BBC’s Keyworth mainstreams an inaccurate political narrative

Listeners to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on July 11th heard a prime example how a one-sided, inaccurate, politically motivated narrative can be mainstreamed into the public consciousness even in content which is not overtly political.

Presenter Kate Adie introduced the item (from 22:40 here) as follows, adhering to the now standard BBC practice of presenting last summer’s conflict between Palestinian terrorist organisations and Israel as an affair which took place exclusively in one location.

“It’s been a year now since the war in Gaza. Seven weeks of fighting, Israeli shells and Palestinian rocket attacks and much destruction in Gaza. Eighteen thousand properties there were destroyed, many people are still homeless today. Several hundred people crowded into a square in the centre of Gaza City on Wednesday to watch the armed wing of Hamas stage a rally marking the occasion. What were described as new missiles were put on show. Marie Keyworth recently spent the day with a Gaza family, watching them at work, going shopping with them at the market and joining them for lunch.”

If readers are curious about that Gaza City rally, which was not reported by the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau staff, more information can be found here.

As readers will recall, Marie Keyworth visited the Gaza Strip and PA controlled areas in May on behalf of the BBC’s business department. Her latest report  – which also appeared as a written article titled “Love in a time of conflict” on the BBC News website’s ‘Magazine’ and Middle East pages on July 13th – is not about business matters but ostensibly tells a whimsical tale of romance. In among, however, listeners and readers are fed statements which are presented without any context or qualification.Keyworth FOOC

“Gaza is more often associated with conflict than love …”

“Of course it doesn’t take a genius to work out that some palm leaves trussed together with twine would do nothing to protect Ahmad and his siblings from the shells that fall on Gaza whenever a conflict erupts there.”

 “But what the shelter does provide is something equally important – a kind of psychological security. Something painfully absent from Gazan lives, and something Ahmad clearly craved.”

“You could almost forget you were in one of the most densely populated and frequently bombed places on earth.”

“But of course the reality for Gaza is the constant threat of war.”

“After all, it’s far more fun to talk about stolen kisses than it is to talk about bombs.”

Keyworth’s narrative is one of entirely passive “Gazan lives” in a place where “conflict erupts” – apparently all by itself – and where “the shells that fall” when it is “frequently bombed” do so for no discernible reason. In Keyworth’s world there is no cause and effect, no responsibility and no agency. And of course, there is no terrorism.

That banal and inaccurate portrayal obviously not only does nothing to meet the BBC’s remit of building understanding of “international issues” but even deliberately entrenches a politically motivated false narrative which is already disturbingly prevalent.

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From Our Own Correspondent on Twitter

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How to Complain to the BBC

 

More BBC multiplatform mainstreaming of an anti-Israel trope

Obviously not content with the previous amplification of propaganda rhetoric used by anti-Israel campaigners on BBC World Service radio last month, the BBC recently decided to promote business reporter Roger Hearing’s mainstreaming of the same ‘open air prison’ trope on several of its other platforms too.Hearing ice cream Gaza written

The June 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ includes a piece from Hearing introduced by presenter Kate Adie (from 22:27 here) as follows:

“It’s nearly a year now since Israeli forces launched air and ground attacks on Gaza in response – they said – to a series of rocket attacks launched from inside the Palestinian territory. More than two thousand people were killed in the conflict and many homes and business properties in Gaza were damaged or destroyed. Rebuilding started soon after a ceasefire was announced last August but progress has been slow. A blockade on the territory imposed by Israel has delayed the arrival of construction materials. Roger Hearing has been to see how one business has carried on despite the difficulties.” [emphasis added]

So, in addition to casting doubt on the reasons for the outbreak of hostilities on July 8th 2014 (almost a month of incessant attacks on civilians, with hundreds of missiles fired rather than “a series”), Adie also fails to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties, refrains from noting Egypt’s closure of its border with the Gaza Strip and misleads audiences with the inaccurate claim that the slow pace of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip is because of Israeli restrictions on the import of dual use goods whilst making no effort to inform them of the terrorism which is the cause of those restrictions.

‘From Our Own Correspondent’ also has a BBC World Service radio version presented by Pascale Harter and Hearing’s report was featured in that programme’s June 20th edition too. Harter’s introduction to the item (from 17:55 here) was notably more accurate and impartial than the one heard by listeners to Radio 4.

“But right now, a glimpse of Gaza as you might not know it. It’s nearly a year since Israeli forces launched air and ground attacks there after weeks in which hundreds of rockets were fired into Israel from inside the Palestinian territory. More than two thousand people were killed in the conflict and many homes and business properties in Gaza were destroyed. It is a very difficult business environment but Roger Hearing finds one entrepreneur winning fame if not fortune.”

A written version of that audio report from Hearing was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East and Magazine pages on June 21st and in addition that version of the report was translated into Arabic and promoted on the BBC Arabic website.

All four versions of the report include overly dramatic, context-free descriptions from Hearing.

“…despite the apocalyptic destruction in parts of the city from last year’s war, you do also see a lot of giggling, playing children among the ruins.”

All four versions also fail to inform audiences that, in addition to ice cream making equipment, the Rafah area smuggling tunnels have of course been used to import weapons into the Strip and that metal piping of assorted types is regularly used by terrorists to manufacture missiles.

“He proudly showed us the shiny Italian gelato machines installed in the back rooms of his cafe building. When he was trying to import them, it was hard to convince the Israelis apparently that there wasn’t some other, more threatening purpose for the tall chrome boxes with pipes and chutes and nozzles.

It’s likely at least some of the machines were hauled through the tunnels under the border with Egypt, until that smuggling operation was closed down a few months back. Now that’s a strange image: young men in pitch darkness, sweating to drag huge boxes through rickety holes in the sand, and all so that Gazans could eat fine ice cream.”

Whilst BBC audiences remain serially unaware of Hamas’ activities in Judea & Samaria and in Turkey, they do now at least know that Hamas officials in Gaza like ice cream.

