Blatant political messaging in BBC report on Cairo donor conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cairo conf art graphic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knell Cairo conf art pic

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

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

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

 

BBC’s Bowen promotes BDS in ‘analysis’ of Commons vote

As readers are no doubt aware, fewer than half of the MPs making up the lower house of the British parliament took part in a vote on a non-binding motion to recognise a Palestinian state on October 13th.

Whilst the motion does nothing to change UK government policy, those who have perused the transcript of the debate would no doubt be struck by the appalling ignorance and distortion of facts voiced by some of the elected representatives of the British public in a debate which – with context-free references, for example, to “punitive restrictions on Palestinian movement” and “the construction of an illegal annexation wall through Palestinian land” – at times (and perhaps not coincidentally) bore resemblance to some of the BBC’s more egregious content.

Following that parliamentary debate, the BBC’s Middle East Editor appeared on television news to ‘analyse’ the issue for audiences. The item was also promoted on the BBC News website’s UK Politics and Middle East pages.Bowen filmed Commons vote

Bowen: “It’s symbolic because Britain is still important in the Middle East. Britain is a member of the [UN] Security Council. Other Western members of the Security Council haven’t recognized an independent State of Palestine and of course Britain doesn’t intend to at the moment either. But the fact that the…the parliament in this country is pushing for it is something that the Israelis do not like and it’s something that the Palestinians are going to be cock-a-hoop about. Because their whole diplomatic strategy in recent times has been trying to carve out…eh…a sort of virtual independence – even if they don’t have actual independence – by moves at the UN, trying to join international organisations and a country of Britain’s stature – and Britain’s historic role in the Middle East as well – doing this is something which they will like very much. The Israelis have lobbied against this – they believe that everything should go through a bi-lateral negotiation. However, there isn’t one at the moment: that’s the so-called peace process. Doesn’t exist right now.”

Notably, Bowen refrained from informing BBC audiences that the reason the peace process “doesn’t exist right now” is because the last round of talks was curtailed by the PA’s decision to form a unity government with a terrorist organization which rejects Israel’s right to exist and just weeks later initiated a seven-week war with Israel. He continued:

“And the Israelis of course continue to build their settlements – illegal under international law – in occupied land and that’s something that the Palestinians say is a unilateral action by them.

As usual, no attempt was made to conform to BBC guidelines on impartiality by informing audiences that differing legal opinions on that topic also exist and hence BBC audiences were once more deliberately misled.

Not unpredictably, Bowen then went on to give some free publicity to what has emerged in recent months as one of his most frequently plugged causes.

“So I think what we’re seeing at the moment is a change in the shape of the conflict; a change as well in the way that the diplomacy around it is evolving. And also moves like this will do other things that will strengthen other…other….vestiges of it. There is this move to try to boycott and divest and sanction Israel. I think they will be encouraged by that and the Israelis are more and more worried about that as well.”

As we see, Jeremy Bowen’s provision of promotion and publicity for the BDS campaign continues – see previous examples in ‘related articles’ below. With absolutely no effort having been made by the BBC to date to clarify to its audiences that the BDS movement is a major actor in the anti-peace campaign which seeks to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish state to the point of extinction, the majority of viewers of this item will have been unable to appreciate the redundant nature of Bowen’s suggestion that the ‘one-stater’ advocates of the BDS campaign will be “encouraged” by the passing of a motion which was defined by its supporters “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution”. Those viewers would therefore also be unable to recognize the gratuitous nature of Bowen’s irrelevant shoe-horning of the BDS campaign into the topic under discussion.

As this example once again shows very clearly, Bowen’s repeated promotion of the BDS campaign on assorted BBC platforms can only be viewed as inappropriate and unacceptable exploitation of his position to advance his own political views.

