Mainstreaming anti-Israel rhetoric on the BBC World Service

In addition to the ‘Gaza Special’ broadcast on May 19th on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Business Daily’, the edition of the show ‘Business Matters’ aired on the same station on the same day also devoted most of its content to the same subject matter.

In the introduction to that programme, however, listeners across the globe were treated to an interesting and revealing glimpse into the ‘BBC world view’ of the Gaza Strip. 

Presenter Roger Hearing tells listeners:

“We’ll also be […] hearing exactly how you get into one of the most restricted zones in the world. […]

But first let me describe where we are. The Gaza Strip is roughly a rectangular area of land slightly more than twice the size of Washington DC. It’s sandy, flat and runs along the Mediterranean coast between Israel and Egypt. These 360 square kilometers contain almost two million people so it’s one of the most densely populated places on the planet: more than five thousand people per square kilometer.”cities population density

This is of course far from the first time that the BBC has promoted the notion that the Gaza Strip is “one of the most densely populated places on the planet” and, as has been noted here before:

“As we know, there are many other cities in the world with a higher population density than Gaza City (6,708/km2) and other places in the world with higher population densities than the Gaza Strip as a whole (4,750.71/km2 in 2012). Interestingly, the BBC profiles for those places (Macau, Monaco, Singapore, Hong Kong) do not cite population density as a factor inevitably leading to social or economic problems.” 

Hearing continues:

“One more statistic: three-quarters of the people here are under 25 and the vast majority of these people can never leave. Why is that? Well the answer lies in the controversial and complicated politics of Gaza. Now it is technically not a state but an entity. Let me give you a necessarily abbreviated history. Back in 1948 when Israel became a state Palestinian refugees crowded into camps here. Then, it was run by Egypt until Israel occupied it in 1967.”

Note how Hearing’s “history” ignores the Gaza Strip’s status as part of the territory assigned by the League of Nations for the creation of the Jewish national home. Note too the absence of any mention of the fact that the Palestinian refugees were created because the nascent Israeli state was attacked by its Arab neighbours in 1948 and the euphemistic reference to the Gaza Strip being “run” – rather than occupied – by Egypt.

Hearing goes on to present a partial portrayal of Hamas’ terrorist designation and a whitewashed account of the violent Hamas coup which resulted in the expulsion of the internationally recognized representatives of the Palestinian people from the enclave.

“Israel finally pulled out in 2005, leaving it to the control of the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas –regarded by Israel, the European Union and the United States as a terrorist organization – took over in 2007 and they’ve run Gaza ever since.”

He then misrepresents the reasons for the closure of the Israeli and Egyptian borders with the Gaza Strip, eliminating from the picture all mention of Hamas terrorism in either country.

“And since Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel, Israel closed down the borders. For a while the border with Egypt was open but that’s been shut now under the new Egyptian government.”

In fact, as has been noted here before:

“The violent Hamas take-over of Gaza took place between June 5th and 15th 2007 and the Palestinian Authority – the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people – was forcefully ejected from power. Following that event, both Egypt and Israel largely closed their borders with the Gaza Strip due to the fact that the body charged with joint security arrangements under the terms of the Oslo Accords – the Palestinian Authority – no longer exercised any control over the territory. 

Three months later – on September 19th 2007 – in light of the escalation of terrorist rocket attacks against Israeli civilians originating in the now Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip – the Israeli government declared Gaza to be ‘hostile territory’.”

That misrepresentation of events prepares the ground for Hearing to continue with a blatantly inaccurate portrayal of what came first – Hamas terrorism or the blockade.

“And now: the most controversial part of all this. Hamas fighters fired rockets into Israel and staged raids across the border in what Palestinians say is a response to the terrible conditions they’re in as a result of the blockade.”

He goes on to say:

“Israel has launched drone strikes and bombings and conducted full-scale military offensives into Gaza as well as tightening the partial blockade – they say – in response to the Hamas rockets.”

Actually, the blockade has been relaxed since 2010. Making no effort to inform listeners of the Gaza Strip civilian/combatant casualty ratio, Hearing continues:  

“The most recent war last summer was the most destructive. More than two thousand Palestinians – many of them children – died and 66 Israeli soldiers and 6 civilians were killed. Large areas of the Gaza Strip were reduced to rubble.”

