BBC News still promoting ‘cycle of violence’ myth

Following the sentencing of two of the three murderers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir by the Jerusalem District Court on February 4th the BBC News website produced an article titled “Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Two Israelis jailed“.Abu Khdeir sentencing art

As has been the case in previous BBC reports concerning the same subject matter, the article materially misleads audiences with regard to the cause of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations in the Gaza strip.

“Abu Khdair was killed in apparent revenge for the murders of three Israeli teens in the West Bank.

The killings were part of an escalating cycle of violence, culminating in a war between Israel and militants in Gaza.”

Once again we see that the BBC promotes the notion of a “cycle of violence” whilst completely erasing from audience view the escalation in missile fire from the Gaza Strip which began immediately after the disappearance of the Israeli teenagers on June 12th and continued throughout the three weeks of search and rescue operations.

It was of course that incessant missile fire on Israeli civilians – which is repeatedly erased by the BBC in its portrayal of events – that was the reason for the military operation, with the later discovery of dozens of cross-border tunnels prompting the subsequent ground operation. The military operation could have been avoided had Hamas elected to take advantage of the ample opportunities it was given to stop the missile fire before July 8th 2014, but the terrorist organisation chose not to do so – for reasons by no means exclusively connected to Israel.

“A Hamas official, who did not give his name to Palestinian news agency Sawa, said overnight Friday-Saturday [July 4th /5th 2014] that “those who expect Hamas to stop the rocket fire [on Israel], should to turn [Palestinian Authority Prime Minister] Rami Hamdallah.”

The official was alluding to the fact that the salaries of 40,000 Hamas clerks in Gaza were still unpaid, which was reportedly a key Hamas demand since agreeing to a unity government deal in late April with the Palestinian Authority.”

The article closes with the following words:

“The case has been closely watched by Palestinians who often claim of prejudice in Israel’s justice system, the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem reports.”

As readers may recall, the BBC’s past reports have included amplification of claims of a ‘two-tier’ justice system.

 “… it was interesting as well – and telling, I think – to see the mother of the Palestinian teenager who was killed saying Palestinians have no rights and I think that they feel that there’s one law for Israelis and one law for themselves and that they’re never going to be in a better place until they get independence, get their own state and that, I think, is the prevalent view among Palestinians.” (Jeremy Bowen, ‘Today’, BBC Radio 4, July 3rd 2014)

“But Palestinians at Muhammed’s funeral don’t trust Israeli justice. They want Israel to leave Palestinian towns and cities so that they can build a state and a justice system of their own.” (James Reynolds, BBC News, July 4th 2014)

Yet again, however, the BBC fails to clarify to its audiences in this report that the allegations of Israeli state discrimination it has promoted are unfounded. 

BBC takes lessons on ‘impartiality’ from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign

As readers may have heard, the BBC has described a former employee’s signature on a letter opposing a cultural boycott of Israel as “inadvisable”.

“The BBC has criticised former director of television Danny Cohen for signing a letter opposing a cultural boycott of Israel.

The corporation said that it regretted the “impression” created by Mr Cohen’s name appearing on the letter but that it “had no bearing on his ability to do his day job”.

The letter, published in the Guardian in October, was signed by more than 150 writers, artists, musicians and media personalities including J K Rowling and Melvyn Bragg. It was a response to an earlier announcement by media personalities calling for a cultural boycott of Israel and described boycotting Israel as ‘a barrier to peace’.

Following a complaint to the BBC about Mr Cohen’s involvement, the BBC responded in a December email describing Mr Cohen’s actions as ‘inadvisable’. The email went on to say that senior employees “should avoid making their views known on issues of current political controversy”. However, no further action was taken as Mr Cohen, who announced that he was leaving the BBC the week before the letter was published, no longer worked for the corporation.”

Via the Guardian’s account of the story, we learn that:

“Sara Apps, interim director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said the views in the letter opposing the boycott were “those of the Israeli state” and called on the BBC to provide reassurance that staff “are impartial and seen to be impartial, in their work at the BBC” .

She said: “By failing to take any action against Cohen, the BBC sent a message to licence fee payers that it only pays lip service to the concept of impartiality when it comes to the subject of Palestine and Israel, and that BBC executives are free to publicly express their views on this subject with no regard for the code of impartiality written into the royal charter.”PSC campaign against Danny Cohen

One cannot of course disagree with the demand for the BBC to ensure that its staff  “are impartial and seen to be impartial, in their work at the BBC”. One also cannot disagree with the claim that when BBC staff “publicly express their views on this subject” there is a risk that the BBC’s impartiality may be compromised.

