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. 

BBC sticks to inaccurate narrative despite Hamas claim of June kidnappings

A couple of days ago we noted here that the BBC had refrained from making any mention of the news that a planned ‘Gaza June ’07’ style coup against the PA has been prevented. That observation still stands. 

“Israel’s Shin Bet security service said Monday it thwarted a Hamas coup attempt in the West Bank aimed at toppling Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and starting a third intifada uprising

The Shin Bet said it arrested more than 90 Hamas operatives in May and June, confiscated dozens of weapons that had been smuggled into the West Bank, and seized more than $170,000 aimed at funding attacks. It produced photos of the confiscated weapons and cash and a flowchart of the Hamas operatives who had been questioned, and said they planned a series of massive attacks on Israeli targets, including the Temple Mount, in order to start a widespread conflagration. Indictments are expected to be filed against at least 70 of the suspects.”

The leading architect of that planned coup was Hamas’ Saleh al Arouri who resides in Turkey.

“The infrastructure for the operation was exposed in May, along with the identity of its leader, Hamas operations officer Saleh al-Arouri, who remains in Turkey, according to the Shin Bet.

Ynet was told that in recent months there was an active movement of Hamas activists arriving to Hebron from abroad. These operatives were known to security forces to be loyal to al-Arouri.

The operatives were assisted by Jordanian couriers, who transferred $600,000 – $50,000 in each border run. The funds were moved through Turkey and Jordan and were intended to purchase vehicles and safe-houses.

The Shin Bet confiscated the cash, as well as 24 M-16 rifles (not of Israeli manufacture), six handguns, and seven missile launchers, magazines, and loads of ammunition.”

Two days after that news broke Saleh al Arouri was in the spotlight again when he spoke at a conference in Istanbul. In his speech Arouri stated that Hamas’ Izz al Din al Qassam Brigades carried out the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers Naftali Frankel, Gilad Sha’ar and Eyal Yifrach on June 12th.

A longer video of al Arouri’s speech – as broadcast on Al Jazeera – can be seen here courtesy of MEMRI.

“Our goal was to ignite an intifada in the West Bank and Jerusalem as well as within the 1948 borders [Israel]. The activity of the people has broadened to include all the occupied land, reaching its peak in the heroic operation, carried out by the Al-Qassam Brigades, in which three settlers were captured in Hebron. There has been a lot of confusion regarding this operation. Some said that this was a conspiracy of the occupation [Israel]. That’s not true. Your brothers in the Al-Qassam Brigades carried out this operation to support their imprisoned brothers who were on hunger strike.”

Al Arouri’s admission of course ties in with the information divulged earlier by Hussam Kawasme after his arrest in July. It also puts Jon Donnison’s recent campaign to exonerate Hamas of any responsibility for the kidnappings and murders (see here, here and here) into its correct context. 

But Donnision’s thinly disguised politically motivated ‘journavism’ is not the only issue highlighted by Saleh al Arouri’s statement. For weeks the BBC has been promoting a version of events which goes along these lines: [emphasis added]

“Israel accused Hamas of responsibility for the disappearance of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach and launched a crackdown on the group in the occupied West Bank, detaining hundreds of members despite Hamas denying any involvement.

Then on 2 July, a Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem was abducted and burned alive in an apparent revenge attack two days after the bodies of the Israeli teenagers were found. The killings set off an escalating cycle of violence and led to the current conflict in Gaza.”

The fact is, of course, that the escalation in missile fire from the Gaza Strip began immediately after the disappearance of the Israeli teenagers on June 12th and continued throughout the three weeks of search and rescue operations. In the week preceding Operation Protective Edge, Hamas was given ample opportunity to curb its own missile fire and that of other factions, but elected not to do so.  In other words, the BBC’s much-touted “cycle of violence” is a myth: the “current conflict in Gaza” began because Hamas chose not to stop its cause – missile attacks on Israeli civilians.

Albeit usually in a somewhat more subtle manner than that adopted by Jon Donnison, the BBC has consistently pushed the line that Hamas involvement in the kidnappings and murders of the three Israeli teenagers was nothing more than an Israeli claim and remarkably even after the arrest of Hussam Kawasme it still promoted that notion.

“Israeli officials have said Marwan Qawasmeh and Mr Abu Aisha are known Hamas operatives, but the group has denied any involvement. Some have argued that the Qawasmeh clan might have acted on its own.”