In fact, that latter claim was shown to be inaccurate in post-conflict analysis carried out a full ten months ago.

“We find 8,952 of the 12,433 total points (72%) are within a 3 KM buffer abutting the border with Israel. The main objective of Operation Protective Edge was to find and destroy dozens of terror tunnels dug from Gaza into Israel.

That the most intensive damage was caused to the area where the tunnels naturally originated is thus perfectly understandable. Furthermore, of the 4,441 destroyed structures, 3,481 of them (78%) are within the 3 KM buffer, as are 2,531 of 3,303 (77%) of the lowest intensity damage (simple craters), which are mostly strikes on rocket launchers and tunnels.

Most of the attacks are grouped around certain neighborhoods or villages, such as Shuja’iyya, Johur ad-Dik, Sureij, and Khuza’a. These were probably the result of the ground operations that took place in dense urban areas also within the 3 KM buffer that housed multiple tunnel entrances and shafts, as well as launch sites for mortars and rockets.”

Amazingly, after that blatantly political and repeatedly inaccurate portrayal, Hearing states:

“In this programme we’re going to try and park the politics and look at how an economy under these circumstances functions at all.”

And to add insult to injury, he goes on to make use of one of the most jaded clichés in the rich lexicon of politically motivated anti-Israel rhetoric.Business Matters 19 5 Hearing intro

“One of the reasons Gaza’s often described as the largest open-air prison in the world is the difficulty of getting across the border with Israel.”

That same rhetoric is also used in the programme’s synopsis on the BBC website.

“How does the economy work in what some have described as the world’s biggest prison? Presenter Roger Hearing is live from the seafront in the Gaza Strip at the start of a week of coverage from Israel and the Palestinian territories.”

As we see, the BBC World Service has now extinguished any daylight that remained between itself and numerous assorted Hamas-supporting campaigning groups which employ the “world’s largest open-air prison” canard. And as Hearing’s jaundiced portrayal of the Gaza Strip shows, the problem with the broadcaster supposedly committed to accuracy and impartiality obviously does not by any means stop there. 

BBC’s Connolly ‘contextualises’ Hamas torture and execution (spoiler – it’s Israel’s fault)

On May 27th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article titled “Gaza: Hamas killed and tortured, says Amnesty” which opens as follows:

“Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip committed serious human rights abuses including abductions, torture and extra-judicial killings of Palestinian civilians in 2014, a report says.

Most of the victims were accused of collaborating with Israel, Amnesty International investigators report.”

Later on in the report, readers are provided with ‘analysis’ from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly which includes the following ‘explanation’ of Hamas’ actions:

AI report Hamas Connolly

Connolly also produced a filmed report on the same topic which, in addition to being broadcast on BBC television news programmes, appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Amnesty International: ‘Hamas killed and tortured Palestinians’“. Connolly opened that report with those same words:AI report filmed

“Hamas exercises undisputed authority within Gaza, and Amnesty’s powerful report depicts an organisation responding to the relentless pressure of Israeli military operations with a brutal campaign against its own enemies within.” [emphasis added]

In other words, Kevin Connolly would have BBC audiences believe that the terrorist organisation’s abduction, torture and execution of fellow Palestinians (during a conflict it initiated itself and refused for fifty days to bring to an end despite numerous opportunities to do so) only happened because of “relentless pressure” on the part of Israel.

Of course not only is there no factual evidence to support Connolly’s ridiculous claim, but even a partial look at Hamas’ record of extra-judicial killings shows that they have been carried out regardless of whether or not the terror organization happened to be simultaneously engaged in conflict with Israel.

“In 2009 Human Rights Watch produced a report which stated that thirty-two suspected collaborators had been killed between December 2008 and April 2009 and at least 49 people from the rival Fatah movement had been shot in the legs by masked gunmen.

In March 2010 Hamas announced that it would reinstate the death penalty in the Gaza Strip. As HRW pointed out at the time:

“Most of those facing the death penalty in Gaza are affiliated with the rival Fatah movement or are people whom Hamas military courts have convicted of collaborating with Israel.”

In April 2010 two people were executed and in December of the same year three more men were convicted of ‘collaboration’ with one sentenced to death. In July 2011 two men were executed.

