Weekend long read

1) The ITIC provides a portrait of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander killed by Israel this week and initial analysis of Palestinian casualties in the subsequent conflict.

“An initial ITIC examination of the names of ten Palestinians who were killed during IDF attacks revealed the following: six were operatives in the PIJ’s military wing; three were operatives in the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades/Nidal al-Amoudi Brigade (a network that splintered from Fatah) who apparently participated in the rocket fire at Israel; and one was a Fatah operative (it is unclear if he was a military operative).”

2) MEMRI has translated a speech made by a PIJ leader which, predictably, was not reported by the BBC.

“Khader Habib, a member of the leadership of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, said in a November 12, 2019 address that aired on Alghad TV (UAE/Egypt) that Israel will disappear and that Jerusalem and Palestine belong to the Palestinians. He promised that the Jihad against Israel will continue and that the mujahideen will slaughter the Zionists occupying Palestine unless they leave. The statements were made at the funeral of Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades commander Baha Abu Al-Ata, who was killed by the IDF.”

3) The JCPA looks at Iran’s reaction to the killing of Abu al-Ata.

“The PIJ is the Palestinian organization closest to Iran and is heavily dependent on the financial and military aid that Tehran provides. The relationship between the PIJ and Iran is conducted mainly through the headquarters of the organization’s external leadership in Damascus, which holds contacts with the Gazan leadership. Unlike Hamas, which retains political and operational independence, the PIJ is more attentive to Iran’s agenda and to the directives that come from Tehran. The group declared a state of emergency in the wake of al-Ata’s killing.

In recent years, Tehran has supplied the PIJ with rockets, sniper rifles (Iranian-made AM-50 Sayyad-Hunter based on HS.50 rifles that the Austrian Steyr-Mannlicher company sold to the National Iranian Police) , and anti-tank missiles, all the while continuing to train its operatives in Syria and Iran in manufacturing and operating rockets, missiles small arms, and explosive devices (IEDs, EFPs).”

4) At the INSS, Ephraim Kam analyses ‘Iranian Stakes in Syria’.

“Against the backdrop of its military involvement in Syria, Iran has taken a series of steps since 2014 to reinforce its standing in Syria and Lebanon and enhance its military preparedness there, as well as that of its proxies – first and foremost Hezbollah. These steps are of two types. One consists of steps designed to influence Syria’s internal situation and bind it to Iran for the long term, including economic agreements on reconstruction, resettlement of Shiites in Syria, introduction of Iranian religious and cultural values into the country, and establishment of Syrian Shiite militias modelled on Hezbollah in Lebanon. These steps are of great importance to Israel because they entrench and empower Iran’s position close to Israel’s border.”

BBC News website adheres zealously to editorial guidelines

In the 48 hours during which terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired over 450 rockets and mortars at civilian targets in Israel the BBC News website produced four written reports about the events.

Although missile attacks against civilians are clearly an act of terrorism and the people responsible for such attacks are terrorists, the BBC chose not to inform its audience of that fact and instead adhered to its much criticised editorial guidelines.

Israel kills top Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza 12/11/2019, all versions here, version 1 discussed here

The word militant or militants were used 6 times in this report in relation to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas. The words terrorist appeared twice, exclusively in a quote from an Israeli official.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Abu al-Ata an “arch-terrorist” and said he was “the main instigator of terrorism from the Gaza Strip”.

“He initiated, planned and carried out many terrorist attacks. He fired hundreds of rockets at communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, whose suffering we have seen,” he told a news conference in Tel Aviv.”

Israel-Gaza violence spirals after killing of top Palestinian militant 12/11/2019, all versions here

The word militant or militants were used four times in this report in relation to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas, including in paraphrasing of statements made by Israeli officials. The words terror and terrorists appeared twice, in quotes from the IDF and the Israeli prime minister.

“Among the sites the IDF said it hit was what it called a “terror tunnel”, which it said the PIJ planned to use to attack Israeli civilians.”

“We’ve proven that we can hit, surgically, wherever the terrorists hide. Whoever harms us, we will harm them.”

Israel-Gaza fighting continues for second day after militant’s death 13/11/19, all versions here

The word militant or militants were used ten times in this report in relation to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas, including in paraphrasing of statements made by Israeli officials. The words terrorist and terrorists appeared twice, in quotes from the IDF and the Israeli prime minister.