In other words, BBC audiences have, for well over two months now, been fed an inaccurate version of events according to which it was Israel’s supposedly unwarranted claim of Hamas involvement in the kidnappings and murders of three of its citizens that, having prompted “increased tensions”, led to a “cycle of violence” which culminated in the current conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip. 

Saleh al Arouri’s Istanbul speech and the exposure of Hamas’ planned coup against the PA show the poverty of that BBC ‘analysis’ which lays the blame for the current violence at Israel’s door. It is of course high time that BBC audiences were provided with the full picture of events but remarkably, the corporation has so far failed to inform them of the latest important developments and currently shows no sign of deviating from its existing inaccurate narrative.  

 

BBC regular Atwan shatters 14 year old BBC myth on second Intifada

h/t EoZ

Here is a clip from an interview given by that old BBC favourite Abdel Bari Atwan to the Lebanese TV station Al Mayadeen on July 29th.

Apparently Abdel Bari Atwan has not told his friends at the BBC that Yasser Arafat “decided to ignite the second Intifada” or of Arafat’s “period of preparation for the second Intifada”. If he had shared that personal knowledge with them, they surely would not still be running all those embarrassingly inaccurate articles and backgrounders on their website which claim that the second Intifada began because Ariel Sharon went for a pre-coordinated thirty-four minute visit to Temple Mount.

Related Articles:

BBC second Intifada backgrounders: ‘Sharon started it’

BBC exploits Sharon’s death for more promotion of second Intifada falsehood

What are the dominant themes appearing in BBC filmed reports from the Gaza Strip?

As Operation Protective Edge progresses, the BBC is increasingly putting the focus of its reporting on the subject of casualties in the Gaza Strip. Notably – although the figures quoted by the BBC come exclusively from Palestinian sources and primarily from the Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Health – reports have not taken the trouble to clarify to BBC audiences that neither the figures themselves nor the ratio of civilians to combatants has been independently verified by the BBC.Op PE Bowen 2 11 7

Since the entry of the first BBC foreign correspondent into the Gaza Strip on July 8th, viewers of BBC television news and visitors to the BBC News website have seen the following filmed reports among others.

July 8th:  

  • Promotion of the inaccurate claim that the shortage of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip is the result of Israeli policy from Yolande Knell.

July 9th:

July 10th:

  • A report by Yolande Knell in which she amplifies claims made on Hamas-run local TV stations without informing audiences that they have not been independently verified by the BBC.

“…People really are extremely afraid. They’re just watching the local television news which is telling about the number of people killed here in Gaza since Tuesday morning mounting up, saying that most of those are civilians.” [emphasis added]

In the same report, Knell also amplifies an inaccurate claim of ‘collective punishment’ from what she describes as “human rights groups”, but fails to provide audiences with the names of those organisations so that they can verify the relevance and accuracy of such claims for themselves. In addition, she once more fails to inform audiences that the “homes” targeted also served as centres for terrorist activity.

“Israel has been following a policy of targeting the homes it says belong to militants here in Gaza. Because this is a very densely crowded place that often means that because residential areas are targeted, whole families are targeted and you have what’s been described by some human rights groups as collective punishment, but also just other civilians not involved in militant activity getting caught up in this.”

  • A filmed report by Kevin Connolly, the synopsis of which also quotes Hamas officials without informing readers that the information has not been independently verified by the BBC and does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

“Palestinian officials in the Gaza Strip say 78 people have been killed in Israeli attacks from the air and the sea this week.”

To his credit, Connolly mentions in that report some of the methods used by Israel to avoid civilian casualties (others include aborting missions and leafleting operational areas).

“Israel says its air-force tries hard to avoid civilian casualties. Before houses are bombed, warnings are telephoned to people inside and a dummy missile is fired before the real one: a so-called ‘knock on the roof’.”

He goes on:

“It doesn’t always work. Israel today called the death of eight civilians in a house in Khan Younis on Tuesday a tragedy, saying the victims had gone back inside too soon after the warning.”

Disappointingly, Connolly fails to inform viewers that Hamas has instructed the local population to ignore warnings from the IDF, encouraging them to act as human shields.

“They didn’t warn us. […] It was the first time they hit a house without any warning.”

Sommerville adds:

“The Israeli military usually gives advance notice of an attack. If they did here, the Haj family didn’t receive it.”

