BBC prefers pageantry to serious discussion of Abbas’ threats on Oslo accords

As might have been anticipated, the BBC did not skimp on its coverage of the hoisting of the Palestinian flag at the United Nations building in New York. Audiences could choose between a filmed report aired on BBC television news programmes and posted on the BBC News website, an audio report (from 14:01 here) by Nick Bryant on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’  and a written article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page – originally under the title “Palestinian flag to be raised at United Nations” and later with the headline “Palestinian flag raised at United Nations headquarters“.Abbas UN

Whilst the subject of Mahmoud Abbas’ speech at the UNGA on the same day was also covered in the latter two reports, that topic was given notably less attention than the pageantry of flag-raising. In the ‘Newshour’ report, presenter Owen Bennett Jones introduced the item with the following words:

“The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says his people can no longer be bound by agreements signed with Israel. Addressing the UN, he accused the Israelis of continually violating what are known as the Oslo Accords going right back to 1993.”

Rather than providing listeners with any background information on the topic of the broader implications of Abbas’ statement, the item then went on to describe the flag-raising ceremony.

The choice of phrasing in the written article did not clarify to readers that Abbas was referring to the Oslo Accords.

“Addressing the UN General Assembly, Mr Abbas said it was unconscionable that the question of Palestinian statehood remained unresolved.

He also warned that the PA no longer felt bound by agreements with Israel he claimed were “continually violated”.”

Moreover, the paragraphs immediately following that materially misled readers by implying that the Oslo Accords include some sort of restrictions on Israeli building in Judea & Samaria and dictate the release of 26 convicted terrorists.

“”As long as Israel refuses to cease settlement activities and to release of the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners in accordance with our agreements, they leave us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements,” Mr Abbas said.

“We therefore declare that we cannot continue to be bound by these agreements and that Israel must assume all of its responsibilities as an occupying power.””

Again, no information was provided to audiences concerning the likely implications of Abbas’ statement that he “cannot continue to be bound” by what has been described as “a contractual framework of obligations between Israel and the Palestinians, signed as witnesses and guarantors by the King of Jordan, the Presidents of the U.S. and Egypt, the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and Norway, the EU and endorsed by the UN”.

Oddly too, the article’s recap of the last 22 years did not include the one factor which did more than anything else to impede the possibility of a negotiated peace agreement: the PA initiated second Intifada.

“Mr Abbas has in the past threatened to dissolve the PA and hand sole responsibility for the West Bank to Israel if there is no chance of a peace deal.

The PA was set up as an interim administration for the major Palestinian cities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after the 1993 Oslo Accord. It was envisaged that a comprehensive treaty would be concluded within five years.

However, more than two decades of talks with Israel have failed to achieve a final peace settlement and an independent Palestinian state. The last round of negotiations collapsed in April 2014.”

At the end of the report readers were told that:

“The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says Palestinians faced with falling living standards and life under Israeli occupation on the West Bank are growing impatient for some sign of progress in their quest for a Palestinian state.

Raising the flag at the UN may not be as effective as raising that issue further up the world’s diplomatic agenda but it is a tangible achievement and it was within Mr Abbas’s power to deliver immediately, our correspondent adds.”

The vast majority of Palestinians have of course lived under the rule of the Palestinian Authority and/or Hamas for the last two decades and whilst Kevin Connolly did not provide a source for his claim of falling living standards, PCBS statistics show that in PA controlled areas, GDP per capita increased by 0.6% in the second quarter of 2015.

As long time readers well know, the BBC generally avoids reporting on internal Palestinian politics and so it is hardly surprising to see that Connolly’s presentation did not make any mention of factors such as the unresolvable rift between the PA and Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas’ own personal unpopularity, the recent Palestinian demonstrations against the PA or the thorny issue of succession.

And so, rather than present audiences with the full range of information which would enable them to understand the factors behind Abbas’ latest move and its potential consequences, the BBC opted to put the focus on symbolic flag-raising. 

BBC’s Connolly refrains from using the word terror in report on terror attack

In addition to the written article on the BBC News website in which the October 1st terror attack which resulted in the deaths of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin was reported, the incident was also the subject of an item (available from 02:43:03 here) by Kevin Connolly on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on the morning of October 2nd.Pigua Henkin family Today 2 10

As can be seen in the transcript below, both Connolly and programme host James Naughtie managed to avoid all use of the word terror in that three-minute report on a terror attack.

JN: “The Israeli army is searching for the killers of a Jewish couple who were shot dead in their car in front of their four children. Hundreds of soldiers are now being deployed close to Nablus in the occupied West Bank. Our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly is on the line from Jerusalem. Just tell us what happened in this incident, Kevin.”

KC: “Well this married couple – Eitam and Na’ama Henkin – they were driving on a dark country road between two Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories – the nearest big city being Nablus – when they were fired on from a passing car. Now the parents were both killed – they were pronounced dead at the scene – but remarkably their four children aged between nine years and four months old – they were all in the back seat of the car – they were all unhurt.

It’s a hugely traumatising incident of course – immediately the area was flooded with emergency services and with soldiers. There is an intensive search going on; part of the role of the soldiers too is to try to keep a lid on rising tensions which of course you always see in the aftermath of this kind of shooting and of course today it is Friday prayers here in Jerusalem so there’s also a huge police operation around the Old City because any killing like this does immediately produce a predictable rise in sectarian tensions.”

