Route 35 terror attack gets a grand total of 34 words in BBC report

Over twenty-eight hours after the April 14th terror attack on Route 35 in which father of five Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrachi was murdered and his wife and son injured, the BBC finally managed to come up with a brief mention of the incident, buried at the bottom of an article titled  “Israelis and Palestinians in bid to extend peace talks” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the night of April 15th.

The article was illustrated using the misleading photograph below (which appeared at the top of the report’s original version and was moved further down about 12 hours after its initial publication, only to be removed completely in an even later version of the report) which reasonable readers would interpret as intending to inform them of some sort of clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians.

talks art w attack pic

The photograph’s equally misleading caption reads:

“Tensions are high in Hebron after an Israeli policeman was killed in the West Bank”

That choice of wording reinforces the mistaken impression already given to BBC audiences by the photograph that the said policeman was killed in the line of duty rather than in a terror attack against him and his family. 

In the original article’s final paragraph the BBC managed to come up with the following thirty-four words to describe the incident, with notable use of the politically partial term “occupied West Bank”:

“Israel is also angry at the killing of an off-duty Israeli policeman in the occupied West Bank on Monday on the eve of the Passover Jewish holiday. The officer’s wife and child were wounded.”

talks art w attack para

The fact that this was a terror attack in which a Palestinian terrorist deliberately targeted random Israelis travelling along a major road is concealed from readers, along with the actual circumstances of the incident - details of which were amply available by the time the BBC got round to composing this report.

“The senior Israeli police officer was killed while driving to Hebron to celebrate Passover with his wife’s family. His pregnant wife, Hadas, was moderately injured in the attack and was transferred to Shaare Tzedek Medical Center in Jerusalem for treatment. The couple’s five children spent the holiday with their relatives as planned, and on Monday night were informed by their mother of their father’s death.

Hadas Mizrahi told the Ynet news website that while driving, her husband had seen the terrorist and cried “They’re shooting, they’re shooting, there’s a terrorist.” After her husband was shot, she took the wheel, drove out of sight, and alerted the authorities.

“I covered my blood with a rag,” Hadas, who was shot twice and broke a rib, said. “I saw that Baruch was dead. When the soldiers arrived I told them ‘Bandage me and take the children to the armored vehicle, so that they don’t see their father lying [there] dead.’

In the version of the report after amendment some 12 hours later, those thirty-four words became forty-one with the appearance of “a gunman”, an apparent realisation of the inappropriateness of the use of the term “occupied West Bank” by a supposedly impartial news organisation and a misleading new location for the incident which actually took place near the village of Idhna.

“Israel is also angry at the killing of an off-duty Israeli policeman by a gunman in the West Bank on Monday, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover. His wife and child were wounded in the attack outside Hebron.”

In the even later version of the report, that paragraph was changed slightly yet again:

“Tensions were raised on Monday when an off-duty Israeli policeman was killed by a gunman in the West Bank, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover. His wife and child were wounded in the attack outside Hebron.”

In the report’s first two versions, audiences were not informed of the fact that no condemnation of the attack came from the Palestinian Authority until two days afterwards or of the celebratory announcements issued by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The report’s later version promotes the statement made in condemnation of the attack by the PA Minister for religious affairs, but fails to inform audiences that the same minister praised convicted terrorists just two weeks previously.talks art w attack

Additionally, the article continues to mislead BBC audiences with regard to the current impasse in the talks between Israel and the PLO, with the original version having stated:

“The talks hit a major crisis this month when both sides took what Washington called “unhelpful steps”.

The Palestinians launched moves to join 15 UN treaties and bodies, while Israel refused to release a tranche of Palestinian prisoners and unveiled plans for more settler homes in east Jerusalem.”

In the later version those paragraphs were altered to read as follows:

“The direct talks, which resumed last July, appeared on the verge of collapse earlier this month when both sides took what the US called “unhelpful steps”.

The Palestinians submitted applications to join 15 UN treaties and conventions, while Israel refused to release a fourth group of 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners and reissued tenders for more than 700 new homes at a Jewish settlement in occupied East Jerusalem.”

Whilst in fact there is no clause in the agreement which was the precursor to this round of talks which limits Israeli construction of what it chooses to term “settler homes” (thereby pinning clearly political colours to its supposedly impartial mast), the BBC continues – as has been the case in its last two reports on the subject – to imply to audiences that the reissuing of building tenders first publicized six months ago for housing in a Jerusalem neighbourhood which, according to any realistic scenario will remain under Israeli control in any final status agreement, was somehow a contributing straw to the breaking of the camel’s back.

