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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Broadcast times can be seen below.

Hardtalk Gideon Levy

 

BBC content continues to mislead on Gaza casualties

There is still no evidence of the BBC having carried out any independent verification of the casualty figures from the Gaza Strip which it continues to cite in its various reports. Examples of the type of phrasing currently being used in BBC content include:stats

“Close on two thousand died – nearly all civilians – and thousands more were injured, many seriously.” [‘Hardtalk‘, 18/8/14]

“Since then [July 8th], at least 2,029 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Gaza, according to the Palestinian health ministry.” [“Gaza conflict: Israel ‘targets Hamas leader Deif’“, 20/8/14]

“Officials say 2,016 Palestinians and 66 Israelis have died since Operation Protective Edge began on 8 July.” [“Gaza conflict: Israel hits Gaza after rockets fired“, 19/8/14]

“The Palestinian health ministry says that 2,016 Palestinians have been killed since the offensive began, including 541 children and 250 women.” [“Gaza conflict: Truce ends amid fresh fighting“, 20/8/14]

As we see, the BBC continues to cite figures and civilian/combatant ratios provided the “Palestinian health ministry” but without adequate clarification to audiences that the body concerned is under the direct control of Hamas which has issued directives, via its Ministry of Information, to refrain from disclosing combatant casualties.

“The ministry of the interior and national security [in Gaza] calls on all our [Palestinian] people and the resistance factions [i.e. the terrorist organizations] to be wary of disseminating information and pictures of fatalities of the resistance, and [about] mentioning details about [the circumstances of] their deaths as martyrs and where they died. That is because the occupation is collecting all the information and reports [about the martyrs] and uses them as evidence to justify its crimes against [Palestinian] civilians and [to justify] the destruction of buildings and to take advantage [of the information] for security purposes. [We appeal] especially to social network activists and in the media belonging to the resistance factions. During the past few hours we have located many postings with sensitive information detrimental to our people and its resistance. Mention of the acts of heroism of our martyrs and of the men of our resistance should not be a reason for causing greater damage, because our people’s battle against the occupation continues.”

At no point during the last six weeks have BBC audiences been informed that the casualty figures and civilian/combatant ratios it cites are subject to such Hamas manipulation.

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Centre has to date issued three reports examining the names provided on Hamas casualty lists – see here, here and here. In the most recent report we see an example of the type of practice which makes independent verification of casualties essential for any reputable news organization – and in particular one supposedly committed to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

“The Palestinian Health Ministry’s list included the names of two young boys aged 13 and 15, who were operatives in a Fatah terrorist network by the name of the Ahmed Abu al-Rish Battalions. The two were killed in the same incident. Our investigation revealed that the first 13-year-old “boy” was a 26-year-old operative. On the other hand, the other boy was indeed a 15-year-old terrorist operative. This shows that when boys appear in the Palestinian Health Ministry’s list, the immediate tendency is to classify them as non-involved civilians, but they may actually be operatives involved in terror.”

In addition, the BBC News website continues to promote and amplify statistics provided by UN OCHA. The inaccurate article titled “Gaza conflict: The hundreds who lost their lives” which was discussed here has now appeared prominently on the website’s Middle East page for twelve consecutive days.

As we reported here over a month ago, UN OCHA figures come from three primary sources.

“Katleen Maes informed us that UN OCHA’s three primary sources are B’Tselem, the PCHR and Al Mezan – all of which are political NGOs with a less than pristine record on impartiality in Israel-related matters. Maes added that the secondary sources used by UN OCHA to arrive at its 77% civilian casualty rate figures are the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, the Palestinian Red Crescent and the local Arabic media in Gaza, some of which is also run by Hamas and with the rest operating with Hamas consent, of course.”

As we have also previously noted, two of UN OCHA’s primary sources – the PCHR and Al Mezan – are actors in the current lawfare campaign against Israel with the former having been heavily promoted by the BBC in recent weeks. B’Tselem’s director was also featured in a BBC report on July 16th.

Via NGO Monitor we learn that one of the primary sources used by B’Tselem’s three field workers in the Gaza Strip to collect data on casualties is none other than Hamas itself.

“We rely on lists provided by other organizations and by the Palestinian Ministry of Health. We try to do a basic check of those lists, which is just cross-referencing them one to another, trying to get the basic data.” 

B’Tselem’s method of verification apparently involves ringing up relatives to ask if their deceased loved ones were members of terrorist organisations.

“With the current military campaign ongoing, B’Tselem is taking testimony from Gaza residents, mainly by telephone. B’Tselem verifies, to the best of its ability, the reliability and precision of the information reported; nevertheless, in these circumstances, reports may be incomplete or contain errors.”

It is of course not inconceivable that families of members of terrorist organisations would be motivated to comply with Hamas’ directives to describe all casualties as ‘innocent civilians’ and conceal their terror connections.

BBC audiences have not been told about that or any other aspects of the all-important background to casualty figures provided by UN OCHA and cited in BBC reports.

