A way but no will: BBC coverage of Palestinian affairs in Q1 2015

We have often noted on these pages that the BBC’s coverage of Palestinian affairs is for the most part focused on subjects with some sort of connection to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and that the corporation shows considerably less interest in reporting on internal Palestinian topics such as domestic politics, human rights or social issues. Even reports which ostensibly do deal with purely Palestinian stories are frequently used as a hook for political messaging.

Throughout the first quarter of 2015 twenty-nine reports relating to the Palestinian Authority, PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip appeared on the BBC News website, along with an additional three previously discussed reports relating to specific incidents of terrorism perpetrated by Palestinian attackers. 

Four of those reports related to the Palestinian Authority’s bid to join the ICC:ICC probe art

Palestinians sign up to join International Criminal Court (discussed here)

Palestinians submit ICC membership bid documents

Will ICC membership help or hinder the Palestinians’ cause?  (originally published on January 14th – discussed here)

Israel-Palestinian ‘war crimes’ probed by the ICC (discussed here)

Three reports were about PA tax revenue transfers suspended – and later reinstated – by Israel:

Israel freezes Palestine tax funds over ICC bid

US opposes Israeli tax freeze on Palestinians

Israel to resume tax transfers to Palestinian Authority (discussed here)

One report related to the PLO’s recommendation to halt security cooperation with Israel:

PLO votes to end historic Israeli security agreement (discussed here)

One report concerned Palestinian views of the Israeli election:

Israel election: The view from Ramallah  – Yolande Knell  (discussed here)Knell filmed 17 3

One report marked the ten-year anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat:

Arafat’s widow on husband’s legacy  (discussed here)

Two reports related to water issues connected to the city of Rawabi:

Rawabi: A new Palestinian city in the West Bank and The new Palestinian city that lacks only one thing – Lyse Doucet (discussed here)

Three reports concerned terrorism:

Palestinian jailed for murder of Israeli teenagers (discussed here)

The lost sons (discussed here)

Palestinian groups face $218m Israel attacks fine in US (discussed here)

Three reports related to damage to buildings in the Gaza Strip resulting from last summer’s conflict and the slow pace of reconstruction:

Gaza resident: ‘Everyone has forgotten us’ – Lyse Doucet (discussed here)

Caught in a wasteland: Gaza six months after the ceasefire  – Lyse Doucet (discussed here)

Banksy artwork appears on the streets and walls of Gaza – Rushdi Abualouf (discussed here)

Two reports concerned Palestinian Islamic Jihad rearmament:

Palestinian Islamic Jihad have rearmed and replenished ranks and Inside Gaza’s tunnels, militants get ready for the next war – Quentin Sommerville (discussed here)

One article was about an Amnesty International report on the subject of Hamas war crimes:

Amnesty: Hamas rocket attacks amounted to war crimes

Examples of reports ostensibly covering Palestinian stories but used as a hook for political messaging include a feature by Yolande Knell on Christmas in Bethlehem, an article by Yolande Knell on Palestinian democracy, a sports article and a report about a protest in Ramallah.Knell Democracy Day art

The town with three Christmas Days – Yolande Knell (discussed here)

How Palestinian democracy has failed to flourish – Yolande Knell (discussed here)

Palestine lose 4-0 to Japan in first Asian Cup match (discussed here)

Canada’s foreign minister egged in Ramallah by protesters and Palestinians throw eggs at Canada’s John Baird (discussed here)

Just three of the reports appearing on the BBC News website during the first quarter of 2015 can be said to give audiences some sort of glimpse into Palestinian social issues.  In “Saving Gaza’s only grand piano” Tim Whewell briefly touches on the issue of attitudes towards music:

“but with […] a steady growth of conservatism in local society, such performances became a thing of the past. After the Islamist militant movement, Hamas, took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, live music events became even rarer.”

And:

“The music school has existed for seven years, discreetly hidden away inside the Gaza headquarters of the Palestinian Red Crescent. It operates only in the evenings but provides a rare space for music in a society where some reject it as haram – forbidden by God.”

The BBC Monitoring report titled “Palestinian paper apologises over ‘Muhammad cartoon'” includes a brief description of what it deems to be the prevalent social attitude on that topic and the Palestinian Authority’s reaction.

Whilst Rushdi Abualouf informs readers of his article titled “Can music help to de-stigmatise disability in Gaza?” that “despite the high prevalence of people with disabilities in the territory, disabled children are still shrouded in social stigma” he refrains from informing readers about the relevant topic of congenital disabilities – instead focusing their attentions on ‘the conflict’ as a cause of disability.

“The tiny territory has been blighted by successive conflicts between Palestinian militants and Israel, which have had serious physical and psychological impacts on the population.

It’s estimated that between 126,000 and 270,000 members of the population in Gaza are disabled, according to a 2012 report by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, and the 50-day conflict last summer has left many more with a long-term or permanent impairment.”

Palestinian paper apologises over ‘Muhammad cartoon’

Can music help to de-stigmatise disability in Gaza?  – Rushdi Abualouf

Saving Gaza’s only grand piano – Tim Whewell

However, visitors to the BBC News website during the first quarter of 2015 learned nothing substantial about the ongoing animosity between ‘unity government’ partners Hamas and Fatah which continues to deter international donors from contributing to reconstruction in the Gaza Strip. They were also not informed of the resignation of the unity government’s deputy prime minister or of allegations of human rights abuses by Hamas and a PA crackdown on social media users and journalists. The topic of Hamas’ rearming and reorganization was only briefly mentioned in a couple of BBC reports with no serious attempt made to explore that obviously important issue.  And of course the topic of the long overdue elections for both the Palestinian legislative body and president remain a no-go area for BBC journalists – along with subjects such as women’s rights, gay rights and the rights of religious minorities.

As the BBC’s World Editor acknowledged last year, the fact that it has permanent offices in Gaza, Ramallah and Jerusalem – as well as an entire Arabic-speaking division – means that the BBC is better placed than most if not all Western media organisations to provide its audiences with quality in-depth journalism which goes beyond the usual flat-pack reports on the subject of ‘the conflict’. So whilst there is already a way, what appears to be lacking is a will – and the question the corporation’s funding public must be asking is why. 

BBC again avoids informing audiences about PA debt to Israel

On March 27th the BBC News website informed its readers that Israel’s withholding of Palestinian Authority tax revenues had “crippled the Palestinian economy” and was responsible for “fuelling violence” in PA controlled areas.

“The decision to freeze the tax transfers to the PA, which provide two-thirds of its income, forced it to cut by 40% the salaries of thousands of government employees and announce an emergency budget.

On Wednesday, the governor of the Palestinian central bank said the tax transfer freeze was leading to a rapid economic deterioration and leaving the banking system dangerously exposed.”

By April 6th the PA’s financial situation had apparently become miraculously less precarious because the Palestinian president was able to refuse the sum of $400 million transferred by Israel.

In an article titled “Palestinian Authority rejects Israel tax transfer” the BBC reported that:PA tax transfer

“Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says he has refused to accept hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenues unfrozen by Israel.

