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. 

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