BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ provides propaganda platform for Erekat yet again

The last thing that can be said about the PLO’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is that he suffers from a lack of BBC airtime but nevertheless, the end of May saw him back at one of his regular spots – ‘Hardtalk‘.Erekat Hardtalk May 2015

Not only did Erekat have nothing new to tell host Zeinab Badawi, he even recycled statements made during previous appearances on the same programme. At 10:32 in the video below, Erekat says:

“See, in my opinion Christian and Muslim Palestinians will not convert to Judaism and become Israelis. Jews will not convert to Islam and Christianity and become Palestinians.”

If that sounds familiar, that may be because only last year Erekat made a very similar statement during a previous ‘Hardtalk’ interview.

“Are Christian and Muslim Palestinians going to convert to become Israelis? Or are Jews going to convert to Christianity and Islam and become Palestinians? This is not happen.” 

And if it rang a bell even in 2014, that could be because back in 2011 Erekat told Zeinab Badawi in yet another ‘Hardtalk’ interview:

“I don’t think Christian and Muslim Palestinians would convert to Judaism and become Israelis. I don’t think that Jews would convert to Islam and Christianity and become Palestinian.”

In other words, for four years at least Saeb Erekat has been pushing the same broken record mantra and not one BBC journalist has bothered to follow it up by informing audiences that not all Israelis are Jews – as the country’s two million strong non-Jewish population (25.1%) indicates – or by asking him why Jews cannot be citizens of a Palestinian state.

Let’s take look at some of the other falsehoods propagated by Erekat – with no disturbance from Badawi – in this programme.

“I have as a Palestinian recognized the State of Israel’s right to exist on the ’67 borders.”

“We recognize them to live in peace and security in the ’67 borders – that’s 78% of historic British mandated Palestine – and accepted to establish our state in the remaining 22% of the land.”

There is of course no such thing as “’67 borders” because the 1949 Armistice Lines were specifically defined as not being borders – as even the BBC’s style guide notes. Nevertheless, Badawi makes no effort to clarify the point to viewers.

“In one week of his government he [Netanyahu] issues more than two thousand housing units of settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. They’re moving their offices – his ministers – to occupied East Jerusalem and today, literally speaking, there are buses in Israel that Palestinians cannot use. They call it sterilized buses and there will be roads that they call sterilized roads.”

Those “East Jerusalem” apartments are in fact located in Ramat Shlomo and have been going through the planning process since 2010. One Israeli minister has approached the Finance Ministry with a request for new offices in Jerusalem. The same ministry has a long existing office in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem: an area which was classified as no-man’s land throughout the 19 years of the Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem. There are no “sterilized buses” and the restriction on travel for PA registered vehicles on certain small sections of road arises from the very real security issues which of course do not get a mention in this programme at all.

“I’m telling the Israelis if you worry about courts, stop committing crimes. […] I cannot have every two years 12,000 Palestinians killed and wounded in Gaza. I cannot leave the continuation of the settlement activities, by-pass roads – now they call sterilized road – sterilized buses. I cannot continue living a deeper apartheid system in the West Bank and East Jerusalem than the one that existed in South Africa. So what I’m telling the Israelis wake up, wake up. What you’re doing in the West Bank in accordance with the international law – the four Geneva Conventions and the 4th Convention of 1949 – are war crimes.”

Like the vast majority of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria, Saeb Erekat lives under full Palestinian Authority control. The topic of Palestinian self-rule in areas A&B is of course not mentioned at any point in this programme either and Badawi sits idly by as Erekat promotes the false and defamatory notion of a system of ‘apartheid’ worse “than the one that existed in South Africa”.

“I know I have an agreed agenda with them, signed by the Israeli government, saying that permanent status negotiations issues are borders, Jerusalem, water, security. Is Mr Netanyahu willing to utter the sentence two states on the 1967 lines? […] Is he willing to carry out his commitment – not condition – to stop settlement activities in the land that’s supposed to be the State of Palestine?”

“What is between me and the Israelis are elements of contracts, agreements signed. There are obligations emanating from those agreements signed – on me as a Palestinian and on Israel. And Israel must stop settlement activities and must accept two states on 1967 lines and must accept to sit with me to delineate the borders on the basis of the 1967 lines. If they’re willing to honour their commitments we’ll meet tomorrow.”

The “agreements” and “contracts” signed between the Palestinians and Israel are the Oslo Accords. In contrast to the misleading impression given to viewers of this programme, nowhere in those agreements is any restriction placed on building in Israeli towns and villages in Judea & Samaria or Jerusalem and nowhere do they state that the 1949 Armistice Lines – or “67 lines” as Erekat calls them – would be the final borders between Israel and a Palestinian state. That, of course, is precisely why the subject of borders is one of the issues to be discussed in final status negotiations.