Related Articles:

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

Bowen again promotes BDS in three separate BBC programmes

 

 

BBC fails to provide essential background to Commons vote on recognition of Palestinian state

On October 11th the BBC News website’s UK Politics page included an article titled “MPs to vote on recognising Palestine as a state“. Both the caption to the photograph illustrating the article and its opening sentence inform readers that the vote is “historic”.MPs to vote

“MPs will take part in an historic vote calling for the recognition of Palestine as a state”

“MPs are to take part in an historic vote in Parliament that will call on the government to recognise Palestine as a state.

Labour backbencher Grahame Morris will present the motion on Monday as MPs return to the Commons.

The motion has the full backing of the Labour shadow cabinet, the BBC has been told.”

Curiously, the vote quickly moves from “historic” to “symbolic”.

“The vote is symbolic and would not change government policy but could have international implications.”

Later on in the report, under the subheading “Swedish move”, readers are reassuringly told:

“The vote comes amid moves elsewhere in Europe to recognise Palestine officially.

Sweden’s new centre-left government announced last week that it intends to officially recognise Palestine as a state, becoming the first long-term European Union member state to do so.

It will join more than 100 other countries that have already recognised Palestinian statehood.

A spokesman for the French foreign ministry said this week that recognition would be a positive step at some point in the future.”

A previous BBC article from October 3rd on the topic of the announcement by the new Swedish prime minister is promoted at the bottom of this report and in the sidebar of ‘related stories’. As was also the case in that superficial report (which failed to make any mention of the past anti-Israel activities of some members of the new Swedish cabinet or of that country’s history of financing anti-Israel NGOs), this one concerning the UK vote makes no attempt to inform BBC audiences of the implications and significance of such a move.

No mention is made of the fact that one party to the current Palestinian Unity Government is a terrorist organization designated by the EU with a private militia which is additionally proscribed by the UK. Readers are not informed of the fact that despite a pledge to abide by all existing agreements with Israel, that unity government has failed to do so since its inauguration on June 2nd and yet has remained unaccountable for that failure in the international arena.

The BBC’s report does inform readers that:

“Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, writing on the LabourList blog, said: “This conflict will only be resolved ultimately by both sides engaging in a negotiated peace process towards that two state solution.””

It does not, however, bother to clarify that Hamas is not a member of the body with which Israel conducts negotiations – the PLO – or that it rejects the concept of a two-state solution and that its raison d’etre is the destruction of the Jewish state.

British MPs may well elect to take the step of recognizing a state with an internationally designated terror organization which seeks to destroy its neighbour (a UK ally) party to its current government. They may decide that it is acceptable to recognize a state in which the official security forces are outmatched by a much stronger terrorist militia backed by countries (Iran and Qatar) which fund terror throughout the Middle East and which, as we saw only this last summer, is capable of dragging that government into conflict as and when its own (or its backers’) interests dictate. British MPs should, however, be frank about their motives and ought not to be allowed to pretend that they are doing so in the interests of ‘peace’.

The people those MPs represent (most of whom are of course also BBC licence fee payers) are clearly in need of – and entitled to – the full range of information concerning the background to this issue if they are to be able to make their views on the subject known to their elected representatives before Monday’s vote.

As we have seen in both the previous BBC article about the Swedish move and in this one, the BBC has failed to provide its funders with that information.

Superficial BBC report on Swedish decision to recognise Palestinian state

On October 3rd the BBC News website published an article titled “Sweden to recognise Palestinian state“. The report, which appeared on both the website’s Europe and Middle East pages, can be divided into two parts with the first relating to the announcement itself made by the new Prime Minister Stefan Löfven during his inaugural address in the Swedish parliament.Sweden art

“Sweden is to “recognise the state of Palestine”, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has said, the first long-term EU member country to do so.

“The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution,” he said during his inaugural address in parliament.

It should be “negotiated in accordance with international law”, he said. […]

“A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful co-existence. Sweden will therefore recognise the state of Palestine,” Mr Lofven said on Friday, without giving a timeline for the recognition.”

The second part of the article supposedly provides background information on the topic to BBC audiences but fails to point out the inbuilt contradictions in Mr Löfven’s statement.