The trouble is that Ms Apps and her friends at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign who organized the complaints against Danny Cohen (the group’s second campaign against a Jewish BBC employee in just over a year) do not in fact care a fig about BBC impartiality.  

If they did, they would have similarly protested when a BBC staff member with considerably more influence on the impartiality of the BBC’s reporting of news from the Middle East than the corporation’s director of television collaborated with an anti-Israel political campaign run by one of the signatories to that February 2015 pro-boycott letter, Leila Sansour.Knell Crouch End 2

They would surely also have had something to say on the topic of ‘impartiality’ in relation to the fact that the BBC has broadcast content made by a former employee who pinned his own political colours to the mast by collaborating with the Palestine Solidarity campaign.

There is of course nothing novel about this latest episode in the PSC’s employment of selective outrage over BBC impartiality for anti-Israel PR purposes. Sadly, there is also nothing remarkable about this latest example of the BBC allowing itself and its editorial guidelines to be used as tool in the political campaigning of an opaquely funded group which provides support for a terrorist organization proscribed by the British government.

And whilst we’re on that subject, if readers are wondering why the Palestine Solidarity Campaign currently has an ‘interim director’ (and what happened to the previous flotilla participating one), the answers can be found here.  

Related Articles:

BBC upholds PSC inspired complaints against ‘Today’ programme

BBC’s ECU upholds complaint from the UK’s pro-Hamas lobby

No BBC coverage of antisemitism at event organised by its most promoted NGO

BBC’s capitulation to political pressure on Gaza casualty figures: tip of a bigger iceberg?

Selective PSC outrage over BBC impartiality and integrity

Why does the BBC Trust’s ESC pretend that the 1947 Partition Plan is a thing?

Hebron news which does not fit into the BBC narrative

In late October 2015 the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell produced filmed and audio reports from Hebron, both of which made no attempt to inform BBC audiences about Hamas activity in that city but did provide an on PLO messaging portrayal of the numerous terror attacks there.Knell Hebron 30 10

“Basically on the ground here you get two starkly contrasting narratives. Speaking to the Israelis over there, they see all of this as hateful, senseless violence. But Palestinians here say that their anger stems from the political situation and their feelings of despair.”  

On January 7th the Israeli security services announced the apprehension of a Hamas cell made up of members from Jerusalem and Hebron.

“Members of the group, from Jerusalem and Hebron, had planned to use the corpses of their victim or victims in order to negotiate the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, similar to the motive behind the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenage boys in June 2014.

From the Shin Bet’s investigation of the Hamas operatives, the cell was in the “advanced planning stages” and had begun preparing the place where they would store the bodies of the kidnapped person or people.

“This case reconfirms that Hamas still aspires to carry out serious terror attacks, even now, in order to further egg on the recent wave of terror into a violent intifada,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.”

Three days later, on January 10th, the Israeli security services announced the arrest of another Hamas cell in Hebron.  

“The cell had purchased a variety of weapons, including an M-16 rifle, in order to carry out a terror attack on the Route 35 highway, which runs between Hebron and the coastal city of Ashkelon, the Shin Bet said in a statement.

“The thwarting of this terror cell, which was nearly prepared to carry out an attack, again demonstrates the never-ending attempts by Hamas operatives in Hebron to carry out severe terror acts,” the statement said.”

Both those Hamas cells were led by members of Hebron’s Qawasmeh clan (also spelt Kawasme).

“The cell announced Thursday included six people — three Israeli citizens living in Jerusalem, and three others from Hebron. They were led by Maher Qawasmeh, a 36-year-old from Hebron, who was previously imprisoned for two years for helping plan terror attacks for Hamas, the Shin Bet said.”

And:

“The head of the alleged terror cell, Mehmad Ali Qawasmeh, is the brother of one of the terrorists responsible for the abduction-killing of three Israeli teenagers in the summer of 2014, the Shin Bet said.

Qawasmeh is a member of the extended Qawasmeh family, a strong Hamas force within the city of Hebron. Another member of the family, Maher Qawasmeh, was arrested in December by the Shin Bet for leading another terror cell, which planned to kidnap and murder Israelis in order to negotiate the release of Palestinian prisoners, the security service said last week.”

Readers may recall that the BBC’s coverage of the Hebron-based group which kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teens in June 2014 was notable for its downplaying of the cell’s Hamas connections and that Jon Donnison went even further.

There has been no BBC coverage of the arrests of these latest two Hamas cells led by members of the Qawasmeh family. 

