More wind in the sails of the ‘apartheid’ trope from BBC’s Bowen

As has already been noted on these pages, the BBC’s coverage of the end of the latest round of negotiations between Israel and the PLO which reached their pre-set deadline on April 29th was left entirely in the hands of Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. BBC audiences did not hear, read or see any alternative opinion or analysis to that provided by Bowen and vigorously promoted on a variety of BBC platforms.

In addition to Bowen’s filmed and audio reports already discussed here (see related articles below), two further items dated April 29th promoted the same themes as his previous ones.Bowen PM 29 4

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ broadcast an audio item by Bowen in its April 29th edition which can be heard here. Presenter Eddie Mair stayed on message in his introduction to the item, promoting the superficial notion that Israel is to blame for the demise of the talks and – notably – with the unilateral actions taken by the PA such as applying to join UN agencies in breach of the agreement reached before the talks’ commencement or the Hamas-Fatah unity deal already having been erased from the BBC version of events.

“This morning, quietly, another deadline came and went in the Middle East. It should have been the deadline for the latest round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Before the discussions started last year, the US Secretary of state John Kerry said they might be the last chance for peace. But the deadline was missed because the talks were suspended last week by the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He blamed the Palestinians. They blame him. President Obama blames both sides. If you’re wondering whether Palestinian – Israeli peace talks can ever succeed after years of failure, you’re not alone. So is our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, in Jerusalem. ” [emphasis added]

In this item, Bowen yet again reports from Hebron and once again fails to inform audiences that Israelis living there do so because the Palestinian Authority agreed to their presence in the H2 area of the city by signing the Hebron Protocol in 1997.

“I’m in Hebron which is the only city on the West Bank where Jewish settlers – Israelis – live in the heart of the town alongside Palestinians, but of course separated by wire, by concrete, by guns.”

Bowen also once again refrains from informing listeners why he needs to use the word “restarted” in the following sentence.

“I’ve come to see Shlomo Levinger who’s the son of one of the people who restarted Jewish settlement here in 1967.”

Bowen fails to inform listeners that security arrangements in Hebron – including those near the shared site of the Cave of the Patriarchs – are laid out in the mutually agreed Hebron Protocol, preferring to imply instead that freedom of worship for Muslims is impaired by Israeli security measures.

“Now I’m down near the building, the holy site here, which Muslims call the Abraham Mosque and which the Israelis – the Jews – call the Cave of the Patriarchs. And it’s a highly guarded place – there’s been a lot of trouble here in the past - and to get…for Palestinians who wanted to pray in the mosque…to get to the area and to get back they have to go through this turnstile past another Israeli checkpoint. More guns, more concrete.”

Bowen continues by interviewing an unidentified man in the street, whose opinions he apparently considers worthy of amplification, but providing no context – for example in relation to the subject of why exactly the “prisoners” the man mentions are imprisoned.

“Hebron; it’s a very unique place and you have the Israelis and the settlers very, very close to here. What is life like with the Israelis there and you here?”

Unidentified man: “Not good, no. [voiceover] There will never be peace – only in our dreams. The talks are unsuccessful. Israel is not serious. It’s a joke to them. They don’t want peace. They aren’t serious about it. They still have prisoners. They are still building settlements. It’s just words. They don’t mean it.”

Bowen then goes on to promote the NGO ‘Combatants for Peace’, describing the members he interviews only as ‘peace campaigners’.  That leads to Bowen’s conclusion, in which he promotes the notion of “the expansion of Jewish settlements” as being on a par with terrorism.

“The trouble is that conversations like that were also happening twenty years ago. They’re still in a minority and the pessimism caused by violence, the expansion of Jewish settlements and failed talks helps keep them there. Perhaps it’s too late to make peace by splitting the land between Israel and the Palestinians, but no alternative is easier and many look much worse.”

Bowen’s two interviewees from ‘Combatants for Peace’ also appeared in his written report which was published in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on April 29th under the title “Have MidEast talks failure killed two-state goal?“.Bowen 29 4 art end talks

In that article Bowen repeats and promotes the same messaging points which dominated his other filmed and audio reports.