Again, no effort is made to inform BBC audiences of Hamas’ calls to civilians not to heed Israeli warnings or of the significant fact that in this particular case, that instruction was issued using the Palestinian National Authority logo due to the establishment of the PUG at the beginning of June.

GAZA MOI

July 11th:

“The deaths of two Palestinians in an Israeli air-raid on a camp in central Gaza has brought the total number of people killed in the conflict to 100 in just four days. Overnight another five people were killed when a three-storey house in the southern town of Rafah was flattened. Militants have fired more rockets at Tel Aviv in the last few hours. No Israelis have so far been killed since the conflict began.”

  • A filmed report using amateur footage, the synopsis to which as it appears on the BBC News website does not clarify that the source of the information given is Hamas or that the BBC has not independently verified it and does not make any distinction between civilian and combatant casualties.

“More than 100 people have died in the Israeli air strikes on Gaza, Palestinian sources say.”

  • A filmed report by Jeremy Bowen, who arrived in the Gaza Strip on the morning of the same day. The synopsis to the version of that report appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page once again fails to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties and neglects to inform audiences that the figures have not been independently verified by the BBC.

“More than 100 people have died in the Israeli air strikes in the territory, Palestinian sources say.”

Failing to point out that the Gaza Health Ministry is run by Hamas and that the BBC has not verified its claims independently, Bowen informs viewers:

“More than half of over 100 people killed in Gaza by Israeli raids were women and children according to the Health Ministry.”

  • In a separate but similar report from the same date titled “Gaza crisis: Death toll from Israeli strikes ‘hits 100′”, Bowen repeats the above claim, once again failing to inform viewers that the figures come from Hamas and have not been independently verified by the BBC.

“More than half of over 100 people killed in Gaza by Israeli raids so far this week were women and children, according to the Health Ministry.”

He adds:

“The UN Human Rights Commissioner says there’s serious doubt Israel is complying with the laws of war that protect civilians.”

Notably, Bowen’s paraphrasing of Navi Pillay’s statement does not include the part of it which conflicts with Bowen’s claim that more than half the casualties in the Gaza Strip are women and children. Bowen also fails to inform viewers that the UN Commissioner also noted Hamas’ failure to comply with the laws of war that protect civilians, both by its indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians in missile attacks and its storage of weapons and firing of missiles from residential areas in the Gaza Strip.

“Ms. Pillay warned in particular that attacks must not be directed against civilians or civilian objects, nor should military assets be located in densely populated areas or attacks be launched from such areas.”

As we see from the examples of reports above, the BBC’s main themes in its reporting from the Gaza Strip so far have been as follows:

Promotion and amplification of false claims of targeting civilians and collective punishment made by politically motivated interested parties.

Promotion of unverified casualty figures from Hamas sources with a failure to distinguish between civilians and combatants.

Portrayal of Israeli strikes on houses without adequate clarification of the practice of use of residential buildings as command centres and weapons storage facilities by terrorist organisations.

Failure to adequately inform BBC audiences concerning the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organisations, including both the failure to report Hamas calls to the public to ignore Israeli warnings intended to reduce the risk of civilian casualties and the failure to report on the storage and firing of missiles from residential areas.

Failure to inform BBC audiences of factors contributing to the number of casualties such as secondary explosions due to the storage of explosives in houses or public buildings located in residential neighbourhoods and short-falling missiles.

Inference of failure on Israel’s part to conform to laws of war protecting civilians without adequate information on the topic of those laws being provided and with no clarification to audiences concerning obvious breaches of the same laws by terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip, including the one which is party to the PA unity government. 

 

 

 

 

James Reynolds tells BBC viewers about Hamas’ ‘crudely made rockets’

A filmed report by James Reynolds dating from July 7th which appeared on BBC television news broadcasts was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Israeli air strikes on Gaza kill nine Palestinian militants“.Reynolds Gaza report filmed

In the synopsis to that item as it appears on the website, no mention is made of the cause of Israeli airstrikes on terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip: the firing of hundreds of missiles at Israeli civilian targets by Palestinian terrorists. However, the synopsis does promote the inaccurate notion that “tensions” in the area are related to the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, when in fact the surge in missile attacks from the Gaza Strip began four weeks ago.

“Nine Palestinian militants have been killed in a series of Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip.