“The IDF said “20 terrorists” were killed, most of them from Islamic Jihad.”

“Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, described Abu al-Ata as an “arch-terrorist” and a “ticking bomb” who posed an imminent threat to the country.”

Rockets fired at Israel after Gaza ceasefire starts 14/11/19, all versions here

The word militant or militants were used six times in this report in relation to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas. The words terrorist and terrorists appeared twice, in quotes from an IDF spokesman and the Israeli prime minister.

“The Israeli prime minister said Abu al-Ata was “responsible for most of the terror attacks in the last year from the Gaza Strip” and called him a “ticking bomb”.”

“”With a combination of military personnel from a variety of units who specialize in SIGINT [signals intelligence], HUMINT [human intelligence], we were able to attack cells and close the circle against targets very quickly. That’s what killed 25 terrorists who were in the midst of carrying out hostile activity,” he added.”

As regular readers know only too well, the BBC is considerably less zealous about its adherence to those editorial guidelines when reporting on events in other locations. Just last month an attack in Germany was appropriately described as terror on two different BBC platforms and attacks in other European locations have frequently been described in those terms.

But when millions of Israeli civilians are under relentless attack from terrorists armed with military-grade rockets and mortars, the BBC repeatedly refuses outright to describe those attacks and their perpetrators using accurate terminology.

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BBC R4’s Mishal Husain sells her listeners short with self-indulgence

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on November 13th heard two items relating to the events in Israel and the Gaza Strip which began the previous day. The second of those items comprised a report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman (which will be discussed separately) and an interview with an Israeli MK (from 2:36:32 here) which was conducted by presenter Mishal Husain in the confrontational style she so often employs when speaking to Israelis. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “On the line now is Sharren Haskel, member of the Israeli parliament for the Likud party and a member of the foreign affairs and defence committee. […] Will the airstrikes continue?”

MK Haskel explained that that depends on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad because “the more they continue to fire rockets towards Israeli civilians […] we will continue to defend our people.” Husain quickly interrupted her interviewee in order to give her own view, which is apparently that it is the Israeli response to hundreds of rocket attacks against civilians which risks escalating the conflict rather than the attacks themselves.

Husain [interrupts]: “Because the risk from what you’re saying is very great. Islamic Jihad is not the main militant group in Gaza. If these airstrikes continue – and we already know that people have…eh…have died from them – then Hamas will be further drawn in and then you have the prospect of an all-out conflict.”

Haskel: “Well until now we’ve identified 12 dead. We were able to actually identify as well particularly those people so at least seven of them are from the militants of the Islamic Jihad, three of them are from the brigade of Al Quds. All of them are military, all of them are terrorists. All of our attacks are targeted towards specific people who are terrorising the life of Israeli civilians…”

Husain [interrupts]: “What was the crime of the woman who died – the wife of the Islamic Jihad commander?”

Haskel: “Well Baha Abu al-Ata was neutralised because he was a terrorist instigator in Gaza. He conspired and planned many attacks and actually was having Israeli…”

Husain [interrupts]: “Her crimes.”

Haskel: “…civilians. Well unfortunately when there is a ticking bomb and when we know that he’s planning a major attack on Israel and we need to neutralise him, we try to minimise as much as possible…”

Husain [interrupts]: “Although you targeted him in his…although you targeted him in his home which is somewhere that he’s likely to be with his wife.”

Haskel: “I just want to finish. Unfortunately there’s a price for it and we try to minimise it as much as possible any kind of civilian casualty. When there’s one person who is a civilian casualty, with to say that this is your husband; you are participating in the exact same acts. That was the only opportunity that our defence forces had to neutralise him. So when there’s one…”

Making no effort whatsoever to inform listeners of the fact that terrorists often use their families and other civilians as human shields, Husain then proceeded to try to cast doubts on Israel’s intelligence.

Husain [interrupts]: “What was the…what was the immediate threat that he posed? You mentioned there was a ticking bomb so what was the intelligence?”

Haskel: “Well he was in the midst of planning a major attack on Israel.”

Husain: “Right. And you know that for sure, do you? Because it is rare…it is rare for…ehm…for a targeted killing these days to happen in this way.”

