BBC WS ‘Newshour’ picks up the baton of BDS campaign amplification

The July 19th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included yet another report concerning the BDS campaign’s failed crusade against a performance by Radiohead in Israel.

The programme’s synopsis provides BBC audiences with inaccurate information:

“… why a performance by the band Radiohead in the Israeli capital Tel Aviv has become controversial.” [emphasis added]

Presenter Rebecca Kesby introduced the item (from 38:54 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

“Now one of the world’s biggest bands, Radiohead, have [sic] been playing to thousands of fans tonight in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv but the concert has been controversial. Earlier this year an open letter signed by more than 40 public figures urged the band to pull out and instead join a boycott against what it said was the Israeli government’s denial of freedom to Palestinians. About an hour or so ago we spoke to the BBC’s Tom Bateman at the concert – he assessed the mood.”

In fact, many of those who signed that letter are hardly household names but Bateman likewise promoted that chimera.  

Bateman: “[…] The controversy behind this gig began with a campaign calling for a boycott against Israel: the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, or BDS. […] …but their [Radiohead] latest journey to Tel Aviv has been marked instead by recriminations. The open letter to the band in April asking them not to play in Israel was signed by more than 40 public figures including South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, the film director Ken Loach and the Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters. It accused Radiohead – a band it noted had campaigned for Tibetan freedom – of failing to stand up for Palestinians under occupation. Such was the pressure on Radiohead in the midst of its world tour. One Tweet from Ken Loach said the band must decide whether to stand with the oppressed or the oppressor.”

As usual, the BBC made no effort to either unpack the BDS campaign’s propaganda slogans or to explain to audiences exactly what that campaign is really all about. Bateman ostensibly ticked the ‘impartiality’ box by including a pre-qualified eighteen-word comment from an Israeli in an item which was otherwise dedicated entirely to promotion of BDS campaign PR messaging.

Bateman: “The Israeli columnist Ben Dror Yemini has long campaigned against what he calls a movement of elites, believing it denies Israel a right to exist and disempowers moderates on both sides.”

Yemini: “I want the elites in London, in Europe, in the United States to be in favour of reconciliation.”

He then went on to tell a sorry tale of “Israeli controls over travel for Palestinians” without clarifying that the orchestra concerned has, according to its own website, “performed in Palestine, Germany, France, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon, Greece and Italy” and just last year went on tour in the UK.

Bateman: “The soundtrack changes in Ramallah in the West Bank and the perspective is different. Zeina Khoury runs the Palestine Youth Orchestra and supports the boycott campaign. […]… she spoke to me about a tour planned for the autumn. She says Israeli controls over travel for Palestinians mean she can’t fully assemble the musicians in Jerusalem or bring people from elsewhere in the Middle East to the West Bank.”

Khoury: “Every year that we apply for these permits they get denied or they just…they don’t give us an answer – the Israelis. So we’re never able to have a full orchestra in Palestine. But in this festival in Israel Radiohead can just come in through the airport and it’s so easy for them. So they don’t get the point that it’s not the same case. It’s not the same thing for Palestinian musicians, Arab musicians or any festival in Palestine.”

Bateman: “Well the Radiohead singer Thom Yorke has described the public call on them to avoid Israel as, he says, upsetting, divisive and a waste of energy. He’s been pretty emphatic that the band understand [sic] the issues, that they don’t support Israel’s government, he says, but they still choose to play here. It is far from the first call by the boycott campaign that has divided opinion. Tonight, as you can probably hear, the music goes on. It will leave a debate that is far from concluded.”

Yet again we see that the BBC is regularly providing a consistently unchallenged PR platform for the BDS campaign, thereby mainstreaming a crusade aimed at delegitimising Israel and eliminating Jewish self-determination – but without providing audiences with the full range of information that would enable them to make up their own minds on the issue.

Related Articles:

BBC Music promotes falsehoods and BDS campaign website

BBC Music again covers a BDS story without explaining that campaign’s agenda 

AMIA bombing related Iran story gets no BBC coverage

The commemoration this week of the 23rd anniversary of the 1994 terrorist attack on the AMIA centre in Buenos Aires went unreported by the BBC’s English and Spanish language services.

