Inaccuracy and distortion in BBC report of Netanyahu’s UN speech

On October 2nd 2013 the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel PM calls Iran leader ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’” which supposedly informs BBC audiences about the speech made by PM Netanyahu at the UN General Assembly the previous day.

The article opens with a gross inaccuracy:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned against working with the Iranian government.”

Netanyahu UN speech art

To ‘warn against’ is defined as “to advise someone against someone, something, or doing something”. “Warned against working with the Iranian government” would therefore be understood by any reasonable reader as meaning to advise not to work with the Iranian government.

In fact, a significant proportion of Netanyahu’s speech was devoted to the subject of safeguards which should be employed by the international community whilst negotiating with Iran.

“So here is what the international community must do: First, keep up the sanctions. If Iran advances its nuclear weapons program during negotiations, strengthen the sanctions.

Second, don’t agree to a partial deal. A partial deal would lift international sanctions that have taken years to put in place in exchange for cosmetic concessions that will take only weeks for Iran to reverse.

Third, lift the sanctions only when Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons program. My friends, the international community has Iran on the ropes. If you want to knock out Iran’s nuclear weapons program peacefully, don’t let up the pressure. Keep it up.

We all want to give diplomacy with Iran a chance to succeed, but when it comes to Iran, the greater the pressure, the greater the chance. Three decades ago, President Ronald Reagan famously advised, “trust but verify.” When it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, here’s my advice: Distrust, dismantle and verify.”

In other words, Netanyahu did not warn “against working with the Iranian government” at all – but he did urge the international community to go about it in a rational and cautious manner. 

Despite the fact that this 490 word article (not including the side-box of analysis from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly) actually only includes 179 words on the subject of Netanyahu’s speech itself (with the other 311 words being devoted to Iranian reactions to it and other issues), another inaccuracy appears further on in the report.

“He [Netanyahu] claimed that Mr Rouhani – in his previous role as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator – masterminded a strategy that enabled his country to move closer to developing nuclear weapons.”

The actual words used by Netanyahu were as follows:

“You know why Rouhani thinks he can get away with this? I mean, this is a ruse. It’s a ploy. Why does Rouhani think he — thinks he can get away with it? Because — because he’s gotten away with it before, because his strategy of talking a lot and doing little has worked for him in the past.

He even brags about this. Here’s what he said in his 2011 book about his time as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, and I quote: “While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan.”

Now, for those of you who don’t know, the Isfahan facility is an indispensable part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. That’s where uranium ore called yellowcake is converted into an enrichable form. Rouhani boasted, and I quote, “By creating a calm environment — a calm environment — we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.” He fooled the world once. Now he thinks he can fool it again.”

As readers can see for themselves, there is no mention of the Bond film-like word “masterminded” and of course the BBC neglects to inform audiences that Netanyahu’s remarks were based on quotes from Rouhani himself.

Here is Rouhani in an interview with the Iranian regime’s IRIB during his recent election campaign. During that campaign, some of Rouhani’s opponents had accused him of giving in to the West during his stint as nuclear negotiator, effectively halting Iran’s nuclear programme. This is his reply to those accusations.

In his side-box of ‘analysis’ Kevin Connolly promotes the facile notion of Israel as the Grinch spoiling everyone else’s party.

“The Israeli nightmare is a world in which ties between its best friend and its worst enemy improve.”

Connolly analysis UN speech

No, Mr Connolly, Israel’s nightmare (and that of several other countries in the region which you conveniently neglect to mention) is that a repressive, theocratic, terror-sponsoring dictatorship will acquire nuclear military capability whilst the rest of the world stands by and does nothing.

If that is the best ‘analysis’ the BBC can offer its audiences on such a critical issue, then one really has to wonder why it bothers at all.

With its focus on unimportant sound-bites rather than content and its promotion of obvious inaccuracies, this report does nothing to inform BBC audiences of the substance of PM Netanyahu’s speech at the UN GA, thus failing to meet the criteria defined in the BBC’s ‘Public Purposes’ and preventing BBC audiences from building “a global understanding of international issues” which in turn enables them to “participate in the global debate on significant international issues”.