Haskel pointed out that Israeli intelligence is not questioned when it relates to attacks on European soil and went on:

Haskel: “But when it’s targeted towards Israelis and not Europeans then you come and you question it. I can tell you for sure; I sit in the Israeli defence committee of the parliament and from the intelligence that we gather there was a major attack planned by this person.”

Mishal Husain closed the interview at that point.

One would of course expect that the BBC would make the most of an interview with an Israeli official during a time of conflict to meet its public purpose remit of enhancing audience understanding of the story. However, as we have often witnessed in the past, one of the recurrent phenomena associated with media coverage of outbreaks of conflict between Israel and terrorists in the Gaza Strip is the proliferation of journalists who suddenly transform into self-appointed ‘experts’ in military strategy and laws of armed combat.

Obviously Mishal Husain’s aggressive yet clueless questioning concerning the PIJ commander’s wife and her efforts to cast doubts on the intelligence behind the operation were not at all intended to provide listeners with a better understanding of the background to the topic but were entirely self-serving.

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Rocket attacks on Israel prompt BBC WS interview with serial Gaza contributor

As we saw in an earlier post, in the lead item in the November 12th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ presenter Paul Henley and Jerusalem based reporter Barbara Plett Usher managed to spend five minutes discussing that morning’s strike on a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander and the hundreds of subsequent missile attacks against Israeli civilians while diligently avoiding the use of the words ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorists’.

Notably, the only reference to the victims of those attacks heard in that item came in the form of two very brief recorded statements from Israelis who were not identified, their locations not disclosed and what actually happened to them and their property left unexplained.

In contrast, ‘Newshour’ producers did find it appropriate to devote the item’s last four minutes of airtime to the views of an inadequately introduced “resident of Gaza”.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Henley [from 05:42 here]: “Najla is a resident of Gaza and she gave me her reaction to the assassination of Baha Abu al-Ata and the exchange of fire that’s followed.”

Once again Henley made no effort to clarify to listeners around the world that while Israeli strikes targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket launchers and infrastructure, the rockets fired by the PIJ and other factions targeted Israeli civilians. 

Najla: “Every few weeks we have some kind of an episode of escalation but this time is quite different. I would say it started with this…the serious assassination of the Islamic Jihad leader which was perceived by people in Gaza as a major event that reminds us in Gaza with some previous wars…ah…bigger significant escalations. So it is serious and people are very concerned over…”

Henley [interrupts]: “Is he a well-known figure in Gaza this man who’s been killed?”

Najla: “He is but usually the names are not very popular because they don’t go public. They’re not on media or anything but usually within the factions they have big position, big status I would say so…”

Henley [interrupts]: “But among citizens there, among people living in Gaza, will it be a big deal that he personally has been killed?”

Najla: “I mean anyone who would be killed by Israel is an issue to…”

Henley [interrupts]: “That’s not what I’m asking though. Is this a particularly significant figure to the general population of Gaza?”

Najla: “Being who he is as part of Islamic Jihad, as a leader, yes. But the name may not be known very much by the general public.”

Henley: “And does the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel have support among people you know?”

Najla: “To put it in a way that this is how Palestinian factions have been partially responding to such violations by Israel on such attacks but you also should remember that the situation in Gaza has been fuelling for the past years without any resolution and…”

Henley [interrupts]: “I suppose what I’m… I suppose what I’m trying to find out is whether there is generally public support in Gaza for firing more rockets into Israel in direct response to this killing.”

Najla: “People do expect that this to happen. Some agree and some disagree. I can’t give you exact figures on how popular exactly this kind of response is.”

At that point Henley abandoned his obscure line of questioning and provided his interviewee with an uninterrupted one minute and forty second platform from which to promote her unchallenged claims.

Henley: “Sure. How worried are you the situation will spiral into more violence on both sides now though?”