“In 1988, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat unilaterally declared a Palestinian state within the pre-June 1967 lines.

This won recognition from about 100 countries, mainly Arab, Communist and non-aligned states – several of them in Latin America.

The 1993 Oslo Accord between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel led to mutual recognition. However, two decades of on-off peace talks have since failed to produce a permanent settlement.”

The Algiers Declaration of 1988 actually refrained from defining the unilaterally declared state’s borders and made no mention of “pre-June 1967 lines” as claimed by the BBC.

“The Palestine National Council, in the name of God, and in the name of the Palestinian Arab people, hereby proclaims the establishment of the State of Palestine on our Palestinian territory with its capital Jerusalem (Al-Quds Ash-Sharif).”

Notably, the BBC (like the new Swedish prime minister, apparently) side-steps the very relevant issue of Hamas’ being a party to the current Palestinian Unity Government despite its refusal to renounce terrorism and recognize Israel and the fact that it is not a member of the body which signed the Oslo Accords – the PLO.

Additionally, this BBC report notably fails to remind audiences that during the last round of negotiations the PLO continued to refuse to recognize Israel as the Jewish state. That omission will not come as a surprise to regular BBC watchers: throughout the entire nine-month period of negotiations in 2013/14, the corporation refrained from providing its audiences with the comprehensive background information necessary for them to understand the significance of that Palestinian refusal. Notably too, one of the articles offered to readers in the “related stories” section at the side and bottom of this report is Yolande Knell’s inaccurate article from February 2014 titled “Row over demand for Palestinians to recognise Israel as ‘Jewish state'” in which the issue was misrepresented (in line with PA campaigning at the time) as a new demand on the part of Israel designed to scupper the talks.

If BBC audiences are to reach informed opinions regarding the statement made by the new Swedish prime minister, they are obviously in need of vital context which the BBC has to date failed to provide. 

 

Unqualified amplification of Abbas’ ‘genocide’ agitprop on BBC News website

If – as one sincerely hopes is the case – it can be assumed that BBC staff are sufficiently well-informed to be able to recognize Mahmoud Abbas’ inaccurate and repeated use of the term ‘genocide’ to describe this summer’s conflict in his recent speech at the UNGA as nothing more than the agitprop that it is, then one must necessarily ask why BBC editors considered it appropriate to plaster that and additional defamation on the pages of the BBC News website.

Abbas UNGA on HP

Click to enlarge

One must also ask why the September 27th article titled “Palestinian leader accuses Israel of ‘genocide’ at UN” makes no effort to clarify to readers that the accusation amplified in its headline and in the body of the report is entirely baseless and that Abbas’ additional accusations of “war crimes” have not been proven in any legal forum.Abbas UNGA art

The BBC’s report on Abbas’ polemical speech is highly selective, dealing only with specific parts of its content.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israel of carrying out a “war of genocide” in Gaza in his speech at the UN General Assembly.

Mr Abbas said Israeli “war crimes” in Gaza should be punished, but stopped short of saying he would take the issue to the International Criminal Court.” […]

“Mr Abbas said the scale of damage in Gaza was unprecedented and surpassed that of earlier wars.

“This last war against Gaza was a series of absolute war crimes carried out before the eyes and ears of the entire world, moment by moment,” he told the UN General Assembly in New York.

He added that it was “impossible” to return to negotiations with Israel that did not address what he called “fundamental questions”.

“There is no meaning or value in negotiations for which the agreed objective is not ending the Israeli occupation and achieving the independence of the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital on the entire Palestinian Territory occupied in the 1967 war,” he said.” […]

The Palestinian leader also said the “hour of independence of the state of Palestine” had arrived. He added that he would be seeking a UN Security Council resolution on a two-state solution, but gave no time frame.”