BBC audiences continue to remain grossly under informed about the topic of Hamas’ activities in Hebron and other Palestinian Authority controlled areas, its longstanding attempts to boost its terrorist infrastructure in those locations and its current efforts to take the ongoing wave of terrorism to a more violent level; not only – as noted by Avi Issacharoff – out of motivations connected to Israel.

“But should Hamas go through with its reported decision to renew suicide bombings and ramp up the number of shootings, all it may take is one especially devastating mass-casualty attack for the knife to be replaced by a Kalashnikov rifle or an explosive belt as the symbol of the struggle.

Hamas knows that only one successful suicide attack within the Green Line is all it’ll take to sever the last tattered remnants of the ties between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, including security coordination.

Such an attack will bring severe Israeli punitive steps against the authority, weakening it even more, while catapulting the already popular Hamas to a more prominent position in the West Bank.”

If the BBC is to fulfil its remit of building “understanding of international issues” then obviously it cannot continue to make do with explaining away the current wave of terrorism against Israelis by using a politically motivated narrative of Palestinian “despair” and “anger”. It also has an obligation to tell its audiences about the part played in organizing and inciting violence by terror organisations such as Hamas – and the potential consequences of those actions.  

Related Articles:

On and off the BBC radar: terrorism in Jerusalem and Hebron

Three year old allegations from BBC’s Yolande Knell shown to be untrue

Nearly three years ago, in February 2013, the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell produced an article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israeli Ethiopian birth control to be examined“.Knell Depo Provera

As was documented here at the time, Knell’s report was actually no more than a rehash of an article which appeared on the same day in the Ha’aretz newspaper.

“In fact, this story has been around for some time, after Ha’aretz first latched on to a programme  made by Israeli journalist Gal Gabai which was broadcast in December 2012 on Israeli television and which asserted that some Ethiopian immigrants had been given the contraceptive Depo-Provera against their will. The original Ha’aretz article embroidered the already problematic television programme and the exaggerated story took on a life of its own in many foreign media outlets, with Ha’aretz later finding itself dealing in damage control.” 

In the same article Knell also misrepresented another much older story connected to Israel’s Ethiopian community in order to pad out her insinuations of racism.

““The issue is extremely sensitive in Israel where the population of about 120,000 thousand Ethiopian Jews sometimes complains of discrimination. There have been several scandals in the past. In 1996, for example, the Israeli authorities admitted they had secretly disposed of blood donations given by Ethiopian Israelis because of fears about HIV/Aids.”

Instead of blindly repeating things she reads in Ha’aretz, had Knell bothered to read the 1996 report by former Israeli president Yitzhak Navon into that incident before putting finger to keyboard, she would know that the disposal of those blood donations was the result of a failure by the blood services (which are run by Magen David Adom – not “the Israeli authorities” as Knell states) to update an earlier directive from 1984 (at the time of Operation Moses) which related not to HIV, but to Hepatitis B, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Navon report stated:

“Contrary to the public impression, there is no connection between the decision made in 1984 and AIDS.”

“At the time the health services were worried by findings connected to the prevalence of diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis and Hepatitis among the Ethiopian immigrants from ‘Operation Moses’.””

Ha’aretz subsequently corrected the article upon which Knell’s report was based but no amendment was made to the BBC’s article, which still remains available online.

Israel’s State Comptroller (Ombudsman) has now completed an investigation into the allegations.

“There is no evidence that Ethiopian women who immigrated to Israel were required to take birth-control shots against their will, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira wrote this week in a letter obtained by Haaretz.

Shapira wrote that he had concluded his investigation into the allegations, which surfaced in December 2012, and that “no evidence could be found for the claims raised that shots to prevent pregnancy were administered to Ethiopian women under pressure or threats, overt or covert, or in any way that was improper.””

Yolande Knell’s ugly smears never had any verified, factual basis but nevertheless the BBC allowed her inaccurate article to become “historical record“. Obviously, it is high time for the BBC to make amends by appending a note to the article which explains that its content is inaccurate and misleading. 

Resources:

BBC News website contact details

The NGO story the BBC avoided

Over the last few days, a report broadcast on Channel 2’s investigative journalism programme ‘Uvda’ has attracted a lot of attention in Israel. David Collier has written a concise summary of the story:

“A few days ago, an Israeli investigative TV show (UVDA – ‘fact’) ran an expose that involved an Israeli infiltrating Ta’ayush, a NGO that promotes itself as ‘a grassroots movement of Arabs and Jews working to break down the walls of racism and segregation.’ The Israeli also encountered Nasser Nawajah, a member of B’tselem. These two NGO’s are cited as leading ‘human rights organisations’ whose self-stated purpose is highlighting alleged human rights abuse. Very few, if any, of the organised tours that set out to sell ‘the brutal Israel’ narrative do not involve engaging one or both of these movements.

