Yolande Knell passes up chance to mend previous BBC stereotyping

The August 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ – presented by Eddie Mair – included an item (from 36:40 here) by Yolande Knell of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau.

Mair’s introduction includes the simplistic description of a village located in Area B according to the terms of the Oslo Accords as being “in the occupied West Bank”:PM hilltop youth

“Last month an arson attack in the occupied West Bank killed a Palestinian baby and his father. It brought wider attention to a small group of young Jewish settlers who in the past conducted acts of vandalism but now advocate violence against Muslims and Christians and try to undermine the Israeli state. Yolande Knell reports.”

Neither Mair nor Knell bothered to clarify to listeners that to date no-one has been charged with the arson attack in Duma and Knell opened with some clear signposting for audiences. 

Knell: “Back at the scene of a shocking attack, Mohammed Dawabshe shows me the blackened interior of his cousin’s tiny house in Duma, south of Nablus.  Last month it was set on fire at night. Eighteen month-old Ali burned to death and later his father died of his injuries. His mother and brother remain seriously ill in hospital. ‘Revenge’ in Hebrew was painted on a nearby wall. It’s thought Israeli settlers did this.” [emphasis added]

Knell continues, paraphrasing her guide’s words:

“‘Nothing like this ever happened in our village before. Nobody in the world would accept it’, Mohammed says. ‘These are crazy terrorists’.

She goes on:

“In the car, we’ve left Duma and we’re driving around this part of the West Bank where there are many Jewish settlements but also outposts. These are usually just collections of caravans or tents where young Israelis are living up on the hilltops. While settlements are seen as illegal under international law, these outposts are also illegal under Israeli law.”

As usual, no effort is made to inform audiences of the existence of other legal opinions on the topic.

Knell continues:

“I’ve come to meet a settler grandmother who’s an inspiration to many from the so-called hilltop youth. They believe Jewish settlement of the land is a primary obligation and some advocate violent means. To most Israelis the views of Daniella Weiss are extreme but she has her own disputes with ultra-nationalist and ultra-religious settlers.”

Were Knell to aspire to true accuracy and impartiality, she would have informed her listeners that not only do the overwhelming majority of Israelis find Weiss’ views extreme, but so too do most of those whom the BBC elects to call ‘settlers’. Listeners then hear from Daniella Weiss, although it is difficult to imagine that those few sentences would have contributed much to audience understanding of the report’s supposed subject matter.

Weiss: “It’s not the majority numbers: this is the sect which is composed of a few hundred people who thinks that Jews and Arabs cannot live hear together – no option at all. And there’s another philosophy which would not accept the idea that the current – mainly secular- government in the existing state of Israel is of any value.”

Knell goes on:

“After the Duma attack Israeli security forces and the media went into overdrive, investigating individuals they described as Jewish terrorists. Israeli Channel 10 reported a manifesto belonging to one cell. It details how to set churches and mosques ablaze and recommends burning people inside their houses. The aim is to stoke violence and weaken the Israeli state.”

Knell refrains from informing listeners that the security forces did not just ‘investigate’ but also made arrests – including the author of the ‘manifesto’ she describes and his cell. She continues:

“The Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised a tough approach but Palestinian officials say that if his right-wing government wants to stop settler attacks, it must stop supporting settlements on land they want for their future state.”

Knell refrains from clarifying to audiences that according to the Oslo Accords – signed willingly by representatives of the Palestinian people – the future of Area C is to be determined in final status negotiations or that the same accords include no restrictions on Israeli building in Area C.

After a short contribution from PMO spokesman Mark Regev, Knell moves on to another location.

“It’s evening time in Qusra – a Palestinian village near Duma. In recent years it’s experienced dozens of attacks by settlers from nearby outposts. They’ve lost land and trees, had property damaged and their sheep killed. This area’s under full Israeli control so there are no Palestinian police. Now local men such as Abdel al Addin [phonetic] organise night watches.”

Both a report by the Palestinian political NGO ARIJ and maps produced by the NGO B’Tselem (often quoted and promoted by the BBC) place the residential part of Qusra in Area B where civil affairs are fully the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority and security is under the joint control of Israel and the PA. Some of the village’s agricultural lands apparently do lie in Area C but Knell’s claim that Qusra is “under full Israeli control” is clearly inaccurate and misleading. Coincidentally, the Wikipedia entry for Qursa wrongly places the village in Area C, apparently on the basis of an inaccurate claim in an article which appeared in the Economist four years ago.

After telling audiences more about the night watches (which are actually not as new as this report suggests), Knell closes with the following take-away message:

“With no efforts to reach a peace deal in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, tensions here continue to simmer and can flare up dangerously at any time.”

This report was billed from the beginning as being about the ‘hilltop youth’ and – as Eddie Mair correctly noted in his introduction – the aim of at least some of the groups falling under that title is to “try to undermine the Israeli state”. Knell also noted that the aim of the cell whose members are now in custody is to “stoke violence and weaken the Israeli state”.

