Context-free amplification of BDS in BBC reports on London Mayor’s remarks

As our colleague Adam Levick noted over at UK Media Watch, the Guardian’s coverage of the Mayor of London’s recent visit to Israel and the PA controlled areas did not inform readers of the fact that a journalist covering Boris Johnson’s trip on behalf of the Jewish Chronicle was banned from attending an event in Ramallah because she is Israeli.

“Stephen Pollard, editor of the JC, said: “This is the reality of BDS. Forget the lies about it targeting institutions rather than people. As this outrageous ban on a journalist for no reason other than her nationality shows, it is about singling out individual Israelis and telling them that they are banned as people.””

So did the BBC do any better than the Guardian? Whilst the corporation covered the subject of the cancellation of some of the Mayor’s scheduled programme extensively on a variety of platforms, the banning of a fellow journalist simply because of her nationality was obviously not considered newsworthy by the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism”.

All the BBC’s reports did, however, highlight Boris Johnson’s previously made remarks concerning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. But – as is inevitably the case in BBC reporting on the issue of BDS – no effort was made to inform BBC audiences of the underlying agenda of that campaign.Boris filmed

In a filmed report for BBC television news programmes which was also posted on the BBC News website on November 11th under the title “Boris Johnson forced to cut short West Bank visit“, Karl Mercer told audiences that:

“What he said to them [Israeli leaders] over the movement that wants to ban Israeli products and maybe ban Israeli services is that he completely disagrees with any boycott. […]

The Mayor’s comments have been seen as controversial. […] They may be comments he’s going to regret now. […] He flies back to London tomorrow having learnt – you might think – a valuable lesson in international diplomacy.”

The BBC News website also produced a written article on the subject under the title “Boris Johnson cancels West Bank events amid Israeli boycott row” in which readers were told that:

“Advocates of a boycott, which has been in place by some organisations in recent years, claims it exerts pressure on the Israeli government, particularly in relation to the building of settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, which have been condemned by the UN.”Boris written

The article makes no mention of the fact that the BDS campaign’s ultimate agenda is to bring about Israel’s demise by means of delegitimisation and it even goes on to amplify misleading claims from the vociferously anti-Israel – and not infrequently antisemitic – group known as the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Also on November 11th BBC Radio 4 audiences heard a report on the same topic from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly on the ‘PM’ programme.

“These are remarks that the Mayor came up with when he was discussing his views on calls in the outside world for a boycott of Israel and of course they’re calls that you hear all the time in both the academic and the economic spheres.”

Yet again none of the context vital for audience understanding of the BDS campaign’s agenda was supplied and so BBC audiences were not only deliberately deprived of information which would contribute to their understanding of the issue in general, but also of background vital for the formation of informed opinions concerning the Mayor of London’s remarks.

Kevin Connolly later told Radio 4 listeners:

“You know, official visitors here; foreign embassies, international news organisations, us – everyone weighs their words on these matters with infinite, exquisite care – or at least we try to – because it is just so easy to give offence to one side or the other….”

That a publicly funded corporation legally charged with enhancing audience understanding of international issues is apparently more concerned about ‘giving offence’ than fully informing audiences of the real background to this story (and the many previous ones in which it has similarly failed to provide crucial context) should be remarkable. Sadly, the BBC’s long history of whitewashing and mainstreaming the BDS campaign means that is no longer the case.  

BBC R4 discovers ‘the evolution of the kibbutz’ – a decade and a half late

One can get a good glimpse of the kind of received ideas about Israel prevalent in BBC corridors from presenter Eddie Mair’s introduction to an item (available from 40:37 here) which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘PM’ programme on September 29th.

“The word ‘kibbutz’ might conjure images of utopian Israeli farming communities based on socialist principles and communal ownership, idealistic young volunteers from overseas. But a kibbutz isn’t that simple anymore; many have diversified into industry. From Israel: Hugh Sykes on the evolution of the kibbutz.”

Of course in contrast to the impression given by Mair, there is actually no connection whatsoever between the fact that most kibbutzim run some sort of industrial enterprise and the reforms which took place within the kibbutz movement in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Kibbutzim have been engaged in both agriculture and industry for decades – as the fact that the Kibbutz Industries Association was established over half a century ago indicates.

“The Kibbutz Industries Association, which was established in 1962, is the umbrella organization representing more than 250 industrial enterprises in kibbutzim, collective moshavim and regional enterprises, which are located across the country, mostly in the peripheral areas.”

Reporting from Kibbutz Gadot – where the plastics factory presented as evidence for this ‘new’ industrialisation of kibbutzim has in fact been in existence for thirty years – Hugh Sykes promotes the equally inaccurate notion that the running of kibbutzim as a business is an innovation.

Kibbutz Gadot

Kibbutz Gadot

“The crops [are] chosen according to commercial demand. Gadot, like most kibbutzim nowadays, is a business.”

“…he didn’t expect to end up working for a profit-seeking commercial business.”

“So kibbutzim have mutated into co-operative capitalist businesses…”

Of course kibbutzim always chose their crops “according to commercial demand” (what farmer does not?) and the communally owned branches of agriculture, industry or tourism were always run as profit-seeking business operations which traded with the outside capitalist world – because that was how the communities managed to support themselves.