Mr Abbas says he returned the money because Israel deducted a third to pay for what it called utility bills.

He has threatened to take Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) unless the full amount is released. […]

Speaking at a rally in Ramallah, President Abbas demanded the tax revenues in full.

“We are returning the money. Either they give it to us in full or we go to arbitration or to the ICC. We will not accept anything else.””

The BBC’s report does not make any attempt to inform audiences on the debatable issue of whether or not such a topic even falls under the ICC’s jurisdiction. Later on readers are told that:

“Israel says it has deducted the cost of services provided to the Palestinian population, including electricity, water and hospital bills.

The government made the decision to restart payments two weeks ago but warned at the time that it would make deductions from the transfer.”

In line with previous reports on the same subject, the BBC fails to inform its audiences of the scale of the Palestinian Authority’s debt to Israeli bodies. As Reuters noted in its report on the same story, in February 2015 the combined debts of the Palestinian Authority and the Jerusalem District Electric Company (JDECO) to the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) stood at around $492 million. The Jerusalem Post has further details:

“The PA, as well as the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO) – the Palestinian electricity firm servicing the east Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jericho areas – collectively owe the IEC, NIS 1.9b, the Israeli company said. […]

Of the NIS 1.9b. owed to the IEC, about NIS 1.2b. comes from areas serviced by JDECO, while the remaining NIS 700 million is owed directly by the PA, covering areas in the Gaza Strip and the northern and southern West Bank, the IEC spokeswoman said.

The NIS 1.2b. debt comes only from areas within the PA and not from east Jerusalem, JDECO’s CEO, Hisham Omari, said. […]

With the bulk of the Palestinian debt hailing from JDECO regions, however, Omari attributed the ongoing financial crisis to three main problems.

The first, he said, is the failure of the PA to take enforcement measures against those who steal electricity from the JDECO grid.

“Up until this moment, we have not seen any progress from the PA to punish people who are stealing electricity, even though they [passed] a law,” Omari told The Jerusalem Post.

“Till this moment, there wasn’t any implementation.”

The second problem, according to Omari, is the fact that many Palestinian government offices do not properly pay their JDECO electricity bills.

The third problem he identified is the grave situation impacting the 12 refugee camps within his jurisdiction, in which residents fail to pay for their electricity at all.”

The BBC’s failure to report on that last topic has been noted here previously.

In addition to its debt to the IEC, the Palestinian Authority has also incurred significant debts to the Israeli water company Mekorot (16.7 million shekels as of May 2014) and to Israeli hospitals in which Palestinians have been given medical treatment (34 million shekels as of May 2014).

So, whilst the BBC devotes an entire article to the amplification of Mahmoud Abbas’ amateur dramatics, it once again refrains from making any effort to inform its audiences of the background to the latest installment of this long-running story.

Elections 2015 – a postscript on BBC framing of Israeli elections over 23 years

As readers already know, during their coverage of the recent election in Israel, BBC journalists devoted significant energies to persuading audiences that its result signified the demise of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Concurrently, audiences were repeatedly herded towards the belief that if the electorate had made different choices, the possibility of resuscitating the ‘peace process’ would have been significantly better – inter alia by means of this statement which was inserted into no small number of BBC reports:

“The centre-left Zionist Union promises to repair relations with Palestinians and the international community.”

So what would BBC coverage have looked like if the Zionist Union had won the election? A clue to that might be found by looking at the corporation’s coverage of Israeli elections over the past 23 years, beginning with the video below showing an edition of ‘Newsnight’ from June 23rd 1992 when the Labour party, headed by Yizhak Rabin, won the election.

Fifteen months later, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Accords but the years following that event were blighted by dozens of terror attacks on Israeli citizens. In May 1996 elections were held again, with the Likud gaining a narrow win. Three years after that, in May 1999, early elections were won by the Labour party headed by Ehud Barak and BBC audiences were told that:past elections 1

“The scale of Ehud Barak’s landslide victory came as a surprise both to world leaders and to the contending parties themselves.

Many are hailing it as the beginning of a new era for Israel and the Middle East peace process. […]

The BBC’s US Affairs Analyst, Jonathan Marcus, says the White House has an ambitious agenda for its future relations with Israel.

Top priority is the full implementation of the Wye Agreement, resulting from last October’s tortuous negotiations headed by Mr Clinton, that is supposed to extend Palestinian self-rule in the Occupied Territories.”

The Wye River Memorandum had of course been negotiated during the term of the 1996/99 Likud government. It includes the following:

“1. Outlawing and Combating Terrorist Organizations

The Palestinian side will make known its policy of zero tolerance for terror and violence against both sides.

A work plan developed by the Palestinian side will be shared with the U.S. and thereafter implementation will begin immediately to ensure the systematic and effective combat of terrorist organizations and their infrastructure.

In addition to the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, a U.S.-Palestinian committee will meet biweekly to review the steps being taken to eliminate terrorist cells and the support structure that plans, finances, supplies and abets terror. In these meetings, the Palestinian side will inform the U.S. fully of the actions it has taken to outlaw all organizations (or wings of organizations, as appropriate) of a military, terrorist or violent character and their support structure and to prevent them from operating in areas under its jurisdiction.

The Palestinian side will apprehend the specific individuals suspected of perpetrating acts of violence and terror for the purpose of further investigation, and prosecution and punishment of all persons involved in acts of violence and terror.”past elections 2

After the failure of the 2000 Camp David summit, the Palestinian Authority initiated the second Intifada and terrorism reached new heights. Following Ehud Barak’s resignation, prime ministerial elections held in February 2001 were won by Ariel Sharon and a national unity government was formed. Remarkably, a BBC profile of Ehud Barak from the time of that election makes no mention of the intifada which was raging at the time, stating:

“In the search for peace, in particular, the Barak government made much less progress than had been expected.

Rather than pressing ahead and making territorial concessions to the Palestinians when he enjoyed widespread support, he dithered. That allowed his opponents time to regroup and put pressure on him.”

The national unity government ruled until the next general election in January 2003 which was won by the Likud headed by Sharon. BBC coverage of that election includes the following analysis which is particularly interesting in light of the corporation’s contemporary portrayal of the “impassable barrier” – the anti-terrorist fence:past elections 3

“Mr Sharon favours a get-tough security agenda and refuses to talk peace with the Palestinians until the bloodshed ends. Much of his support comes from his uncompromising stance against Palestinian militants and the widely-held view of him as the leader who can best shield Israelis from harm.

Paradoxically, opinion polls regularly show that many Israelis support the Palestinian policy of Mr Sharon’s main rival Labour’s Amram Mitzna.

The Labour leader favours swift negotiations with the Palestinians, and if this fails, a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from all of Gaza and most of the West Bank, along with the dismantling of many of the Jewish settlements. He also advocates the building of an impassable barrier to keep the Palestinians out of Israel.”

In 2004 Sharon proposed Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and that process was completed in August 2005. In November 2005 Ariel Sharon split from the Likud party to found Kadima. His hospitalization in January 2006 left Ehud Olmert as acting prime minister and Kadima won the subsequent March 2006 election. BBC coverage at the time portrayed Kadima as “a centrist party to unite moderates from the right-wing Likud party and centre-left Labour” running on a platform of “partial disengagement from the occupied territories”.