Notably too, Israel is inaccurately described as having “refused” to release the fourth and final tranche of Palestinian prisoners whereas in fact the release was actually delayed until the PA made its unilateral bid to join UN agencies: a move which was in breach of the agreement from last July which kick-started the current round of negotiations.

 The organization which cynically claims to aspire to “remain the standard-setter for international journalism” continues to lower the bar in order to reduce those ‘standards’ to the deliberate misleading of audiences and the whitewashing of Palestinian terrorism. Hence, it is worth reminding ourselves of the wording of the opening sentence of the BBC’s own guidelines on the subject of reporting terrorism: 

“We must report acts of terror quickly, accurately, fully and responsibly.” 

None of those four conditions was met in the BBC’s reporting of the Route 35 terror attack.  

 

 

 

BBC continues to yawn at PA glorification of terrorism

We have noted here on numerous occasions in the past that the consistent glorification of terrorism by official Palestinian Authority bodies is systematically unreported by the BBC.  

Recently, yet another example of that practice came to light when the Palestinian Authority chose to name a forest after the terrorist leader and planner of numerous terror attacks Khalil al Wazir – a.k.a. Abu Jihad.PMW forest

Via PMW we learn that:

“The official Palestinian Authority daily reported that the PA and Fatah inaugurated a forest they chose to name after arch-terrorist Abu Jihad: “The Martyr Abu Jihad Forest.”

Abu Jihad was a founder of Fatah and deputy to Yasser Arafat. He headed the PLO’s military wing and planned many deadly terror attacks. These attacks, which according to the official PA daily killed at least 125 Israelis, included the most lethal in Israeli history – the hijacking of a bus and killing of 37 civilians, 12 of them children.  […]

The inauguration ceremony was attended by several PA officials: Minister of Agriculture Walid Assaf, District Governor of Hebron Kamel Hamid and representatives of the PA Security Forces, as well as several mayors from the Hebron district and relatives of terrorist Abu Jihad, the paper reported. 

Official PA TV also showed footage from the ceremony. “

Can we really imagine that if the Northern Ireland Assembly chose to name a forest after an IRA terrorist and to televise the inauguration ceremony on state-run TV, that would not make BBC headlines? 

We’ve said it before, but unfortunately we have to say it again: BBC audiences cannot reach an “understanding of international issues” if the habitual glorification of terrorists and terrorism by a party to the peace process is consistently and deliberately kept out of their view.

Related Articles:

Airbrushing terror: the BBC on Abu Jihad

 

In which the BBC ‘forgets’ to tell readers about $400 million of Palestinian debt to Israel

April 11th saw the appearance of an article titled “Israel to impose sanctions against Palestinian Authority” on the Middle East page of the BBC News website.sanctions art

Like the previous report on the subject of the impasse in the talks between Israel and the PLO published two days earlier, this one too signals the beginning of a departure from the promotion of the faux equivocal stance enabled by carefully selected omissions which has so far been adopted to describe to audiences the reasons for the breakdown in negotiations.

As we noted in relation to the previous article:

“The report goes on to quote and promote unnamed “correspondents”, providing no information which would enable audiences to assess the relevance or validity of the claim made by those anonymous sources.

“Correspondents say Mr Netanyahu’s action has dealt another blow to the faltering US-brokered peace process.” “

This latest article has equally anonymous “observers” instead of “correspondents” but the message to BBC audiences is the same: Israel is to blame for the talks’ lack of success.

“Israel has imposed sanctions against the Palestinian Authority (PA) in retaliation for signing a number of international treaties, officials say. […]

Observers say it further complicates US-led talks, which resumed on Thursday and have faltered in recent weeks.”

Likewise, this latest report again promotes the inaccurate notion of reissued building tenders in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Gilo as being “new” and fails to inform readers that the very same tenders were already issued six months ago, that not even the Palestinians believe that Gilo will become part of a future Palestinian state or that the agreement which preceded the commencement of the latest round of talks in no way limited Israeli building. The report even uses the same picture (see below) as it predecessor and audiences are clearly meant to conclude (mistakenly) that these building tenders were one of the reasons for the breakdown in talks.

“Talks had previously stalled after Palestinians were angered by Israel’s decision to approve 700 new settlement units in East Jerusalem – which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967 and formally annexed the area in 1980.

Settlements built there and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

sanctions art pic

Notably, the report makes no attempt whatsoever to inform audiences of the nature of the “debt payments” it describes.

“In the latest development, Israeli officials are quoted as saying that debt payments would be deducted from tax transfers routinely received by the PA.

Israel collects taxes on behalf of the Palestinians, and transfers about $100m (80m euros) per month, accounting for two-thirds of the authority’s budget.