“We’re willing to engage seriously on the basis of the agreed terms of reference specified in the Quartet’s statements saying that negotiations should be on the basis of two states on 1967.”

The Quartet’s February 2015 statement makes no mention of “1967” and neither does its 2003 roadmap stipulate that Erekat’s much-touted “1967 lines” are a basis for negotiations.

“The fact that Palestine became and has gained the legal status for observer state meant that it’s a state under occupation. The West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem is identified as now as a Higher [sic] Contracting Party to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. […] Palestine has a status of a state under occupation like what countries like Norway, Belgium, Holland, France, Korea, the Philippines were in the Second World War under German and Japanese occupation [Badawi: sure, sure…] so the Israelis cannot say it’s disputed territories…”

Legal experts contacted by BBC Watch in connection with Erekat’s claim that the 2012 granting of the status of UN non-member observer state automatically confers High Contracting Party status advised us that “neither joining the Geneva Conventions nor receiving observer status in the General Assembly are procedures for assigning territorial sovereignty, and neither action could give “Palestine” sovereignty over the territory of “West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.”

“Zeinab, settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem are illegal settlements. Actually, in accordance with the 4th Geneva Convention these settlements are war crimes.”

That inaccuracy is reinforced by Badawi at 07:45:

“And of course, as you say, international law says that the settlements are illegal.

Once again the BBC breaches its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to inform audiences of the existence of legal opinions which disagree with the politically partial line it chooses to promote.

Were viewers of this programme provided with factual information which would aid them in building an “understanding of international issues“? Regrettably, no. Were they provided with unchallenged misinformation in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality? Unfortunately, yes. That, however, is par for the course in any BBC content featuring Saeb Erekat.

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BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part two

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BBC WS’s Dan Damon turns domestic Palestinian story into anti-Israel propaganda fest

The news that Mahmoud Abbas had unilaterally decided to dissolve the one year-old ‘Palestinian Unity Government’ was reported on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in an article titled “Palestinian unity government ‘to resign over Gaza row’” which originally appeared on June 16th.

Excepting the very coy description of Hamas’ violent seizure of power and the lack of any mention of the fact that the results of the 2006 PLC elections no longer hold any relevance (“…Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in 2006, ousted Fatah from Gaza in 2007…”), the report is reasonable and correctly notes that:

“Israel has insisted it will not deal with a government backed by Hamas, which is sworn to its destruction.”

As readers will of course recall, it was Abbas’ decision to form that unity government with Hamas which was the final nail in the coffin of the last round of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in 2014.PUG Daily Commute

However, listeners to the June 17th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘BBC World Update: Daily Commute’ – available for a limited period of time here, from 3:04 – heard a decidedly different take on the story. Whilst the first part of the five-minute item is indeed devoted to discussion of the subject matter between host Dan Damon and guest Ghassan Khatib, from around 5:27 the focus changes. Damon – apparently ignorant of the fact that the last round of negotiations collapsed because Abbas chose to embrace and legitimize the terror organization which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist – poses the following misleading question.

Damon: “There isn’t much of a peace process anyway in relationship between the Palestinians and the Israelis but does this make it more unlikely that there’ll be any kind of valuable negotiation?

Khatib: “I don’t think there is any great deal of interaction between forming or not forming a new Palestinian government on one hand and the Palestinian-Israeli relations on the other hand because chances are almost zero about the peace process, especially after the last Israeli election and the election of that far Right-wing government that has no interest in discussing the possibilities of Israel giving up its illegal control over the Palestinian occupied territories.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that any current Israeli control over territory occupied by Jordan in 1948 is the result of agreements willingly signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people over two decades ago and therefore cannot be accurately termed “illegal”, Damon asks:

“Was this an opportunity missed, do you believe, to improve the lives of some desperately poor people in that part of the world?”

Khatib: “Yes, I think that much of the needs of people can be better fulfilled on a practical level, on humanitarian level, on services level, between the bodies in charge of the West Bank and those in the Gaza Strip. However, much of this is also related to the Israeli restrictions. Israel is supposed to be more forthcoming in easing the blockade against Gaza and easing the restrictions and the settlement expansion and the settlers violent [sic] against Palestinians in West Bank, especially East Jerusalem.”

Damon’s next question-cum-political statement provides plenty of insight into the motives behind his failure to challenge that blatant propaganda.

Damon: “And if you follow that analysis through, this gives the hardliners on the Israeli side exactly what they want. They can say ‘look – no negotiating partner so we’ll continue with our policy of creating facts on the ground’.”

Khatib: “Actually, this is like mixing the cause with the effect. It’s actually the victory of those Right-wingers in Israel and their continued settlement expansion is the reason why there is no sound negotiations. Palestinian side is ready for negotiations – that was announced again and again, including last week by President Abbas in a conference in South Africa. He said that he’s ready to go back to negotiations. But is Israel ready to negotiate the future of the Palestinian territories? That’s the main question. Is Israel ready for the two state solution? Even the closest friend of Israel, President Obama, said on an interview last week with Israeli Channel 2 that there’s little hope that this government Israel is ready for a two state solution.”