There is plenty of journalistic material in the story of how the majority of kibbutzim (around 25% still function according to the original kibbutz model) adapted themselves to the economic and social circumstances which endangered their existence in the 1990s. That story, however, does not include promotion of the inaccurate notion that kibbutzim have recently discovered industry and become businesses.

There is also an interesting story to be told about why, when economic crisis came along, those “utopian” socialist principles touted by Eddie Mair in his introduction were ultimately found to fall short. Given recent political developments in the UK, that is a story which might have interested listeners to Radio 4’s early evening news and current affairs show – but one which received ideas similar those underpinning the introduction to this report apparently did not permit telling. 


Yolande Knell passes up chance to mend previous BBC stereotyping

The August 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ – presented by Eddie Mair – included an item (from 36:40 here) by Yolande Knell of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau.

Mair’s introduction includes the simplistic description of a village located in Area B according to the terms of the Oslo Accords as being “in the occupied West Bank”:PM hilltop youth

“Last month an arson attack in the occupied West Bank killed a Palestinian baby and his father. It brought wider attention to a small group of young Jewish settlers who in the past conducted acts of vandalism but now advocate violence against Muslims and Christians and try to undermine the Israeli state. Yolande Knell reports.”

Neither Mair nor Knell bothered to clarify to listeners that to date no-one has been charged with the arson attack in Duma and Knell opened with some clear signposting for audiences. 

Knell: “Back at the scene of a shocking attack, Mohammed Dawabshe shows me the blackened interior of his cousin’s tiny house in Duma, south of Nablus.  Last month it was set on fire at night. Eighteen month-old Ali burned to death and later his father died of his injuries. His mother and brother remain seriously ill in hospital. ‘Revenge’ in Hebrew was painted on a nearby wall. It’s thought Israeli settlers did this.” [emphasis added]

Knell continues, paraphrasing her guide’s words:

“‘Nothing like this ever happened in our village before. Nobody in the world would accept it’, Mohammed says. ‘These are crazy terrorists’.

She goes on:

“In the car, we’ve left Duma and we’re driving around this part of the West Bank where there are many Jewish settlements but also outposts. These are usually just collections of caravans or tents where young Israelis are living up on the hilltops. While settlements are seen as illegal under international law, these outposts are also illegal under Israeli law.”

As usual, no effort is made to inform audiences of the existence of other legal opinions on the topic.

Knell continues:

“I’ve come to meet a settler grandmother who’s an inspiration to many from the so-called hilltop youth. They believe Jewish settlement of the land is a primary obligation and some advocate violent means. To most Israelis the views of Daniella Weiss are extreme but she has her own disputes with ultra-nationalist and ultra-religious settlers.”

Were Knell to aspire to true accuracy and impartiality, she would have informed her listeners that not only do the overwhelming majority of Israelis find Weiss’ views extreme, but so too do most of those whom the BBC elects to call ‘settlers’. Listeners then hear from Daniella Weiss, although it is difficult to imagine that those few sentences would have contributed much to audience understanding of the report’s supposed subject matter.

Weiss: “It’s not the majority numbers: this is the sect which is composed of a few hundred people who thinks that Jews and Arabs cannot live hear together – no option at all. And there’s another philosophy which would not accept the idea that the current – mainly secular- government in the existing state of Israel is of any value.”

Knell goes on:

“After the Duma attack Israeli security forces and the media went into overdrive, investigating individuals they described as Jewish terrorists. Israeli Channel 10 reported a manifesto belonging to one cell. It details how to set churches and mosques ablaze and recommends burning people inside their houses. The aim is to stoke violence and weaken the Israeli state.”

Knell refrains from informing listeners that the security forces did not just ‘investigate’ but also made arrests – including the author of the ‘manifesto’ she describes and his cell. She continues:

“The Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised a tough approach but Palestinian officials say that if his right-wing government wants to stop settler attacks, it must stop supporting settlements on land they want for their future state.”

Knell refrains from clarifying to audiences that according to the Oslo Accords – signed willingly by representatives of the Palestinian people – the future of Area C is to be determined in final status negotiations or that the same accords include no restrictions on Israeli building in Area C.

After a short contribution from PMO spokesman Mark Regev, Knell moves on to another location.

“It’s evening time in Qusra – a Palestinian village near Duma. In recent years it’s experienced dozens of attacks by settlers from nearby outposts. They’ve lost land and trees, had property damaged and their sheep killed. This area’s under full Israeli control so there are no Palestinian police. Now local men such as Abdel al Addin [phonetic] organise night watches.”

Both a report by the Palestinian political NGO ARIJ and maps produced by the NGO B’Tselem (often quoted and promoted by the BBC) place the residential part of Qusra in Area B where civil affairs are fully the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority and security is under the joint control of Israel and the PA. Some of the village’s agricultural lands apparently do lie in Area C but Knell’s claim that Qusra is “under full Israeli control” is clearly inaccurate and misleading. Coincidentally, the Wikipedia entry for Qursa wrongly places the village in Area C, apparently on the basis of an inaccurate claim in an article which appeared in the Economist four years ago.

