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  

BBC’s Yolande Knell back on the ‘one state’ bandwagon

On May 15th the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell produced a filmed report for the corporation’s television news programmes which was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “How will new Israel government affect two-state solution?“.Knell Har Homa

The synopsis appearing on the website includes the following statement:

“The government includes conservative, far-right, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties who would fight any recognition of a Palestinian state.”

The accuracy of that statement is of course contestable – not least in relation to the stance of coalition member party Shas, which has traditionally supported the two-state solution.

If viewers thought that the title of this report indicated that they were going to get some reliable background information on the new Israeli government’s approach and policies, they were sorely mistaken: Knell’s report is just one more addition to her long record of partial and inaccurate political propaganda.

Knell opens her report as follows:

“Har Homa: it’s one of Israel’s most controversial housing projects on land the Palestinians want for their state. Here, Bethlehem is cut off from Jerusalem.”

Does Har Homa in fact cut Bethlehem off from Jerusalem? A look at the map shows that the answer to that is no, with two routes bypassing Har Homa available for travel.

map Har Homa

Knell continues:

“Back in the late 1990s this is the same hill before building began. Now there are about twenty thousand Jewish residents and ahead of his re-election, the prime minister came promising to expand settlements. They’re seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees.”

As ever, Knell makes no attempt to comply with BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing her viewers of the existence of opinions which contradict the BBC’s standard “illegal under international law” insert. Neither does she bother to inform them of the fact that the majority of Har Homa (Homat Shmuel) is built on land purchased by Jews prior to 1948 – a fact recognized even by the PLO.

Knell goes on:

“He [Netanyahu] also said he wouldn’t allow a Palestinian state.”

That context-free representation of the Israeli PM’s words relates to an interview given to the Israeli website NRG, the full text of which can be found here. Notably, Knell also ignores the subsequent clarifications made by Netanyahu.

She proceeds to explain a map inserted into the footage:

“This is where the Palestinians seek full sovereignty: in East Jerusalem which they want as their capital, the West Bank and Gaza – areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.”

No attempt is made to inform viewers why war broke out in 1967 or of the legal status of the areas she describes before they were conquered and occupied by Jordan and Egypt in 1948.

Next, with no effort made to conform to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing audiences of the political aims of the NGO he represents, Knell introduces her first interviewee.

Knell: “In his Bethlehem office Jad Isaac monitors settlement growth. He no longer believes in a two state solution to the conflict with Israel.”

Isaac: “This is not realistic; anybody who sees things on the ground will come to that conclusion.”

Knell: “Dr Isaac faces losing his own land because of new construction in Har Homa. He tells me the International Criminal Court should act.”

Isaac: “This is the last resort. We have to go to the international justice – to the international community – to see what they say about this occupation. Displacing people, bringing Israeli citizens to live inside the West Bank – the occupied territory – is a war crime.”

Again, Knell makes no effort whatsoever to clarify to viewers that Isaac’s “war crime” claim is highly debatable to say the least. She then goes on to ostensibly present a differing viewpoint but fails to tell viewers that her next interviewee is not only a journalist, but also the former director of the political NGO the New Israel Fund.  

Knell: “On the Jerusalem side of Har Homa I get another perspective from an Israeli journalist who lives nearby.”

Ya’ari: “This whole…eh…expressions of two state solution is almost like a cover up on something different.”

Knell: “Unusually, Eliezer Ya’ari visits his Palestinian neighbours. Israel made their villages part of Jerusalem when it unilaterally extended the city’s boundaries but it views them as residents – not citizens. Mr Ya’ari thinks they should have the same political rights as he does.”

Ya’ari: “OK – we are now tangled together. What does it mean? From my point of view Israel has decided that Jerusalem – its own capital – will be a bi-national city and I don’t think that all Israeli citizens actually understand what it means.”

This is not the first time we have seen Yolande Knell deliberately mislead BBC audiences with regard to the status of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem: she made the exact same inaccurate claim in November of last year, failing to clarify that they are entitled to apply for citizenship should they so wish and that those who choose not to exercise that right (and hence to disenfranchise themselves as far as voting in parliamentary elections is concerned) are nevertheless entitled to vote in municipal elections and to receive social security benefits and healthcare. We have also seen the BBC promoting similar misinformation in additional past reports.

Knell closes her report:

“The view has changed dramatically since battles were fought over this land nearly fifty years ago and as Israel’s political landscape continues to alter even moderate voices are looking at alternatives to established peace plans.”