“Very nice,” said Ghazi Hamed, the deputy foreign minister for Hamas. “Everyone here knows Kazem’s.”

All four of these reports conclude with the same canard promoted by Hearing a month earlier in one of his radio reports from the Gaza Strip.

“And I have to say – and this is one of the oddest things – from the decrepit heart of a half-destroyed city in a besieged and blockaded enclave, sometimes described as the biggest open air prison in the world, comes the best ice cream I have ever tasted.” [emphasis added]

The Gaza Strip is of course not “besieged” at all and those who inaccurately describe it as “the biggest open air prison in the world” do so out of clear political motivations. Thousands of people exit and enter the Gaza Strip every year – as anyone who follows the daily reports publicized by COGAT online and on social media will be aware.

But, electing to ignore the facts behind the deliberate misnomer which he has so vigorously promoted over the past few weeks, Roger Hearing continues to mainstream the baseless rhetoric of anti-Israel delegitimisation in a style more suited to the Hamas supporting Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s PR department than a media organization supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting. The BBC is undoubtedly capable of identifying the motives and agenda behind the promotion of the inaccurate notion of Gaza as an ‘open air prison’. The fact that it chooses to adopt, amplify and repeatedly mainstream such propaganda on multiple platforms tells audiences all they need to know about the BBC’s supposed ‘impartiality’.

Related Articles:

Mainstreaming anti-Israel rhetoric on the BBC World Service

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‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on Twitter

Roger Hearing on Twitter

BBC World Service contact & complaints

BBC Radio 4 contact

How to Complain to the BBC

Misinformation from BBC’s Kevin Connolly on From Our Own Correspondent

The March 19th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ included an item by Kevin Connolly (available from 06:19 here) described as follows in the programme’s synopsis:FOOC 19 3

“…a stunning election victory for Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel — but it means frustration, anger and dismay for the country’s Palestinian population…”

As has been noted here in previous discussions of BBC coverage of the recent Israeli election (see here and here), one topic which all the corporation’s journalists avoided like the plague in all its reporting was that of foreign funding for organisations such as V15 which campaigned to influence the outcome of the election. In this report, however, Kevin Connolly goes a step beyond omission, actively misinforming listeners when he says (from around 09:00):

“…Mr Netanyahu now has the chance to replace a rather fractious and recalcitrant old coalition with a new one, which should prove more manageable. Foreign governments, of course, are far too well-behaved to interfere in the internal politics of a democratic state. But the outside world tends to view Israeli politics through the prism of the state of the peace process with the Palestinians.” [emphasis added]

Whether or not US tax-payers’ money was used in the V15 campaign remains to be seen – as the Free Beacon recently reported:

“The head of a progressive U.S.-based group that helped organize the failed get-out-the-vote effort to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel defended the initiative during a panel discussion at J Street’s annual conference on Sunday.

Kenneth Bob, who runs the U.S. nonprofit Ameinu, said around a year ago the group began meeting with board members, political parties, and other progressive organizations to figure out “what can we actually do to impact events on the ground in Israel.”

“It took us on a path to learn about Israeli electoral funding laws, and it brought us to a project that has now gotten a certain amount of publicity thanks to the prime minister of Israel,” said Bob. “We helped put together a get-out-the-vote effort in the Arab community.”

Netanyahu called on his supporters to turn out to vote last Tuesday to counter U.S.-funded efforts aimed at bringing out left-leaning and Arab-Israeli voters. His comments earned rebukes from the White House, which has suggested that he was trying to discourage minority voting.

Bob said Netanyahu’s characterization of the campaign was accurate, although the prime minister overstated how much money it had received.

“When Bibi spoke about the tens of millions of dollars pouring into this effort, my only correction was it wasn’t tens of millions,” said Bob. “He exaggerated a little bit.” […]

Several organizations that have received funding from the U.S. State Department—including OneVoice, Givat Haviva and the Abraham Fund Initiatives—were also involved in the voter-targeting efforts. A bipartisan Senate committee launched an investigation earlier this month into whether any U.S. government funds had been used for this campaign.” [emphasis added]

What is already known, however, is that foreign governments regularly interfere in internal Israeli politics by means of funding for assorted NGOs. Those governments include the United Kingdom, the United States, Ireland and Norway – to name but a few of the countries which are considerably less “well-behaved” than Connolly tries to make out.

Connolly then provides listeners with more misinformation:

“Outsiders will want to know what chance there is now of convening talks or what chance they might have of succeeding if they could be convened. The truth is that the process was already feeling pretty moribund. There’s been no movement since an American-brokered attempt at negotiations fizzled out last year. Now, it feels more moribund still.” [emphasis added]

The last round of talks between Israel and the PLO did not “fizzle out” as Connolly claims: they came to an abrupt end when the Fatah controlled  Palestinian Authority opted for a reconciliation deal with Hamas: a terrorist organization which does not recognize either Israel’s right to exist or existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians under the Oslo Accords.

Of course accurate representation of the reasons for the failure of the last round of talks would have put a decided damper on the multi-platform campaign to portray the ‘peace process’ as being entirely dependent upon the results of Israel’s election which was evident throughout the BBC’s coverage of that event. This contribution from Connolly may well fit the chosen editorial line, but it is not accurate and deliberately misleads BBC audiences.  

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell promotes political church campaign supported by BBC funder

Background to the BBC’s inaccurate framing of the end of Middle East talks

Revisiting the BBC’s framing of the 2013/14 Israel-PLO negotiations

 

How the BBC whitewashed the issue of women’s rights in Iran

This is what Freedom House had to say about the status of women in Iran in 2014:

“A woman cannot obtain a passport without the permission of her husband or a male relative. Women are widely educated; a majority of university students are female. They are nevertheless excluded from most leadership roles. Women currently hold just 3 percent of the seats in the parliament, and they are routinely barred from running for higher office. Female judges may not issue final verdicts. Women do not enjoy equal rights under Sharia-based statutes governing divorce, inheritance, and child custody, though some of these inequalities are accompanied by greater familial and financial obligations for men. A woman’s testimony in court is given only half the weight of a man’s, and the monetary compensation awarded to a female victim’s family upon her death is half that owed to the family of a male victim. Women must conform to strict dress codes and are segregated from men in some public places.”