Notably, the BBC ignored Abbas’ delusional and embarrassingly uninformed claim that the “devastation” in Gaza is “unmatched in modern times”. It erased from audience view his hallucinatory allegations concerning Jerusalem and the Al Aqsa mosque and – perhaps most significantly – Abbas’ references to “our national struggle established by the Palestinian fedayeen […] in early 1965″ and “Al-Nakba of 1948″ which clearly indicate that his interpretation of the causes of the conflict (and its solutions) does not begin in 1967. That point is of course critical to proper understanding of the rest of Abbas’ speech, including the short sections which the BBC did elect to report.

The BBC is of course perfectly entitled to report inaccurate and misleading allegations and claims made by Mahmoud Abbas or anyone else. What it is not at liberty to do is to mislead audiences by failing to provide them with the relevant factual information which would enable them to put falsehoods amplified by the BBC into their correct context.

Dumbed down BBC reporting on the Palestinian Unity Government continues

September 25th saw the appearance of an article titled “Hamas and Fatah agree unity government’s return to Gaza” on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.PUG art

The report opens with the specious suggestion that the reason that the Palestinian Unity Government which came into being on June 2nd has not brought the Gaza Strip under its authority to date is the conflict between Israel and Hamas which began 36 days after that government’s inauguration (and which it did nothing to prevent) rather than internal Hamas-Fatah disagreements.

“Palestinian negotiators in Cairo say they have agreed a “comprehensive” deal for a national unity government to take responsibility for running Gaza.

A cabinet backed by Hamas and Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, was unveiled in June.

But the move was eclipsed by Israel’s conflict with militant groups in Gaza.”

The article continues:

“The territory has been governed by Hamas, which won the last parliamentary elections in 2006, since it ousted forces loyal to the PA in 2007.

The PA was left to run parts of the occupied West Bank not under Israeli control.”

Readers are not informed that the electoral mandate won by Hamas in 2006 long since expired and elections to the PLC are long overdue. Neither is it made clear that what the BBC euphemistically describes as Hamas having “ousted” the PA was in fact a violent coup. Likewise, the fact that PA control over Areas A and B is a product of agreements between Israel and the PA is not adequately clarified to readers. The article continues:

“Earlier this month, PA President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas of operating a “shadow government” in Gaza. Hamas denied the claim, calling it “against the reality”.”

No effort is made to enable BBC audiences to place that Hamas denial in its correct context by informing them that, despite the establishment of the unity government on June 2nd, Hamas continued to run ministries such as the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Information – both of which played active roles during the recent conflict.

Next, readers are provided with the following analysis from Kevin Connolly:

“The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says bringing unity between Hamas and Fatah is a strategic aspiration for the Palestinians – but differences between the factions are bitter and profound.

The new deal is described as “comprehensive”, but not enough detail is being published to allow a real judgement on its prospects, our correspondent adds.”

In line with the BBC’s policy since the beginning of June, Connolly fails to clarify to readers that – despite the placatory assurances at the time of its inauguration – the PUG has failed to live up to the PA’s existing agreements with Israel on various issues, including the disarming of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. Connolly apparently does not consider it relevant to inform audiences about crucial clauses in those existing agreements such as the ban on local weapons manufacture and import.

Later on, the report states:

“However, a Hamas official told the Associated Press that there were still disagreements over who should be responsible for paying civil servants in Gaza, and whether the PA’s own security forces would be allowed a significant presence in the territory. He described the deal as “partial”.” [emphasis added]

Despite that very clear writing on the wall, the BBC obviously does not see the necessity of making audiences aware of the fact that if Hamas and other terrorist organisations are not disarmed by the PUG and the territory not brought under the sole control of PA security forces, then the Gaza Strip – along with the rest of the PA-controlled areas – will find itself in a ‘Lebanon-style’ situation whereby the actions of a foreign-sponsored terrorist organization can continue to spark conflict whenever that suits its own (or its sponsors’) agenda.

Additionally, the obviously relevant topic of the recent exposure of a planned Hamas coup against the PA is once again ignored by the BBC in this report.

Nearly four months since the Palestinian Unity Government came into existence, the BBC has still not met its obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues” by providing audiences with anything more than superficial reporting on the topic. That failure clearly not only hampers audiences’ ability to understand current events, but also means that they will be ill-equipped to comprehend any future developments. 

