BBC’s Knell flouts impartiality guidelines with failure to inform on Susiya interviewee’s day job

In recent days the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell has produced two very similar reports on different platforms concerning illegally built structures in the South Hebron Hills.

On July 25th an article appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Susiya: Palestinian West Bank village faces bleak end“, where it remained for three consecutive days.Knell Susiya

The July 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Julian Marshall – included a report (from 30:10 here) on the same topic by Knell. In his introduction to that audio report, Marshall states:

“Earlier this year Israel’s High Court ruled against an injunction by residents of Susiya trying to stop Israeli demolition orders. Now, before an appeal is heard, they’ve been told to expect their homes to be destroyed any day.”

That portrayal is inaccurate and misleading.

“During the years while the legal proceedings were ongoing, the petitioners continued to expand their illegal construction, raising the number of structures to a few dozen. They exploited a cease and desist order that temporarily prevented Israel from demolishing the illegal structures. 

On 4 May 2015, the Supreme Court declined to issue another temporary injunction preventing demolitions. The Court found that the petitioners chose to continue to build illegally in violation of judicial rulings that were meant to facilitate the examination of the situation in its entirety, including the actions of the Israeli authorities.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in May, Israel has decided to remove only those structures that were constructed in defiance of judicial rulings or by the exploitation of judicial orders. Israel has undertaken not to demolish the remaining illegal structures before the Supreme Court renders its decision and then only with the Court’s permission. The Court will hear arguments from both sides of the case in August 2015.” [emphasis added]

Both Knell’s reports include considerable input from one Nasser Nawaja – described by her in the audio report as “one of about 350 villagers” and in the written report as a “Susiya resident”.

Whilst those descriptions may indeed be accurate, Mr Nawaja’s position as a community organizer and a field researcher for the political NGO B’Tselem is highly relevant to this story. But – in breach of the BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality which state “[w]e should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made” – Knell refrains from telling audiences about her main interviewee’s day job or his worldwide promotion of a libel which has darkly medieval overtones.

“My name is Nasser Nawajah, I’m 30 years old and a resident of a Palestinian village called Susiya in the occupied West Bank. My home is here in the Hebron hills that Israel calls an “illegal outpost” and they have demolished our town five times since 1985, even poisoning our wells.” [emphasis added]

As NGO Monitor reports, B’Tselem is one of a number of foreign funded political organisations involved in promoting the Susiya campaign.

“Khirbet Susiya (Susya) is a small Arab village in the South Hebron Hills. There are widely divergent narratives regarding the village and its history; according to Israeli authorities, the village’s structures have been illegally built. A protracted court battle ensued regarding the demolition of the village.

The Israeli Supreme Court recently cleared the legal barriers to demolition, on the grounds that the structures were constructed illegally, entirely without permits or approved plans. (Under the Oslo framework, Israel is responsible for planning and construction in Area C, which is where Susya is located.)

A number of governments, including the U.S. and European governments, are lobbying the Israeli government to prevent the demolition. […]

As with many such contentious issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict, many NGOs are active in promoting the Palestinian narrative, which is then repeated by the European and U.S. officials. These NGOs are themselves heavily subsidized by European and U.S. entities.”

A proportion of B’Tselem’s funding comes from the EU and the UK government and the involvement of those two entities in this story does not end there. As the Times of Israel reported:

“Little wonder the Europeans have rushed to Susya’s aid. Practically the entire hamlet is being sustained by EU funding. The solar panels generating its electricity were donated by the German foreign ministry; the clinic and water purifying systems were donated by Italy, and the master plan which the Israeli court is to debate on August 3 was funded by the UK. Significantly, 22 of the 37 buildings scheduled for demolition are EU-funded.”

Anyone who has travelled around Area C in the past few months will not be surprised by that revelation of pirate construction of EU-funded structures in places which according to the Oslo accords are under Israeli control – including planning and zoning. The road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, for example, offers an excellent view of dozens of relatively recent structures bearing the EU flag.

Whilst BBC licence fee payers might perhaps have appreciated some in-depth investigative reporting on the subject of why their taxes are going towards illegal construction which flouts the terms of the Oslo Accords and creates ‘facts on the ground’ despite those agreeents clearly stating that the future of Area C is to be determined by means of final status negotiations, Yolande Knell’s reports avoided all mention of the above topics with the exception of the following opaque sentence in the written report:

“European donations help sustain Susiya village, which is not connected to mains electricity or public water supplies.”

Instead, Knell’s pathos-rich accounts clearly steer audiences towards her desired take away messaging.

“Now, for the third time in three decades, villagers are facing the threat of another forced displacement.”

“Seventy-year-old Mohammed Nawaja looks on. “Each time we’ve had to rebuild we’ve started with nothing,” he says. “I must trust in God that my grandchildren won’t have to live the same experience.”” (BBC News website report)

“Nearby local children play football. Their grandparents and parents were forced to move from their homes and now they face the same uncertainty.” (Newshour report)

In addition to failing to mention that the High Court of Justice found that the families in Susiya already have homes in the nearby village of Yatta in Area A, Knell refrains from telling her readers and listeners that the Israeli government has offered the residents an alternative.

“They have been offered plots of similar, or even better, quality in a nearby area that already conforms to planning and zoning laws. Building houses there will also improve the petitioners’ quality of life, giving them access to infrastructure and educational facilities that are not available in their current illegal locations. Additionally, they will be allowed to continue the same agricultural activities on the lands they currently claim.”

Yolande Knell’s failure to tell audiences the whole story and her concealment of the fact that her main interviewee is an employee of one of the political NGOs involved in the public relations campaign promoting the one-sided Susiya narrative is ample indication of the fact that these two reports – once again – have more to do with political activism than accurate and impartial news reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

Resources:

BBC News online – contact details

BBC World Service – contact details

BBC silent on latest Gaza power plant shut down

The extensive multi-platform coverage promoted to BBC audiences on the anniversary of the beginning of last summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas included a filmed item titled “Gaza conflict one year on: The power plant“.