The operation itself was simple, and involved riding with Ezra Nawi, an Israeli Jew and well known ‘peace activist’ from Ta’ayush, as he went about his daily business. The Israeli, using the pseudonym ‘Arik’, went on to capture on camera that these activists, senior members of B’tselem and Ta’ayush, have been informing on Arabs who wish to sell land to Jews. Nawi was recorded boasting that the Palestinian security forces would torture and execute those Palestinian land brokers and ‘take care’ of the Palestinian families willing to sell their land.”

A clip from the programme with English language sub-titles can be found here.

Given the BBC’s penchant for promoting domestic Israeli stories it may at first glance seem rather curious to see that it has avoided reporting this one.  However, this story is not about a supermodel, a corrupt Rabbi or a ‘right-wing’ politician embroiled in scandal: it is one which is much closer to home for the corporation which regularly produces content based on material provided by inadequately presented Israeli NGOs from one particular side of the political spectrum.Nawi Today 2009

Both the main actors in this story have appeared in BBC reports. In September 2009 Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme promoted (and still does in an item which remains accessible on the internet) assorted allegations from Ezra Nawi – described by the BBC’s Tim Franks as a “peace activist” – including the headlined claim that “Non-Jews [are] ‘treated worse than fifth class'”.

In July 2015 audio and written reports produced by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell relied heavily on input from Nasser Nawajah whilst failing to inform audiences of his day job with B’tselem (the Israeli NGO most promoted by the BBC in 2014 and 2015) and that NGO’s connection to the subject matter of her story.Knell Susiya

BBC Watch has frequently documented the BBC’s failure to comply with its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by clarifying to audiences the agendas of the NGOs it quotes and promotes. As this story shows, that failure is not only important from the point of view of the failure to supply relevant information which would enable audiences to put the contributions to BBC content made by NGOs and their representatives into its correct context.

Were it standard BBC practice to comply with those editorial guidelines, its staff would have to engage in close examination of the political agendas of NGOs and their funders, ditching the apparently existing assumption that any organization labelling itself a ‘human rights group’ and any individual promoting him or herself as a ‘peace activist’ is automatically worthy of that title and the accompanying ‘halo effect’.

That would mean that BBC journalists would be better positioned to assess the relevance and reliability of material provided by NGOs and their staff, as well as the motivations behind the content provided. The gain would not only be to BBC audiences, but also to the reputation of the media organization which claims to provide them with accurate and impartial reporting.

Related Articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2015

Guardian once praised Israeli activist who ‘helps kill Palestinians selling land to Jews’ (UK Media Watch) 

Are BBC News reports on Palestinian deaths accurate and impartial?

As noted here earlier in the month, the BBC refrained from reporting on many, if not most, of the terror attacks against Israelis which took place during December. But on occasions when the corporation did cover violent incidents resulting in the deaths of Palestinians, misleading, inaccurate or incomplete reporting was evident.

Here, for example, is how the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell portrayed events which took place on December 24th in a report for the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’. [emphasis added]

“This was in different parts of the occupied West Bank; three Palestinians shot dead, apparently while carrying out attacks. One stabbed two security guards at the entrance to an Israeli settlement. Another is said to have tried to attack soldiers close to Hebron with a screw driver. Another tried to run a car into a military post close to Jerusalem according to the Israeli military. There was a fourth Palestinian man killed in clashes with Israeli troops….”

Notably, Knell qualifies (unnecessarily) her accounts of the first three incidents, but not the last one. Here is a report from the Jerusalem Post relating to that fourth incident in which, according to Knell, a Palestinian man was simply “killed in clashes”.

“Separately, during a Palestinian riot that broke out in the Kalandiya refugee camp, the IDF killed a Palestinian gunman, Bilal Omar Zayed, 23. The soldiers had entered the camp to arrest two Palestinians for their suspected involvement in a shooting attack against Israelis.

The Palestinian gunman fired at the soldiers while they were in the camp, an army spokeswoman said. Soldiers returned fire, and it is believed that Zayed was killed at this point. After the exchange of fire, a large-scale disturbance ensued in which local residents threw rocks and fire bombs, wounding two soldiers.”

Did BBC audiences receive an accurate impression of the circumstances of that incident from Knell’s portrayal? Obviously not. Clearly too, in her account of the first three incidents, Knell’s focus is on the attackers rather than the victims.

The “Israeli settlement” she mentions is Ariel – a town with a population of over 18,000 people.