It is therefore unclear why in her closing lines Knell materially misleads audiences by suggesting that the absence of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians has any influence whatsoever upon what are essentially anarchist groups which reject the authority of the Israeli government. Clearly that knee-jerk closing mantra did nothing to enhance audience understanding of this particular ‘international issue’.

This item presented an ideal opportunity for the BBC to undo some of its previous stereotyping of the half million people it calls ‘settlers’ by providing audiences with more comprehensive background information on the small groups known as ‘hilltop youth’ and explaining the differences between them and the vast majority of residents of Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem. Unfortunately for the BBC’s reputation for impartiality, Yolande Knell did not rise to the occasion.

Related Articles:

The Duma terror attack and BBC consistency

BBC News misleads audiences on administrative detention

BBC ‘Dateline London’ guest: Israel kills babies as policy

BBC’s Knell continues Cremisan crusade with promotion of inaccurate information

Yolande Knell’s journalistic crusade against a section of the anti-terrorist fence near the Cremisan Valley has long been a permanent feature in BBC Middle East reporting and her latest contribution to that political campaign came on August 21st in an article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinian Christians urge help against West Bank barrier“.Knell Cremisan 21 8 main

Knell opens her article by telling readers that:

“Palestinian Christians are appealing for international support to oppose renewed construction of part of Israel’s West Bank barrier.

Residents of Beit Jala – a town along the planned barrier route – made the appeal at an open-air mass among centuries-old olive trees on Friday.

They have also been waging a long legal battle, backed by the Vatican.

The barrier will separate over 50 families from their land – but Israel says it is a vital security measure.” [emphasis added]

So BBC audiences learn that “renewed construction” of this particular section of the anti-terrorist fence (which began last week) “will separate over 50 families from their land”. That, however, is not true. The recent history of this case is as follows: [all emphasis added]

“On April 2, 2015, the High Court of Justice upheld the need for the construction of the security fence in the area on security grounds. That said, the Court found in favor of the petitioners regarding the proposed route of the security fence, and ruled that it may not separate between the Monastery and Convent and that the route must be crafted in consultation with the clergy, allowing both bodies to remain on the Palestinian side, preserving their territorial contiguity and their physical connection to the communities that they serve in the nearby villages.

Following and in line with this ruling, the Israeli authorities began work to construct 1200 meters of the security fence, excluding a 225 meter area in the vicinity of the Monastery and Convent in which no barrier will be constructed at this time. This gap enables the territorial contiguity of the monastery and convent, free approach by and to the local Palestinian population, and maintains for the Monastery unfettered access to their agricultural lands, thus respecting the High Court of Justice decision.  

Following the initiation of this construction, the 37 Beit Jala residents petitioned the High Court and requested a contempt of court order against the State in the Cremisan Valley Case (HCJ 5163/13).

On July 6, 2015, the High Court of Justice dismissed the contempt of court petition. The High Court of Justice noted that the actions of the State at present do not negatively affect contiguity between the Monastery and the Convent, nor their access to their vineyards and farmlands. Moreover, access to the town of Beit Jala is also not affected, nor is the daily routine of the population in the area. Accordingly, the current construction of the barrier in the area which excludes the 225 meter gap, are in full compliance with the April 2, 2015 High Court of Justice decision on this matter.”

Obviously then neither the issue of access to agricultural lands nor the previously cited topic of separation between the convent and the monastery is the real reason why political activists are still opposing the construction of this section of the anti-terrorist fence.

Knell then throws some  additional ‘reasons’ into her cocktail, including further promotion of the myth of locals ‘losing access to their land’ and an absurd claim relating to Palestinian Christians: [all emphasis added]

“The mayor of Beit Jala has written to diplomats from the European Union and the United States, asking them to put political pressure on Israel not to continue.

“We want people outside to come and say ‘enough is enough’,” says the mayor, Nicola Khamis. “Christians all over the world must stop being silent.”

“What Israel is doing here is against peace. It will prevent a two-state solution [to the conflict].”

Last year, Pope Francis met residents who stand to lose access to their land in the Cremisan Valley, when he visited nearby Bethlehem.

Foreign dignitaries have also expressed their concerns to Israeli authorities, listing the separation barrier among pressures that are pushing Christians to leave the Holy Land.”

Knell continues with the following obviously inaccurate paraphrasing of the Israeli side of the story:

“Israel says the barrier is needed in the valley as a security measure to protect the Jewish settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo.”

Despite the fact that legal status has no bearing on the need for security measures, she then inserts the standard BBC mantra:

“Settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disagrees.”

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC has done little over the years to inform its audiences of the fact that the fence has proven to be effective in thwarting suicide bombers and other types of terrorist attacks and Knell’s half-hearted ticking of the context box does little to enhance audience understanding of the issue.

“Construction of the Israeli barrier began in 2002, during the second Palestinian intifada or uprising, after a series of suicide attacks.

In the Beit Jala area, at this time, there was shooting at the settlements.”

She then predictably inserts a specious claim regularly touted by the BBC over the last thirteen years:

“Palestinians believe the ultimate aim of the barrier – which includes stretches of high concrete walls and barbed-wire fences – is to grab land.”

