Weekend long read

1) At the JCPA Yoni Ben Menachem discusses Hamas’ attack tunnels.

“According to Hamas sources, despite a noticeable improvement in the IDF’s technological capability to locate the tunnels, and in spite of the giant, deep land barrier that Israel has built around Gaza to stop the penetration of attack tunnels, the military wing of Hamas has not finished building these tunnels and is continuing to invest millions of dollars into their construction.

This raises the question of what logic is behind all of this. Why does Hamas continue to invest so many resources into this project, as it is clear that Israel is managing to deal with it successfully and even to defeat it?”

2) A report titled “Representing the People or the Regime? Iranian Clerics and the Ongoing Erosion of their Status” by Raz Zimmt appears at the INSS.

“Recently published testimonies by Iranian clerics reflect their concern over the ongoing erosion of their public status, and offer a glimpse into the population’s growing alienation from them. Although this is not a new phenomenon, coverage of the issue in the Iranian media attests to its dimensions and the increased awareness within the religious establishment of its possible implications. As the Islamic Revolution approaches its fortieth anniversary, religion’s influence on Iranian society is waning and public confidence in the country’s clerical institutions continues to decline. In light of the intensifying economic crisis and the Islamic Republic’s failure to address adequately the hardships faced by Iran’s citizens, the clerics associated with the regime are perceived as largely responsible for its failings. The ongoing erosion of their status threatens to undermine the very legitimacy of the regime and to make it difficult for the Islamic Republic to ensure the continuation of “the rule of jurisprudence,” especially when Ali Khamenei will no longer be the Supreme Leader.”

3) The Fathom journal carries an interview with Lynn Julius about her new book.

“It all ended in the space of a generation. Some 850,000 Jews fled 10 Arab countries; most found refuge in Israel, where over half the Jewish population has roots in Arab or Muslim lands. Israel organised unprecedented airlifts and rescue operations. A greater number of Jews were displaced than Palestinian Arabs from Israel, and it was the largest exodus of non-Muslims from the Middle East until the mass flight of Christians from Iraq after 2003.

However, the plight and dispossession of the Jewish refugees remains an unresolved and unrecognised injustice. Age-old communities are now extinct and only some 4,000 Jews remain in the Arab world. So, with the exception of Morocco, the physical presence of the Jews has been wiped out almost completely from the Middle East and North Africa outside Israel. Memory was also erased; the younger generation often had no idea that Jews ever lived in their lands.”

4) At the NYT Matti Friedman takes a nostalgic look at a train line in Israel.

“An early account of the train was written by Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, who rode it in 1898 from the port of Jaffa, adjacent to modern-day Tel Aviv. At the time, the train was the only one in this remote and impoverished corner of the Ottoman Empire. Herzl, a Vienna journalist who’d come part of the way east on the luxurious Orient Express, thought it was awful. “It took an hour merely to leave the Jaffa station,” he wrote. “Sitting in the cramped, crowded, burning-hot compartment was pure torture.” One day, Herzl thought, there would be a modern Jewish state here, and a wonderful network of electric rails.” 

 

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Catching up with some recent BBC Middle East reporting

Back in late July visitors to the BBC News website were told that an Israeli MK had resigned:

“An Israeli Arab politician has resigned in opposition to a controversial new law which declares Israel to be the nation state of the Jewish people.”

July 2017

As was noted here at the time, the BBC’s claim concerning Zouheir Bahloul’s resignation was premature and – as reported by the Times of Israel – the MK actually only stepped down on October 16th.

“Zionist Union member Zouheir Bahloul formally resigned from the Knesset on Tuesday, some three months after he announced he would step down as an MK in protest of the recently passed nation-state bill, which he said officially discriminates against Israel’s Arab minority.

The Arab Israeli lawmaker met with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to present his letter of resignation, a day after the parliament returned from a three-month summer recess. […]

Bahloul offered no further explanation after his Tuesday meeting with Edelstein.

He also declined to comment on why he chose to formally resign only after the Knesset recess, a move that saw him rake in more than NIS 100,000 ($27,000) in taxpayer money over the break, based on the NIS 41,432  ($11,000) monthly salary for an MK.”

BBC audiences have not seen any reporting on Bahloul’s actual resignation.