The armed wing of the Palestinian militant group Hamas says six of its fighters died in a single strike near Rafah in the south.

Three others died in separate Israeli air strikes in response to at least 20 rocket attacks from Gaza.

Tensions in the region are high following the murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdair.”

Reynolds opens his report:

“Overnight, Israel’s air-force struck targets in Gaza: the piece of land ruled by the Palestinian armed movement Hamas.”

In addition to the absence of any mention of the fact that Hamas is a designated terrorist organization and the euphemistic description of it as an “armed movement”, it is also notable that Reynolds inaccurately tells BBC audiences that the Gaza Strip is “ruled by” Hamas when in fact, since June 2nd 2014, it is officially under the authority of the Palestinian unity government which is a product of the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah. Notably, that aspect of the current Gaza Strip story is being consistently erased from public view by the BBC.

Reynolds goes on with that old BBC favourite “Israel says”, which of course translates as ‘we’re not going to confirm that’.

“Israel says it went after rocket launcher sites and warehouses. Israel’s airstrikes killed a number of armed men from Hamas and other groups. This was the deadliest attack on Gaza since 2012.”

In fact, some of those terrorists (rather than “armed men” as Reynolds euphemistically calls them) were killed because they were handling their own explosives in a cross-border tunnel at the time of their death.

“The IDF targeted a Hamas tunnel early Monday morning, preventing an imminent terror threat to Israeli citizens. Hamas terrorists built the tunnel, which extends from Gaza into Israel, in order to execute complex attacks against civilians and IDF soldiers.

At the time of the strike, terrorists inside the tunnel were working with explosives, causing a massive blast that killed seven Hamas operatives. The terrorists likely planned to use the explosives to carry out an attack against Israel.”

Reynolds continues:

“This morning a rocket fired by Hamas landed in the Israeli village of Nirim next to Gaza. In recent days Hamas has fired several dozen of its own crudely made rockets across the border.”

Reynolds’ description of the missiles fired as “crudely made” is obviously attempt to portray them to BBC audiences as ineffective and to downplay the danger they present. Some of Hamas’ approximately 10,000 strong missile arsenal is indeed locally produced: the M75, for example, with its 60 kg warhead and 75 km range, was responsible for the deaths of three people in the apartment shown in the picture below in 2012.

K Malachi 2012

The report then cuts to a brief two-sentence interview with the Israeli spokesman Mark Regev:

“We are acting to protect our people. We are targeting the terrorists in Gaza – those firing the rockets – and Hamas has to understand: this must stop.”

Reynolds goes on to promote a deft reversal of the actual situation, prompting audiences to mistakenly believe that Hamas is responding to Israeli actions rather than – as is actually the case – the opposite.

“Israel’s strikes on Gaza have prompted Hamas to promise further attacks of its own.”

He continues, downplaying the gravity of the fact that over a million people have had their lives paralysed by missile attacks from terrorist organisations for four weeks and describing organized violent rioting as ‘protest’.

“Fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has been a regular part of this conflict. But what may worry Israel more is the atmosphere here in Jerusalem and in nearby areas. Palestinians who live under Israeli rule have protested and they’ve fought against the police.”

The report then cuts to footage of Saeb Erekat.

“This morning the Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat took diplomats to see the village of Nabi Samuel. It’s surrounded by Jewish settlements built on land the Palestinians want for a state.”

Not for the first time we see BBC reporters making inaccurate use of the words “surrounded” and “settlements” in the same sentence. Below is a map of Nabi Samuel with Israeli residential areas marked in blue and Palestinian ones in green. As readers can see for themselves, “surrounded by Jewish settlements” is an inaccurate portrayal. 

Nabi Samuel

 

Erekat then says:

“What we are witnessing of this wave of escalation is a systematic approach by the Israeli government to throw us in the path of bloodshed, violence, counter-violence, chaos which we have seen in 2002.”

Erekat’s reference to 2002 is of course intended to mean Operation Defensive Shield, which was preceded and brought about by eighteen months of Palestinian terrorism initiated by the Palestinian Authority which Erekat ‘neglects’ to mention and Reynolds fails to clarify to audiences. Neither does Reynolds inform viewers that had the PA not elected to start the second Intifada terror war against Israel, negotiations could have continued and the PA could have got the land it ‘wants’ for its state. Notably, the BBC did not take the opportunity to ask Erekat what the Palestinian unity government (bound, according to its own prime minister, to existing agreements with Israel) is doing to stop Hamas missile fire on Israeli civilians from a territory which has been under its authority since June 2nd.