Towards the end of the article readers are presented with the following opaque information which does nothing to clarify that Knell’s earlier allegations regarding access to land are inaccurate.

“In April, Israel’s High Court appeared to rule against proposed routes for the barrier in the Cremisan Valley, a local beauty spot filled with olive groves and orchards.

However, the court later said this prevented work only in a small area near a Salesian convent and school, and a monastery and winery.”

Knell ends her piece with the following hyperbole:

“Local church leaders – Latin Catholic and Greek Orthodox – have been involved in the campaign to prevent the construction of the barrier.

“When you kill the olive trees, you kill the people here,” said the Catholic priest, Faisal Hijazin, during the mass. “We pray for God to protect the olive trees, the land and the people.””

Seeing as they do not even get a mention in this report, it is obvious that the 1,100 Israelis actually killed between 2000 and 2006 and the thousands more maimed and injured by Palestinian terrorists are of much lesser concern to both the quoted priest and his BBC amplifier.

It of course comes as no surprise to those who have followed Yolande Knell’s self-conscription to this political campaign and others over the years to find such inaccurate, misleading and one-sided ‘reporting’ on the BBC’s website.  Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that the BBC is supposedly obliged to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” by means of accurate and impartial reporting and that its editorial guidelines on accuracy state that “[t]he BBC must not knowingly and materially mislead its audiences”.

By telling readers that the renewed construction of the anti-terrorist fence near the Cremisan Valley “will separate over 50 families from their land”, Yolande Knell has done precisely that.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

Knell’s follow up on Cremisan Valley marred by BBC mantras

Variations in BBC portrayal of fences, walls and barriers

Resources:

BBC News Online – contact details

 

Hamas man spills beans on appropriation of construction materials: BBC silent

Over the past year the BBC has devoted considerable multi-platform coverage to the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip with the main recurrent theme being the shortage of construction materials. Time and time again the obviously relevant topic of the potential appropriation of construction materials for purposes of terrorism has been presented in the qualified terms of “Israel says” but no objective, serious reporting on that topic has been evident.anniversary Knell written

“Israel and Egypt maintain tight border restrictions on the coastal enclave, which have severely hampered reconstruction efforts. They say these are needed for security.” (BBC News website, 8/7/15)

“Israel tightly monitors the import of building materials and equipment into Gaza, arguing that militants could use them to rebuild tunnels and carry out attacks.” (BBC World Service, 8/12/14)

“Donors have pledged more than $5bn but Israel strictly regulates the import of building materials and equipment into the Palestinian territory. They say that militants could use the equipment to carry out attacks.” (BBC News website, 8/12/14)

“…but Israel bans the import of building materials for private use, saying that militants use them to build tunnels.” (BBC Radio 4, 18/9/14)

“The UN estimates that around 17 thousand houses were destroyed in the conflict. But, a blockade is in place stopping companies from importing building supplies. Israel says it fears that militants would use the materials to rebuild tunnels which could be used for renewed cross-border attacks by militant fighters.” (BBC television news, 5/9/14)anniversary Knell audio

On at least one occasion, BBC audiences were told that Israel was not allowing construction materials into the Gaza Strip at all and another recurring theme has been the claim that a lack of building materials – supposedly caused by border restrictions imposed by Israel – will bring about more conflict.

The Israeli Security Agency recently released information concerning the arrest last month of a Hamas operative from Rafah called Ibraheem Adel Shehadeh Shaer. Among the information provided by Shaer (also spelt Sha’ar) is this:

“Shaer told investigators that material for Hamas’s war infrastructure is now being brought into Gaza under the guise of reconstruction programs aimed at repairing the damage caused during the fighting, when thousands of buildings were destroyed.” [emphasis added]Doucet Gaza audio on Twitter

Additional information revealed by Shaer includes:

“…a road recently built by Hamas along the border fence was intended for a surprise attack on Israel involving vehicles that would even cross the border. […]

Shaer also disclosed specific emergency procedures followed by Hamas and the organization’s intention of using tunnels rebuilt since last year’s Operation Protective Edge to launch attacks in Israel.

In particular, Shaer was able to supply the specific locations, paths, and digging sites of tunnels in the Rafah area leading in the direction of the Kerem Shalom border crossing. […]

Shaer said that Iran was sending money, advanced weapons and electronic equipment to the Gaza Strip including devices to disrupt radio frequencies meant to help down Israeli UAVs above the Gaza Strip. He also claimed that Iran had trained Hamas operatives in paragliding with the goal of infiltrating Israel.”UNRWA WS tweet

Will the BBC now stop using the qualifier “Israel says” and carry out some serious investigative reporting on this subject – not least the obvious failures of the UN administered ‘Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism’ which supposedly ensures that building materials are not misappropriated for the purposes of terrorism? Will the corporation finally recognize the significance of its long-standing self-conscription to the campaign promoted by UNRWA and Hamas to have all border restrictions lifted? And will the BBC finally clarify to its audiences that the precursor for future conflict lies in Hamas’ ongoing preparations for that scenario?

The fact that to date there has been no BBC reporting on this story does not inspire optimism on those fronts.

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:

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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.

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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.