In November 2012 at least six summary executions took place with Hamas claiming responsibility in a note attached to an electricity pole. Those events got 29 words of coverage from the BBC at the time. In June 2013 the BBC failed to report on two executions and two more in May 2014 were likewise ignored.”AI report Hamas main 

Kevin Connolly’s feeble attempt at ‘contextualisation’ of the actions of a lawless terrorist organization which seized  – and holds – control of the Gaza Strip by means of violence and intimidation obviously says much about the ‘group think’ which enabled such a ridiculous claim to pass through the editorial process.

During last summer’s conflict, reports of extra-judicial killings like those included in this Amnesty International report appeared in the local media and yet – despite having numerous reporters on the ground at the time  – the BBC (and most of the other foreign media) chose to ignore them and only covered the one instance in which Hamas itself was interested in publicity.  

One cannot but wonder if, in light of this report, journalists from the BBC and other international news organisations still believe that their unwavering adherence to Hamas’ dictates to the foreign media throughout the 50 days of conflict can be justified. 

Related Articles:

Why did the BBC downplay years of Hamas extrajudicial killings?

 

Another Gaza Strip missile attack goes unreported by the BBC – in English

On the evening of Tuesday, May 26th, a missile fired from the Gaza Strip exploded near Gan Yavne – fortunately without causing any physical injuries. Several hours later, Israel responded to the attack by carrying out airstrikes on four terror infrastructure sites in the southern Gaza Strip.

This latest attack is the fifth since the ceasefire came into effect at the end of August 2014. Like the previous missile attack from the Gaza Strip a month ago and the one before that in December and indeed the one before that in October, this incident received no coverage on the BBC News website either on Tuesday evening or on Wednesday morning.

ME HP 27 5 15a

We can however ascertain that the BBC was aware of the fact that a missile attack had taken place because on the morning of May 27th a report on the Israeli response to it appeared on the BBC Arabic website under the interestingly phrased headline “Israeli warplanes launched a series of attacks on military positions of the Palestinian resistance factions in the Gaza Strip”.BBC Arabic report missile attack 26 5

In typical ‘last-first’ BBC style, that report focuses on the effect rather than the cause, with mention of the attack itself relegated to paragraphs 11 to 13 of the 15 paragraph report. No less remarkable is the BBC’s adoption and amplification of the public relations language of the terrorist organisations which portray themselves as “resistance factions”.

This is not the first time (see related articles below) since the end of the conflict last August in which we have seen Israeli responses to Palestinian violations of the ceasefire agreement reported in Arabic but not in English.

Of course the BBC cannot claim to be fulfilling its public purpose of building “a global understanding of international issues” when it serially ignores the attacks which are the precursor to the next round of conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip.

Related Articles:

Sniper attack on Gaza Strip border fails to make BBC news in English but reported in Arabic

BBC News misleads on past Israel-PA negotiations

An article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 25th under the headline “Israel ex-PM Ehud Olmert given prison sentence” misleads BBC audiences with regard to past rounds of “the peace process”.Olmert art

The report states:

“Olmert served as prime minister from 2006 to 2009.

He was forced to resign amid a flurry corruption allegations, which ended his political career and disrupted the peace process with the Palestinians.”

So the BBC would have its audiences believe that negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (not, as claimed, with “the Palestinians” as a whole, which of course includes Hamas and other factions that reject negotiation with Israel) during Olmert’s term failed to come to fruition because they were interrupted by Olmert’s resignation.

Ehud Olmert’s term of office ended on March 31st 2009. Following the Annapolis conference in late November 2007, his government conducted negotiations with the Palestinian Authority throughout most of the following year.

In August 2008 – half a year before Olmert’s term of office ended – the Israeli daily Ha’aretz ran a story headlined “PA rejects Olmert’s offer to withdraw from 93% of West Bank“.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday rejected an Israeli peace proposal, which included withdrawal from 93 percent of the West Bank, because it does not provide for a contiguous Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, Abbas’s spokesman, told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan showed a “lack of seriousness.”

Under the proposal, Israel would return to the Palestinians 93 percent of the West Bank, plus all of the Gaza Strip, when the Palestinian Authority regains control over the Gaza Strip, which the militant group Hamas seized from forces loyal to Abbas in June 2006.

Olmert presented Abbas with the proposal as part of an agreement in principle on borders, refugees and security arrangements between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

In exchange for West Bank land that Israel would keep, Olmert proposed a 5.5 percent land swap giving the Palestinians a desert territory adjacent to the Gaza Strip.”