That, however, is hardly surprising when one considers that since mid-2015 (when it produced a series of multi platform reports about the murder of prosecutor Alberto Nisman) there has been little if any BBC coverage of that ongoing story. That means that BBC audiences remain unaware of a development earlier this month.

“Official Iranian news outlets reported on Wednesday that the Tehran regime has agreed to work with Interpol, the global law enforcement agency, to “resolve” the “dispute” arising from the July 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were murdered and hundreds more wounded. […]

A report from ISNA – one of the regime’s several news agencies – said that Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi, met with Interpol’s Director-General Jurgen Stock in Tehran on Tuesday where they discussed the AMIA case. Stock was visiting the Iranian capital for a meeting of Project Kalkan, an Interpol initiative focused on counter-terrorism and narcotics smuggling in several countries in central Asia.

Araghchi stated Iran’s “readiness to cooperate with Interpol and Argentina for the proper settlement of the case, ‘AMIA,’” the ISNA report said.

But Araghchi also made clear to Stock his government’s displeasure with Interpol’s handling of the case, complaining about the outstanding “red notices” – effectively international arrest warrants – issued in 2007 for six Iranian officials in connection with the bombing. One of those named at the time was the Hezbollah terrorist leader Imad Fayez Mughniyeh, who also planned the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, in which more than 200 American military personnel lost their lives. Mughniyeh was killed in a car bombing incident in Damascus in 2008.

Araghchi also told Stock that the AMIA case had not been resolved because of the influence of “overt” and “covert” outside “vested interests” – a veiled reference to the State of Israel and international Jewish groups.”

The Long War Journal adds:

“Five Interpol red notices, which call for international cooperation to arrest and extradite the suspects for aggravated homicide in connection with the bombing of the AMIA, are in force against Iranian suspects in the bombing. At the time of the bombing, Mohsen Rezai was commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Mohsen Rabbani was Iran’s Cultural Attaché in Buenos Aires, Ahmad Vahidi was Iran’s Defense Minister, Amhad Asghari was third secretary in Iran’s Embassy in Argentina and Ali Fallahian, was Iran’s Minister of Intelligence. […]

Today’s AMIA leadership understands Iran’s move for what it is: yet another Iranian maneuver aimed at lifting the red notices from those who have been wanted by Interpol since 2007.

A statement from the AMIA rejects any negotiation with Iran: “The only formal cooperation [with Iran] that Argentina can accept is the appearance of those wanted by Interpol, and of the rest of the accused, before the [Argentine] judiciary.” […]

Interpol reviews red notices every 10 years and the AMIA red notices are up for review in Sept. 2017 at Interpol’s annual meeting in Beijing.”

On the day that families of the victims of the AMIA bombing gathered to commemorate their loved ones the BBC News website did, however, publish an article informing audiences that:

“The US has announced fresh sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile programme and what it says is Iran’s support for terror organisations.” [emphasis added]

Related Articles:

The AMIA Attack: Terrorism, Cover-Up and the Implications for Iran (CAMERA)

Superficial BBC reporting on Iranian involvement in AMIA attack

New AMIA bombing revelation not news for the BBC

An Iranian story the BBC chose not to translate

 

 

 

 

BBC News’ side-lining of French president’s anti-Zionism statement is no surprise

At the July 16th event in Paris marking the 75th anniversary of the deportation of French Jews to Auschwitz, the French president made a significant statement.

“French president Emmanuel Macron on Sunday condemned anti-Zionism as a new form of anti-Semitism, in what observers said was an unprecedented statement from the leader of France in support of the Jewish state.

“We will never surrender to the messages of hate; we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism,” Macron said an event in Paris marking the mass deportation of French Jews during World War II. He was directly addressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who attended the event.” [emphasis added]

Macron’s statement is of course in step with the IHRA working definition of antisemitism that was adopted in recent months by the British government and the EU parliament as well as in accord with the US State department’s definition. His words were reported by numerous media outlets including the Independent, the Times, the Washington Post and the New York Times.