JN: “And of course it is a tense moment – well it’s always a tense moment – but we’ve had this week Prime Minister Netanyahu saying that he would restart negotiations with the Palestinians immediately without preconditions but that the Palestinians weren’t interested and we’ve had President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority at a flag-raising ceremony at the UN saying he’d more or less given up on the Israelis. I mean episodes like this coming in the middle of it all just make it more and more unlikely there’ll be any progress.”

Listeners then heard Connolly equate the deaths of Palestinians – the majority of whom were killed whilst carrying out terror attacks or whilst engaged in violent rioting – with those of Israelis murdered in deliberate terror attacks.

KC: “I think that’s right. I mean I sometimes think, Jim, that the politics of it all feels as though it’s going on as a kind of abstract – almost in the background to the sectarian realities on the ground. I mean we were just going back through our own news archive here. It’s far from scientific but we would say that more than twenty Palestinians have died in political violence on the West Bank this year, at least a half a dozen Israelis. Often there’s a level of tension that bubbles away somewhere below the level, frankly, that you need to make global headlines.”

As readers will recall, the BBC has failed to report half of the Israeli fatalities resulting from terror attacks since the beginning of the year and as of the end of August, its coverage of fatal and non-fatal terror attacks stood at 0.81%.

Connolly ends with uncritical amplification of the narrative promoted by the Palestinian Authority in its quotidian incitement, encouraging BBC audiences towards the view that Jews celebrating their holidays “ratchets up the tension” rather than terrorism and violence fuelled by the incitement the BBC perennially fails to report.

“This week it’s the Jewish religious festival of Sukkot; that’s one of the times of year when Jews traditionally make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. That means, of course, that they move towards the Western Wall in the old city; that means they’re close to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Many in the Arab world see that as a kind of attack on their religious identity. That ratchets up the tension too and of course the basic truth of this place is that the kindling you need to start these kind of fires of sectarian violence is lying around somewhere to hand all the time and it takes only a little spark, like last night’s killings, to ignite it.”

Notably, Connolly erased from his report both the celebrations on the Palestinian street which took place after the murders of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin and the statements praising the terror attack which were put out by leading officials from Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.Pigua Henkin family art 2 10

Those topics were also absent from the BBC News website article titled “Israel hunts West Bank for couple’s killers” which appeared on the site’s Middle East page on the afternoon of October 2nd. As was the case in the prior report which this article replaced, no mention was made of the fact that the attack was claimed by a group linked to the Fatah party’s armed wing. Instead, this article also promoted the amorphous notion of “tensions” – with no clarification concerning their roots.

“It [the terror attack] comes amid a period of tension between Israel and the Palestinians, which has seen clashes in Jerusalem. […]

There has been a recent flare-up in tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, with violent confrontations between security forces and Palestinian youths in a compound holy to both Jews and Muslims in East Jerusalem.”

Coming as they do after weeks of unsatisfactory reporting on the topic of the violent rioting seen on Temple Mount, these reports are further examples of the results of an editorial policy which causes the BBC to fall short of its remit of enhancing “awareness and understanding of international issues”.

A good place to start in order to begin meeting that remit would of course be the employment of accurate language. Of the six cases of fatal attacks on Israelis targeted purely because of their ethnicity which have taken place during the last nine months, three have been completely ignored by the BBC and three reported without any mention of the word terror. That editorial policy is clearly not fit for purpose. 

BBC’s Connolly misrepresents the Six Day War for political messaging

An article by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page – as well as in its ‘Magazine’ section – on September 27th under the title “The friendship that grew out of war“.Connolly Ruth Dayan

At its core, this article is promotion for a recently published book by an author with a rather obvious political agenda – one review of which can be found here. The written article and complimentary filmed and audio reports were the product of yet another BBC pilgrimage to the abode of Suha Arafat (shared apparently with her mother, who is one of the subjects of the book) in Malta.

Whilst Connolly’s report purportedly relates to the friendship between Yasser Arafat’s mother-in-law, Raymonda Tawil, and Moshe Dayan’s ex-wife, Ruth, that subject matter is used as a hook for a generous dose of political messaging. At the beginning of the article Connolly writes:

“You may be familiar with the history of the 1967 Middle East War – a short, sharp conflict in which, Israel captured land from Egypt, Syria and Jordan in a series of lightning operations.”

At the beginning of the audio version of his report broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on September 26th Connolly erases Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai and peace agreement with Jordan from history, saying:

“You will know the narrative of the Middle East war of 1967 – of how Israel captured territory from Egypt and Syria and Jordan: a history of occupation and division which remains unsolved.”

Arafat portrait Connolly art

Image used to illustrate Connolly’s article

BBC audiences of course are anything but familiar with the history of the Six Day War because material produced by the corporation on that topic repeatedly conceals the fact that the Gaza Strip, Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem which were occupied by Egypt and Jordan for nineteen years prior to that conflict were included in the territory assigned to a Jewish homeland by the League of Nations and consistently downplays the threats of annihilation of Israel issued by Nasser and others in the run-up to the 1967 war.

“Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse the aggression, but to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united….I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.” (Hafez al Assad, May 1967)

“Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight,” (Gamal Abdel Nasser, May 27th 1967)

“We will not accept any…coexistence with Israel…Today the issue is not the establishment of peace between the Arab states and Israel….The war with Israel is in effect since 1948.” (Gamal Abdel Nasser, May 28th 1967)

Examples of that editorial policy have been documented on these pages on several prior occasions:

BBC’s ‘History of Syria’ erases ancient Jewish community, distorts Six Day War

BBC online description of Six Day War: not accurate, not impartial, barely informative

BBC: Nasser ‘asked’ UN peacekeepers to leave Sinai in 1967

Article ruled not impartial by ESC five years ago remains on BBC website

BBC R4 promotes unchallenged anti-Israel propaganda and warped histories of Jerusalem

BBC WS ‘The History Hour’ breaches impartiality guidelines with Palestinian activist

BBC WS radio’s ‘balanced’ account of the Six Day War excludes Israelis

Arafat portrait jan int

Screenshot from BBC Hardtalk interview with Suha Arafat, January 2015

A by-product of that problematic editorial policy is the frequency of complaints made concerning misrepresentation of the Six Day War. With Connolly’s reporting on that topic already having been found wanting by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee and the ESC having upheld an appeal concerning a complaint about some very similar phrasing to that used by Connolly in this article, one might have expected him to choose his words more carefully.

“The [Editorial Standards] Committee decided that the events of the Six-Day War were so important in the history and politics of the Middle East, and remain so today, that, despite the brevity of the reference, more context was required and the need to use clear and precise language was particularly acute in relation to content dealing with conflict in the Middle East, as the Committee has also stated in previous findings. The Committee appreciated that this was one line in an otherwise informative and nuanced programme, but concluded that, particularly given the evidence that Jordan launched attacks on Israel before Israel’s forces were engaged, it was not duly accurate to describe the events on 5 June 1967 in the way this programme did. The Committee decided the programme breached the Editorial Guidelines on Accuracy. “

But no: after the above opening lines, Connolly – failing to mention either the pre-1967 Syrian attacks from the Golan Heights which plagued adjoining Israeli communities, the peace agreement with Jordan, the Oslo Accords which gave the Palestinian Authority control over the vast majority of its population, the second Intifada or Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip – goes on:

“The territorial issues with the Egyptians were resolved in the Camp David Accords at the end of the 1970s. But in other respects the Middle East continues to live with the consequences of the fighting that ended 48 years ago.

The war of 1973 represented a failed attempt by the combined armies of Syria and Egypt to reverse the outcome. So Israel remains in control of the Golan Heights with its apple orchards and rolling pastures. And the West Bank of the River Jordan, with its huge Palestinian population and its growing number of Jewish settlers, is still under Israeli military occupation.”

A similar lack of context and relevant background information is seen later on:

“There was the grim drumbeat of history to emphasise the difficulty of it all – the war of 1973, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the start of the first intifada, or Palestinian uprising in 1987.”

“Dayan, Weizman and Arafat are long dead and a lasting agreement seems almost as remote today as it did on the day when Israel’s tanks rumbled into Nablus back in 1967.”

But of course all this context-free portrayal of Israeli action and repeated erasing of any Palestinian or Arab actions is backdrop for Connolly’s core political take-away messaging.

“I brought footage from the BBC archives to show Raymonda – news reports from the late 1970s in which she appeared as a voice of the Palestinians of the West Bank warning that Jewish settlers would have to leave before there could be a chance of peace.

She watched the images of her younger self in thoughtful silence then said: “My God, the answers I’m giving are the same answers now. It hasn’t changed.””

Just as BBC audiences remain deprived of the information which would allow them to be truly “familiar with the history of the 1967 Middle East War”, they are also lacking the full range of information which would enable them to understand why “a chance of peace” remains elusive today. And as long as articles such as this one continue to promote politically motivated messaging by means of selective erasure of crucial parts of the story which hinder the BBC narrative, that will remain the case.

Related Articles:

The Six-Day War  (CAMERA)


BBC Radio 4 – contact details

BBC News website – contact details

How to Complain to the BBC


Differences in BBC coverage of migrants in Europe and in Israel

The August 21st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ included an item (from 34:00 here) in which, prompted by an article from Al Jazeera, participants discussed whether the people from the Middle East and Africa arriving in Europe should be called migrants or refugees.

Among those taking part in the discussion was the BBC’s head of newsgathering, Jonathan Munro, and from 40:00 listeners heard his view on the issue.WHYS migrants

“Well first of all, Ben, I think it’s a really important discussion to have and the language is really sensitive and it’s important to get it right. We’ve seen […] huge numbers of people moving; 40,000 through the Macedonia border for example this month alone, we think. The language that we use is…we’re perhaps not in the same place as Al Jazeera on this, though I think we are in the same sort of debate as they’ve been. I don’t think there’s anything wrong actually with using the word migrant and the word refugee. The vast majority of people that we’re seeing coming through those borders – whether on land or by sea – are both migrants and refugees. The issue […] is more about dehumanisation of people in the way we cover it, which isn’t just a language issue. When you’re seeing 40,000 people coming through over a period – a relatively short period of a number of weeks – what we’re hearing on our radios and seeing on our screens are images and sounds that portray the volume of people. And the way to dehumanise them is just to do that and the way to keep them human beings – and this is a much more important point it seems to me than the vocabulary – is to talk to them, to hear their stories as individuals, as human beings as opposed to as part of a trend. […] And it’s that humanity which is, you know, actually more important than vocabulary boundaries that some broadcasters might choose to put in place. We’re not in the game of saying certain words aren’t appropriate as long as they’re accurate and they reflect the story. The more important thing for us is to keep the human beings at the heart of it.”

Unfortunately, those sentiments and intentions have not always applied to the other side of the story – the people affected by sudden influxes of large numbers of migrants – in the BBC’s reporting on African migrants in Israel. Not only have BBC audiences never heard the points of view of the residents of places such as south Tel Aviv or Eilat but the BBC has used the subject matter of African migrants to actively promote the notion of Israel as a racist society.

“It’s a confluence of being non-Jewish and non-white which causes the vociferous hatred.”