It is not yet clear how much money will be withheld or for how long.”

Hence – and not for the first time – readers remain unaware of the fact that “[t]he Palestinians owe Israeli companies hundreds of millions of dollars for electricity, power and other services” or that the PA’s Minister of Labour recently admitted that:

“… the PA owes the Israel electric company alone some $400 million.”

Despite the fact that another aspect of the withholding of tax transfers has been noted by the Israeli media, the BBC – in keeping with its long tradition – avoids any mention of the subject of PA payments to convicted terrorists. As the Times of Israel, for example, reports:

“On Wednesday, a senior official warned about the imminent drastic tax cuts, but said the suspended funds were “the money they spend on terrorists and their families.”

“This step would be less dramatic than cutting entirely our monthly tax payments to the PA, but it would be step that would be in place,” he said.

Israel considers the Palestinian payments to Palestinian security prisoners and their families as “funding terrorism,” the senior official said.”

Although that same subject was also raised by the chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the BBC – as we have previously noted here – scrupulously avoids informing audiences even of the existence of such PA policy.  

WSJ art

The BBC’s latest report does, however, include uncritical promotion of statements made by Saeb Erekat - with no qualification or balancing quotes from named Israeli officials.

“Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat has condemned the move as “Israeli hijacking” and “theft”. […]

Mr Erekat told AFP news agency it was “theft of the Palestinian people’s money” and a “violation of international law and norms by Israel”.”

Is the BBC really at ease with promoting the notion to its audiences that “international law” dictates that Israeli citizens must subsidise the electricity bills of their Palestinian neighbours to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars?

Much of the latter half of this report is no more than a bland reproduction of the BBC’s previous April 9th article and once again it promotes misleading impressions of the terms of the agreement which preceded the current round of negotiations and omits from audience view vital background information crucial to their understanding of the current status of those talks.

Despite being an organization committed under the terms of its constitutional document to building “a global understanding of international issues”, the BBC is making a remarkable job of doing the exact opposite of that with regard to this topic. 

BBC Arabic interview with former Arafat bodyguard

Courtesy of the indispensable MEMRI, non-Arabic speaking readers can now view a portion of an interview with Muhammad Al-Daya – formerly the bodyguard of Yasser Arafat – which appeared on BBC Arabic on April 3rd.

A transcript is also available here.

Seeing as it isn’t that long ago since former Jerusalem Bureau correspondent Jon Donnison was doing terrorist chic with the promotion of “Arafat’s legacy” to the BBC’s English-speaking audiences, it would of course be appropriate for the corporation to make this interview available to audiences outside the limited sphere of BBC Arabic.

 

Another report on talks impasse fails to break the BBC mould

On April 9th an article appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website under the title “Israel PM Netanyahu curbs contacts with Palestinians“. The report opens:curbs contacts art main

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told his ministers to stop high-level meetings with their Palestinian counterparts.”

Only from the fifth paragraph onwards are readers informed that the issue is a lot less dramatic than the BBC’s initial presentation may have led them to believe.

“The government officials said Israel’s chief peace negotiator, Tzipi Livni, would be an exception from the PM’s edict.

Defence and security officials will also be allowed to continue to engage with the Palestinians, according to reports.

Otherwise, only low-level co-operation will be permitted.”

As has been the case in previous BBC reports on the impasse in the current round of negotiations between Israel and the PLO, this report fails to clarify to audiences that the commitment on the part of the Palestinians not to apply to join UN agencies was part and parcel of the initial agreement which preceded the current round of talks (as recently confirmed by the PA president’s spokesman) and not just an understanding on the part of Israel as has repeatedly been implied by the BBC.

“The order follows “Palestinians’ violation of their commitments under peace talks”, officials said.

It comes after a request by the Palestinians to join 15 UN treaties and conventions as a state party.”

The report goes on to quote and promote unnamed “correspondents”, providing no information which would enable audiences to assess the relevance or validity of the claim made by those anonymous sources.

“Correspondents say Mr Netanyahu’s action has dealt another blow to the faltering US-brokered peace process.”

Under a sub-heading of “Unhelpful” the report goes on to promote the notion of equivalence as has been the case in previous BBC reports on the same topic.

“On Tuesday, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said the US would continue to promote the talks despite recent setbacks.

He blamed both sides for taking “unhelpful” steps.

The peace talks resumed in July under US auspices after a three-year hiatus.

Each side blames the other for violating previous promises.”

The article continues:

“The Palestinians were furious when Israel did not sanction the release of a fourth batch of prisoners, as agreed in principle under the terms on which the Palestinians returned to peace talks last year. The Palestinians wanted the group to include a number of Israeli Arab prisoners.”

