BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part three

In parts one and two of this post we documented BBC News website coverage of the first twenty days of Operation Protective Edge. Part three relates to the next ten days: July 28th to August 6th 2014 inclusive.

Content on the website included written news reports and written ‘Features and Analysis’ articles as well as filmed items presented as stand-alone reports and additionally often embedded into the written articles. Those filmed items also appeared on BBC television news programmes and hence give us an idea of what worldwide audiences were being shown and to what extent the BBC lived up to its claims of “equal coverage” of the two sides to the conflict.

A small amount of content which appeared on the BBC News website at the time has since become unavailable, but below are the vast majority of the reports offered to the website’s visitors. We are not including here the many reports concerning demonstrations relating to the conflict in Europe and elsewhere which appeared on the Middle East page: that topic will be covered separately.

July 28th:Chart Jul 28

Written:

Gaza crisis: UN calls for immediate ceasefire

Gaza: Uneasy calm after UN ceasefire call

Gaza in critical condition, says UN’s Ban Ki-moon   (discussed here)

Features:

US-Israel relations tested by Kerry shuttle diplomacy  Suzanne Kianpour

Filmed:

Israel tells UN ‘we are fighting terrorism’ Ron Prosor

Riyad Mansour: ‘We want to see fundamental changes’  Riyad Mansour

Gaza crisis: Lull in violence as Palestinians mark Eid  Martin Patience in Gaza

Gaza conflict: Uneasy calm after UN ceasefire call Martin Patience in Gaza

Gaza crisis: Kerry urges ‘humanitarian’ ceasefire  John Kerry

Middle East crisis: Children pay heavy price in Gaza  Ian Pannell in Gaza (discussed here)

Hamas: ‘We are getting killed but we won’t give up’  Ian Pannell interview with Ehab Al Ghossein  (discussed here)

Ten Israeli soldiers killed in attacks  Orla Guerin in Israel

Netanyahu: ‘We need to be prepared for a prolonged campaign’   PM Netanyahu

Deadly blasts hit Gaza and Israel after lull in violence  Chris Morris in Gaza

July 29th:Chart Jul 29

Written:

Gaza City and Israel’s Eshkol hit by deadly blasts  (discussed here)

Israel PM Netanyahu warns of ‘prolonged’ Gaza campaign  (discussed here)

Israel intensifies Gaza attacks after Netanyahu warning

Turkey PM Erdogan returns US Jewish award in Israel row

Features:

In pictures: Gaza hit again after ‘heaviest night’

Filmed:

Strike hits Gaza media building Gaza

Israeli air strike hits ‘Hamas media building’ in Gaza   Emily Thomas Gaza

West Bank Palestinians politically divided, but united in anger  Jon Donnison in Beit Ummar (discussed here)

Gaza’s power station ‘hit by Israeli shelling’  Chris Morris and Martin Patience in Gaza

Gaza bombardment kills at least 100   Ian Pannell in Gaza

Middle East crisis: Tel Aviv resident on living with conflict

Middle East crisis: Air strikes fill Gaza skyline with smoke  Matthew Amroliwala  Gaza

Gaza crisis: Inside militants’ tunnel  Orla Guerin in Israel

Middle East crisis: BBC at Gaza mosque ruins  Chris Morris in Gaza (edited Oct 7 – discussed here)

Middle East crisis: Israeli air strikes across Gaza  Chris Morris in Gaza

July 30th:Chart Jul 30

Written:

Gaza conflict: Hamas vows no Israel ceasefire

Gaza conflict: UN accuses Israel over Jabaliya attack

Gaza conflict: ‘Israeli market strike kills 17′

Features:

Conflicted UN struggles in global peace efforts   Nick Bryant

Filmed:

Gaza conflict: Is there hope for a ceasefire?  James Robbins (discussed here)

‘Gaza children killed as they slept’ in UN-run school  Chris Gunness UNRWA

Gaza: ‘Terrible scene’ in UN-run school hit by Israeli fire  Chris Morris in Gaza

Gaza crisis: Israel’s military strategy   Orla Guerin in Israel (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: ‘Israeli market strike kills 15′  Martin Patience in Gaza

Gaza conflict: UN accuses Israel over Jabaliya attack  Chris Morris in Gaza

Gaza school: ‘Israel does not target UN facilities’ says IDF  Lt Col Peter Lerner

July 31st:Chart Jul 31

Written:

Gaza conflict: Israel to investigate school shelling

Gaza conflict: Israel calls up 16,000 reserve soldiers

Israel ‘to destroy’ Hamas Gaza tunnels – Netanyahu

Israeli Iron Dome firms ‘infiltrated by Chinese hackers’

Features:

Gaza conflict: Disputed deadly incidents  later amended and date changed. (discussed here)

Gaza-Israel conflict: Is the fighting over?  later amended and date changed.