How BBC News transformed the PUG into a Cheshire Cat

One very notable feature in the BBC’s coverage of the recent conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip was the fact that the Palestinian Unity Government (PUG) suddenly disappeared from the corporation’s reporting rather like the Cheshire Cat in the Alice in Wonderland story. Concurrently, the roles played by Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in the run-up to the hostilities and throughout them were heavily censored in BBC reports.Cat

As readers no doubt recall, the weeks preceding Operation Protective Edge saw generous, enthusiastic and yet very superficial coverage of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal which was announced on April 23rd 2014 – see examples here, here and here.  

On June 2nd the Palestinian Unity Government was sworn in and the previous Hamas government in the Gaza Strip stepped down. Again, BBC coverage was positive yet simplistic and it notably refrained from informing audiences of the significance of the failure to disarm Hamas as part of the reconciliation deal. 

Ten days later on June 12th three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in Gush Etzion by what we now know to be a Hamas financed terror cell from Hebron. The BBC’s coverage of the search and rescue operations between the kidnappings and the discovery of the boys’ bodies on June 30th completely ignored the aspect of Hamas calls to the local population to instigate rioting to hamper the operations as well as the many inflammatory statements made by Hamas, Fatah and the PA in support of the kidnappings.

BBC reporting on the escalation in missile fire from the Gaza Strip beginning on June 12th was patchy and what reporting there was failed to clarify to BBC audiences that the Gaza Strip was by then under the control of the PA unity government meaning that the PA’s existing agreements with Israel (with which the PA had assured the world the unity government would comply) were being breached.

After the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th the BBC erased the existence of the Palestinian Unity Government entirely from its reporting on the Gaza Strip, instead using the standard formulation “Hamas, which controls Gaza” – see examples here, here and here. Notably, not one BBC report out of the hundreds produced during the seven weeks of conflict informed BBC audiences that Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades had taken part in missile fire from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilian targets and had also claimed responsibility for the use of live fire during rioting in Qalandiya. 

Another topic which did not get any BBC coverage at all was the August 18th discovery of a planned Hamas coup against the Palestinian Authority. In addition, there has been no BBC follow-up regarding claims that Hamas attacked and in some cases killed members of Fatah during the conflict under the pretense of ‘collaboration’. Since the August 26th ceasefire came into effect the Palestinian Authority’s security agencies have arrested dozens of Hamas supporters and assorted public accusations have been flying in both directions.

But remarkably, after weeks of hiatus, the Palestinian Unity Government suddenly made a reappearance in BBC content in a September 7th report on the BBC News website titled “Abbas warns Hamas on unity deal“. In that article BBC audiences are told:Abbas PUG

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned Hamas it must change the way it operates in Gaza if it wants to continue in a unity government.

Mr Abbas criticised the “shadow government of 27 deputy ministers” running Gaza, insisting that there must be “one regime”. […]

Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Fatah – Mr Abbas’s faction that dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority – had been embroiled in years of bitter rivalry until signing a reconciliation deal in April.

Hamas’s government officially stepped down when the unity cabinet took office in Ramallah on 2 June, but it remains in de facto control of Gaza.

Much of the unity agreement has yet to be put into effect.”

Three months earlier on June 4th the BBC News website had reported that:

“US Secretary of State John Kerry has rejected Israeli criticism of his recognition of the new Palestinian government formed by Fatah and Hamas.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that he was “deeply troubled” by the decision.

But during a visit to Lebanon, Mr Kerry noted the ministers were independent technocrats and insisted that they would be watched “very closely”.” […]

“We are going to be watching it very closely, as we have said from day one, to make absolutely ensure that it upholds each of those things that it has talked about, that it doesn’t cross the line.”

Both the UN and EU have welcomed the new government, on the basis of the assurances that it will abide by its commitments of recognition of Israel, non-violence and adherence to previous agreements.”