However, the BBC News website’s report on the ceremony made no mention whatsoever of the French president’s recognition of anti-Zionism as a manifestation of antisemitism.

Should we be surprised at the omission of that statement from the BBC’s coverage of the event? Not really.

Last April – despite the fact that it still does not work according to an accepted definition of antisemitism – the BBC considered itself sufficiently qualified to produce a backgrounder titled “What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?“.

As was noted here at the time, that article promoted the Livingstone Formulation, failed to inform readers what anti-Zionism actually means and focused on promoting the inaccurate and misleading notion that anti-Zionism is the same thing as expressing criticism of the policies and actions of the Israeli government while advancing the ‘Zionism is racism’ canard. Subsequent BBC reporting again amplified similar themes.

The BBC’s funding public should therefore not be overly surprised that a statement from the French president that contrasts starkly with the BBC’s repeated woolly misrepresentations of anti-Zionism and spotlights the corporation’s calculated disregard for accepted definitions of antisemitism was sidelined by BBC News.  

Related Articles:

Accuracy trumped by politics in BBC report on Israeli PM’s Paris visit

IHRA adopts working definition of antisemitism: when will the BBC?

The BBC must tell its audiences how it defines antisemitism

The BBC and the need for a definition of antisemitism

BBC again ignores the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism

BBC News tries – and fails – to explain antisemitism and anti-Zionism

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2017 – part two

As noted in part one of this post, between April 1st and June 30th 2017, seventy reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, some of which were cross posted from other sections of the website and one of which was carried over from the previous quarter. 7.14% of those reports covered stories relating to security/terrorism.

The remaining 92.86% of those articles can be grouped into a number of categories. (The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which each report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Nine reports (12.86% of the total) related to historical subject matter, including the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War:

The Holocaust: Who are the missing million? Raffi Berg (24/4/17 to 1/5/17)

How the Six Day War brought elation and despair Tom Bateman (4/6/17 to 7/6/17) discussed here

Six Day War Israeli veteran: ‘Occupation risked suffocation’ (4/6/17 to 7/6/17)

Six Day War Israeli veteran: ‘I saw a miracle’ (4/6/17 to 6/6/17)

Six Day War: ‘We were completely defeated’ (4/6/17 to 6/6/17)

1967 war: Six days that changed the Middle East Jeremy Bowen (5/6/17 to 7/6/17) discussed here

Six Day War: What happened – in 60 seconds (5/6/17 to 7/6/17) discussed here

Six Day War: Six ways the conflict still matters Paul Adams (9/6/17 to 12/6/17) discussed here

Uncovering a story of ill-fated romance and tragic death (11/6/17 to 13/6/17)

Four reports can be categorised as miscellaneous:

Israeli comic novel up for International Booker Prize (21/4/17)

Christianity’s most important church? BBC Travel (6/5/17 to 9/5/17)

Why isn’t there more ‘Jewish food’ in Israel? BBC Travel (15/6/17 to 16/6/17) discussed here

Man Booker International Prize: David Grossman wins for stand-up comic novel (15/6/17 to 16/6/17)

21 reports (30%) related to Israeli diplomatic/international relations and/or political aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict with nine of those relating to the visit to Israel by the US president.

Israel approves first new West Bank settlement in 20 years  (31/3/17 to 3/4/17) discussed here

Israel’s Netanyahu scraps talks with German minister over rights groups (25/4/17 to 27/4/17) discussed here

UK should not back US Middle-East policy, say peers (2/5/17)

Trump tells Abbas ‘very good chance’ of Mid-East peace deal (3/5/17 to 4/5/17) discussed here and here

Trump to visit Israel, Vatican and Saudi Arabia in first foreign trip (4/5/17 to 8/5/17)

Archbishop of Canterbury to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders Yolande Knell (8/5/17 to 9/5/17) discussed here

Time for Middle East peace efforts, says Justin Welby Yolande Knell (10/5/17 to 12/5/17) discussed here

Israel says ties with US unaffected after Trump-Lavrov accusations (17/5/17 to 18/5/17)

Trump tells Israel Iran will never have nuclear weapons (22/5/17)