Filmed:

Gaza crisis: Families grieve UN school dead  Ian Pannell in Gaza

Mark Regev: ‘If we find that it was errant fire from Israel I’m sure we will apologise’  Mark Regev

Quarter of Gaza population displaced, says UN  Martin Patience in Gaza

Families forced to stay in Gaza’s shelled UN school  Martin Patience in Gaza

Gaza crisis: UN representatives give their views  Ron Prosor & Riyad Mansour

Israeli opposition leader backs action against Hamas  Yitzhak Hertzog

Gaza crisis: UN says Israel must protect civilians or cease fire  Pierre Krahenbuhl UNRWA

Gaza crisis: UN announces Israel and Hamas ceasefire  UN

Gaza displaced ‘near breaking point’ – UN  Ian Pannell in Gaza

Gaza crisis: Israel attacks ‘not accidental’, claims UN  Navi Pillay

Gaza crisis: Israel releases ‘aborted airstrike’ video  Orla Guerin in Israel (discussed here)

August 1st:Chart Aug 1

Written: (discussed here)

Gaza 72-hour humanitarian truce by Israel and Hamas begins

Israel to resume Gaza operation as truce with Hamas crumbles

Gaza militants ‘seize Israeli soldier’ as ceasefire ends

Live page:

As it happened: Israel soldier ‘captured’

Features:

In pictures: Israel-Hamas ceasefire collapses

Are captured soldiers Israel’s weak spot?   James Reynolds

Filmed: (discussed here)

John Kerry ‘Opportunity to find the solution’

‘Escalation’ warning by Israel after Gaza militants ‘seize Israeli soldier’  Mark Regev

Israel to resume Gaza operation as truce with Hamas crumbles  Martin Patience in Gaza

Israel and Hamas 72-hour truce begins   Jon Brain

Israeli soldier ‘captured’ by militants as ceasefire ends  Orla Guerin in Israel

Palestinians return to gutted homes during brief ceasefire  Ian Pannell in Gaza

Gaza militants ‘seize Israeli soldier’ as ceasefire ends  Jon Donnison in Gaza

Hamas blamed by Israel for breakdown of Gaza truce  Yigal Palmor

President Obama condemns kidnap of Israeli soldier

Gaza ceasefire collapses: What fate for talks?   Nick Childs

Gaza crisis: ‘There was never a ceasefire’ – Fatah spokesman  Hussam Zomlot

August 2nd:Chart Aug 2

Written:

Gaza conflict: Hamas denies holding Israeli soldier  (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: New exchanges amid Israeli soldier hunt

Gaza crisis: Israel ‘unlikely to go to talks in Egypt’

Israel PM Netanyahu: Gaza operation to go on

Israel attacks on Gaza ‘foolish’ and ‘disproportionate’ – Ashdown

Features:

Gaza: Mapping the human cost  (later updated and date changed)

Filmed:

Gaza conflict: Hamas denies holding Israeli soldier  Jon Brain  (discussed here)

Middle East crisis: Fresh Gaza strikes amid soldier hunt  Martin Patience in Gaza

Israeli forces continue search for soldier missing in Gaza  Bethany Bell in Israel

August 3rd:Chart Aug 3

Written:

Gaza conflict: Missing Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin ‘dead’  (discussed here)

Gaza crisis ‘intolerable’, says Philip Hammond  (discussed here)

Gaza crisis: Deadly strike ‘at UN school in Rafah’  (discussed here)

Gaza crisis: Rafah school strike ‘criminal’ – UN chief

Filmed:

Israel says missing soldier Hadar Goldin is dead   Jon Brain

Gaza conflict: Inside town bearing brunt of Israeli strikes  Ian Pannell in Gaza

Middle East crisis: UN warns of Gaza health disaster  Chris Gunness UNRWA

Gaza crisis: Chaos after deadly strike ‘at UN school’  Martin Patience in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza crisis: BBC reports from Israeli staging post  James Reynolds in Israel

Gaza conflict: BBC assesses Israel’s military campaign  James Reynolds in Israel (discussed here)

Gaza crisis: Israel says no shells fell inside UN school  Mark Regev

August 4th:Chart Aug 4

Written:

Gaza conflict: Israeli partial ceasefire slows violence

UN right to speak out on Gaza strike, says Cameron

Gaza conflict: France condemns Israel ‘massacre’

Gaza conflict: Israel ‘to pursue campaign’ as truce ends

British national ‘killed in Gaza’

Features:

Gaza conflict: Contrasting views on targeting (discussed here)

In pictures: Faces from Gaza  Jon Donnison

Filmed:

Gaza crisis: Deadly strike at Rafah school  Orla Guerin in Gaza

Gaza-Israel: What Egyptians make of crisis in Gaza Strip  Mark Lowen

Gaza-Israel: Attacks on both sides of border despite ceasefire  Martin Patience in Gaza & Bethany Bell in Israel

Gaza conflict: Reports of strike on Gaza amid truce  Orla Guerin in Gaza

Gaza-Israel conflict: Reports of strike during Gaza ceasefire  Martin Patience in Gaza

Israel: Suspected ‘attack’ on bus with digger in Jerusalem  James Reynolds in Israel (discussed here)

August 5th:Chart Aug 5

Written:

Gaza conflict: Israel and Hamas ‘agree ceasefire’

Israel pulls troops out of Gaza

 Gaza conflict: Truce holding after Israel withdraws

Gaza-Israel video games cause controversy

Baroness Warsi quits as Foreign Office minister over Gaza

Live page:

As it happened: Israel withdraws troops as Gaza truce begins

Features:

Israel’s operation in Gaza may be over, but no victor emerges  Jonathan Marcus

Filmed:

Israel: Digger overturns bus in Jerusalem  James Reynolds in Israel

Gaza truce holds as residents return to destroyed homes  Jon Donnison in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza-Israel: Palestinian National Initiative calls for end to ‘siege’  Mustafa Barghouti

Gaza: Egypt brokers truce as Israel withdraws troops  Martin Patience in Gaza & Bethany Bell in Israel

Israel Defense Forces ‘are out of Gaza’ – Lt Col Peter Lerner

Gaza conflict: Has the way Gazans view Hamas changed?  Orla Guerin in Gaza (discussed here)

Israel pulls troops out of Gaza  Jon Donnison in Gaza

August 6th:Chart Aug 6

Written:

Gaza conflict: Kerry urges broader Israel-Palestinian talks

Gaza: Israeli-Palestinian indirect talks begin in Cairo

Palestinian arrested over murder of Israeli teenagers

David Cameron faces fresh Gaza pressure

Megadeth and CeeLo Green cancel Israel concerts

Filmed:

Gaza conflict: Kerry says both sides must compromise

Gaza conflict: Is Israel’s mission accomplished?   James Robbins

Israeli PM Netanyahu news briefing

Gaza truce: Residents ‘homeless after fighting’  Orla Guerin in Gaza

Gaza crisis: Ceasefire holds on second day  Jon Donnison in Gaza

Gaza conflict: Views from the Israel Gaza border   Wyre Davies in Israel (text amended September 24th)

Between July 28th and August 6th inclusive, the predominant type of report appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page was written articles with a significant proportion of their headlines continuing to use the phrases “Gaza conflict” or “Gaza crisis” as though events were confined to the Gaza Strip. Notably, audiences saw increasing amounts of content relating to statements made by British politicians on the issue. Two live pages also appeared during this period of time and the majority of footage (five reports out of nine) of interviews or press conferences with others (not Israelis or Palestinians) focused on amplifying statements made by various UN officials with UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness being a frequent interviewee.

As was the case in the first twenty days of BBC coverage of the conflict, the total number of filmed reports describing the situation in Gaza promoted between July 28th and August 6th was once again more than double the number of filmed reports describing the situation in Israel and those reports continued to focus on emotive coverage of the effects of the conflict on the civilian population. Notably, the first on camera recognition of the fact that terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip were launching missiles into Israel from residential areas in the Gaza Strip came in an August 5th report – twenty-nine days after the conflict began.

Graph Jul 28 to Aug 6By August 6th, visitors to the BBC News website (and television audiences) had seen 36.5 filmed reports from reporters on the ground in Israel compared to 88.5 filmed reports made by journalists on the ground in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the conflict.

Graph Jul 8 to Aug 6

Themes dominant in BBC reporting during that period were the amplification of Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demand for the lifting of border restrictions and particularly remarkable was the BBC’s adoption of the inaccurate Hamas terminology used to describe those restrictions: ‘siege’. Another theme promoted was that of increased Hamas popularity in the Gaza Strip. The BBC’s policy of ignoring Hamas’ use of human shields continued and incidents such as the deaths of ten people in Shati on July 28th – caused by misfired terrorist missiles – were presented to BBC audiences as “disputed”. The incidents which took place at or near UN schools during this time period were misleadingly presented to audiences as “deliberate”, “criminal” and intentional strikes on civilians. Not for the first time – or the last – the fact that Hamas breached ceasefires was concealed or downplayed.

Related articles:

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part one

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part two

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

 

 

Source of the BBC’s three 2013 Iron Dome reports gets cosy with a Holocaust denier

h/t Adam Holland Twitter

On July 10th 2014 – soon after the commencement of Operation Protective Edge – the BBC News website’s Middle East page included an article by diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus in its ‘Features & Analysis’ section which was titled “What weapons are being used in the Israel-Gaza conflict“. In that article, Marcus wrote:Marcus 10 7

“As important in determining Israel’s strategic outlook as its offensive operations is the reliance that it places on missile defence – the Iron Dome system – to defend its civilian population. Indeed, as long as it is successful it is a powerful factor in crisis limitation. […]

Israel rigorously guards detailed data on Iron Dome’s performance. Its earlier use has prompted some debate among experts on its seemingly extraordinary success rate. But whatever the basic data, the evidence from its use suggests that it is having a significant effect in preventing Israeli casualties.”

The link inserted by Marcus leads to an earlier article he wrote in March 2013 promoting the claims of MIT professor Theodore (Ted) Postol which was discussed on these pages at the time. Jonathan Marcus did not like our post concerning his report and chose to respond in the comments section, informing us that:

“The report on Ted Postol’s work (with two other scientists cited) first ran in Ha’aretz. I saw this but waited until I had a chance to speak to Postol – who despite your rather nasty insinuations, is a highly respected scientist with a distinguished track record in this field. You will remember that he correctly questioned the performance of the initial Patriot system in the war to liberate Kuwait. His concerns about Iron Dome certainly merits an airing rather than criticism.”

Six weeks after the appearance of Marcus’ report – in April 2013 – the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly produced two additional reports on the same topic promoting the same claims advanced by Postol.

Well now it appears that Jonathan Marcus’ “highly respected scientist” has found a new outlet via which to promote his theories.Iron Dome

Towards the end of August 2014 Ted Postol gave two interviews to a person named Ryan Dawson who uploaded them to his Youtube channel which is titled ANC Report – “Anti-neocon Report”. In the first of those interviews Postol again promotes his claims regarding the Iron Dome (as well as his opinions on Israel in general and American domestic politics) and in the second he takes issue (as he has before) with the fact that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against civilians in Damascus in August 2013. Both interviews provide very revealing insight into Postol’s political views – and his motivations.

So who is the person with whom this “highly respected scientist” agreed to chat in such a chummy manner for an hour and a half? Adam Holland has more details on Ryan – or Ry – Dawson.

“The man behind the podcast promoting those videos, Ryan Dawson, has for over a decade used the internet to spread some pretty horrid ideas: ideas about Jews making up or exaggerating crimes committed by Nazi Germany, ideas about Israel carrying out the 9/11 attacks, even claims that the Jewish religion sanctions pedophilia, rape and ritual murder. Dawson has made clever use of the free publicity-generating possibilities provided by social media to promote some of the worst forms bigotry and conspiracy theories. On Facebook, he does this under the name “antizionist”. He’s “Anti-neocon,” “Super anti-neocon” or just “ANC” for his blog, web-forum and his podcast, the “ANC Report”.”