And:

“Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said his cabinet was committed to all previous agreements with Israel and would continue “programmes of peace” aimed at establishing an independent Palestinian state.”

Obviously the PUG’s commitments to “all previous agreements with Israel” have not been met during the three months of its existence and the above statements from the US Secretary of State, the UN, the EU and PUG PM Rami Hamdallah turned out to be worthless platitudes. Any serious news organization would be looking for answers from the people who voiced those commitments and engaging in a serious examination of the performance of the Palestinian Unity Government – as well as the actions of Fatah and the PA during recent weeks – rather than making the PUG intermittently appear and disappear from the picture presented to audiences according to whatever particular political message it chooses to promote at the time. 

 

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour': insights into presenter intervention on inaccurate claims

Readers may have seen this video doing the rounds on the internet. It is taken from the August 20th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ presented by Owen Bennett-Jones. The programme included two interviews; one with Israel’s Minister of the Economy Naftali Bennett and one with Husam Zomlot who is the executive deputy commissioner for Fatah’s commission for international affairs, a former member of the PLO’s diplomatic mission in London, a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Center for Middle East Studies, a former UN employee and a member of the Oxford Research Group. He is also fairly frequently interviewed by the international media – including the BBC.Newshour 20 8 WS

These two interviews provide some interesting insight not just by way of the responses to Bennett-Jones’ questions, but also from the point of view of the wording of some of his own questions and statements and from observation of the occasions on which the presenter considers it essential to intervene in order to correct a mistaken impression given to listeners – and the many more frequent occasions on which he does not. The interviews can be found here, beginning at 31:59. Bennett-Jones’ questions to Naftali Bennett include the following revealing statements.

“Do you consider the land on which Palestinians are living – and have lived, of course, for centuries – to be Jewish land?”

Whilst some Palestinians may indeed have lived in Judea & Samaria “for centuries”, the UN’s definition of Palestinian refugees means that is by no means necessarily the case – but Owen Bennett-Jones makes no effort to clarify that point to listeners.

“Palestine refugees are defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” 

Later on, Bennett-Jones misleads audiences with the all too prevalent BBC myth of “’67 borders”.

“But your areas would be within the ’67 borders, would it? You’re not trying to make occupied land into Israeli and, are you?”

Later still, he appears to have fallen into the equally frequently seen double trap of ignoring the San Remo resolution and the Mandate for Palestine whilst at the same time pretending that the 1947 UN Partition Plan has some sort of legal significance.

“Yeah but the reason I asked you, you know, how you see the borders of Jewish land is that I think, you know, most people in the international community would think that the UN vote establishing Israel was the legitimate basis for Israel.”

Towards the end of his conversation with Naftali Bennet, Owen Bennett-Jones proposes the following theory for Western politicians’ approach to radical political Islam in the Middle East.

“Well there is an alternative interpretation of what they [Western politicians] think. They may think that peace in the Middle East – some sort of settlement in which the Palestinian people did have their aspirations fulfilled – would be a constructive start towards building a post-conflict society in which people could live together. They may think like that.”

Naftali Bennett’s reply is as follows:

“I can’t believe you’ve actually asked that. Do you think anything we do in Israel would affect ISIS, would affect Al Qaeda, al Nusra? Do you think these guys really want peace? Have you not been listening to them for the past year and a half? They’re talking about a Caliphate in the whole world and you have to face up and fight this sort of terror; not try and appease them and certainly not at the expense of Israel. Well I can tell you we’re not going to be the sacrificial lamb of the world in the hope of appeasing radical Islam. They kill reporters and behead them: that’s what we’re facing in this area. We expect the world’s support fighting these guys.”