These are excerpts from the UN Secretary General’s review of human rights in Iran published last month:

“…women only account for 16 per cent of the labour force. According to the Global Gender Gap Index for 2014 of the World Economic Forum, the Islamic Republic of Iran ranked no. 137 out of 142 countries. Furthermore, men earn 4.8 times more than women. With regard to women in ministerial positions, the Index ranked the Islamic Republic of Iran no. 105 out of 142 countries, and there are few women in managerial or decision-making roles […]. The draft comprehensive population and family excellence plan, reportedly currently being considered by parliament, would further restrict the participation of women in the labour force. Preference for employment opportunities would be given, in order, to men with children, men without children, then lastly to women with children. Furthermore, teaching positions in higher education and research institutions would be reserved for qualified married applicants.

According to article 1117 of the Civil Code, a husband may prevent his wife from occupations or technical work deemed incompatible with family interests or his own dignity or that of his wife. The law may even prevent women from pursuing artistic activities. 

…child marriage remains prevalent in the country. The legal age of marriage for girls is only 13, and some as young as 9 years of age may be married with the permission of the court. In 2011, about 48,580 girls between the age of 10 and 14 were married; and in 2012, there were at least 1,537 girls under the age of 10 who were reportedly married.

…laws continue to allow for marital or spousal rape and discriminate between men and women with regard to the spouse’s ability to initiate and complete divorce. A woman is required to prove that a significant threat has been made to her life in order to be able to file for divorce. Such laws make it difficult for women to escape domestic violence and to protect themselves from any real and immediate risk to life or integrity.

Nationality laws in the Islamic Republic of Iran do not grant women equal rights when transferring their nationality to their children.

Women in the Islamic Republic of Iran are required to observe Islamic dress code in public places. The parliament reportedly recently approved a plan “on the protection of promoters of virtue and preventers of vice”, which would increase checks on improper veiling. […] The morality police strictly monitor all public places, including vehicles, and take action against those who do not adhere to the morality codes. Women who appear without an Islamic hijab risk arrest and imprisonment of between 10 days and two months, or a fine of up to 500,000 rials. Approximately 30,000 women were reportedly arrested between 2003 and 2013, with many others subjected to expulsion from university or banned from entering public spaces, such as parks, cinemas, sport facilities, airports and beaches.”

This is the opening paragraph of an article titled “How Iran’s feminist genie escaped” which was published in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page and in its ‘Magazine’ section on March 5th – in decidedly embarrassing proximity to International Women’s Day:Iran feminism art

“Iran’s 1979 revolution may have put an ayatollah in charge – but for women it had plenty of positive side-effects… in education, in the workplace, and even in the home, discovers Amy Guttman during a ride on the Tehran underground.”

Later on in the article, readers are told:

“Farah talks of the major changes Iranian women have experienced in the last 30 years […] On Tehran’s metro, I’m getting a spontaneous, unprompted lesson about gender equality in Iran.

Farah tells me it all began, not with imports from the West, but with the 1979 revolution. A confluence of access, education and a bad economy created a society where women now have independence, careers and husbands happy to help around the house with chores and children.

The revolution, Farah says, was very good for women.”

The article continues:

“The revolutionists supported women coming out of their homes to demonstrate. They used women to show their strength, but they never anticipated these women also believed in their right to exist outside the home,” Farah remembers.

Iran’s genies were let out of the bottle. The same genies have gone on to become active members of theological schools and hold positions as judges and engineers. […]

There’s no greater evidence of women in the workplace, than where we’re sitting, surrounded by women on their way to work. It’s another outcome the Ayatollah hadn’t expected, but with Iran’s economy battered by the revolution, women had no choice but to join the workforce.

“It forced men to acknowledge that their wives could go out and earn money,” Farah says. Growing up, Farah only remembers affluent families allowing girls to work outside the home. Now, she says, “Nearly all boys prefer to marry a girl who has a permanent job and good salary. Often the women work harder, and longer hours than their husbands, so they do more of the housework – cleaning and preparing meals.””

Of course the rosy picture painted by Amy Guttman’s sole source for this article – whom she economically describes as “my guide Farah” – is clearly at odds with the reality presented in reports such as those above. So who is Farah and why is her portrayal of the status of women in Iran so different from the accounts of numerous human rights organisations?

Amy Guttman is a freelance journalist and in addition to this article and the very similar audio version (from 11:22) made for the February 28th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’, her visit to Iran also prompted pieces for other media outlets. In one of those articles she correctly notes that:

“British, American and Canadian tourists must be accompanied by a guide at all times in Iran.”

Those guides must be approved by the Iranian Foreign Ministry. In other words, the sole source for the BBC’s multi-platform promotion of the notion that the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran was “very good for women” is a regime approved minder.

And yet that fact did not prevent the organization which likes to describe itself as “the standard-setter for international journalism” from commissioning, publishing and broadcasting this cringingly transparent regime propaganda which whitewashes the serious issues faced by women in Iran. 

 

 

More narrative-inspired reporting from Bethlehem by BBC’s Yolande Knell

The December 27th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ included an item (available here from 01:48) described as follows in its synopsis:Knell Bethlehem FOOC

“…why Yolande Knell in Bethlehem is looking forward to two more Christmases in the coming weeks…”

A very similar written version that audio report from Knell’s appeared on the Magazine and Middle East pages of the BBC News website on December 28th under the title “The town with three Christmas Days“. It opens by telling BBC audiences that:

“Christmas comes but once a year – unless you live in Bethlehem, where three different Christian denominations celebrate on three different days.”