“Bowen’s messaging includes portrayal of the Arab-Israeli conflict as an exclusively Palestinian-Israeli affair and as one concerning land only, as well as the claim that the opportunity for a two-state solution to the conflict died with this latest round of negotiations (the end of which, significantly, had been attributed to Israel alone in previous BBC reports) and the prediction of  violence in the near future.”

As he did just days before in another report, Bowen once more ‘tidies up’ Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians in this one too, euphemistically turning it into unattributed and amorphous “violence”.

“Twenty years ago, when the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations were fresh and young, millions from both sides thought a peace agreement, at long last, was going to make their lives much better.

It didn’t happen. Twenty years of off-on talks, punctuated by violence, have not worked.” [emphasis added]

Bowen’s explanations to BBC audiences as to why the talks have failed are equally euphemistic and notably he continues the BBC policy, evident throughout the last nine months of coverage, of failing to clarify the crucial significance of the refusal of the Palestinian Authority (with Arab League backing) to recognize Israel as the Jewish state and thus an end to any future claims.

In addition to his themes of a conflict about land and the demise of the two-state solution, Bowen also revisits another theme he promoted only days previously – the ‘demographic threat’ argument, seasoned with the ‘apartheid’ trope. Under the sub-heading “Demographic time-bomb?” he writes:

“Secretary of State John Kerry has been forced to apologise, in effect, for remarks he made saying that Israel risked becoming an apartheid state if it cannot make a deal with the Palestinians.

The argument is that if Palestinians do not have their own state, they will have to be inside Israel.

If they were given the vote, their birth rate means they would soon be able to outvote Jews.

If they were not given the vote, Israel would be like the old South Africa.

Many Palestinians believe that their best strategy is to persuade the rest of the world that Israel should be isolated. They want it to be compared to apartheid South Africa.”

What Bowen fails to clarify to readers is that the argument he presents has nothing to do with population size and is null and void if – as is the case – Israel has not annexed the areas currently defined as Areas A, B and C. As James Kirchick recently pointed out:

“Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the West Bank Arab population ballooned tomorrow from 2.5 million to 25 million, vastly exceeding the number of Jewish Israelis. By itself, this change in the proportion of Jews to Arabs would have no bearing whatsoever on whether Israel could be categorized as an “apartheid state,” because Israel has not annexed the occupied territories. […]

The Arab-Israeli conflict could persist for decades, frankly, with the Palestinian population in the territories growing at an exponential rate, and it would still not affect the question of whether Israel is or is not an “apartheid state.” The entire argument about looming apartheid is premised on the idea that if the peace process fails, Israel will ultimately annex the territories without granting the Arabs living there citizenship. […]

But if annexation comes to pass, it wouldn’t matter whether there are more Arabs than Jews in the new, enlarged Israel; it would only matter how Israel decided to treat its new Arab citizens.”

Bowen also refrains from explaining to BBC audiences why Palestinians “want it [Israel] to be compared to apartheid South Africa”, even though the comparison is utterly redundant. He fails to clarify that this is a tactic employed by Israel’s delegitimisers in an attempt to stigmatise the Jewish state as being morally beyond the pale and hence to bring about the demise of that country in its current form.

There is nothing new about the BBC’s consistent refusal to explain to its audiences the roots and political intentions of the ‘apartheid’ trope, but the fact that its Middle East editor – the man whose entire role is supposed to be to provide context to audiences – continues to intentionally avoid presenting that crucial background information on the one hand, whilst amplifying that trope on the other, raises serious doubts about his commitment to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality and his ability to fulfil his stated role.

Related Articles:

The BBC ME editor’s role: comparing theory and practice

BBC’s Bowen continues to pronounce the demise of the two-state solution

Jeremy Bowen’s one-man messaging continues on BBC TV

What is the BBC’s take away message on end of Israel-PLO negotiations?