In January 2014 Kevin Connolly told BBC audiences that:

“There’s a special factor, I think, in all of this in Israel which doesn’t really apply in other countries and that’s the fact that the government looks at non-Jewish immigration – legal or illegal – as a threat to the Jewish nature of the state. Israel was created specifically to be a Jewish state in the eyes of the Netanyahu government and anything which carries some sort of demographic threat to that identity in the long term, like the influx of non-Jewish African migrants, is seen as a threat to that special status. So Israel doesn’t just look at illegal immigration like this through the same prism as other countries like the countries of Western Europe or the United States; it also looks at it through that very particular prism and sees a very particular threat to its own nature.” 

No comparable ‘analysis’ was proffered to BBC audiences when, twenty months later, EU member state Slovakia said it would only take in Christian refugees from Syria. Whilst reporting on attacks on centres for asylum seekers in Germany, the BBC made sure to clarify that “[t]he attacks and protests horrify most Germans” and “most Germans have been welcoming to asylum seekers, but a small minority has been vocal in its opposition”.

Also in January 2014, BBC audiences were encouraged by Richard Galpin to view Israeli policies concerning migrants as going against international norms.

“So this is why we’re seeing these demonstrations now – the people are really concerned about what’s going to happen and feel now is the time that the international community needs to act so that the laws which the Israeli authorities are applying to people here, stopping them getting asylum effectively and trying to get them to leave Israel, that those laws are changed.”

No such suggestion appeared in BBC coverage of proposals by the UK government to imprison illegal workers and oblige landlords to evict tenants who are illegal immigrants and “the language that the politicians are using” does not appear to be an issue for the BBC when politicians are British.

Particularly interesting is a BBC report from July on changes in the approaches of the Danish, Norwegian and British governments to Eritrean migrants. Readers of that report were told that:

“A Danish Immigration Service report, from November 2014, suggested that Eritrea’s policy towards returnees had become more lenient. It was based on a fact-finding mission, but did not name its sources. […]

The report was criticised by Danish media and Human Rights Watch, which described it as “more like a political effort to stem migration than an honest assessment of Eritrea’s human rights situation”.”

Interestingly, in September 2014 when Human Rights Watch produced a report concerning Eritreans in Israel, the BBC did not make do with a one-sentence quote but published an entire article titled “Israel ‘coercing Eritreans and Sudanese to leave’” – the bulk of which was a rehashed version of HRW’s press release.

The subject of migrants and refugees is a very sensitive one wherever the story happens to take place and Jonathan Munro’s points are obviously relevant. So too, however, are the issues of consistency in BBC reporting, the avoidance of double standards dependent upon geography and the elimination of any underlying political agenda of the type all too often apparent in the BBC’s reporting on Israel’s attempts to deal with an issue now also affecting Europe.

Related Articles:

Variations in BBC portrayal of fences, walls and barriers


The BDS background the BBC avoids giving its audiences

Readers no doubt recall the BBC’s vigorous promotion of Michael Deas and his BDS agenda last month on radio, television and the internet.BDS Deas filmed

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part one

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part two

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part three

With Kevin Connolly having adopted the usual BBC policy of refraining from providing audiences with any meaningful information concerning the aims of the BDS movement in general and Deas’ BNC (BDS National Committee) in particular, a new report from the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Centre is especially useful.

Readers can find “The Role of the Palestinians in the BDS Campaign” here.


BDS background the BBC fails to report

Two recent reports by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly which once again amplified the messaging of the BDS campaign (see related articles below) referred obliquely to the Israeli company SodaStream.

On July 28th that company’s CEO, Daniel Birnbaum, testified to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. More information on the purpose and outcome of that hearing can be found here and here.

Mr Birnbaum’s testimony gives some insight into the attacks on his company by BDS campaigners – insight which BBC audiences are still lacking despite the corporation’s frequent promotion and mainstreaming of the subject.

Also appearing at the committee’s hearing was Professor Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University Law School.

It is of course long past time for the BBC to tell its audiences accurately and impartially what the BDS campaign is really about.

Related Articles:

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part two

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part three

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part three

In addition to the amplification of unchallenged anti-Israel messaging from Michael Deas (coordinator in Europe for the Palestinian BDS National Committee) already seen by BBC audiences on television and the website on July 21st and heard on the radio on July 23rd, an article by Kevin Connolly which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page for four consecutive days from July 23rd under the title “Israel looks for answers to boycott campaign” also featured Deas.Connolly BDS

Included in Connolly’s report is the film clip of Deas’ unchallenged monologue previously aired on television and promoted separately on the BBC News website. One hundred and sixty-six of the 1,100 words used in Connolly’s report are devoted to further amplification of Deas’ messaging also already seen on other platforms. Notably, despite its appearance in the embedded film clip, Connolly saw fit to further amplify Deas’ call to boycott all Israeli goods in the text of his article too, under the sub-heading “Beyond settlements”.

“The precise terms of the boycott are important.

Some groups want to target Israeli companies that are based in the West Bank – or those that export fruit and vegetables grown there.

Others, including Michael Deas, believe that doesn’t go far enough – and offers this reasoning: “The Palestinian call is for boycotting of all Israeli products.”

“We know some people… are only comfortable with boycotting products that come from settlements. That’s a position we can understand and can sympathise with,” he told the BBC.

“The problem is that Israeli companies… routinely lie about where their products are coming from, so the only safe way for people to avoid buying products from the settlements is not to buy Israeli products altogether.”