“Thursday’s violence began in the morning, when Muhammad Abdel Hamid Zahran, 23, from Kufr al-Dik, stabbed two security guards at the entrance to the settlement of Ariel, next to the city’s industrial park.

Both of the 24-year-old guards suffered stab wounds to their upper bodies that left one in serious condition and one in moderate condition.”

Contrary to the impression given by Knell, the attacker in the third incident did not try to strike an inanimate object as suggested by the wording “run a car into a military post”.

“Two hours later, around noon, Wissam Abu Ghawileh, 22, from Kalandiya, tried to mow down Border Police and soldiers with a car, just outside the Rama army base, located by the Adam junction in Samaria.

The Border Police released a statement made by “A.,” the commander of the Border Police officers who shot and killed the attacker, who explained that the attack occurred as the security forces were leaving the base on a routine mission.

“We saw a vehicle veer toward us on the path leading to the base, which is used only by people approaching the base, which left us with no doubt that this was a vehicular attack. The fighters actually leapt in the direction of a nearby shelter while we shot at the terrorist until he was neutralized,” A. said.

One officer lightly wounded in the incident was treated at the scene with an injury to one of his hands.”

Another example – from December 26th – is seen in a BBC Radio 4 news bulletin relating to incidents which took place on December 25th.Midnight news

“Israeli police say a Palestinian woman was shot dead when she tried to run her car into a patrol in the West Bank. At a border crossing with Gaza, another Palestinian was killed during a protest.”

By the time that news bulletin was broadcast, even the spokesman for the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry had already clarified that the man was engaged in violent rioting at the time of his death.

“A Palestinian was killed on Friday east of Gaza City in clashes with Israeli troops, a spokesman for the Palestinian health ministry said.

Hani Whadab [Wahdan], 22, was killed as he was throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers near the Nahal Oz crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP.”

The BBC’s classification of the circumstances as a “protest” therefore clearly fails to provide audiences with the full picture.

In both these examples we see that BBC reporting erases from audience view the fact that the deaths of Palestinians came about because they were carrying out violent acts. Not only is such reporting obviously inaccurate and misleading in that it fails to inform audiences of the full circumstances of the incidents but the failure to include key information also raises concerns about the impartiality of such reporting. 

 

More PLO messaging from Yolande Knell in Christmas report for BBC WS radio

In addition to the politicised Christmas Eve feature produced by Yolande Knell for the BBC News website on December 24th, she also reported from Bethlehem for BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’.Newshour 24 12

In that item (from 30:00 here) Knell recycled themes and interviewees seen in her other report, focusing on a low-key Christmas and economic hardship in Bethlehem. Once again audiences were not informed of the Palestinian Authority’s instructions to municipalities to dampen this year’s celebrations or the Council of Churches’ similar dictate.

Setting the scene in his introduction, presenter Tim Franks failed to adequately clarify to listeners exactly which party has been initiating the acts of violence seen over the last three months, using passive language to promote a false sense of equivalence and – through use of the ‘Israel says’ formula – implying that the BBC cannot independently confirm that most of the Palestinian casualties were either terrorists killed in the act or violent rioters. [emphasis added]

“Even as visitor numbers continue to dwindle Christmas upon Christmas, this year the reason is pretty clear: the tensions that have washed over Israel and the occupied territories show no sign of abating.”

“More than 130 Palestinians have been killed – more than half were said by Israel to be attackers.”

“In Bethlehem – a short distance to the south of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank – confrontations between young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers continue on an almost daily basis….”

Of course if no Palestinian rioters take to the streets, there are no “confrontations” but as usual, the BBC conceals cause and effect and Knell’s later description did little to help listeners understand the context of the violence either.

“But for weeks now this has been the sound on the streets. An Israeli jeep fires tear gas at the young Palestinians all around me. They’ve been using catapults to fling stones at the Israeli soldiers next to the high concrete wall here: part of Israel’s West Bank barrier.”

As in her written report, Knell provided a platform for opportunistic political messaging. [emphasis added]

Knell: “Back at the road where protests regularly break out in Bethlehem, I meet a priest: Father Jamal Khader.”

Khader: “Now more than ever we see more despair. People don’t believe any more in the two state solution with increase of settlements, with heavy presence of the Israeli army.”

That messaging compliments Knell’s later portrayal of the background to the ongoing wave of terror.

“Israel blames the recent violence on incitement by Palestinian leaders and social media but Palestinians say it stems from the lack of hope after the failure of years of peace efforts.”

More than three months into this wave of terror, the BBC has still not provided its audiences with a factual and comprehensive picture of the incitement underpinning the violence. As a result, BBC audiences are not in a position to be able to determine the relative merits of the Israeli and Palestinian claims paraphrased in this item – which have also appeared in previous reports from Knell and her colleagues.

