Ambiguous BBC reporting on Jerusalem terror attack

On the evening of October 22nd the BBC News website reported on a terror attack which had taken place in Jerusalem a couple of hours previously.  

Abd al Rahman Shaloudi from Silwan ploughed the car he was driving into a group of people waiting at the light rail station at Ammunition Hill, injuring nine of them, including three month-old Haya Zissel Braun who later died from the injuries she sustained. Shaloudi – a member of a known Hamas-linked family who had previously been imprisoned for throwing petrol bombs at motorists – tried to escape the scene on foot and was shot by a member of the security forces, later dying of his wounds. Rioting subsequently took place in the neighbourhoods of Silwan and Issawiya, with at least one motorist injured by stone-throwers.

So what were BBC audiences told about the incident? On the BBC News website’s homepage it was initially presented in language suggesting an accident: “A car hits a group of pedestrians at a Jerusalem railway station, injuring at least nine”.

Pigua Jerusalem on main page

On the website’s Middle East page a similar impression was given.

Pigua Jerusalem on ME pge

The initial version of the BBC News website’s report was also headlined in a manner which made the incident look like a road traffic accident: “Nine hurt as car hits pedestrians at Jerusalem station”. That misleading impression continued in the body of the report with readers encountering the word terror only in the fourth paragraph.

Pigua Jerusalem

The second version of the report (published some two hours later) was presented on the website’s Middle East page under the heading “Jerusalem car ‘attack’ kills baby”.

Pigua Jerusalem on ME pge 2

The link led to the second version of the report – similarly ambiguously titled “Jerusalem car ‘attack’ kills baby at rail station”. Apparently the attack – presented in typical BBC ‘we’re not saying it actually was an attack’ inverted commas – was carried out by a car rather than a person. In the body of that report punctuation was also used to suggest to readers that there is room for doubt as to whether the incident was a terror attack. Three of the victims were described as “American” – the fact that they are also Israeli Jews is not mentioned. The incident was ‘contextualised’ for readers as being part of a “cycle of violence” and inaccurate BBC promotion of the causes of the summer conflict between Israel and Hamas continued with the hundreds of missile attacks on Israeli civilians which preceded the military operation once more erased from audience view. 

Pigua Jerusalem version 2

The report’s third version appeared some six hours after the publication of the initial report. By that time the identity of the victim was known and yet Haya Zissel Braun was not named in the BBC article. At that stage the name, Hamas connections and details of the previous convictions of the perpetrator were also known but the BBC elected to refrain from informing audiences of those details, instead promoting a slightly amended version of the ambiguous and interestingly punctuated statement from the previous version of the report.

“Officials say they are treating it as a “terrorist attack” and that the suspect had previously served time in an Israeli prison “for terrorism”.

Pigua Jerusalem version 3

On official BBC Twitter accounts similar use of punctuation was apparent.

Pigua tweet BBC World 2

Shaloudi’s known Hamas connections were presented exclusively in terms of Israeli claims.

Pigua tweet BBC News

Clearly the BBC’s deliberately ambiguous reporting of this incident fails to provide audiences with the full range of information available in relation to the perpetrator, the victims, the circumstances of the incident itself and the subsequent rioting, thus denying them the ability to reach an accurate understanding of this particular “international issue“. 

BBC World News news

We are informed that the BBC has appointed a new director of the BBC World Service Group.

“BBC director of news Fran Unsworth has been appointed director of the BBC World Service Group.

Unsworth is the first female director in the 82-year history of the World Service. She replaces Peter Horrocks, who last month said he was to step down from running the BBC’s global news operations – the World Service, BBC World News TV channel, BBC.com/news website and BBC Monitoring – to “find a new challenge”.”

Ms Unsworth clearly has good intentions:

“I promise to be the guardian of the best of the BBC’s values of independence, impartiality and fairness in our international services, while continuing the successful modernisation of the World Service Group to take our journalism to new audiences worldwide.”

One of the operations set to come under Ms Unsworth’s authority – the BBC World News TV channel – recently lost several million viewers from its “audiences worldwide” due to the fact that the Israeli satellite television provider ‘YES’ has decided to drop the channel from the range of those on offer to its customers.BBC World News logo

“The Israeli satellite television provider YES, which serves over 500,000 households nationwide, is dropping the venerable BBC World news station from its roster of channels on offer, Globes reports. It will be replaced by France 24’s English-language international news channel.

The BBC is widely considered to be “anti-Israel” by the public here, and YES has gotten plenty of complaints from customers on that score. […]

“Customer satisfaction with the channel is low, which is demonstrated in part by the data on the number of people watching it, which is very low,” stated YES. […]

“The British perspective, which [BBC World] presents, will continue to be represented by Sky News,” YES said.”

Clearly – as one hopes Ms Unsworth appreciates and can rectify – there is a tangible price to the failure of the corporation’s commercial services to live up to those famed ‘BBC values’ of accuracy and impartiality. 