Najla: “We are very worried to be honest and we are waiting to see how things develop tonight. It’s been already a heavy day since 5:30 a. m. this morning but it’s been like the past hour or so kind of quiet and everyone is just watching, watching the news and waiting to see what will come out. So we are greatly worried. We’ve been through this before and unfortunately people in Gaza are…have lost hope in resolving the situation because it’s been just failing…we’ve been failed by everyone and we’ve been punished by all sides. And the situation is really dramatically deteriorating within Gaza in terms of the very basic aspects of life. We’re under blockade, we’re under serious restrictions. Two million people are not able to move, not able to work, the increase of unemployment is massive and I think that this doesn’t make news unfortunately. But people’s lives are being really compromised by the day and everyone, even those who consider themselves advantaged, they do suffer from basic rights such as movement, electricity, proper water etcetera. And the economic situation is deteriorating dramatically and people would probably know that unemployment has reached the highest around the world. So the situation has been really boiling and unfortunately people are not hopeful.”

Henley of course did not challenge the debatable claim that the Gaza Strip has the highest unemployment rate in the world (47% according to the latest figures from the World Bank as opposed to 50% in Syria and 48% in Senegal). Neither did he bother to provide any context to Najla’s claims concerning electricity and water or to explain the background to the blockade.

Najla is in fact Najla Shawa who works for Oxfam and was previously an UNRWA employee. Since 2015 she has been repeatedly interviewed by the BBC – including by Henley – more often than not without proper identification and with no information given to BBC audiences concerning her “particular viewpoints”.

And so, just as it did a year ago, while civilians in Israel were under relentless attack from rockets launched by terrorists in the Gaza Strip, the BBC found it appropriate to all but ignore their voices and instead to spend four minutes showcasing an unchallenged ‘voice from Gaza’.

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‘Quite forthcoming with the confrontational approach’: guess what the BBC is describing

As regular readers know, BBC audiences are all too used to reading and hearing whitewashed portrayals of the perpetrators of terrorism against Israelis but listeners to a report aired in the November 12th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ encountered a new level of euphemistic jargon.

Titled “Israel-Gaza violence escalates”, the synopsis on the programme’s webpage tells audiences that:

“Rocket fire is exchanged after Israel’s killing of a senior Islamic Jihad commander.”

That portrayal of events of course does not clarify an important distinction: the fact that while Israel carried out strikes against purely military targets in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian terrorists carried out attacks against Israeli civilians. Neither was that point made clear during the entire nine-minute item.

The webpage is illustrated with an image described as follows:

“Picture: An image taken from CCTV video made available by Israel’s national roads authority showing the moment a rocket, apparently fired from Gaza, struck a road near the city of Ashdod, Israel, 12 November 2019. Credit: EPA / Netivei Israel.”

Although by the time the programme was aired terrorists in the Gaza Strip had fired over 190 rockets and mortars at Israeli cities, towns and villages as far north as Tel Aviv, listeners heard presenter Paul Henley claim in his introduction that “fighting” was taking place in one sole location.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Henley: “Coming up in a moment: fighting erupts again in Gaza after Israel kills a senior militant. That’s our top story.”

Henley introduced the item itself (from 00:45) thus:

Henley: “First, the killing by Israel of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza seems to have led to a significant escalation of violence in the dispute between Israel and militants in the Palestinian territories. Baha Abu al-Ata died along with his wife in a strike on his home. More than 150 rockets were fired from Gaza in retaliation and Israeli war planes have carried out more strikes of their own.”

Once again the BBC created a false sense of equivalence by failing to clarify that while the Israeli strikes targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket launchers and infrastructure, the rockets fired by the PIJ and other factions targeted Israeli civilians. Henley went on:

Henley: “Here are some views from the Israeli side.”

Listeners then heard two people speak very briefly (one with a voiceover translation) but were not told their names, their locations – Sderot and Netivot – or what actually happened. Henley next introduced “the BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher in Jerusalem”.

Henley: “She told me more about the man whose killing had sparked this latest flare-up in violence.”

Plett Usher: “He is a commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and he has been talked about quite a lot by Israeli military officials and in the Israeli press recently because they see him as somebody who’s ready to take risks, who is ready to operate independently and who’s quite forthcoming with the confrontational approach.”

Yes, that really was apparently the best that Barbara Plett Usher could come up with to describe a senior member of a proscribed, violent, radical Islamic terrorist organisation which seeks to destroy the State of Israel.  

With the BBC having completely ignored the PIJ’s November 1st attacks on Israeli civilians, Plett Usher was then able to present an unnecessarily qualified account of the background to the story.