BBC’s Donnison presents jaundiced view of travel from Gaza Strip

On April 3rd 2013 the Radio 4 programme ‘PM’, hosted by Eddie Mair, ran a report by Jon Donnison about a student from the Gaza Strip who is to study at Oxford University. The relevant section can be heard here from 40:38. Listeners will note Donnison’s inability to resist the insertion of a misleading reverse chronology account of recent events in the region which is entirely unrelated to the report’s subject matter.

“…we’ve had an Israeli airstrike and Palestinian rockets being fired in the other direction.”

On April 4th, a written report by Donnison on the same subject appeared on the BBC News website. 

Gaza to Oxford

In that article Donnison informs readers that:

“Rawan has only once before left the tiny Palestinian territory, when she went on a study trip to the United States.”

What he ‘forgets’ to tell his audiences is the fact that Ms Yaghi is a contributor to the anti-Israel blog ‘Mondoweiss’ and that the “study trip” included being the house guest of that blog’s editor. In fact, the young student described by Donnison as “bookish” is actually something of a political activist, running her own blog and expressing opinions on her Twitter account which leave little room for doubt as to her leanings. 

Tweets hacks Rawan

Here she is on the subject of the two Palestinians from Anabta who attacked soldiers at an IDF checkpoint with firebombs:

Einav incident tweets

And here on the subject of convicted terrorist Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh:

abu hamadiyeh tweets

Donnison goes on to assert:

“Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the ongoing conflict with Hamas which governs here make it difficult for Palestinians to leave through Israel.

In the past, Israel has refused permission for Palestinian students to leave Gaza in order to carry out studies abroad.”

Donnison does not provide a source for his throw-away simplistic claim, but it would not be surprising if it had come at least in part from the politicized NGO ‘Gisha’ (which is not infrequently quoted by the BBC), as one of that organisation’s pet projects is the subject of travel for students. 

Donnison makes absolutely no effort to explain to his readers the security concerns which necessitate the close monitoring of the exit of travellers from a hostile entity ruled by a terrorist organisation at war with Israel. Neither does he bother to remind readers that the Gaza Strip has a border with Egypt – through which entry to and exit from the Gaza Strip are conducted without Israeli intervention. 

Although travel for students wishing to attend universities other than those located in the Gaza Strip is not classified as a humanitarian issue, the guidelines on entry into Israel do make provisions for such cases, subject to security considerations. 

“Entry of scholarship holders to Israel – Residents of the Gaza Strip who are holders of a recognized scholarship from a country which has diplomatic relations with the State of Israel or from an international organization which is recognized by the State of Israel (by the Ministry of Welfare, Interior or Foreign Affairs), who intend to take up academic studies abroad, may enter Israel in order to attend a visa interview or for the purpose of travel abroad, subject to a direct application by the Embassy or Consulate of the country in which they propose to study and subject to escort by the Embassy or Consulate.”

Readers may remember the much-publicised case from 2008 in which a group of recipients of American scholarships from the Gaza Strip were initially barred from travel into Israel on security grounds, but after much diplomatic pressure on the part of the US, were eventually given permission. Later, two of them were refused entry to the US after their visas were suddenly revoked due to “new information received by the US authorities”. 

Donnison of course ignores the realities reflected in cases such as the above, as well as those in which Hamas has banned students from studying abroad. According to his narrative, only Israel can be to blame for the frustrated academic aspirations of young Gazans. 

Donnison’s transparent use of this ‘human interest’ story as a hook upon which to hang promotion of the standard, monochrome BBC theme of plucky Palestinians battling an all-powerful Israeli oppressor totally ignores – as usual – the fact that restrictions on travel into Israel from the Gaza Strip for students and others would not be necessary were it not ruled by a terrorist organization committed to conducting  war against its neighbours. Until it begins to inform audiences of the responsibilities of the Palestinian leadership for the situation of its people, the BBC will not meet its obligations on accuracy and impartiality. 