BBC’s Israel obsession includes the price of chocolate pudding

Why on earth the producers of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ thought that an item broadcast in its October 19th edition concerning one man’s protest about the cost of living in Tel Aviv should be of interest to listeners worldwide may at first seem to be a mystery. However, once ‘Newshour’ had decided to air that item, it should obviously have been presented accurately and impartially.Newshour 19 10 14

The item (from 12:50 here) is introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy as follows:

“Now to a tale of Israeli-German relations, angry Holocaust survivors and a popular chocolate dessert.”

In fact, the story has absolutely nothing to do with “Israeli-German relations”. After a recorded jingle Coomarasamy’s inaccurate presentation continues:

“Now that’s an advert for Milky – the dessert in question – which turns out to be rather cheaper in Germany than in Israel. And when a receipt proving this fact was posted on a Facebook page, that’s when the controversy began.”

The receipt in question was actually for a comparable chocolate dessert – not the original Milky – which cannot be said to be “cheaper in Germany than in Israel” because it is not sold there. Coomarasamy then goes on to interview Naor Narkis for some five minutes, allowing him ample opportunity to make his obviously political points, but failing to provide any kind of background information which would help listeners put the story into its correct context.

Despite Coomarasamy obviously being aware of the fact that “the Facebook page was an anonymous one and seemed to suggest that Israelis should leave their country and move to Germany”, he fails to adequately explore the significance of that aspect of the story and why such a suggestion should cause controversy in Israel.

Likewise he fails to address the topic of why the cost of living might be relatively high in a country in which – unlike most European ones – it is necessary to spend so much on defence. Coomarasamy makes no attempt to verify his interviewee’s claims or to point out that – for example – most British 25 year-olds would probably have similar difficulties buying a house in central London or Manchester. And had he researched the topic a little better, Coomarasamy would be aware that Narkis’ protest is centred around house prices in one specific place – as he previously told Israel’s Channel 10 news:

“When you understand that the cost of living in Tiberias [northern Israel] is identical to that in Berlin, you don’t think twice,” he said.

“I prefer to live in Tel Aviv, but it’s too expensive for me. Here I spend 30 percent less on food and rent, and I still have money left over to go out and have fun,” he said of the German capital.

Coomarasamy should also of course have informed listeners of the inaccurate nature of Narkis’ claim that:

“…three years ago we were rioting in the streets against the high cost of living…”

Although demonstrations certainly took place, rioting did not.

Clearly, the cost of chocolate pudding and housing in Israel is not a topic of interest to anyone living outside that country, but nevertheless this item got BBC airtime because it presented an opportunity for amplification of Narkis’ repeated allegations of “failed leaders” in Israel – and that is a topic which dovetails with the BBC’s political agenda. 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Moral Maze’ does ISIS, ‘Zionist terrorists’ and ‘demonised’ Hamas

The October 15th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Moral Maze’ – repeated on October 18th and available here – was titled “Talking to Terrorists”. The synopsis on the programme’s web page reads as follows:Moral Maze

“Former US vice president Dick Cheney famously said “we don’t negotiate with evil – we defeat it.” Unfortunately history is not on his side. It seems that almost every time a new terrorist group comes along and we declare we’ll never negotiate with them, we end up doing just that. The IRA, the PLO, Taliban, Hamas to name a few – we’ve eventually talked to them all. So why not talk to ISIS? Policymakers understandably respond with righteous anger and determination after a horrible event. Negotiations can give legitimacy to terrorists and their methods and set a dangerous precedent. Yet terrorists are rarely, if ever, defeated by military means alone. ISIS may seem to be well beyond the pale at the moment, but will that always be the case? And how do we make that judgement? A former director of the Israeli security agency Shin Bet has said he’d advocate talking to anyone – even the Iranians. That way, he said “we discover they don’t eat glass and they that we don’t drink petrol.” Are people’s lives being sacrificed as conflicts drag on because we refuse to talk to preserve our moral purity? Or do we have to take a stand between right and wrong, good and evil when it comes to a group such as ISIS? Should we – can we – balance the forces of pragmatism and principle when it comes to the prospect of talking to terrorists?”

Most of the programme focused on ISIS which interestingly was described by presenter Michael Buerk as follows in his introduction:

“They’re painted with some reason as fanatics, operating on the border line between Salafist extremism and religious insanity – beyond the reach of reason.” [emphasis added]

Contrary to the impression perhaps received by readers of the synopsis there was actually very little content relating to Israel, with the exception being a couple of ‘gems’ from Michael Portillo.

“So you wouldn’t say then that the terrible things they’ve [ISIS] done – Michael Buerk listed some of them at the beginning – you wouldn’t say that that uniquely sets them apart, let’s say from Zionist terrorists…eh….who formed the State of Israel, Hamas with whom we want Israel now to speak, the Taliban with whom we have all spoken – so it doesn’t set them apart?”