The inclusion of that topic was not surprising: the Gaza Strip power plant was featured extensively – though not always accurately – in BBC coverage of the conflict and some correspondents were quick to promote the notion that damage to the power plant’s fuel storage tanks was intentional and deliberate. Even after the circumstances of the July 29th 2014 incident became clear, the BBC made no effort to correct the inaccurate impressions given to its audiences at the time.Knell infrastructure

Last week the Gaza power plant was in the news again when, as AFP and others reported, production came to a halt.

“The Gaza Strip’s sole power plant has halted production, the Hamas-run energy authority said Tuesday, in the latest dispute with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority over fuel tax. […]

“The levying of fuel taxes by the finance ministry in Ramallah is preventing the (Hamas) energy authority from running the power station,” a statement from the authority said.

The PA must “lift all taxes on fuel” to get the plant up and running, it said.

Hamas pays the PA for fuel imported to Gaza, but is short of cash and had been unable to cover the additional costs in tax.

In December, Qatar stepped in and donated $10 million (nine million euros) to the PA to cover the tax, effectively exempting Hamas from paying it.

But that money has dried up, and the PA is insisting Hamas begin paying the tax again, the Islamist movement says.

Hamas shut the power plant in March over the same dispute.”

Last summer’s reporting on the topic of the Gaza Strip power plant included descriptions from BBC correspondents of the potential effects of the plant’s closure on civilian life.

“And it is Gaza’s only power plant so there are electricity cuts in Gaza City, there could be problems with water supply because many of the area’s water pumps also rely on that power plant. So if that was a deliberate Israeli attempt to cause economic pain – which is certainly how most Palestinians will see it – then it could be fairly successful.” –Chris Morris, BBC WS ‘Newshour’, 29/7/14.

“It [the power plant] would to serve electricity for the civilian in Gaza almost 2 million people who are, I mean, suffer and when you are talking about electricity we are talking about water supply, water treatment plant, water sewage plant and we are talking about hospitals, we are talking about the schools. All aspects, all basic of our life requirements are not existing.” – Interview with the power plant manager, Yolande Knell, BBC television news, 15/8/14.

Notably, there has been no BBC coverage whatsoever of the power plant’s most recent closure, the effects of that on civilian life in the Gaza Strip or of the long-running dispute between Hamas and the PA which led to this latest shut-down.

BBC fails to report the conclusion to a story it covered four years ago

Back in 2011 the BBC devoted substantial coverage to what it described in an edition of the World Service radio programme ‘Assignment’ as “The Mystery of Dirar Abu Sisi“.Assignment Abu Sisi 2011

Additional content on the same topic included:

Palestinian ‘abducted’ in Ukraine due in Israel court” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website, 29/3/2011

“His friends and relatives reject Israeli reports that the engineer is affiliated to militant groups in the Gaza Strip and are calling on the Ukraine authorities to intervene.”

‘Abducted’ Palestinian engineer appears in Israel court” – BBC News website, 31/3/2011

“Mr Abu Sisi accuses Israel of “kidnapping him for no reason”.”

“On Thursday, the Palestinian ambassador in Kiev, Mohammed al-Assad, called Israel’s arrest “an international crime that must be punished”.”

‘Abducted’ Palestinian Dirar Abu Sisi on Hamas charges” – BBC News website, 4/4/2011

“Mr Abu Sisi’s lawyer says the charges against him are untrue and they will seek to have the case dismissed.

Mr Abu Sisi, the manager at Gaza’s main power plant, has accused Israel of kidnapping him “for no reason”. He and his family have denied any links with Hamas.”

Israel, Ukraine and the mysterious case of Dirar Abu Sisi” – Gabriel Gatehouse, BBC News website, 25/8/2011

“His lawyers, and his wife, say he has nothing to do with Hamas, and knows nothing about rocket technology.”

The Mystery of Dirar Abu Sisi” – ‘Crossing Continents’, BBC Radio 4, 29/8/2011

“So who is Dirar Abu Sisi? Did he really study rocket science at a Ukrainian military academy, as the Israeli indictment claims? Is he a senior Hamas operative? Or is he an innocent victim of mistaken identity?”

The ‘mystery’ of Abu Sisi came to an end in March 2015 when he was convicted after admitting the charges against him.

“The Be’er Sheva District Court convicted Dirar Abu Sisi, known in the Shin Bet security service as the “father of the rockets,” in a plea bargain arrangement. Abu Sisi, an engineer, is said to have been responsible for extending the range of Hamas’s Kassam rockets. […]

Abu Sisi has been under arrest in Israel for four years, As the commander of the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, he was a senior partner in the production of missiles and mortars of various types, and of developing and extending the range of rockets used to fire into Israel.

Abu Sisi was convicted on Thursday after he admitted to the charges, according to the updated indictment from which many of the original charges of attempted murder were dropped, while those of belonging to an unauthorized organization, planning to commit murder, producing weapons, activity in a terror organization and other weapons charges all remained.

According to the indictment served by attorney Moraz Gez of the Southern District prosecution, after Operation Cast Lead, “Abu Sisi was appointed by Mohammed Deif and Ahmed Jabari to set up a military academy. In this role he built a program that would serve as the basis for establishing such a military academy and that trains to this day the command level of Hamas for the purpose of hostile activity against Israel. Abu Sisi has a doctoral degree in electrical engineering from a military academy in Ukraine, and in the past even specialized in control mechanisms for Scud missiles. During his studies in Ukraine he acquired great experience in the field of developing and controlling missiles. In his interrogation he recounted his part in Hamas’ array of missiles and the improvements he introduced in the organization’s ability to launch missiles.””