BBC Radio 4′s Eddie Mair does a Paxman on Israeli Ambassador

h/t AB

On Monday December 3rd  2012, the presenter of BBC Radio 4′s ‘PM’ programme, Eddie Mair, interviewed the Israeli Ambassador to the EU on the subject of the Israeli announcement of planning and zoning in the area known as E1, east of Jerusalem. 

R4 PM 3 dec

The broadcast can be heard here for a limited period of time. Beginning at around 35:00 we hear the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly giving his interpretation of events, including his clearly unsourced opinion that “I think most Israelis feel a little uncomfortable about how isolated they have become”. [Emphasis added]

The interview with the Ambassador commences at around 39:34 and due to the broadcast’s limited availability a transcript is provided below, although one really does have to listen to the actual programme in order to appreciate the tone of the conversation and the deliberately confrontational attitude adopted by the interviewer. 

Eddie Mair: I’ve been hearing from Israel’s Ambassador to the EU, David Walter.

[Note: the Ambassador is actually named David Walzer – דוד וולצר]

How did you hear the news about the planned new building?

David Walzer: I have received a notification from my government. I think that this was parallel to the – or a short while before – the public statement regarding the issue – the building of the new homes.

EM: And when you heard the news, did you think “Oh well that’s good”?

DW: I don’t recall attributing to it great, good, bad. I think that according to strategic interests of Israel, communities are being built in different parts of Israel for many, many years and this is yet another stage in this long-term programme I think. Therefore I don’t stop to think about the building of a new project and attributing to it emotional grades.

EM: It meant nothing to you emotionally.

DW: I’m not saying that it meant absolutely nothing emotionally..

EM: [interrupts] Please tell me what emotion it inspired in you.

DW: I’m saying it’s not very important whether emotionally for me it’s good or bad or important or not. 

EM: Hmm.. because the decision has been greeted, as you know, in some European capitals with some emotion stretching from disappointment to dismay and it’s really why I was asking you about your own response but you’ve given that to me. Is this announcement directly related to the vote at the UN about the status of Palestinians?

DW: I hope not. I hope that this is a result of discussions and deliberations. [edited]

EM: When you see some of the reactions coming out of the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Russia, Germany – countries generally friendly towards Israel – pretty unanimous in their view of this decision, do you – as an Israeli and as someone who cares about Israel and its standing in the world – does it give you pause for thought? Do you think “Mmm.. I wonder whether there might be a scintilla of truth in their criticism”?

DW: A) I’m sure that all those very friendly nations you have mentioned are true friends of Israel. I don’t doubt that. I was interviewed before the UN voting and I said that as someone belonging to those who very much support peace in Israel – and there are many like me – I am afraid that the UN move or UN bid will only drive us apart from each other instead of bringing us closer to each other. But to put today the anger or lack of sympathy or empathy on the settlement issue, I think is driving us apart from the core issues which are constituting an obstacle to the peace process and it is definitely not the settlements – or not this settlement or another settlement – which constitutes an obstacle to the peace…

EM: [interrupts] Forgive me but the British government says the exact opposite.

DW: But I can – and I would not share grades with [award marks to] the British government of course – but I can only point to the past…

EM: [interrupts] Well do you mind… do you mind if I point to the present. Here is what the British government says. “The strength of our reaction stems from our disappointment that the Israeli government has not heeded the calls that we and others have made for Israel to avoid reacting to the UN General Assembly resolution in a way that undermines the Palestinian Authority or a return to talks.” Clearly the British government believes this announcement is a very serious detriment to the peace process, if indeed we can still use those words.

DW: You insist to talk about today, but I urge you for thirty seconds to allow me to explain that we have proven more than once that settlements do not constitute an obstacle to peace and we have evacuated settlements when we struck a peace deal with Egypt, when we have evacuated Gaza, all communities have been removed. I don’t think that you can in good faith say that the building of a settlement is a breach of peace efforts. The UN bid is a breach of peace efforts in the region. And again, I respect very much the British government and its opinions, but as an Israeli I find that very difficult to accept. This is something you must also understand – that I am entitled to, as much as the British government is entitled for [to] its opinion of course.