One might well have expected that an organization which purports to adhere to standards of accuracy and impartiality would take care to inform audiences that the statistics it quotes are obtained from partisan sources with a distinct political agenda enabled by presentation of those figures in a certain manner. One would certainly also expect such an organization to make audiences aware of the fact that it has not independently verified the information it provides.

Six weeks on, that is still not happening in BBC reporting.

Related Articles:

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part two

 The BBC’s Janus-faced approach to the issue of casualties in Gaza

Vital statistics: stealth changes made to the BBC’s Gaza casualty figures article

Hamas terminology and propaganda in BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Mads Gilbert

On August 18th the BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ aired an interview with Mads Gilbert. The programme is promoted on multiple platforms: on BBC iPlayer for those in the UK or as a podcast or, for a limited period of time, on BBC World Service radio.  

This is not the first time that the BBC has provided amplification for claims made by Gilbert himself or other members of the medical profession working at Shifa hospital since the commencement of Operation Protective Edge – as was documented here.

It is obviously difficult to comprehend the rationale behind ‘Hardtalk’ producers’ thinking in terms of their evaluation of any contribution to audiences’ factual knowledge and understanding of the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip which could possibly be made by the blatant propaganda of a long-time political activist such as Mads Gilbert.  But in addition to the fact that nevertheless the BBC elected to allow amplification of Gilbert’s plethora of inaccurate and misleading claims, it is no less interesting to note the points at which his extremist narrative dovetails with that of the BBC representative conducting the interview, Zeinab Badawi.

Badawi’s introduction includes the following inaccurate statement:

“Close on two thousand died – nearly all civilians – and thousands more were injured, many seriously.” [emphasis added]

Preliminary examination (as yet uncompleted) of the casualties in fact shows that 46% were terrorist operatives.

She allows Gilbert to mislead audiences with a dishonest portrayal of the reasons for the shortage of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip.

“And bear in mind that Shifa hospital, along with the rest of the healthcare system in Gaza is suffering severely from the 7 years of siege and blockade. They are lacking everything: drugs, equipment, modern machinery, even – you know – trolleys and respirators to treat the patients…”

Badawi also permits Gilbert to lie unhindered about the topic of non-payment of salaries to Hamas employees which is in fact the result of a dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian unity government.

“On top of that they [medical staff] have not had any normal salaries for the last year actually due to the dispute between…between the Israeli…you know….politics of not allowing the Palestinians to pay these so-called Hamas-employed staff in the healthcare system from 2006. So they are working for nothing. For the last three months they have not had their salaries and this is extremely demanding.”

She makes absolutely no effort to counter Gilbert’s distorted description of the situation in Gaza as exclusively attributable to Israel by informing them that Hamas was given every opportunity to avoid the conflict but chose not to do so.

“All this could have been avoided if the bombing had stopped and the siege had been lifted.”

On two separate occasions Badawi allows Gilbert to wriggle out of the issue of Hamas’ use of Shifa hospital – despite journalists (including Yolande Knell) having documented the presence of Hamas leaders in that civilian facility.

“I haven’t been in every corner of Shifa but I’ve been there for many years and I’ve never seen any militants – armed people – in Shifa.”

“I have not seen it with my own eyes. I have not seen armed militias in Shifa or in any other hospital.”

Badawi makes no attempt to correct the inaccurate and misleading impression given by Gilbert to audiences on the issue of proportionality in warfare.Hardtalk Gilbert WS

“There has so far been killed almost 1,900 Palestinians and three civilian Israelis. That says everything about the proportionality or the disproportionality of the use of weapons. It is not the Palestinians who are killing the Israelis. It is actually the Israelis who are killing the Palestinians by the thousands.”

Badawi fails to challenge Gilbert’s blatant lie about travel from the Gaza Strip:

“The point about Gaza is that nobody is allowed to leave…”

She likewise fails to correct his false claim that Israel broke the 2008 six-month lull. In fact it was Hamas which breached the agreement by both continuing to fire rockets and mortars throughout and with the construction of a cross-border tunnel aimed at kidnapping Israeli soldiers.

Not only does Badawi not challenge Gilbert’s inaccurate and misleading description of border restrictions implemented to curb the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip as a “siege”, but – like many of her colleagues before her – she adopts that Hamas terminology herself.  She also fails to adequately correct Gilbert’s inaccurate version of events, which of course entirely erases Hamas terrorism from the picture presented to audiences, as well as the violent Hamas coup of 2007.

Badawi: “Let me just pick up the siege first […] Gaza was free [in August 2005] – there are no Jews living there, there’s no occupation there, but what happened when the settlers left…”

Gilbert: “Who says there is no occupation? The Israeli government and army has full control of the land space, the airspace…”

Badawi: “But no siege, no siege. Picking up the point that you made: lift the siege – there was no siege originally.”

Gilbert: “It came in 2006.”