Bennett-Jones then moves on to his next interviewee, Husam Zomlot, who appears to have a problem putting history in its correct sequence, although Bennett-Jones obviously does not see the need to interject. [emphasis added]

Zomlot: “If we go back to the biblical times and the biblical explanations, the map of the world, Owen, will be totally and utterly different – including England and most of Europe as you know. And if we go even further and go back to the Roman time, this is as you know and as you have just asked your…erm…your interviewer, nonsense to start with. I believe it all talks about a bunch of ideologues, purists, exclusivists [sic] brains and mind-sets in Israel right now that are calling the shots. And you have asked him all the right questions I have to say and he answered all the right answers in his own mind. He is not defending Israel proper. He is defending Israel’s expansion, Israel’s colonialism, Israel’s occupation, Israel’s siege. And in his mind, and he believes so, that we do not even deserve to have basic rights and therefore they are fabricating all these stories about beheading journalists somewhere in Iraq, about Palestine and the nation that has been….

Having quietly sat through inaccurate claims of Israeli “expansion”, “colonialism” and “siege”, Owen Bennett-Jones at that point sees the need to interrupt.

“Well hang on: that’s not…that’s not fabricated – that just happened.”

Zomlot carries on:

“It happened somewhere else – in Iraq – as if they are fabricating also the story of the Holocaust that it happened in Europe. Not the story itself, but the reason why they are doing this and using so many other examples to justify their murder of a nation that has been in a quest for self-determination and basic rights; that’s what I mean.”

Bennett-Jones apparently sees no need to clarify his guest’s reference to “fabricating also the story of the Holocaust”. Zomlot himself – a PhD graduate from a London university and therefore presumably a person with a reasonable command of the English language – later claimed that his words were misconstrued and that Bennett-Jones’ introduction of another question prevented him from fully explaining his point.

OBJ: “Let’s just be clear about this. What he [Naftali Bennett] is saying is that Palestinians can live on that land but he is anxious that there will be a tax on the Jewish people so he doesn’t feel that it is appropriate or safe or sensible for the Jewish people to allow the Palestinians to have weapons and the ability to destroy Israel.”

HZ: “Yeah, but that’s like the chicken and the egg. What comes first? Does it…is it their occupation that provoke some of these acts or is it really that we Palestinians are violent by nature? That it’s our violence that provokes their occupation? And I beg to differ, sir, and I beg to say that it’s actually their military occupation, their siege, their colonisation, their daily theft of our resources and land and their daily murder of our families and babies and women. “

As a member of Fatah, Zomlot is no doubt well aware that his organisation came into being long before any “occupation” existed. Owen Bennett-Jones obviously did not see fit to enlighten listeners with that snippet of relevant information or with the fact that it was the combined violence perpetrated by Egypt, Syria and Jordan in June 1967 which brought about Israeli control of the Gaza Strip and Judea & Samaria.  Zomlot continues:

“So…eh…eh…eh…”

OBJ: “Yeah.”

HZ: “…if you really want to put the horse before the cart we can discuss till the morning. I believe your question was the right question: should they end their occupation, should they be in line with international consensus and international legitimacy and then we discuss security matters. Israel is dealing with the whole situation from a security point of view because they are not interested in the political issues.”

OBJ: “I think the point that the Israelis would make is that when they did pull out of Gaza and took some settlements out of Gaza, it didn’t solve any problems for them. It’s actually got worse.”

HZ: “Well of course because they pulled out of Gaza to lay siege on the people of Gaza for all these years and turn Gaza into the dark ages. There are no basic goods and commodities and that’s why the people of Gaza has to act in dignity and dig underneath to provide for their babies. So the Israelis haven’t left Gaza for a political breakthrough. They left Gaza to besiege it and to finish off their job in the West Bank and Jerusalem.”

No effort is made by Owen Bennett-Jones to challenge Zomlot’s inaccurate presentation; to point out that there is no such thing as a “siege” on Gaza, that “basic goods and commodities” are freely available there and that the reason for restrictions on Israel’s borders with the Gaza Strip is the terrorism emanating from that territory and the weapons smuggled into it. Zomlot continues:

“And this is exactly what Bennett has just confirmed. My friend; what we are facing now is a situation whereby they call the shots in Israel. The deciders in Israel are not interested in a political solution. They want the land and they want the people of the land – the original people, the natives, the Palestinians – out.  Whether besieged in Gaza, whether cycled by walls in the West Bank, whether slowly driven out or even – if they can – another ethnic cleansing like they did in 1948.”