As readers may recall, the PLO’s guidance document distributed in November to members of the international media under the title “Key Points to Remember when Reporting on Occupied Palestine states:

“The Israeli government attempts to shift the focus away from their colonization enterprise and illegal occupation, which is the root cause of the continuous uprisings of the Palestinian people who have for decades endured an Apartheid regime. Though Israeli spokespeople have claimed that the main issues are Al-Aqsa and “Palestinian incitement”, the fact of the matter is that Israel continues to systematically deny Palestinian rights.”

It therefore becomes increasingly difficult to avoid reaching the conclusion that BBC journalists have indeed chosen to ‘remember’ those ‘key points’ and to keep audiences in the dark on the topic of Palestinian incitement whilst simultaneously refraining from informing them of the actual circumstances of “the failure of years of peace efforts” which include the PA initiated Second intifada, the PA’s rejection of Olmert’s 2008 peace offer and the PA’s decision to scupper the round of talks held in 2013/14.

The corporation asserts that its audiences “can expect the BBC to keep them in touch with what is going on in the world” and that its priority is to “build a global understanding of international issues”. A media organization committed to doing that could not have systematically avoided informing its audiences about the incitement fueling a wave of terror attacks and violence which has been going on for over a hundred days.

BBC’s Knell yet again politicises Christmas in Bethlehem report

The Christmas season inevitably brings with it opportunistic, politicised messaging from the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau and this year was no different. Apparently short on fresh ideas, Yolande Knell casts local residents in the role of nativity story figures in her report titled “Christmas in Bethlehem: Hopes and fears for the future” (December 24th, BBC News website Middle East page) – a device she previously used in her 2011 seasonal report.Knell Bethlehem main

Including both text and video clips, the report promotes the themes of a low-key Christmas and economic hardship for Bethlehem residents. No mention is made of the Palestinian Authority’s instructions to municipalities to dampen this year’s celebrations or the Council of Churches’ similar dictate.

The surge in Palestinian terrorism that began in mid-September and which has obviously had an effect on the tourist industry in the region receives minimal coverage in Knell’s account, although when it is mentioned she portrays it as equivalent “Israeli-Palestinian violence” and – in line with PLO messaging – downplays the incitement fueling that violence. Instead, Knell focuses more on what she terms “protests” and “clashes” whilst erasing the agency of Palestinian rioters and terrorists sabotaging their own community’s all-important tourism industry.

“Young Palestinians regularly join protests that result in confrontations with Israeli soldiers. There are flashpoints across the West Bank including on the edge of Ramallah and in Bethlehem.”

“Nowadays clashes regularly take place by one of these gates. Typically, young Palestinians throw stones, marbles and petrol bombs at Israeli soldiers who respond with tear gas, rubber bullets, skunk water and live rounds.

Israel blames the violence on incitement by Palestinian leaders and social media. Father Jamal says that on the Palestinian side there are feelings of hopelessness and despair.”

Knell Bethlehem equivalence 1

Knell Bethlehem equivalence 2

Knell Bethlehem equivalence 3

The predominant messaging in this report relates to the anti-terrorist fence. In line with the corporation’s usual portrayal of that subject, Knell fails to provide BBC audiences with an objective and transparent account of the reasons behind the fence’s construction and its proven record of reducing the number of terror attacks against Israelis.

“Israel has also built part of its separation barrier here. It says this is needed for security, but Palestinians see it as a land grab.”

“In 2003, an 8m (26ft)-high concrete wall was erected in Bethlehem – part of Israel’s barrier built in and around the West Bank. A series of gates were constructed in the wall so that church leaders could continue to pass.”

“About 40% of the Bethlehem economy relies directly on tourism. However since the town was separated from Jerusalem by Israel’s barrier, most tourists now enter through an Israeli checkpoint.”

Knell Bethlehem fence 1

Knell Bethlehem fence 2

Knell Bethlehem fence 3

The fence is also the hook for promotion of the theme of restricted access resulting in reduced business.

“Local souvenir sellers say that restricted access to the city has greatly affected their trade.” 

Video clip 5: “…Bethlehem is now surrounded with a wall; not easily accessed in and out like before between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. This limited the number of tourists who come to Bethlehem to doing shopping for Christmas. “

Knell Bethlehem access 1

In fact, the crossing used by tourists going from Israel to Palestinian-Authority controlled Bethlehem is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and foreign tourists do not need permits. As usual, this year too arrangements have been put in place to enable Palestinian Christians to celebrate the holiday with their relatives.