Reynolds closes by again promoting the notion of organized violent rioting as “protests”, erasing the political motivations which lie behind it from audience view and instead advancing a patronizing theory of “anger”.

“In the north of Israel, Arabs who have Israeli citizenship have clashed with the police. These protests are more unusual. They’re a sign of increasing anger in this conflict.”

As readers have no doubt noticed, the BBC’s sporadic and incomplete coverage of the last four weeks of missile attacks on Israeli civilians has not included much effort to convey to BBC audiences what it is like for those one million residents located close to the Gaza Strip to live under ever-escalating terror attacks for weeks on end. To date, since this latest round of augmented attacks began, BBC audiences have seen just one brief one-liner interview with one man in one report - and James Reynolds did nothing to correct that imbalance in this piece. 

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Bowen builds framing on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme

Last week we noted an item which appeared in the July 3rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme and one of several additional items of interest from the same broadcast was a conversation between presenter John Humphrys and the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen which is available at around 1:09:12 here for a limited period of time.Today 3 7

Given that Bowen is the ‘gatekeeper’ of the BBC’s Middle East reporting, it is useful to note the nature of the opinions and beliefs he holds which, in turn, shape the BBC ‘world view’ promoted to millions of viewers, listeners and readers around the world.

John Humphrys: “Tensions between Palestinians and Israelis are dangerously high. Earlier in the week the bodies of three Israeli teenagers were found in the West Bank. The Israelis say they were murdered by Hamas. Yesterday a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and murdered and the Palestinians blame Israel. I’ve been talking to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen about the wider implications of this latest outbreak of violence between the two sides.”

Jeremy Bowen: “First of all, I’m talking to you sitting in Baghdad and you look across the region and the region is boiling and in the last few years one of the relatively quieter areas has been the front between Israelis and Palestinians, but I think that while it’s been a bit out of the headlines, all the old issues have been there and I think it’s also not immune to the kinds of anger that you can see elsewhere in the region. So right around the area you see all this trouble and I’m not surprised that things have started to come to a head again between the Israelis and the Palestinians as well.”

If readers can get past the risible notion that Israel has been “out of the headlines” at any time as far as the BBC is concerned, they will note that Bowen’s ‘one size fits all’ description of the Middle East of course erases from audience view the issue of the Sunni-Shia dispute which currently fuels so much of the conflict in the region, but does not have a role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

JH: “The Jerusalem Post is writing this morning about the murder of the teenagers obviously and it says this: ‘it’s another reminder that swathes of Palestinian society continue to be irreconcilably committed to Israel’s destruction’. Is it the case that it’s not just terrorist organisations such as Hamas that are bent on Israel’s destruction, but the Palestinian people generally are irreconcilably opposed to the existence of Israel?”

JB: “No, I don’t think that’s the case. I think the vast majority of Palestinians are absolutely reconciled to the existence of Israel. What they’re not reconciled to is the continuing occupation of land taken in 1967, the growth of settlements. You know you’ve heard all this many times before and it was interesting as well – and telling, I think – to see the mother of the Palestinian teenager who was killed saying Palestinians have no rights and I think that they feel that there’s one law for Israelis and one law for themselves and that they’re never going to be in a better place until they get independence, get their own state and that, I think, is the prevalent view among Palestinians.”

Those who saw the two filmed reports produced by James Reynolds on July 4th – the day after this programme was broadcast – will note the remarkable similarity of messaging and promotion of the inaccurate notion of a ‘two-tier’ justice system.  Bowen continues:

“And of course there are some who would like to eliminate the Israeli state – I’ve spoken to them – but the vast majority I think are prepared to live alongside it as an equal.”

So let’s take a look at what the Palestinians themselves said in a poll commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy which was published a week before Bowen made the above statements.

WINEP 1

As we see above, the majority of Palestinians (60.3%) think that their goal over the next five years is “reclaiming all of historic Palestine from the river [Jordan] to the sea [Mediterranean]“. That of course means the elimination of Israel. A further 10.1% favour a “one-state solution” – which also means the elimination of Israel as the Jewish state. Only 27.3% favour making a two-state solution their goal and only 27.2 – 31.6% see a two-state solution as final, with the majority regarding it as a ‘stepping stone’ towards future elimination of Israel.