Escalating Hamas terrorism in the Gaza Strip caused many Israelis to adjust their view of the wisdom of the 2005 disengagement from that area and the ‘land for peace’ formula in general. Nevertheless, Ehud Olmert made an offer to the Palestinians in 2008 which included Israeli withdrawal from 93% of the territory re-captured from Jordan in 1967. That offer was of course refused.

The early elections in February 2009 saw Kadima win, but unable to form a government. BBC coverage of that election (held shortly after Operation Cast Lead) included the following portrayal of a war started by Hizballah and a military operation caused by Hamas missile fire at civilian targets:past elections 4

“Despite it [sic] “pro-peace-deal” agenda Kadima has presided over two wars in its three years in power – the 2006 Lebanon war and the recent operation against Hamas in Gaza.”

Nine months after a Likud government was formed following the 2009 election, a ten-month freeze on construction in Judea and Samaria was announced in an effort to restart negotiations. The Palestinian Authority failed to come to the negotiating table for nine of those ten months and subsequently refused to continue with talks after the freeze expired.

After an additional election in January 2013 won by the Likud, Israel engaged in nine months of negotiations with the PLO which ended in April 2014 when, after Israel’s release of dozens of convicted terrorists as yet another ‘goodwill gesture’, Fatah and Hamas chose to sign a reconciliation agreement and form a unity government.

The BBC’s Middle East editor claims to have been covering Israeli elections for nineteen years – since 1996. That length of time should surely have been sufficient for him and his colleagues to recognise the fact that no matter which Israeli political party has won elections over the past twenty-three years, all attempts to bring an end to the Palestinian Israeli conflict have been met with a negative – and often violent – response from the other side.  

And yet, despite its obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues” the BBC continues its simplistic, dumbed-down, narrative-driven portrayal of the ‘peace process’ as being entirely dependent upon the paper placed in the ballot box by Israeli voters. 

Critical omission in BBC News report on PA tax revenues

On March 27th the BBC News website ran a report titled “Israel to resume tax transfers to Palestinian Authority“. One aspect of the BBC’s portrayal of that story is particularly notable.tax revenues art

The article opens:

“Israel is to stop withholding tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA), a move that has crippled the Palestinian economy. […]

Israel’s military had reportedly warned that the policy was fuelling violence.”

Later on readers are told that:

“Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli military and the Shin Bet domestic security service all recommended the move.

It did not give their reasons, but Israeli media reported earlier this week that military commanders had said the policy was fuelling violence in the occupied West Bank.”

However, actual reports in the Israeli media present a decidedly less simplistic picture than the one promoted by the BBC. Israel Hayom, for example, reported that:

“Defense officials said various factors have contributed to the latest security assessments suggesting that an escalation in Judea and Samaria may be imminent, including the deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Palestinian Authority’s recent moves in The Hague, and the overall instability in the Middle East.

One military official said the defense establishment had recognized an increase in attempts to direct terrorist activity across Judea and Samaria by Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, as well as by Turkey-based Hamas commander Saleh al-Arouri.

Islamic Jihad has also increased its activity on the ground, as has the Tanzim, a Fatah militant faction.

Another defense source said the nature of the next round of violence is unknown, and the military is preparing for a number of possible scenarios in Judea and Samaria, including widespread unrest, riots, and clashes between civilians and security forces.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has a vested interest in curbing tensions on the ground, the source said, adding that Abbas’ ability to reconcile the dissonance between the relatively stable security situation and the unstable diplomatic situation is growing weaker.

Following Abbas’ application for membership in the International Criminal Court, effective April 1, Israel has suspended the transfer of tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The IDF believes the move, which has aggravated the PA’s dire economic situation, may contribute to any potential flare-up of unrest on the ground.”

Ha’aretz reported:

“On the West Bank there has been a significant rise in recent months in Hamas attempts to activate terror squads by means of the external command headquarters in Turkey and the Gaza Strip. Both the Palestinian Authority and Israel have arrested dozens of Hamas men from the West Bank, members of various groups suspected of planning terror attacks. Islamic Jihad has also increased its military activity, mainly in the northern West Bank. Israel has also identified renewed activity, independent and unmonitored, by members of Tanzim, the popular movement of Fatah, some of whose members defy the PA. There is a fear that in the event of an escalation in terror Tanzim members will once again take part, as happened during the second intifada.”

And Ynet reported:

“Ynet has learned that IDF officials have recently presented the political echelons with the possible security ramifications for Israel’s economic sanctions. According to army officials, growing economic tensions in the Palestinian market in the West Bank served as a catalyst for riots and even terror attacks, breaking the relative calm the West Bank has enjoyed in recent years. […]

Meanwhile, the IDF are preparing for a possible escalation in the West Bank, both spontaneous and organized. The different scenarios include multi-site riots involving thousands of protesters, some armed, throughout the West Bank; simultaneous terror attacks; kidnapping and infiltration attempts; and a possible end to security coordination with the Palestinians, which they say is very unlikely, though a number of such cases have happened at a local level.

Though IDF say coordination will continue, if only because it is in the Palestinians’ interest to maintain control over its areas in the West Bank and to be able to present itself as the legal representative of the Palestinians, and not as a terror organization. The Palestinian Authority wants to avoid bolstering Hamas (currently said to be backed by roughly half of the Palestinian population).

They also fear Hamas involvement in the West Bank, and other attempts by young Tanzim – a militant offshoot of Fatah –  supporters to set up terror cells in the area. Those youths, they say, are no longer bound by the “Prisoners Commitment” which prevents PLO officials from returning to the ways of terror. In Nablus, security forces rounded up some of these youths, especially in the Lata refugee camp.”

In other words, the withholding of tax revenues is far from the sole factor – as the BBC would have its audiences believe – which is “fuelling violence” in PA controlled areas.

The rise of Hamas terrorist activity in PA controlled areas is not a new phenomenon. It is, however, one which the BBC has consistently under-reported since last summer and – as we see in this article – it continues to do so. 

One-staters get BBC WS platform for promotion of BDS, ‘resistance’ and ‘apartheid’ trope

As readers who have followed our discussion of the BBC’s coverage of the recent Israeli election will be aware, much of the material produced stubbornly focused audience attentions on a topic which was low down on voters’ lists of priorities: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A significant number of the BBC’s reports included commentary on an interview given by the Israeli prime minister to NRG on March 16th in which he said:

“I think that anyone today going to set up a Palestinian state – anyone going to evacuate territory – is simply giving extremist Islam territory for attacks against the State of Israel. That’s the reality which has emerged here in the recent years. Whoever does not understand that is simply putting…burying his head in the sand. The Left does that – it buries its head in the sand time after time.” 

When then asked by the interviewer if it was correct to say that “…if you are prime minister a Palestinian state will not be established”, Netanyahu replied “indeed”.