Trump’s visit to Israel and Palestinians: What are key issues? (22/5/17)

Donald Trump: A rare opportunity to bring peace (22/5/17 to 25/5/17)

Trump visits Western Wall in Jerusalem (22/5/17 to 30/5/17)

So, just what did Trump’s note in the Western Wall say? (22/5/17 to 23/5/17)

Trump ‘to do everything’ for Middle East peace (23/5/17 to 24/5/17)

Trump in Middle East: Symbols but little substance Jeremy Bowen (23/5/17 to 1/6/17) discussed here

Trump: ‘I never mentioned the word Israel’ to the Russians (24/5/17 to 31/5/17)

Wonder Woman banned by Lebanon over Israeli lead Gal Gadot (31/5/17 to 6/6/17) discussed here

Trump delays moving US embassy to Jerusalem (1/6/17 to 6/6/17) discussed here

US warning over its UN Human Rights Council role (6/6/17 to 7/6/17) discussed here

Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim visits West Bank Yolande Knell (13/6/17 to 22/6/17) discussed here

Israel starts work on first new West Bank settlement in 20 years (20/6/17 to 22/6/17) discussed here

Eleven reports (15.7%) related to Palestinian affairs:

Hamas executes three ‘Israel collaborators’ in Gaza (6/4/17 to 10/4/17)

Gaza power cuts: Man shares his tricks (18/4/17 to 20/4/17) discussed here

Palestinian Authority ‘stops paying Israel for Gaza electricity’ (27/4/17 to 1/5/17) discussed here 

New Hamas policy document ‘aims to soften image’ (1/5/17 to 3/5/17) discussed here

How much of a shift is the new Hamas policy document? Yolande Knell (2/5/17 to 8/5/17) discussed here

The ancient path through Palestine BBC Travel (2/5/17 to 3/5/17 and 6/5/17) 

Hamas chooses Ismail Haniya as new leader (6/5/17 to 9/5/17) discussed here

Gaza residents left in the dark amid Palestinian power struggle Yolande Knell (18/5/17 to 21/5/17) discussed here

Gaza Palestinians: Hamas kills three ‘collaborators’ (25/5/17 to 28/5/17)

Qatar Gulf row threatens cash crisis for Gaza Yolande Knell (20/6/17 to 22/6/17) discussed here

Gaza’s only power plant resumes after Egypt fuel delivery (22/6/17 to 24/6/17)

The 20 reports (28.57% of the total) concerning Israeli affairs can be divided into sub categories including:

a) reports relating to legal and/or criminal issues, with the majority (7) relating to a ‘hunger strike’ led by convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons:

Palestinians in Israeli jails hold mass hunger strike  (17/4/17 to 18/4/17) discussed here and here

Palestinians clash with Israeli forces in support of prisoners (17/4/17 to 18/4/17) discussed here

Israel rules out talks with Palestinian hunger striking inmates (18/4/17 to 19/4/17) discussed here

Palestinian anger at Israeli refusal to talk to hunger striking inmates (19/4/17 to 20/4/17) discussed here

US-Israeli man, 18, in court over threats against Jewish centres (24/4/17 to 26/4/17)

Palestinian hunger strike leader Barghouti ‘filmed eating’ (8/5/17 to 10/5/17) discussed here

Arabs call for Pizza Hut boycott after prisoner ad (10/5/17 to 11/5/17) discussed here

Palestinians in Israeli jails end 40-day hunger strike (27/5/17 to 30/5/17) discussed here

Netanyahus win libel case over car row in convoy story (11/6/17 to 14/6/17)

Israeli airline El Al banned from asking women to switch seats (22/6/17 to 24/6/17)

Ehud Olmert, Israel’s jailed ex-PM, to be released early (29/6/17 to 2/7/16) 

b) society:

Israel boy, 14, ‘kept at home since birth’ (11/5/17 to 15/5/17) discussed here

The deafblind actors of Jaffa (21/5/17 to 23/5/17) discussed here

Missing babies: Israel’s Yemenite children affair Yolande Knell (21/6/17 to 22/6/17) discussed here

c) domestic news/politics:

Israeli news presenter gets tearful reporting own show’s cancellation 10/5/17 to 16/5/17 discussed here

Israeli TV channel’s sudden closure shocks staff 10/5/17 to 11/5/17 discussed here

Jewish group cancels Netanyahu dinner over Western Wall decision (26/6/17 to 28/6/17) discussed here

d) science and technology:

Smartphones that charge in five minutes ‘could arrive next year’ BBC Technology (12/5/17 to 15/5/17)

Open Sesame: Science centre unveiled in Jordan BBC Science (16/5/17 to 17/5/17)

Sesame project opens in Jordan BBC Science (16/5/17 to 19/5/17)

As was the case throughout 2016 and in the first quarter of 2017, (see ‘related articles’ below) Israeli domestic affairs once again received greater coverage (28.57%) than did Palestinian affairs (15.7%) in the second quarter of 2017 although the gap in coverage was narrowed in Q2. 

During the first half of 2017 security related reports accounted for 9.9% of the BBC News website’s articles pertaining to Israel and/or the Palestinians. 31.7% of the coverage related to Israeli affairs while internal Palestinian affairs were the topic of just 9.3% of the articles. The subject most frequently covered in BBC reporting continues to be international relations and conflict politics.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2017 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2017 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2017 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2016 – part two (includes links to previous reports) 

 

 

 

 

Why the BBC’s failure to cover faux outrage in Jerusalem matters in the UK

BBC News website coverage of the terror attack in the Old City of Jerusalem on July 14th included reporting on the temporary closure of Temple Mount while police investigations were being completed.

“In the wake of the incident, police sealed off the site to search it for weapons. It is the first time in decades that the compound, which contains the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, has been closed for Muslim Friday prayers, which normally draws thousands of worshippers.

The site is administered by an Islamic authority (Waqf), though Israel is in charge of security there. Police are investigating how the attackers managed to smuggle in a handgun, sub-machine gun and knife.” BBC News website, 14/7/17

BBC radio reports on the same story amplified Palestinian objections to that closure but without adequately explaining why it had been implemented or clarifying the political background to those ‘protests’.

“There have been closures in the past for short periods of time when there have been incidents but for the police to say they’re closing it and that prayers not take place is significant. And in response, as you’ve heard, there has been much criticism from Palestinians. There have been prayers taking place outside the compound itself this afternoon. Obviously there a scene of heightened tension.” BBC World Service radio, 14/7/17

“After the shooting police began a search of the site and sealed it off. Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque are usually attended by thousands of Muslims but the closure prevented that: a highly unusual decision by the Israeli authorities. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the preacher at the mosque, was defiant saying no force on earth could prevent prayers there. Instead though, they took place outside the compound amid signs of growing tension and angry scuffles at another of the Old City’s gates. Adnan Husseini – the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem – criticised the closure.” BBC Radio 4, 14/7/17

The only follow-up to those reports came in an article on a different topic in which visitors to the BBC News website were correctly informed on July 16th that:

“The holy site was closed after shooting but it reopened on Sunday.”

Hence, as far as BBC audiences are aware the story ended there. That, however, is not the case but the BBC has not produced any reporting on events that followed the reopening of Temple Mount two days after the temporary closure.

Audiences have not been told of the false and inflammatory claims made by Waqf officials or statements put out by the OIC and the Arab League.

“The Arab League condemned Israel for the closure, with Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit saying in a statement on Friday that Israel’s “banning Palestinians from praying” will only “inflame extremism and escalate tension” in the region. He stressed “the high sensitivity of issues related to religious places,” and chastised Israel for handling the situation with “carelessness.”

The statement made no mention of the terror attack that caused the temporary closure.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an umbrella group of 57 nations, also lambasted the closure, calling it “a serious crime and a dangerous precedent.””

Neither have they been informed of inflammatory actions in the Jordanian parliament.

“On Saturday, there was an anti-Israel/defend Al-Aqsa march in Amman. On Sunday, the speaker of the Jordanian parliament read out a eulogy for the “martyrs of Palestine and the Jabarin family,” from which the killers hailed. He termed their attack a heroic act. All this, even as King Abdullah and Netanyahu had spoken by phone and agreed to reopen the Mount.”