Perhaps Jonathan Marcus would be kind enough to tell us in the comments below whether he thinks it appropriate for the BBC to still be promoting on its website the bizarre claims of someone who collaborates with a known antisemitic Holocaust denier?  

 

 

Remember the BBC’s 2013 Iron Dome story?

Readers may remember that around this time last year the BBC News website published items by Jonathan Marcus and Kevin Connolly which suggested to audiences that Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system might not actually work. 

Jonathan Marcus’ article titled “Israel’s Iron Dome: Doubts over success rate” appeared on March 12th 2013 and that was followed on April 22nd by two items from Kevin Connolly: a filmed report also shown on BBC television news programmes and a written article.

Recently however, the US embassy in Tel Aviv’s chief defence attaché put forward an interesting proposal.

“A U.S. general proposed on Monday that Israel upgrade its anti-missile systems to include neighboring Jordan and possibly Egypt, and an Israeli official cautiously welcomed the idea.

The two Arab countries that have full peace treaties with the Jewish state share some of its concern regarding the disputed nuclear program of Iran and the civil war wracking Syria – both states with long-range missile arsenals.

Jordan’s Red Sea port of Aqaba is also under threat from short-range rockets fired by Islamist militants in the largely lawless Egyptian Sinai – though they have more regularly targeted the next-door Israeli resort of Eilat.

Brigadier-General John Shapland, chief defense attache for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, raised the idea of extending Israel’s anti-missile umbrella in comments to a security conference in the city.

“If we were able to build a regional defense capability in, say, Jordan, that capability could easily defend Israel, Jordan and even Egypt, if you so desired, adding one more layer to your multi-layered defense,” he told Israeli officials and experts gathered at the INSS think-tank.”

Oh dear. It seems as though Brigadier-General Shapland has not been keeping up to speed with the BBC News website’s revelations.

Inaccurate map used to illustrate BBC reports on Klos-C weapons interception

On March 5th an article by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus titled “Israel’s clandestine battle with weapons smugglers” appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page. KlosC Marcus art

The article is obviously intended to provide audiences with background and context to the incident earlier on the same day in which Israeli naval forces seized a ship transporting Syrian-made missiles from Iran to Sudan, with their eventual destination being the Gaza Strip.

On the whole, the article is both accurate and informative but it is marred by one feature. As Jonathan Marcus correctly notes:

“In the March 2014 case – unusually – the Israelis say that the weaponry actually originated in Syria from where it was flown to Tehran.

It was then put on board the Klos-C at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

From there it went to Um Qasr in Iraq, before heading back out of the Gulf and round to the Red Sea where it was intercepted.

The Israelis say that it was due to dock in Port Sudan, from where the weapons would have moved overland through the Sinai Peninsula and ultimately into the Gaza Strip.”

However, the map inserted into the article does not accurately reflect the written information provided by Jonathan Marcus. Rather, it misleads readers by tracing an “intended route” for the ship which ends up in south Sinai, somewhere near Sharm el Sheikh.

KlosC BBC map

In fact, the vessel’s destination was Port Sudan.

KlosC IDF map destination

As is explained in this video:

“The ship is headed to Port Sudan but is stopped before reaching its destination. Israeli naval forces intercept the vessel and prevent the weapons from reaching the Gaza Strip. Without this initiative, the rockets would have been smuggled via land through the Sinai peninsula and into Gaza.”

KlosC route

The same inaccurate map – which oddly states that it is sourced from the IDF – also appears in the additional BBC article on the subject, discussed here

Related Articles:

BBC employs smoke and mirrors in report on Iranian weapons smuggling ship

IDF intercepts deadly Iranian arms shipment in Red Sea (J.E. Dyer)

Update: 

March 7th: The inaccurate map has now been removed from both the above BBC reports.

 


Source of 2012 BBC story on faux Israel ‘briefing document’ in racist tweet row

Over the years, quite a few mainstream media organisations have been taken in by various notoriously imaginative ‘scoops’ published by the American anti-Zionist blogger Richard Silverstein.

Readers may recall that in August 2012 (before the launch of BBC Watch), the BBC joined those dubious ranks by publishing two written items on its website based on Silverstein’s false claim to have acquired a “briefing document” which allegedly detailed Israel’s plans to attack Iran “sometime before November 6th [2012]”, as he told the BBC in an additional audio interview with the World Service which is appended to both reports. Silverstein audio

One of the written reports was titled “Israel ‘prepared for 30-day war with Iran’” and the other was a piece going under the title “‘Leaked Israel memo': propaganda or Iran war plan?” by BBC diplomatic/defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus. Both those items are still available on the internet – as is the audio interview – and the BBC responded to criticism at the time by bizarrely defending its decision to run stories based on a fictional document. 

Seven months later, in March 2013, we noted here another report by Jonathan Marcus on a subject which had also featured in a Silverstein article. Mr Marcus took umbrage and responded in our comments section.

BBC source Richard Silverstein has recently been in the news yet again. For more on that saga – which will probably not come as much of a surprise to those familiar with the record of the “American journalist” as he was described by the BBC World Service – read our colleague Adam Levick’s reports over at CiF Watch – see (in chronological order) here, here and here.

This latest row certainly reinforces the impression that insufficient critical thinking was employed by the BBC before the use, promotion and amplification of material from a source with a clear political agenda.