An additional theme in this report relates to ‘settlements’ – alleged to be “expanding” – with the standard BBC mantra concerning ‘international law’ appearing together with a recycled map.

“Recently shepherding has become much more difficult because of a lack of open land. Jewish settlements are expanding nearby. They are seen as illegal under international law, but Israel disagrees.”

Knell Bethlehem economic 1

Absent from Knell’s reporting is any mention of non-Israel related factors which might have an influence on Christmas celebrations and tourism in Bethlehem such as crime or violence related to internal Palestinian politics.

“The car taking Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, head of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, was struck Friday, Christmas Day, in Bethlehem by rocks thrown by Palestinian rioters. […]

Meanwhile, Palestinian security forces said Friday that they arrested two suspected Islamic radicals for burning a Christmas tree in the northern West Bank.

A Palestinian security officer said Friday the suspects set fire Wednesday to the tree in Zababdeh, a village near Jenin populated mainly by Christians. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to reporters.

He said both suspects were under investigation for possible ties to extremist Islamist groups.

He also said Palestinian security forces arrested Wednesday about a dozen suspected radical Islamists in Bethlehem.

A report in the Palestinian Ma’an news agency put the number of detainees at 16. According to the report, the group are Salafi radicals who were preparing to carry out a terror attack against Western tourists arriving in Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas there.”

Yolande Knell’s selective portrayal of Christmas in Bethlehem is clearly designed to promote a political agenda and there is no reason to be surprised about that given her past record and her openly displayed identification with such political causes. Amazingly for a media organization supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting, the BBC continues to countenance her annual exploitation of Christmas for the opportunistic force-feeding of its audiences with trite anti-Israel delegitimisation.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

‘Tis the season for the BBC to avoid adopting other people’s anti-Israel memes

More narrative-inspired reporting from Bethlehem by BBC’s Yolande Knell

BBC report on Christmas in Bethlehem amplifies PA political messaging yet again

BBC’s Knell exploits Christmas report to lie about anti-terrorist fence

 

Political propaganda from the BBC’s Lyse Doucet in Beit Sahour

On November 24th two loosely sports-themed filmed reports – apparently also shown on BBC television news programmes – appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.Knell Krav Maga

One – titled “Israeli form of self-defence ‘on rise’” – is by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell and its synopsis reads as follows:

“Following a recent increase in knife attacks by Palestinians, there has been a dramatic rise in Israelis taking self-defence lessons.

Many study Krav Maga, an Israeli method developed for the military and incorporating different fighting techniques.

Our Middle East Correspondent, Yolande Knell, went along to a class.”

To her credit, Knell managed to keep politics out of her report – which is a lot more than can be said for her colleague Lyse Doucet who used her report – titled “The Palestinian runners pounding the pavements” – to promote blatant political messaging and inaccurate information.

The synopsis of that report reads:

“As tensions remain high between Israelis and Palestinians, lives of young people on both sides of the divide are being affected.

Three years ago two Danish aid workers and a Palestinian basketball player founded a running group.

What began as a Palestinian marathon has grown into a global running club which is as much about rights as it is about running.

Lyse Doucet met the Palestinian co-founder of the Right to Movement in the West Bank city of Beit Sahour.”

Doucet’s interviewee is George Zeidan who – like one of those “Danish aid workers” mentioned in the synopsis – used to be employed by the political NGO DanChurchAid.Doucet Beit Sahour

As was the case when her colleague Jon Donnison showcased ‘Right to Movement’ over two years ago, Doucet makes no attempt to provide BBC audiences with an impartial portrayal of the political agenda of the organization she highlights and promotes. Hence, viewers hear the following from George Zeidan – with no effort made by Doucet to inform them that Beit Sahour has been under the full control of the Palestinian Authority for two decades.

“Any runner outside Palestine have to just put on his running shoes and tie his shoes and go out to run. To me if I want to do this I take several other steps that I have to plan. I have to plan which street I’m going, when, and that’s because of the Israeli occupation.”

Doucet also adds her own inaccuracies to the cocktail:

“Pounding crowded streets in the city of Beit Sahour wouldn’t be any runner’s first choice. But these runners say they haven’t much choice; not when tensions are now running so high in an area surrounded by Israeli checkpoints and Jewish settlements.” [emphasis added]

Beit Sahour lies to the east of Bethlehem and to the north of a number of Palestinian villages located in PA controlled Area A or in Area B. It is not “surrounded” by either “Israeli checkpoints” or “Jewish settlements” at all.