After telling audiences more about the night watches (which are actually not as new as this report suggests), Knell closes with the following take-away message:

“With no efforts to reach a peace deal in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, tensions here continue to simmer and can flare up dangerously at any time.”

This report was billed from the beginning as being about the ‘hilltop youth’ and – as Eddie Mair correctly noted in his introduction – the aim of at least some of the groups falling under that title is to “try to undermine the Israeli state”. Knell also noted that the aim of the cell whose members are now in custody is to “stoke violence and weaken the Israeli state”.

It is therefore unclear why in her closing lines Knell materially misleads audiences by suggesting that the absence of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians has any influence whatsoever upon what are essentially anarchist groups which reject the authority of the Israeli government. Clearly that knee-jerk closing mantra did nothing to enhance audience understanding of this particular ‘international issue’.

This item presented an ideal opportunity for the BBC to undo some of its previous stereotyping of the half million people it calls ‘settlers’ by providing audiences with more comprehensive background information on the small groups known as ‘hilltop youth’ and explaining the differences between them and the vast majority of residents of Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem. Unfortunately for the BBC’s reputation for impartiality, Yolande Knell did not rise to the occasion.

Related Articles:

The Duma terror attack and BBC consistency

BBC News misleads audiences on administrative detention

BBC ‘Dateline London’ guest: Israel kills babies as policy

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part two

In part one of this post we noted the BBC’s amplification of unchallenged, inaccurate, partial and context-free messaging from Michael Deas – the coordinator in Europe for the Palestinian BDS National Committee – on BBC television news and the BBC News website on July 21st.

Two days later, listeners to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ also got a dose of the BDS campaign’s propaganda when Deas cropped up again in an item (from 26:10 here) by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly. Presenter Eddie Mair introduced the segment as follows:BDS Deas PM

“A campaign to boycott Israeli products is claiming increasing success. It says it’s defending human rights. The Israeli government accuses it of antisemitism. Reporting for PM; our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly.”

Connolly: “Israel is under pressure, looking for ways to push back against growing calls around the world for a boycott of goods produced in the farms and factories of the West Bank – land it captured in the Middle East war of 1967 and which the wider world regards as occupied Palestinian territory.”

Refraining from reminding listeners that the area was in fact part of the region allocated by the League of Nations for the establishment of the Jewish national home before it was occupied by Jordan for 19 years or why the Six Day War broke out, against the backdrop of a song Connolly goes on:

“Reggae is not Israel’s only weapon, of course. But this song does emphasis one of its key points. How, when human rights are trampled in the four corners of the earth, does it find itself the target of such a well-organised and single-minded boycott campaign?”

Listeners next hear an unidentified voice say:

“There’s a growing fear inside Israel that it’s facing international isolation of the kind that South Africa faced under apartheid. So we saw about six months ago a hundred Israeli business leaders in Israel issuing an appeal on the front page of one of Israel’s biggest newspapers urging the Israeli government to take action to stem the tide of boycotts.”

Connolly then introduces his contributor:

“Michael Deas – campaigning director of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee in London – believes the tide on this issue is starting to run their way. The holy grail for the BDS movement is to impose on Israel the kind of damage once inflicted on white South Africa by anti-apartheid campaigners. And Michael Deas says it’s not enough to boycott goods that come from Israeli settlements on the West Bank; something more comprehensive is called for.”

Listeners hear Deas deliver the same messaging previously promoted on BBC television news and on the website.

“The Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel is for a boycott of all Israeli products. Now we know that some people and some organisations are really at the moment only comfortable boycotting products that come from settlements and that’s a position that we understand and can sympathise with. The problem is is [sic] the Israeli export companies that are exporting oranges and avocados, they routinely lie about where their products are coming from so the only safe way for people to avoid buying products from the settlements is not to buy Israeli products altogether.”

What listeners do not hear, however, is any accurate and impartial information concerning the BDS campaign’s real aims or its origins which would enable them to put Deas’ claims and messaging into their correct context.

Connolly moves on to ticking his impartiality box by bringing two Israelis into his item, beginning with an Israeli winemaker.

“The world looks very different to Ya’akov Berg – an Israeli winemaker whose family home sits in rolling vineyards on the West Bank – or Judea and Samaria as he prefers to call it. The Psagot winery’s corporate video, with Old Testament figures swirling across the landscape, makes a familiar Israeli point: that the land is theirs by biblical right and is not negotiable.”

Whilst some Israelis may indeed express such views, that of course is not the legal basis for Israeli claims to Judea and Samaria. But Connolly has already passed up on the opportunity to inform audiences of the fact that those regions were included in the Mandate for Palestine in 1922, preferring to blinker listeners with the notion of “Palestinian territory”.

After a few words from Mr Berg, listeners hear unidentified shouting and chanting: “One, two, three, four, occupation no more. Five, six, seven, eight….”. Connolly refrains from providing any information about that insert but it bears remarkable resemblance to an audio track he used in a January 2014 report  which covertly promoted the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s agenda regarding the Israeli company SodaStream and his ensuing words further suggest that the audio track was recycled from that report.

“The boycott movement is clearly starting to feel it’s working with the grain of history, pointing to companies moving out of the West Bank, apparently in response to political pressure overseas – although Israel can equally argue that major international companies like Microsoft and Apple are still investing.”