 

Bang goes the BBC diplomatic correspondent’s theory of ‘moderated’ Iranian Holocaust denial

Readers may remember that back in October 2013 the BBC’s Diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus came up with a theory of ‘moderated’ Iranian Holocaust denial. 

“Prime Minister Netanyahu instructed Israeli diplomats to absent themselves from the UN chamber when President Rouhani was speaking. Iranian comments moderating their long-standing denial of the Holocaust perpetrated against the Jews by the Nazis during World War II won Tehran few brownie points in Israel.” [emphasis added]

Marcus’ conclusion was apparently reached after listening to the linguistic gymnastics of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif, with the latter having claimed that Holocaust denial appearing on the official website of Iran’s Supreme Leader was a case of ‘lost in translation’.

 “This is the problem when you translate something from Persian to English,” he said. “You may lose some of the meaning. This has unfortunately been the case several times over. The point is, we condemn the killing of innocent people whether it happens in Nazi Germany or whether it is happening in Palestine.”

Over to MEMRI:

“In a September 29, 2013 interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, in which Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was questioned about Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s statements that the Holocaust is a “myth,” Zarif claimed that Khamenei is not a Holocaust denier and that the statements – which can be found in English on his official English-language website – were a “bad translation” and “out of context.” Khamenei had made the statements in a February 2006 speech to Iranian Air Force officers.

However, a MEMRI investigation reveals that FM Zarif’s claim is false; in Khamenei’s original statements, which can be accessed on Khamenei’s official Persian-language website, Khamenei did indeed call the Holocaust a “myth.”

Furthermore, in mid-December 2013, Khamenei’s office re-released Khamenei’s 1998 statements of praise for the work of the late convicted French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, on the occasion of the anniversary of Garaudy’s 1998 trial in France.”

Read the rest of MEMRI’s report – including the original statements in Farsi – here.

 

 

BBC’s Marcus promotes ‘moderated’ Iranian Holocaust denial

Although it did not stay up for long, visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 30th 2013 were offered the opportunity to read BBC diplomatic/defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus’ supercilious chiding of the Israeli government for not being in step with the latest fashion under the title “Iran-US ‘rapprochement’ challenges Israel’s Netanyahu” – presented under the heading “Features & Analysis”.

“In the United States this week, Prime Minister Netanyahu risks appearing like a ghost at the feast; a travelling salesman whose wares have lost their appeal; a man whose warnings against Iranian perfidy seem out of tune with the moment.”

Marcus Iran US 1

Although Marcus admits that the spectacle of smiles, soft phrasing and one phone call “has provoked a wave of euphoria among commentators and even some diplomats”, he does not offer any serious analysis on the subject of whether that “wave of euphoria” – also being ridden by the BBC – has any justification.

Revealingly, Marcus presents Israel as the lone party pooper out in the cold and in order to do that, he has to funnel the entire ‘Iranian issue’ into the packaging of a deal curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, whilst ignoring other no less relevant issues such as Iran’s support for Bashar Assad’s regime and its involvement in international terrorism. Significantly, he ignores the fact that even the media’s current favourite ‘Mr Nice Guy’ has clearly stated that he would “never give up his country’s right to enrich uranium“. 

Of course Israel is not the only country in the Middle East to be underwhelmed by the sight of Western politicians and journalists swooning over Hassan Rouhani like teenagers at a Justin Bieber concert – although BBC audiences are told nothing about that. The Bahraini foreign minister’s recent UN speech revealed some of that country’s concerns.

“…noting the need to inscribe organizations such as the Lebanese Hezbollah on the international list of terrorist organizations in view of their criminal terrorist acts aimed at terrorizing peaceful civilians and generating instability and chaos. ” […]

“The first among these challenges is the need to put an end to Iranian intervention in the internal affairs of the countries of the region and its occupation of the three Emirates’ islands: Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa”… 

Likewise, the press in other Gulf States – along with additional commentators – reflects concerns in other countries which are no less threatened by Iran’s nuclear ambitions than Israel.

“Saudis now feel that the Obama administration is disregarding Saudi concerns over Iran and Syria, and will respond accordingly in ignoring “U.S. interests, U.S. wishes, U.S. issues” in Syria, said Mustafa Alani, a veteran Saudi security analyst with the Geneva-based Gulf Research Center.”

The most notable paragraph in Marcus’ article, however, is this one, which comes under the interesting sub-heading of “‘Unhealthy’ negativity”: [emphasis added]

“Prime Minister Netanyahu instructed Israeli diplomats to absent themselves from the UN chamber when President Rouhani was speaking. Iranian comments moderating their long-standing denial of the Holocaust perpetrated against the Jews by the Nazis during World War II won Tehran few brownie points in Israel.”

Marcus Iran US 2

Marcus – in line with many of his colleagues in the media – appears to have persuaded himself that a few recent strategically chosen words and phrases, uttered by less than a handful of dignitaries, signify a “moderating” of Iranian Holocaust denial for which Israelis should be grateful – and he now seeks to herd his readers towards the same conclusion.

Marcus’ interpretation of comments made by Hassan Rouhani and his foreign minister is of course based on what might be politely called selective hearing. Ten days before the appearance of Marcus’ article the BBC News website published an item on Rouhani’s NBC interview in which it completely ignored the parts of the conversation relating to the Holocaust.

“…he deflected a question from NBC News’ Ann Curry about whether he believed that the Holocaust was “a myth.”