Plett Usher: “So they [Israeli officials] would blame him for many of the rocket attacks that have taken place in recent months and they say that he was planning more attacks imminently and therefore they had to act. They also say that…ehm…although Palestinian Islamic Jihad is backed by Iran, he has taken on that mantle more so than other such leaders and so they did see him as a threat.”

Henley then asked a rather pointless question to which he got an obvious answer.

Henley: “And when the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu says that all this could prove a protracted conflict, what does he mean?”

Plett Usher: “I think he means that they were very aware when they carried out the targeted killing that Islamic Jihad would respond and that it has lots of rockets to do that and so I think he was telling the Israeli public that…to expect rocket attacks certainly over the next couple of days. That seems to have been the calculation of the Israeli Defence Forces. And then they’re hoping that it will not broaden out into a wider escalation. They have said quite clearly they do not want to escalate although they are prepared if that happens. And they have framed this very much as a strike about this man and these circumstances, that he was seen as a threat and they signalled quite strongly also to the main Islamist movement in Gaza, Hamas, which is governing Gaza, that this is a confrontation with Islamic Jihad. They…they seem to be signalling they do not want Hamas to join the conflict and they want to try and keep it focused in this narrow way.”

Henley: “And what has Hamas been saying?”

Plett Usher replied with a romanticised portrayal of Hamas’ agenda.

Plett Usher: “Hamas is in an interesting position…ahm…because it has a different strategy than Islamic Jihad. It is the governing body and it has in recent months and years been working at tacit truce arrangements with Israel in order to alleviate the humanitarian and economic suffering in Gaza. And Islamic Jihad under this commander has been disrupting that; challenging it with these rocket attacks. So what Hamas has said, so far together with Islamic Jihad, is that Israel has crossed red lines and that it will be responsible for the consequences but it’s not clear what action it will take, you know, it must be calculating whether further conflict – a wider war – is going to be something that the Gazans will be wanting at this point – I think almost certainly not – but at the same time it wouldn’t want to look like a collaborator when such a senior militant commander has been killed. So it has not made clear what action it will take.”

As readers have no doubt noticed, BBC World Service radio listeners had by this point not heard the words ‘terrorism’, ‘terror’ or ‘terrorist’ even once and had not been informed that rocket attacks on civilian targets in Israel are an act of terror. They did however hear an inaccurate portrayal of the current status of efforts to form a government in Israel and amplification of speculation.

Henley: “And what effects are likely on Israeli politics as Benjamin Netanyahu comes to the end of the period he’s allowed to form a coalition government?”

Plett Usher: “It is certainly happening at this very politically sensitive time because he twice failed to form a coalition government and now his chief challenger Benny Gantz is trying to do so and as you said his time is coming up. There have been accusations from centre-Left politicians and from Arab politicians that that’s the reason for the timing of this strike; that it was done for political reasons to bolster Mr Netanyahu’s image as Mr Security. He’s constantly said he’s the man Israel needs to keep the country safe and also as a way of dragging his opponents into a unity government saying ‘look, this is a security situation, you need to join a unity government with me in charge’ so that way he can keep his job. Mr Netanyahu has tried very hard to push against that view. He stressed that he took military advice and that the military was even pushing for this targeted killing and also the operation does seem to have a fairly wide backing from different political elements but having said that, it’s certainly not happening in a political vacuum and if it does escalate, if there does…if it does become something much bigger it would be hard to think that wouldn’t affect the political negotiations in some way.”

So as we see, in the first five minutes of this report BBC audiences were given little or no information about the size of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad faction in the Gaza Strip, the size of its arsenal, the source and scale of its funding or its agenda and ideology. They also heard nothing of significance about what was happening to Israeli civilians who had been under attack by terrorist organisations for seventeen hours by the time this programme was broadcast. The relevance of that will be discussed in a future post.  

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BBC News amplifies Syrian and Russian propaganda yet again

Readers may recall that over the past sixteen months the BBC has repeatedly given amplification to Syrian and Russian government propaganda concerning the ‘White Helmets’ rescue teams in Syria.

BBC promotes what it described in April as ‘conspiracy theories’

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Amplification of Assad propaganda on BBC World Service radio

New BBC report on ‘White Helmets’ again amplifies falsehoods

More false balance in BBC News report on Douma chemical attack

On November 11th the BBC News website published an article about the death of the ‘White Helmets’ co-founder James Le Mesurier in Turkey and readers of that report were told that:

“…the Syrian government and its allies Russia and Iran have accused the White Helmets of openly aiding terrorist organisations and the Russian foreign ministry last week accused Mr Le Mesurier of being a former agent of the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6.”