Once again, no attempt is made to explain to BBC audiences the significance and implications of the Palestinian demand for the release of prisoners who are Israeli citizens.

That particular section of the article is illustrated using the photograph below, captioned “Israel has announced plans to build about 700 new homes in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem” and the same claim is reiterated in the body of the article, with no mention of the fact that the relevant tenders –situated in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Gilo – had already been issued six months previously, meaning that the proposed oddly termed “settlement units” are therefore obviously not “new”. No attempt is made to clarify to audiences that limits on Israeli construction were not part of the agreed terms which preceded the recommencement of negotiations. 

“They [the Palestinians] were further angered by Israel’s approval of about 700 new settlement units in East Jerusalem.”

curbs contacts art pic

The report continues with the standard BBC insert which both fails to clarify to audiences the status of the relevant parts of Jerusalem before 1967 (occupied for 19 years by Jordan after its invasion of foreign territory) and breaches BBC editorial guidelines by failing to inform audiences that other legal interpretations of “international law” exist.

“Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war and formally annexed the area in 1980. Settlements built there and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The article goes on to once again present aspects of the agreement which preceded the latest round of talks as though they were Israeli interpretation only and fails to clarify to readers that those points were actually part and parcel of the agreement.

“Israel stressed that it had predicated any prisoner release on progress being made in the negotiations and on the Palestinians abiding by a commitment not to seek membership of international agencies.”

As has been the case with all previous BBC reports on this topic, this article continues to avoid informing BBC audiences about crucial background factors which have contributed to the current impasse including the PA’s refusal (with Arab League support) to renounce future claims and thus bring an end to the conflict by recognizing Israel as the Jewish state.

In fact, in all its coverage so far of the topic of the current round of negotiations, the BBC has systematically avoided informing its audiences of the importance and significance of the issue of Palestinian – and wider Arab – recognition of Israel as the Jewish state and as time goes on, it is increasingly difficult to attribute that glaring omission to mere oversight.

Related Articles:

BBC already setting the scene for ME talks collapse

BBC’s Knell amplifies PA narrative, mainstreams BDS on late-night BBC Radio 5

BBC continues to present an incomplete picture of Israel-PLO talks

BBC’s selective omissions slant audience view of Israel-PLO talks

BBC opts for equivalence in report on talks breakdown

Crucial background to floundering of ME talks still outside the BBC’s frame

BBC claims final tranche of prisoner release included “hundreds” – reader secures correction

Misleading BBC audiences through failure to correct inaccurate terminology

Although it might be glaringly obvious to most of us, the simple fact that the BBC cannot hope to meet its public purpose remit of building “a global understanding of international issues” and enabling “individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues” if it allows audiences to be misled through the use of inaccurate terminology appears to escape the corporation itself.

On April 3rd BBC World News America broadcast an interview with former US president Jimmy Carter which was also featured on the ‘US & Canada’ page of the BBC News website. During that interview, Carter said: Carter int

“…President Obama made a good start in Cairo when he announced that there wouldn’t…to be no more settlements in Palestinian territory and that the 1967 borders would prevail.”

Anchor Katty Kay made no attempt whatsoever to clarify to audiences that no Israeli communities exist in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip or in the Palestinian Authority-controlled Areas A & B as defined under the Oslo accords. Neither did she bother to point out that the status of Area C – the part of Judea & Samaria in which Israeli communities are located – is subject to final status negotiations under the terms of those same accords and hence, with the agreement of the Palestinians seeing as their representatives willingly signed those accords, cannot currently be described accurately as “Palestinian territory”.

Likewise, Kay made no attempt to intervene to dispel the misleading impression created by Carter that such a thing as “1967 borders” exists. She did not clarify that what the former president referred to are in fact the 1949 armistice lines and made no effort to explain to audiences that the text of the armistice agreement specifically states that those lines do not constitute a border.

“Article II

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

1. The principle that no military or political advantage should be gained under the truce ordered by the Security Council is recognized;

2. It is also recognized that no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.”

“Article VI

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

In just one sentence Carter managed to conjure up a double-headed chimera which misleads, confuses and actively hinders BBC audiences’ understanding of two important issues underlying the subject matter of that part of Kay’s interview. Katty Kay’s failure to challenge Carter’s inaccurate terminology obviously breaches BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy.

Related Articles:

BBC defends employee’s use of term ‘Jewish lobby’

Jimmy Carter, History and the Jewish State (CAMERA)

BBC promotes the false concept of ’1967 borders’

 

BBC claims final tranche of prisoner release included “hundreds” – reader secures correction

Another day: another BBC article on the subject of the stalled talks between Israel and the PLO which does little to inform BBC audiences of the complete background to the current impasse.