BBC fails to report on UN resolution to subject more minorities to violence in Syria

Almost two years ago, in January 2011, the veteran former BBC news-reader Peter Sissons wrote an article in the Daily Mail about what he termed the BBC ‘mindset’. In it, he stated:

“At any given time there is a BBC line on everything of importance, a line usually adopted in the light of which way its senior echelons believe the political wind is ­blowing. This line is rarely spelled out explicitly, but percolates subtly throughout the organisation.

Whatever the United Nations is associated with is good — it is heresy to question any of its activities. The EU is also a good thing, but not quite as good as the UN.”

Such an attitude perhaps goes some way toward explaining the BBC UN correspondent’s resounding silence on the fact that during the past year the UN General Assembly has passed twenty two resolutions singling out Israel for criticism – and only four on the rest of the world combined. 

Notably ignored by the BBC is the fact that on December 18th – when no fewer than nine anti-Israel resolutions were passed in one day – one of those resolutions called for the Golan Heights to be returned “forthwith” to Syrian control. 

As the Executive Director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, noted:

 “At a time when the Syrian regime is massacring its own people, how can the U.N. call for more people to be subject to Assad’s rule? The timing of today’s text is morally galling and logically absurd.” 

As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, the 20,000 or so Druze residents of the Golan Heights privately express great concern for the fate of their family members in Syria, with applications for Israeli citizenship (to which they have been entitled since Israel annexed the Golan in 1981) reaching an all-time high in recent months. 

“I believe this trend will only increase,” a Mas’ade resident who holds Israeli citizenship told the paper. “More and more people comprehend that this [Israel] is a well-managed country and it’s possible to live and raise children here. It is preferable to turning into refugees in another country.”

“In Syria there is mass murder, and if [the Druze are] under Syrian control they would likely be turned into the victims of these atrocities. People see murdered children and refugees fleeing to Jordan and Turkey, lacking everything, and ask themselves: Where do I want to raise my children. The answer is clear — in Israel and not Syria.”

The 2,000 or so Alawite residents of Ghajar, which also came under Israeli control in 1967, already have Israeli citizenship and they are certainly no strangers to arbitrary UN declarations made thousands of miles away with absolutely no relevance to the situation on the ground. As members of the minority sect to which the Assad family also belongs, one can only guess their fate were their village to be returned to Syrian control “forthwith”. 

None of these aspects of that UN GA resolution and others were reported by the BBC’s UN correspondent. She did – however- manage to put out the following Tweet:

Plett tweet 19 12

A BBC which avoids engaging in critical thinking regarding the anti-Israel obsession of the UN and hence promotes a trite, one-dimensional view of the Middle East cannot but fail in its task to increase its audiences’ understanding of the region and the complexities of the issues its residents face. 

BBC’s UN correspondent misses item about Israel

On December 21st 2012 a session at the United Nations General Assembly dealt with recommended draft resolutions on the subject of sustainable development.  

“As it took action on 36 draft resolutions and 3 draft decisions presented by the Committee, the Assembly adopted 34 of those texts without a vote and 5 by recorded vote.  Of great significance to delegations was the adoption of a draft resolution on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of United Nations operational activities for development.”

One of the resolutions – on “Entrepreneurship for Development” – was proposed by Israel, along with 97 co-sponsors. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said:

“Make no mistake. The stakes before us are high. The people we empower today will become the next Einstein, the next Picasso, the next Mother Theresa of tomorrow”.

As Daniel Carmon, head of Israel’s MASHAV Agency for International Development Cooperation wrote in the National Post:

“This groundbreaking resolution highlights the value of entrepreneurship for creating jobs in the developing world, opening up economic opportunities, and fostering responsibility in both local entrepreneurs and donor countries.” 

As the protocol of the session records:

“Turning to the draft resolution titled “Entrepreneurship for development”, the Assembly adopted it by a recorded vote of 141 in favour to 31 against, with 11 abstentions.

By that text, the Assembly emphasized the important role of partnerships with the private sector in promoting entrepreneurship, generating employment and investment, increasing revenue potential, developing new technologies and innovative business models, and enabling high, sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth while protecting the rights of workers.”

Obviously, members of the developing world would welcome such an initiative…wouldn’t they? Well, not some it seems – if it is proposed by Israel. 

Annex II

Against:  Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Yemen.