“I’m not a historian. I’m a politician,” he replied. “What is important for us is that the countries of the region and the people grow closer to each other, and that they are able to prevent aggression and injustice.” “

Rouhani’s “I’m not a historian” line appeared again in a later controversial interview with CNN which received partial coverage from the BBC with no mention of Rouhani’s subsequent remarks which revealed little in the way of “moderation”, at best clearly questioning the scale of the Holocaust.

“Therefore, what the Nazis did is condemnable. The dimensions of it which you say, is the responsibility of historians and researchers to make those dimensions clear. I am not a historian myself.

However, this point should be clear: If a crime took place, that crime should not be a cover for a nation or group to justify their crimes or oppression against others. Therefore, if the Nazis committed a crime, and however much it was, we condemn that, because genocide or mass murder is condemned.

From our viewpoint, it doesn’t matter if the person killed is Jewish, Christian or Muslim. From our viewpoint, [it] does not make difference. Killing an innocent human is rejected and condemned. But this cannot be a reason for 60 years to displace a people from their land and say that the Nazis committed crimes. That crime [too] is condemned; occupying the land of others is also condemned from our viewpoint.” [emphasis added]

On September 8th the BBC claimed that Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had “distanced himself from the Holocaust denials of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” in a Tweet in which Zarif in fact related to Ahmadinejad’s “perceived” Holocaust denial. Since then, Zarif has publicly said that “the Holocaust is not a myth” whilst at the same time blaming “bad translation” for the fact that a statement on the official website of Iran’s Supreme Leader describes the Holocaust in exactly such terms (and regime-controlled media continues down the same route) and using antisemitic Nazi analogies.

“This is the problem when you translate something from Persian to English,” he said. “You may lose some of the meaning. This has unfortunately been the case several times over. The point is, we condemn the killing of innocent people whether it happens in Nazi Germany or whether it is happening in Palestine.”

As Chemi Shalev wrote on September 30th in Ha’aretz:

“But Iran’s ongoing Holocaust denial, absolute or partial, is much more than a personal or even collective affront. It is a telltale sign, first and foremost, of the Iranian regime’s abiding anti-Semitism, as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum makes clear: “Holocaust denial and distortion are generally motivated by hatred of Jews, and build on the claim that the Holocaust was invented or exaggerated by Jews as part of a plot to advance Jewish interests.”

Consequently, if the blatant Holocaust denial of Iran’s spiritual leader Ali Khamenei and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a clear-cut manifestation of their “hatred of Jews,” then the more sterile version of Holocaust distortion offered by Rohani and his Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is but a refined version of the exact same odious sentiment.”

For some reason, Jonathan Marcus seeks to persuade BBC audiences that Israel should be gratefully giving out “brownie points” to any Iranian official who does a mealy-mouthed makeover on Ahmadinejad’s previous performance. The waters of that “wave of euphoria” appear to have turned Mr Marcus’ critical and analytic faculties rather soggy. 

Related articles:

R4 ‘Today’ expounds BBC ‘World View’ on Iran

BBC presents airbrushed picture of Rouhani NBC interview

BBC continues to portray a ‘moderate’ Iranian regime

The Guardian engages in Rouhani Revisionism in report on “Holocaust” remarks

Rouhani Fever and CNN

Denying the denial in Iran

 

Which themes got most exposure on the BBC News website in August?

The volume of articles concerning Israel which appear consistently on the BBC News website has been recorded over the last six months in our series of articles titled “BBC Israel focus in numbers”. There we record not only the appearance of an article, but also its exposure in terms of the number of days it is left up on the webpage. A closer look at the exposure of some of the articles published throughout the month of August 2013 suggests an interesting trend. 

The longest time any Israel-related article was left up on the Middle East homepage was eight days, with four articles falling into that category, including Jon Donnison’s attempt to persuade readers that Gaza has “some of the highest population densities in the world” which was discussed here. Two other articles which appeared on the website for eight consecutive days were Jonathan Marcus’ “Does Middle-East peace process matter?”  and Bethany Bell’s “Scepticism all round amid renewed Mid-East peace talks”

The fourth article left up for eight days was titled “Palestinian shot dead by Israeli troops on Gaza border” . Another article about an incident in Jenin, titled “Palestinian killed in Israeli raid in West Bank” , was left up on the webpage for seven consecutive days whilst the report on the riots in Qalandiya headlined “Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli police” was viewable for three days running.

A report titled “Israeli jets bomb Lebanon target after rocket strike” was viewable on the Middle East homepage for six consecutive days. In contrast, the BBC report on the missile fire which caused the Israeli response only appeared on the website for a matter of hours. 

A report on the closure of Eilat airport due to security assessments stayed on the website for two days whilst another article about an air-strike against terrorists in Sinai was viewable for seven consecutive days.

Here at BBC Watch we have frequently remarked on the BBC’s tendency to fail to report many if not most of the terror attacks – attempted and executed – against Israeli civilians. But according to the statistics for August, it appears that even when the BBC does report on threats or attacks against Israelis, those reports are given less exposure than articles dealing with Israeli responses to terror attacks or Israeli counter-terrorism activities in which there are Palestinian casualties. We will of course continue to monitor this apparent trend.

A great deal of the Israel-related content which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page during August was connected to the renewal of talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Three main categories of subject matter – often all appearing in the same report – can be identified: the issue of the talks themselves, the accompanying ‘goodwill gesture’ release of 26 Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorist acts and the subject of Israeli construction which the BBC promoted vigorously throughout the month as ‘sabotaging’ the renewed talks – even though that was clearly not the case. 