In other words, members of the BBC’s audience accessing a range of its content between July 21st and July 23rd 2015 were exposed on five occasions to the message that all Israeli products should be boycotted.

A photograph of workers at a winery appearing immediately after that section of the article is captioned:

“Boycott campaigners say purchasing produce from Jewish settlements helps reinforce Israel’s presence in the occupied West Bank”

Connolly’s report also includes the following quote from Deas, under the sub-heading “Colonialism charge”:

“Michael Deas, campaigns director of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) National Committee in London, clearly believes that the tide is running their way.

He argues: “There’s a growing fear inside Israel that it’s facing international isolation of the kind South Africa faced… it’s really interesting that after just 10 years the pressure that we are creating is forcing many ordinary Israelis to question whether Israeli… colonialism is sustainable in the long-term in its current form.””

Connolly of course has no way of verifying that latter spurious claim but he amplifies it anyway. He then goes on to write:

“Israelis regard the word “colonialism” as provocative in this context because it brackets the Zionist settlement of the Holy Land with the European takeovers of territory in Africa, Asia and elsewhere in previous centuries.

Israelis say they are reclaiming an ancient right to the land and shouldn’t therefore be seen as a chapter in the history of colonialism.”

Notably, Connolly makes no effort to independently explain to readers why – beyond what “Israelis say” – the politically motivated charge of ‘colonialism’ does not apply to the Jewish state and he refrains from pointing out that over half of Israel’s population has its roots in ancient Middle Eastern and North African Jewish communities.

Below that section of the article appears an archive photograph of anti-apartheid campaigners in London with the caption “Israel says comparisons with South Africa’s former apartheid regime are nothing more than a smear tactic”. Connolly makes no attempt however to clarify to readers that the BDS campaign’s use of the misnomer ‘apartheid’ in relation to Israel is rather more than just a “smear” and in fact is a deliberate attempt to brand Israel as an entity whose existence cannot be tolerated by the same ‘decent’ people whom Connolly describes as having been affected by the campaign against South African apartheid.

“…more importantly they made it a kind of litmus test of decency to refuse to buy fruit or wine from the Cape.

The precise economic effects may have been debatable but the political impact was significant – it sent a signal to the apartheid regime that it was not part of the global family of decent, developed nations.”

That, of course, is precisely the aim of the BDS campaign and hence it is all the more important for a broadcaster supposedly committed to providing its audiences with accurate and impartial information to clarify why loaded slogans such as ‘apartheid’ and ‘colonialist’ do not apply to Israel. To date, however, the BBC has refrained from doing so.

In addition to his promotion of the notion that the BDS campaign is gaining popular support through the use of phrases such as “the tide is running their way”, Connolly unquestioningly amplifies some of its unproven claims of achievement.

“But the BDS movement feels it can point to clear successes.

It believes it has forced the French infrastructure company, Veolia, to disinvest from the Israeli market through a kind of grassroots campaign asking for example local taxpayers in Europe to persuade their councils not to invest in the firm because it operated in Israeli settlements built on land captured in the war of 1967.”

Although he later half-heartedly adds an appropriate caveat, Connolly refrains from pointing out that Veolia’s business enterprises in human rights abusing Gulf states are of no concern to BDS campaigners.

“Veolia’s official press release at the time couched the decision to sell its businesses in Israel as part of a debt reduction strategy but BDS activists are in no doubt it was a win for them.”

Another photograph used to illustrate the article carries the caption “The Israeli firm SodaStream, which had a factory in the West Bank, was targeted in a high-profile boycott campaign in 2014”. SodaStream of course moved its factory from Mishor Adumim to the Negev for commercial reasons which predated the political campaign against it and not – as the inclusion of this photograph misleadingly implies – because of the BDS campaign.

Connolly’s article predictably includes the following BBC mantra:

“In most interpretations of international law of course – although not Israel’s – those settlements are illegal and are wanted for the construction of a Palestinian state.”

And after four and a half years stationed in Jerusalem, Connolly obviously refuses to understand that Israelis call Judea and Samaria by those titles because that it what they are called – and always were until the Jordanians invented the term ‘West Bank’ to try to justify their belligerent occupation and later unrecognized annexation of the region in 1948.

“One business which won’t be selling up or relocating under overseas political pressure is Yaakov Berg’s winery at Psagot in the hills of the West Bank – or Judea and Samaria as Yaakov prefers to call it, using the area’s biblical names to emphasise its ancient links with the Jews.”

Predictably, Connolly makes no effort to independently inform his readers of the real aims and motives of the BDS campaign and the little information on that topic comes from his Israeli interviewees.

“That’s the kind of reasoning which infuriates Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who sees calls for a boycott of Israel as anti-Semitic and argues that well-meaning people around the world are being misled by the BDS leaders.

“They don’t care about settlements and they don’t care about borders,” she told me, “All they care about is that Israel shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state.””

Similarly to his audio report on the same topic, Connolly closes with a prediction – in which campaigners trying to bring about an end to Jewish self-determination are whitewashed as “critics”.

“You can expect the calls for a boycott to be one of the major issues between Israel and its critics in the years to come.”

In common with the audio and filmed reports produced around the same time, this article by Connolly provides unchallenged amplification of messaging from Michael Deas, despite the obvious breach of editorial guidelines on impartiality caused by the failure to provide BBC audiences with objective information concerning the BDS campaign’s real aims.

Obviously, no media organization can honestly claim to be accurately and impartially covering a political campaign of any stripe if it consistently fails to tell its audiences to what that campaign really aspires. Like all their predecessors, these latest three chapters in the BBC’s superficial coverage of the BDS campaign exacerbate that ongoing failure.