“But might it also be an interesting paradox that as we come under such pressure from Islamic State that we’ll want to settle whatever we can in the region, so actually we’ll probably be pressuring Israelis to talk to the formerly demonised Hamas?” [emphasis added]

What is interesting about this programme is the glimpse it gives those of us in the Middle East into the kind of conversations among intellectuals and policy shapers in the West. Especially notable was the notion proposed by two participants that ISIS fighters are essentially frustrated Sunnis expressing their discontent with a Shia-run Iraqi government and that if that was sorted out, the ISIS balloon might be deflated.

Another remarkable point was the following argument from Michael Portillo:

“I’m amazed that in this whole discussion more weight has not been given to the impact over the last ten years or so [….] of Western violence. Now that is not to say that there is moral equivalence, but it is to say that one of the reasons why I think people are being very violent in these countries is that so much violence has happened in these countries. The alternative to violence is talk.”

As is so often the case, the really interesting aspect of this programme was what was not discussed and notably the topics of the age-old Shia-Sunni conflict and political Islam were not brought into the discussion at all.

Dr Jonathan Spyer recently wrote the following:

“Because the nature of this struggle is not widely grasped in the West, policy appears somewhat rudderless. This is reflected in the current discussion regarding the response to the Islamic State.

First, Assad was the enemy. This was made clear enough not only by his support for Hezbollah and attempts to nuclearize, but also by his unspeakable brutality and use of chemical weapons against his own citizens.

Then, when the brutality of some of the rebels became apparent, Western public interest in supporting the rebels receded. Soon the I.S. emerged as the new bogeyman. Declarations for its destruction became de rigueur, though it is far from clear how this is going to be carried out—and a de facto alliance with Iran and its clients, at least in Iraq, has emerged. This was seen in the expulsion of the I.S. from the town of Amerli, a pivotal moment in the major setbacks faced by the organization in recent days. In that town, Shi’ite militias were backed by American air power—to telling effect against the Sunni jihadis.

But is it really coherent policy to be backing murderous Shi’ite sectarians against murderous Sunni ones? It is not. Of course, when the West backs the Sunni rebels in Syria, the precise opposite is happening. Weaponry donated to “moderate” rebels then inevitably turns up in the hands of Sunni jihadis, who do most of the fighting associated with the Syrian “rebellion.” The result is that in Iraq the U.S. is helping one side of the Sunni-Shia war, and in Syria it’s helping the other side.

Only when it is understood that the West cannot partner with either version of political Islam does it become possible to formulate a coherent policy toward the Sunni jihadi forces, on the one hand, and toward the Iran-led bloc, on the other.”

Dr Spyer’s article – which, like this BBC programme, gives little cause for optimism that the West will come out of its Middle East ‘moral maze’ anytime soon – can be read here

 

 

 

Multi-platform BBC propagation of Alan Duncan’s ugly stereotypes and incitement

On October 14th an article appearing on the BBC News website was promoted under the heading “Israel criticises UK Palestine vote”. The report, which remained on the website’s Middle East page for three consecutive days and also appeared on the UK Politics page, was titled “MPs’ Palestinian vote sends troubling message, says Israel“. However, the 593 word article actually devoted less than a quarter of its content (116 words) to informing readers about Israeli government reactions to the previous day’s Commons vote.Duncan art

As well as presenting brief coverage of the views of the motion’s proposer and of the British government’s Middle East minister, the writer of this report chose to devote almost as much of his or her word-count to the views of another British MP as to the declared subject matter of the article.

“In a speech on Tuesday morning, former International Development Minister Alan Duncan said the expansion of Israeli settlements was an “ever-deepening stain on the face of the globe”.

Mr Duncan, who left the government in last summer’s reshuffle, told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One: “Having illegal settlements all the time is simply not acceptable and anyone who supports them, I consider to be an extremist.”

He said “the starting point in principle is that these settlements are illegal”, adding that the UK government “must be prepared to state this principle more strongly”.”

Predictably, the BBC’s report went on to present the usual mantra which is promoted any time the topic of ‘settlements’ arises and yet breaches its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to clarify to audiences that alternative legal opinions on the topic exist.

“About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

The October 14th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World at One’ referred to in that article can be heard here for a limited period of time with the relevant item commencing at 38:00.Duncan World at One

Presenter Martha Kearney opens by inaccurately informing listeners that:

“The former international development minister Sir Alan Duncan has launched a scathing attack on the Israeli government.”

As we will see in a moment, Duncan’s attacks went far beyond criticism of “the Israeli government”. She continues:

“He condemns Israeli settlements as an act of theft, saying ‘occupation, annexation, illegality, negligence, complicity: this is a wicked cocktail which brings shame to the government of Israel’. His attack comes less than 24 hours after MPs voted in favour of recognizing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Sir Alan, who left the government in the summer reshuffle, is now the Prime Minister’s special envoy to Oman and Yemen. This is very strong language you’re using.”