In September 2008, Olmert and Abbas met again.

“…Olmert presented the details of his offer for a peace deal between the nations, an unprecedented Israeli offer to be tendered to a Palestinian leader. 

Olmert essentially agreed to forgo sovereignty of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest site, and proposed that in the framework of a peace agreement, the area containing the religious sites in Jerusalem would be managed by a special committee consisting of representatives from five nations: Saudia Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, the United States and Israel. […]

Olmert and Abbas asked Erekat and Turgeman to meet the next day with map experts in order to reach a final version of the border between Palestine and Israel. 

But the next day, the Israeli side claims, Erekat phoned Turgeman and asked to postpone their meeting by 24 hours. A few hours after this call Erekat called back and said that Abbas had to go to Amman. Erekat explained that Abbas would update the Jordanians and the Egyptians about Olmert’s offer in order to receive their support and the parties would meet again the following week. “From that time, I am still waiting for Abbas’s telephone call” Ehud Olmert told Sof Hashavua.”

The details of the unanswered proposal were publicized by Ha’aretz after Olmert left office.

“Olmert’s office said in response to the disclosure of the plan: “On September 16, 2008, [Olmert] presented Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] a map that had been prepared based upon dozens of conversations that the two held in the course of the intensive negotiations after the Annapolis summit. The map that was presented was designed to solve the problem of the borders between Israel and the future Palestinian state. Giving Abu Mazen the map was conditioned upon signing a comprehensive and final agreement with the Palestinians so it would not be used as an ‘opening position’ in future negotiations the Palestinians sought to conduct. Ultimately, when Abu Mazen did not give his consent to a final and complete agreement, the map was not given to him.””

Interestingly, the BBC’s version of history manages to both erase all Palestinian responsibility for the breakdown of that particular round of negotiations and to suggest that at the time that Olmert resigned, there was still a ‘peace process’ to “disrupt”.

Wind in the sails of Jibril Rajoub’s anti-Israel campaign from BBC WS WHYS

In addition to the context-free promotion of Jibril Rajoub’s latest sports related assault on Israel’s legitimacy recently seen on the BBC News website, listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ were also treated to a dose of unhindered propaganda from the head of the Palestinian Football Association on May 21st.WHYS Rajoub tweet

The item can be heard from around the 40 minute mark in a podcast here or here from 43:48.

With no intervention from presenter Chloe Tilley, the segment opens with almost two full minutes of a diatribe from Rajoub which is replete with distortions and falsehoods, including accusations of “humiliations” and “racism”. When Tilley does finally interject, it is to ask Rajoub whether he thinks FIFA understands “those pressures on Palestinian teams, on players, on fans?” and once again Rajoub uses the opportunity to promote the inaccurate notion that the underlying issue is Israeli “racism”.

Listeners also hear a contribution from a partly identified football fan from Dubai who, in addition to promoting his own context-free, cherry picked claims, states – with no challenge from Tilley – that it is hard to be a fan or a player “in the context of the occupation and the apartheid”.WHYS Rajoub prog

Also notable is Tilley’s failure to insist on a proper answer from Rajoub concerning a point raised by the one Israeli contributor to the programme and her presentation of the issue with the use of the phrasing “naming a fencing competition after – in his words – a terrorist”.  

Towards the end of the segment listeners hear another rant from Rajoub:

“The Israelis are violating. The Israelis are bullying. The Israelis are behaving like the bully of the neighbourhood. The Israelis are humiliating.”

Throughout almost ten minutes of airtime devoted to this topic listeners did not get to hear the official Israeli view of this story and at no point did Chloe Tilley attempt to make audiences aware of the all-important context of issues concerning Palestinian football players with links to terrorist organisations.

What listeners did however take away from this embarrassingly superficial and uninformative item were unchallenged labels such as “racism” and “apartheid” – another brick in the wall of BBC enabled delegitimisation of Israel.

Related Articles:

BBC frames anti-Israel delegitimisation campaign as a sports story

20% of BBC’s reporting on car attack in Jerusalem is amplification of anonymous hearsay

As has been noted here previously, despite the marked increase in the number of vehicular terror attacks against Israelis seen in recent months, the BBC refrained from reporting the incidents which took place on May 14th, April 25th and April 15th.