Obviously Bethlehem is far from the only town in the region in which different Christian denominations celebrate Christmas on different dates. Towards the end of her report Knell states:

“Many Palestinian Christians see themselves as custodians of Christmas and its colourful traditions.

The dwindling number of Christians in the Holy Land adds a sense of urgency to their celebrations. Nowadays many young people in the West Bank choose to emigrate because of the difficult economic and social conditions created by Israel’s occupation.”

Knell’s over-simplified claim of a “dwindling number of Christians in the Holy Land” misleads audiences by failing to distinguish between Israel – where Christian communities thrive and grow – and the PA ruled areas where their numbers continue to decline. Of course the vast majority of Palestinians in the PA-controlled territories do not live under “Israel’s occupation” at all with control of Bethlehem, for example, having been handed over to the PA in accordance with the Oslo Accords two decades ago. However, Knell continues to promote the mantra which has dominated previous BBC reports on the topic of Palestinian Christians, according to which emigration is entirely attributable to factors connected to Israel. And as we have seen in much other BBC reporting on the issue, Knell studiously avoids the long-standing but under-reported topic of intimidation of Christians.

“Christian families have long been complaining of intimidation and land theft by Muslims, especially those working for the Palestinian Authority.

Many Christians in Bethlehem and the nearby [Christian] towns of Bet Sahour and Bet Jalla have repeatedly complained that Muslims have been seizing their lands either by force or through forged documents.

In recent years, not only has the number of Christians continued to dwindle, but Bethlehem and its surroundings also became hotbeds for Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters and members.

Moreover, several Christian women living in these areas have complained about verbal and sexual assaults by Muslim men.

Over the past few years, a number of Christian businessmen told me that they were forced to shut down their businesses because they could no longer afford to pay “protection” money to local Muslim gangs.

While it is true that the Palestinian Authority does not have an official policy of persecution against Christians, it is also true that this authority has not done enough to provide the Christian population with a sense of security and stability.”

Interestingly, a BBC feature from 2011 called “Guide: Christians in the Middle East” (much of which is now sadly out of date due to events in Syria and Iraq) did briefly mention non Israel-related factors affecting Palestinian Christians.Knell Bethlehem written Mag

“Some Christian leaders also cite the rise of radical Islam in the area as a growing pressure on Christian communities.”

At the beginning of the audio version of Knell’s report presenter Kate Adie informs listeners that:

“Yolande Knell has lived in the city [Bethlehem] just a few miles south of Jerusalem for four years now…”

Despite that fact – or perhaps because of it – BBC audiences continue to be fobbed off with one-dimensional reporting from Yolande Knell which presents Palestinians exclusively as passive victims of Israeli policy and actions whilst concurrently refraining from any attempt to report on the internal Palestinian affairs which affect their lives.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC’s Connolly reports on ME Christians: omits the one place they thrive

Terror excused, Palestinian Christians sold out on BBC World Service

BBC’s Knell politicises St George’s Day with promotion of PA propaganda

BBC’s Knell exploits Christmas report to lie about anti-terrorist fence

The Christians who do not fit into the BBC’s Middle East narrative

BBC’s Connolly fails to tell all about the ‘status quo’ on Temple Mount

The November 8th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ opened with an item by Kevin Connolly on the topic of Temple Mount. The programme is available here, with the relevant segment commencing at 00:38.FOOC 8 11 Connolly

Connolly’s account includes the following:

“A strict status quo governs rights of access to this holiest of places. Muslims alone have the right to worship. Jews may visit but may not pray. Any hint of change could instantly provoke widespread disorder. Here’s how powerful that status quo remains. Jordan controlled East Jerusalem until 1967 and so controlled access to the Western Wall – insensitively but memorably known to British troops of an earlier occupation as the Wailing Wall.”

In standard BBC mode, Connolly begins his historic account from 1967 and does not inform listeners when, why or how Jordanian control commenced or what the situation was before that brief 19-year stint of Jordanian occupation. He also fails to mention that Jordanian control of access to the Western Wall meant no access for Jews, along with the destruction of numerous synagogues in the Old City, from which all Jewish residents had been expelled. And of course Connolly’s description of the British administration of the Mandate for Palestine as an “occupation” is inaccurate. He continues:

“So when Israel captured the Old City in 1967 it put the most important place of prayer in Judaism back in Jewish hands.”

Connolly is of course referring to the Western Wall in that statement – as is apparent from his next lines – but his description is misleading in that it fails to inform listeners that whilst the Western Wall is in indeed the most important place to which Jews have access to pray, it is not the most important place. He goes on:

“But Israel also captured Haram al Sharif, or Temple Mount. There’s a photograph that shows young paratroopers flying the Israeli flag nearby. Their commanders quickly and smartly ordered them to take it down and then returned control of the sanctuary which contains the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock to the control of the Islamic religious authorities. Even in the afterglow of a series of stunning military victories that defined the modern Middle East, Israel was anxious to avoid doing anything here that might provoke a wider holy war. After all, a clumsily managed row over the site under British rule in the 1920s had triggered violent rioting and widespread loss of life.”

Connolly’s opaque reference is of course to the 1929 riots but he refrains from informing listeners which party instigated the “violent rioting” or of the similarity between the pretext used to incite then and that being used by the president of the Palestinian Authority and others today.

“In September 1928, a small group of Jews erected a “mechitza” (a divider to separate men and women during prayers) for Yom Kippur prayers at the Western Wall. The British forcibly dismantled the divider, but Husseini used this incident as a pretext to incite Muslims. He accused the Jews of attempting to seize Muslim holy sites, including the al Aqsa Mosque. […]

According to the Davar newspaper of August 20, 1929, incitement against the Jews was rampant, especially in the Jerusalem and Hebron area. Rumors were spread that Jews had cursed Islam and intended to take over their holy places; Muslims were told that it was their duty to take revenge. “Defend the Holy Places” became the battle cry.”