This is also not the first time that we have seen Yolande Knell promoting ‘alternatives’ to the two state solution, whilst failing to clarify to her audiences what that actually means. Her latest misrepresentation of this as being the approach of “moderate voices” exposes the political agenda actually being promoted in this so-called ‘news’ item.  

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

Yolande Knell ties one-state banner to BBC mast

BBC’s Yolande Knell promotes Muslim Brotherhood messaging

“…there were many interviews with members of the Brotherhood itself – some rank-and-file, some described as leaders. All of these stressed that their movement favoured freedom and democracy, and did not seek to impose an Islamic order on people against their will. Some of the expert commentators accepted these statements more or less at face value, stressing the Brotherhood’s evolution towards pragmatism during its long years in opposition and semi-clandestinity…”

Source: ‘A BBC Trust report on the impartiality and accuracy of the BBC’s coverage of the events known as the “Arab Spring”’ – June 2012

One might have perhaps thought that in the four years which have passed since the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt, BBC correspondents would have had the opportunity to garner enough understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood to prevent them from repeating the same face value acceptance – and amplification – of its messaging as was seen in BBC coverage of the events at the time.Knell MB art

However, if the article titled “Muslim Brotherhood: From rapid rise to sharp decline” produced by Yolande Knell on April 13th is anything to go by, not only is that is definitely not the case, but Edward Mortimer’s description of Muslim Brotherhood statements being naively “accepted … at face value” by BBC “expert commentators” may be in need of review.

Knell has no comment to add on the use of the phrase “democratic process” by a supporter of an organization which states that its intention is to create a state ruled by religious law which discriminates against women, non-Muslim minorities and others.

“On Saturday, a court confirmed death sentences on the group’s General Guide, Mohammed Badie, and others for planning attacks against the state.

But another man, Ahmed, insists they have done nothing wrong.

“God willing, we’ll see the democratic process get back on track soon,” he says.”

Neither does Knell make any effort to explain the reasoning behind her promotion of the notion that the Muslim Brotherhood as a whole is ‘relatively moderate’.

“Yet many in Egypt accept the clampdown on the Brotherhood, believing it failed its test in power, and across the entire region the fate of this relatively moderate Islamist organisation has undergone a dramatic turnaround.”

The Oxford Dictionary defines the political sense of moderate as “not radical or excessively right- or left-wing”. The aim of running a state ruled by Sharia law cannot accurately be described as anything other than radical and right-wing and of course there is little evidence of ‘moderation’ on the part of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood or the movement’s Qatar-based  ‘spiritual guide’ Yusuf al Qaradawi.

‘Moderate’ political organisations obviously do not support terrorism or cultivate links with its perpetrators – but a journalist who uses the makeover term “political faction” to describe a terrorist group which just months ago launched thousands of missiles at civilians will obviously be oblivious to that nuance.

“Not far away, in the Palestinian territories, Hamas – which is aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood – is also suffering from the organisation’s demise.

Its leaders were treated like VIPs in Egypt during the Brotherhood’s brief reign.

But in February, a court in Cairo joined Israel, the United States, the European Union and others in pronouncing Hamas a terrorist organisation.

In Gaza, which is controlled by the political faction, ordinary people feel more isolated than ever. […]

Across Gaza, the green flags of Hamas still flutter defiantly above the mangled metal and rubble of homes destroyed in last summer’s war with Israel.” [emphasis added]

Knell’s take-away message to readers comes right at the end of her article:

“But throughout much of the Middle East, there is a sense that times are changing.

And what worries many is that just as the Muslim Brotherhood, the grandfather of Islamist groups in the region, is in decline, so fanatical ones – like Islamic State – are gaining momentum.

The danger is that efforts to suppress the Brotherhood could radicalise its younger supporters and help swell the ranks of the extremists.”

Yolande Knell does not reveal to her readers the identities of the worried “many” who apparently believe that the political aspirations of young Middle Eastern Muslims are to be found exclusively on a scale lying between ‘moderate’ Islamists and ‘fanatical’ ones and hence promote the highly debatable claim-cum-threat that the decline of the Muslim Brotherhood could “swell the ranks of the extremists”.

However, a clue to the potential source – and background motivations – of that claim promoted and amplified by Knell comes in the form of a report published by Associated Press about the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan which appeared almost a month before Knell’s article saw the light of day. Interestingly, the two pieces show some curious similarities.

