people across the West Bank and the bombing of Gaza overnight constitute “collective punishment against the entire Palestinian people,” and called upon the “international community and all international human rights organizations to protect the Palestinian people against the Israeli escalation.” “

Interestingly, both those examples of misleading PA spin were amplified in a BBC World News broadcast on June 15th.

Interviewing former Ambassador Dr Dore Gold, presenter Maryam Moshiri said:

“We’re talking about three teenagers who’ve been abducted. We’re talking about the Israelis blaming the Palestinians, or at least passing some of the blame onto their door. How can the blame be there if the teenagers went missing in Israeli-controlled territory?”

Later on, Moshiri said:

“They [the PA] deny that. They say that the detention of eighty people across the West Bank is a collective punishment against the entire Palestinian people. I mean, they have a point, don’t they?”

And still later, Moshiri came up with the following bizarre statement-cum-question:

“But Dore Gold, you talk about any response necessary – what is that response going to take the shape of? I mean, you know, you’ve deployed your Iron Dome missile defence system near Gaza. Why have you done that? Are we going to see further military action now?

As readers will see in the video below, Dr Gold provided robust responses to Moshiri’s baseless assertions, but nevertheless it is of considerable interest that the statements and questions of a BBC World news presenter dove-tail so seamlessly with the PA propaganda messaging put out in the day or so beforehand.

 

BBC Click reports from Israel

Hats off to the BBC’s technology reporters – and specifically this time the BBC Click team – who have once again demonstrated howClick 31 5 news from Israel can be reported accurately, impartially and interestingly.

A special episode of Click (which appears on BBC News and BBC World News) broadcast on May 31st focused on the Israeli technology scene and included items on an unmanned flying ambulance, a device to enable a smartphone to be used as a thermal imaging camera and a hand-held cancer detector. Readers in the UK can view the whole show on BBC iPlayer and those elsewhere can view a preview here and see a filmed report on one of the items on the BBC News website’s technology page here.

In which the BBC’s Addis Ababa correspondent decides who is Jewish

Here’s a heart-breaking story which was broadcast on BBC World News television and promoted on the Middle East and Africa pages of the BBC News website on April 24th under the title “Ethiopia’s Jewish community divided“.

Falash Mura

Presenter Emmanuel Igunza reports:

“Shouts of praise for the holy scrolls but make no mistake; this is not Israel. Welcome to Gondar – an ancient historic city in northern Ethiopia and home to the Falash Mura: the last Jews of Ethiopia.  

They spend their days living according to Jewish tradition, passed onto them over hundreds of years. The tranquility here betrays the emotional turmoil that many feel, not able to join their families in Israel. Stories of siblings separated, children allowed to settle in the Jewish homeland while their parents remain behind. Under the Israeli government criteria, only those Falash Mura who can show evidence of Jewish ancestry on their mother’s side are allowed into Israel and granted citizenship.

The Jewish community here is big, numbering thousands, and right now they’re having one of their prayer sessions. But there has been disappointment in Gondar. Many hold the cherished idea of travelling to Israel but have not. But there is also a strong sense of determination to keep their faith strong and to make their lives much better.

Abamesh Takiv [?] is a project manager with a local NGO helping poor Ethiopian Jews. Like many who she lives and works with, Abamesh wants to join her family in Israel.

‘Our family was registered fifteen years ago to go to Israel. My entire family from my father’s side has gone and it is only me and my father who have remained. We really, really want to go. We have not given up hope. We continue to live in hope.’

More than five thousand Ethiopian Jews living in Gondar say they have relatives in Israel, but their attempts to go back to what they call their spiritual home have been futile. Last year Israeli authorities announced that they had completed the last major airlift of Ethiopians seeking a new home in Israel. But many here still pray for divine intervention for that day when they will be reunited with their families.”

The problem with Emmanuel Igunza’s story is that he has left out some very critical details, the most obvious one being that the Falash Mura are Christians whose Jewish ancestors were converted by Western missionaries from around the end of the nineteenth century.

Notably, in past articles concerning the Falash Mura, the BBC has reported the issue accurately. In this article from 2000, it states:

“They belong to the Falash Mura community – Jews who converted to Christianity generations ago.”