Instead, Connolly promotes other reasons for the current tensions in Jerusalem:SONY DSC

“But some Jews now talk again of revising the status quo. Why, they ask, should they not pray there since the place is sacred to them and since Israel controls access to the Old City? Jerusalem was already feeling edgy; a legacy of the summer fighting in Gaza and continuing Jewish settlement in Arab areas of the east of the city. The Israeli government says the status quo will remain, but you sense it wouldn’t take much to make things worse – a reminder to those of us who live in Jerusalem that the very things that make the place one of the glories of our shared civilization make it difficult and dangerous too.”

Whilst Connolly’s monologue puts significant emphasis on the topic of the ‘status quo’ on Temple Mount, beyond the issue of rights of worship and access he does not actually bother to inform BBC audiences what that status quo includes.

  • The Waqf, as an arm of the Jordanian Ministry of Sacred Properties, would continue to manage the site and be responsible for arrangements and for religious and civil affairs there.
  • Jews would not be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount, but they would be able to visit it. (This right of freedom of access to the Mount was also eventually anchored within the context of the Protection of Holy Places Law.)
  • Israel, by means of its police force, would assume responsibility for security in the sacred compound, both within the site itself and regarding the wall and gates surrounding it.
  • Israeli sovereignty and law would be applied to the Temple Mount as to the other parts of Jerusalem, to which Israeli law was applied after the Six-Day War. (This stipulation was approved more than once by the Israeli High Court of Justice.)
  • It was later decided that the only entrance gate through which entry to the Mount by non-Muslims, including Jews, would be permitted would be the Mughrabi Gate, which is located at the center of the Western Wall, whereas Muslims would be able to enter the Mount through its many other gates.
  • Over the years the raising of flags of any kind was prohibited on the Mount.

Neither does Connolly inform his listeners how that status quo has been changed over the last 47 years.

Whatever one’s opinion of the campaign by some for equal Jewish prayer rights on Temple Mount (for some reason uniformly portrayed by the BBC as a “Right-wing” issue), it is clear that the Israeli government has no intention of changing that aspect of the status quo. However, the many other components of that status quo which have changed – including damage to antiquities, unauthorized construction, restriction of access to non-Muslims and harassment of visitors – are consistently concealed from audiences in BBC portrayal of the topic. Kevin Connolly’s latest item is no exception. 

In which BBC R4 misrepresents an Israeli law and its roots

The September 6th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ was titled “Matters of Life and Death” and included an item by Claudia Hammond, described in the synopsis as follows:FOOC Hammond

“Claudia Hammond discovers that many patients in Israel remain on life support for years”.

 The programme is available here, with the relevant segment beginning at 18:10, or here as a podcast under the different title “The Silent Wards”.  

The item is introduced by programme presenter Kate Adie thus:

“The news from Israel has been dominated recently by events in and around Gaza. On this programme though, we like to give ourselves the space to examine other aspects of life and death. In January this year a former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon died after eight years in a coma following a massive stroke. In many other countries the machines keeping him alive would have been turned off earlier. Jewish law forbids people ending a human life. As Claudia Hammond discovered in Jerusalem, the result is that large numbers of hospital patients spend years on life support.”

Hammond’s item is mostly devoted to the telling of individual stories, with the background she provides to listeners limited to the following segment:

“In most countries a ward like this would not exist and doctors and families in discussion together might have made the decision to turn off Hava’s husband’s ventilator to allow him to die. But since 2005 this has been illegal in Israel and is considered to be killing the patient, even if they’re already dying. The law in Israel was informed by Jewish tradition. But talking to families of other faiths in the hospital here, it seems to have become a cultural viewpoint too.”

Let’s take a look at the accuracy of some of those statements.

Kate Adie claims that “large numbers of hospital patients spend years on life support” but listeners are not told how many people “large numbers” actually are. In January 2011, for example, there were 787 people on life support in hospitals throughout Israel but by no means all would have been long-term chronic patients as that number includes, for example, premature babies and people in ICUs as the result of an accident or an illness. Israel’s population at the time was 7.7 million people: in other words, Adie’s “large numbers” are a few hundred people out of millions.

Adie states that “Jewish law” is the factor responsible for the “large numbers” of patients on life support. In fact Israeli state law is of course a separate issue from Jewish law, which is itself open to many different interpretations and by no means as simple and straightforward as Adie suggests.

According to Hammond, “the law in Israel was informed by Jewish tradition”. In fact the relevant law was the product of years of discussion by a public committee – the Steinberg Committee – appointed in the year 2000 by the Minister of Health. Members of that committee included, for example, Mr Ziad Abu Moch – Director of the College for the Study of Shari’a and Islamic Sciences in Baka al Gharbiya; Father Dr George Khouri – theologist and psychologist, President of the Greek-Catholic Court in Haifa and Sheikh Professor Fadel Mansour – member of the management committee of the Higher Druze Religious Council in Ussafiya and a biologist at the Vulcani Centre. Other members of the committee included experts in civil law, Jewish religious law, ethics, philosophy and medicine.

As we see, Hammond’s claim that the law “was informed by Jewish tradition” is a very partial and selective representation of the facts.

The law itself (a translation can be seen here), although passed in December 2005 actually came into effect in December 2006. Its wording is in fact considerably more nuanced than this BBC report suggests and it provides the opportunity for the patient to define in advance what sort of treatment he or she wishes to receive – or not receive – by means of signed advance directives. Hammond’s claim that “since 2005 this [turning off a ventilator] has been illegal in Israel” is both overly simplistic and inaccurate. Article C, clause 16 (a) for example states:

“Where an incompetent terminally ill patient is suffering significantly, and in respect of whom it has been determined pursuant to the provisions of section 5(b) that he does not want his life prolonged, medical treatment relating to his incurable conditions should be withheld from him, including tests, operations, resuscitation, ventilation, chemotherapy, radiation or dialysis, all in accordance with his wish as ascertained pursuant to section 5(b).”