Badawi: “Fairly early on.”

Gilbert: “[….] and Hamas won the election. They tried to make a unified government. It was shot down. Then came the siege and it was, you know, increased and increased and increased as a collective punishment.”

Badawi: “Sure. But […] when the Jewish settlers did withdraw from Gaza and Gaza was left open there wasn’t a siege imposed straight away. Instantly it was very clear that the Palestinians in Gaza – or at least some of them: the militants – were not going to leave Israelis alone.”

Gilbert: ” […] It was still under full Israeli control with the airspace, with the sea, with the borders and with the electronic space. So the Palestinians in Gaza have never been unoccupied.”

Badawi: “No, the occupation remains. It was the siege I was pointing out.”

Gilbert: “Why did the siege come? The siege came as a collective punishment because they have elected [unintelligible].” [emphasis added]

At no point does Badawi clarify to audiences that Israeli control of Gaza’s coastal waters and airspace was agreed to by the representatives of the Palestinian people in 1995 when they signed the Interim Agreement and that no amendments were made to that status quo in the agreement signed by the PA and Israel after the 2005 withdrawal. Neither does she point out that – despite Gilbert’s inaccurate claim that the Gaza Strip is still occupied – the facts show otherwise.

Badawi’s vigorous promotion of statements made by Mahmoud Abbas in relation to missile fire from the Gaza Strip is not accompanied by the very relevant information that Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have actively engaged in missile fire throughout the recent conflict.

Even Gilbert’s most off the wall comments go unchallenged and uncorrected by Badawi.

“Anybody who opposes the grand plan of the Israeli political government today – political Zionism – will be stamped as a terrorist and will be sort of outlawed. The Palestinians have been under strict, hard, brutal Israeli rule and oppression for the last seventy years and they have the right to defend themselves.” [emphasis added]

“…I don’t support Hamas, I don’t support Fatah or any faction. I support the Palestinian people and their right to resist occupation like we [the Norwegians] did.” (Nazi analogy)

“[Palestinians say] …we don’t want to live as slaves in our own country.”

“In my view the [Hamas-Fatah] coalition government now was the pretext for the attack on Gaza. […] It had nothing to do with the rockets.”

“I think that with the power distribution in the world today poor people – not only in Palestine and in other parts of the global south – are suffering from a new colonial wave of oppression which is coming precisely from the United States and they support the Israeli colonial project…”

“Respect for international law – totally omitted by Israel. Respect for the UN charter – totally omitted by Israel. We need all of us to stand up against this degeneration of the international order I think.”

Whilst viewers and listeners may have gained some insight into the mindset of Mads Gilbert from this interview, they gleaned no factual information which would help them better understand the conflict and indeed were actively misled by Gilbert’s propaganda thanks to Zeinab Badawi’s failure for the most part to challenge his blatant inaccuracies. What this interview does provide, however, is yet another example of the BBC’s adoption of Hamas terminology in its willfully inaccurate misrepresentation of border restrictions aimed at combatting terrorism against Israeli civilians as a “siege”.

BBC interviews: CAMERA’s Alex Safian compares and contrasts

MicrophoneOur CAMERA colleague Alex Safian has been taking a look at the differing styles of three recent BBC interviews with officials from Israel, Hamas and UNWRA.

Read the article here.

Over at Presspectiva, Yishai Goldflam notes the inaccuracies promoted in Gideon Levy’s recent interview with the BBC World Service

That article (Hebrew) can be found here

More BBC amplification of Hamas ‘siege’ propaganda

On July 24th the BBC News website’s Middle East page featured an excerpt from what it termed an “exclusive” ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al who of course resides very comfortably in Qatar.Hardtalk mashaal

If audiences were expecting the BBC’s representative Stephen Sackur to fulfil the corporation’s mission of cutting through Hamas slogans and propaganda in order to bring them accurate and impartial information which would help them reach informed opinions and enable them to “participate in the global debate on significant international issues“, they would have been sorely disappointed.

Stephen Sackur: “What would it take for Hamas to sign on to a ceasefire now?”

Khaled Masha’al: We want a ceasefire as soon as possible that’s parallel with the lifting of the siege on Gaza. This is the demand of the Gazan people. I call on the UN, the UK and the US to go to the Gazan people and ask them what they want. I can guarantee that will be the answer of the Gazan people.”

SS: “What the Americans seem to be working on is a two-stage deal where there will be a truce – where the guns, the rockets, will stop firing – and then there will be a serious negotiation about how to boost the Gazan economy, how to ease the blockade on Gaza and to give the people of Gaza a better life. Are you prepared to accept a two-stage solution to this?”

KM: “Regardless of the mechanisms, what is important to me is there should be a genuine guarantee to lift the siege on Gaza. These promises have been made in the past but nothing was done. Gaza is part of the Palestinian land. We have 1.8 million people. They need to live without a blockade. We want an airport. We want a port. We want to open up to the world. We don’t want to be controlled by a border crossing that makes Gaza the biggest prison in the world. People cannot go for medical treatment or to work. Why are the people of Gaza being punished with a slow death in the world’s biggest prison? This is a crime. We want a halt in the aggression and the end of the siege. We are eager that the bloodshed should end in Gaza.”