And – despite the fact that in the last two months 21 people have been killed and 189 wounded in 74 stabbings, 10 shooting attacks and 12 car rammings by Palestinian terrorists – Doucet gives her interviewee a platform from which to tell BBC audiences who they should view as really being under “continuous threat”.

“We’re running here every Saturday for three years. But nowadays, with the current issues between Palestinians and Israelis and the continuous threat from the Israeli soldiers to be….for a Palestinian to be attacked….we just not comfortable and safe to be here.”

Doucet refrains from clarifying to viewers that no Palestinian has been “attacked” by Israeli soldiers for jogging and hence the “threat” is obviously a figment of her interviewee’s political agenda. Her subsequent claims regarding a “dirt track” which supposedly “lies on privately owned Palestinian land” but is “under Israeli military control” are of course impossible to substantiate given the absence of exact coordinates but she fails to clarify that the division of territory into Areas A, B and C came about under the terms of the Oslo Accords – signed by the recognized representatives of the Palestinian people.

Doucet’s supposed nod to ‘impartiality’ in this report comes in the form of the following statement:

“You say that you’re worried about the settlers but now the Israelis are worried about the Palestinians because of the stabbings. They say they’re the ones who are threatened.”

That statement is in fact merely a cue for her interviewee to introduce his own political statement:

“I’m more concerned that the Palestinians are under occupation.”

Doucet’s conclusion to the report is as follows:

“They take to the streets to say they’re telling a different story. But the old story here of conflict and confrontation is far louder and never seems to end.”

Those closing words reinforce the underlying theme seen in this report and much of the BBC’s other coverage over the last two months: the injection of the false notion of equivalence into the story of the current wave of terrorism against Israelis.

Here we have two filmed reports supposedly telling different sides of the same story. But whilst Yolande Knell’s report tells of Israelis trying to augment their personal security during a wave of terror attacks by taking self-defence classes, Doucet’s report is nothing more than the provision of a platform for opportunistic political propaganda which does nothing to contribute to the BBC’s public purpose remit of building “understanding of international issues”.  

 Related Articles:

BBC’s Donnison promotes Bethlehem Marathon as non-political event

BBC deems parts of Israeli right of reply statement “irrelevant”

Bethlehem Marathon: the bit the BBC did not report

 

 

 

Behind the BBC’s ‘lone wolf’ portrayal of terrorism in Israel

Over the past few weeks BBC audiences have been repeatedly told that the current wave of terrorism in Israel is characterized by “lone wolf attacks”. For example:

“This amateur video was filmed in the Old City last Saturday. The distant screams are from an Israeli woman whose husband had just been killed in a lone wolf knife attack.” (Orla Guerin, BBC television news, October 9th 2015)

“It is proving a struggle to prevent the sporadic lone wolf attacks by young Palestinians. These have been motivated by deep anger over access to al-Aqsa Mosque and the current political situation. There is a danger that a heavy-handed Israeli police response could exacerbate the situation.” (Yolande Knell, BBC News website, October 9th 2015)

“Israelis have been targeted in a growing number of apparent lone-wolf attacks.” (BBC News website, October 22nd 2015)lone wolf attacks

That description conceals the links of some of the perpetrators of recent attacks to terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It also ignores the fact that whilst some of the individual terrorists may indeed have operated outside an organised command structure, they did not act within a vacuum.

A very interesting essay titled “What Do Palestinians Want?” by Daniel Polisar at Mosaic magazine provides insight into the backdrop to the current wave of terror.

“Absent almost entirely from this discussion has been any attempt to understand the perspective of everyday Palestinians. Yet it is precisely the climate of public opinion that shapes and in turn is shaped by the declarations of Palestinian leaders, and that creates the atmosphere in which young people choose whether to wake up in the morning, pull a knife from the family kitchen, and go out in search of martyrdom. Whether commentators are ignoring the views of mainstream Palestinians out of a mistaken belief that public opinion does not matter in dictatorships, or out of a dismissive sense that they are powerless pawns whose fate is decided by their leaders, Israel, or regional and world powers, the omission is both patronizing and likely to lead to significant misunderstandings of what is happening. In this essay I aim to fill the lacuna by addressing what Palestinians think both about violence against Israelis and about the core issues that supply its context and justification. […]

Though they may be lone wolves in the technical sense of not belonging to an organizational command structure, they are anything but alone within their communities. To the contrary, they are surrounded by people who share many of their core beliefs, who justify the attacks they are carrying out, who see their actions as potentially valuable in furthering Palestinian goals, and who can be counted on to venerate them and their families.”

The full essay – which addresses issues conscientiously and consistently avoided by BBC correspondents confined to reporting within a very specific narrative – can be found here.