In the March 19th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (available here from thirty seconds in), presenter James Coomarasamy turned that one word into an ‘election pledge’.Newshour 19 3

Coomarasamy: “…we begin with the continuing fall-out from the Israeli election. On the domestic front the political landscape is unchanged: Binyamin Netanyahu has been reelected to a fourth term. But on the international level it’s becoming increasingly apparent that some of the pledges he made to secure that victory could have serious consequences. In particular, his suggestion that on his watch there wouldn’t be a Palestinian state has further widened the gap between him and the White House. Mr Netanyahu appeared to soften his line today, telling the American television channel MSNBC that he remains committed to Palestinian statehood – or what he called a sustainable, peaceful two state solution – provided conditions in the region improve. Well, the White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that any change in Israeli policy towards a two state solution would mean that America would have to reevaluate its position.”

After hearing a recording of Earnest’s comments, listeners heard two speakers – introduced as follows:

JC: “But first – to discuss the options for Palestinians – I’ve been speaking to Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. He’s a Palestinian citizen of Israel and holds both US and Israeli nationality. I’ve also been speaking to Mustafa Barghouti, the runner-up in the last Palestinian presidential election: was he expecting a change of approach from America?”

Notably, Coomarasamy refrained from informing listeners that the election to which he referred took place in 2005, with no election having been held since and the winner’s four-year term of office having expired six years ago. In breach of editorial guidelines on impartiality, Coomarasamy also made no effort to ‘summarise the standpoint’ of either of his interviewees or to clarify the political ideologies of the organisations with which they are involved. Worse still was Coomarasamy’s failure to challenge Barghouti’s advancement of the ‘apartheid’ trope.

Mustafa Barghouti: “I hope so, but we still have to see. It’s not enough what they said. What we need is actions and not just talks. In reality Netanyahu is trying to deceive everybody. What matters is not only what he says although he said very clearly that he is not going to allow a two state solution and all his statements were racist and practically he officially declared Israel as an apartheid state – a segregation state. Nevertheless…”

JC: “Well yeah…but he did …he said today though…he said he was committed to a two state solution provided the conditions allow it. So he has softened his stance…”

MB: “No, no, no; he is deceiving you. He’s deceiving you, deceiving the world media and deceiving everybody and that’s why I said what matters is what he does and what he does on the ground is settlement activities at a rate that is unprecedented. The settlement activities are destroying the possibility of a Palestinian state. In reality he is conducting a campaign to end the possibility of two state solution and he’s said it to win votes.”

This of course would have been the appropriate juncture for Coomarasamy to clarify to listeners that Barghouti’s claim that “settlement activities” have been “unprecedented” under the governments headed by Netanyahu are inaccurate, but he failed to correct that deliberately misleading impression.

JC: “So what’s…what should the Palestinian reaction be? What calculations are you making at the moment?”

MB: “Well first of all let me say what the United States should say – should do – as you have asked about that. I think the United States and European countries – if they are really committed to Palestinian statehood and to two state solution – they should immediately recognize the Palestinian state. They should send a very clear message to Israel that they are establishing a de facto political fact as to encounter his facts on the ground as well.”

Coomarasamy then brought in Yousef Munnayer – notably without any attempt to clarify the all-important question of the level of commitment of the assorted Palestinian factions to the two state solution.

“YM: “Well…err…I think that it’s very clear where Benjamin Netanyahu stands. Anyone who has followed the career of Benjamin Netanyahu – not just in recent years, but as he came up through the right-wing Likud party – knows exactly where his ideas lie. He is not interested in ever seeing a Palestinian state. For many years the charter of the Likud party which he leads explicitly stated that their position was to flatly reject the existence of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River, so obviously ruling out a Palestinian state anywhere in the West Bank and Gaza. So nobody should be fooled by anything that Benjamin Netanyahu says. But I think frankly we should not put any credence into the rhetoric of a person who so agilely changes their position on matters of principle in three days.”

Coomarasamy neglected to point out to listeners that the Likud’s updated charter no longer includes such a position whilst at the same time failing to quiz Munayyer on the topic of the Hamas charter – which rejects the existence of Israel outright – and the Palestinian Authority’s continual rejection of Israel’s right to exist. In other words, his failure to ensure the introduction of that essential context – along with the failure to note the repeated rejection of a negotiated solution by the Palestinians – meant that Coomarasamy’s listeners were led to believe that the two state solution is rejected by Israel but embraced by the Palestinians.

JC: “Yes, so what then should the Palestinian position be?”

YM: “I think the Palestinian approach should be to continue to reach out to the international community to raise pressure on Israel. The power dynamics are such that the Palestinians cannot do this by themselves.”

JC: “Well it sounds as though America might be prepared to do that. What did you make of the comments from the White House today?”

YM: “Well I think the White House is now in a very, very difficult position. They have supported Israel unwaveringly for many, many years and the leader of Israel who was just elected with a fairly significant mandate to form a right-wing government spat in the face of established US policy for many years. So this is not something that they can let go quietly; they have to do something. The question is what is it that they are going to do? They’re gonna be exploring their options. I would love to see the United States take a very strong stance right at this moment: break the taboo of support for Israel and say that they are going to be changing their policy until Israel’s behavior matches international law.”

Coomarasamy then steered the conversation to the direction of promotion of the one state ‘solution’.

JC: “But what about the Palestinians? You say that you believe there has never been a realistic chance of Israel supporting a two state solution – what should Palestinians be doing then? Should they be campaigning for equal rights within Israel?”

MB: “I would like to respond to this. First of all I think if Israel kills the two states option of course the only alternative would be one state solution with full democratic rights. But what people should understand; this would be a long journey and a struggle against the system of apartheid that Netanyahu has created. And that means that we need not only Palestinian popular resistance on the ground but also boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel in the very same manner that was used against the system of apartheid in South Africa at one point in time.”

Coomarasamy made no attempt to relieve his listeners of the erroneous impression that Israel can be legitimately compared to apartheid South Africa or to clarify to them the end game of the BDS movement: the eradication of the Jewish state.

JC: “Popular resistance: do you think this makes war more likely?”

MB: “Yes. Popular resistance – popular non-violent resistance – this is what we are calling for and I think this is the least we can do in front of a government that will include Mr Liberman who speaks about beheading Palestinians and who is speaking about executing the Palestinian prisoners.”

Coomarasamy failed to put those comments into context by explaining to audiences that Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party proposed the death penalty for terrorists during its recent election campaign.

JC: “Right. Yousef Munayyer – what are your thoughts then about whether or not Palestinians should simply be campaigning for equal rights within Israel if you don’t think the two state solution is viable?”

YM: “Well I think frankly – and this is where I perhaps…I may disagree a little bit with Dr Barghouti – is that neither outcome is a short journey. Both of these are going to be significant struggles but we really do not have an alternative. The status quo is not something that is morally acceptable as we all know. And I think there will be robust support for a Palestinian civil rights movement should the leadership chose to go in that direction. If you look at American public opinion for example, if you ask Americans what they prefer be the outcome should a two state solution fail to be achievable, as I think is fairly demonstrable at this point, the vast majority say they want to see a single democratic state because these are values that resonate with Americans which have had their own visceral experience with the civil rights struggle in the United States and I think as Israel moves further into the open as an apartheid state, that clash with US values will become more apparent.”