The item ends there, with listeners deprived of any chance to hear the Israeli point of view or response to the propagandist allegations touted by Khatib.

This was supposed to be a report informing audiences about the dissolution of the PA unity government and of course there was no need to introduce Israel into the story at all. Instead, Dan Damon turned it into an exercise in Israel bashing and the one-sided promotion of falsehoods and propaganda intended to further the Palestinian Authority’s PR campaign. So much for accurate and impartial journalism.

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A postscript to BBC Business’ recent reports from the Gaza Strip

As readers are aware, Roger Hearing and Marie Keyworth from the BBC’s business department recently produced a series of reports (see related articles below) for BBC World Service radio which purported to inform BBC audiences worldwide about the state of the economy in both the Palestinian Authority controlled areas of Judea & Samaria and the supposedly PA controlled – but in fact Hamas-run – Gaza Strip.Business Daily 19 5 Keyworth

Though high on pathos and politically motivated messaging, the duo’s reports from the Gaza Strip notably made no mention whatsoever of one particular factor which has recently led to rising prices.

As the New York Times reported:

“Most recently, Hamas quietly initiated new import fees in an effort to cover the salaries of about 40,000 employees who have not been paid for months, raising prices in already-depressed markets. A kilogram of meat, a little over two pounds, increased by 50 cents, black pepper by $1.50 a kilogram and shampoo by 25 cents.”

Avi Issacharoff adds:

“The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip has instituted new taxes that will be used to pay the salaries of its administration officials, who number approximately 40,000.

Hamas, which declared the taxes under the heading “social solidarity,” decided to begin collecting them following a meeting of its parliament members who live in Gaza.

The new taxes, which include a 25 percent tariff on new cars, have led to higher prices, such as a 20% increase in the price of beef. […]

The new taxes are also constantly changing. One tax that was instituted recently requires companies registered with the Economic Affairs Ministry in Gaza to pay approximately NIS 500 to have a Hamas representative participate in a company conference. Hamas charges another few hundred shekels to have the conference registered, and if it is postponed, the postponement is taxed as well.

The most problematic taxes are levied on all goods that enter the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Even cartons of cigarettes that are brought in from the West Bank are taxed. This means that the average resident of Gaza pays more for cigarettes than his counterpart in the West Bank does, even though the standard of living in the West Bank is higher.

Another example is meat: Since importers must pay NIS 50 in taxes for every calf that enters Gaza, the price of beef has gone up. Hamas’s import tax on sheep is “only” NIS 25 per head.”Business Matters 19 5 Hearing intro

As readers may recall, salaries for those 40,000 Hamas employees have been an issue ever since the announcement of the Hamas-Fatah ‘unity government’ a year ago. As the Times of Israel explained at the time:

“The PA has been paying monthly salaries to nearly 70,000 public servants in Gaza despite the fact that the workers had not been allowed to serve in their positions since Hamas took over the Strip by force in 2007.

On its part, Hamas has employed 40,000 of its own civil servants to work in the PA employees’ stead.”

The Palestinian Authority refused to pay Hamas’ 40,000 employees and payment of those salaries appeared among the demands laid down by Hamas as conditions for halting the conflict with Israel which it initiated last July.

Back in July 2014 the BBC’s Yolande Knell produced a dumbed down report on the economy in the Gaza Strip which misrepresented the story of those 40,000 Hamas employees and now BBC Business reporters have ignored the issue of the price rises caused by taxes intended to pay their salaries. Once again we see that factors affecting the Palestinian economy which are the result of Palestinian decisions interest the BBC considerably less than any Israeli actions. 

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Multiple breaches of BBC editorial guidelines in BBC WS’s ‘Business Matters’ report from Bethlehem

Multiple breaches of BBC editorial guidelines in BBC WS’s ‘Business Matters’ report from Bethlehem

In addition to the two parts of the report aired in the May 20th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Business Matters’ which have already been discussed on these pages (see here and here), the segment included a report (also promoted as a separate clip) from Bethlehem by Marie Keyworth.

The synopsis to the separately promoted clip – titled “Making Ends Meet In The West Bank” – promotes the same inaccurate claim about roads made by Roger Hearing in his introduction to the segment.Keyworth WB

“The modern map of the West Bank is a mind-boggling jigsaw of areas under the control of Israel or the Palestinian Authority, as well as settlements and roads linking settlements, that Palestinians cannot use. So how do the 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank do business in such difficult circumstances? Marie Keyworth has been finding out.”

As we noted here earlier, the vast majority of routes are completely open to use by all, with PA registered vehicles excluded from less than 15 kms of roadway in Judea & Samaria.