SS: “You talk of resistance. How can any idea of resistance justify putting rockets in a school building?”

“KM: “Frankly speaking this is a lie. Let Israel show where the rocket launchers are in Gaza.”

SS: “In respect, this is not something that has come from Israel. This is the UN relief and Works Agency which has said that up to 20 rockets were deposited in a school building inside Gaza. They are furious. The Secretary General of the United Nations has expressed his outrage. He said those responsible are turning schools into potential military targets and endangering the lives of innocent children.”

KM: “This is not true. Rocket launchers in Gaza belong to the resistance. They are underground and Israel is unable to reach them. This is why it pretends they are in civilian areas. Israel is hitting hospitals, mosques, towers and buildings. It committed a massacre in Shuja’iyeh, Tufah district. There is a new massacre in Khuza’a, east of Khan Yunis, that the world has witnessed this morning. This is butchery in Gaza and the world is sitting idle and it blames Hamas.”

Now obviously Khaled Masha’al is lying (unhindered) through his teeth in every single answer here and – difficult as it must be to interview a compulsive liar so disconnected from reality – if the BBC is not going to challenge Masha’al’s blatant falsehoods and cut through his propaganda, then the obvious question must be what journalistic value does such an interview have in the first place?

Questions Stephen Sackur could and should have asked Masha’al in order to provide BBC audiences with some insight into this issue include:

If Israel and Egypt lift the blockade and ease border restrictions, will Hamas rearm itself with missiles and weapons imported from Iran, Libya and elsewhere as it has done in the past? Will it import concrete and other materials in order to reconstruct its attack tunnel network currently being destroyed by the IDF? Will foreign aid money for the rehabilitation of Gaza be commandeered for reconstruction of terrorist infrastructure? 

If Hamas is so worried about the effects of the blockade on the people of Gaza, why did it not stop carrying out acts of terrorism itself and facilitating terrorism by other groups which are the reason for the implementation and continuation of the blockade and border restrictions?

Why did Hamas breach the ceasefire agreement of November 2012 and why did it initiate this current escalation?

If you, Khaled Masha’al, reach a ceasefire agreement with Israel, can you ensure that Mohammed Deif will honour it and do you – based as you are in Qatar – actually have any control over Hamas’ armed militia?

Why should Israel open its borders and allow people from Gaza to work in Israel given the history of terror attacks and suicide bombings carried out by workers from Gaza in the past?

Are you eager to stop the bloodshed in Israel as well as in Gaza? Will you stop all acts of terror against Israelis for good?

Sackur, however, failed to present anything approaching a robust challenge to Masha’al’s blatant lies. Hence, this interview joins the previous items of BBC content in the category of one-sided, context-free promotion and amplification of Hamas’ demands.

Related Articles:

‘Hardtalk’ presenter gets reality check from Khaled Masha’al

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part one

On January 10th 2014 the BBC News website informed its audiences that “Israel announces plans for 1,400 new settlement homes“, 801 of which it described as being situated in “West Bank settlements” and 532 in “East Jerusalem”. A week later, the same message was conveyed to BBC audiences once more.building

On February 5th 2014 the BBC News website announced to its audiences that “Israel approves 558 East Jerusalem settlement homes“.

On February 18th 2014 the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk’ provided a platform for Saeb Erekat to claim that since the beginning of negotiations between Israel and the PLO at the end of July 2013, 10,500 housing units had been “added” (which of course any reasonable viewer would take to mean built) and host Stephen Sackur even confirmed Erekat’s false PLO propaganda to BBC audiences.  

Erekat: “They have ….10,500 housing units. They have added 10,500 housing units existing settlements in ..”

Sackur: “Yes they have.”

Erekat: “…the supposed to be Palestinian state – which is four times the natural growth of New York – in the past four months and you’re telling me this is the behaviour of a government that wants to make two-state solution?”

On March 4th the BBC News website informed audiences that:

“….Israel released statistics showing a large increase in the pace of new settlement construction in the West Bank in 2013 over the year before.”

It failed, however, to put those statistics into their appropriate context.

On April 2nd 2014 the BBC News website promoted the idea that 708 reissued building tenders in “the Jewish settlement of Gilo on the southern outskirts of East Jerusalem” had hindered the flailing peace negotiations and those same tenders were also mentioned in the same context in an article which appeared on April 9th and in another on April 11th.

As the pre-fixed deadline for the negotiations between Israel and the PLO approached, the BBC continued both to neglect to inform audiences that limitations on Israeli building had not been part of the agreed terms of the negotiations and at the same time to promote the notion that construction was one of the reasons for the lack of success of the talks.