Related Articles:

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part one

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part two


More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part two

In part one of this post we noted the BBC’s amplification of unchallenged, inaccurate, partial and context-free messaging from Michael Deas – the coordinator in Europe for the Palestinian BDS National Committee – on BBC television news and the BBC News website on July 21st.

Two days later, listeners to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ also got a dose of the BDS campaign’s propaganda when Deas cropped up again in an item (from 26:10 here) by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly. Presenter Eddie Mair introduced the segment as follows:BDS Deas PM

“A campaign to boycott Israeli products is claiming increasing success. It says it’s defending human rights. The Israeli government accuses it of antisemitism. Reporting for PM; our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly.”

Connolly: “Israel is under pressure, looking for ways to push back against growing calls around the world for a boycott of goods produced in the farms and factories of the West Bank – land it captured in the Middle East war of 1967 and which the wider world regards as occupied Palestinian territory.”

Refraining from reminding listeners that the area was in fact part of the region allocated by the League of Nations for the establishment of the Jewish national home before it was occupied by Jordan for 19 years or why the Six Day War broke out, against the backdrop of a song Connolly goes on:

“Reggae is not Israel’s only weapon, of course. But this song does emphasis one of its key points. How, when human rights are trampled in the four corners of the earth, does it find itself the target of such a well-organised and single-minded boycott campaign?”

Listeners next hear an unidentified voice say:

“There’s a growing fear inside Israel that it’s facing international isolation of the kind that South Africa faced under apartheid. So we saw about six months ago a hundred Israeli business leaders in Israel issuing an appeal on the front page of one of Israel’s biggest newspapers urging the Israeli government to take action to stem the tide of boycotts.”

Connolly then introduces his contributor:

“Michael Deas – campaigning director of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee in London – believes the tide on this issue is starting to run their way. The holy grail for the BDS movement is to impose on Israel the kind of damage once inflicted on white South Africa by anti-apartheid campaigners. And Michael Deas says it’s not enough to boycott goods that come from Israeli settlements on the West Bank; something more comprehensive is called for.”

Listeners hear Deas deliver the same messaging previously promoted on BBC television news and on the website.

“The Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel is for a boycott of all Israeli products. Now we know that some people and some organisations are really at the moment only comfortable boycotting products that come from settlements and that’s a position that we understand and can sympathise with. The problem is is [sic] the Israeli export companies that are exporting oranges and avocados, they routinely lie about where their products are coming from so the only safe way for people to avoid buying products from the settlements is not to buy Israeli products altogether.”

What listeners do not hear, however, is any accurate and impartial information concerning the BDS campaign’s real aims or its origins which would enable them to put Deas’ claims and messaging into their correct context.

Connolly moves on to ticking his impartiality box by bringing two Israelis into his item, beginning with an Israeli winemaker.

“The world looks very different to Ya’akov Berg – an Israeli winemaker whose family home sits in rolling vineyards on the West Bank – or Judea and Samaria as he prefers to call it. The Psagot winery’s corporate video, with Old Testament figures swirling across the landscape, makes a familiar Israeli point: that the land is theirs by biblical right and is not negotiable.”

Whilst some Israelis may indeed express such views, that of course is not the legal basis for Israeli claims to Judea and Samaria. But Connolly has already passed up on the opportunity to inform audiences of the fact that those regions were included in the Mandate for Palestine in 1922, preferring to blinker listeners with the notion of “Palestinian territory”.

After a few words from Mr Berg, listeners hear unidentified shouting and chanting: “One, two, three, four, occupation no more. Five, six, seven, eight….”. Connolly refrains from providing any information about that insert but it bears remarkable resemblance to an audio track he used in a January 2014 report  which covertly promoted the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s agenda regarding the Israeli company SodaStream and his ensuing words further suggest that the audio track was recycled from that report.

“The boycott movement is clearly starting to feel it’s working with the grain of history, pointing to companies moving out of the West Bank, apparently in response to political pressure overseas – although Israel can equally argue that major international companies like Microsoft and Apple are still investing.”

Connolly’s enthusiastic amplification of redundant BDS messaging of course leaves no room for listeners to be informed that the move of the SodaStream factory from Mishor Adumim to the Negev was prompted by financial agreements which pre-dated the BDS campaign’s targeting of the company.

“There’s another reason for the move to the Negev – a multi-million dollar subsidy the company is eligible for as a result of the move to Lehavim. In a deal signed in 2012, SodaStream agreed to build a production plant in the newly established Idan Hanegev Industrial Zone, with an estimated cost of NIS 280 million ($78 million). The plant is set to employ about 1,000 people, according to Ministry of the Economy documents. In return, SodaStream is set to receive a 20% subsidy, worth as much as NIS 60 million (nearly $16 million).” 

Connolly continues:

“But what about that question of whether a South Africa moment is looming? That point where ordinary consumers overseas see a ‘produce of Israel’ label on an avocado or a pomegranate and instinctively shy away. Israel’s deputy foreign minister Tsipi Hotovely says the boycott campaign’s comparison with apartheid is offensive and wrong.”

Listeners then hear seven sentences from Hotovely before Connolly sums up.

“In arguments about Israel it’s always hard to be sure if debate is changing people’s minds or just reinforcing the opinions they held anyway. Either way, you can be sure that for both sides, the boycott debate is one of the key battle grounds of the future.”