A BBC report from 2010 states:

“The Falash Mura’s ancestors converted to Christianity under pressure in the 19th Century and so are not eligible to emigrate under Israel’s Law of Return.”

Another article from 2013 states:

“The Falash Mura’s ancestors converted to Christianity under pressure in the 19th Century.”

Emmanuel Igunza, however, chooses to conceal from audiences the very issue which is at the root of the whole story and even takes it upon himself to define the religion of the people who are the subject of his report.

That enables him to turn the story into one of poor Ethiopian Jews rejected by Israel: an obviously superficial portrayal of a much more complex issue with which Israel has been wrestling for many years.

The framing of this story is of course particularly notable in light of other BBC reports on the Ethiopian community in Israel, not least the one by Paul Bakibinga which preceded Igunza’s item by a mere five days. Past BBC reports have not infrequently used the topic of the Ethiopian community as a hook upon which to hang none too subtle insinuations of Israel as a racist society which discriminates against immigrants from Ethiopia – see for example here and here. Now Emmanuel Igunza shows us that even Ethiopians in their native land can be used for the purpose of similar framing – just as long as certain crucial facts are made to disappear.  

What is missing from these two BBC Technology reports?

On May 9th an article appeared in the Technology section of the BBC News website under the title “Keepod: Can a $7 stick provide billions computer access?“. Its writer, Dan Simmons, also produced a filmed version of the report  titled “Keepod ‘magic drives’ put Nairobi’s children online” which appeared on the BBC World News programme ‘Click‘ on May 10th and 11th.Keepod filmed

Both reports are about a company called Keepod which has invented a USB flash drive with its own operating system, circumventing the need for a computer with a hard disk and storing all the user’s files for use on any available computer.

The only very round-about clue to the fact that Keepod is an Israeli start-up in the report’s written version is the following caption to one of the photographs used to illustrate it.

“Keepod is Hebrew for the word hedgehog. It is also a play on words, as it joins the English word “keep” with the Hebrew word “od”, meaning “everything”.”

‘Od’ actually means ‘more’ in Hebrew – not ‘everything’.

Keepod written pic

In the report’s filmed version, no mention at all is made of the fact that Keepod is an Israeli company and in neither report is the fact that the USB flash drive is an Israeli invention noted.

 

BBC News enables Hanan Ashrawi’s defamatory PLO propaganda fest

Within the framework of the BBC’s generous coverage of the Hamas-Fatah unity deal, BBC television news programmes aired an interview with one of the Palestinian officials who has been doing the media rounds  – Hanan Ashrawi. The interview, conducted by Zeinab Badawi, was also posted on the BBC News website on April 24th under the unambiguous title “Hanan Ashrawi: ‘Israel destroying peace talks’“.

The interview was also promoted on Twitter using similar language.

Ashrawi tweet

The synopsis to the interview as it appears on the website states:

“The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told the BBC he would never negotiate with a Palestinian authority that included Hamas, which he called a terrorist organisation committed to the destruction of Israel.” [emphasis added]

Hamas is of course recognized as a terrorist organization by numerous countries and its Charter clearly states its intentions with regard to the destruction of Israel. Neither of those issues – as this synopsis leads readers to believe – is exclusively the view of the Israeli prime minister.  

During the interview Ashrawi – with very little interference from Badawi – goes to great pains to try to convince audiences that the new ‘unity government’, the PLO and Hamas are all unconnected subjects.

Ashrawi: “What President Abbas and Fatah and the PLO did was to try to repair the political system, to reinvigorate the democratic system and practices in Palestine, to build an inclusive…err…pluralistic…err…democracy that will represent all the Palestinians in more ways than one and that will be able to deliver. Now that government, as I said, will be a government of independent professionals and of course the PLO will continue to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians and anybody who joins it will be committed to the PLO programme to a two state solution and to peaceful settlement of the conflict and will honour all commitments.”

Badawi: “Alright. So basically Hanan Ashrawi…..OK….so you are basically saying that Hamas will not be part of a unity government in the future because if it were, as you know, that would trigger sanctions both from the Israelis and the Americans, on whom you depend for a great deal of aid.”