This week Dirar Abu Sisi was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

Curiously – particularly considering the fact that all the above content is still available online and hence potentially subject to editorial complaints – the BBC has not found it necessary to provide audiences with any follow-up reporting on the story it covered so extensively four years ago and thereby relieve them of the mistaken impressions received across that coverage. 

Yolande Knell’s political campaigning continues in BBC ‘Gaza anniversary’ coverage

The BBC’s extensive coverage of the anniversary of the commencement of Operation Protective Edge included multi-platform contributions from the Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell which focused on the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.

That topic has of course already been covered extensively by the BBC throughout the past year – both by Yolande Knell and by others. Examples include the reports highlighted in the following posts:

Reporter in the rubble: what is missing from BBC presentation of structural damage in Gaza?

BBC’s Knell continues the Gaza border restrictions PR campaign

BBC’s ‘reporter in the rubble’ theme gets its own feature

Yolande Knell’s Gaza borders campaign continues on BBC Radio 4’s PM

BBC’s Knell revamps ‘reporter in the rubble’ for promotion of a political agenda

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part three

So did Knell have anything new to contribute to BBC audiences’ understanding of the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip in her filmed, audio and written reports which appeared on July 7th and 8th?

The opening lines of the written report – which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 8th under the title “Why is Gaza reconstruction so slow?” – include clear signposting.anniversary Knell written

“In the year since the 50-day conflict with Israel, which saw thousands of Gaza’s buildings reduced to rubble, not a single destroyed home has been rebuilt.

Israel and Egypt maintain tight border restrictions on the coastal enclave, which have severely hampered reconstruction efforts. They say these are needed for security.” [emphasis added]

The reason for that signposting is that, like all her many previous reports on this topic, this article too is part of Yolande Knell’s campaigning efforts against the restrictions imposed in order to combat terrorism emanating from the Gaza Strip. Later on in the article, under the sub-heading “Call to lift blockade”, readers are told that:

“Israeli restrictions prevent so-called “dual use” materials from entering Gaza. These include building supplies that could be used by militants to create new tunnels, or weapons and storage sites.” [emphasis added]

In fact the dual-use materials are not – as Knell claims – “so-called”. The list of restricted items is based on the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies in which many other countries – including the UK – also participate.

Later on (and also in her audio report) Knell cuts to the chase:anniversary Knell audio

“Ultimately, the UN and international aid agencies continue to call for a lifting of the blockade. They say this is the only way to bring in all the materials needed to repair homes and infrastructure and revive the local economy.”

She makes no effort, however, to inform BBC audiences of the likely consequences for Israelis if the blockade were lifted and weapons and dual-use items flowed freely into the Gaza Strip.

Knell’s portrayal of the mechanism for the distribution of construction materials is as follows:

“To allow reconstruction to take place the UN agreed a temporary Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) with the Israeli and Palestinian governments.

This brings in aggregate, steel bars and cement (known as ABC materials) via the Kerem Shalom commercial border crossing.

UN monitors have helped assess housing damage and needs. Full details are kept in a computer database and the Israeli military has oversight of some information.

Palestinian ministries administer lists of individuals cleared to collect materials from approved vendors. So far, about 90,000 Palestinians have been cleared to obtain supplies, mostly for small-scale repairs.”

No information is provided to readers concerning the black market trade in construction materials in the Gaza Strip – and the ensuing fact that buildings which could have been repaired had their residents not chosen to sell their allotted building materials remain a prime photo-op for foreign journalists. As was recently reported in the Times of Israel:

“According to the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the arm of the Israeli army that coordinates with the Palestinian civilian population, close to 90,000 owners of those partially damaged homes have already gotten the building materials from the warehouses in Gaza that were set aside for this purpose in order to renovate their homes. […]

But did they all use the building materials for their home repairs? That is a different question entirely. The terrible financial hardship and the lack of jobs are part of this equation. Many of those homeowners sold their construction materials on the black market for a higher price than what they had paid for them with donated funds.

Gaza residents who spoke on condition of anonymity say that the black market for construction materials in the Gaza Strip is growing at a rapid pace because the materials are being sold instead of used for renovations.

According to statistics of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Israel has brought 1.3 million tons of construction materials into the Gaza Strip since the end of the war — certainly a respectable amount. The material was intended for repairing homes that had been partially damaged and for rebuilding infrastructure.”

Like her colleague Lyse Doucet before her, Knell does not make any attempt to adequately inform audiences about the tunnels which are being rebuilt by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Knell is also taciturn on the real factors contributing to the slow pace of reconstruction.

“The UN Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East, Nikolei Mladenov, says delays have been caused by the huge scale of the task and the slow flow of promised foreign aid.

Renewed divisions between Hamas and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which was meant to station its security forces at Gaza’s border crossings, added to complications.”

The link in that last paragraph leads to a pay-walled Ha’aretz article which most readers will not be able to access and therefore will remain unaware that it includes the following:

“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. […]

“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.”

All three of Knell’s reports include interviews with the Shuja’iya resident Abdul Karim Abu Ahmed whom she has also interviewed on at least two prior occasions over the past year. As was the case in the previous content she produced, no effort is made to inform audiences why the English teacher who claims to have been “shocked” and that he “didn’t expect to see my house, my street [….] destroyed like this” is being disingenuous.anniversary Knell filmed

As was noted here back in September 2014:

“As can be seen from the IDF’s aerial map of the neighbourhood, at least five missiles were fired from close proximity to Abu Ahmed’s house and yet Knell neglects to inform listeners of that fact and amplifies his feigned surprise at the consequences.”

Knell closes her written report with the following words:

“Without long-term political solutions to solve Gaza’s underlying problems, many warn of social unrest, instability and the increased risk of further hostilities.”