“The representative of Israel said he had hoped for consensus on the text, stressing that States in the Arab world especially could benefit from entrepreneurship.  Their people were demanding better lives, better economies and better governance, and did not wish to live with rampant corruption, discrimination against women and economic stagnation.  By voting against the resolution, Arab delegations were turning their backs on their own people and trying to turn back the clock on the important work of the United Nations.  It was now time to take the words of the resolution off the page and breathe life into them on the ground, he stressed, adding that the stakes were high.”

“Syria’s representative, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, described that statement as “truly strange”, given the criticism that Israel had received over human rights violations and denial of economic opportunities to people living under occupation.  Saudi Arabia’s representative defended his country’s record as a peace-loving nation, and his counterpart from Sudan said her country had not turned its back on its people, as the Israeli representative had said, but had instead turned its face towards those living under Israeli occupation.”

Strangely, I can’t seem to find a report on any of this from the BBC’s UN correspondent

Wishful thinking: a BBC view of ‘global sentiment’

The BBC News website’s Middle East page had a ditsy little headline on its homepage of December 3rd: 

Turning Tide

UN vote offers snapshot of global sentiment on peace process

hp 3 12

The link leads to an article by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly entitled “UN vote gives Palestinians new diplomatic powers”. But before getting to that, readers may ponder exactly which “tide” the BBC thinks is turning and what sort of universal “sentiment” on the peace process it believes can be concluded from the UN GA vote of November 29th

Of the 138 countries which voted in favour of the resolution, no fewer than 53 are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The vast majority of states comprising that body do not have diplomatic relations with Israel and do not seek peace with Israel. In some cases they actively seek Israel’s destruction. Some of them finance and/or supply the terror organisations which up to only a week before the UN vote were committing hundreds of war crimes a day by deliberately targeting Israeli civilians with military-grade missiles. 

One of the OIC’s aims, according to its founding charter is:

“To support and empower the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination and establish their sovereign State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, while safeguarding its historic and Islamic character as well as the Holy places therein”

Another of the OIC’s aims is expressed thus:

“The Headquarters of the General Secretariat shall be in the city of Jeddah until the liberation of the city of Al-Quds so that it will become the permanent Headquarters of the Organisation.”

The OIC is of course the same organization which claims to have been the initiator of the Goldstone Report, which is famous for its serial sponsorship of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN, which rejects internationally-accepted standards of universal human rights and demands Shari’ah-based “human rights” instead and which has been pressuring the UN to adopt “global blasphemy laws“. 

“Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said the international community should ‘come out of hiding from behind the excuse of freedom of expression’, a reference to Western arguments against a universal blasphemy law that the OIC has sought for over a decade.”

Fifty one of the additional voters at the UN GA in favour of the Palestinian bid are members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which – despite its title – operates as another voting bloc within the UN system. Some members of the OIC are also part of the NAM, which is currently led by Iran and will be for the next three years. In August this year members of the NAM met in Tehran and the UN Secretary General caused controversy by attending that meeting. 

Unsurprisingly, the recent NAM summit produced no fewer than two documents relating to the Palestinian issue. One was a “Declaration on Palestine Political Prisoners” – which of course completely ignores the existence of terrorism – and the other was a “Solidarity Declaration on Palestine“, which is replete with all the usual one-sided rhetoric one would expect to see from such a source, including the following clause: 

“The Heads of State or Government  welcomed in this regard the application submitted, on 23 September 2011, by Palestine to be admitted as a Member State of the United Nations, consistent with the right of the Palestinian people to self- determination and independence, convinced that realization of this objective will be a major step towards securing freedom, dignity, stability and peace for the Palestinian people.  They also welcomed the admission of Palestine as a Member State of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.”

It is therefore completely unsurprising to see both members of the OIC and the NAM – many of them of course not exactly paragons of democracy and human rights – voting in favour of the resolution en masse. In fact, the outcome of the vote was never in doubt because for years now the UN has only ever produced the inevitable when it comes to Israel. 

Why that should inspire the BBC to categorise the vote as a “turning tide” is a mystery: if anything, the tide stood still and continued its brackish ways. Neither do the results of the OIC and NAM dominated vote have anything to do with “sentiment” or with anything which can be reasonably described as a ‘peace process’. 