“Talks between the two sides were already troubled after repeated disagreements over settlement building and the release of prisoners.”

As we see, BBC audiences were led to believe that thousands – or even tens of thousands – of new housing units came into being in Judea & Samaria and specific areas of Jerusalem during the period of negotiations and specifically during the first quarter of 2014, with no attempt made to clarify to audiences the all-important difference between tenders and actual construction.

Newly released statistics however show that during the first three months of 2014, a grand total of one hundred and fifty-seven building projects were completed throughout Judea and Samaria and two hundred and thirty-two begun. Throughout the whole of Jerusalem – not just in the neighbourhoods the BBC insists on describing as “settlements” – 902 units were completed and 1,941 begun in the same quarter.  The figures represent a drop of 76.4% in construction starts in Judea & Samaria compared to the first quarter of 2013 and also show that most of the 2013 construction starts in that region took place before negotiations between Israel and the PLO began.

Were the BBC interested in accurate and impartial representation of the topic of Israeli building to its audiences, it would of course report realistically on the number of houses and apartments actually built instead of using (sometimes repeatedly) on-paper-only tenders to further the advancement of politically motivated messaging. 

Part two of this post will address the subject of the BBC’s latest reporting on building tenders. 

 

 

BBC’s Hardtalk amplifies ‘apartheid’ trope, euphemises support for terror

h/t SZ, SK

The April 28th edition of ‘Hardtalk’ – broadcast on the BBC News Channel – was devoted to an interview by Sarah Montague with Ahmed Kathrada. Readers in the UK can view the programme on iPlayer.

Kathrada Hardtalk main

A section of that interview was also promoted on the Middle East page of the BBC News website under the title “Kathrada: I can never be anti-Jewish“. The synopsis to that clip reads as follows:

“Ahmed Kathrada was one of the big names of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle. He was sentenced to life in prison and spent time alongside Nelson Mandela on Robben Island.

After 26 years in prison he was released and was then persuaded by Nelson Mandela to join him in government – an experience he did not enjoy. But he has never stopped campaigning for the ideals of freedom on which the anti-apartheid movement was based.

Today he says he gives his whole-hearted support to the Palestinians but makes clear he is critical of Israel, not anti-Jewish.”

Kathrada Hardtalk

In other words, the messaging the BBC is trying to promote in both the title of this clip and its synopsis is that Kathrada’s ‘criticism’ of Israel is not antisemitic.

However, in the clip itself Kathrada expresses unequivocal support for the practice of indiscriminate killing of Israeli Jews by Palestinian terror organisations.

Kathrada: “My own view is I keep on supporting the Palestinian struggle once they have decided on the…Palestinian leaders have decided….this is the road we’ll take, I support them.”

Montague: “Even if that route involves violence?”

AK: “But I’m not going to prescribe to them what they should…”

SM: “Is their use…is their use of violence justified?”

AK: “If, under the circ…that’s not for me to say. But if they, in their wisdom, resort to violence as the only method, I’ll support them. I’ve been to Palestine. I have seen what is like. Is the only colony in the world today; a colony of Israel. We have seen – I have seen in Palestine what didn’t exist under apartheid in the worst days of apartheid.”

SM: “So your support is unconditional?”

AK: “My support is whole-hearted. I take my cue from what they do. I don’t prescribe to them. So far there is no reason for me to criticize the Palestinian leadership.”

SM: “But the South African Zionist Federation says Barghouti [Marwan Barghouti – Ed.] is not a political prisoner but a terrorist guilty of multiple crimes against humanity.”

AK: “I’m not surprised at them. And they have tried to turn…let me take it as an individual because I have been outspoken on Palestine. They’ve been trying to misinterpret us as being anti-Jewish; antisemitic. We’re not.  We are critical of Israel. That does not make us anti-Jewish.”

Sarah Montague’s total failure to challenge Kathrada’s use of the ‘apartheid’ trope (at least in the clip promoted on the BBC News website) is of course highly significant. Not only does she permit the amplification of that falsehood, but given that Kathrada is described by the BBC in the various programme synopses as “one of the big names of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle”, she lends that defamation a false air of authority.

No less significant is Montague’s failure to challenge Kathrada’s ridiculous claim that support for the indiscriminate terrorist targeting and murder of Jews in Israel as a method of bringing about the demise of the world’s one Jewish state is not antisemitic, but merely ‘criticism’ of Israel.

Amplification of both the ‘apartheid’ trope and the BDS campaign is becoming an increasingly prevalent phenomenon in BBC content. However – in obvious breach of editorial guidelines on impartiality – audiences have yet to see, hear or read any significant BBC output which clarifies the background and political motivations behind the employment of that defamatory trope.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Danahar fudges chance to explain significance of Kerry ‘apartheid’ remarks…and worse

BBC’s Bowen promotes BDS and apartheid analogy on main TV news programme

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Israel’s Minister of Economy and Commerce

For those who have not yet had the chance to view it, here is the February 24th ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Naftali Bennett, with Hebrew subtitles.