Having covered the subject in five previous reports published throughout the ten days between March 26th and April 4th (see related articles below), the BBC News website published an additional report on April 6th titled “Netanyahu: Israel will answer Palestinian unilateralism“.

Based on remarks made by Israel’s prime minister at the weekly cabinet meeting on the same day, the report has little to contribute to audience understanding of the topic. Like its predecessors, this article fails to fully inform audiences of the background to the story, preferring instead to once again present an equivocally framed picture of events. 

Bizarrely, it was claimed in the original version of this report that: [emphasis added]

“Earlier this week, Israel cancelled plans to free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, arguing that Mr Abbas’s decision to sign up to several international conventions at the UN had violated the conditions for the release.

The Palestinians however say that Israel had already reneged on a commitment to free the prisoners.”

Netanyahu talks art 6 4. hundreds

In fact, twenty-six releases – not “hundreds” – were scheduled for the end of March (dependent upon progress in the talks – of which there was little), with 78 prisoners having already been freed in the previous three tranches under the terms of the agreement which preceded the return to negotiations.

“Under the terms of the agreement last July that enabled the current round of negotiations – which is set to expire on April 29 – Israel was to release 104 Palestinian security prisoners in four phases, and the Palestinians were to refrain from unilateral moves in the international arena.”

The BBC appears to have conflated the original July 2013 agreement with an offer (which, ironically, it has so far failed to report) made by Israel to the US Secretary of State in order to encourage the Palestinian Authority to continue negotiations after the April 29th dead-line which was publicized on the morning of April 1st. Inter alia, according to the terms of that offer, in addition to the fourth tranche of 26 prisoners:

“Israel would release an additional 400 Palestinian prisoners during the continuing negotiation period. These prisoners would be picked by Israel, include many minors and women, and not include those with “blood on their hands.” “

That offer was however rendered irrelevant by the Palestinian president’s live televised signing of applications to join assorted UN agencies on the afternoon of the same day – in violation of the July 2013 agreement which preceded the recommencement of negotiations, in which the PA committed to not applying to the UN throughout the period of talks scheduled to close on April 29th.

The BBC’s failure to clarify to audiences that Abbas’ signing of the UN applications did indeed violate the terms of the agreement reached before the talks recommenced – and its framing of that issue as an Israeli claim alone – is clearly as misleading to BBC audiences as its gross inflation of the number of prisoners scheduled for release.

The latter point has meanwhile been corrected following a complaint made to the BBC News website’s Middle East desk by a reader, to which the following response was received.

“We have corrected the story and published a note at the end explaining the changes. We are grateful to you for pointing out the mistake and apologise for the error.”

On April 7th the paragraph concerned was amended and another added. That section of the article now reads:

“Earlier this week, Israel cancelled plans to free a final batch of Palestinian prisoners, arguing that Mr Abbas’s decision to sign up to several international conventions at the UN had violated the conditions for the release.

The Palestinians however say that Israel had already reneged on a commitment to free the prisoners.

Israel has so far freed 78 prisoners in three rounds of releases – part of a deal under which both sides agreed to resume peace talks last July.”

A footnote was appended to the report.

correction article netanyahu mepp

One does have to wonder how such an obvious factual inaccuracy managed to slip past fact checking and editorial processes. 

Related Articles:

 BBC already setting the scene for ME talks collapse

BBC continues to present an incomplete picture of Israel-PLO talks

BBC’s selective omissions slant audience view of Israel-PLO talks

BBC opts for equivalence in report on talks breakdown

Crucial background to floundering of ME talks still outside the BBC’s frame

 

 

Crucial background to floundering of ME talks still outside the BBC’s frame

On April 4th a report appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website under the title “Kerry calls for ‘reality check’ in Mid-East peace talks“. Based on remarks made by the US Secretary of State during a visit to Morocco, the article makes repeat use of the theme of equivalence promoted in previous recent coverage of the floundering talks between Israel and the PLO (see ‘related articles’ below) and is blighted by the same omission of crucial information which compromises audience understanding of the events which led to the current crisis. Kerry Morocco art

Throughout the report the BBC herds audiences towards an equivocal appraisal of the situation. The caption to the first image chosen to illustrate the report reads:

“Israel and the Palestinians have traded blame for the latest crisis in the talks”.

In the body of the article readers are told that:

“He [Kerry] spoke after steps taken by Israel and the Palestinians in the past two days which each side said violated previous promises.”

And:

“However, Washington has expressed exasperation at what it calls “unhelpful, unilateral actions” taken by both sides.”