Kevin Connolly’s interpretation of the results of the UN GA vote includes the following:

“The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza would have boosted the standing of the Palestinian militant organisation in the eyes of the Arab world.

It is the more moderate PA based in the West Bank which has invested in the diplomatic strategy through the UN.

So some of the countries which abstained on the vote or voted for the Palestinians may have intended to boost the more moderate secularists of the PA against the Islamists of Hamas rather than the Palestinians in general against the Israelis.”

But by accepting Abbas’ motion, the UN has not only killed off the Oslo Accords once and for all (with apparently no regard for the fact that at over 1,500 Israelis were murdered because of the rejection of those accords by factions within Palestinian society), but has ironically also sounded the death knell for the main product of Oslo; the Palestinian Authority itself.

“Global sentiment on the peace process” has (with very few exceptions) two main strains: those who have no wish to see such a process ever come to fruition and those who have no understanding of the factors currently preventing that process from progressing. Like the 34 additional nations which voted in favour at the UN GA last week, the BBC shows that it falls into the latter category.  

A masterclass in subtle messaging from the BBC’s Barbara Plett

The BBC’s correspondent at the United Nations in New York, Barbara Plett, broadcast a report on BBC television news on November 29th 2012 (also appearing on the BBC News website) concerning the Palestinian Authority’s latest UN bid.

At 0:17 Plett says: [emphasis added]

“Last year Mahmoud Abbas applied for full UN membership, with much fanfare, but that got bogged down at the Security Council amidst US opposition. This time he’s coming to the UN for a lesser upgrade: from an observer to an observer state – like the Vatican.”

 Plett’s exclusive mention of “US opposition” to Abbas’s 2011 bid is of course inaccurate and disingenuous. In fact, the 15 member UN SC Admissions Committee was “unable to make a unanimous recommendation” – as necessary – to the Security Council. 

She continues:

“It’s a largely symbolic move, but Palestinians argue at least it will grant formal recognition to their state, which is practically being eroded by Israeli settlement building.”

The uninformed viewer hearing that sentence may well be left with the impression that a Palestinian state already exists and that it merely lacks “formal recognition”. But it is the second half of the sentence which is particularly interesting.

Plett does not say “but Palestinians argue at least it will grant formal recognition to their state, which they claim is practically being eroded by Israeli settlement building”. Instead, she states it as though it were fact. 

So our uninformed viewer may well now think that there already is a Palestinian state, and that it is becoming smaller because of Israeli settlement building. Of course Plett does not actually say that, but neither does she make any effort to refrain from leaving that impression.

At 1:02 Plett says:

“With such opposition from Israel – and therefore America – the Palestinian leadership is taking a risk.”

So American opposition is, according to Plett, a direct consequence of Israeli opposition. In other words, America cannot think for itself: it has to follow Israel’s lead.

That assertion sails very close to the age-old wind of stereotypical antisemitic motifs of Jewish power and control over governments and it is a highly inappropriate theme for a BBC journalist to advance – even through subtle messaging. 

BBC promotes the false concept of ’1967 borders’

The BBC News website’s Middle East page of November 28th featured an article concerning France’s apparent decision to back the Palestinian Authority’s upcoming bid for ‘non-member observer state’ status at the UN General Assembly. 

In the side-box of ‘analysis’ the BBC’s Barbara Plett has, perhaps predictably, found a very euphemistic way in which to describe the OIC-led bloc which so often manages to turn UN proceedings into something between a farce and a witch-hunt. [emphasis added]

“The Palestinians are guaranteed to win the vote for an upgrade to the status of non-member state because of strong sympathy from the post-colonial nations which dominate the General Assembly.”

In the rest of the report, besides the rather glaring absence of the word ‘Hamas’ which should surely be of relevance when discussing the bid’s implications and potential results, readers will no doubt notice the erroneous use of the term “1967 borders”. 

Nowhere in this article does the BBC make it clear that the so-called “1967 borders” are in fact the 1949 armistice lines and that not only do those lines not represent any kind of territorial frontier but that, at Arab insistence, they were specifically defined as lacking any such status in the 1949 Armistice Agreement

“Article II

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

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

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

Article VI

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

The BBC’s Steve Herrmann – Editor of the BBC News website – needs to ensure that a correction is made to this article in order for it to meet Editorial Guidelines on accuracy.