Readers will note that whilst presenter Stephen Sackur invokes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions spectre, in line with what is increasingly looking like standard BBC policy, he fails to provide viewers with any information whatsoever regarding the end game of the BDS political campaign and hence both deprives them of the ability to place those threats in their proper context and whitewashes that campaign’s destructive nature. 

A segment of the interview was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the apparently deliberately simplistic title “Naftali Bennett: Israeli settlements must stay”. At the time of writing, that clip had been left up for seven consecutive days. 

Bennett Hardtalk interview clip

BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the first part of an interview with Saeb Erekat on the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk’ which was broadcast on February 18thErekat HT

The remainder of the interview begins with presenter Stephen Sackur challenging Erekat on the subject of the ‘right of return’.

“…there are mixed messages here because not so very long ago – just a few weeks ago – your president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas was telling a delegation of young Israelis that he would not – and I quote his words – drown Israel with millions of Palestinian refugees to change the nature of Israel. If he’s prepared to say that, then surely it is not much of a stretch to give the Israelis what they want; acknowledge the nation of the Jewish people and then move on to the issues that really are at the crux of this including borders, security, settlements and Jerusalem.”

Unfortunately, Sackur does not seem to appreciate that even if Abbas’ quoted statement was sincere (and there is of course ample evidence of the PA’s practice of delivering differing messages in English and in Arabic), there is little sign that it is representative of the approach taken by broader Palestinian society. Having accused Sackur of “repeating exactly what Prime Minister Netanyahu is saying”, Erekat goes on to say:

“Now let me put the record straight on what Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] said about refugees. No refugee mandated me to negotiate on his behalf. In international law, the British Palestinian who lives in Britain and has British citizenship, he will make his choice. Abu Mazen said that’s the choice of every single refugee. They have…we have to establish an international mechanism and in that international mechanism, US, Europe, Arabs, UN, host countries, Israel, Palestine will go to refugees and give them the choices of whether they have the right to come to Palestine with the compensation – Israel will compensation – remaining where they are. And that’s how you end conflict and that’s how you end the claims. But if the Israelis want for me to come and through Hardtalk and say I give this up, I give this in, I give this up – what is there left to negotiation?

And I say proudly today that my president says he recognize the State of Israel right to exist on ’67. Can you tell me if there is one single Israeli minister in the cabinet – including their prime minister – who have [sic] said that he’s willing to recognize the State of Palestine on ’67? He’s willing to recognize East Jerusalem as capital? And they should stand tall and apologise for the Palestinian refugees’ suffering. They made them suffer and they should reach out to them and yes an international mechanism must be established to give them the choice.”

Avoiding informing audiences of the Arab League policies which have deliberately kept the descendants of refugees in that status for generations or any mention of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, Sackur also fails to clarify the very important point being made by Erekat: that the PLO negotiators do not actually consider themselves to have a mandate to negotiate on the vital subject of refugees. Instead, he moves on to question Erekat on the subject of land swaps whilst himself also promoting the erroneous notion of a “’67 border”.

“If I may say so, your repetition of the ’67 line as a fundamental principle is well known but it is also, is it not, well known that the Americans have taken a view in the course of this Kerry negotiation that there will have to be modifications to the ’67 border and that according again to leaks in the American press, the Americans believe a line can be drawn and land swaps implemented which will leave 75 to 80 percent of Jewish settlers able to stay in their homes on occupied territory as part of the peace deal. Are you saying that is fundamentally impossible?” Hardtalk Erkat WS

Erekat replies:

“Look if you guys think about nation states swapping territories by their consent, it happened between many countries you know – Peru/Ecuador, US/Mexico, US/Canada, Jordan/Iraq, Jordan/Saudi Arabia. It happened in Africa, in many cases. Now: can I see the map of the State of Israel? Can someone in Israel… can John Kerry come to me and tell me this is the…these are the borders of Israel ’67 and we want you to have land swaps in accordance with this map? What swaps? You talking about – without me knowing – which defines Israel’s borders? They haven’t even – they’re the only nation on earth who have not recognized their borders. They don’t have borders yet. They didn’t define their borders. So the minute they recognize their borders, the minute they recognize me as a sovereign Palestinian state, I’m willing to engage in the concept of land swaps. But how can I do this now before them putting a map on the table of their borders and their map? They haven’t done this. They haven’t been willing to say ’67….”

Sackur: “What they have done…I’ll tell you what they have done and this – if I may…”

Erekat: “They have ….10,500 housing units. They have added 10,500 housing units existing settlements in ..”

Sackur: “Yes they have.”

Erekat: “…the supposed to be Palestinian state – which is four times the natural growth of New York – in the past four months and you’re telling me this is the behaviour of a government that wants to make two-state solution?”

Sackur: “Yep. Every Israeli and international monitoring organization that looks at Jewish settlement activity says the construction continues apace. Nobody disputes that.”