Duncan: “Yes, and we always go on about the peace process but it’s very important I think to go on about the principles behind it and the fundamental principle which I think governs the entire…eh….setting of the process is the fact that settlements are illegal. They are illegal in international law and they are supported every single day in their expansion by the Israeli government and I think this is unacceptable. And if Israel, as a democracy, says that it deserves to be treated as a democracy, then it should behave like one and having illegal settlements all the time is simply not acceptable and anyone who supports them, I consider to be an extremist.”

Predictably, Kearney makes no attempt to inform listeners of the existence of the many legal opinions which contradict Duncan’s oft stressed claims regarding the legality of ‘settlements’. She goes on:

“Well the view of the Israeli government is that the long-term future of the settlements is a matter for peace negotiations.”

Kearney fails to clarify to listeners that the Oslo Accords – willingly signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people – also define the issue of ‘settlements’ as a topic for final status negotiations and that nowhere in those agreements is any limit placed on either Israeli or Palestinian construction.

Duncan: “Ehrr…that of course is largely true but it doesn’t mean that they’re not illegal in the first place and this fundamental principle must be admitted by the Israeli government as the starting point for those negotiations. We all accept that the 1967 borders are going to encroach into the West Bank and that the borders of Israel are going to be larger, but the starting point in principle is that these settlements are illegal.”

Kearney makes no effort to inform BBC audiences that there is no such thing as “1967 borders” or that the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan specifically – at the request of the Jordanians – states that those armistice lines are not borders and that “[t]he provisions of this article shall not be interpreted as prejudicing, in any sense, an ultimate political settlement between the Parties to this Agreement”. Instead Duncan is allowed to continue uninterrupted:

“And every single time there is a step in the so-called process – even when Prime Minister Netanyahu is knocking on the door of the White House to see the President – they announce further settlements, insultingly and in defiance of international law.”

Kearney: “You can speak more strongly now you’ve left ministerial office but do you think the UK government should be speaking the same kind of language as you are?”

Duncan: “I think the UK government must be prepared to state this principle more strongly and perhaps diverge from the United States when doing so ‘cos we all know the United States is very much in hoc to a very powerful financial lobby which dominates its politics.”

There is no reaction whatsoever from Kearney to the promotion of that unmistakable ‘Jewish lobby’ trope by a prominent British politician on the BBC’s airwaves and neither of course does she bother to ask Duncan whether or not his political views are “in hoc” to the government of Oman in light of the financial contributions he has received in the past from that source.  Duncan goes on:

“But we, I think, a hundred years after the Mandate in the region…eh – second half of which we began to complete last night in the vote in the House of Commons in wanting to recognize Palestine – should make it absolutely clear that international law must be upheld and that anyone who thinks that they can defy international law or support that defiance is adopting an extreme position which is undemocratic, not acceptable and should not be part of our politics.”

The programme continues with an interview with Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, the introduction to which Kearney exploits for further BBC promotion of the misguided comments made by the MP for Croydon South during the previous evening’s parliamentary debate.

Kearney’s use of a quote from Duncan’s speech to the RUSI in her introduction to this item indicates that before deciding to invite him to appear on this programme in order to further publicise it, ‘World at One’ staff read that speech (which, incidentally, does not include even one reference to Palestinian terrorism) and decided that its writer’s messages were appropriate content for unchallenged promotion by the BBC.

From that – along with the fact that no attempt was made by Martha Kearney to correct any of Duncan’s inaccuracies or to distance the BBC from his use of an antisemitic trope – we can conclude that the programme’s producers, along with the BBC News website editors who also obviously found Duncan’s messages worthy of propagation to BBC audiences, were unperturbed by his employment of a multitude of lies such as “settler-only motorways” which of course do not exist and “persistent annexation of the West Bank” which has never happened.

We can also conclude that BBC staff found nothing offensive in Duncan’s crude and cheap caricature of half a million people: an intentional attempt to create a stereotype which many would regard as deliberate and dangerous incitement.

“In addition to being illegal, settlement activity is very often violent, nasty, and brutal. Not all, but many settlers are heavily armed and aggressive.

It is no exaggeration to say that many settlers are state-supported militia, defying international law, driving out the rightful inhabitants from their land, and creating an illegal economy at the expense of those who have been cruelly displaced.”

But Alan Duncan’s courting of mob mentality is not just confined to demonizing and delegitimizing half a million Israeli men, women and children because of their postcodes: he also seeks to brand anyone, anywhere, who does not agree with his falsehood-based conclusions and crude stereotyping.

“Anyone who considers settlements acceptable places themself outside the boundaries of democratic principle. Settlement endorsement should be put on a par with racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism. Indeed, just as we quite rightly judge someone unfit for public office if they refuse to recognise Israel, so we should shun anyone who refuses to recognise that settlements are illegal.

No settlement endorser should be considered fit to stand for election, remain a member of a mainstream political party, or sit in a Parliament. How can we accept lawmakers in our country, or any country, when they support lawbreakers in another? They are extremists, and they should be treated as such.”