On May 20th yet another attack took place in Jerusalem.

“Two Border Police officers were lightly injured in Jerusalem on Wednesday when a Palestinian man veered off the road and hit them with an SUV in what police said was a deliberate attack.

The driver was shot by police and critically wounded after he tried to back up and run over the injured officers again, police said. He was administered first aid at the scene but died shortly thereafter.” [emphasis added]

Ynet reported:

“The driver had been traveling from the direction of the Augusta Victoria area, when he spotted the group of Border Police, who were conducting security checks.  He appears to have veered off the road towards the group in order to carry out the attack.

 An initial investigation shows that the driver identified the group of police officers and tried to run them over. After the attack, he tried to “confirm the kill” by reversing back over the wounded officers. He was then shot by police.” [emphasis added]

The perpetrator is apparently affiliated with Hamas.

Whilst not producing a stand-alone report on the incident, the BBC did include a couple of paragraphs right at the end of an article on another topic (which will be discussed separately).

car attack a Tur

Contrary to the inaccurate impression given in the BBC’s account of the incident the perpetrator was not shot “after he swerved his vehicle” but after he ran the police officers over. Likewise, as can be seen from the reports above and others, the police officers were not “slightly” injured, but lightly to moderately – as described by the Jerusalem Post:

“According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, the attack took place shortly before 10 a.m. when Amran Abu Dhein, 41, of Jebl Mukaber in southeastern Jerusalem, rammed his car into a female and two male officers, who sustained light-to-moderate injuries to their legs and hips.”

No less notable than the above inaccuracies is the dubious editorial decision to use over 20% of the word count of this brief report to amplify anonymous hearsay claiming that “the driver had tried to swerve to avoid hitting pedestrians” – despite the existence of testimonies indicating that he had actually tried to run them over a second time. 

 

Update on the BBC’s handling of the Tim Willcox case

As readers no doubt recall, back in February the BBC’s Head of Editorial Complaints, Fraser Steel, announced the provisional outcome of the Editorial Complaints Unit’s consideration of the collective points made in the many complaints concerning remarks made by Tim Willcox during BBC coverage of the rally in Paris on January 11th 2015.Presentation Willcox b pic 1

Members of the public have now informed us of the receipt of a further communication from Fraser Steel following the presentation of comments on the provisional finding.

“Having had the opportunity of considering comments on the provisional finding, I’m now finalising it on the basis set out in my previous letter, apart from one modification.

It’s clear from a number of the comments I received that I understood the first of the summarised points of complaint (“That the question put by Tim Willcox to an interviewee was misleading in that it linked the Paris killings in a kosher supermarket with events in the Middle East”) in a different sense from some who complained.

What I had in mind was a direct causal relationship between particular recent events in the Middle East and the Paris killings, and it was on that basis that I wrote “Nothing in the day’s coverage of events in Paris suggested a direct link between events in the Middle East and those killings, and I can’t see that such a suggestion can readily be derived from what Mr Willcox said”.

It has been put to me, and I have accepted, that Mr Willcox’s words suggested a broader link between perceptions of Palestinian suffering and the incidence of anti-Semitic incidents.

However, that doesn’t alter the outcome because I don’t think suggesting a link of that kind can be viewed as a breach of editorial standards (or even as particularly controversial, considering the correlation between anti-Semitic incidents and Israeli actions with an adverse impact on Palestinians which has been noted by organisations such as the Community Security Trust).”

As was noted here at the time, Steel’s misunderstanding of the essence of the complaints on that topic was plain to see. Unfortunately, he obviously still does not (or will not) comprehend the issue properly.

Willcox was not making some academic comment on the ‘epidemiology’ of antisemitic incidents. What he did – whilst interrupting a woman talking about the need for recognition of the targeting of European Jews – was to insert a false equivalence (evident in his use of the words “as well”) in the form of ‘Palestinian suffering’ which he attributed to “Jewish hands”. In other words, Willcox falsely implied that – like Jews in France – Palestinians are targets because of their religion and/or ethnicity and that European Jews can be held collectively responsible for the perceived actions of Israel.