In addition to its misrepresentation of the law itself, this BBC report clearly sets out to present an inaccurate view of an Israeli law as being synonymous with and defined by Jewish religious law. The political motivation behind that deliberate misrepresentation is all too apparent. 

Update:

A written version of this report by Claudia Hammond appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ sections of the BBC News website’s Middle East and Health pages on September 14th under the title “Suspended between life and death“. Unfortunately the inaccuracies evident in the audio version were not addressed before the written version was published. Moreover, they seem likely to be further amplified on BBC World Service radio in the near future. 

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

Readers no doubt remember that on July 5th – three days before Operation Protective Edge commenced – the BBC’s World Editor Andrew Roy appeared on the World Service’s ‘Outside Source’ programme to explain how the BBC ensures equal coverage of what the programme termed “Israel-Palestine”.

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

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

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

Let’s take a look at the accuracy and validity of Roy’s claims by using a test case: BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’.FOOC

Between July 8th (commencement of Operation Protective Edge) and the present, eight editions of the programme have been broadcast. The first two (July 10th and July 12th) did not include any content related to the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The July 17th edition included an item by Yolande Knell (available here from 00:42) which was introduced by presenter Kate Adie using the description ‘fasting under fire’. Knell’s report focuses entirely on the presentation of life in the Gaza Strip with descriptions of shortages of food, frightened children, reduced business in markets and evacuees. Much focus is also put on the topic of border restrictions with Knell twice quoting interviewees referring to a “siege” which of course does not exist and no explanation given regarding the terrorism which brought about the border restrictions.

On July 19th the programme featured an item by Jeremy Bowen which is available here from 00:45. Whilst the item is introduced as being about the whole Middle East, the BBC’s Middle East editor has his sights firmly set on one tiny part of that region. Using the language of Hamas Bowen tells listeners:

“Gaza’s economy is definitely not able to support a population of 1.7 million people but that’s because of the siege imposed by Israel and Egypt.” [emphasis added]

Like Knell before him, Bowen makes no attempt to tell listeners about the Hamas terrorism which brought about border restrictions.  He later continues:

“And there’s been a reminder in the last few days of the terrible potency of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. [..] But the new war in Gaza shows how the Palestinian –Israeli conflict still has resonance across the world as well as in the region. People care about it, get angry about it in a way that they don’t about other crises and wars. I’m calling what’s happening in Gaza a war though I’m aware that it perhaps is not a perfect description. Some people have even told me I shouldn’t use the word because of the enormous imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians. I disagree. Wars are increasingly fought between the strong and the weak. By the way, it’s wrong to pretend that there’s any kind of equality between what Israeli citizens are going through and the experience of Palestinians. The trauma of Israelis caught up in mass attacks is unquestionable but the trauma in Gaza is of an utterly different degree. The only long-term way to end this chronic killing is through a permanent settlement of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. It has to be one both sides can tolerate. An imposed peace would just contain the seeds of the next war. But at the moment peace is not conceivable. Even a long-term absence of war is unattainable. What’s the alternative? If nothing changes more and more of these mini wars, which will eventually become major wars.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s Middle East editor makes no effort to inform listeners that Hamas is not interested in the kind of “permanent settlement” which has been on the table for two decades, neglecting to inform them that Hamas was one of the Palestinian factions which rejected the Oslo accords.

On July 26th listeners to ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ heard Paul Adams. That item is available from 00:50 here and includes the following. [all emphasis in bold added]

“Generations have experienced nothing but occupation, embargo, blockade, war and death. It’s had a slow, brutalising effect. Perhaps that’s why some of them are seized by such a furious desire to tunnel out and seek revenge. For Gaza is a giant prison surrounded by a wall, watch towers and the most sophisticated military in the Middle East.”

Although he makes no effort to inform listeners of the fact that nine years ago, when Israel withdrew, Gaza stood at a crossroads which could have taken it in a very different direction had its leaders not chosen terrorism as their raison d’être, notably Adams does tell of things which – like the rest of his colleagues – he failed to report whilst he was in Gaza

“Of course it would be wrong to suggest that this prison 66 years in the making is full only of the innocent. There are men of violence here. Men who will never, ever accept Israel’s right to exist in the land they still regard as theirs. Men who will store weapons in mosques and schools and take great pride in launching almost entirely indiscriminate rockets from the midst of populated areas, hoping – in the name of resistance – to cause death and fear on the other side. During a week in Gaza I caught occasional glimpses of them; weapons stuffed under shirts, furtive in civilian clothes, moving with purpose through the ravaged streets of Shuja’iya looking for a fight. But when so many of those dismembered and burned by Israeli rockets and shells are not the fighters but women, old people and especially children, then it’s really, really hard not to conclude that the Palestinians are being collectively punished.”

The August 2nd edition of the programme included an item by Chris Morris, available here from 00:42 or here. In addition to Morris’ very graphic descriptions, audiences hear the following. [emphasis added]FOOC Morris

“Because things have got worse; much worse. Could anyone have imagined that twenty years on this would be their fate? Bombed from land, sea and air. Stuck inside the world’s largest prison with nowhere to run. […]

That’s why Hamas’ main demand is now in tune with public opinion: lift the siege of Gaza, open the borders, give people a chance to live.”

Like his colleagues, Morris of course makes no attempt to explain to listeners that it was Hamas terrorism against Israeli civilians which brought border restrictions into being.