Alan Duncan’s deliberate public promotion of illiterate and ahistorical populist lies should clearly be a cause of great concern to British voters in general and members of his party in particular – especially those who have previously spoken out against similar rabble rousing by George Galloway and the use of antisemitic tropes by David Ward. Duncan’s intentional propagation of crude stereotypes and his ugly incitement ought to render him unsuitable for public office – especially at a time when antisemitic incidents have just reached record levels in the UK and hence public figures should be doing their utmost to set an appropriate example.

The fact that the BBC has elected to amplify Duncan’s pernicious message entirely uncritically both on radio and on its website is yet another dismal example of the way in which the corporation – all too often unable to resist any opportunity to promote content which reflects its own ‘progressive’ political agenda – contributes to the spread of bigotry which propagates the stereotypes that are seeds of the weed of antisemitism seen not only on Britain’s streets but, even more gravely, in its supposedly most respectable institutions.

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In which BBC News helps an MP’s falsehood on its way to becoming an accepted ‘fact’

Blatant political messaging in BBC report on Cairo donor conference

The second of the BBC News website’s reports on last weekend’s donor conference in Cairo was a report currently headlined “Donors pledge $5.4bn for Palestinians at Cairo summit” which underwent numerous changes after its initial appearance on October 12th.Cairo conf art

The article’s most notable feature is its repeated promotion of a specific theme.

“Earlier the Palestinian and Egyptian presidents called on Israel to commit to a long-term peace initiative.

Mahmoud Abbas and Abdul Fattah al-Sisi urged Israel to give up land seized in the 1967 Middle East war and accept a fair solution for Palestinian refugees in exchange for full recognition.” […]

“He [John Kerrry] added that anything other than a long-term commitment to peace would be a “band-aid fix”.

At the opening of the conference, President Sisi urged “the Israelis, both the people and the government” to put an end to the conflict.

“We should turn this moment into a real starting point to achieve a peace that secures stability and flourishing and renders the dream of coexistence a reality,” he said.” […]

“Announcing the UK’s $32m donation in Cairo, International Development Minister Desmond Swayne said the international community could not continue to pick up the pieces of the conflict indefinitely.

“It is critical that reconstruction efforts now form part of a process of meaningful political change,” he said.”

However, despite the repeated amplification of that theme, at no point in the article does the BBC bother to inform readers that the terrorist organization which still controls the Gaza Strip, which is party to the current PA unity government and to which the incumbent President of the PA has already stated that he will cede control in the event of its victory in the supposedly upcoming elections, not only opposes holding negotiations in order to reach a peace agreement with Israel, but rejects the very existence of the Jewish state.

Likewise, the related and highly relevant topic of the failure of the Palestinian unity government to disarm Hamas in accordance with existing agreements with Israel  – by which it declared it would stand (and yet failed to do so) when that government was inaugurated in June – is not introduced into this article.

Instead, BBC audiences are fed the following trite version of events:

“The Gaza Strip, sandwiched between Israel and Egypt, has been a recurring flashpoint in the Israel-Palestinian conflict for years.

Israel occupied Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war and pulled its troops and settlers out in 2005.

Israel considered this the end of the occupation, though the UN continues to regard Gaza as part of Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory.

Israel exercises control over most of Gaza’s borders, waters and airspace, while Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border.”

As we see, the elephant-in-the-room issue of Palestinian terrorism is completely ignored in this account, with the BBC clearly trying to promote the politically motivated myth of an ‘occupation’ of the Gaza Strip which has not existed for nine years. As has been the case on numerous previous occasions, the BBC misleadingly proposes that Israeli control over “Gaza’s borders, waters and airspace” is evidence of continuing ‘occupation’ but deliberately refrains from informing audiences that the representatives of the Palestinian people were party to the creation of that arrangement when they signed the Oslo Accords and further confirmed it when they signed the later Agreement on Movement and Access in November 2005 following Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

An additional notable factor in this report is its continued promotion of casualty figures which have still not been independently verified by the BBC and with no transparency regarding the partisan nature and political background of their sources.

“The seven-week Gaza conflict, which ended in a truce on 26 August, killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, the UN says, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel.”

Cairo conf art graphic

As has been the case in all BBC reports to date, no effort is made to inform audiences of the existence of other estimates of the civilian/combatant casualty ratio in the Gaza Strip. The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre, which has so far carried out detailed examination of 42% of the casualties named by Palestinian sources has so far identified 49.8% of those names as terrorists and 50.2% as civilians. Yet again, no attempt is made by the BBC to inform audiences of how the civilian/combatant casualty ratio in Gaza compares to that of other conflicts.

This report – ostensibly a news item – once again demonstrates that the BBC’s practical interpretation of its obligation to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” is shaped by the political messaging it aspires to promote rather than by any genuine commitment to accurate and impartial reporting of events and the provision of all relevant information which would allow audiences to fully and comprehensively understand the issues at stake. 

BBC’s Knell turns planned mixed Jerusalem neighbourhood into ‘Jewish settlement’

The BBC News website’s efforts to promote the topic of last weekend’s donor conference in Cairo were evident before, during and after the event.