Articles about the talks themselves included “Livni urges Israel coalition to support peace talks” which appeared on the website for three days and “Israel-Palestinian peace talks to resume in Jerusalem” which includes standard BBC presentations of the subject of Israeli building and ran for two days. The backgrounder titled “Q&A: Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jerusalem“, which also presents Israeli construction as ‘sabotaging’ talks, ran for two days on the Middle East homepage and an article called “Israel-Palestinian peace talks resume in Jerusalem” likewise including promotion of the same theme appeared for four consecutive days. 

Articles about the prisoner release included “Israel names 26 Palestinian prisoners for release” which ran for one day and “Profiles of Palestinian prisoners set to be released” which likewise ran for one day – but not on the Middle East page. Also appearing for one day was the article titled “Palestinian prisoners ‘moved’ before Israel release” which actually devoted the majority of its content to the subject of Israeli building tenders.  That subject also appeared in Kevin Connolly’s “Little hope for talks among Israelis and Palestinians” which ran for three consecutive days.

Other reports promoting the theme of construction in neighbourhoods the BBC describes as “settlements” as a threat to peace talks included “Israel widens Jewish settlement subsidies” which ran on the Middle East page for five consecutive days, “Israel backs new Jewish settlement homes” which ran for several hours before being replaced with “New West Bank settlement homes anger Palestinians” which ran for one day and “Kerry: Israeli settlements move was expected” which appeared for two days. 

Thus we see that audience exposure to written articles promoting the notion of Israeli construction as a threat to peace talks throughout August was considerably greater than, for example, exposure to the issue of terror as an obstacle to peace. Obviously, the BBC’s reputation for impartiality depends not only upon actual written or spoken content, but also on the editorial decisions behind the prioritising of some reports over others. 

Related articles:

Filmed reports on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in August

BBC Israel focus in numbers – August 2013

BBC’s ‘Israeli building threatens peace talks’ meme in numbers

How many times over the last week have readers of the BBC News website been told that Israeli building tenders in Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria threaten to “sabotage” peace talks?  

On Sunday, August 11th they were told so in no fewer than three separate reports: “Israel backs new Jewish settlement homes, “New West Bank settlement homes anger Palestinians and the filmed report by Kevin Connolly which also appeared on BBC television news “New Israeli settlement homes anger Palestinians- which stayed up on the website for an additional four days. 

August 12th saw the appearance of an article titled “Israel names 26 Palestinian prisoners for release in which the same meme was also promoted, as well as an item by Jonathan Marcus entitled “Does Middle-East peace process matter? in which he misleadingly suggests that a construction freeze was part of the “understanding” reached in order to resume the latest round of talks. That article has been featured on the website for eight days – and counting.

On August 13th the BBC published an article called “Kerry: Israeli settlements move was expected which also promoted the notion that Israeli building would “sabotage” the talks. The same day also saw the appearance of a report by Kevin Connolly titled “Little hope for talks among Israelis and Palestinians in which the same meme was advanced. That report stayed on the website for three days in all. Another article titled “Palestinian prisoners ‘moved’ before Israel release devoted over half its word count to the subject of Israeli building. 

August 14th saw the appearance of three reports – one written (“Israel releases 26 Palestinian prisoners ahead of talks) and two filmed – both titled “Israel frees Palestinian prisoners“, both by Yolande Knell (see here and here) and both of which also appeared on BBC television news as well as on the website again the following day.  All of those reports purported to report on the release of Palestinian prisoners, but all of them also promoted the ‘building sabotages peace talks’ meme. Also on the same day an article by BBC Monitoring entitled Q&A: Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jerusalem was published in which the subject of building tenders was reported to have caused “dismay” to Palestinians. 

On August 15th (and for three additional days afterwards) the BBC News website carried a report titled Israel-Palestinian peace talks resume in Jerusalem  which promotes the claim that: 

“Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have continued to overshadow the resumption.

The issue halted the last direct talks in September 2010 and Palestinian representatives have accused Israel of trying to sabotage the latest negotiations.

In recent days Israel has announced plans for more than 2,000 new settlement homes.

Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) official Yasser Abed Rabbo said the settlement expansion was “unprecedented”.

“The talks might collapse any time because of the Israeli practices,” he told Voice of Palestine radio.”

As we see, a regular reader of the BBC News website would have been exposed to the meme that Israel announced the issuing of building tenders on August 11th as a means of “sabotaging” the renewed talks – and hence a threat to peace in general – in no fewer than thirteen reports published on the website in the period August 11th to August 15th inclusive. Naturally, the promotion of that meme was often accompanied by now standard misleading BBC slogans such as:

“Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

And:

“The issue of settlement-building halted the last direct talks.

These collapsed in September 2010.”

During the same week, Israel released twenty-six convicted terrorists and murderers as a ‘goodwill gesture’ aimed at encouraging the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. As was widely documented by the BBC itself, those prisoners were received at official Palestinian Authority organized celebrations in which the man holding the highest office in the PA – Mahmoud Abbas – literally and figuratively embraced the men as heroes, glamourising and glorifying their acts of terrorism.

The BBC, however, does not appear to consider the Palestinian Authority’s public glorification of terror just hours before renewed talks were set to commence as an attempt to “sabotage” those talks or a threat to ‘Middle East peace’ and so the number of articles exploring that angle which visitors to the BBC News website would have read in the same period of August 11th to 15th is zero.

Were the BBC’s coverage of these renewed talks truly accurate and impartial it would not refrain from informing its audiences of the fact that, even whilst sitting at the negotiating table, the Palestinian Authority continues to incite its people against Israel, to glorify terror and to spend 6% of its budget on salaries for convicted terrorists. As it is, BBC audiences have so far read no analysis on the subject of how those factors might influence the talks, but they have been spoon-fed a meme on Israeli building which bears uncanny resemblance to the campaign currently being run by the PLO.  