Gaza’s underlying problem is of course that it was taken over by a terrorist organization in a violent coup in 2007 and that foreign funded terrorist group and others continue to wage war on its neighbours. Somehow, though, one doubts that is what Yolande Knell intended her readers to understand.

The fact that none of these three latest reports by Knell bring any new information or insight to BBC audiences who have seen, read and heard countless similar ones in the past twelve months raises questions about the editorial considerations behind their production and broadcast. Obviously, these reports are not an attempt to report news or to provide audiences with a comprehensive, accurate and impartial “understanding of international issues“. What they are is the latest installment in Yolande Knell’s BBC endorsed political campaign to influence public opinion on the issue of the border restrictions on the Gaza Strip made necessary by the terrorism she never mentions.

Related Articles:

BBC ‘Gaza war anniversary’ coverage continues to mislead on the causes of the conflict

Resources:

How to Complain to the BBC

BBC News website flunks story of PA arrests of Hamas operatives too

In addition to the ‘Newshour’ report previously discussed here, BBC coverage of the Palestinian Authority’s recent arrest of Hamas operatives also included a written report appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 3rd under the headline “Palestinian forces arrest dozens of Hamas members in West Bank“.PA arrests website

Despite the arrests having taken place in areas controlled by the PA, the article opens:

“The Palestinian Authority’s security forces have arrested more than 100 members of the militant Hamas movement in the occupied West Bank.” [emphasis added]

Bearing in mind that the BBC has refrained from informing its audiences about Hamas’ attempts to strengthen its presence in PA controlled areas and that English language coverage of the recent uptick in terror attacks against Israelis has been virtually non-existent, readers must have found the following paragraphs very confusing.

“The PA, which is dominated by the rival Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas, said it wanted to prevent Hamas undermining the territory’s security.” […]

“A spokesman of the Palestinian Authority, Adnan al-Dameri, said those arrested would be put on trial on the charge of threatening security and stability.

“We will not let Hamas undermine our security and draw our country to bloodshed. We will not let Hamas carry out attacks in the West Bank,” he told the Associated Press.”

Also included in the report were the following statements:

“A Hamas spokesman said the arrests were an effort to stop a spate of deadly attacks on Israelis in the West Bank.

Husam Badran accused Palestinian security forces of working for Israel and said Hamas held Mr Abbas personally responsible.

The Islamist group, which dominates the Gaza Strip, called for the immediate release of its members and warned of “consequences”.”

BBC audiences were not informed that Husam Badran was named in connection with the recently publicized exposure of Hamas activity in Nablus (Schem) and hence are unable to put his amplified claims into their correct context. The exposure of that Hamas cell was not reported by the BBC at the time and in this article readers are merely told that:

“Earlier, Israel’s internal security agency said it had uncovered a Hamas militant cell operating in the Nablus area of the West Bank.”

Readers are also informed that:

“The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says the issue of security co-ordination between Israel and PA security forces remains highly sensitive.”

“Highly sensitive” to whom is not clarified but it is notable that only a few weeks earlier the BBC told its audiences that the Palestinians were to end security cooperation with Israel.

The article goes on:

“Such developments will raise concerns about renewed divisions between the two factions despite a formal reconciliation deal last year and the creation of a unity government, our correspondent adds.”

As anyone who followed the progress of the short-lived Palestinian Unity Government will be aware, the divisions between Hamas and Fatah are far from “renewed” and “reconciliation” never got off the ground.

Next comes a highly sanitized description of Hamas’ violent coup in the Gaza Strip with no mention made of the fact that the legitimate elected mandates of Hamas, the PLC and the PA president long since expired.

“The two factions had governed separately since Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in 2006, ousted Fatah from Gaza in 2007, leaving the PA governing just parts of the West Bank.”

The last eight paragraphs of the article are a hodge-podge of unrelated news.

“Also on Friday, an Israeli general accused Hamas of providing support to an affiliate of the jihadist group Islamic State in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Maj-Gen Yoav Mordechai, named members of Hamas’s military wing who he alleged were involved in training militants from the affiliate, known as Sinai Province, and smuggling those wounded in clashes with Egyptian security forces into Gaza for medical treatment.

“We know that Hamas, and I have verified information, that Hamas in Gaza is assisting Sinai Province both in organisation and armaments,” he said. […]

Hamas has repeatedly rejected accusations of collusion with IS and said Gen Mordechai’s comments were an attempt to damage its relations with Egypt.”

Those wishing to view Major General Mordechai’s interview with Al Jazeera Arabic (interesting not least for the ‘journalistic’ approach taken by the interviewer) can do so here.

The BBC’s article closes:

“In a separate development in the West Bank on Friday, an Israeli officer shot and killed a 17-year-old Palestinian who was throwing stones at his vehicle. The Israeli military said the brigade commander had first fired warning shots at the boy.”

Details of that incident can be found here.

Despite chronic under-reporting of the subject of Hamas’ attempts to undermine the PA by strengthening its presence in PA controlled areas and the lack of adequate coverage of the recent rise in terror attacks, like their colleagues at the BBC World Service the website’s journalists made no attempt to provide audiences with information needed to properly understand this story and its wider implications. Very rarely does the BBC cover internal Palestinian affairs and hence such superficial reporting is all the more unfortunate. 

BBC’s Knell exploits royal christening for political messaging

Among the articles appearing in the ‘Magazine’ section of the BBC News website as well as in the ‘Features’ section of the site’s Middle East page on July 4th was one written by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell which ostensibly tells readers about the source of the water to be used at the baptism of Princess Charlotte.Knell Qasr al Yahud

Unsurprisingly, Knell uses the opportunity presented by the upcoming royal christening to promote some decidedly partisan political messaging in her piece titled “The special water flown in for Princess Charlotte“, once again calling the BBC’s impartiality into question.  