On October 11th – the day before the Cairo conference – an article by Yolande Knell titled “After Gaza war, Palestinians seek new path to statehood” appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the website’s Middle East page.Knell Cairo conf art

Roughly half of Knell’s article is devoted to amplification of the PA’s various current unilateral strategies, with her closing sentences so encumbered by redundant understatement that they fail to inform readers of the true significance and implications of the PA’s breach of its existing commitment to a negotiated solution to the conflict in favour of additional headline-grabbing unilateral moves.

“The Palestinians know that their latest plan to return to the Security Council, which has been criticised by Israel, is very likely to fail. However, they hope for a show of support for statehood.

A draft resolution calls for an Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territory by November 2016 and for an international presence in East Jerusalem to protect the Palestinian population.

The Palestinian back-up plan is to sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to pursue legal action against Israel.

Both moves would stir up tensions with the US and other major donors to the Palestinian Authority. While they will raise the political profile of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, they are unlikely to bring a real peace deal much closer.”

Knell’s characterization of the PA’s attempts to bring about externally imposed actions rather than negotiated agreements as merely “unlikely” to bring about an end to the conflict is clearly absurd. Notably, she fails to make any mention of the fact that one partner in the current PA unity government – Hamas – refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist and is not a member of the body with which Israel negotiates – the PLO.

 No less remarkable is her earlier misrepresentation of an existing construction project in the Jerusalem district.

“But in the coming days, Palestinian officials hope a series of events will put their cause back in the spotlight.

At a donors’ conference in Cairo on Sunday, President Mahmoud Abbas will seek $4bn (£2.5bn) for Gaza reconstruction.

A day later the British parliament is scheduled to hold a non-binding vote on whether the government should recognise Palestine as an independent state within the boundaries of the ceasefire lines which existed prior to the 1967 Middle East war.

Later this month there is a plan to ask the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for recognition and to set a deadline for Israel to pull out from occupied Palestinian territory.

The latter two steps are likely to be little more than symbolic but the Palestinians hope to increase political pressure on Israel, which has recently continued to expand its settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Jewish settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The location of the “settlements” to which Knell refers is indicated by an accompanying photograph with the following caption:

“Israel has been criticised this month for approving new settlement construction in Givat Hamatos neighborhood in East Jerusalem”

Knell Cairo conf art pic

Seeing as it already reported on the same planning application in 2012, the BBC should be aware of the fact that there is nothing remotely “new” about the plan to build housing in the Givat HaMatos district of Jerusalem. Knell, however, refrains from informing readers that the neighbourhood was the site of temporary housing for new immigrants from the former USSR and Ethiopia from 1991 onwards. She neglects to state that initiatives to replace caravans with proper housing were first proposed nine years ago and that the plans approved by the district planning committee in late September allocate around half of the planned apartments to Arab residents of nearby Beit Safafa - which itself straddles the 1949 armistice line and yet of course is never referred to by Knell and her colleagues as a “settlement”.  

Had she made sure to accurately and impartially inform BBC audiences of the above facts, Knell would of course have found it rather more difficult to make use of the BBC’s misleading standard editorial guideline breaching insertion “Jewish settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this”. The Givat HaMatos project is not a “Jewish settlement” but a planned mixed neighbourhood of Jerusalem in an area which would remain under Israeli control according to any realistic scenario of a negotiated two-state solution.

In other words, Yolande Knell has once again ditched her commitment to the BBC’s supposed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality, as well as her obligation to enable audiences to reach an “understanding” of international issues, in favour of exclusive amplification of the PA’s political narrative. 

 

In which BBC News helps an MP’s falsehood on its way to becoming an accepted ‘fact’

As we noted here in an earlier post, there was nothing ‘right’ or ‘honourable’ about the numerous utterances of inaccurate anti-Israel propaganda voiced by some of the members of the British parliament during the Commons debate on the issue of recognition of a Palestinian state lastEcho Chambers heading Monday.

One of those claims in particular has gained quite a lot of media attention, making it worth charting its progress – and the BBC’s provision of backwind – as it proceeds on its way towards becoming yet another component in the ‘accepted narrative’ about Israel based on falsehood.

A report titled “UK Palestine statehood vote: Symbol or stumble?” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 16th. The item was written by the Echo Chambers team which purports to bring audiences “A review of the best commentary on and around the world…”.

Under the heading “Today’s must-read”, audiences are given a round-up of reactions in the American media to the UK parliament’s vote which includes the following passage:

Echo Chambers para

Regrettably, the MP for Croydon South is the one who made himself “look a fool” because the supposed reason for his about-turn; the thing which he claimed “has outraged me more than anything else in my political life” (and what a sheltered political life Sir Richard must lead) never actually happened.