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In late June we noted the appearance of an inaccurate and misleading map on the BBC News website.

“An article titled “Syria war: Air strikes knock out hospitals in Deraa” which appeared on the BBC News website on June 27th includes a map showing the areas under the control of different parties in south-west Syria.

[…] the UN Disengagement Observer Forces (UNDOF) are portrayed as being present in the demilitarised zone that came into existence under the terms of the 1974 Disengagement Agreement between Israel and Syria.

However, as noted in this report from May 31st, UNDOF vastly reduced its physical presence in the so-called demilitarised zone nearly four years ago when it redeployed to the Israeli side.”

Similar versions of the same map appeared in at least five additional BBC News website reports.

BBC Watch submitted a complaint on that issue and on July 30th we received a response informing us that more time would be needed to address the points raised. On August 18th we received a further communication informing us that the time frame for addressing the complaint had run out.

On October 15th the BBC News website published a report titled “Syria reopens key crossings with Jordan and Israel-occupied Golan” in which we discover that the BBC in fact knows that UNDOF was not in control of the DMZ when it published the map which led audiences to believe that was the case.

“The Syrian national flag was also raised at the Quneitra crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights at a brief ceremony on Monday morning.

The UN, Israel and Syria agreed to re-open the crossing as part of an effort to allow UN Disengagement Observer Force (Undof) peacekeepers to carry out their mandate to maintain a decades-old ceasefire between Israel and Syria. […]

In 2014, after 45 peacekeepers were held captive for several weeks by al-Qaeda-linked jihadists and their bases attacked, Undof withdrew to the Israeli side.

The peacekeepers resumed their patrols in the area of the Quneitra crossing this August, after Syrian government forces regained control of the surrounding province and Russian military police were deployed there.”

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Back in August 2017 we asked “Are BBC audiences getting the full picture on Syria’s chemical weapons?” and since then we have continued to document the corporation’s promotion of false balance when reporting on that subject.

“…BBC audiences continue to repeatedly see false balance in the form of unchallenged Syrian propaganda that is presumably intended to tick the ‘impartiality’ box. In addition to being plainly ridiculous, that editorial policy clearly undermines the BBC’s purpose of providing the public with accurate and impartial reporting that enhances its understanding of global issues.”

May 2017

On October 15th a report was published on the BBC News website under the title “How chemical weapons have helped bring Assad close to victory“. In that article the BBC states that it has gathered evidence to show that:

“…at least 106 chemical attacks have taken place in Syria since September 2013, when the president [Assad] signed the international Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and agreed to destroy the country’s chemical weapons stockpile.”

It is of course impossible to determine how many members of the BBC’s audience – who have previously seen countless promotions of unchallenged denials from the Syrian regime on this issue – will have come across this latest BBC report.

Related Articles:

BBC News website reports a resignation yet to happen

BBC News website map misleads on UNDOF

Are BBC audiences getting the full picture on Syria’s chemical weapons?

Despite evidence, the BBC won’t let go of Assad propaganda

Looking behind a BBC News website tag

BBC’s ME editor suggests Syria chemical attack related to Israel

BBC’s Davies suggests ulterior motives for IDF Sarin report

 

 

 

Rocket attack on Be’er Sheva home ignored by BBC

At 03:38 on the morning of October 17th sirens warning of incoming missiles sounded in the southern Israeli town of Be’er Sheva and surrounding areas. Minutes later a direct hit on a house in Be’er Sheva was identified. Fortunately, the mother had managed to get her three sleeping children to their safe room before the Grad rocket hit their home. They and several other civilians were taken to hospital. 

At 05:30 it became clear that an additional rocket had been fired from the Gaza Strip at the same time towards the Tel Aviv area but had landed in the sea. The IDF responded to the attacks with strikes on terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Later in the morning sirens also sounded in the districts closer to the border with the Gaza Strip and school was cancelled for the day.

As reported by the Times of Israel and others:

“The rocket used in the attack [on Be’er Sheva] was not the standard Grad variety, but an improved version with a larger warhead, which caused a large amount of damage to the building hit.

The explosion ripped off the front of the building and caused significant damage to the internal rooms and the roof.”

And:

““There are only two organizations in Gaza that have this caliber of rocket: Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” said IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus. “It’s not hard to narrow down who’s behind it.””