And:

“The talks, which resumed in July under US auspices after a three-year hiatus, appeared to be on the point of breaking down this week, with Israel and the Palestinians blaming the other.” [all emphasis added]

In short, rather than fulfilling its role of building “a global understanding of international issues”, the BBC has again opted to avoid presenting audiences with the full picture.

The sequence of events leading up to the current impasse as presented by the BBC in this report begins as follows:

“The Palestinians were furious when Israel did not sanction the release of a fourth batch of Palestinian and Israeli-Arab prisoners, as agreed in principle under the terms on which the Palestinians returned to peace talks last year.”

The report does not clarify that the postponement of the fourth tranche of prisoner releases came after little if any progress had been made throughout eight months of negotiations – with direct talks having not taken place for months – and against the backdrop of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal (with Arab League backing) to agree to security arrangements in the Jordan Rift Valley and its refusal (again with Arab League support) to announce an end to future claims – and thereby an end to the conflict – by recognizing Israel as the Jewish state.

Although this report improves on previous ones by at least mentioning the potential inclusion of Arab-Israeli prisoners in the fourth tranche of prisoner releases, the BBC continues to avoid informing audiences of the fact that the inclusion of those particular prisoners had not been part of the agreement reached at the outset of the talks and that it was in fact a demand made by the Palestinian Authority. Once again, no effort is made to explain to readers the highly problematic aspects of this attempt by the PA to claim to represent citizens of another country and the clear interference in Israeli sovereignty that demand signifies. Neither is any effort made to explain to readers the potential political fallout for Israel’s coalition government which could be brought about by any release of Arab-Israeli prisoners.

The BBC’s suggestion that Israel reneged on a release of “Israeli-Arab prisoners, as agreed in principle” is contradicted by its own report from July 30th 2013 in which it was clearly stated that the identities of the prisoners scheduled for release – to be decided by Israel under the terms of the agreement – had not been publicized.

“Also on Sunday, the Israeli cabinet approved the release of 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners by 13 votes to seven.

The inmates are to be released in four stages over a number of months, linked to progress in the peace process.

Their identities have not been published, but according to reports they include those who have killed Israelis or Palestinian informers.”

Despite its having previously reported the fact that the prisoner releases were defined at the outset of this round of talks as being tied to their progress, the BBC’s ‘sequence’ in this report continues by opting to present that fact as an Israeli claim:

“Israel stressed that it had predicated any release on progress being made in the negotiations and on the Palestinians abiding by a commitment not to seek membership of international agencies.

Cabinet members also said they would block a release unless the Palestinians agreed to extend the talks beyond 29 April, the date by which the US had said it had hoped to reach a full agreement.”

Like its predecessors on the same topic, this report fails at this point to mention the supplementary concessions offered by Israel as an incentive to continue the talks after the April 29th deadline – including the release of an additional 400 prisoners and a commitment not to release any new building tenders for Judea & Samaria.

The BBC’s ‘sequence’ continues:

“The Palestinians however said they would not agree to extend the talks unless the prisoners were freed and accused Israel of reneging on the deal. […]

On Wednesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed applications to join 15 international conventions which Palestinian officials said was a response to Israel’s failure to release the prisoners. Israel fears the Palestinians will use the treaties as a legal tool against it and to further enhance statehood which is subject to the negotiations.

It officially cancelled the prisoner release on Thursday in response to Mr Abbas’s move.”

At this point the report should have clarified that the talks’ ‘pre-nup’ included a specific commitment by the PA not to make such applications to the UN (as recently confirmed by the PA president’s spokesman) and it should also have  informed readers of the additional new demands presented by the Palestinian Authority as condition for the extension of talks – but no mention whatsoever of those new demands is made.

Clearly, so much crucial information is being systematically left outside the BBC’s framing of this story that audiences cannot hope to develop a fact-based coherent understanding of this particular international issue.

Related Articles:

 BBC already setting the scene for ME talks collapse

BBC continues to present an incomplete picture of Israel-PLO talks

BBC’s selective omissions slant audience view of Israel-PLO talks

BBC opts for equivalence in report on talks breakdown

 

 

BBC opts for equivalence in report on talks breakdown

On the afternoon of April 3rd a report appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website under the title “Israel cancels Palestinian prisoner release“. The article underwent numerous changes until the appearance of its final version, as can be viewed here. Its presentation on the Middle East page included two links to ‘related stories’: one to the BBC’s July 2013 “History of Mid-East peace talks” and another to the outdated backgrounder titled “Q&A: Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jerusalem”.

The article’s outstanding feature is its transparent attempt to promote to BBC audiences the notion of equivalence in both its wording and through the images used. The two photographs below are prominently featured in the body of the report.