WINEP 2

Jeremy Bowen’s received wisdom apparently does not ‘do’ updates.

Humphrys then asks:

“Living alongside people is one thing. Are there any other forces beyond Hamas who would weigh into this now; would take advantage or are likely to take advantage of this situation and spread the terror threat wider? Because it’s not that long ago, is it, that we in this country were terrified of Palestinian terrorism because it was beginning to affect us directly?”

Airbrushing from audience view the PA-instigated second Intifada and the fact that in the last PLC elections “mainstream” Palestinian political parties failed to beat Hamas, Bowen replies:

“Yes, certainly back in the 70s people were very concerned about that but the mainstream Palestinians have been engaged in various kinds of attempts at peace processes for more than twenty years now. Hamas themselves have talked about a long-term truce. While not recognizing Israel’s existence – and also saying it should go – they’ve also talked about a long-term truce. One thing that is interesting is that in recent years the Palestinians have not been swept up in the Jihadist current in the way that other Arabs have. Perhaps that will change – who knows.”

Whether or not Bowen really does not understand the tactical basis of and motivation for the often-touted proposal of a Hudna – or “truce” – is unclear, but he is certainly not going out of his way to inform listeners of the real significance and meaning of that proposal.

Likewise, Bowen’s airbrushing of the rising number and influence of Salafist Jihadist groups is distinctly odd considering that, whilst its reporting on the topic is by no means comprehensive (see here and here for example), other BBC reporters have written about the emergence of such groups both in the PA controlled regions of Judea & Samaria and in the Gaza Strip.  

Particularly in light of the template BBC reporting on the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers which included across the board eradication of any mention of Palestinian public and official celebration of the deed, it is notable that Bowen elects to end his item as follows:

“I think as well you’ve got to look at the calls for vengeance coming from the other side. Senior Israelis have called rabbis and so on to tone it down because it is heating people up after the huge anger of course following the death of those three teenagers. The head for example of Bnei Akiva, which is the largest religious Zionist youth movement, called for vengeance and that’s been criticized by Israelis. So the fact is that there are hot-heads on both sides and there are people who aren’t reconciled to the other side on both sides and that’s one of the factors that makes it an incendiary and difficult situation. And certainly if you talk to Palestinians, many of them speak about a third Intifada – a third uprising – and I have spoken to Palestinians who believe only in non-violent resistance who’ve said to me it’s only a matter of time before it happens and if it happens, it’ll come because it’ll be sparked by something. Now I don’t know if this’ll be the case on this particular occasion but what we’re seeing I think is a very good barometer – an indication – of the tension that’s there, actually on both sides as well.”

Radio 4 listeners are unlikely to be informed that – despite his later apologies – the head of Bnei Akiva is unlikely to remain in his position as a consequence of his remarks, with an emergency meeting on the issue already scheduled.

Notable too is Bowen’s promotion of the notion that a third Intifada will be “sparked by something”. As readers well know, it has been consistent BBC policy to inaccurately claim that the second Intifada was “sparked” by Ariel Sharon’s visit to Temple Mount in September 2000 and to deny the preplanned nature of that event, despite the ample documentation available.

It is therefore worth noting the manner in which the currently ongoing rioting in Jerusalem, the Triangle area, northern Israel and elsewhere is being portrayed by the BBC as ‘protests’ and ‘demonstrations’ caused by a spontaneous outburst of apparently irresistible anger after the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir last week.

That, of course, is far from the entire picture but as we see from this interview with Jeremy Bowen, the framing is already being put in place. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC’s ‘Newsnight’ facilitates Barghouti claim of ‘international law’ as excuse for murders of teens

On the evening of June 30th, as news broke of the discovery of the bodies of the three kidnapped and murdered Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-ad Sha’ar, one interviewee the BBC deemed appropriate for the circumstances was – once again – Mustafa Barghouti.

The BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ interview with Barghouti was also promoted on the BBC News website under the title “‘Israel responsible for deaths’ – Dr Mustafa Barghouti“.Barghouti Newsnight interview

Relatively unhindered by ‘Newsnight’ presenter Laura Kuenssberg, Barghouti was given a platform for amplification of the notion of people as ‘illegal settlers’ and ‘international law’ as an excuse for murder.