Although locally based BBC staff were well aware of the missile attack on Be’er Sheva and the escalation it represents, well over twenty-four hours later visitors to the BBC News website and/or the BBC Arabic website have seen no reporting whatsoever on this story.

Related Articles:

Inaccuracy, reverse chronology and lack of context in BBC reporting on Gaza missile attacks

More amendments made to BBC’s online Gaza rocket attacks report

 

 

 

 

BBC framing of Jerusalem embassy stories continues

On October 16th the BBC News website published a report titled “Australia considers following US on Jerusalem embassy” on its main homepage, its ‘World’ page and its ‘Australia’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

The Australian prime minister’s statements were presented in its opening lines as follows:

“Australia will consider recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says. […]

Mr Morrison said Australia remained committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Political opponents said Mr Morrison’s comments were a “deceitful” ploy for votes ahead of a crucial by-election.”

Readers were also told that:

“If acted upon, the move would follow a recent policy shift by the US that has drawn criticism internationally. […]

US President Donald Trump drew international criticism last year when he reversed decades of American foreign policy by recognising the ancient city as Israel’s capital. The US embassy was relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.” [emphasis added]

As has been the case in many previous BBC reports about the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, in this article the fact that the US Congress actually voted to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital over two decades ago was yet again concealed from audience view.

Readers were told that “[t]he prime minister said one future scenario could involve Australia recognising [emphasis added] a Palestinian Authority capital in East Jerusalem and Israeli capital in West Jerusalem”. The statement actually said:

“…the Government will carefully examine the arguments put forward by Australia’s former Ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, that we should consider recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, without prejudice to its final boundaries, while acknowledging East Jerusalem as the expected capital of a future Palestinian state.” [emphasis added]

The BBC report went on to amplify comment from the Palestinian Authority’s Riyad al-Maliki but failed to explain to readers why the Palestinian response to a possible outcome that the PLO allegedly seeks should be negative.

Readers were told of announcements:

“Two other countries – Guatemala and Paraguay – announced they would also make the switch, but Paraguay later reversed the decision after a change of government.”

They were not however informed that the embassy of Guatemala has been located in Jerusalem since May 2018.

The article ended with a section headed “Why is the status of Jerusalem so contentious?” in which the BBC’s standard framing of related topics was to be found. As usual, BBC audiences were led to believe that nothing of relevance happened before 1967 and they heard nothing of Jordan’s 19-year occupation of parts of the city.  

“Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war – as the capital of a future state.”

A problematic video by Yolande Knell dating from December 2017 was however recycled in this latest report.

Readers found the BBC’s usual partisan framing of ‘international law’ and ‘settlements’ with no mention of the fact that some of the Jerusalem neighbourhoods it chooses to define as such were inhabited by Jews until the Jordanian occupation.

“Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Since late 2016 the BBC’s coverage of stories relating to the relocation of foreign embassies to Jerusalem has been characterised by very specific framing of such decisions as ‘controversial’ and the absence of key background information which would enhance audience understanding. As we see in this latest report, that unhelpful editorial policy continues.

Related Articles:

Mapping the BBC’s branding of declarations on Jerusalem as ‘controversial’

BBC omits key context in account of potential US embassy move

The BBC’s narrative on ‘East Jerusalem’ omits relevant context

Inaccuracy and omission in BBC backgrounder on Jerusalem

CAMERA Arabic prompts BBC Arabic correction on US and Jerusalem

Last month the BBC Arabic website published a report about the relocation of the Paraguayan embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv (“Paraguay returns its embassy to Tel Aviv”, September 6th), which included the following phrase (translated):

 “the recognition of the United States in Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital”

original

However, the American administration has not in fact recognised Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel but rather considers the municipal borders of Jerusalem – as well as its permanent status – a matter dependent on the future results of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. This was made clear in a statement issued by the State Department on its official website. Notably, no similar phrase appeared in the corresponding report that was published on the English language BBC News website.

CAMERA Arabic wrote to BBC Arabic in Arabic to point out the error but did not receive a reply. CAMERA Arabic then wrote a second letter in English – this time to the BBC World Service, which is responsible for the corporation’s foreign language content – informing them of the erroneous statement. This second attempt was successful: a quick response was received and the word “united” was deleted from the report.