In a section of her article about the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood Yolande Knell writes:

“A new, officially licensed branch defines itself as strictly Jordanian, saying it has cut ties to the regional movement, so it is not identified as militant.”

The earlier AP article states:

“The new, officially licensed Brotherhood offshoot defines itself as a strictly Jordanian group, saying it cut ties with the regional movement to avoid being branded as militant.”

Yolande Knell writes:

“The legal status of the other, larger faction is less clear, but it is keeping its links to the wider Brotherhood.”

The earlier AP article states:

“The larger Brotherhood faction, still loyal to the regional movement, alleged the government engineered the division to weaken the group.[…] The status of the second faction now remains unclear.”

Yolande Knell writes:

“The danger is that efforts to suppress the Brotherhood could radicalise its younger supporters and help swell the ranks of the extremists.”

Readers of the AP report were informed that:

“In Jordan, some warned that the government’s apparent divide-and-control policy could backfire by pushing more Brotherhood supporters into the ranks of extremists like the Islamic State group, seen as the main threat to the country’s stability.”

And:

“Some warn the government crackdown could radicalize Brotherhood supporters and help swell the ranks of the Islamic State group.”

In other words, Yolande Knell’s supposedly impartial take-away message to Western audiences on the topic of the Muslim Brotherhood appears to have come straight (or perhaps via AP) from the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood horse’s mouth.

So much for ‘standard-setting’ journalism.

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

BBC Jerusalem Bureau correspondent Yolande Knell has invested quite a bit of energy over the past three years into promoting the topic of the court case concerning the route of the anti-terrorist fence in the Cremisan Valley.  

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BBC’s Yolande Knell erases Jewish history in campaigning article  January 2014

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The same topic has also appeared in other BBC content.

On April 3rd 2015 Knell reported on the Supreme Court decision given the previous day (according to which the Israeli authorities will have to find an alternative route for that particular section of the anti-terrorist fence) in an article titled “Israeli court rejects Cremisan Valley West Bank barrier“.Knell Cremisan

Despite Israel’s Supreme Court having accepted a petition presented by a non-Israeli municipality and tens of individuals who are not Israeli citizens in a case concerning the route of a structure described by the court as “one of the ways of dealing with the threats of terror and with the aim of preventing and avoiding the infiltration of terrorists into Israeli territory”, Yolande Knell chose to downplay that exceptional aspect of the story, instead opting to focus readers’ attentions on the standard BBC mantras relating to the anti-terrorist fence and ‘settlements’.

“Construction of the barrier began in 2002, during the second Palestinian intifada or uprising, following a wave of suicide bombings.

Israel said it was an essential security measure to prevent attacks.

However, Palestinians see it largely as a land grab because much of it was built inside the occupied West Bank.

Jewish settlements and additional land have been left on the Israeli side.

Settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disagrees.”

As has been noted here before with regard to that last sentence:

“Though that mantra has been repeated countless times over the years, it is not accompanied by a definitive cited source (because of course there isn’t one) and its claim is erroneously presented as being contested only by the government of Israel. In other words, the BBC’s standard formulation egregiously ignores the existence of legal opinions which contradict its own adopted narrative.”

The standard BBC insert on the topic of the anti-terrorist fence, which inevitably includes the phrase “Israel says” and inaccurate description of the structure as a “land grab”, is no more impartial.

“The systematic failure to present audiences with the readily available factual evidence which proves the anti-terrorist fence’s efficiency – rather than the subjective presentation of “Israel says” – is clearly a failure to distinguish “opinion from fact” and a major “omission of an important perspective”.  The fact that a standard formula has been employed for over a decade also represents a failure to adhere to the demand for “impartiality over time”, presenting the same jaded “land grab” theme over a long period of years in which no such thing has happened.”

Knell’s description of Gilo and Har Gilo is equally political:

“In the Cremisan Valley, Israel’s defence ministry argued it was seeking added protection for the settlements of Har Gilo and Gilo. Israelis view these as Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem.”

As was the case in one of her previous articles on the subject, Knell refrains from informing audiences of the status of the land upon which Gilo was built, preferring to promote the standard Palestinian narrative of all Jerusalem neighbourhoods in areas occupied by Jordan during the War of Independence – including those on land owned by Jews before 1948 – as ‘settlements’. She also predictably avoids the topic of the terrorism directed at Gilo from nearby Beit Jala during the second Intifada.