That, of course, should be all the more reason for the BBC to present the issue of the BDS campaign to its audiences accurately, impartially and comprehensively. But instead of providing them with the full range of information concerning that political campaign’s funding, origins, claims and aims, the BBC instead acts as its cheerleader by misleading audiences with presentation of the campaign as being connected to ‘human rights’ and whitewashing of its demonization and delegitimisation of Israel.

Moreover, the BBC’s unsubstantiated and unsourced inflation of the BDS campaign’s ‘success’ and its promotion of the notion that BDS is “growing” and  “working with the grain of history” clearly has the effect of mainstreaming the campaign into public consciousness and turning the BBC into a self-conscripted activist in this political crusade to bring about the demise of Jewish self-determination.

Is that really a place in which licence fee payers would like to see their national broadcaster?

Kevin Connolly’s BDS promotion and amplification did not, however, end there. More to come in part three of this post.  


BBC’s Kevin Connolly erases Iranian patronage of terror, distorts history

On July 19th an article by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Winds of change blow through Middle East“.Connolly Iran

Connolly’s basic premise is that the JCPOA signed by the P5+1 and Iran last week heralds a new era.

“This was a week of change though.

Once the US and Iran glared at each other across a chasm of values: where the Iranians saw themselves as champions of Shia communities and exporters of revolution the Americans saw only sponsorship of terrorism.

That may now begin to change although we don’t know how far or how fast that change will go.

Through the gloom of the current desert storms it is hard to know for sure what sort of Middle East will eventually emerge – but it is already clear that one of the strongest winds blowing in the region blows from Iran.”

On the way to that conclusion Connolly takes readers for a stroll through the last century of Middle East history, managing to make some significant omissions along the way. Going back to the end of the First World War, he states:

“With the Turks defeated in Jerusalem and Damascus and Sinai and Gaza there was a new world to be made.

Britain, mandated by the League of Nations to govern the Holy Land, could set about honouring its commitment to the Jews of the world to build a national home for them in Palestine – probably not guessing that the issues surrounding the promise would remain a potent source of violence and discord a century later.”

Yes, the British government had produced the Balfour Declaration in 1917 but Connolly misleads readers by failing to clarify that the establishment of the Jewish national home was not merely based on a pre-existing British commitment but in fact had its foundations in the legally binding unanimous decision of the fifty-one member countries of the League of Nations in 1922, which Great Britain was charged with administering and which the United Nations reaffirmed in 1946.

In relation to the Sykes-Picot agreement Connolly makes the following vague statement and links to an article from December 2013:

“Some historians have pointed out that the agreement conflicted with pledges already given by the British to the Hashemite leader Husayn ibn Ali, Sharif of Mecca, who was about to lead an Arab revolt in the Hejaz against the Ottoman rulers on the understanding that the Arabs would eventually receive a much more important share of the territory won.”

Connolly omits any mention of the fact that the Hussein-McMahon correspondence did not include Palestine, as Sir Henry McMahon himself pointed out in a letter to the Times in 1937.

McMahon letter Times

Later on in his article Connolly presents the following hypothesis:

“But we got a feel for some of the forces that will shape the new order in Vienna this week when the world’s great powers – the UN Security Council plus Germany – struck a deal with Iran.

The talks were convened of course to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions – and so they did.

But they were a kind of acknowledgement too of Iran’s status as a regional power – a sense that in effect nothing can be settled in the modern Middle East without the Iranians.”

Avoiding discussion of the obviously vital question of whether or not Iranian policy is really designed to ‘settle’ Middle East disputes and conflicts, he goes on to present the following attenuated portrayal of Iran’s fingers in the regional pie:

“Iran after all is the main force propping up the faltering Syria regime of Bashar al-Assad, and it is using Hezbollah, the militia it founded and funded in neighbouring Lebanon to bear the brunt of the fighting.

Iranian-backed Shia militias have been fighting in Iraq against Sunni extremists – often filling vacuums left by the country’s armed forces.

The Houthi rebels in Yemen too are part of this Iranian regional movement.”

Hizballah, of course, is not merely an Iranian proxy “militia” as Connolly leads readers to believe: it is an organization with a long history of terrorist and criminal activity both in the Middle East and much further afield. But Connolly’s whitewashing of Iranian patronage of terrorist organisations does not end there: he fails to make any mention of the theocratic regime’s material and ideological support for other terror groups such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Moreover, the extremist religious ideologies which are the foundations of the Iranian regime itself and the reason behind its patronage of Shia and Sunni terrorist organisations are portrayed by Connolly in markedly muted terms.

“Iran is the great power in the world of Shia Islam, just as Saudi Arabia would see itself as the leader of those who follow the Sunni tradition.

There are plenty of small wars in which their proxy armies fight each other in what sometimes feels like a looming regional confessional conflict.”

In other words, a BBC Middle East correspondent who has been located in the region for over four and a half years would have audiences believe that hostilities rooted in religious doctrines may be (perhaps; he’s not quite decided) just around the corner.

As long as Connolly and his colleagues continue to downplay Iranian sponsorship of terrorist groups motivated by religious ideology BBC audiences will obviously be unable to fully comprehend the reservations voiced by many in the Middle East concerning the “winds of change” bolstered by the terms of the JCPOA agreement or to fully understand the “international issues” likely to develop as a result.

Related Articles:

BBC’s summary of Khamenei speech censors pledge to support terror

No wonder BBC WS presenter Razia Iqbal got Iranian threat to Israel wrong

Kevin Connolly continues the BBC’s amplification of anti-Israel delegitimisation

In addition to the promotion and amplification of the Palestinian Authority’s latest politically motivated attempt to undermine Israel’s legitimacy in international fora which already appeared on the BBC website on May 4th and 20th and on BBC World Service radio on May 21st, the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly produced two further reports on the same topic.