Readers are told that:

“Nowadays nearly half-a-million annual visitors, mostly Christian pilgrims, flock to rival baptism sites on opposite banks of the river a few miles north of the Dead Sea – one side is in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the other in Jordan.” [emphasis added]

And, in an insert sub-headed “Naming the site”:

“Qasr al-Yahud, from the Arabic “Castle of the Jews” is the official name used by the Israeli authorities for the baptism site they run in the occupied West Bank near Jericho. This is the traditional site where Jesus’s baptism is said to have taken place and the most popular spot for pilgrims.

Palestinians traditionally call the same baptism site on their occupied land in the Jordan Valley, al-Maghtas.” [emphasis added]

Qasr al Yahud is situated in the Jordan Rift Valley and, under the terms of the Oslo Accords signed willingly by the recognized representatives of the Palestinian people, it is located in Area C. Like the rest of the places in what is currently defined as Area C, its permanent status has yet to be determined in final status negotiations.

Qasr al Yahud

Qasr al Yahud

Despite the fact that the Palestinians agreed to determination of the status of Qasr al Yahud and other areas occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967 through negotiation, Yolande Knell unequivocally tells audiences that the region is ‘Palestinian land’. She is also disregards the fact that the BBC’s style guide includes the following recommendation:

“It is, however, also advisable not to overuse the phrase [occupied West Bank] within a single report in case it is seen as expressing support for one side’s view.”   

How telling it is that even the occasion of a royal christening is seen as fair game for the promotion and amplification of Yolande Knell’s political agenda.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

Resources:

How to complain to the BBC

  

The BBC and the UN HRC report on last summer’s conflict – part two

In addition to the written article about the newly released UN HRC report which appeared on the BBC News website on June 22nd, the corporation produced two filmed reports for BBC television news programmes, both of which also appeared on the website.

The first report – dated June 22nd and titled “Gaza conflict: ‘War crimes by both sides’ says United Nations” – is by Lyse Doucet and – like the UN commission which revealingly titled its report as being about the “Gaza conflict” of 2014 – Doucet’s opening lines negate the fact that hostilities took place in Israel too.

“The war last summer was the third in Gaza in six years. This one was the most protracted, most punishing, between Israeli forces who attacked Gaza and Palestinian armed groups who fired rockets and dug tunnels into Israel.”

The fact that Hamas initiated the hostilities and that the fighting was protracted because time and time again Hamas refused the ceasefires offered on numerous occasions is obviously not deemed need to know information for BBC viewers. Doucet continues:

“Now an independent inquiry says both sides may have committed war crimes.”

As was the case in the BBC’s written report, Doucet makes no effort whatsoever to inform audiences of the inquiry’s ignominious beginnings or of the ensuing report’s many problematic aspects – not least its reliance on ‘evidence’ from anti-Israel activists and political NGOs engaged in lawfare against Israel. And so, with no critical analysis of the report’s value and validity offered to audiences, Doucet goes on to promote some cherry-picked quotes against a background graphic again featuring a literally one-sided picture.UN report Doucet filmed 22 6 main

“The purpose of this UN report was to gather testimony. It’s damning on both sides. On Israeli forces it says ‘impunity prevails across the board’. It also calls on Israel to break with its ‘lamentable track record of holding wrongdoers accountable’. And the attacks carried out by Palestinian militants were in its words ‘inherently indiscriminate’ and Palestinian authorities have also consistently failed to bring to justice those who violate international law.”

Doucet makes no effort to clarify to audiences that one of the report’s many shortcomings is its failure to acknowledge the fact that “Palestinian authorities” in the Gaza Strip are the exact same people carrying out the war crimes, targeting Israeli civilians and performing extra-judicial killings of political opponents.

After a clip showing the reaction of the Israeli prime minister, Doucet’s report shows Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad saying:

“I don’t know from where that they believe that Hamas focus on the civilians; that they target civilians. And I think they should blame Israel that they did not give them permission to enter Gaza and to make investigation in Gaza and to listen to people.”

Doucet makes no effort to inform viewers that Egypt too refused the commissioners entry to the Gaza Strip via its territory.

The impression audiences are intended to take away from this report is amply clear in Doucet’s closing remarks which dedicate ten words to a very sterile presentation of the Israeli side of the story and almost four times as many words to description of the Gazan side.

“Last summer Israelis lived with indiscriminate and constant rocket fire. And in Gaza we saw the huge price paid by civilians in the densely populated and impoverished territory. The report speaks of unprecedented devastation. Nearly one year on many Gazans still live in the rubble of their homes.”

Likewise, the links offered to visitors viewing this report on the BBC News website display a similar lack of impartiality.

UN report Doucet filmed 22 6 read more b

Audiences are offered the BBC’s uncritical and unchallenging written report on the same story, a BBC News report from May 2015 which amplified anonymous claims promoted by the inadequately presented political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’ (a major contributor to the UN’s report), and another BBC News report from May 2015 which amplified a report by Amnesty International (also a significant contributor to the UN report) whilst ‘contextualising’ Hamas torture and execution. Most notably, audiences are also provided with a link to a seriously flawed ‘guide’ produced by CBBC (the BBC’s children’s department) which has still not been corrected since its publication last August.

The following day – June 23rd – viewers of BBC television news programmes saw another filmed report – this time by Yolande Knell and titled “Gaza conflict: War crimes on both sides, says UN” – which again included no critical analysis of the UN report whatsoever.UN report Knell filmed

Viewers found Knell using the standard ‘Israel says’ formula in her opening sentences – employed regularly by the BBC to communicate to audiences that it does not endorse the statements which follow.

“Over fifty days last summer the Gaza Strip was pummeled by Israeli airstrikes and shelling. Israel says it was targeting tunnels used by Palestinian militants and trying to stop them firing volleys of missiles at its towns and cities. Now a report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council says it’s possible both sides committed war crimes. But Israel rejects the findings as biased. It says its actions in Gaza were meant to protect its civilians and its own inquiries found it acted lawfully.”