Connolly’s enthusiastic amplification of redundant BDS messaging of course leaves no room for listeners to be informed that the move of the SodaStream factory from Mishor Adumim to the Negev was prompted by financial agreements which pre-dated the BDS campaign’s targeting of the company.

“There’s another reason for the move to the Negev – a multi-million dollar subsidy the company is eligible for as a result of the move to Lehavim. In a deal signed in 2012, SodaStream agreed to build a production plant in the newly established Idan Hanegev Industrial Zone, with an estimated cost of NIS 280 million ($78 million). The plant is set to employ about 1,000 people, according to Ministry of the Economy documents. In return, SodaStream is set to receive a 20% subsidy, worth as much as NIS 60 million (nearly $16 million).” 

Connolly continues:

“But what about that question of whether a South Africa moment is looming? That point where ordinary consumers overseas see a ‘produce of Israel’ label on an avocado or a pomegranate and instinctively shy away. Israel’s deputy foreign minister Tsipi Hotovely says the boycott campaign’s comparison with apartheid is offensive and wrong.”

Listeners then hear seven sentences from Hotovely before Connolly sums up.

“In arguments about Israel it’s always hard to be sure if debate is changing people’s minds or just reinforcing the opinions they held anyway. Either way, you can be sure that for both sides, the boycott debate is one of the key battle grounds of the future.”

That, of course, should be all the more reason for the BBC to present the issue of the BDS campaign to its audiences accurately, impartially and comprehensively. But instead of providing them with the full range of information concerning that political campaign’s funding, origins, claims and aims, the BBC instead acts as its cheerleader by misleading audiences with presentation of the campaign as being connected to ‘human rights’ and whitewashing of its demonization and delegitimisation of Israel.

Moreover, the BBC’s unsubstantiated and unsourced inflation of the BDS campaign’s ‘success’ and its promotion of the notion that BDS is “growing” and  “working with the grain of history” clearly has the effect of mainstreaming the campaign into public consciousness and turning the BBC into a self-conscripted activist in this political crusade to bring about the demise of Jewish self-determination.

Is that really a place in which licence fee payers would like to see their national broadcaster?

Kevin Connolly’s BDS promotion and amplification did not, however, end there. More to come in part three of this post.  


BBC coverage of the Har Nof terror attack on Radio 4’s PM – part two

As was noted in part one of this post, the final interview (available here from 16:14) in the long segment reporting on the terror attack at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in Jerusalem earlier that day which appeared in the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ on November 18th, featured Rosemary Hollis – Professor of Middle East Policy Studies at City University, London.PM 18 11

As an academic, Professor Hollis’ contribution to the report was presumably intended to provide UK audiences with the type of context and analysis which would enable them to enhance their “awareness and understanding” of this particular “international issue”. However, basic inaccuracies and omissions in Hollis’ account in fact diminished the possibility of better audience comprehension.

The interview with Rosemary Hollis came directly after a previous one with the cousin of Avraham Goldberg who had been murdered in the terror attack just eight hours or so before the programme went on air. Presenter Eddie Mair opened his conversation with Hollis thus:

“We asked you in to talk about the status of Jerusalem. Just before we do that, we just heard the view of Israel and its place in the Middle East from a grieving relative. It’s a view that will be contentious.”

Hollis: “Yes; it was a beautiful tribute to Mr Goldberg and I think you would find that for many individual Palestinians, equally beautiful tributes could be paid for their awareness of the issues, for their innocence, for their devotion to family and to religious values and so on. One has to be careful here. If Mr Goldberg’s cousin is worried about a mind-set in the killers, that needs to be dealt with on a specific level in terms of where these young men were coming from, what their experience of life and occupation had been, and not to tarnish all Palestinians with some characteristics which may or may not be appropriate to apply to some individuals. It’s a classic problem in conflict and there is no justice in the killings that take place. To find it in the evilness of the perpetrator is a natural instinct but it’s not conducive to ending the kind of conflict that we’re in here.”

Yes, the BBC really did bring in an academic in order to promote to audiences a narrative of equivalence which, inter alia, suggests that hacking a man in his seventh decade to death with a meat cleaver for no other reason than his being a Jew should be seen in the context of the terrorist’s “experience of life and occupation” and where he was “coming from”. Hollis continued:

“Now, at the moment the tension in Jerusalem can be traced back to the beginning of the summer before the Gaza war. The tension started with the abduction and killing of Jewish students and then a revenge killing of a Palestinian.”

The BBC has of course also used those events as part of a menu of factors it promotes as ‘explaining’ the latest surge in violence and terrorism. Notably, neither Hollis nor her host bothered to point out to audiences that, crucially, the kidnappings and murders of the three Jewish teenagers were carried out by a Hamas cell from Hebron or that the attack was financed by Hamas in Gaza: the same Hamas which is partner to the Palestinian unity government which had been sworn in ten days before the three teenagers disappeared. Likewise, no attempt was made to clarify to listeners that the “Gaza war” (apparently nothing happened in Israel during July and August 2014 which BBC audiences need to know about) was instigated by that same terrorist organisation.Whilst those inconvenient facts would of course spoil the narrative of equivalence, facts they are and BBC audiences should be made aware of their existence. 