Of course Coomarasamy refrained from reminding his listeners – and his interviewee – that the leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States never negated the rights of others to live there, never negated that country’s existence and certainly did not engage in an organised campaign of (partly foreign funded) violent indiscriminate terrorism against its population.

Regrettably, it is not rare to see context-free promotion of the ‘apartheid’ trope in BBC content. Neither is it unusual to see promotion of the anti-peace BDS campaign without any information being provided to audiences regarding that movement’s real aims. In addition to its mainstreaming of those forms of delegitimisation of Israel, we see in this programme the provision of a sympathetic BBC platform for the promotion of the one state ‘solution’ campaign to bring about the dismantling of the world’s only Jewish state and an end to the right of Jews to self-determination.

Yet again the BBC makes a mockery of its own supposed ‘impartiality’.

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Elections 2015: the morning after – BBC News website coverage

No fewer than seven articles concerning the previous day’s Israeli election were published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on March 18th.

An article which originally appeared the previous evening under the title “Israel election: No clear winner, exit polls suggest” underwent numerous changes as the votes were counted overnight, ending up under the headline “Israel election: Netanyahu’s Likud storms to victory“. As was the case in much of the BBC’s prior coverage of the topic, that article and the others appearing on the same day focused audience attentions on the topic the election was not about.18 3 website 1

“Mr Netanyahu had vowed not to allow the creation of a Palestinian state, while Zionist Union expressed support for a two-state solution and promised to repair relations with Palestinians and the international community.

In the wake of the vote, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Palestinians would step up their bid for statehood.

“It is clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will form the next government, so we say clearly that we will go to the International Criminal Court in the Hague and we will speed up, pursue and intensify” diplomatic efforts, he told AFP news agency.”

An insert from the BBC’s Middle East editor added:

“He [Netanyahu] also made a series of promises that would worsen Israel’s relations with the US and Europe if he continues as prime minister. He promised thousands of new homes for settlers in the occupied territories, and said he would not allow the Palestinians to have a state.”

Jeremy Bowen produced an article titled “Israel election: Dramatic turnaround for Netanyahu” which he opened by brushing aside the topic of his organisation’s previous heavy promotion of opinion polls.18 3 website 2

“In the end Israeli opinion polls told the wrong story, yet again.”

Bowen informed readers that:

“The prime minister narrowed the gap with Mr Herzog’s Zionist Union, and then overhauled it, by turning sharply towards the ultra-nationalist Israeli right.

He issued a series of grim warnings about the consequences for Israel if he lost; Arabs with Israeli citizenship were voting, so his people needed to turn out.

Mr Netanyahu made a series of promises that would worsen Israel’s relations with the United States and Europe if he stays on as prime minister.

He promised thousands of new homes for settlers in the occupied territories. And he said that he would not allow the Palestinians to have a state.”

The BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly produced two articles, the first of which was a report from the Likud campaign headquarters titled “Likud celebrates surprise success in Israeli election” in which readers were informed that:18 3 website 3

“If a new right-of-centre coalition is formed it will be formed in the context of Mr Netanyahu indicating that he was prepared to block the formation of a Palestinian state.

International observers trying to interpret what this result means for hopes of a resumption in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians will see that as a bleak signal.

A Herzog-led government might have been a more comfortable partner for the US State Department and for European governments interested in reviving talks.

But for now, it appears that the Israeli electorate has decided otherwise.”

Connolly’s second article of the day expanded on that theme under the headline “Israel election: Netanyahu win dims peace process prospects“.18 3 website 4

“Everyone knows, of course, that the Israeli right, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, is at best sceptical about the prospect of a peace deal with the Palestinians, while the left under Yitzhak Herzog is much keener on the kind of constructive engagement that would keep the White House and the State Department happy. […]

He made it clear that in the modern Middle East with its rising tide of militant Islamism and its deepening atmosphere of instability the conditions just do not exist to create a Palestinian state.

It was a smart move invoking the image of a leader who is prepared to stand up for Israel’s interests in an uncertain world and who is not worried if his single-mindedness on the issue irritates the Europeans, the Americans or indeed anyone else.

At one point he was asked directly if his return as prime minister would mean categorically that a Palestinian state would not be established.

He answered with the single Hebrew word “Achen” – which means “indeed”.”

The BBC News website also produced a profile of Netanyahu titled “Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu: Commando turned PM” in which readers were told that:18 3 website 5

“For Mr Netanyahu, the number one issue has long been Israel’s security, and he has taken a tough line towards the Palestinians, seeing land-for-peace as too dangerous to accept.

His third term shifted from renewed peace talks, which collapsed in acrimony, to war with militants in Gaza just three months later.”

Readers are not informed that those talks collapsed because the PA decided to from a unity government with Hamas.

Later on in the article, however, this example of the ‘land for peace’ formula appears:

“Despite having fiercely criticised the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians, in 1997 Mr Netanyahu signed a deal handing over 80% of Hebron to Palestinian Authority control and signed the Wye River Memorandum in 1998 outlining further withdrawals from the West Bank.”

No effort is made to inform readers that the unprecedented construction freeze of 2009/10 did not cause the PA to come to the negotiating table until one month before it expired and, as ever, the BBC fails to inform audiences accurately with regard to the significance of the Israeli demand for the PA to recognise Israel as the Jewish state:

“Mr Netanyahu’s government was criticised by some in the international community for not renewing a partial freeze on Jewish settlement-building and possibly avoiding a collapse in peace talks with the Palestinians in late 2010.

He publicly accepted the concept of a demilitarised Palestinian state, but insisted the Palestinians accept Israel as a “Jewish state” in turn and make reciprocal concessions.

In 2015 he distanced himself from accepting the prospect of a state, dismissing it as irrelevant given the rise of militant Islam across the Middle East.”

Later on in the evening the BBC News website published two articles with a US slant, the first of which – by PJ Crowley – was subtly titled “Netanyahu win gives Obama a headache“.18 3 website 6

“Over the weekend, he made explicit what many, particularly the Palestinians, had long believed.

As long as he is prime minister, there will not be a Palestinian state. He even acknowledged that his administration used settlement construction to undermine the process.

These statements sent a moribund peace process into freefall, calling into question the future of the Oslo process.”

Apparently BBC audiences are to believe that “the future of the Oslo process” was not called into question by – among other things – the failure of the Oslo Accords’ guarantors to insist upon disarmament of Hamas before the formation of a unity government together with the Palestinian Authority.

Another article titled “Israel election: US concern over ‘divisive’ rhetoric” told readers that:18 3 website 7

“During campaigning, Mr Netanyahu said he would not allow the creation of a Palestinian state if re-elected. […]

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: “It has been the policy of the United States for more than 20 years that a two-state solution is the goal of resolving the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

The US would “re-evaluate our approach” in the wake of Mr Netanyahu’s comments ruling out a Palestinian state, he said.”