At the beginning of her report Knell inaccurately informs readers that:

“Fifty-eight Christian families would have been cut off from their land.”

Those who bothered to read on discovered that was not the case:

“The Israeli authorities had said there would be access between the sites and for Palestinians trying to reach their land through gates operated by soldiers.”

Like the rest of Knell’s coverage of this story over a period of three years, this article passed up on the opportunity to provide BBC audiences with the comprehensive background necessary for audiences to understand both sides to the story in favour of the promotion of a specific political narrative.

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BBC’s Knell returns to the Gaza rubble

More than an entire month has gone by since BBC audiences got their last ‘reporter in the Gaza rubble’ fix from Lyse Doucet and so it came as little surprise to see the baton handed to Yolande Knell on April 1st.

Knell’s written and filmed versions of the same story – “Gaza family ‘tricked’ into selling Banksy painting for $175” and “Palestinian ‘tricked’ over Banksy art” – both appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.Knell Banksy written  

In the written report readers learned that:

“A Palestinian man says he was tricked into selling a mural by the artist Banksy that is estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Rabie Darduna told the BBC he was given less than $175 (£118) for the image drawn on the only remaining door of his house in Gaza.

It was one of thousands of homes destroyed during last year’s war.

Banksy visited Gaza in February and used the rubble as a canvas for his politicised graffiti.”

That story was also covered at the time by the BBC’s Gaza correspondent Rushdi Abualouf.

In the filmed version of Knell’s report shown on BBC television news programmes, viewers heard the following context-free introduction:

“Their lives in ruins: thousands of families in Gaza lost their homes in last year’s brutal war with Israel.”

Throughout the report Knell continues to use the story of a man who now regrets selling something he got for free after he discovered its proper value as a hook upon which to hang her real message.

“And when the British artist Banksy made a surprise visit here a month ago, this rubble inspired his politicized art.”

“The street art that Banksy left here in Gaza […] is meant to highlight the destruction here…”

“Back in Gaza the Darduna family can’t get over this cruel twist of fate. Banksy painted on their destroyed house to show he cares about Palestinians’ plight but now they’ve lost his unexpected gift they feel their suffering even more acutely.” [emphasis added]

At the bottom of the filmed report’s synopsis, audiences are invited to click on a link titled “Writing on the Wall” which leads them to the BBC’s ‘iWonder’ website. That site is billed as a project intended to “educate and inform” and “a ‘one-stop-shop’ for factual and educational content” and so – as we have noted here before – one might expect it to stick to accurate and impartial facts.Knell Banksy filmed

The page to which that promoted links leads includes, however, the following context-free politicized slogans: [all emphasis added]

“Banksy is the most well known graffiti artist in the world, even though he has never revealed his true identity. Quirky and political, his work has satirised oppression in Palestine, hypocrisy in politics and capitalist greed in London.”

Continuing his use of public spaces to display his work, he choose one of the most controversial walls in the world.

In 2005, to comment on Israeli involvement in Palestine, Banksy travelled to the Middle East and targeted the West Bank wall. His satirical stencils criticised Israeli militarism and oppression. The works provoked fierce debate in the media over whether a wall judged to be “illegal” by the International Court of Justice could in fact be vandalised. Banksy described the wall as “the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers”.

Yes – that is what the BBC apparently defines as “educational content”.  

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Elections 2015: was the BBC’s coverage impartial?

We are often told that the impartiality of BBC content should be judged “over time” and some guidance as to what that term means can be found in this section of the BBC’s editorial guidelines.

“In achieving due impartiality, a ‘series of programmes’ may be considered as a whole.

The term ‘series of programmes’ applies to the following:

Content that deals with the same or related issues, within an appropriate period, and are clearly linked.

This may include a strand with a common title; different types of linked programmes (such as a drama with a following debate); a clearly identified season of programmes or items on the same or similar subjects; or a set of interlinked web pages.  Such programmes, items or web pages need to achieve due impartiality across the series, and online content should include links or signposts to the other online elements.

The intention to achieve due impartiality in this way should be planned in advance.”

With BBC coverage of the recent Israeli election now having come to a close, we can examine the question of whether due impartiality was achieved in the ‘series of programmes’ relating to that topic.Knell filmed 17 3

All the relevant BBC content – written, audio and filmed – already discussed on these pages is available in chronological order under ‘related articles’ below.