However, no footnote has been added to advise audiences of the removal of that previously inaccurate and misleading statement.

Have your say: a public consultation on the BBC Editorial Guidelines

The BBC has launched a public consultation on the topic of its Editorial Guidelines.

“The BBC has opened a consultation on a revised draft of the Editorial Guidelines which set the content standards for the BBC’s programme makers and other content producers for BBC services.

The Guidelines cover impartiality, accuracy, fairness, privacy and harm and offence, and further sections deal with a range of topics such as religious programming, war, terror, conflicts of interest, competitions, votes, relationships with other organisations and commercial references.

The Guidelines evolve over time to take account of changes in BBC regulation as set out in the BBC’s Royal Charter and Agreement; changes in legislation, developments in editorial thinking and lessons learnt from editorial rulings as well as reflecting changes in public attitudes and technology. The BBC therefore periodically reviews the Guidelines to ensure they keep pace with both our legal requirements and with changing audience expectations.

Under the current Charter, the BBC Board is responsible for the Editorial Guidelines. The Agreement states that the BBC must: “set, publish, review periodically, and observe guidelines designed to secure appropriate standards in the context of the UK Public Services”. This is the first revision of the Editorial Guidelines under this new governance system.”

Background reading concerning the consultation – including details of where to send a submission – can be found here.

The BBC’s proposed draft of the revised guidelines can be found here. Of particular interest is Section 11 – commencing on page 122 – titled ‘War, Terror and Emergencies’. As regular readers will be aware, the BBC’s record of adhering to its existing guidance on ‘Language When Reporting Terrorism’ is inconsistent.

The existing editorial guidelines (published in 2010) can be found here.

Submissions must be made by November 12th 2018.

 

 

 

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – September 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during September 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 204 incidents took place: 70 in Judea & Samaria, 10 in Jerusalem and 124 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 61 attacks with petrol bombs, eight attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), seven arson attacks, one shooting attack and three stabbing attacks.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 66 attacks with petrol bombs, 35 attacks using IEDs and twenty-three grenade attacks. There were no cases of rocket or mortar fire during September.

One civilian was murdered and one member of the security forces was wounded in attacks that took place during September. The BBC News website did not produce any coverage at the time of the fatal stabbing in Gush Etzion on September 16th but mentioned it a week later in a subsequent report.

The ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip – including the incident in which a soldier was injured in a grenade attack along on September 21st – was not the topic of any dedicated BBC News website news reports throughout the month.

In summary, visitors to the BBC News website saw very belated coverage of just one (0.49%) of the 204 terror incidents which took place during September.

Since the beginning of 2018 the BBC has reported 19.9% of the terror attacks that have actually taken place and 88.9% of the resulting fatalities.

Related Articles:

BBC News website ignores fatal terror attack in Gush Etzion

BBC News website reports on terror attack one week later

BBC’s Hardtalk presenter claims Israel ‘slaughters civilian protesters’

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – August 2018

Indy ignores deadly Palestinian terror, but rushes to pronounce settlers guilty in lethal rock-attack

Cross posted from UK Media Watch

We recently noted that the Indy was one of three British media outlets which failed to cover the two recent Palestinian terror attacks that claimed the lives of three Israelis – Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, Ziv Hajbi, and Ari Fuld – but did find time to report on other Israel related stories.

By contrast, the Indy on Saturday night was quick to publish a story about a rock-throwing attack in the West Bank that claimed the life of a Palestinian woman – an attack, relatives claim, was carried out by settlers.  However, not only did the Indy jump on the story, but immediately pronounced the settlers guilty, despite the fact that the incident is still under investigation and there aren’t any suspects.

Here’s our tweet to the Indy journalist, Samuel Osborne.

Here’s the opening sentence of the Oct. 14th article:

Palestinian woman has been killed after being struck in the head by a stone thrown by Israeli settlers.

However, as other media outlets made clear, claims are based on testimony by the victim’s relatives who  didn’t actually see the perpetrators. 

Note Reuters’ far more careful and accurate headline on the incident:

Here’s Reuters’ equally cautious opening sentence:

Israeli police said on Saturday they were investigating the death of a Palestinian woman in the occupied West Bank, after her husband said he suspected Israeli settlers had pelted their car with rocks.