The article also states:

“On a warning from Mr Netanyahu that his opponents were bussing Arab-Israeli voters to polling stations, he [Earnest] said: “Rhetoric that seeks to marginalise one segment of their population is deeply concerning and it is divisive, and I can tell you that these are views the administration intends to communicate directly to the Israelis.” “

Yet again the BBC refrains from providing audiences with the necessary context concerning the anti-Zionist parties running on the Joint Arab List and the foreign funding for organisations which ran a campaign against Netanyahu.

The article later states:

“The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, said he would work with any Israeli government that accepts the two-state solution, without which, he said, peace negotiations stood “no chance”.”

The uninformed reader seeking to understand the topic of the Israeli election from these seven articles could only arrive at the conclusion that the Likud party’s victory is the prime factor preventing a peace agreement being signed between Israel and the Palestinians. ‘Economical’ presentation of subjects such as the reason for the breakdown of previous rounds of talks coupled with the complete absence of any reference to the fact that almost a year ago the Palestinian Authority chose to form a ‘unity government’ with a terrorist organization which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and is committed to its destruction mean that the bottom line effect of these reports is to mislead audiences with regard to the peace process in general and the significance of the result of the election in particular. As we observed here in January 2013 after the previous election and again in December 2014 when the BBC first began reporting on this one:

“Most blatantly obvious is the fact that the BBC’s insistence upon framing this election almost exclusively in terms of the potential effect of its results on ‘the peace process’ reflects its own institutional attitude towards that subject, both in terms of its perceived importance and in terms of the curious notion that only what Israel does has any effect upon that process’ chances.”

Plus ça change… 

 

Elections 2015: the morning after – Doucet on BBC television news

On March 18th the BBC began to produce coverage of the results of the previous day’s election in Israel. Among those reports was one by Lyse Doucet which appeared on BBC television news and also on the corporation’s website under the title “Israel election: ‘Security fears’ seal Netanyahu victory“. Doucet opened her report as follows:

“After a night when he made political history, Mr Netanyahu’s first stop this morning was the holiest site in Jewish history – the Western Wall – for prayer and a pledge.”

A viewer responded to that obvious (but nevertheless frequently made) mistake on Twitter.

Doucet filmed 18 3 tweet

Of course that is not accurate either, as the viewer pointed out, but no correction has been made to the report since its appearance.

Doucet filmed 18 3 tweet 2

With the BBC having earlier adopted and promoted the view of some opinion polls (though not all) according to which the centre Left Zionist Union was tipped to win the election, it is interesting to see how Doucet explained its actual result to BBC viewers.

“Security fears won this election for him. Mr Netanyahu lurched to the right and promised: no state for the Palestinians, no end to Israeli settlement building.”

Whether or not there is a factual basis for Doucet’s “lurched to the right” claim is debatable – not least according to Netanyahu himself:

“I haven’t changed my policy,” Netanyahu insisted. “I never retracted my speech at Bar-Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state.”

“What has changed is the reality,” he continued. “[Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] the Palestinian leader refuses to recognize the Jewish state and has made a pact with Hamas that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, and every territory that is vacated today in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces. We want that to change so that we can realize a vision of real, sustained peace. I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change.”

DFLP logo

DFLP logo

After having brought in an Israeli journalist to back up her theory, Doucet moved the focus of her report to Ramallah:

“In the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank there’s disappointment but a growing determination to still find a way to create their own state.”

Ironically, those words are spoken whilst the image on screen shows a Ramallah street decked with DFLP flags with a logo which eradicates Israel from the map.

Doucet filmed 18 3 DFLP flags

Ignoring that particular inconvenient truth, Doucet next gave a platform to Mohammed Shtayyeh and his thinly veiled threats – which she made no attempt to clarify.

“I think it is time now that the international community should put serious pressure on Netanyahu to save the two state-solution – one, and on the other hand I think Netanyahu should not really take that big risk to be as aggressive as he used to be because the Palestinian reaction will be not pleasant for him.”

Against a background of images of the anti-terrorist fence, Doucet proceeded to further mislead BBC audiences by saying:Doucet filmed 18 3

“Across the West Bank during Mr Netanyahu’s time as prime minister security barriers have gone up, making Israelis feel more secure and Palestinians less hopeful.”

Construction of the anti-terrorist fence of course began in 2002 – seven years before Netanyahu became prime minister – and it is not located “across the West Bank” but around that area. Within the area itself, the number of checkpoints has actually been reduced in recent years: from 40 in July 2008 to 13 in February 2014.

Doucet’s mind reading of the Israeli people and their prime minister continued:

“Today there were calls from many capitals for a resumption of peace talks. That’s hard to imagine right now. Benjamin Netanyahu managed to rally a majority of Israelis around his right-wing message but it still left a divided society and a country at growing odds with the rest of the world. But for the Israeli leader, that matters much less than what he sees as the best way to ensure Israel’s security. This has long been a land troubled by conflict. Now Israelis also worry about rising threats on all their borders in this increasingly unstable region. So in the end, many voted for the man who spoke to those fears.”

Interestingly, Doucet had nothing to say about why the BBC got the election story so wrong – yet again. But her overall message to audiences is very clear: the underlying factor preventing peace and light from descending on the Middle East is not Islamist extremism, not foreign support for Palestinian terror groups, not the Palestinian Authority’s throwing in of its lot with Hamas via its ‘unity government’, not the existence of Hamas terror cells in PA controlled areas and not the absence of an elected Palestinian president and government who can truly claim to represent the Palestinian people. According to Doucet, it is the fears of Israelis which have scuppered the chance for peace. 

 

 

 

Elections 2015: round up of BBC coverage – election day WS radio reports

The BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ devoted part of its March 17th afternoon edition to the subject of the elections being held in Israel on that day.Newshour 17 3 aft

In the first part of the programme (from 00:45 here) listeners heard from Tim Franks talking briefly to voters at a polling station in the Kiryat Yovel neighbourhood in Jerusalem before conducting interviews with Yitzhak Herzog and Likud campaign manager Aron Shaviv.

The more notable part of the programme however came at 26:40 when the focus switched from the subject of the people contending and voting in the election to a topic the BBC has stubbornly shoehorned into a great deal of its election coverage, with presenter Razia Iqbal saying:

“Let’s hear now about a group often at the centre of the debate in any Israeli election, though not this one. Whilst much of the focus this time has been on internal social and economic issues and the perceived security threat from Iran, there’s been relatively little debate about the conflict with the Palestinians. From Ramallah in the West Bank, Yolande Knell reports now on the Palestinian view.”

Knell’s report was in fact just a version of her filmed report from Ramallah which had been slightly modified for radio and it included the same inaccurate claim about the voting rights of some Jerusalem residents and the same misleading propaganda from Fatah’s Husam Zomlot.

But that obviously did not satisfy the BBC’s urge to make this story about something it was not and so Iqbal then conducted a lengthy interview with Raja Shehadeh whom she described merely as an “award-winning Palestinian writer and human rights lawyer”, without making the required effort to inform listeners of Shehadeh’s political activities which are obviously very relevant if audiences are to be able to put his contribution into its correct context.

Predictably – and with more than a little help from Razia Iqbal – Shehadeh painted a picture in which Palestinians were portrayed solely as passive victims.