On August 9th listeners heard a report by Tim Whewell: the first (and last) making any attempt to portray the Israeli side of the story. That item can be heard here or here from 00:45. Especially, given the track record of his BBC colleagues as far as promoting the notion of a mythical ‘siege’ and failing to report on the context and background of border restrictions is concerned, one interesting part of Whewell’s report is this:

“Why, they [Israelis] demand, don’t you – foreign correspondents – ever report that? And again and again I slip into the same argument. We do report the reasons but we also have to report the results and then much of the audience for our reporting concludes that being afraid or traumatized like Honi [phonetic] is bad, but not nearly as bad as being dead – as so many more Palestinians now are. We’re talking now uncomfortably about hierarchies of suffering and Israelis reply ‘so what do you want? More dead Jewish children? Do we also have to die just to make you report the story fairly?’ “

The August 16th edition of the programme featured a report by Kevin Connolly on the children of Gaza already discussed here and with the audio versions available here from 06:00 or here.

As we see, between July 17th and August 16th six editions of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on BBC Radio 4 included items pertaining to the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Only one of those items presented an Israeli point of view, with the other five not only presenting the opposite viewpoint, but often promoting the terminology of a terrorist organization and failing to provide essential context.

Surely even Andrew Roy cannot possibly claim that any attempt was made to “give fair balance to each side” in that series of programmes.

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BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Gaza: high on pathos and sunsets, low on accuracy and facts

The BBC Radio 4 version of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ featured an item by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly in its August 16th edition which can be heard from around 06:56 here or as a podcast here. A very similar written version of Connolly’s report appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 17th under the title “Gaza: What does the future hold for the children?“.FOOC 16 8

Kevin Connolly is currently located in the Gaza Strip and, as the title of his report suggests, his last few days there seem to have understandably prompted him to worry about the children living in that territory.

“For children in Gaza, living through war must seem like an habitual part of life. Is it possible to imagine what the future may hold for them? […]

The children fizz with energy and curiosity, singing out their names across the gap between the buildings and demanding to know ours.

They quickly learn to wait until we are on air using the balcony’s portable satellite dish, before shouting across. They know that our desperate requests for quiet then have to be mimed, much to their amusement.

I find myself worrying what the future holds for them. […]

If you are a six-year-old in Gaza, you have already lived through three separate wars – the ugly and brutal confrontations with Israel which flared in 2008, 2012 and again this year. It is as though Gaza is a kind of junction box where the dysfunctional neural wiring of the Middle East fused a long time ago.”

Of course if you are a six year-old less than a mile away in Sderot you have also lived through those same three wars and if you are a thirteen year-old from any of the towns and villages surrounding the Gaza Strip, you have never known life without the constant missile fire from the Gaza Strip which – whenever the terrorist organisations there choose to escalate it – is the cause for the “brutal confrontations” which Kevin Connolly ambiguously describes as having “flared” without explaining why that is the case.

Interestingly though, since Connolly arrived in the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau in June 2010, neither he nor any of his colleagues have been sufficiently worried about the children in Sderot to make the 90 minute drive down there and ponder their future. The last BBC correspondents to do anything of that sort were Nick Thorpe in 2006 and Tim Franks in 2008. Perhaps some insight into Kevin Connolly’s comprehension of the situation can be gleaned from this segment of his report:

“And yet, decisive victory seems to elude Israel, just as it eludes Hamas. The fighting will probably end in ways which are ambiguous and unsatisfactory, just as it has in the past.

That will be tough on the civilians of southern Israel, who will almost certainly find themselves running for their air-raid shelters again in future.

But it will be tougher still for those children on the roof next door. They have no air-raid shelters and very little chance of escaping to the wider world as long as Israel and Egypt maintain strict controls on all movement across Gaza’s borders.”

Connolly makes no effort to inform his listeners or readers that the reason Israeli children have air–raid shelters is because their country invests considerable resources in the protection of its citizens and the reason the children in Gaza do not have air-raid shelters is that Hamas invests considerable resources in acquiring missiles and using concrete to build cross-border attack tunnels rather than air-raid shelters. Like the rest of his colleagues he of course refrains from mentioning that those controls on Gaza’s borders with Israel are necessary precisely because of those Hamas policies.

So whilst Connolly tugs at listeners’ heart strings with his artistic descriptions of Gaza and its young residents, he manipulatively blocks any mention of the root cause of the picture he paints from audience view.Connolly FOOC written 17 8

He also returns to the BBC practice of trivialising terror attacks against Israeli civilians by promoting the jaded ‘homemade rockets’ theme.

“These confrontations are hopelessly asymmetrical. Many of Hamas’s rockets are out-of-date or home-made, compared with Israel’s powerful and sophisticated weapons.”

Likewise, Connolly fails to convey to listeners and readers the fact that it was Egypt’s belligerency which eventually resulted in the Gaza Strip coming under Israeli control in 1967, that Israel withdrew from that territory nine years ago and that Israel controls the coastal waters and air-space of the Gaza Strip because the representatives of the Palestinian people – the PA – signed agreements stipulating those conditions two decades ago.

“In the Six Day War of 1967 Israel came back and has occupied Gaza – or controlled life inside it – ever since.”

Obviously, if Connolly’s statement were accurate and Israel did control life inside the Gaza Strip, there would not have been thousands of missiles fired at Israeli civilians from that territory or cross-border attack tunnels dug over the years. Connolly is no less inaccurate when he tells audiences:

“At one point, Hamas appeared to be navigating the treacherous cross-currents of the Arab Spring effortlessly. It seemed able to count, at different points, on the support of Syria, Egypt and Iran – all powerful regional players.

Now, through a combination of misjudgement and misfortune, it can count on none of them.”

The great misfortune of the children of the Gaza Strip is of course that the place they live is under the control of a nihilistic terrorist organization which puts their welfare way down its list of priorities and the terrorisation and murder of Israeli children at the top. Had Kevin Connolly bothered to properly explain that crucial point to BBC audiences instead of making do with flowery clichés and trite descriptions of sunsets, he might actually have made a step towards doing what the BBC exists to do: informing its funding public not just what is going on in the world, but why. 