The BBC also thought it appropriate to embed a screenshot of the Tweet from the Russian foreign ministry in which that accusation was made before telling readers that a UK official had denied the allegation.

In April 2018 BBC Trending produced a report titled “Syria war: The online activists pushing conspiracy theories” which included a whole section on conspiracy theories relating to the ‘White Helmets’. The BBC is certainly aware that the Russian and Syrian propaganda was exposed and debunked two years ago and it also surely comprehends why such propaganda is spread by those regimes.

“Since 2015, the year the Russians began fighting in Syria, the White Helmets have been filming attacks on opposition-held areas with GoPro cameras affixed to their helmets. Syria and Russia have claimed they were attacking only terrorists, yet the White Helmets have captured footage of dead and injured women and children under the rubble. According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as eyewitness accounts, Putin’s bombers have targeted civilians, schools, hospitals, and medical facilities in opposition-held areas, a clear violation of international law. “This, above all, is what the Russians hated,” Ben Nimmo, a fellow at the Atlantic Council specializing in Russian disinformation, told me. “That the White Helmets are filming war crimes.””

Nevertheless, the BBC continues to amplify that baseless propaganda despite the fact that it contributes nothing to audience understanding of the topic and notwithstanding its legal obligation to “provide accurate and impartial news…of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

 

BBC News avoids the word terror in report on strike on terrorist

Some four hours after Israel had carried out a targeted strike on a house belonging to a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander in the Gaza Strip in the early morning of November 12th, the BBC News website published a short report headlined “Israel kills Baha Abu al-Ata, top Palestinian militant in Gaza”.

Readers discovered that although the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been on the UK government’s list of proscribed terrorist organisations since 2001, the UK’s national broadcaster predictably preferred to use the unhelpful and euphemistic term “militant group”.

“Israel has killed one of the most senior commanders of a militant group in the Gaza Strip in an air strike.

Baha Abu Al-Ata, a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), was killed along with his wife, when a missile hit their home, the group said.

Israel said Al-Ata was a “ticking bomb” who was planning “imminent terrorist attacks”.

A rocket barrage was fired at southern Israel from Gaza in the wake of the killing, which PIJ has vowed to avenge.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

PIJ, which is backed by Iran, is the second largest militant group in Gaza and has carried out many rocket attacks on Israel.”

Similar wording opened subsequent versions of the article.

Although the information was publicly available by the time the BBC published its report, it did not bother to inform audiences that the PIJ leader “was in the midst of launching a series of attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF troops, including preparations for sniper and kidnapping attacks, killer drone attacks, and preparations for rocket fire throughout Israel”.

BBC audiences of course have never heard of Baha Abu al-Ata was or his terror activities. Following a barrage of rocket attacks by the PIJ on November 1st (which was completely ignored by the BBC), the veteran analyst Avi Issacharoff explained the situation thus:

“The growing trend of escalation by Islamic Jihad is being led by the figure thought to be the head of its military wing in northern Gaza, Baha Abu al-Ata.

Time after time, the Israeli security establishment takes pains to publish or leak al-Ata’s name to various media outlets as the person behind the rocket fire and efforts to launch other attacks, in the hopes that Hamas will rein him in.

Hamas, however, is not doing so.

Al-Ata is a serious troublemaker in Gaza who no one wants to confront. That includes Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar, who fear him and the possibility of being accused of collaboration if they act against him.

Even Ziad al-Nakhala, Islamic Jihad’s leader, hasn’t succeeded in dealing with al-Ata, who is acting from a clear personal and organizational agenda.

Al-Ata holds a particularly extreme stance against Israel and opposes the current ceasefire between it and Gaza-based terror groups, including the agreement to allow money from Qatar into the enclave. Friday’s rocket fire came shortly after Mohammed al-Emadi, Qatar’s special envoy for Gaza, left the Strip after again coming to distribute funds there.

Al-Ata, whose picture has previously been released by the IDF spokesperson’s office, wants an even more extreme and uncompromising stance toward Israel and does not necessarily adhere to Iranian orders, but rather his own whim.