Not a peep is heard from Owen Bennett-Jones despite Zomlot’s inaccurate and defamatory claim of “ethnic cleansing”.

HZ: “This is the situation. They are using negotiations as a tactic, wars as a tactic. They are buying time as they did in Cairo only yesterday. They abruptly…”

OBJ: “OK.”

HZ: “…withdrew their delegation to continue – I believe – they have no interest in ending their occupation, period.”

Making no effort to inform listeners that the Israeli delegation left the negotiations in Cairo after Hamas broke the ceasefire the day before this interview on August 19th, Owen Bennett-Jones then closes the interview.

Revealingly, Zomlot’s assertion that the beheading of journalist James Foley was “fabricated” rightly produced a very swift reaction from Owen Bennett-Jones who obviously could not allow listeners to be misled by that inaccurate claim. Equally revealingly, none of Zomlot’s other no less inaccurate claims evoked any intervention from a BBC presenter charged with promoting audience understanding of international issues. 

The missing piece in the BBC Hague correspondent’s Gaza story

Between August 16th and August 20th inclusive the BBC News website’s Middle East page featured an article titled “Dutchman returns Holocaust medal after family deaths in Gaza“. The same article also appeared on the website’s Europe page, as did a filmed version of the report (also shown on television news) by the BBC’s correspondent in The Hague, Anna Holligan, under the headline “Dutchman returns Holocaust medal to Israeli embassy over Gaza deaths“.Anna Holligan report

The written version states:

“A Dutchman honoured by Israel for hiding a Jewish child during World War Two has handed back his medal after six of his relatives were killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza.

Henk Zanoli, 91, wrote to the Israeli embassy in The Hague to say he could no longer hold the honour.

He said an Israeli F-16 had destroyed his great-niece’s home in Gaza, killing all inside, in the recent offensive. [….]

His great-niece is a Dutch diplomat who is married to Palestinian economist Ismail Ziadah, who was born in a refugee camp in central Gaza.

Mr Ziadah’s mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law and nine-year-old nephew were all killed after their family home was hit by Israeli aircraft.”

Similarly, the filmed version informs viewers:

“In it [a letter] he says his great-niece’s family home in Gaza was destroyed by an Israeli F16, killing everyone inside.”

Mr Zanoli’s story got considerable exposure from other news organisations too, including the New York Times. But, as Elder of Ziyon reported, there was also someone else present in the house at the time of the incident on July 20th.

The Ziadah family’s “guest” – as he was described by the PCHR – was Mohammed Mahmoud al-Maqadma, aged 30, who was a member of Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades.

That information was in the public domain for almost a month before BBC News ran this report. It is a very relevant part of the story which provides context important to proper audience understanding. And yet, the BBC elected to refrain from providing that information to readers and viewers.

Holligan also tells viewers:

“Henk Zanoli ends his letter by saying the only way he could ever take the Righteous Among Nations medal back would be if Israel granted all those living under the control of the state the same political, social and economic rights and opportunities.”

That of course suggests to viewers that at present that is not the case – which is misleading to viewers.

All Israelis regardless of religion, gender or ethnic background of course enjoy the same political, social and economic rights and opportunities. The residents of PA controlled areas of Judea & Samaria (areas A and B) and of the Gaza Strip do not live under the control of the Israeli state: their political, social and economic rights are controlled by the Palestinian Authority. The residents of Area C (less than 5% of the total Palestinian population) do indeed still lack full rights because the agreements signed by the PA which created the situation whereby Israel retains control over Area C were intended to be a temporary step on the way to a negotiated solution to the conflict. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority chose to end negotiations by initiating the second Intifada. 

Whilst Mr Zanoli may prefer to ignore the real reason why a minority of Palestinians still lack some rights, there is no reason for Anna Holligan to uncritically amplify his misleading statement to BBC audiences.