Hollis then went on to inaccurately represent the topic of the status of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.

“It’s also worth remembering that the status of the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem is unique in the pattern of the conflict. The East Jerusalem areas captured by Israel in 1967 – captured from Jordan who controlled them between the date of the foundation of Israel in ’48 and 1967 – that area of Jerusalem was annexed to Israel.”

Listeners not familiar with Middle East history would of course be unlikely to appreciate from that account that the euphemistically termed Jordanian “control” of parts of Jerusalem for 19 years came about after Jordan attacked the fledgling Jewish state and belligerently occupied and later annexed the areas concerned in a move not recognised by the international community. Hollis continued:

“The Israelis say it is their eternal unified capital and their sovereignty is indisputable. Of course the Palestinians who live there do dispute that sovereignty and the East Jerusalem Palestinian population are not citizens of Israel like the Arab citizens of Israel that Mr Goldberg’s cousin was describing. They have what they call laissez-passer: they have an East Jerusalem ID. They’re supposed to be lucky in the scheme of things compared with other Palestinians because they are not subject to direct occupation. But they are subject to security control and over the last few months hundreds of them have been arrested on suspicion – not on trial.”

Rosemary Hollis’ portrayal is of course factually incorrect. Arab residents of the areas of Jerusalem which came under Israeli control after the Six Day War are entitled to apply for Israeli citizenship – and many have done so – which affords them the same rights as any other citizen of Israel of whatever religion or ethnicity. This was not the first occasion upon which this issue has been misrepresented to BBC audiences: the same inaccurate claim was made in a report by Yolande Knell on BBC World Service radio earlier in the month. Hollis also of course failed to point out to audiences that the vast majority of Palestinians  live under the administration of the Palestinian Authority in Areas A, B and the Gaza Strip and that the minority living in Area C where Israel still has civil and security control do so because their representatives agreed to that arrangement under the terms of the Oslo Accords and then subsequently sabotaged permanent status negotiations by instigating the second Intifada. Hollis’ reference to the arrest of “hundreds” of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem over the past few months of course erased from audience view the fact that there have been countless incidents of violent rioting and terror attacks during that period of time.  The conversation continued with presenter Eddie Mair saying:

“Can we step back even further than the summer to before any of us were alive? How did Jerusalem come to be a place that’s so important to people of different faiths?”

Hollis: “Well you can go back a couple of millennia if you like. [laughs] It is obviously of importance to Muslims, Christians and Jews. And I think I would say that there’s not a square inch of Jerusalem that isn’t contested and religious sites are as contested as others. And it’s a little bit confusing to start talking about freedom of worship because an aspiration since the beginning of the twentieth century – which saw the fall of the Ottoman Empire and originally the occupation of Jerusalem by the British and under the British mandate there – was to talk about what should be the future sovereign arrangement for Jerusalem. And there’s always been talk about it should be an international dispensation because of its importance in religious terms.”

This is of course also not the first time that we have seen the BBC promoting the idea of Jerusalem as a corpus separatum – see previous examples here and here. What Hollis of course did not tell listeners to Radio 4 is that the proposal was conditioned on the acceptance of the Partition Plan by the relevant parties and was rejected by the Arab side, and that in any case, the corpus separatum plan was conceived with a ten-year time limit, after which residents of the designated area were to vote in a referendum to determine its status. Nevertheless, it was interesting to see how Hollis used the redundant argument for a corpus separatum to deflect attention from the progressive issue of equal prayer rights for all at Jerusalem’s holy places. 

No less inaccurate was Rosemary Hollis’ portrayal of what she terms “Jewish doctrine” (as though there were one approach alone) on the subject of Jewish prayer rights at Temple Mount.

“What we’ve had in the Israeli context is an interpretation of Judaism on the part of religious nationalists – the bedrock of the settler movement – err…who are effectively contesting some positions traditionally adopted in Jewish doctrine which says that one should not wish to pray on the Temple Mount because that area is not to be treated as an area of worship until the coming of the Messiah. But the Religious Nationalists are talking about land which they consider both the national birth right of Jewish people and of religious importance. And that combination leads them to challenge most directly latterly the Palestinian and Palestinian Muslim position on some of these sites.”

Hollis’ misrepresentation of the topic of “traditionally adopted […] Jewish doctrine” of course not only confused the issue of differing approaches to equal prayer rights on Temple Mount with the separate subject of some strains of thought according to which the building of the third Temple is conditioned upon the appearance of the Messiah, but also erased the fact that different schools of thought on the topic of Jewish entry to and prayer at Temple Mount existed even before the appearance of the “settler movement” she clearly sought to portray as the root cause of the current tensions.

Once again, rather than providing listeners with accurate factual background intended to aid their understanding of the context of that morning’s murders of five Israelis in a terror attack not described as such by the BBC, this programme busied itself more with promoting a view of the issue framed by specific political motivations. And yet again, the issue of Palestinian incitement remained outside of that BBC framing. 