At the organizational level, he is not considered an enthusiastic supporter of Nakhala and has frequently acted against the Islamic Jihad leader’s orders to prove who is in charge.

Furthermore, Al-Ata understands that in order to boost Islamic Jihad’s standing in Gaza, he needs to differentiate it from Hamas and the Gaza-ruling terror group’s agenda. As Hamas leads a policy of seeking quiet vis-a-vis Israel and improvement in Gaza’s economic situation, al-Ata is trying to brand himself and his organization as the true “resistance” in the Strip.”

There is of course no room in the BBC’s typical one-dimensional portrayal of the Gaza Strip for such nuanced analysis and together with the corporation’s serial under-reporting of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, that means that audiences once again lack the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of Israel’s actions.

Subsequent versions of this BBC report will be discussed as necessary.

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Changes made to BBC Complaints webform

The BBC has recently made changes to the online form which can be used by members of the public to submit a complaint.

Not only is the look of the form different but the order of some of the questions has been changed – for example the request to provide details of the programme/report concerned now appears after the actual complaint – which may cause some confusion to those familiar with the previous version.

As always we nevertheless recommend using the online form rather than the phone-in or postal options available and we strongly suggest taking a screenshot at the ‘review and submit’ stage for future reference.

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BBC News framing again erases internal Jordanian affairs

A BBC News website October 2018 report concerning the Jordanian king’s announcement that his country would not renew two annexes of its 1994 peace treaty with Israel told readers that:

“It follows recent strains in the relationship between Jordan and Israel over issues including the status of Jerusalem and the lack of progress on a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.”

As was noted here at the time, that framing erased from audience view internal Jordanian affairs no less relevant to understanding of the background to the story. Nevertheless, the same partial framing was found in a report published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on November 10th under the headline “Jordan ends border enclaves land lease for Israeli farmers”.

“The decision not to renew the lease is widely seen as a reflection of the strained relationship between Jordan and Israel in recent years, with issues including the status of Jerusalem and the lack of progress on a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians causing tensions.”

The background to the story is portrayed as follows:

“Under a 1994 peace treaty, Israeli farmers could cultivate land in the Jordanian areas of Naharayim and Tzofar – known as Baqura and Ghamr in Arabic.

The lease governing them was for 25 years, but could have been extended. […]

The agreement recognised that Jordan had sovereignty over the two areas – but Israel was permitted to lease the areas for 25 years.

Under the terms of the annex to the peace deal, the lease would be extended automatically unless one party gave notice a year before the lease ended, leading to talks on the matter.”

While the word “lease” appears twelve times in the BBC’s report, it does not appear in Annex 1b or Annex 1c of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty. Rather, the wording of those annexes made it very clear that while the two areas of land would come under Jordanian sovereignty, the land is owned by Israelis. The BBC’s explanation of that situation is as follows:

“One farmer, Eli Arazi, told Reuters his community had been growing crops there for 70 years, and described the end of the lease as “a punch in the face”.

The two enclaves are on the Israeli-Jordanian border, and have been privately owned by Israeli groups for several decades.”

Those “Israeli groups” are actually kibbutzim and moshavim – farming communities – and as the Reuters article cited by the BBC states, Jews and Israelis have owned land in the Naharayim area for the past century.

“Naharayim, which means “two rivers” in Hebrew, straddles the confluence of the Yarmouk and Jordan rivers. Israelis trace private ownership rights there to the 1920s, when the territory was part of British-mandated Palestine.

Arazi said his kibbutz, Ashdot Yaacov Meuhad, had been growing crops there for 70 years, including olives, bananas and avocados.

In the 1994 peace treaty, Jordanian sovereignty over the area was confirmed, while Israelis retained private land ownership and special provisions that allow free travel.”

The BBC report concludes with a reference (and a link) to a story which has nothing whatsoever to do with the Naharayim and Tzofar cases.

“In recent months, there have also been tensions over Israel’s detention of two Jordanians, without trial, for several months.

Jordan recalled its ambassador, and the two were eventually released on Wednesday.”

Remarkably though, the BBC elected not to inform readers that Naharayim was the site of an attack by a Jordanian soldier in 1997 in which seven Israeli schoolgirls were murdered and six badly wounded and that the memorial garden at the site will now be inaccessible to the victims’ families.