 

Bowen again promotes BDS in three separate BBC programmes

Three recent and separate editions of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’, which is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and on the BBC World Service, included an item by the BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen.FOOC WS May 7

The BBC World Service edition of the item, which is abridged and was broadcast on May 7th, can be heard here. The programme’s webpage is illustrated with a photograph explained in the following euphemistic caption which omits all mention of the terrorist activities of Yassin and Arafat.

“Palestinian women walk past a mural depicting late Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (L) and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on May 4, 2014 in Gaza City.”

A slightly different version of the same item – also abridged – was broadcast in addition by the BBC World Service on May 10th and can be heard here.

The BBC Radio 4 version from May 3rd can be heard here from about 07:12.

The transcript below is of the unabridged version.

Jeremy Bowen: “Gaza City has very few open spaces. The beach is the most popular. Many Palestinians in Gaza can’t leave the narrow and overcrowded Strip because of Israeli and Egyptian restrictions. At the beach they can walk, swim in the Mediterranean, relax a little and wonder about a much bigger world somewhere beyond the horizon.

Another oasis is the Gaza War Cemetery. Three and a half thousand British and Commonwealth dead from the two world wars are buried there and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has performed its usual gardening miracle. Among the lines of limestone graves are flat, green lawns, trees and they’ve created some peace and shade in a dusty, noisy city built on sand dunes.

More than fifteen years ago I walked around the cemetery with a Palestinian man in his mid-twenties. He told me it was the only place he could think. We were talking because he’d been tortured in a Palestinian jail. His fingernails had been torn out with pliers and had regrown as horny little stumps. He’d been accused of being an activist in Hamas. His torturers were from the Palestinian Security Forces that were dominated by men from Yasser Arafat’s faction Fatah. The peace process with Israel was still supposed to be moving ahead and Arafat’s people had cracked down hard on Hamas after a series of suicide bombs that had killed dozens of Israelis.FOOC WS May 10

Tension – and worse – between Hamas and Fatah has deep roots. So, it was no surprise that it led to bloodshed after Hamas won an election in 2006. Palestinians were sick of Fatah’s excesses, corruption and ineptitude. Hamas is an acronym for the Arabic words for Islamic Resistance Movement. It’s a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood – the group that’s been working since the late 1920s to put Islam at the heart of political and social life in Muslim countries. The barman in the American Colony – the hotel journalists like to use in Jerusalem – was a Muslim who didn’t drink. He said back then that he’d known an electoral upset was coming when Christian Palestinians had told him over their whiskies that they’d be voting for Hamas.

Fatah and its allies in the West were aghast about the victory of Hamas. A senior American official told me in his office in the State Department in Washington that the priority was reversing the result. The Americans helped Fatah prepare a coup against the newly elected Hamas government. Hamas moved first and amid brutal scenes, Hamas fighters unceremoniously ejected Fatah from the positions of power it still held in Gaza.

Mohamed Dahlan was the Fatah strongman in Gaza; someone the Americans relied on. His men had rounded up and tortured Hamas sympathisers in the 1990s, including the man I’d met in the British graveyard. I’d talked with Dahlan in his office not many months before I saw TV pictures of exultant Hamas fighters smashing it up and firing their Kalashnikovs into his desk. He had escaped.

Since then the Palestinians have been divided, with Hamas in power in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank. I use the term ‘in power’ advisedly. Israel is really in control of the West Bank and even though its troops and settlers were pulled out of Gaza nine years ago, it can still blockade the Gaza Strip in a way that is at times devastating for civilians. People in Gaza in different ways relied on tunnels dug into Egypt for everything from Coca Cola to weapons. Some tunnels were big enough to drive in cars and live animals. When the Muslim Brotherhood – Hamas’ allies – won the election in Egypt, Hamas was flying high. But now the Egyptian military says it’s destroyed more than thirteen hundred tunnels since it seized power last year.

Hamas was running out of options. What it had left was ending the split with President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah. His side had concluded that the latest round of talks with Israel was going nowhere – like all the others over twenty years or more. So unity seems to be part of a new strategy for President Abbas and his people. It includes joining international organisations which could eventually lead to war crimes prosecutions of Israeli soldiers.FOOC R4 May 3

And there’s BDS – or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. The idea is for Israel to be as isolated as South Africa was in the 1980s. That worries the Israelis more and more. The editor of one of Israel’s leading papers told me that BDS was moving from the fringes to the centre of politics. ‘Israel’s so much stronger than us’ one Palestinian activist told me before I left Jerusalem this week. ‘But we’re more organised than we were – and we’re not going away’.”

As we noted here a couple of weeks ago, Bowen’s job description has been defined by BBC News management thus:

“Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”

It is therefore unacceptable that Bowen should present an entire item based on the subject matter of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation without informing audiences of Hamas’ terror designation, that he should fail to mention the fact that it was terrorism by Hamas and other Gaza-based factions which brought about the need for tight security along the border with the Gaza Strip and counter-terrorism measures to prevent weapons smuggling and that he should mislead audiences by stating that “Israel is really in control of the West Bank”.

It also remarkable that the BBC’s senior Middle East authority portrays the 2007 Hamas coup to his audience as a pre-emptive – and therefore presumably justified – move and that he appears to have adopted the Hamas narrative regarding the rivalry between it and Fatah at the time.

But most notably of all, it is of course completely inexcusable that Bowen is permitted to use no fewer than three BBC programmes to once again amplify and promote the BDS campaign and its tactical ‘apartheid’ analogy to millions of listeners both in the UK and abroad.

That editorial decision is especially egregious considering that whilst the BBC has to date refrained from informing its audiences of the true agenda of the political campaign to dismantle Israel as the Jewish state, promotion of the BDS movement is becoming an increasingly regular phenomenon in BBC content of all types, with Bowen currently in the running for title of chief cheerleader.

Related Articles:

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