BBC coverage of the Har Nof terror attack on Radio 4’s PM – part one

Some eight hours after the terror attack in a synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem on November 18th, the BBC Radio 4 programme PM – which purports to provide audiences with “interviews, context and analysis” – spent some twenty minutes or so of its broadcast (available here for a limited period of time) covering that subject.PM 18 11

In the news bulletin which followed the brief introduction to the programme, listeners heard the newsreader say:

“Four Jewish worshippers have been killed at a synagogue in Jerusalem by two Palestinian men armed with butchers’ knives and a gun. One of the dead has been named as 68 year-old Avraham Goldberg from Britain who went to live in Israel in 1991. The two attackers, from occupied East Jerusalem, were shot dead by police. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell is in Jerusalem and says tensions are running high.”

Knell: “The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that there will be a harsh response from Israel to this latest attack, calling it the cruel murder of Jews who came to pray and were killed by despicable murderers. Now on the Palestinian side, what they will say: Israel is also inciting the violence here in Jerusalem. In the last few weeks what we’ve had is this big flare-up in tensions over the Al Aqsa Mosque compound; about access to this important religious site. It’s the third holiest site in Islam. For Jews, who call it Temple Mount, it is the holiest site in their religion.”

Notably, a rare example of BBC use of the word incitement – a topic the BBC has consistently avoided addressing over the past few weeks when it is voiced by Palestinian leaders – came in the form of Yolande Knell taking it upon herself to paraphrase what she thinks “the Palestinian side” will say. Listeners then heard from Kevin Connolly who, after describing the incident – including a recording of the account of an eye-witness – and the subsequent funerals for four of the victims, went on to provide BBC audiences with ‘context’ for the incident which adds nothing new to the list of ‘reasons’ for the recent surge in violence and terrorism which the BBC has now been touting for weeks.

Connolly: “Now many underlying factors have contributed to a kind of toxic cocktail of grievances which is worsening the atmosphere here in Jerusalem, not least the summer conflict in Gaza and continuing Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. But the biggest single factor is a generations-old dispute over rights to worship at a holy place in Jerusalem’s Old City. Muslims alone have the right to pray at al Haram al Sharif or the Temple Mount. Israel, which controls the Old City, says no change is even contemplated but rumours that Jews might be allowed to pray there have an incendiary effect in Palestinian society and in the wider Islamic world.”

As ever, Connolly made no attempt to explore why “Palestinian society” and “the wider Islamic world” should be so offended by the prospect of equal prayer rights for members of all religions at a site important to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. After a brief recording of a statement by Israel’s Minister of Justice Tsipi Livni, Connolly continued:

“Now, Palestinians blame Israel for the increase in tensions in recent times, pointing not just to that religious dispute but to those other factors I mentioned: continuing Jewish settlement in Arab East Jerusalem and the loss of life in the summer war in Gaza.”

Once again we see employment of the term “Arab East Jerusalem” – terminology the BBC’s style guide recommends should be avoided – as well as the inaccurate depiction of the summer conflict as having taken place exclusively in Gaza. Notably, Connolly made no attempt to inform listeners of Hamas’ responsibility for the “loss of life” in that war, be it by the terrorist organisation’s initiation of the conflict through missile fire at civilian targets in Israel, its use of cross-border attack tunnels or its deliberate employment of human shields throughout the conflict. Connolly continued, introducing a BBC frequent flyer‘ who is – not for the first time – described as “influential” despite the fact that his party secured a mere two seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council in the last elections in 2006.

“Mustafa Barghouti is an influential Palestinian politician.”

Barghouti: “They’ve been provoking the Palestinians constantly. I want to remind you and I remind everybody that since the beginning of this year, the Israeli army and Israeli settlers have killed 2,260 Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, including 600 children. And they’ve been attacking the mosque in…Al Aqsa Mosque…and the settlers have been attacking Palestinians. This is a very explosive atmosphere and I hold Netanyahu himself responsible for every bloodshed that has happened whether for Palestinians or Israelis.”

Connolly made no attempt whatsoever to put Barghouti’s propaganda into its correct context by informing listeners how many of those Palestinian casualties were terrorists or violent rioters. He also failed to point out that, contrary to Barghouti’s baseless allegation, nobody has “been attacking” the Al Aqsa Mosque. Instead, Connolly’s closing words once again promoted the BBC’s redundant ‘cycle of violence’ mantra which of course avoids ascribing any agency to Palestinians.

The item then moved on to an interview with the cousin of the British-Israeli man murdered in the Har Nof terror attack, Avraham Goldberg, after which – presumably in order to provide audiences with the context and analysis promised by the programme – presenter Eddie Mair interviewed Professor Rosemary Hollis of City University London. That part of the programme will be discussed in part two of this post. 

BBC Radio 4 compares Israel’s anti-terrorist fence to the Berlin Wall

It did not – disappointingly – come as much of a surprise to find that the BBC was unable to resist the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall for the promotion of a trite and redundant comparison between that structure and Israel’s anti-terrorist fence.PM 10 11

On November 10th, listeners to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ (available here for a limited period of time) heard presenter Eddie Mair introduce the item (from 21:06) as follows:

“‘The human longing for freedom can’t be suppressed forever’ – the words of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she led celebration to mark 25 years since the Berlin wall began to come down. She also said this: ‘The fall of the wall showed us that dream can come true. Nothing has to stay as it is, however high the hurdles’. How will those words sound to people in other parts of the world where a wall or walls of division still exist? Throughout tonight’s programme we’ll hear from BBC correspondents who can tell us. First Kevin Connolly has this, from Jerusalem.”