Israel did not carry out any such “annexation of 950 acres of the West Bank just a few months ago”. The event to which Sir Richard refers in fact involved the determination of the status of an area of land situated in the Gush Etzion district of Area C which, after a process which went on for several years, was finally determined not to be privately owned and hence was declared state land.

It would of course not be in the least bit surprising were it to transpire that Sir Richard Ottaway’s embarrassing mistake was the result of uncritical reading of the BBC News report on the topic at the time – which, by the way, has since been amended to remove the misleading and inaccurate term ‘expropriate’.

But despite the fact that no such “annexation” took place, the BBC now amplifies that inaccurate claim by showcasing the writing of a journalist from the New Yorker who (like the political editor of the Guardian before him) obviously did not bother to examine the veracity of Ottaway’s statement before making his own pronunciation that “it should be a wake-up call” for “Israel’s supporters”. Mind you, John Cassidy also saw fit to link to the virulently anti-Israel blog ‘Mondoweiss’ in his article in the New Yorker, so perhaps his reluctance to confine himself to the facts should not come as much of a surprise.

Cassidy art New Yorker

When the media uncritically amplifies other members of the media promoting inaccurate statements by politicians who obviously make no effort to authenticate things they have read in other media reports which are often based on information provided to journalists by political NGOs, it can hardly be surprising that “world public opinion” is superficial and skewed. 

The “wake-up call” which the much publicized statements of Sir Richard Ottaway and others among his colleagues did provide this week, however, is to all those who previously presumed that British lawmakers actually bother to apprise themselves of the facts about issues upon which they voice opinions and subsequently vote.   

BBC Trending breaches editorial guidelines by failing to adequately identify ‘campaigner’

October 15th saw the appearance on the BBC News website’s Middle East And Magazine pages of the latest in a growing collection of BBC reports about African migrants in Israel which – rather than informing audiences of the real issues behind that very complex issue – employ the topic to promote the theme of Israel as a racist society.

Titled “#BBCtrending: Israel’s unwelcome African ‘infiltrators’“, the filmed report by Anne-Marie Tomchak opens:Trending African migrants 1

“In Israel, even the polite term for thousands of African migrants is ‘infiltrators’. But in this widely shared video the anti-African chants were much more offensive. It was posted on Youtube a week ago by a campaigner.”

In fact, the Hebrew word מסתננים is not used exclusively to describe African migrants, but anyone who has crossed a border illegally – as all those migrants have. Tomchak’s report goes on to feature an interview with the “campaigner” who posted the video, with that description also being the term used to describe David Sheen in the on-screen text appearing in her report.

Sheen: “This latest rally that I captured on film – there were about approximately about 120 people there – Jewish Israelis – marching through south Tel Aviv in the direction of a park that is often frequented by African immigrants to Israel. It’s a confluence of being non-Jewish and non-white which causes the vociferous hatred.”

Tomchak makes no attempt to examine the veracity of Sheen’s claim and continues:

“Tens of thousands of Christian and Muslim Africans have come to the Jewish state. They call themselves refugees. The state calls them illegal immigrants. The people in this video were protesting against a High Court decision to close a detention centre where thousands of Africans are held. Now many could end up on the streets.”

Next viewers see a ‘balancing’ interview with Michael Freund of the Jerusalem Post who explains:

“One can also understand the residents of south Tel Aviv who for many years now have seen their neighbourhood overtaken by an influx of illegal migrants. A sense of lawlessness now pervades that part of the city.”

Tomchak fails to expand on that very relevant aspect of the story, going on to say:

“There’s been a mixed reaction online to this video. African migrants have taken to social media to highlight their circumstances. We contacted the man behind this page who said he was in one of the centres.”

Anwar Suliman: “I’m leave my country 2003 when the war start in Sudan in Darfur. Sudan is bad, you know, the war. The situation is dangerous. Where I can go?”

Tomchak: “Israel sees itself as a country offering sanctuary for many fleeing antisemitism and persecution. As the intense debate over this video shows, dealing with asylum seekers hits a very raw nerve.”

Tomchak’s entire report is constructed around the video posted by David Sheen which in fact showed just one of the demonstrations which took place in south Tel Aviv following the High Court’s decision on September 22nd. With the purpose of Sheen’s video obviously being to publicise the issue of racist chants at that gathering and his subsequent commentary referring to “vociferous hatred” supposedly caused by the fact that the African migrants are “non-Jewish and non-white”, it would of course have been appropriate for Tomchak to inform viewers that the participants in that particular demonstration were mostly a group of far-right activists (Sheen claims 120 – the Jerusalem Post reported “several dozen”) rather than a cross-section of Israeli society as a whole.

Anne-Marie Tomchak should obviously also have adhered to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by ‘summarising the standpoint’ of her interviewee and main source, providing rather more information than the meaningless description “campaigner”.