Like Doucet before her, Knell has nothing to tell viewers about why, when or how the report was commissioned or of the political agendas of some of the sources of the testimonies and information appearing in the report. Knell goes on to amplify the view of the terrorist organization which initiated the conflict:

“Today in Gaza the Hamas authorities said the report created a false equality between victims and their killers.

She goes on, failing to inform audiences of the political back story to the UN’s casualty figures which the BBC has been religiously quoting and promoting for almost a year.

“The war left widespread destruction across Gaza and some 2,200 Palestinians were killed. The UN says most were civilians but Israel disputes that. On the Israeli side 73 were killed – mostly soldiers.”

Knell then tells viewers that:

“The UN investigators weren’t able to come here to Gaza to see scenes like this for themselves and to meet the residents because Israel refused to cooperate with them.”

As was the case in the previous day’s written article and in Doucet’s filmed report, she fails to mention that Egypt also did not grant the commission entry – even though that fact is noted in the UN report.

“The commission repeatedly requested Israel to cooperate, including by granting it access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Regrettably, Israel did not respond to these requests. Subsequently, the commission learned from a press release that no such cooperation would be forthcoming. The Government of Egypt, when requested to facilitate entry into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing, responded that it was not possible owing to the prevailing security situation.” (emphasis added.)

Knell then goes on to make the following opaque assertion:

“At the same time there’s been a lot of criticism over how Israel carried out its own inquiries into attacks that killed Palestinian civilians.”

How much is “a lot of criticism” and by whom it was levelled is not made clear to viewers. She continues:

“This was one of the most controversial incidents of the war. Four cousins aged 9 to 11 were killed by Israeli missiles while playing on the beach. The UN commissioners criticized the Israeli army’s inquiry which cleared the soldiers of any wrongdoing.”

Indeed they did, but Knell does not attempt to make any critical examination of whether or not that criticism was relevant or justified – hardly surprising perhaps when one considers that the BBC only recently elected to pass up the opportunity to correct the misleading impressions it too propagated regarding that same incident.

Knell closes by narrowing down audience attention to possible war crimes in one location alone:

“It’s calm now on the Gaza beachfront – almost a year on from the fierce fighting. But with further investigations underway, the bitter debate about whether war crimes were committed here is set to continue.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s three reports on this topic have all been superficial, uncritical and unchallenging. Audiences have had no choice but to take the slivers of the report’s content selected by BBC journalists for amplification at face value and no attempt has been made to objectively inform them of the political background to the commission and its report. Likewise, no effort has been made to put the process and content of this report into its wider context of the effect it may have upon all Western armies fighting terrorists anywhere in the world. 

 

 

Yet again: Gaza missile attack ignored by BBC News but Israeli response reported in Arabic

At around 10 p.m. on the evening of June 23rd residents of Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip once again had to scramble for cover from incoming missile fire.

“The rocket landed in an open area near the Yad Mordechai Kibbutz just north of the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. […]

There were no reports of injuries or damage directly after the alarms, which sounded in the communities of Zikim, Karmia, Netiv Ha’asara and Yad Mordechai just after 10 p.m., the IDF said.”

Several hours later Israel responded with a strike on the rocket launcher used in the attack.

Following the now established pattern, there was no reporting of the missile attack on the BBC News English language website but the Israeli response to it was reported on the BBC Arabic website.missile 23 6 BBC Arabic

In the months since the end of last summer’s conflict between Israel and Palestinian terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip the ceasefire has been broken on multiple occasions by missile fire – with none of those incidents having received dedicated coverage by the BBC in English at the time.

September 16th 2014mortar fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News but briefly mentioned in a later article on another topic.

October 31st 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News.

December 19th 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not covered by BBC News at the time but Israeli response reported.

April 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Sha’ar HaNegev region – not reported by BBC News.

May 26th 2015 – missile fire at Gan Yavne area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

June 3rd 2015 – missile fire at Sdot Negev region – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic

June 6th 2015 – missile fire at Hof Ashkelon area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic. Later briefly mentioned in a June 10th report by Yolande Knell.

June 11th 2015 – missile fire (fell short in Gaza Strip) – later mentioned in a June 12th article by Yolande Knell.

June 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Yad Mordechai area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

To sum up, five separate incidents of missile fire aimed at Israeli civilian communities in the last month have been covered as follows on the BBC News website (June 12th):

“Three rockets have since been fired at Israel and a group calling itself the Omar Brigades said via social media that it was responsible. On Thursday, a fourth rocket was launched but fell short inside Gaza.

While the missiles have not caused injuries, they have drawn Israeli air strikes in response – some targeting Hamas military sites – and endangered a 10-month-long ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.”

Like this on BBC television news (June 10th):

“In the past week, several rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza, endangering the 10-month-long ceasefire that ended last summer’s deadly war.”

And as follows (from 00:50) on BBC World Service radio (June 11th):

“In the past few days several rockets have been fired from Gaza towards Israel jeopardizing the ceasefire that ended last summer’s war.”

“…militants linked to IS fired several rockets at Israel. It holds Hamas responsible and hit back with airstrikes.”

The focus of all three of those reports was the threat posed to Hamas rule in Gaza by Salafist Jihadists and the danger to the ceasefire agreement.

Once again, the BBC has not produced any reporting whatsoever from the regions in Israel targeted by those missile strikes and audiences remain uninformed with regard to how people who have been terrorized by the constant threat of missile fire from assorted terrorist groups for over fourteen years and suffered fifty days of intense attacks less than a year ago are now coping with the deteriorating security situation.