Kevin Connolly:

“There is a viewpoint near my house in Jerusalem where you can go to marvel at the golden canopy of the Dome of the Rock, glittering under the hot, pale sky. It’s framed by the walls of the Old City – a marvel of sixteenth century engineering. It is said the architects accidentally left Mount Zion outside the walls, so the Sultan who paid for the work had them executed. But your eye is drawn these days to a much newer wall on the landscape: Israel’s long, high, grey separation barrier. It is built on a startling scale. If and when it’s finished it will be 700 kilometres long. Israel says it was built to deter suicide bombings. Palestinians believe it was done to annex their territory and indeed there is Palestinian land on what the Israelis would consider to be their side. It’s far from complete and the obvious and depressing point is that walls take much longer to bring down than they take to put up. But I lived in communist Eastern Europe when the Berlin wall was still in place. I used to go through Checkpoint Charlie to shop in the West. And I can tell you that no-one foresaw that change for the better coming. With walls you never know.”

Connolly’s account fits perfectly into the far from impartial standard BBC template used to present the topic of the anti-terrorist fence. It includes the usual inaccurate misrepresentation of the anti-terrorist fence as a structure designed to “separate” two areas and fails to adequately inform audiences with regard to the years of terrorism which were the background to its construction.SONY DSC

Connolly employs the inevitable qualifying BBC formula of “Israel says” but refrains from providing BBC audiences with the readily available factual evidence of the fence’s effectiveness in preventing terror attacks. He inserts the equally uniform amplification of the evidence-free narrative according to which “Palestinians believe it was done to annex their territory” whilst concurrently misleadingly portraying areas which are supposed to have their status determined by negotiation – according to agreements signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people – as “Palestinian land”. And as is so often the case in BBC reporting, Connolly misrepresents the physical nature of the structure, failing to inform listeners that well over 90% of it is fence rather than a wall.

Later on in the programme, listeners also heard about the wall in Nicosia, Cyprus and the ‘peace walls’ in Belfast (at 50:50). The latter item contrasted starkly with Connolly’s portrayal both in its positive tone and its provision of context, with reporter David Eades noting:

“So it is sad – but little wonder in a city still struggling with distrust, tension and sectarianism – that they [the walls] do still have their role to play.”

As has been noted on these pages before, the BBC’s portrayal of the ‘peace walls’ – and terrorism – in Northern Ireland employs remarkably different standards, language and tone to its presentation of comparable issues in Israel. This latest opportunistic exploitation of the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall for the promotion of inaccurate and partial politically motivated messaging from Kevin Connolly was no exception.

Related Articles:

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3  (includes links to parts one and two)

A ‘peace wall’, a ‘separation barrier’ and a question for the BBC


Yolande Knell’s Gaza borders campaign continues on BBC Radio 4’s PM

h/t JK

Since July a prevalent theme in BBC reporting on the recent conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip has been the context-free amplification of Hamas’ demands to lift border restrictions imposed by Egypt and Israel in response to the activities of that terror organisation and others.

Initially, Hamas declared that the lifting of border restrictions was a precondition to any negotiations on a ceasefire and the BBC provided plenty of publicity for that obviously unrealistic demand – see examples here, here, here and here. Notably, the BBC also adopted Hamas terminology as part of its amplification of the terror group’s demands and began to inaccurately describe very specific restrictions on the entry of dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip as a “siege”.

Later, Hamas found itself obliged to climb down from that particular tree and demands for the lifting of border restrictions joined others, such as the construction of a seaport and an airport, as part of what Hamas promoted as its conditions for a long-term ceasefire. Those demands were also given ample promotion by BBC correspondents – see examples here, here, here, here, here and here.  

Even before the August 26th ceasefire agreement was reached the BBC’s focus turned to promoting the topic of the lifting of border restrictions via the subject matter of reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. With BBC representation in the area having returned to pre-conflict staffing levels, most of that particular advocacy campaign has been carried out by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell who has in recent weeks produced several ‘reporter in the rubble’ items all designed to impress upon BBC audiences that those same border restrictions must be lifted in order to facilitate the reconstruction of houses destroyed or damaged during the conflict. Examples can be seen here, here and here. PM 18 9  

On September 18th the BBC Radio 4 news magazine ‘PM’ broadcast an audio item by Yolande Knell (available for a limited period of time from 50:52 here) which recycles material from two of her previous reports for television and the BBC News website.

The programme’s presenter Eddie Mair introduces the item with citation of Gaza Strip casualty figures which fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants.

EM: “The human toll of the most recent violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza is well known. More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed. Sixty-six Israeli soldiers and seven civilians were killed. As our correspondent Yolande Knell reports, the physical damage to Gaza is also significant.”

Knell opens:

“There’s a single bulldozer working to clear a path through an enormous pile of rubble in Shuja’iya in Gaza. The scale of destruction here is overwhelming. Last month this area was pounded with tank fire and airstrikes as the Israeli military said it set out to destroy a network of tunnels used by militants for cross-border raids and storing rockets. Dozens of local people were killed and thousands were left homeless.”