In other words, Sackur gives BBC ‘authority’ to Erekat’s claim that 10,500 housing units have been “added” – which most listeners or viewers will take to mean built – in the past four months. He makes no attempt to clarify to audiences that Erekat’s numbers actually relate to building tenders and announcements – as can be seen in a document produced by the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department which Erekat heads.

In fact, the statistics for the whole of 2013 – not just from the end of July when the talks resumed – show a total of 44,343 building starts in the whole of Israel, with 2,534 of those being in Judea & Samaria and 4,625 in the entire city of Jerusalem. The statistics for completed construction in 2013 show 41,972 completes in the entire country of which 1,365 were located in Judea & Samaria and 3,652 in the city of Jerusalem as a whole. Clearly both Sackur and Erekat are quoting inaccurate statistics and hence deliberately misleading BBC audiences on this subject. 

Next Sackur challenges Erekat on the practicalities of the demand for eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

“I’ve been visiting your part of the world for the best part of a quarter of a century – almost as long as you’ve been a negotiator. I have seen the facts on the ground change over the years. East Jerusalem for example is now – the Arab East Jerusalem that we talk about – is encircled by a vast chain of Jewish housing from – what is it? – Pisgat Ze’ev in the north, right round through Ma’ale Adumim to Gilo and Har Homa in the south. I mean that is the reality and when you talk about East Jerusalem being the future capital of Palestine, you know as well as I do that East Jerusalem is now fundamentally disconnected from the West Bank. Isn’t it time for you to deal with realities rather than dreams?

Erekat answers:

“No actually I’m not dreaming. I’m gonna tell you something very frankly Stephen. Without East Jerusalem being the capital of Palestine there is no meaning to have a Palestinian state. And I want any Israeli to look me in the eye and walk me through my home town Jericho on the Jordan River to Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean in the year 2019. What do they see on this land? Are Christian and Muslim Palestinians going to convert to become Israelis? Or are Jews going to convert to Christianity and Islam and become Palestinians? This is not happen. This fait accompli policies of settlements. As much as they dismantle them in Sinai and in Gaza, these are the main obstacle to peace and we’ve been saying that they have to make the choice – settlements or peace – but they can’t have both and that’s why we’re reaching this difficult situation and that’s why Netanyahu is insisting in destroying and undermining Kerry’s efforts by the continuation of the settlement activities in Pisgat Ze’ev, Neve Ya’akov, Ma’ale Adumim and in the West Bank and in everywhere.”

With no questioning of Erekat’s bizarre ‘conversion’ statements and no challenge to Erekat’s chimera of ‘settlements’ – including Neve Ya’akov which was established in 1924 on Jewish-owned land – as the main obstacle to an agreement, Sackur goes on to ask his interviewee to name “one significant, fundamental concession” made by the Palestinian negotiating team.

Unsurprisingly, seeing as he uses the inaccurate term himself, Sackur fails to correct the reference to “1967 borders” when Erekat answers:

“We have recognized the State of Israel’s right to exist on the 1967 borders. That is 78% of the British Mandate and historic Palestine. And we have accepted to establish our Palestinian state on the 1967 lines. That’s 22% of the land. That’s number one. Number two: we have accepted to entertain – once Israel defines its borders of ’67 and accepts the State of Palestine on ’67 – to entertain the idea of swapping land. Number three: we have accepted to be a country with limited arms and invited a third party to be in the State of Palestine – from America, from Europe, from the UN, from all over – and to come and make sure that we will comply with the agreement. We have accepted, you know, to have East Jerusalem capital of Palestine, West Jerusalem capital of Israel, but we said then we can have an open city for peace, where Christians, Muslims and Jews can come to their places of worship and for worship without any impediment, without anybody preventing them like they do to Christians and Muslims today…to come to Jerusalem and pray..”

Sackur makes absolutely no attempt to challenge Erekat on his blatantly false representation of the situation regarding freedom of worship in Jerusalem at present and neither does he raise the issue of lack of satisfactory access – in breach of the Oslo Accords – to Jewish holy sites already under PA control. Instead, he continues by asking Erekat to confirm the PA’s agreement to the placing of some sort of international force in the Jordan Valley, which Erekat does but with the caveat that “this force will not be a combating force”.

Ignoring the issue of the existing precedents of multiple failures of international ‘peacekeeping’ forces to actually keep the peace in the region, Sackur goes on to challenge the practicalities of that idea, rightly pointing out that there is no chance of it being accepted by Hamas and other rejectionist Palestinian factions.

The next subject brought up by Sackur is that of what will happen if the current talks fail.

“…let’s run through the constant question when we’re talking about negotiations: who really holds the cards? Who has the power? Isn’t the truth that while you talk about your plan B option which is, you say, going back to the UN, strengthening the Palestinian case there, going perhaps to the International Criminal Court – the fact is you don’t hold the cards, you don’t have the power because if these talks collapse the Palestinian economy will collapse and you’ve said yourself that the Palestinian Authority itself may collapse as well.”