Pris release 3 4 pics equivalence

In the article’s text, readers are informed that:

“The previous three releases of Palestinian prisoners were deeply unpopular with the Israeli public because many of those freed had been convicted of murdering Israelis.”

Following that laconic statement, audiences are then told:

“But the Palestinians – many of whom regard the prisoners as heroes – believed the final batch of prisoners would be freed under a US deal that got the talks started last year.”

Once again – as was the case in the BBC’s previous two articles on the topic of the floundering talks – audiences are not informed that the Palestinian Authority’s stance concerning the fourth tranche of prisoner releases included the demand to free prisoners who are Israeli citizens and consequently they also remain unaware of the implications of that demand.

The article states:

“Israel has cancelled the release of a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners over the Palestinian leadership’s pursuit of further UN recognition.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Palestinian actions had violated the terms of the release, which was part of a US-backed peace process.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has applied to 15 UN conventions, accusing Israel of backtracking on its promises.”

Although the BBC quotes Israel’s negotiator Tzipi Livni as saying that Mahmoud Abbas’ application to join assorted UN conventions “violated the terms of the release”, no attempt is made to properly clarify to audiences that in the run-up to the talks the PA specifically committed itself to refraining from just such a move for their nine-month duration which does not expire until April 29th. Neither is it made clear to audiences that the prisoner releases were subject to progress in the talks – of which there has been little – and recent statements by Palestinian officials concerning the prisoner releases are of course excluded from view.

Later on the article states that: Pris release main

“In recent days, the US had reportedly been trying to broker a deal in which the Palestinians would agree to extend the peace talks beyond the end of April deadline in exchange for the releasing of prisoners by Israel, and the US would free Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in return.”

As was the case when a similar statement was made in a previous BBC report on the issue, audiences are not informed of the full extent of that proposed deal and Israeli concessions are downplayed.

“The negotiations would continue into January 2015, during which time the Palestinians would commit themselves not to engage in diplomatic warfare against Israel by going to international organizations for recognition. […]

Israel would release an additional 400 Palestinian prisoners during the continuing negotiation period. These prisoners would be picked by Israel, include many minors and women, and not include those with “blood on their hands.”

Israel would “exercise restraint” in releasing government tenders for new homes in the West Bank, meaning that it would issue no new government tenders for housing in Judea and Samaria. This policy would not include Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem beyond the Green Line.

This policy would also exclude public building projects, such as roads.”

Significantly, the latest set of Palestinian demands for the continuation of negotiations –presented on April 2nd – is not mentioned at all in this BBC report.

 1. A written commitment by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the borders of the Palestinian state will be along the 1967 ‘green-line’ and that its capital will be East Jerusalem.

2. The release of 1,200 Palestinian prisoners, including political heavyweights Marwan Barghouti, Ahmed Saadat and Fuad Shubkhi.

3. An end to the Egyptian-Israeli blockade on Gaza, and the formulation of dealing allowing the flow of goods into Gaza.

4. A halt in construction in East Jerusalem.

5. The IDF will not be allowed to enter Area A – the area of the West Bank under autonomous PA control since the Oslo Accords – to conduct arrests or assassinations

6. Israel will permit the PA control over Area C – currently under Israel’s control.

7. The Palestinians known as the Church of Nativity deportees– a group of terrorist who barricaded themselves in the Church of the Nativity on April 2, 2002 and were later deported to European nations and the Gaza Strip – will be allowed to return to the West Bank.

8. The reopening of a number of Palestinian development agencies Israel shut down. 

Additionally, once again we see that in this report – as in its predecessors – the BBC neglects to explain to audiences the significance of the PA’s crucial refusal (backed by the Arab League) to recognize Israel as the Jewish state and hence bring an end to any future claims and an end to the conflict.

The entire tone of this latest report on the subject of the talks can be summed up by looking at a statement by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly which appears in the body of the article and also in its side-box of ‘analysis’.

“Each side blames the other for initiating that sequence of backward steps. In theory they could be reversed and a limited agreement reached to extend talks beyond the current 29 April deadline but the prospects are not improving.”

In other words, equivalence is currently the name of the game for the BBC and the steering of audiences towards that view is achieved by selective presentation of information which includes downplaying Israeli offers of concessions and disappearing assorted Palestinian demands, as well as the continued presentation of a supposed moral equivalence between terrorist and victim. 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC’s selective omissions slant audience view of Israel-PLO talks

On the evening of April 1st an article titled “Premature to write off Middle East peace talks – Kerry” appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. Abbas UN bid art

The event which prompted the appearance of that article – and its title – was the live televised signing by PA president Mahmoud Abbas of applications to join assorted UN agencies.