There is of course absolutely no editorial justification for Knell’s use of the phrase “as the Israeli military said”. Knell and her editors know full well that Hamas turned the Shuja’iya neighbourhood into a district overflowing with military targets including missile launching sites and the entrances to some ten cross-border attack tunnels. There is also no reason to assume that Knell is unaware of the fact that among the “dozens of local people” killed in Shuja’iya were a significant number of terrorists who engaged in fierce fighting with Israeli forces tasked with decommissioning the tunnels. And yet Knell deliberately refrains from communicating that fact to listeners, who next hear a local man – who cannot have been unaware that his neighbourhood had been used by terrorists as a missile launch site – feigning surprise that those sites came under attack.

Man: “I was shocked. I didn’t expect to see my house, my street, my neighbours’ houses destroyed like this. Now the war is ended but really we suffer from now here diseases. We suffer from no water, no electricity. Everything is destroyed really.”

Knell: “Abdel Karim Abu Ahmed is an English teacher. As the chickens run through the ruins of his house he shows me where he sleeps on a mattress alongside his brother and sons.”

Man: “Now we haven’t furnitures, we haven’t blankets, we haven’t walls. This is a problem. But we have – inshallah – to rebuild these houses. We hope through negotiation – inshallah – they will bring what we need here.”

Abdel Karim Abu Ahmed the English teacher also appeared in Knell’s recent feature on the BBC News website which included an aerial photograph of the location of his house in Shuja’iya.  

English teacher's house

As can be seen from the IDF’s aerial map of the neighbourhood, at least five missiles were fired from close proximity to Abu Ahmed’s house and yet Knell neglects to inform listeners of that fact and amplifies his feigned surprise at the consequences.

English teacher's house missiles fired

Knell continues with promotion of the main purpose of her report.

“But so far, nothing’s changed to ease the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt and that means reconstruction can’t yet begin. By the Kerem Shalom crossing lorries are bringing in commercial goods – mainly food – but Israel bans the import of building materials for private use, saying that militants use them to build tunnels.”

Again, Knell’s presentation of Hamas’ proven misappropriation of construction materials for the purposes of terror in terms of “Israel says” has no editorial justification. She also fails to clarify that construction materials for the private sector were imported into the Gaza Strip until last October when a cross-border tunnel was discovered. Knell continues with a Norwegian Refugee Council official who also appeared in one of her previous filmed reports.

“Now international aid agencies are calling for a rethink. Ruth Allan represents the Shelter Cluster. It’s worked out there would still be a housing crisis in Gaza even if this crossing ran at its full capacity.”

Allan: “We’ve calculated that it would take 20 years to rebuild the homes. This is not including schools, not including hospitals, not including any other civilian infrastructure – oly houses. Basically 17 thousand homes were destroyed in this last war. Also, there is huge population growth and therefore there is a shortfall of homes.”

Next comes promotion of propaganda straight from the Hamas horse’s mouth.

“In Gaza City I meet another Palestinian inspecting his damaged house. Mahmoud Zahar knows that he was Israel’s intended target here as a founder and leader of the Islamist movement Hamas. He insists the recent conflict was a great victory.”

Al Zahar: “Now I think if we are going to make any election in any area in Palestine, Hamas will be number one – just because this is the first war that Israel failed to achieve any of its goals. Destruction of the tunnels: tomorrow we are going to start doing more tunnels. Tunnels was a self-defence. Rockets was a self-defence. Resistance was our style. Israel started the war and they finished by big losses.”

Knell makes no effort to ensure that listeners are not misled by the inaccurate claims of a man who, despite being on record as having legitimised the murder of Jewish children anywhere in the world and despite UK legislation on the encouragement of terrorism, is apparently still deemed by the BBC to be an appropriate interviewee with something to contribute to audiences. She continues:

“Such attitudes have angered the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who heads a unity government backed by Hamas. He’s warned they hamper efforts to rebuild Gaza. As far as Israel’s concerned, they justify its caution, particularly when it comes to construction supplies. Mark Regev is the Israeli prime minister’s spokesman.”

Regev: “As to materials that could be syphoned off by Hamas to once again rebuild their terror machine, well we’re taking now to the international community – to the United nations, to relevant governments – of how we can have mechanisms in place that will prevent Hamas stealing what is ultimately supposed to reach the people of Gaza. I mean the amount of cement that went into those terror tunnels could have built a dozen hospitals; let’s be clear.”

Knell concludes:

“Back in Shuja’iya residents are trying to clean up their homes. While Gaza’s now calm, they know there’s still no political solution to its underlying problems and now they’re feeling them more acutely than ever.”

Despite al Zahar’s clear declaration of intent to re-engage in the construction of terrorist infrastructure, Knell fails to join the dots and clarify to listeners that there is no chance of success for any “political solution” to the Gaza Strip’s “underlying problems” which does not include adherence to the PA’s existing agreements with Israel – i.e. the disarming of all terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. Neither is she apparently concerned by the fact that her own role in the BBC’s repeated advocacy for Hamas’ political campaign to lift border restrictions is likely to contribute to the current calm in the Gaza Strip being very short-lived. 

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.