RS: “Unfortunately the Palestinians in the past used to hold their breath when there were Israeli elections and hope for a more moderate party or unity government. But they’ve hoped so often in the past and been disappointed…”

Iqbal made no attempt to remind listeners that, for example, the Palestinian Authority initiated the second Intifada during the office of a Labour government headed by Ehud Barak and following the Camp David talks.

RS: “Well you know the problem is that Israel has moved to the right and so even the Herzog party – the Zionist Unity [sic] party – doesn’t offer the minimum that Palestinians look for in order to have hope because they do not promise to remove any settlements, they do not promise to share Jerusalem as a joint capital for the Palestinian state and the Israeli state. The minimum that they are willing to offer comes below the minimum that Palestinians believe is necessary to move forward in the peace process.”

In addition to failing to challenge the chimera of “Israel has moved to the right”, Iqbal also refrained from questioning Shehadeh with regard to the results of the 2005 removal of all Israeli villages from the Gaza Strip and some in Samaria – a move which clearly did not prompt the Palestinians to make any “move forward in the peace process”.

In relation to the Joint Arab List, Shehadeh claimed:

“But they have problems of their own and the system in Israel does not give them much leverage over what they can do in terms of policy….that will affect the Palestinians in the occupied territories.”

Iqbal failed to clarify to listeners that the Joint Arab List had already ruled out joining a coalition government – and hence having any input “in terms of policy” – before the election even took place. She also failed to remind listeners that it was Netanyahu’s government which froze building for ten months in Judea & Samaria in an attempt to kick-start talks in 2009/10 and released dozens of convicted terrorists in 2013/14 for the same reason when Shehadeh said:

“…my view is that Netanyahu has been such a negative person – a negative approach and impact on the whole atmosphere in the region – that perhaps if he goes there might be a little more hope even though the policies of the parties who are expected to win are not much better.”

Neither did she challenge this fanciful statement:

“…the Palestinian Authority certainly has indicated over and over and over again that they are willing to make peace on the basis of a two-state solution but the Israelis are not listening at this point.”

In other words, the entire five-minute interview with Shehadeh was – like Knell’s interview with Husam Zomlot – no more than opportunistic use of the Israeli election to promote political propaganda which steers BBC audiences towards an inaccurate view not only of the election itself, but of the wider issue of the Palestinian Israeli conflict.

The evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on March 17th (from 00:30 here) also featured contributions from Tim Franks in Jerusalem focused around the topic of the exit polls which had just been announced. Listeners heard from Kevin Connolly and Yolande Knell at the Likud and Zionist Union HQs respectively as well as short interviews by Mark Lowen with two Israeli voters in a Tel Aviv pub. Franks was joined by Israeli journalist Emmanuel Rosen but, despite the opportunity that presented to finally inform listeners about the background to the main issues of the election, Franks yet again (as we have already seen in much of the BBC’s other coverage) brought the focus back to the topic the election was not about.Newshour 17 3 evg

“The rest of the world cares about Israel not because of the economy – which has been a central issue in this election – but because of its regional relations and of course its relations with the Palestinians. Were there to be a national unity government – as some people, including you, suggest could well be a possibility – will that just mean that there is no chance of any political breakthrough one way or the other with the Palestinians?”

When Rosen pointed out that the fate of negotiations “depends on the Palestinians” too, Franks responded:

“Indeed, but in terms of a new initiative from the Israelis?”

Later on in the programme (from 26:30) Franks interviewed candidates from the Labour and Likud parties. Like Emmanuel Rosen before him, Nachman Shai noted the “deciding power” of Moshe Kahlon and his Kulanu party in the formation of any coalition, but Franks again passed up on the chance to finally provide BBC audiences with some background to that new party, despite the fact that the BBC had barely covered the topic. Notably, Franks cut off Sharon Haskell as she spoke about a factor which had important influence on the election results: the intervention of foreign funded interest groups. Hence, BBC audiences did not get to form any understanding of how the final results of the election were affected by that factor.

From 33:20, Franks once again took the focus away from the issues upon which the election was fought.

“Well, given that this election was in large part about the economy but it did also turn on differing visions of whether there should be a Palestinian state at all, what’s the view from Ramallah – the Palestinian city of Ramallah? Sabri Saydam is an advisor to the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.”

Saydam presented the following uninterrupted monologue:

“It’s obvious that we’re repeating history now. We’re seeing the old lessons being repeated again where there is no bloc that’s to lead Israel. If anything, whether Right or Left, we’re talking about a Zionist movement in Israel that’s picking up momentum. We see the resurrection of Barak’s ‘no promises to the Palestinians’ now being resurrected with Herzog. We see Netanyahu moving to the right or centre right by saying there will be no Palestinian state, so there is no mood of celebration for the Palestinians. The only glimpse of hope is the united front of the Arab parties that have now formed the third bloc in Knesset and can veto any government that comes into being: that’s the only hope. Other than that there is no excitement here and there is no hope in any future government that comes into the scene. Only one indication in the Palestinian street that says maybe the comeback of Netanyahu will be an excellent thing to have because Netanyahu is the only person that can make a blunder out of PR and can really misrepresent Israel in every possible way that serves the Palestinians.”

As readers have no doubt concluded from these and other reports already covered on these pages, the BBC has insisted upon dragging the focus of much of its coverage of the Israeli election away from the issues it was actually about and deflecting audience attention to the topic of its choosing. Back in December 2014 when the election was first announced Tim Franks said to an Israeli interviewee:

“You make Israel sound like a normal country when you’re talking about economic problems, about value added tax, housing and so forth. But of course the reason the outside world is so interested in Israel is because of the wider issues with the conflict, with the Palestinians and so forth.”

Three and a half months later we hear him saying:

“The rest of the world cares about Israel not because of the economy – which has been a central issue in this election – but because of its regional relations and of course its relations with the Palestinians.”

In other words, members of the BBC’s audience who perhaps thought they would gain some insight into what this election was all about, what worries Israelis and the complex political system in Israel had no chance of their expectations being fulfilled because the BBC decided long ago that the story itself would not set the agenda. Instead, it chose to devote its coverage to the issue upon which it thinks audiences should be focusing. The result of that is that more airtime was given to ‘views from Ramallah’ than to informing audiences about the views of the people who actually determined the result of the election in places where the BBC rarely treads such as Kiryat Shmona, Shlomi, Sderot and Arad. 

Remarkably – as readers have no doubt already noticed for themselves – despite the plethora of Palestinian interviewees seen and heard in BBC coverage of the Israeli election, at no point did any BBC journalist raise the topic of the absence of democratic elections in the PA controlled areas during the last decade and how that factor – and the underlying reasons for it – might be having an effect on the peace process. 