BBC audiences have not been informed that although Temple Mount was reopened to visitors two days after the terror attack, some Muslims are refusing to pray there, citing the new security measures installed after the terror attack.

“At noon on Sunday, Israel reopened one of the entrances to the Mount to all Muslim residents of Jerusalem, regardless of age or gender. However, metal detectors were installed at the gate, which Israel had set up in the past but later removed, in order to improve security.

Waqf officials, who oversee the religious management of the Temple Mount, refused to enter the site and instigated a protest outside the entrance, with dozens of worshipers conducting their afternoon prayers next to the gate. “We will not accept security checks at Al-Aqsa… Don’t go through the gates,” one official shouted to the crowd outside the gate, who responded with cries of “Allahu Akbar.”

Police said the Waqf officials were not required to pass through the sensors. Channel 2 reported that Waqf officials initially entered the compound by a side entrance, without being required to go through the metal detectors, but later came back out and instigated protests against the new arrangements.”

Inflammatory statements from several parties concerning the new security arrangements (which are similar to those already in existence at the entrance to Temple Mount used by non-Muslims) have also been ignored by the BBC.

“Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy head of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, told Palestinian media on Sunday that posting metal detectors at the Temple Mount was “illegitimate,” and security would only be ensured at the site by preventing the entry of “settlers” and removing “Israeli soldiers” — a reference to Border Police officers stationed at the site — from the compound.”

Even the propaganda of BBC ‘frequent flyer’ Mustafa Barghouti did not receive any BBC coverage.

“”We have been under occupation for 50 years, and we will not ‘get used’ to the new injustice,” Barghouti told The Jerusalem Post. “People will try entering in every possible way without going through the electronic devices,” he added.

Barghouti pointed his finger at the Israeli government as the source to these tensions, saying it just waited to get an excuse to install the metal detectors at the gate.

“These measures were preplanned,” he said. “Nobody is convinced that due to the incident these measures were taken.”

“The measures are completely unacceptable,” Barghouti added.

“There is no place in the world that collective punishment is used against the whole population… We feel that their aim and nature is to change the situation at al-Aksa mosque.””

BBC audiences have also not been informed of the violent incidents that have taken place in recent days or of the incitement from the PA president’s party Fatah.

“Protesters rioted in East Jerusalem neighborhoods overnight Tuesday against new security measures at the Temple Mount, throwing stones and petrol bombs at police and shooting fireworks at Israeli forces. At least 50 Palestinians and one officer were reported hurt.

The disturbances come after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party on Monday called for a “Day of Rage” in protest against new measures, including metal detectors installed following a deadly terror attack at the end of last week. […]

Fatah on Monday called for marches in the West Bank toward Israeli checkpoints in protest of the new measures and announced that Friday prayers, when many worshipers go to the Temple Mount, would be conducted in public squares instead. The decision was made following a meeting between Fatah Revolutionary Council secretary Adnan Ghaith, Fatah central committee member Jamal Muheisin, and Fatah representatives from the northern West Bank.

The group said the measures were called in order to denounce Israeli “terrorist procedures” in the Old City, according to a report in the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.”

For years Palestinian and Muslim figures – including the PA president himself – have been inciting violence by means of made-up ‘threats’ to the Muslim holy sites on Temple Mount. While the BBC’s Middle East correspondent described that site as “one of the most acute flash points in this decades-old conflict” as recently as last Friday, the corporation in fact has a long record of consistently under-reporting incitement and glorification of terrorism from such sources and on occasion has even amplified their conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount.

The absence of any sober, factual BBC reporting on this latest example of anti-Israel delegitimisation and dangerous incitement dressed up as faux outrage (once again) over the installation of security measures of the kind already found at public places in Israel and around the world is not merely a technical issue of record. On the BBC’s home turf – where it is obliged to “contribute to social cohesion” – there are elements that are already promoting misinformation on this story to sectors of the UK population.

Such misinformation thrives in the vacuum created by the absence of responsible, accurate and impartial reporting by the media organisation with the broadest outreach in the UK.