Making no effort whatsoever to inform listeners that the Palestinian Authority has had total control over Bethlehem for the last nineteen and a half years in accordance with the Oslo Accords, Keyworth opens her report with the following claim:

“Now to many minds the West Bank will conjure up an image of conflict and indeed it has a chequered past. The whole area is under military occupation by Israel and the restrictions that country has imposed on the West Bank are having a huge effect on the economy.”

Keyworth makes no attempt to introduce the all-important context of terrorism past and present and listeners then hear three anonymous voices making the following statements:

“It’s very hard and there’s not a lot of work and people are scared.”

“I can say in one word – it’s miserable because every day we have a struggle. We face the Israelien [sic] law and the Israelien [sic] army.”

“The life here is like…here we are living in a big prison. We just survive for every day. We can’t predict for anything…for like the occupation, the wall, all of these things which surround Bethlehem.”

Notably, the inaccurate claims that the anti-terrorist fence is a “wall” and that it ‘surrounds’ Bethlehem were not edited out. Keyworth continues:

“From the falafel restaurant to the taxi driver, everyone here seems to have a complaint about this occupation.”

She then goes on to interview someone she introduces only as “Sam Bahour – a Palestinian-American businessman”. As readers are no doubt aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality stipulate “the importance of clearly summarising the standpoint of any interviewee where it is relevant and not immediately clear from their position or the title of their organization” but Sam Bahour’s affiliations and political activism get no mention from Keyworth.

Another of Keyworth’s interviewees is an accountant employed by the PA’s education department, identified only as Khaled. Listeners hear him say:

“My last time I got paid in full was in November 2014 and after that we started to have 60% per month.”

Keyworth adds:

“Khaled’s salary was cut because Israel stopped paying the PA the customs tax it collects on its behalf. The move is widely seen as Israel’s punishment for the Palestinians taking their case to the international courts. This money makes up 70% of the PA’s budget so when it’s not transferred, all ninety thousand employees in the West Bank get a pay cut. Now Israel has released some of the money but it’s not the first time this has happened and Khaled expects at some point it’ll all happen again.”

This of course is not the first time the BBC has reported on the topic of tax revenues and yet again the critical context of the PA’s considerable debts to Israel is excluded from the picture. As a recent World Bank report explains:

“Net lending, which mainly represents payments to Israel for electricity, continues to form a major drag on the PA’s budget. In 2014, it was 35 percent higher than the previous year and ran 70 percent above its budget target. The major cause of net lending is that funds collected from consumers through electricity bills are used by Local Government Units to finance expenditures rather than pay bills to the Israeli Electricity Company (IEC) – the main electricity supplier. A share of the unpaid amount is deducted by Israel from the PA’s clearance revenues, and is called net lending. The rest accumulates as debt which, according to IEC, stood at about USD 0.5 billion as of March 2015.”

BBC World Service listeners, however, know nothing of all that: instead Marie Keyworth leads them to believe that Israel is ‘punishing’ the Palestinians.

Keyworth’s account of how some Palestinians became refugees is no less economical with context, erasing completely from view the attacks on the nascent Jewish State by surrounding Arab countries and others:WS WB

“When the State of Israel was created more than 60 years ago, many Palestinians found their villages fell within the new Israeli boundaries. Those living in the villages south of Jerusalem and Hebron left and moved here to the Dheisheh refugee camp south of Bethlehem.”

Also notable is the fact that in addition to the fact that two interviewees – ‘Mohammed’ and the PA’s Minister of Economy – promote the notion of a link between unemployment and violence (as is also the case in the final section of the segment), Keyworth herself presents the following ‘question’ to the COGAT officer she interviews:

“By increasing security you inevitably constrict the economic freedom of the people in the West Bank, which in turn creates more animosity and more negativity and makes people more angry, which eventually makes the security situation even more serious.”

Like the other sections of this programme, Keyworth’s report conforms to a specific political narrative and has a very obvious agenda. Once more listeners are left with a take-away message which includes only passive Palestinians exempt from any responsibility for their past and present decisions which have affected their lives and their economy.

Whilst that certainly makes for nice, simple story-telling, it does not fulfil the BBC’s public purpose remit of building “a global understanding of international issues” by providing audiences with an objective, impartial, factual and accurate portrayal of the Palestinian economy.

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BBC World Service’s Hearing reveals the political foundations of a ‘business’ report

The May 20th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Business Matters’ devoted roughly half its content (from 26:39 here) to the topic of “Doing Business In The West Bank” and, in addition to the interview with a World Bank representative discussed in a previous post, listeners heard presenter Roger Hearing introduce that segment of the show with the following words.WS WB

“The West Bank has become the name for the land on the west bank of the River Jordan that was in Jordanian hands until it was occupied by Israel after the 1967 war.”