Though the Shin Bet has opened an investigation into the incident, and the accusations may ultimately turn out to be true, to report that the settlers are guilty as if it’s an established fact is inconsistent with the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code, which requires that media outlets “distinguish clearly between…conjecture and fact”.

We’ve filed a complaint with Indy editors.

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UKMW prompts Guardian to acknowledge there’s no ‘settler-only’ roads in the West Bank

Cross posted fromUK Media Watch

The myth that there are ‘Jews-only’ or ‘settler-only’ roads in the West Bank has been debunked numerous times over the years by CAMERA and its affiliates – prompting corrections at media outlets such as CNNAssociated PressWashington PostThe EconomistFinancial Times and The Telegraph.

As we’ve explained on numerous occasions, there are, for security reasons, a very small percentage of roads in the West Bank restricted to Palestinians.  However, all roads are open to Israeli citizens of all religious backgrounds and foreign nationals of all religious backgrounds.  There is not, nor have there ever been, religiously based restrictions on roads in Israel or the West Bank – nor roads only for settlers.

The latest publication to publish a version of this lie is the Guardian, in an Oct. 11th op-ed by Nkosi Zwelivelile (the grandson of Nelson Mandela) attempting to use this ‘fact’ to support the larger lie that Israel is an apartheid state.

Here’s our tweet pointing out the erroneous claim – one of several in the paragraph, but, we concluded, the one most egregiously inconsistent with the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code.

We followed up our tweet with an email editors, who upheld our complaint and amended the text in the sentence to the still misleading but improved “roads built for settlers which are not accessible to Palestinians”, and, more importantly, included the following addendum at the bottom of the op-ed:

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BBC perpetuates the narrative of perpetual Palestinian refugees

On Oct. 8th, the BBC published video segment by Paul Adams titled “After 70 years, who are the Palestinian refugees?”, filmed at the Burg Al-Barajneh “refugee” camp in Beirut, which focused on Palestinian fears that, under the new US peace plan, they’ll never be allowed to return “home”.

Here’s the six-minute segment:

Though the official UNRWA figure counts over 5 million Palestinian refugees, the overwhelming majority of these “refugees” – as we’ve noted repeatedly – are merely Palestinians descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.) of the original 711,000 actual refugees from 1948 who, unlike every other refugee population, are automatically granted refugee status, even those who have citizenship in other countries.

As Einat Wilf, co-author of the book ‘The War of Return’ observed about the fiction that there are millions of Palestinian refugees.

almost all [Palestinian refugees] (upward of 80 per cent) are either citizens of a third country, such as Jordan, or they live in [Palestinian territories] where they were born and expect to have a future…

….The remaining 20 per cent of the descendantsare inhabitants of Syria and Lebanon who are by law denied the right to citizenship granted to all other Syrians and Lebanese.

The number of actual refugees from 1948 is believed to be closer to 20,000.

As you saw in the clip, a Palestinian professor in Lebanon was interviewed who explained that Palestinian “refugees” in Lebanon – many of whom have lived in the country for generations – are truly second class citizens and are denied basic employment and property rights.  Yet, note how Adams failed to draw the most intuitive conclusion from this fact: that the refugee issue – and the fact that so many Arabs of Palestinian descent identify as “refugees” – is perpetuated by Arab states (and UNRWA) who refuse to encourage the full integration of Palestinians into their countries.  Nor, did Adams ask why such “refugee camps”, run by UNRWA, in Lebanon, Jordan, and within the Palestinian Authority have never been converted to ordinary cities. 

Adams’ other Palestinian interviewee – a young woman also several generations removed from the actual refugees of ’48 – insisted on her inalienable “right of return” to Israel.  But, BBC viewers were not reminded that such descendants of refugees don’t in fact have such a legal right to “return”, and that Israel would of course never engage in an act of national self-immolation by allowing millions of Palestinians to become citizens of the state.

Adams, in his final thoughts on the problem, opines that for such Palestinians, living in camps in Lebanon and Jordan, their refugee status is the only thing they possess.  However, hope based on a right (of return) they don’t have, and on a future vision of life (in Israel) that will never be brought to fruition, is not a possession. It’s a handicap, and a cynical formula for perpetuating Palestinian victimhood that continues to be amplified and legitimized by media outlets like the BBC.

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