If audiences are to be provided with the “understanding of international issues” laid out in the corporation’s public purpose remit, the BBC must obviously tell that side of the story too. The current curious practice of omission of timely reporting of missile attacks in English, whilst covering the Israeli responses to those attacks in Arabic, is clearly also not conducive to meeting the BBC’s obligations.

The BBC and the UN HRC report on last summer’s conflict – part one

On June 22nd the UN HRC published the long-anticipated report by its self-styled ‘independent’ commission of inquiry into what it revealingly calls the “Gaza conflict” of 2014. Readers can find the full report here and will not be surprised to discover that – like its predecessor the Goldstone Report – this document too is heavily based on anonymous testimony and contributions from political activists such as Mads Gilbert and tens of political NGOs, indicating that ‘independent’ can be a relative term. Hence, it is not surprising to find among the report’s text ‘gems’ such as the ones below highlighted by Avi Issacharoff.UNHRC report BBC breaking

“The report notes that the probe “cannot conclusively determine the intent of Palestinian armed groups with regard to the construction and use of these tunnels. However, the commission observes that during the period under examination, the tunnels were only used to conduct attacks directed at IDF positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.”

With regard to warnings, the UN report risibly interpreted threats by Hamas that it would target Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport as concrete warnings to Israeli civilians.”

One of many examples of the way in which the report’s reliance on selective information provided by interested parties and political NGOs affects its findings can be seen on page 142.

“On 25 July 2014, three Palestinian men – Hashem Abu Maria, Sultan Za’qiq and Abdelhamid Breighith – were killed during a demonstration that took place in the village of Beit Umar in the Hebron area to protest against the hostilities in Gaza. In its assessment of the incident, the commission relied on eyewitness testimony, as well as information gathered by OHCHR and NGOs. […]

Hashem Abu Maria was quickly transferred by protesters to an ambulance and taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Mohammad Awad survived the incident. Hashem Abu Maria was a well-known civil society activist, who worked for the NGO Defence for Children International, in the Hebron area.”

As was pointed out here last July in light of a problematic report by the BBC’s Jon Donnison on that same incident, Hashem Abu Maria was described by the PFLP terrorist organization as one of its ‘commanders’ and the charity where he held his day job is known for its PFLP links.PFLP Abu Maria

Another example of the report’s many shortcomings is seen on page 134:

“According to information received by the commission, after the abduction of the Israeli youths, tensions were further fueled by a rise in extreme anti-Palestinian rhetoric by some Israelis, notably in social media, inciting revenge and hatred against Palestinians; as well as reported harassment; and sometimes, attacks on Palestinians and damage to businesses employing Palestinians. The anti-Palestinian rhetoric included sexual and negative references to female relatives of persons connected with armed groups and individuals killed during the conflict.”

However, no mention whatsoever is made of the celebrations on the Palestinian street which followed the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers or of the related incitement and glorification of terrorism promoted by Hamas, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority.

The BBC News website’s article on the subject of the report currently appears under the title “Gaza conflict 2014: ‘War crimes by both sides’ – UN” and the many changes made to it since its initial publication on June 22nd can be viewed here. The caption to the main photograph at the top of that report reads:UN HRC report main

“Israel and Palestinian militants fought for 50 days before agreeing to a ceasefire”

An accurate representation would have clarified that Hamas refused numerous ceasefire offers and, as was pointed out here at the time, that:

“The real story behind the August 26th ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is of course the fact that Hamas could have accepted the same terms six weeks earlier and thereby prevented hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure and unquantifiable suffering for the people of the Gaza Strip.”

The BBC’s report is predictably superficial and uncritical. With the BBC itself still quoting UN supplied casualty figures despite the subsequent information which has since come to light, it is little wonder that no effort is made to inform audiences of their highly problematic sourcing.   

“On the Palestinian side, 2,251 people, of whom 1,462 were civilians, were killed, the report said. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers were killed along with six civilians, it noted.”

The BBC’s standard ‘Israel says’ formula is employed.  

“Israel says it launched the offensive on Gaza to put an end to rocket fire and remove the threat of attacks by militants tunnelling under the border.”

The article misleads readers by once again inaccurately suggesting that Israel was the sole party to object to William Schabas’ appointment as head of the commission.

“The head of the inquiry, William Schabas, quit part-way through amid Israeli allegations of bias, acknowledging he had previously done work for the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).”

The article also states:

“It [the commission] said Israel had refused to allow its team into the West Bank or Gaza, which made it difficult to carry out the investigation.”

Audiences are not informed that Egypt also did not permit entry into the Gaza Strip from its territory – as noted in the UN report:

“The commission repeatedly requested Israel to cooperate, including by granting it access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Regrettably, Israel did not respond to these requests. Subsequently, the commission learned from a press release that no such cooperation would be forthcoming. The Government of Egypt, when requested to facilitate entry into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing, responded that it was not possible owing to the prevailing security situation.” (emphasis added.)

Whilst the article highlights selected statements and conclusions from the 183 page report, no effort is made to provide BBC audiences with objective analysis of its many very obvious shortcomings, such as the fact that it ignores Israel’s efforts to avoid the conflict and Hamas’ repeated breach of agreed ceasefires.

And of course nowhere does the BBC’s report – including the insert of ‘analysis’ from Yolande Knell – clarify to audiences the fact that the UN report is built upon the foundation of political NGOs, many of which concurrently engage in lawfare against Israel.

“B’Tselem was the most referenced NGO with 69 citations, followed by Amnesty International (53), Palestinian Center for Human Rights (50), and Al Mezan (29). UNWRA and UN-OCHA were also featured throughout the report.”

That, however, comes as no surprise because – as has been documented here in the past – the BBC itself quotes and promotes many of the same NGOs uncritically and unquestioningly.

In addition to this written article, the BBC also produced two filmed reports on the same topic which will be discussed in a later post. 