The bottom line of this latest communication from Fraser Steel is that he stands by his earlier proposal to reject en masse the large number of complaints received about Willcox’s remarks. Complainants still have the possibility of appeal to the BBC Trust at their disposal for a limited period of time, but as Steel points out in this letter, “the Trust does not consider every appeal brought to it”.

Four months (and goodness knows how many publicly funded man-hours) on, the BBC has not budged an inch from its original classification of Willcox’s remarks as “poorly phrased”. As Steel wrote in his provisional findings which have now been deemed ‘finalised':

“I share Mr Willcox’s view that his comments were poorly phrased, but I think they were no worse than that.”

One cannot but recall the words of Nick Cohen at the time:

“…Willcox is not some isolated and aberrant racist; his views are the standard opinions of the European left middle class. I meet them every day in my political neighbourhood. They are the result of ignorance rather than malice. (Although I find that in time a dark alchemy can transform ignorance into malice.)

Willcox like so many others does not understand that anti-Semitism is not a rational, if regrettably bloody, critique of Israeli foreign policy but an insane conspiracy theory that has captured the minds of millions of fanatics, moved whole nations and led to uncountable deaths.

I wonder how many more bombs it will take to blow these people out of their folly. In my bleaker moments, I suspect they will take it to their graves.”

The BBC’s handling of this case has from the very beginning been characterized by a complete disregard for its social responsibilities as the publicly funded national broadcaster of a country in which less than a year ago antisemitic hate incidents reached record levels. As we noted here in January:

“Precisely because of the fact there are people in the UK who make threats to British ten year-olds whilst invoking a fabricated connection between them and a conflict thousands of miles away, the BBC still needs to issue a prominent on-air statement clarifying that Willcox’s statement was not merely “poorly phrased”, but that the linkage he promoted based on the premise that Jews anywhere in the world hold collective responsibility for the perceived actions of the State of Israel is both false and antisemitic.”

Unfortunately for both the credibility of the BBC complaints system and the broader reputation of the corporation as a whole – those words still stand. 

 

BBC’s Evan Davis promotes the chimera of ’67 borders

Over the years we have taken note here of numerous instances (see some examples here, here and here) in which the BBC has misled its audiences by inaccurately referring to the 1949 Armistice Lines (also known as the ‘Green Line’) as ‘the 1967 border’.

As readers are no doubt aware, the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan specifically states that the ceasefire line – which is what the ‘Green Line’ is – is not a border.

“Article II

With a specific view to the implementation of the resolution of the Security Council of 16 November 1948, the following principles and purposes are affirmed:

  1. The principle that no military or political advantage should be gained under the truce ordered by the Security Council is recognized;
  2. It is also recognized that no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.”

“Article VI

  1. The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”

Moreover, the point is made abundantly clear in the BBC’s ‘style guide’.  

“The Green Line marks the boundary between Israel and the West Bank. It is properly referred to as the 1949 Armistice Line – the ceasefire line of 1949. […]

In describing the situation on the ground, take care to use precise and accurate terminology. The Green Line is a dividing line or a boundary. If you call it a border you may inadvertently imply that it has internationally recognised status, which it does not currently have.” 

Nevertheless – and perhaps precisely because this frequent error is rarely if ever corrected – the organization supposedly committed to building “a global understanding of international issues” continues to allow audiences to be misled and misinformed through the repeated use of inaccurate terminology.

The latest example of the use of the inaccurate term “’67 border” came in the May 18th edition of BBC Two’s flagship news programme ‘Newsnight‘ which the corporation has claimed is “routinely being watched by more than 700,000 people”.Newsnight

Whilst interviewing Shimon Peres, presenter Evan Davies asked:

“Can you imagine now any situation – anything the Palestinians could do – in which Israel would agree to go back to this newly defined ’67 border.”

And no – we have no idea what “newly defined” means in this context either.

Also notable is Davis’ promotion of the notion that “it’s warranted to say that [the first Lebanon war] created Hizballah” – with no mention of no less relevant factors such as the Iranian revolution, Iranian policy or the Lebanese civil war.

In response to Shimon Peres’ assertion that “the chances for a two state solution exist”, Davis retorts:

“It doesn’t seem like it from the Israeli government though. Netanyahu didn’t mention it in his opening statement.”