 

BBC’s Marcus invents a “cloudy understanding” about Israeli building

An article entitled Does Middle-East peace process matter? by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus  first appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on Monday, August 12th. As of August 18th, it was still there. 

Marcus article MEPP on HP

One of the main points promoted by Marcus in the article is that an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict is an issue of prime importance for the Middle East as a whole.  Apparently even he realizes how flimsy that claim sounds after thirty-two months of relentless violence and civil war in the region during which more people have been killed by their own countrymen than throughout the whole Arab-Israeli conflict and the death toll still rises daily. Hence, Marcus both plays up and plays down the issue by writing:

“But two major trends underpin Mr Kerry’s efforts – and for many analysts they make an Israel-Palestinian peace more important now than ever. […]

The other trend is the chaos and uncertainty ushered in by what used to be called the “Arab Spring”.

Popular upheavals have degenerated into military take-over, near anarchy, full-scale civil war and the renewal of bitter sectarian violence.

The crisis in Syria has called into question the very borders of some of the states established in the wake of the departure of the colonial powers after World War II. It is clear that these processes are profound and will unfold over a considerable time period.

It is not so much that an Israel-Palestinian peace will solve any of these problems. It will not. It won’t even contribute to resolving them.” [emphasis added]

Very true, of course, but unfortunately that statement is followed by this one:

“But Western diplomats believe that a resolution to one of the world’s most intractable disputes could lance a diplomatic boil that inflames passions and tensions way beyond the Middle East and contributes to making a very bad regional situation even worse.”

The notion that sectarian violence in Iraq (which last month saw the highest death toll since 2008) is in any way influenced by progress – or lack of it – in peace talks between Israel and Palestinian representatives is of course absurd. The idea that Bashar al Assad will retire to write his memoirs and play golf, that strife in Egypt will be eased or that Iran will stop persecuting Bahais if only Livni and Erekat manage to sign a piece of paper is downright comic. Western diplomats – perhaps hampered by the culturally dependent notion that if there is a problem, it must have a doable solution: a premise which does not always work in the Middle East –  may indeed “believe” such fairy tales, but that is no reason to promote them to the BBC’s audiences. 

But as long-time observers of the Middle East well know, the Arab-Israeli conflict excuse has for years been used to deflect public attention away from issues plaguing the broader region as a whole and it is therefore all the more disappointing to see an article passing as ‘analysis’ promoting the same jaded myth. The BBC would serve its audiences’ interests much better were it to acknowledge that the canary in the Middle East mine which is the refusal to accept Israel’s existence merely reflects a wider pathology which also rejects equal rights for women, religious and ethnic minorities and gays.

Marcus’ other main theme is the decidedly frayed at the edges idea that ‘time is running out for the two-state solution’.

“One trend is the growing belief in many quarters – you hear it explicitly from British Foreign Secretary William Hague – that the opportunity for a “two-state” solution, a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip living alongside Israel, is fast running out.

“The window for a two-state solution is closing,” Mr Hague noted in December last year.”

Indeed he did. Hague has also said exactly the same thing on many other occasions too, including November 2012, October 2011 and July 2010. And if readers are perhaps tempted to ask themselves the philosophical question of how much time can something be running out of time, it is probably worth remembering that the ‘time is running out’ notion was being promoted as far back as January 2004 by the man who probably did more than any other to prevent a two-state solution from coming into being – Yasser Arafat.

Of course, like the ‘Israeli/Palestinian deal is the key to regional peace’ notion, the ‘time is running out’/’window of opportunity closing’ meme is employed as a tactic to put pressure upon Israel, as can be seen by Marcus’ next sentence:

“According to this view the occupation risks becoming permanent, raising profound questions about the nature of Israel’s democracy and for the way the country is viewed abroad, especially in the West.”

Isn’t it strange how the repeated failure of the Palestinian Authority to come to the negotiating table, to stop incitement and the glorification of terrorism, or the refusal of Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist and to renounce terror, do not apparently raise “profound questions….especially in the West”? And isn’t it even stranger that the BBC does not (in the interests of audience understanding, accuracy and impartiality) go anywhere near such subjects, instead sticking cosily to the FCO party line?

Marcus also does a neat little smoke and mirrors trick in this article: take a look at the following paragraph:

“There are the almost ritual concessions to get talks going – the release of Palestinian prisoners by Israel; a cloudy understanding either to freeze or restrict new construction in Israeli settlements; and the equally public announcement of new building anyway as a conservative Israeli government seeks to placate domestic opponents of the peace talks to its right.” [emphasis added]

Of course in actual fact, no such “understanding” – cloudy or otherwise – was ever reached before the current round of talks.

“An Israeli diplomatic official […]characterized Palestinian anger over Sunday’s announcement of new construction tenders in Jerusalem and the large settlement blocs as “theater” intended for both an international and Palestinian audience. […]

He added that it was clear to both the Palestinians and the Americans that Israel did not commit to a settlement freeze either before or during the coming negotiations.

Two weeks ago Netanyahu told the cabinet that the Palestinians had rejected his offer of a limited construction freeze in the settlements outside the large blocs instead of a prisoner release.”

If the BBC indeed “aspires to remain the standard-setter for international journalism” as it claims – or if it wishes to remain even slightly relevant in the competitive arena of online media presence – it really is going to have to ditch the damaging habit of acting as a self-conscripted PR outfit for the Palestinian Authority.