Barghouti: “First of all I think the main person who’s responsible for the tragic death that happened is Mr Netanyahu himself. He sent these boys as illegal settlers to an illegal settlement and he’s also responsible for the tragic death of more than ten Palestinians so far who were killed by his army, including three children. And I don’t think that….”

Kuenssberg makes no attempt to correct the number of Palestinians who have been killed during the search and rescue operation or to clarify to BBC audiences that in the majority of cases, they were involved in violent and life-threatening rioting aimed at hindering that operation at the time. Likewise, she fails to challenge the odious notion of people as “illegal” or to point out to viewers that in fact, two of the three murdered teenagers did not live in what the BBC would term ‘settlements’. In breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, Kuenssberg also fails to inform audiences that Barghouti’s particular non-professional interpretation of “international law” is far from the only one available.

Kuenssberg: “So you’re suggesting these young boys…you’re suggesting these teenagers had it coming, are you? Because they were somewhere geographically?

Barghouti: “They should not have been in illegal settlements which are considered illegal by international law and a violation of international law. That’s what all countries in the world are saying. And Mr Netanyahu should have protected them and not sending them to these places. He is now….”

Again – no clarification comes from Kuenssberg on Barghouti’s presentation of one particular interpretation of ‘international law’ and no attempt is made to inform audiences that the specific area under discussion is under Israeli control (Area C) because the Palestinians signed treaties defining it as such. Moreover, Kuenssberg fails to challenge Barghouti’s repeated ridiculous suggestion that the murdered youths had been “sent” by the Israeli prime minister.

Kuenssberg: “But Mr Netanyahu…”

Barghouti: “He is now retaliating and he wants to retaliate without even bringing a single proof that any Palestinian was responsible for their death. This is very strange…

Kuenssberg fails to challenge that inaccurate statement from Barghouti too, avoiding the obvious question of why a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council – committed under the terms of the Oslo Agreements to the prevention of terror – is promoting the notion that the youths were not victims of a Palestinian terror attack.

Kuenssberg: “But are you not suggesting…are you not suggesting Dr Barghouti then, that any settler is fair game? President [sic] Netanyahu didn’t kill these people himself.

That, of course, is exactly what Barghouti is suggesting, along with the notion that Israelis are themselves to blame for terror attacks against them, but he is allowed to end the interview with more political propaganda.

Barghouti: “No – I – I don’t like anybody to be killed but I am saying that no security or real peace will be available either to Palestinians or Israelis unless the Israeli military occupation is ended.”

This is at least the second time in the past two weeks that the BBC has provided a platform for Barghouti’s exploitation of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers as an opportunity to promote his political propaganda. Since the beginning of this year, Barghouti has been wheeled out by the BBC on at least six separate occasions to provide interviews on topics ranging from the death of Ariel Sharon to the Palestinian unity government and each time, regardless of the topic, those interviews promote the exact same jaded inculcations.

One question which must therefore be asked is why exactly did the ‘Newsnight’ editorial team – which, based on past BBC experience, should have been able to predict exactly what Barghouti was going to say – think that this was an appropriate occasion for the repetition of standard ‘one size fits all’ political propaganda which provides no new information or insight to audiences on the topic supposedly being addressed: the kidnappings and murders of three Israelis by terrorists.

Another question is why editors at the BBC News website saw fit to provide further amplification of Barghouti’s inadequately challenged falsehoods and distortions. 

BBC ignores attack on journalists in Hebron

Over the past few months and weeks BBC audiences have been presented with extensive coverage on all BBC outlets of the trial and sentencing of three Al Jazeera journalists in an Egyptian court – including on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. A BBC-led campaign on the issue has also been promoted heavily, including by BBC employees on social media.

Greste story on ME pge

In April of this year the BBC Media Centre published a “Joint statement issued at the BBC’s Safety of Journalists Symposium” which included these words:

“In too many countries journalists are facing serious intimidation and violence, which in turns leads to disturbing patterns of censorship and self-censorship. We stand against these abuses and today we call on the governments concerned to investigate each one of those crimes promptly and effectively so as to bring those responsible to justice.”

All the more curious, therefore, is the fact that BBC News has completely ignored a story from June 20th involving the attack by members of the Palestinian Authority’s security forces on CNN journalists covering a pro-Hamas demonstration in Hebron.

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