On May 28th a filmed report produced by Connolly for BBC television news programmes also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinians push for Israel football suspension“. The synopsis to that report includes clear signposting for BBC audiences:Connolly FIFA filmed

“The Palestinian Football Association is asking Fifa to suspend Israel from world football, just as it once suspended apartheid South Africa and Slobodan Milosevic’s Yugoslavia.

The PFA says the Israeli FA has violated rules relating to racism, players’ free movement and where clubs are based.” [emphasis added]

Connolly’s film opens with uncredited footage accompanied by the following narration.

“On the West Bank in occupied Palestinian territory, a routine arrest. But the Palestinian man being detained by Israeli soldiers here is Farouk Assi – a football referee on his way to take charge of a game. He never made it. The Palestinian presentation to FIFA demanding Israel’s suspension from world football also includes video of these troops arriving at the Palestinian FA headquarters. The charge: the Israeli occupation is strangling the Palestinian game.”

Viewers are not informed that the footage they are shown dates from September 2014 or that it was not filmed by the BBC but by a Palestinian film crew which apparently just happened to be conveniently on hand when a football referee travelling from Ramallah to Jericho was detained at a checkpoint.

Connolly’s report then cuts to the PFA president Jibril Rajoub.

“I would like to see the Israeli Football Association coming up with a clear-cut statement denouncing such behaviors [sic] but unfortunately the Israeli federation is not more than plastic surgeon for the ugly face of the racist [unintelligible] Israeli occupation.”

After an interview with Israeli footballer Yossi Benayoun, Connolly’s narration continues.

“But part of the Palestinian case is that teams from Jewish settlements on these occupied territories play in the Israeli league in breach of FIFA rules.”

Here, for a second time in a matter of minutes, we see Connolly’s adoption and promotion of the Palestinian narrative through the use of the politically partial term “occupied territories”. No attempt is made to clarify to viewers that all “Jewish settlements” are in fact located in Area C which more than two decades ago the representatives of the Palestinian people agreed would be under Israeli control until final status negotiations were completed.

Connolly continues:

“Israel, which staged the UEFA under-21 final at this stadium only two years ago, says the move against it at FIFA is part of a broader political campaign and not really about sport at all.”

Connolly refrains from informing viewers that Jibril Rajoub also tried to get that event cancelled and yet again we see that the topic of the affiliations of some Palestinian footballers to terrorist organisations is not mentioned in the BBC’s version of the story. Moreover, as was the case in previous BBC coverage, audiences do not get to hear an official Israeli response to the accusations amplified by the BBC.

It is, however, quite clear from his closing remarks that Kevin Connolly is fully aware of the tactics and strategies which lie behind Jibril Rajoub’s latest agitprop.

“The Palestinian strategy is internationalization – that’s bringing grievances against Israel to different global arenas. It is a new phase in an old diplomatic conflict. And for now it’s the fate of Israeli football that hangs in the balance.”

The same awareness of what really lies behind the subject matter of this story was also apparent in Owen Bennett Jones’ introduction (from 06:00 here) to Connolly’s audio report on the same topic, broadcast on May 29th on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’.Connolly FIFA audio

OBJ: “Well, FIFA delegates will also be deciding whether Israel should be suspended from world football. The vote is part of a Palestinian strategy of internationalization; bringing grievances into as many global arenas as possible.”

Connolly opened that report with a description of the same footage used in his earlier filmed report.

KC: “We’re in the West Bank, near Ramallah, and Palestinian Farouk Assi is under arrest. Blindfolded, handcuffed and told to shut up by the Israeli soldiers who surround him. Palestine TV is on hand to film the arrest. This is not a rare event but Mr Assi was a football referee on his way to a match in Jericho which had to be abandoned because he was detained. Now the video is part of a Palestinian presentation to FIFA, designed to have Israel suspended over incidents like this. The Palestinian FA official Jibril Rajoub is spearheading the campaign.

Rajoub: “I am going to FIFA to ask to end the suffering of the Palestinian footballers, to end the humiliation.”

Connolly: “But the reality is that the policies you’re talking about are carried out by the Israeli army or Israeli intelligence agencies and not carried out by the Israeli Football Association.”

Rajoub: “You are right. I would like to see the Israeli Football Association coming up with a clear-cut statement denouncing such behaviors [sic].”

Once again, no effort was made by Connolly to provide listeners with the necessary background information which would help them understand why the Israeli army and intelligence services should be interested in the activities of people such as Mahmoud Sarsak or Omar Abu Rois. And whilst Connolly again interviewed Israeli footballer Yossi Benayoun along with former Israeli diplomat Alan Baker, neither of those interviewees represent an official Israeli response.

As readers may be aware, in the end Jibril Rajoub withdrew his original motion from the FIFA agenda – for the time being at least and much to the chagrin of many. Interestingly, there has to date been no coverage of that development in the story on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

The outstanding feature of all the BBC’s coverage of this latest Palestinian attempt to delegitimize Israel in the international arena is of course that – in common with its coverage of stories relating to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – the corporation has on the one hand failed to adequately explain to its audiences the political motivations lying behind the move whilst simultaneously giving uncritical and unqualified amplification to spurious labels such as “racism” and “apartheid”.

That editorial policy makes the BBC a self-conscripted partner in the carefully orchestrated campaign to portray Israel as an entity which no right-minded person can countenance and that of course is an issue upon which the publicly funded broadcaster must be held to account.