In typical BBC style, Hearing’s history begins in 1967 and thus erases from audience view both the name (Judea & Samaria) and the legal status of that territory before the fledgling Israeli state was attacked by the surrounding Arab states in 1948. Jordan’s belligerent nineteen-year occupation – unrecognized by all but two countries – is likewise airbrushed by Hearing through use of the euphemistic phrase “in Jordanian hands”. He also conceals the fact that the term “West Bank” was deliberately employed by the Jordanian occupiers in order to promote the notion that the territory had some sort of legitimate link to Jordan. Hearing continues:

“It includes four and a half million Palestinians. It also contains a growing number of Israelis who’ve established settlements regarded as illegal under international law.”

As ever, BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality are breached as Hearing fails to inform listeners even of the existence of legal opinions which differ from the one exclusively quoted and promoted by the BBC.

He goes on:

“A modern map of the West Bank is a mind-boggling jigsaw of areas under the control of Israel or of the Palestinian Authority as well as settlements and roads linking settlements that Palestinians cannot use, plus an Israeli security wall that sometimes cuts off farmers from their land.”

The context of how that “jigsaw” came about is erased from Hearing’s account with no mention of the fact that the recognized representatives of the Palestinian people agreed to that arrangement when they signed the Oslo Accords two decades ago.

Not only does Hearing fail to clarify that the “areas under the control of Israel” (Area C) are not separate from the “settlements” as his words imply (all Israeli towns and villages are located in Area C and Israel has security control only in Area B) but his claim that Palestinians cannot use “roads linking settlements” is inaccurate and misleading. The vast majority of roads in the region are open to use by all motorists: even the political NGO B’Tselem acknowledges that in the region to which Hearing relates, as of March 2015, vehicles with PA number plates were excluded from travel on just three sections of road totaling less than 15 kms. Hearing of course neglects to point out that Israelis cannot use the roads in Area A – the parts of the region under Palestinian Authority control to which Israelis are forbidden entry.

Hearing fails to comply even with his own organisation’s style guide when he describes an “Israeli security wall” which is in fact 97% fence: the approved BBC term is in fact “barrier”. He also fails to note that the fence includes agricultural gates specifically designed to enable farmers to reach their land.

“Every planned segment of the fence has been first examined and approved by legal advisors prior to its construction. As a matter of policy, wherever possible, the fence is built on state-owned, rather than private lands, in an effort to minimize land seizures. Additionally, great efforts are made to avoid separating landowners from their lands; in circumstances where such separation is unavoidable, agricultural gates allowing for farmers to cross into their land have been built. Moreover, in cases where the fence causes residents economic harm, those affected are entitled to compensation. In addition, residents can petition Israel’s High Court of Justice with objections to the route of the fence. As of May 2008, approximately 140 petitions have been submitted against the route of the fence to the High Court of Justice. In several cases, the court decided that particular sections of the fence cause disproportionate harm to Palestinian residents and ordered the fence to be rerouted.”

Refraining from supplying his listeners with any independent portrayal of the context of the frequent attacks against Israeli civilians travelling on roadways in Judea & Samaria during the second Intifada and the suicide bombings originating from that area which plagued Israeli towns and cities during those years, Hearing also fails to provide the all-important context of the current security threats which mean that measures such as the anti-terrorist fence and checkpoints – whilst significantly reduced in recent years – are still necessary. Instead he adopts the standard “Israel says” formula in his nod to BBC requirements of ‘impartiality’.

“Israel says their checkpoints and restrictions on movement and imports are vital to security. And it’s true: inside Israel attacks are very low in number these days. But there’s an economic price to pay for Palestinians…”

Just as Hearing’s introduction to the part of this series relating to the Gaza Strip provided a revealing glimpse into the ‘BBC World View’, this monologue also shows how the adoption of a specific political narrative dictates the type and quality of information provided to audiences and compromises the BBC’s adherence to its own editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality.

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BBC WS’s ‘Business Matters’ misrepresents the status of Area C in report on PA economy

Twenty years ago the internationally recognised representatives of the Palestinian people signed an agreement according to which land west of the River Jordan that was originally part of the territory designated by the League of Nations for the Jewish National Home but which had been conquered and occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967, would be divided into three zones. The Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip defines those zones as Areas A, B and C with the latter being left under Israeli control pending permanent status negotiations between Israel and the PLO.

Those negotiations on topics including Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements and borders began in 1996 but ran past their target date of May 4th 1999. Following the unsuccessful Camp David Summit in July 2000, the Palestinian Authority chose to initiate the war of terrorism known as the second Intifada. Although negotiations did continue for a time despite the extreme violence, the process was frozen in September 2003 following a major terror attack. In August 2005 Israel implemented its plan of disengagement from the Gaza Strip and areas in northern Samaria.