Unfortunately Badawi refrains from asking the crucial question of what will happen if elections take place as stated in six months’ time and this unelected “government of independent professionals” is replaced by one which includes Hamas. She does not ask exactly what such an unelected interim government will be “able to deliver” to the Palestinian people or what will happen if that “unity government” adopts policies at odds with those of the PLO. Neither does she press Ashrawi on the non-inclusive and non-democratic make-up of the PLO itself, with members of the Palestinian National Council – the PLO’s legislative body – being nominated by the PLO Executive Committee rather than by the ordinary Palestinian people. Likewise Badawi makes no attempt to unravel the obvious complications arising from the fact that Hamas – which won a significant proportion of the votes in the 2006 PLC elections – is not currently a member of the PLO. 

Instead, Badawi allows Ashrawi to distract audiences from the issue of Hamas’ terror designation with a smoke and mirrors tirade of defamation.Ashrawi interview

HA: “Now excuse me. I think the government we’re talking about is not a factional government – a government of representatives of political parties – but it is a government of independence that will deliver the required services; this is it. But too I don’t see why it is any of…emm…Netanyahu’s…Israel’s business or even America’s business to tell who’s acceptable and who’s not in a pluralistic political system. I can tell you I don’t want to talk to Lieberman or we don’t want to talk to Naftali Bennett. These are people who are either racist or settlers or who deny Palestinian rights or who reat us as sub-human species or who want to take all of historical Palestine for greater Israel. These are people who are in the Israeli government coalition and the Israeli government is responsible for an army that is daily killing Palestinians and yet they tell us that if we reconcile and if we repair our system and if we have elections, then that means we don’t want to negotiate. What about [unintelligible] settlements?”

In near-apologetic manner and folding quickly, Badawi replies:

ZB: “OK well I was asking you about the formation of a unity government that would include Hamas. I was just seeking your clarification on that.”

HA: “It’s a government of national accord.”

ZB: “So it may not have a Hamas..”

HA: “It’s a government of national accord.”

ZB: “Alright. I understand.”

HA: “No, there will be no card-carrying member of any faction or any party. That’s the government we have agreed to and everybody knows that. It’s no secret. And we’ve been striving for national unity because it is the responsibility of any leadership to repair this lethal rift that has weakened the Palestinians and of course the EU welcomed it.”

Expressing no interest in which ‘non-card-carrying’ personality is set to head the ‘unity government’ to be set up according to the Shati Reconciliation Agreement, Badawi says:

“Alright. Tell me briefly though….OK….briefly, do you accept though that President Abbas has basically given a hand up to Hamas, which has been looking pretty isolated and relatively weak, particularly since the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi in Egypt?”

HA: “Definitely Hamas has been weakened, but what President Abbas has done is he has responded to the Palestinian people’s persistent and vocal demands to go back to unity, to try to repair the system itself, to try to bring Hamas to the fold and to have elections – because we need elections badly and without Hamas we cannot have it – and to present Hamas as part of this fabric – the political fabric of the Palestinian system – rather than as an alternative to it.”

Again, Badawi does not use the opportunity to ask what will happen if Hamas once again wins the next election. She concludes by providing Ashrawi with yet another opportunity to promote PA political propaganda.

ZB: “Alright. In a quick word – are the peace talks dead then; in the future they may not be revived?”

HA: “I think Israel has done everything possible to destroy the peace talks, to sabotage the process itself, and I think this time its withdrawal from the talks – even though we still have a few days left till April 29th – is a clear signal that it’s looking for any pretext, any excuse, to undermine them and to bring them to an end while giving it a free hand to continue with its settlement activities, its siege of Gaza and its annexation of Jerusalem, plus reneging on its commitments and its signed agreements – particularly the release of Palestinian prisoners.”

Even the BBC must be aware that when the PA demanded the inclusion of Israeli Arabs among the list of terrorists to be released it knew exactly how that demand would endanger the talks.  Of course when Mahmoud Abbas signed applications to join various UN bodies in defiance of the ‘pre-nup’ agreement which facilitated the current round of negotiations, it was perfectly obvious that their continuation was in jeopardy. Likewise, the PA and the PLO were well aware in advance of the precise reactions that a ‘unity agreement’ with Hamas would bring from Israel and the international community. But Badawi makes no attempt to clarify those points to BBC audiences and instead allows them to go away with only Ashrawi’s unchallenged PLO propaganda.  

Once again the BBC makes a mockery of its commitment to “enable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”.