 

 

BBC News gets round to mentioning some of the missile fire from the Gaza Strip

On June 10th BBC audiences finally received some information on the issue of the missile fire from the Gaza Strip previously ignored by the corporation’s English language services. A filmed report produced by Yolande Knell for BBC television news also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Could Islamic State’s influence shatter Gaza ceasefire?“. The synopsis to that report reads:Knell Salafists 10 6 filmed

“In the past week, several rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza, endangering the 10-month-long ceasefire that ended last summer’s deadly war.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, holds Hamas responsible for any rockets coming from Gaza – but Islamist extremists, who claim allegiance with Islamic State, have claimed responsibility for firing them.”

The implication in both the headline and the synopsis is that the August 26th 2014 ceasefire – which reportedly includes the clause “All Palestinian factions in Gaza will stop all attacks against Israel by land, air or sea, and will stop the construction of tunnels from Gaza into Israel” – has been upheld throughout the last ten months.

That, of course, is not the case but with BBC audiences having received decidedly scant information on Hamas’ reconstruction of tunnels and building of additional infrastructure, its frequent test-firing of missiles, its recruitment drive and no fewer than seven separate incidents of missile fire over the past ten months, they are not in a position to appreciate that the ceasefire agreement has long been ‘endangered’.

Knell’s report opens with an interesting addition to the BBC lexicon. With Hamas having been previously portrayed as “conservative”, the term “ultra-conservative” is now apparently the terminology of choice to describe other groups along the same ideological scale.

“Gaza hasn’t begun to recover from last year’s devastating war with Israel and now its residents and the Hamas authorities are facing a new threat from within: ultra-conservative Jihadists who support the Islamic State group.”

Knell continues:

“Early this year the black flags of IS were on show at this protest against French cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed. Hamas allowed it to go ahead, wanting to show its own Islamist credentials. But recently there’ve been confrontations. Extremists have been emboldened by IS gains elsewhere in the region.”

In fact, the January 19th demonstration outside the French Cultural Centre in Gaza did not confine itself to harmless-sounding “protest against French cartoons” – as Reuters reported at the time.

“Today, we are telling France and world countries that while Islam orders us to respect all religions, it also orders us to punish and kill those who assault and offend Islam’s Prophet Mohammad,” said one of the protesters, Abu Abdallah al-Makdissi.[…]

Jihadist Salafis held aloft posters of the two gunmen who carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack and a third militant who killed four people two days later at a kosher supermarket in Paris. All three attackers were killed by police on Jan. 9.

“You have to await more heroes of Islam, you worshippers of the Cross,” the crowd chanted.”

In addition, Knell’s claim that confrontations between Hamas and Salafist Jihadists in the Gaza Strip are a recent phenomenon is misleading: such confrontations have been going on sporadically since 2009 and in 2012 her own colleague Jon Donnison reported on the issue. In late 2013 and early 2014, Knell herself produced reports on the subject of Gaza Jihadists going to fight in Syria.

Later on Knell tells viewers:

“Hamas blames IS for attacks on its security forces. They’ve made dozens of arrests and last week they raided the home of a prominent activist and shot him dead. Now tensions are running high in Gaza. Militants linked to Islamic State pledged revenge for what happened here and in the past week they fired rockets at Israel.”

Knell shows no interest in finding out how Gaza Strip Salafists managed to acquire military grade weaponry, but the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont whilst reporting on the same story came up with an interesting possibility.

“According to Abu Bilel – in claims that could not be independently verified – the rockets fired recently at Israel were originally Hamas rockets diverted by those sympathetic to the Salafists. The site of one rocket launch, say those familiar with it, was one used by Hamas during last summer’s war.

“We don’t have our own rockets,” he explained, adding that members of his group had also had “military training” from former members of Hamas who had defected.”

Neither does Knell clarify to viewers that the two incidents of missile fire on June 3rd and June 6th – neither of which was reported by the BBC in English at the time – were preceded by five additional incidents of missile fire (see ‘related articles’ below) on September 16th, October 31st, December 19th, April 23rd and May 26th.

She does however tell viewers that:

“Israel holds Hamas responsible and it’s hit back with airstrikes.”

Of course with Hamas having agreed to the August 26th ceasefire deal according to which “All Palestinian factions in Gaza will stop all attacks against Israel” [emphasis added], it is obvious that it – as the authority in charge of the Gaza Strip (as Knell told her viewers right at the beginning of her report) – is responsible for the prevention of attacks both by members of its own group and others.

As has been amply evident in the past, when Hamas wants to prevent missile fire it is capable of doing so. Yolande Knell, however, closes her report with the suggestion that the future of the ceasefire agreement is beyond Hamas’ control and responsibility.

“There are fears that IS could force a fragile ceasefire deal to collapse. […] At the moment Islamic State has relatively few followers here and yet its ability to provoke and pressure local leaders could be a worrying sign for the future.”

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Knell’s report though is the absence of any information whatsoever concerning the people at the receiving end of terror attacks prompted by infighting between two different Palestinian factions. The Salafist groups which claimed responsibility for the last two episodes of missile fire of course did not aim those projectiles “at Israel” as Knell claims, but at the residents of Israeli towns and villages who, as has so often been the case in the past, do not even get a mention in the BBC’s account of events.

Related Articles:

A BBC News report tells readers: ‘ceasefire has held’ and ‘mortar fired’

The BBC News website’s Middle East priorities: missile ignored, football fight reported

Missile from Gaza not news for the BBC but Israeli response gets headlines

No BBC report on latest missile attack from Gaza Strip

Another Gaza Strip missile attack goes unreported by the BBC – in English

BBC News ignores missile attack from Gaza but BBC Arabic reports response

The pattern continues: no coverage of Gaza missile attacks in English but BBC Arabic reports Israeli response