Throughout the twenty years since that interim agreement was signed, numerous attempts have been made to restart negotiations and several plans have been proposed including the Clinton Parameters and the 2008 Olmert Plan. In other words, had the Palestinian Authority wished to do so, it could have acquired control over the vast majority of Area C on several occasions over the last decade and a half by engaging in the negotiations to which the PLO originally committed itself in 1993.

However, members of the BBC World Service’s audience listening to the May 20th edition of ‘Business Matters’ – titled “Doing Business In The West Bank” – heard none of that very relevant context in the segment of the programme (from 26:39 in the link above) described in the synopsis as follows:WS WB

“In our second special report from Israel and the Palestinian Territories, we go to the West Bank to see how companies operate when investment and trade is inhibited by occupation. We hear from firms in Bethlehem and a tour guide in Jericho, as well as a representative from the Israeli authorities, and a World Bank official.”

In the final part of that segment (also available separately here) Roger Hearing interviewed Steen Lau Jorgensen – Country Director of the West Bank and Gaza for the World Bank – and listeners heard that ostensibly impartial source say:

“The closest we have to one number would be that if you look at Area C which is part of the West Bank – the 61% of the West Bank that’s still completely under Israeli control – by very conservative estimates, if Palestinians were given access to this and the private sector could flourish there, that would add a third to the Palestinian economy. And it would lower the Palestinian budget deficit by half. It’s very clear when you ask – and I’m sure, you know, we’ve heard from businessmen, from all sorts of people – that restrictions is the major constraint and that is – I mean restrictions not only on movement of people – restrictions on movement of goods.”

Roger Hearing later commented:

“The Israelis say that they are trying hard to work around this; they understand the problem but still they have major security fears which is the reason for the restrictions that they have. Does that ring true? Do you think that’s the way it is working?”

Listeners then hear the World Bank representative promote a dubious and evidence-free connection between unemployment and terrorism – although that word is of course not used here or anywhere else in this programme.

“It’s clear that what we’re seeing is that the Israeli restrictions are restricting economic activity and – you know – causing unemployment, causing – you know – underemployment. And we know from all the rest of the world that high unemployment is not good for peace and stability. I would think – and you hear voices on the Israeli side saying this as well – that the best thing for Israel’s long-term security, as well as a common interest, is a vibrant neighbour next door – right? […] It’s very rare that wealthy countries go to war with each other, right?”

As a look at unemployment rates and the GDP per capita in PA controlled areas over the last two decades clearly shows, the economy there was actually steadily improving and unemployment was falling when Arafat decided to launch the second Intifada in September 2000. 

GDP per capita

 

unemployment

Passing up on the opportunity to properly inform listeners of, for example, the PA’s use of 6% of its budget for payments to convicted terrorists or the connections between rampant PA corruption, the rise of Hamas and the subsequent need for Israeli counter-terrorism measures, Roger Hearing makes do with the following bland tick of the impartiality box.

“But is it fair to blame the Israelis for what is in many areas a Palestinian homegrown problem? The Palestinian Authority – as most people admit – is not terribly efficient. There is corruption, there is misuse of funds. Is it any surprise really that they don’t have a more vibrant economy?”

Jorgensen’s reply again misleads listeners with regard to the status of Area C.

“Well first of all, the West Bank – in spite of not having access to more than half of their territory etcetera, etcetera, etcetera – has actually grown over the last 20 years pretty close to what middle-income countries have done. So they haven’t done too badly. They’re much better than their image outside.” [emphasis added]

Those familiar with the reports frequently produced by the World Bank will not have been in the least surprised by Jorgensen’s misrepresentation of the standing of Area C and his failure to note the fact that its status has yet to be determined and is currently pending the results of negotiations. In October 2013, just as Jorgensen took on his position, the World Bank published a paper titled “Area C and the Future of the Palestinian Economy” which – like many of the World Bank’s other reports – is based to no small extent on material provided by a plethora of political NGOs including Yesh Din, Gisha, ARIJ, B’Tselem, Bimkom and the Land Research Centre.  

Unfortunately, Roger Hearing failed to correct the inaccurate impression given by his interviewee regarding the legal status of Area C just as he failed to relieve them of the misleading impression that terrorism is caused by unemployment. Moreover, whilst attributing the state of the economy in Palestinian Authority controlled areas to Israeli “restrictions”, Hearing made no attempt to accurately inform listeners what the phrase “major security fears” actually means.

Bearing in mind that BBC audiences suffer from consistent under-reporting on the subject of Palestinian terrorism and that stories such as the rise of Hamas in PA administered areas or the seizure of 5 million shekels worth of money intended to fund terrorism in 2014 alone are rarely covered by the BBC, it is imperative for any accurate and impartial report on the Palestinian economy to include such essential background information. This BBC World Service report failed to deliver, instead sticking to a well-trodden but misleading political narrative in which Palestinians are portrayed as passive victims devoid of all responsibility for their choices.