With regard to the feasibility of the PA “going perhaps to the International Criminal Court”, it is worth reading Professor Eugene Kontorovich’s paper from 2013 on the subject.

Erekat’s response consists largely of yet another attempt to persuade viewers that the success – or lack of it – of the current talks depends entirely upon the prime minister of Israel.

“Well I said the following Stephen – and please employ your hearing skills. Number one: if Netanyahu foils the Kerry attempts, yes – we will sign on all instruments of accessions to UN agency protocols and conventions including the Rome Statute and the ICC and those who worry from international courts and tribunals, they should stop committing crimes. Number two: I think the PA cannot sustain itself in the current form so Netanyahu will be the occupying power from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean and when I say that failure is not an option, I may be exaggerating because failure is an option, but I’m saying failure is not an option because of the nightmare scenarios the day after. I hope and pray that Netanyahu and his government will stand tall and extend an immediate recognition for the State of Palestine on the 1967 lines. I hope that Netanyahu and his government will define their borders on ’67 and they work with Kerry in order to achieve a successful end to his efforts, made an two-state solution – the State of Palestine living side by side the State of Israel on the 1967 borders and a solution to all the issues that we’re talking about is doable and we can do it. But if Netanyahu chooses the path of continuing dictations and settlements, incursions and siege and closure, he’s doomed and we’re doomed and the region’s gonna be doomed.”

To finish the interview, Sackur asks Erekat for his personal reflections on two decades of negotiations, but notably avoids bringing up the subject of the PA’s decision to scupper the peace process by instigating the second Intifada.

“As we end then; a personal reflection. You’ve been deeply negative about Netanyahu and his negotiating position throughout this interview. I just wonder – if you are honest with yourself and you look at what you personally have achieved as a peace negotiator over more than 20 years, do you feel that you’ve been played for a fool? You’ve been suckered into a process which over 20 years frankly appears to have delivered nothing according to your own terms and which – during which – the facts on the ground have worked against the Palestinian people. Do you regret the process that you’ve played such a big part in?”

That avoidance of any mention of the Oslo Accords permits Erekat to mislead BBC audiences further by erasing the fact that his “home town” was occupied by Jordan even before Erekat was born and by omitting any mention of the fact that Jericho has already been under the control of the Palestinian Authority for twenty years – since 1994.

“No Stephen. No I’m proud. I’m proud of I’m doing. I’m not doing a job. I’m doing the greater favour for myself, my grandchildren, my children and the Palestinian people. I’m trying to make peace. I’m trying to change the abnormality of the situation. I was 12 years old when the occupation came to my home town Jericho. I’m sick and tired of somebody managing my life, directing my life, oppressing me and oppressing my children. I’m sick and tired of not knowing whether my children will come home every day or not. I want my children to be like your children Stephen. If this is a crime, if this is being fooled – yes, I’m doing it. I’m doing it because I was born to bring Palestine back to the map.” 

In conclusion, this interview is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, Sackur did go some way towards seeking to clarify Erekat’s position on internal Palestinian opposition to an international peacekeeping force in the Jordan Rift Valley, on the subject of the recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, on the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees, on land swaps and on eastern Jerusalem.

On the other hand, Sackur allowed BBC audiences to go away with damaging inaccurate impressions regarding, among other things, freedom of worship in Jerusalem, 1967 “borders”, the “occupation” of Jericho and Israeli building. He made no attempt whatsoever to challenge Erekat’s conspiracy theory concerning US foreign policy or his ridiculous “son of the Canaanites” narrative and he failed to question Erekat’s promotion of Israeli housing as the main obstacle to peace and his repeated claim that the success or failure of the talks is entirely dependent upon the will of Israel’s prime minister, whilst simultaneously excluding all mention of issues such as the rise in Palestinian terrorism since the beginning of the talks or incitement and the glorification of terrorism on the part of the PA.

In short, much of the opportunity provided by this interview to inform BBC audiences of the real difficulties facing negotiators in the current talks was wasted on providing a platform for the promotion of Saeb Erekat’s blatant propaganda and historically inept “narrative”.

The UK taxpayer continues to contribute not insignificant sums of money to keep Erekat’s PLO Negotiations Affairs Department (NAD) afloat – and has done for the last two decades. One of several “risk descriptions” cited in a risk assessment compiled by DfID ahead of a particular funding initiative which is still ongoing is “NAD outputs contain inaccurate information, vilification or incitement” and that risk is supposed to be monitored by the UK government.  Those same UK taxpayers – many if not most of whom are also BBC licence fee payers – might hence have expected a more robust performance from their national broadcaster (which is still, in part, government-funded) in challenging Erekat’s promotion of inaccurate information and incitement in the form of warped historical “narratives”. 

Had that been the case however, a link to Erekat’s ‘Hardtalk’ interview might perhaps not be currently featured on the NAD website. 

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BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part one