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BBC WS radio framing of anti-Iran protests

Earlier this month we noted that an article written by the BBC’s Middle East editor on the subject of the demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon had avoided the issue of protests against Iranian intervention in those countries.

An item aired in the November 9th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The World This Week’ – titled “Iran in the crosshairs” – did relate to that issue, but from a remarkable viewpoint.

“There’s growing pushback against Iranian involvement in Iraq and Lebanon. Iran is being seen by some as the kind of interfering foreign state it often criticises.”

Presenter Caroline Wyatt introduced that lead item with the erroneous claim that Iran had fulfilled its JCPOA obligations concerning the Fordow nuclear plant. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Wyatt: “Iran turned the nuclear screw this week, bringing back into operation nuclear equipment it shut down under the terms of the nuclear deal agreed with Western powers in 2015 but which President Trump later walked away from. But was this a warning or a sign of weakness? The security think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London said this week that Iran was winning the struggle for strategic influence in the Middle East. But is that starting to change? Protests in Lebanon and Iraq against their political elites have focused much of their criticism on Iran with the Iranian consulate in the Iraqi city of Karbala coming under attack. So I asked Kasra Naji of BBC Persian how worried is Iran that it may now be in the process of losing the power and influence it’s acquired in Iraq and Lebanon.”

That IISS report was the subject of an article which appeared on the BBC News website on November 7th.

Kasra Naji gave listeners a highly sanitised view of the Iranian regime’s decades-old activities in other countries.

Naji: “Well I think Iran is very worried. I think Iran is concerned particularly about what’s going on in Iraq. Iraq is next door and the demands of those people on the streets of Baghdad and other cities in Iraq are not all that different to the demands of the Iranians within Iran. It could easily come this side of the border so they’re watchful of that. Over the years since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 Iran has invested heavily in setting up political parties, militias, its proxies, its political influence and that is suddenly in danger. If not danger, the prestige of Iran in the region and in Iraq is under serious question today and that doesn’t look good for Iran at all. And in Lebanon also Hizballah has been a major component of Iran’s influence in the region. Iran looks at southern Lebanon as basically a province of Iran. And they don’t want to see that coming under threat.”

Remarkably, neither Wyatt nor Naji bothered to explain to listeners what “the demands of those people on the streets” actually are. Neither did they make any effort to inform audiences even in passing that over 300 Iraqi protesters are reported to have been killed by security forces which allegedly include Iranian-backed militias and that rather than merely ‘worrying’ about the situation in Iraq as suggested by Naji, the Iranian regime is taking an active role in events there.

Both Wyatt and Naji seemed intent on framing objections to Iranian intervention in neighbouring countries as something recent.

Wyatt: “According to one commentator in Iraq, the shoes are out again so the public discontent is growing. Isn’t Iran now in danger of being seen as just the kind of regime that it likes to criticise?”

Naji: “That’s right. That’s another danger of all this. Iran is suddenly seen as a usurping power, a foreign power trying to influence events within those countries, particularly within Iraq.”

After an equally superficial discussion of Iran’s involvement in Syria, the conversation turned to Iran’s recent nuclear activities with Wyatt asking “so why is it continuing to risk more sanctions?”.

Naji: “Because it doesn’t have any other choice. It’s come under heavy pressure of US sanctions and they are crippling Iran’s economy. […] So what they’re trying to do is to put pressure on the Europeans particularly and say ‘listen, if you don’t come up and save this deal and do your part of the deal – your commitments in the deal – then there’s no point in staying in this agreement. It’s a cry for help. It’s like saying that we cannot continue like this; come and help us, save this deal, otherwise this deal is going to collapse.”

BBC World Service listeners were not informed what those allegedly unfulfilled European “commitments” supposedly entail before Wyatt closed with a final question about the opinions of “ordinary Iranians” on the nuclear issue and Naji’s reply failing to inform audiences that those opinions carry little weight as far as the Iranian regime is concerned.  

Obviously this item presented BBC audiences with a decidedly one-sided view of the story which focused on framing Iran as being “in the crosshairs” rather than the Lebanese and Iraqi people actually being attacked by its proxy militias on the streets of Beirut and Baghdad.

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