The rest of this programme will be discussed in a future post.

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Mainstreaming anti-Israel rhetoric on the BBC World Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connolly continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC News misleads on past Israel-PA negotiations

An article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 25th under the headline “Israel ex-PM Ehud Olmert given prison sentence” misleads BBC audiences with regard to past rounds of “the peace process”.Olmert art

The report states:

“Olmert served as prime minister from 2006 to 2009.

He was forced to resign amid a flurry corruption allegations, which ended his political career and disrupted the peace process with the Palestinians.”

So the BBC would have its audiences believe that negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (not, as claimed, with “the Palestinians” as a whole, which of course includes Hamas and other factions that reject negotiation with Israel) during Olmert’s term failed to come to fruition because they were interrupted by Olmert’s resignation.

Ehud Olmert’s term of office ended on March 31st 2009. Following the Annapolis conference in late November 2007, his government conducted negotiations with the Palestinian Authority throughout most of the following year.

In August 2008 – half a year before Olmert’s term of office ended – the Israeli daily Ha’aretz ran a story headlined “PA rejects Olmert’s offer to withdraw from 93% of West Bank“.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday rejected an Israeli peace proposal, which included withdrawal from 93 percent of the West Bank, because it does not provide for a contiguous Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, Abbas’s spokesman, told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan showed a “lack of seriousness.”

Under the proposal, Israel would return to the Palestinians 93 percent of the West Bank, plus all of the Gaza Strip, when the Palestinian Authority regains control over the Gaza Strip, which the militant group Hamas seized from forces loyal to Abbas in June 2006.

Olmert presented Abbas with the proposal as part of an agreement in principle on borders, refugees and security arrangements between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

In exchange for West Bank land that Israel would keep, Olmert proposed a 5.5 percent land swap giving the Palestinians a desert territory adjacent to the Gaza Strip.”

In September 2008, Olmert and Abbas met again.

“…Olmert presented the details of his offer for a peace deal between the nations, an unprecedented Israeli offer to be tendered to a Palestinian leader. 

Olmert essentially agreed to forgo sovereignty of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest site, and proposed that in the framework of a peace agreement, the area containing the religious sites in Jerusalem would be managed by a special committee consisting of representatives from five nations: Saudia Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, the United States and Israel. […]

Olmert and Abbas asked Erekat and Turgeman to meet the next day with map experts in order to reach a final version of the border between Palestine and Israel. 

But the next day, the Israeli side claims, Erekat phoned Turgeman and asked to postpone their meeting by 24 hours. A few hours after this call Erekat called back and said that Abbas had to go to Amman. Erekat explained that Abbas would update the Jordanians and the Egyptians about Olmert’s offer in order to receive their support and the parties would meet again the following week. “From that time, I am still waiting for Abbas’s telephone call” Ehud Olmert told Sof Hashavua.”

The details of the unanswered proposal were publicized by Ha’aretz after Olmert left office.

“Olmert’s office said in response to the disclosure of the plan: “On September 16, 2008, [Olmert] presented Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] a map that had been prepared based upon dozens of conversations that the two held in the course of the intensive negotiations after the Annapolis summit. The map that was presented was designed to solve the problem of the borders between Israel and the future Palestinian state. Giving Abu Mazen the map was conditioned upon signing a comprehensive and final agreement with the Palestinians so it would not be used as an ‘opening position’ in future negotiations the Palestinians sought to conduct. Ultimately, when Abu Mazen did not give his consent to a final and complete agreement, the map was not given to him.””

Interestingly, the BBC’s version of history manages to both erase all Palestinian responsibility for the breakdown of that particular round of negotiations and to suggest that at the time that Olmert resigned, there was still a ‘peace process’ to “disrupt”.

Wind in the sails of Jibril Rajoub’s anti-Israel campaign from BBC WS WHYS

In addition to the context-free promotion of Jibril Rajoub’s latest sports related assault on Israel’s legitimacy recently seen on the BBC News website, listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ were also treated to a dose of unhindered propaganda from the head of the Palestinian Football Association on May 21st.WHYS Rajoub tweet

The item can be heard from around the 40 minute mark in a podcast here or here from 43:48.

With no intervention from presenter Chloe Tilley, the segment opens with almost two full minutes of a diatribe from Rajoub which is replete with distortions and falsehoods, including accusations of “humiliations” and “racism”. When Tilley does finally interject, it is to ask Rajoub whether he thinks FIFA understands “those pressures on Palestinian teams, on players, on fans?” and once again Rajoub uses the opportunity to promote the inaccurate notion that the underlying issue is Israeli “racism”.