As our colleagues at Presspectiva have pointed out (in Hebrew), none of the Israeli governments during the past two decades have specifically mentioned the two state solution in their founding guidelines. The new Israeli government’s founding guidelines do, however include the following:

“The government will advance the political process and aspire to a peace agreement with the Palestinians and with all our neighbours…”

One might assume that a reasonable level of proficiency in the subject matter – including the use of accurate terminology – would be a fairly basic requirement for an interviewer on a flagship news programme. These and other questions posed by Evan Davis raise the issue of whether the purpose of this interview was in fact to inform viewers or to promote the BBC’s own ‘world view’. 

 

 

How a BBC WS News bulletin misled on Jerusalem Day

Those who happened to be listening to the BBC World Service at 2 a.m. GMT on May 18th will have heard the following item in the news bulletin (from 03:40, available for a limited period of time only) read by Fiona MacDonald.World Service

“Israeli police have clashed with Palestinians protesting against a march by Jewish nationalists to mark Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967. Palestinians threw stones as Israelis bearing flags marched through the predominantly Muslim old walled city. A Palestinian activist, Ahmad SubLaban, said the march was a provocation.

[voiceover] During the march the Old City gets closed and its residents are forbidden from entering or leaving. They say that day for them feels like a prison, keeping them inside their houses. They’re forbidden to go in and out of the Old City. They’re also attacked; some of their properties are destroyed. The shopkeepers are forced to close their stores.”

The Israeli prime minister said Jerusalem would always be the capital for the Jewish people alone.”

MacDonald is of course describing Jerusalem Day or Yom Yerushalayim – the national holiday marking the reunification of the city after nineteen years of division due to the occupation by Jordan between 1948 and 1967. That context is glaringly absent from her distorted description of the purpose of the event.

Among the numerous events taking place on May 17th to mark the occasion was the traditional march to the Western Wall, which for geographical reasons obviously has to pass through what MacDonald bizarrely finds necessary to describe as “the predominantly Muslim old walled city”.

Not unrelated to the content and style of this news item is the fact that this year, two political NGOs unsuccessfully petitioned the High Court in an attempt to prevent the march (now in its thirtieth year) from passing through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter. One of the political NGOs which filed the rejected petition was the foreign funded Ir Amim.

One of Ir Amim’s employees is Ahmad SubLaban – apparently the same inadequately introduced man given a platform by the BBC World Service from which to promote political propaganda.

BBC Watch enquired about SubLaban’s claims that “residents are forbidden from entering or leaving” the area and that “shopkeepers are forced to close their stores” and was not informed of any restrictions imposed on movement or commerce, although according to the Israeli police force, some shopkeepers do chose to close earlier than usual on that day. We were also informed that there were no reports of damage to shops or properties and that two police officers were lightly injured by participants in an illegal protest at Damascus gate in which stones and bottles were thrown.

And what of MacDonald’s claim that “the Israeli prime minister said Jerusalem would always be the capital for the Jewish people alone”? According to the Times of Israel, what Netanyahu actually said in his Jerusalem Day address was:

“Jerusalem was only ever the capital of the Jewish people, not of any other people,” […] “Here our path as a nation began, this is our home and here we shall stay.”

Interestingly, a strikingly similar interpretation of those words to the one presented by the BBC is to be found in the headline of an article appearing in Ha’aretz which reads “Netanyahu: Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people alone”. Whilst the Ha’aretz article supplies context to that misleading headline, the BBC World Service appears to have further garnished it in such a way that listeners would inevitably misunderstand the meaning and intention of the words spoken. 

Were the BBC to expand its news gathering beyond one Israeli newspaper of a specific political stripe and beyond inadequately introduced representatives of political NGOs of a particular genre, the accuracy and impartiality of its reports on events in Israel would of course be vastly improved. However, as this example of a supposedly factual item in a news bulletin once more indicates, the BBC’s reliance upon sources promoting a distinct political view defines, restricts and shapes the objectivity and accuracy of information passed on to audiences worldwide.

 

BBC’s Yolande Knell back on the ‘one state’ bandwagon

On May 15th the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell produced a filmed report for the corporation’s television news programmes which was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “How will new Israel government affect two-state solution?“.Knell Har Homa

The synopsis appearing on the website includes the following statement:

“The government includes conservative, far-right, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties who would fight any recognition of a Palestinian state.”

The accuracy of that statement is of course contestable – not least in relation to the stance of coalition member party Shas, which has traditionally supported the two-state solution.