The most outstanding characteristic of BBC reporting on the 2015 Israeli election from day one was the insistence of its journalists on framing the story from the angle of its effect on negotiations with the Palestinians – despite the fact that other concerns were much higher up on voters’ lists of priorities. So, whilst BBC audiences heard or read occasional brief references to ‘economic issues’, ‘the cost of living’ and ‘house prices’, they were never actually provided with any in-depth background information on those topics and hence were incapable of appreciating why – for example – a previously non-existent party (Kulanu) won ten seats in the incoming Knesset.

The BBC’s disproportionate focus on the topic of the ‘peace process’ can be illustrated by taking a look at the number of Palestinian commentators interviewed and quoted by the BBC in just three days of coverage, beginning with the day of the election itself.

17/3/15: Husam Zomlot – filmed report by Yolande Knell – BBC television news & website

                Husam Zomlot – audio report by Yoande Knell – ‘Newshour’, World Service radio

                Raja Shehadeh – interview ‘Newshour’, World Service radio

                Sabri Saydan – interview ‘Newshour’, World Service radio

18/3/15: Mohammed Shtayyeh – filmed report by Lyse Doucet – BBC television news & website

                 Saeb Erekat & Mahmoud Abbas – quoted in written report on BBC News website

                 Hanan Ashrawi – audio report by Kevin Connolly – Radio 4 ‘PM’ (here from 41:50)

19/3/15: Yousef Munnayer & Mustafa Barghouti – interviews ‘Newshour’, World Service radioNewshour 19 3

Despite extensive use of the ‘peace process’ theme and the generous airtime given to Palestinian interviewees, not one BBC report raised the topic of Palestinian responsibility for the lack of progress in negotiations and the related topic of long overdue elections for both the Palestinian Legislative Council and the PA president was likewise not even briefly mentioned.

Israeli politicians interviewed in the same three-day period included Ayman Odeh of the Joint Arab List (17/3 – filmed report by Jeremy Bowen), Yitzhak Herzog (17/3 ‘Newshour’) and Nahman Shai (17/3 ‘Newshour’) of the Zionist Union, first-time Likud candidate Sharren Haskel (17/3, ‘Newshour’), Rachel Azaria of Kulanu (18/3, ‘Newshour’ – here from 34:55) and Moshe Ya’alon of Likud (19/3).

In other words, BBC audiences heard and read more commentary on the Israeli election from Palestinian contributors than from Israeli politicians standing for election.

Little attempt was made to introduce BBC audiences to most of the 26 parties competing in the election or to explain the differences between their positions. Background information on the topic of the Israeli electoral system was mostly confined to references to the fact that the system makes a coalition government almost inevitable.

The topic of the foreign-funded campaign to influence the outcome of the election was completely ignored in all BBC coverage even though that factor played a role in influencing the election’s result and foreign intervention in elections in a democratic country should obviously have been a big story.Connolly filmed 16 3

Whilst the BBC put considerable focus on the statement made by the Israeli prime minister on March 17th concerning the related issue of busing of Joint Arab List voters to the polling stations, it did not report at all on the comments (or later fall-out) made at the Left-wing rally in Tel Aviv on March 7th – even though a BBC team was present at the event.  Despite the fact that Zionist Union leader Herzog later cited that incident as having affected his party’s performance “without a shadow of a doubt“, BBC audiences remain completely unaware of it ever having happened, just as they were not informed of assorted statements made by members of the Joint Arab List.

When answering criticism of his organisation’s coverage of Israel, the BBC’s director general recently claimed:

 “It is hard… tough. We do aim to give as impartial coverage as we can across the period.”

In this case it is not difficult to see that the BBC came nowhere near to achieving “due impartiality over time” – primarily because its journalists chose to cover the Israeli election almost exclusively from an angle which, whilst of only minor relevance to the issue itself, coalesced more with their own pre-existing views and agenda. And whilst audiences were fed reams of material on “the Palestinian view”, their understanding of what should have been the story’s actual subject matter – the factors influencing the election’s result – was hampered by selective omission of information and a distinct lack of interest in anything which got in the way of the story’s chosen framing.  

Lord Hall might care to ponder the fact that it would be much less “hard” and “tough” to cover Israel-related news accurately and impartially were the journalists working for his organisation to stick to reporting the stories that exist rather than instead promoting the stories they want to tell.

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

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

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