Related Articles:

Elections 2015: round up of BBC coverage – the run-up

Elections 2015: round up of BBC coverage – election day filmed reports, part one

Elections 2015: round up of BBC coverage – election day filmed reports, part two

 

Elections 2015: round up of BBC coverage – election day filmed reports, part one

By far the strangest choice of location for a filmed BBC report on the topic of the Israeli elections was Ramallah, from where Yolande Knell reported for BBC television news on March 17th in an item titled “Israel election: The view from Ramallah“. Knell opened that report as follows:Knell filmed 17 3

“I’ve just crossed into the occupied West Bank through the Qalandiya checkpoint which is manned by Israeli soldiers and this is part of Israel’s separation barrier. For Palestinians living here these have become symbols of the decades-old conflict with Israel. And while those in the West Bank, in East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip don’t get to vote in the Israeli elections, they are watching them closely.”

Knell’s claim that “those…in East Jerusalem…don’t get to vote” is of course inaccurate. Residents of East Jerusalem are entitled to apply for Israeli citizenship and those who do so successfully have the right to vote just like any other Israeli. Those who chose not to exercise their right to apply for citizenship obviously voluntarily forgo the right to vote in national elections, although they are still eligible to vote in municipal elections. This is not the first time that the BBC has promoted this inaccurate portrayal of the voting rights of East Jerusalemites.

Knell also fails to inform viewers that residents of PA controlled areas A and B and residents of the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip do of course have the right to vote in Palestinian Authority elections. That perhaps not accidental omission sets the stage for the next part of her report, in which BBC audiences are encouraged to believe that relevant commentary on the topic of the Israeli election is to be had from someone who not only does not participate in them, but represents the largest faction in a body which has not held democratic elections for seats in its own parliament for over nine years and which is governed by a president whose term of office expired years ago.

Knell: “Palestinian officials say the peace process is being ignored by the [Israeli] political campaigners – and it shouldn’t be.”

Fatah’s Husam Zomlot then says:

“You decide, the Israelis, what is it exactly. Are you occupying us? Then it’s too long an occupation – you have to end it. Or do you consider the West Bank and Gaza your territory? Then you want us either citizens or you want us actually being discriminated against. But in all scenarios, it’s your moment of choice and unfortunately I don’t see the Israeli society now debating this.”

This is of course blatant exploitation of the occasion of the Israeli elections for the propagation of unrelated political propaganda and whilst that comes as no surprise, nevertheless it misleads BBC audiences.

Israelis debated these issues over two decades ago and that debate culminated in the Oslo Accords which led to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, the relinquishment of Areas A & B (and the Gaza Strip in 2005) to its control and the framework of final status negotiations to determine the future of Area C. The PA’s decision to scupper those final status negotiations by means of terrorism, its refusal to accept any of the subsequent offers made to resolve the situation and its newer policy of avoidance of face to face negotiations in favour of activity in the international arena do not of course get any mention in Knell’s own little campaigning video.

After having found two people on the streets of Ramallah to endorse her claim that “many believe it doesn’t even matter if the next Israeli prime minister is Left or Right wing”, she closes by promoting the debatable notion that “the Palestinian president says he’ll work to revive peace talks with Israel”.

In less than two months’ time, the British public will also be going to the polls. It is highly unlikely that the BBC’s election coverage will include “UK election: The view from Buenos Aires”, reports in which Spanish officials bemoan the fact that the issue of Gibraltar is not on the British voters’ agenda or interviews with IRA officials claiming that the ‘occupation’ of Northern Ireland has gone on “too long”. Were the BBC to indeed produce such reports, British voters would no doubt question its editorial priorities – and perhaps its collective sanity.

The decision to allow the broadcast of this piece of blatant political propaganda from Yolande Knell, which actively detracts from accurate audience understanding of the topic she is supposed to be covering (as well the broader subject of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in general), should likewise be questioned. 

Related Articles:

Elections 2015: round up of BBC coverage – the run-up

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

A side to the Gaza reconstruction story the BBC isn’t telling

As readers know only too well, the BBC’s considerable efforts to promote the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip since the end of last summer’s conflict recently reached something of a climax with a series of reports by Lyse Doucet.  Those already discussed here (and there are more still to come) include a radio report broadcast on the BBC World Service, a filmed report for BBC television and another filmed report for television news programmes which, like its predecessor, also appeared on the BBC News website.Doucet Gaza twitter 2

In the third of those posts we concluded that:

“So far we have looked at three reports from Shuja’iya put out by Lyse Doucet in the last few days. All of those reports were lacking in detailed, factual information which would help BBC audiences to understand why reconstruction in Gaza is happening so slowly or to appreciate what has been done so far. All three reports placed the focus on emotive, generalized, over-dramatic, context-free descriptions more suited to a telethon appeal than to contributing to viewers’ or listeners’ fact-based knowledge and one report was replete with Hamas propaganda. The bottom line of all these reports is that Doucet avoided adequately explaining to BBC audiences that the reconstruction of housing in the Gaza Strip has been hampered primarily by the Palestinians themselves.”

On March 8th Ha’aretz carried an interesting report ($) related to the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.Doucet Gaza audio on Twitter

“The five largest European Union members – Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain – protested to the Palestinian Authority last week that it was not doing enough to rebuild the Gaza Strip, according to European diplomats and senior Israeli Foreign Ministry officials.

Envoys from the five nations met last Thursday with Alon Ushpiz, a senior diplomat in the Foreign Ministry, for talks focused mainly on the situation in Gaza. […]

The Europeans complimented Israel’s cooperation with the reconstruction apparatus that the United Nations is operating, Israel’s doubling of the water supply to Gaza and the ease on export restrictions from the Gaza Strip to Israel, the West Bank and abroad. The European representatives also requested to increase the scale and pace of transferring goods from Israel to the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Gaza. […]Doucet filmed Gaza 1

According to a senior official in the Foreign Ministry, the European diplomats remarked the consuls general of their nations held a meeting with senior PA officials several days earlier, in which they conveyed a sharp protest to the PA leadership over the lack of sufficient cooperation in everything regarding reconstruction in Gaza.

A European diplomat familiar with the details of the meetings confirmed that such protest was conveyed. He spoke on condition of anonymity. “They conveyed an unequivocal message that the PA can do more to promote reconstruction in the Strip, and that continued internal political squabbling between Fatah and Hamas are adversely affecting the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the pace and scope of reconstruction,” the European diplomat said. […]

The European diplomat said that in a meeting between representatives of the five EU states and senior officials from the Egyptian foreign ministry in Cairo, the Europeans expressed concern that Egypt is not assisting the reconstruction process in Gaza and is continuing to close the Rafah crossing for extended periods of time. […]Doucet filmed Gaza 2

Likewise, diplomats from the five EU powers held talks with a number of Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar, to complain that those countries have yet to invest the hundreds of millions of dollars pledged for Gaza reconstruction, further delaying resolution to the crisis.

“There is positive movement on the Israeli side in everything regarding Gaza,” the EU diplomat said. “While you always need more, the Israelis are removing hurdles and assisting reconstruction. At the same time, reconstruction is still stuck because of the internal fights on the Palestinian side, Egyptian behavior and failure to deliver funds pledged by the Arab states. We fear that if nothing will move on Gaza reconstruction, we will find ourselves facing another round of violence in Gaza.”” [emphasis added]

Despite the fact that Haaretz is the Israeli newspaper most frequently quoted by the BBC, we can’t seem to find a report on this topic on the corporation’s website.