EM: Finally, have you had any calls today or any communication today from other European countries, from people saying “this is a great idea – we support what Israel’s doing”?

DW: No, I must be honest and say that no; I have not received so many calls from colleagues supporting this idea.

EM: How does that make you feel?

DW: It makes me feel not very good to say the least…[cut off]

Although this style of ‘Paxmanesque‘ aggressive and condescending interviewing is far from an innovation at the BBC, especially of late, it is nevertheless difficult to imagine an Ambassador from any other country being treated with such disrespect. It is not, however, difficult to imagine British reactions were a UK Ambassador interviewed in such a manner. 

The open hostility and contempt, together with the clearly unnecessary personalisation of the conversation, frequent interruptions and selective – if not manipulative – editing, leave the impression that what was important to Eddie Mair in this interview was not to allow his listeners to hear the official Israeli side of the story, but to humiliate and chastise the Ambassador and the nation he represents.  

The BBC certainly does its country no favours when it comes to trying to convince the world that the old British colonial mentality of “we know what is best for the natives” is a thing of the past. 

BBC Radio 4 dances with the ‘apartheid’ trope

h/t Sharon, Joe

The small, but noisy, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel  – led by its ‘high priest’ Omar Bargouti – has, according to him, three basic aims:

“… ending Israel’s occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands occupied since 1967; ending racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens; and recognising the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

As Norman Finkelstein (not one of the better known card-carrying Zionists) pointed out earlier this year, the makers of those demands have one end-game in their sights.

“They call it their three tiers… We want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever, because they know the result of implementing all three is what? What’s the result? You know and I know what’s the result: there’s no Israel.”

And indeed, many of the BDS movement’s supporters, founders and activists are very open about that end-game, despite the fact that “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” is defined as antisemitism under the EUMC Working Definition of that form of racism. 

The methods used to try to bring about that end game include the deligitimisation of Israel: the attempt to paint a picture of a country so morally unacceptable that any ‘right-minded’ person cannot possibly tolerate its continued existence.

One way of doing that is to use the ‘apartheid’ trope. By deliberately employing rhetoric which the public associates with a universally morally unacceptable theme, the BDS movement aspires to brand Israel in the minds of the general public with the same stigma as the former racist regime in South Africa. 

Of course a close and factual examination of the situation immediately reveals that the use of the ‘apartheid’ trope in relation to Israel is utterly unfounded.  But sadly, many if not most members of the general public do not have sufficient knowledge of the facts to be able to assess the ‘apartheid’ trope for what it really is: a rhetorical tactic relying on the human mind’s natural tendency to make associations. 

A recent programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (iPM, November 24th 2012), supposedly about the recent  BDS protests against the Israeli dance troupe ‘Batsheva’ at the Edinburgh Festival, did nothing to meet the BBC’s obligations to “seek to ensure that the BBC gives information about, and increases understanding of, the world through accurate and impartial news, other information, and analysis of current events and ideas.” 

Instead – as we have seen happen on various BBC outlets with increasing frequency of late – it provided a platform for an anti-Israel activist, supporting what is ultimately a racist cause, to spout factually incorrect propaganda posing as an ‘opinion’ – unchallenged. 

Scottish play-write and national poet Liz Lochhead stated:

“Well, when I went to Palestine in June this year [….] Well, believe me, I saw a really horrible place to live. After that I was happy to sign the letter against the Batsheva Dance Company being welcomed officially at the Edinburgh International Festival. I used to be naïve enough to think that arts and politics don’t and shouldn’t mix and that is a naïve point of view. People in Israel are not speaking out. They’re not seeing the way the Palestinians live. The ..emm…country is run on such apartheid lines it’s possible for the two sides to just literally not see each other. And that’s a terrible thing and this boycott is a regrettable, but entirely legitimate and very, very useful tool for getting behind the news.”

Did interviewer Eddie Mair demand that Lochhead qualify her statements with facts or himself present any facts which would allow the audience to understand the issue in a balanced manner?

No chance. Listen to the whole programme here