It would, for example, have been highly relevant to inform BBC audiences that David Sheen has written for a number of outlets, including Ha’aretz, along with additional ones identified with specific political views and/or anti-Israel campaigning: 972 Magazine, Mondoweiss, Electronic Intifada and an obscure outlet called Muftah which, in its ‘about’ section notably states:

“While we are committed to free speech, we do abide by certain red lines. First, we will not publish pieces that advocate violence, war, occupation, or racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination. Second, we are solidly pro-Palestinian and will not publish pieces that are contrary to this perspective.”

BBC audiences should also have been informed that Sheen recentlygave evidence‘ supposedly showing Israeli ‘incitement for genocide’ at the latest gathering of the self-appointed anti-Israel pseudo-legal farce titled ‘The Russell Tribunal on Palestine’. The fact that Sheen is currently on a speaking tour in the US and collaborating with the anti-Israel, BDS –supporting SJP and has also collaborated with anti-Israel activist Max Blumenthal  is information which would have helped BBC audiences to put Sheen’s claims into their correct context.

But predictably, BBC audiences were not informed of the political motives of Anne-Marie Tomchak’s main source because the prime aim of this report is to keep the pilot light of ‘Israel as a racist society’ burning. Just in case audiences did not get the message, Tomchak’s item was presented on the website together with a series of additional reports under the heading “Read more” which clearly signpost the conclusion viewers were intended to take away.  

Trending African migrants 2

The issue of African migrants in Israel is a complex one about which BBC audiences have yet to be adequately informed and Tomchak’s report certainly contributes nothing to the BBC’s obligation to “build a global understanding” of the issue. Rather, Tomchak actually misleads audiences by promoting Sheen’s politically motivated simplistic ‘explanation’ of the topic and compromises the BBC’s impartiality by providing a platform for the delegitimisation of Israel by an inadequately identified professional campaigner. 

BBC WS presenter Razia Iqbal amplifies Palestinian claims of ‘genocide’ in Gaza

Readers no doubt recall that we recently documented two additional cases in which the BBC’s supposed commitment to accurate and impartial reporting was yet again trumped by the corporation’s self-conscription to the provision of publicity for campaigners using ‘lawfare’ against Israel.

In both those cases – one of which appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme and the other on the BBC News website – the BBC amplified baseless Palestinian claims that ‘war crimes’ and even ‘genocide’ were carried out by Israel in the Gaza Strip and column space and air-time were allotted to the amplification of the following unfounded accusations made by BBC regular Mustafa Barghouti.

“Targeting civilians and targeting children and killing them. Indiscriminate destruction of very wide areas as well as using forbidden weapons like depleted uranium and other weapons that include…eh…cancerogenous [sic – carcinogenic – Ed.] materials. One very important point here was the unjustified massive destruction of whole neighbourhoods in Gaza.”

In addition, both items amplified inaccurate claims from Sarit Michaeli of the political NGO B’Tselem which were clearly not fact-checked by the BBC before either of Kevin Connolly’s reports were publicized.

But – apparently not content with already having misled BBC audiences twice – the audio version of Connolly’s inaccurate and partial report as it previously appeared on Radio 4 was once again amplified five days later in two separate editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on October 13th.Newshour 13 10 14

Both editions of the programme were presented by Razia Iqbal. The earlier version is available here with the relevant segment beginning at 17:30 and the later version here from 38:45.

Iqbal introduced the item in both programmes as follows:

“Now you may have heard some of our coverage yesterday on the conference in Cairo on Gaza. At the conference the Egyptian president said reconstruction after the devastating summer war between Israel and Hamas depended on a permanent calm. Whilst the big weapons of war are quiet now, the Palestinians accuse Israel of genocide while Israel sees its armed forces as the most moral in the world. Previous rounds of fighting produced controversial war crimes investigations and it is likely that this year’s fighting will be no different. Our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly has been listening as each side made its case.” [emphasis added]

There is, of course, a detailed definition of genocide to which Razia Iqbal could have referred before amplifying that very serious – yet clearly baseless – accusation. And if that did not suffice, Ms Iqbal could have reminded herself of the very obvious fact that a group carrying out genocide does not provide its intended targets with thousands of truckloads of food and humanitarian aid and millions of liters of fuel even as its own population is being attacked by terrorists. It does not provide those same intended targets with medical care in its own hospitals and it does not supply them with electricity or carry out repairs to their infrastructure. And of course most obviously, a group aspiring to carry out genocide does not warn people where fighting is going to take place days in advance so that they can evacuate themselves to safety.

We have previously documented here the fact that less than 24 hours after the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, the BBC already rolled out a policy of publicising groundless claims of ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ made by Hamas terrorists and their enablers in various NGOs involved in ‘lawfare‘.

As we see in the vigorous promotion of Connolly’s report and the inaccurate introductions to it, the politically motivated quest to establish a pernicious narrative in the minds of BBC audiences – regardless of the facts – continues across a range of BBC platforms, underscoring the absurdity of editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality which clearly do nothing to dissuade  BBC employees from apparently believing that they can get away with such blatant defamation and delegitimisation.

Twitter:

@BBCNewshour  @raziaiqbal  

Related Articles:

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

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

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