If viewers thought that the title of this report indicated that they were going to get some reliable background information on the new Israeli government’s approach and policies, they were sorely mistaken: Knell’s report is just one more addition to her long record of partial and inaccurate political propaganda.

Knell opens her report as follows:

“Har Homa: it’s one of Israel’s most controversial housing projects on land the Palestinians want for their state. Here, Bethlehem is cut off from Jerusalem.”

Does Har Homa in fact cut Bethlehem off from Jerusalem? A look at the map shows that the answer to that is no, with two routes bypassing Har Homa available for travel.

map Har Homa

Knell continues:

“Back in the late 1990s this is the same hill before building began. Now there are about twenty thousand Jewish residents and ahead of his re-election, the prime minister came promising to expand settlements. They’re seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees.”

As ever, Knell makes no attempt to comply with BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing her viewers of the existence of opinions which contradict the BBC’s standard “illegal under international law” insert. Neither does she bother to inform them of the fact that the majority of Har Homa (Homat Shmuel) is built on land purchased by Jews prior to 1948 – a fact recognized even by the PLO.

Knell goes on:

“He [Netanyahu] also said he wouldn’t allow a Palestinian state.”

That context-free representation of the Israeli PM’s words relates to an interview given to the Israeli website NRG, the full text of which can be found here. Notably, Knell also ignores the subsequent clarifications made by Netanyahu.

She proceeds to explain a map inserted into the footage:

“This is where the Palestinians seek full sovereignty: in East Jerusalem which they want as their capital, the West Bank and Gaza – areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.”

No attempt is made to inform viewers why war broke out in 1967 or of the legal status of the areas she describes before they were conquered and occupied by Jordan and Egypt in 1948.

Next, with no effort made to conform to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing audiences of the political aims of the NGO he represents, Knell introduces her first interviewee.

Knell: “In his Bethlehem office Jad Isaac monitors settlement growth. He no longer believes in a two state solution to the conflict with Israel.”

Isaac: “This is not realistic; anybody who sees things on the ground will come to that conclusion.”

Knell: “Dr Isaac faces losing his own land because of new construction in Har Homa. He tells me the International Criminal Court should act.”

Isaac: “This is the last resort. We have to go to the international justice – to the international community – to see what they say about this occupation. Displacing people, bringing Israeli citizens to live inside the West Bank – the occupied territory – is a war crime.”

Again, Knell makes no effort whatsoever to clarify to viewers that Isaac’s “war crime” claim is highly debatable to say the least. She then goes on to ostensibly present a differing viewpoint but fails to tell viewers that her next interviewee is not only a journalist, but also the former director of the political NGO the New Israel Fund.  

Knell: “On the Jerusalem side of Har Homa I get another perspective from an Israeli journalist who lives nearby.”

Ya’ari: “This whole…eh…expressions of two state solution is almost like a cover up on something different.”

Knell: “Unusually, Eliezer Ya’ari visits his Palestinian neighbours. Israel made their villages part of Jerusalem when it unilaterally extended the city’s boundaries but it views them as residents – not citizens. Mr Ya’ari thinks they should have the same political rights as he does.”

Ya’ari: “OK – we are now tangled together. What does it mean? From my point of view Israel has decided that Jerusalem – its own capital – will be a bi-national city and I don’t think that all Israeli citizens actually understand what it means.”

This is not the first time we have seen Yolande Knell deliberately mislead BBC audiences with regard to the status of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem: she made the exact same inaccurate claim in November of last year, failing to clarify that they are entitled to apply for citizenship should they so wish and that those who choose not to exercise that right (and hence to disenfranchise themselves as far as voting in parliamentary elections is concerned) are nevertheless entitled to vote in municipal elections and to receive social security benefits and healthcare. We have also seen the BBC promoting similar misinformation in additional past reports.

Knell closes her report:

“The view has changed dramatically since battles were fought over this land nearly fifty years ago and as Israel’s political landscape continues to alter even moderate voices are looking at alternatives to established peace plans.”

This is also not the first time that we have seen Yolande Knell promoting ‘alternatives’ to the two state solution, whilst failing to clarify to her audiences what that actually means. Her latest misrepresentation of this as being the approach of “moderate voices” exposes the political agenda actually being promoted in this so-called ‘news’ item.  

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