The BBC’s description of that event is as follows:

“Hours earlier, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would seek further UN recognition unless a prisoner release by Israel went ahead.

At a televised meeting in the West Bank, Mr Abbas signed applications by the “State of Palestine” to join several UN agencies and ratify international treaties, beginning with the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Leading members of his Fatah movement and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) voted unanimously in support of the move, which the Israeli and the US governments have argued is deeply mistaken.”

However, at no point in the report does the BBC bother to inform readers that, as part of last July’s overtures to this latest round of negotiations, the Palestinian Authority committed itself to refraining from just such a move for the nine-month duration of the talks which does not expire until April 29th.

That above BBC description of Abbas’ move is followed immediately by the following piece of information, which is totally irrelevant to the story’s subject matter given that no building freeze was agreed upon as a condition of the current negotiations.

“Israel meanwhile reissued tenders for 708 homes in the Jewish settlement of Gilo in East Jerusalem, the Israeli pressure group Peace Now said.

Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war and formally annexed the area in 1980. Settlements built there and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

In what has become standard BBC practice, audiences are herded towards a mistaken belief that Israel is alone in disputing that particular interpretation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and – in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – readers are not informed that any other dissenting opinions even exist, let alone of the basis for such disagreement.

The statement that “Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan” in 1967 may be technically accurate, but it is also deliberately misleading because it does not inform readers of the relevant fact that Jordan’s 19-year occupation of parts of Jerusalem was not recognized by the international community.

In keeping with its previous article on the subject of the rickety negotiations published earlier on the same day, the BBC again fails to make any mention in this report of the fact that the Palestinian Authority’s stance concerning the fourth tranche of prisoner releases includes the demand to free prisoners who are Israeli citizens. Hence, yet again, no explanation is provided to BBC audiences regarding the highly problematic aspects of that attempt by the PA to claim to represent citizens of another country and the clear interference in Israeli sovereignty that demand signifies. Neither is any attempt made to explain to readers the potential political fallout for Israel’s coalition government which could be brought about by any release of Arab-Israeli prisoners.

In fact, although it is no doubt aware of the PA demand to release 14 Arab-Israelis, the BBC presents them as “Palestinian prisoners” as can be seen below. [emphasis added]

“Mr Kerry has for weeks been trying to persuade both sides to continue the direct negotiations beyond 29 April, but his efforts have been jeopardised by a disagreement over the release of a fourth group of 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

Mr Abbas says they must be freed, in keeping with a promise made by Israel before the negotiations resumed in July after a three-year hiatus.

But Israeli officials say they are reluctant to proceed unless the Palestinians commit to extending the talks, and stress that the releases have always been tied to their progress.

The previous three releases were deeply unpopular with the Israeli public because many of the prisoners were convicted of murdering Israelis.”

Towards its end, the report states:

“Earlier on Tuesday, the US Secretary of State held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat amid reports that they were close to finalising an agreement that would extend the talks until 2015.

Sources cited by US and Israeli media said a deal was emerging in which the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners would be freed in return for the release of Jonathan Pollard, an American who was jailed for life in 1987 for spying for Israel.”

The BBC refrains from mentioning that in addition to the above, the proposed terms of the “deal” also included the following points:

“The negotiations would continue into January 2015, during which time the Palestinians would commit themselves not to engage in diplomatic warfare against Israel by going to international organizations for recognition. […]

Israel would release an additional 400 Palestinian prisoners during the continuing negotiation period. These prisoners would be picked by Israel, include many minors and women, and not include those with “blood on their hands.”

Israel would “exercise restraint” in releasing government tenders for new homes in the West Bank, meaning that it would issue no new government tenders for housing in Judea and Samaria. This policy would not include Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem beyond the Green Line.

This policy would also exclude public building projects, such as roads.”

This report is the third to appear on the BBC News website in the past week in connection with the current talks between Israel and the PLO – see here and here.

None of these articles have explained to audiences the significance of the PA’s refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state with regard to ending future claims – and therefore the conflict.

Two of the three articles omit any mention of the Palestinian demand for the release of Israeli Arab prisoners and none of them explain the significance of that demand to audiences.

In this latest report, Israeli offers of concessions are downplayed whilst an irrelevant passage about the re-issuing of building tenders in a Jerusalem neighbourhood is promoted. The fact that this latest PA attempt to join UN agencies breaches agreements reached ahead of the current talks is also disappeared from audience view and no attempt whatsoever is made to place this move within its appropriate context.  

If and when these negotiations do fizzle out, BBC audiences will be ill-placed to understand why that happened due to the BBC’s selective and systematic omission of crucial parts of the story in its reporting.