Listeners also hear a contribution from a partly identified football fan from Dubai who, in addition to promoting his own context-free, cherry picked claims, states – with no challenge from Tilley – that it is hard to be a fan or a player “in the context of the occupation and the apartheid”.WHYS Rajoub prog

Also notable is Tilley’s failure to insist on a proper answer from Rajoub concerning a point raised by the one Israeli contributor to the programme and her presentation of the issue with the use of the phrasing “naming a fencing competition after – in his words – a terrorist”.  

Towards the end of the segment listeners hear another rant from Rajoub:

“The Israelis are violating. The Israelis are bullying. The Israelis are behaving like the bully of the neighbourhood. The Israelis are humiliating.”

Throughout almost ten minutes of airtime devoted to this topic listeners did not get to hear the official Israeli view of this story and at no point did Chloe Tilley attempt to make audiences aware of the all-important context of issues concerning Palestinian football players with links to terrorist organisations.

What listeners did however take away from this embarrassingly superficial and uninformative item were unchallenged labels such as “racism” and “apartheid” – another brick in the wall of BBC enabled delegitimisation of Israel.

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BBC frames anti-Israel delegitimisation campaign as a sports story

BBC frames anti-Israel delegitimisation campaign as a sports story

An article about the FIFA presidential election which appeared in the Sport section of the BBC News website on May 4th ended with the following paragraphs:

“The Palestinian Football Association is seeking the suspension of Israel from world football.

A proposal to that effect has been included on the agenda for Fifa’s annual congress in Zurich and would need a 75% majority to succeed.

Palestine has complained that Israel has continued to hamper its football activities through restrictions on the movement of their athletes between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel cites security concerns for restrictions it imposes but says it has eased travel for Palestinian athletes between the territories.”

On May 20th another report on that topic appeared in the website’s Sport section under the title “Fifa: Israel football faces possible suspension vote” and in addition that article was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 20th and 21st.FIFA art

Neither of the reports provides BBC audiences with the all-important context of past and present cases of Palestinian football players with connections to terrorist organisations.

“There are numerous examples of Palestinian soccer players who have been publicly acknowledged by terrorist groups to have been members of their organizations. Jabalia Youth Sports Club player Ayman Ahmad al-Kurd was a member of the Qassam Brigades (which acknowledged his martyrdom on their website) and was wearing combat gear when he died during Operation Cast Lead. PIJ admitted—to Reuters, no less—that Wajih Mushtahi, a member of the Palestinian Olympic team who also died in Cast Lead, was a fighter in their organization. Shadi Sbakhi, who played for al-Nuseirat and once earned a spot on the national team, was not just an operative in the Qassam Brigades, but a commander.

The most egregious case, though, was that of 23-year-old Omar Abu Rwayyis (also spelled Rois or Ruis), a native of the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah, who in addition to being the goalkeeper of the Palestinian Olympic team was also an employee of the Red Crescent, the local version of the Red Cross. Abu Rwayyis was arrested in April 2012, along with 12 other Amari residents, for participating in a Hamas plot to attack IDF soldiers. Abu Rwayyis, along with other Red Crescent employees, helped transport Kalashnikovs that were used to fire on IDF vehicles.”

Likewise, at no point are readers of these two articles informed of the fact that this latest politically motivated assault on Israel’s legitimacy is led by the same man who in recent years has also tried to get Israel expelled from the International Olympic community, threatened legal action against sponsors of the Jerusalem Marathon and pressured UEFA to disallow Israel’s hosting of a tournament. Moreover, the second article amplifies the following disingenuous statement from Jibril Rajoub:

“This is nothing to do with politics, this is a sport issue.”

Readers are not told of Jibril Rajoub’s own terrorist past or of the numerous on record statements clarifying his use of sport for political ends.

“He also voiced strong opposition to any form of normalization with Israel, particularly in the field of sports.
The term “normalization” does not exist in the Palestinian sports dictionary, Rajoub stressed during a seminar in Ramallah.
He added that sports in the Palestinian territories was “one of the methods of resistance” against Israel. […]
“The youth sector in Palestine is the basic fuel for the liberation project,” Rajoub said. He also emphasized the youth’s role in maintaining a “permanent state of confrontation” with Israel.”

And:

“The year 2014 is the year of decision; we either go to a state or to a confrontation,” Rajoub said. “The confrontation would be on three fronts: launching and escalating resistance; boycotting and isolating Israel; and halting all forms of normalization [with Israel] on the political, academic, trade and economic levels.” […]

 “The option of armed resistance is also on the table,” he added. […]

“We are entitled to knock on all doors and seek all channels to recruit regional action in favor of our cause,” he said. “Our goal is to create elements of pressure on the international community.”

In addition to framing this story as sports related rather than the political issue it in fact is, the BBC fails to provide its audiences with the full range of information necessary for them to understand this transparent attempt to cynically exploit an organization supposedly committed to eliminating racism and discrimination from football for the purpose of delegitimisation.

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