Related Articles:

More conspiracy theory amplification from BBC’s Yolande Knell – and why it matters

BBC ignores Jordanian cancellation of US brokered Temple Mount plan

The part of the Temple Mount story the BBC refuses to tell 

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2017 – part one

Between April 1st and June 30th 2017, a total of seventy reports with content relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, one of which was carried over from the previous quarter.

Some of the reports were produced by other departments (e.g. BBC Technology) or appeared on other pages of the website (e.g. ‘UK’ or ‘US & Canada’) but were also posted on the Middle East page.

Although the Israeli security services recorded 356 terror attacks during the second quarter of 2017 (see ‘related articles’ below), just three of those attacks received coverage on the BBC News website.

(The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which a report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Israeli killed in West Bank car-ramming attack  (6/4/17 to 10/4/17) discussed here

Jerusalem stabbing: Tributes paid to Hannah Bladon (14/4/17 to 18/4/17) discussed here

Israeli policewoman stabbed to death in Jerusalem (16/6/17 to 20/6/17) discussed here and here 

Two other reports related to Syria:

Syria war: ‘Israeli strike’ hits military site near Damascus airport (27/4/17 to 30/4/17) discussed here and here

Syria war: Israel Patriot missile downs ‘target’ over Golan (27/4/17)

In all, 7.14% of the BBC News website’s reports in Q2 covered stories relating to security/terrorism. The additional topics found in the BBC’s coverage of Israel and the Palestinians during the second quarter of 2017 will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – April 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2017

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2017 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2017 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2016 – part two (includes links to previous reports) 

Landmark Israel-PA agreements not news for the BBC

In the past week two major agreements have been signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, both of which relate to topics the BBC has covered – from certain angles – in the past.

The first deal involves the electricity supply to Palestinian Authority controlled areas.

“High-ranking Palestinian and Israeli officials gathered in a field outside the West Bank city of Jenin on Monday to turn on the first-ever piece of Palestinian-owned electricity infrastructure and ink a new electricity agreement between the two sides.

The deal, hailed as “historic” by signatories, will for the first time set parameters for the supply of power between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which for years has seen the PA default on billions of shekels of debt and Israel subsequently withhold electricity. […]

The station will allow Israel to send up to 135 more megawatts to the northern West Bank area, though the agreement currently calls for just 60 more. The energy will provide a much-needed boost to the Jenin area, which has suffered power outages more than any other Palestinian West Bank region.

The station also represents the first time the Palestinians will be able to control the distribution of the electricity to their own towns and cities.

The PA will still have to buy its power from the Israel Electric Corporation. But apart from that, once the power is handed off to the PA, it’s in Palestinian hands.

When infrastructure breaks down — which once necessitated Israeli teams escorted by the army to perform repairs, which inevitably caused delays — Palestinian teams will be responsible for dealing with any problems.

The station was built by the Israel Electric Corporation, by both Israeli and Palestinian workers, but it is owned by the Palestinian Electric Authority (PEA) and the PA. The IEC also trained Palestinians to work, maintain and fix the site.

[Israeli Energy minister] Steinitz described the deal as a “win-win project” for Israel and the Palestinians.

“It’s good for Palestinians because they will get more electricity, which will be more stable and of higher quality. It’s good for Israel because…the responsibility [for Palestinian electricity] won’t fall on the shoulders of the Israeli Electric Corporation,” he said. […]

Jenin is the first region to receive a substation, but three more are on the way — in the Hebron region in the south, in the Ramallah region in the center and in Nablus in the mid-northern West Bank. With all four stations, the Palestinian Authority will control the power flow across all the territory it controls.”

When the agreement that paved the way for this new substation was signed last September, the BBC ignored that story and there has to date been no reporting of this latest news.

While the topic of Israel’s withholding of tax revenue transfers to the Palestinian Authority has cropped up time and time again in the corporation’s Middle East coverage over the years, the BBC has repeatedly failed to adequately inform audiences of the relevant context of the PA’s massive debt to the Israel Electric Corporation and the reasons why that debt has accumulated.

The second agreement signed last week concerns water and a project that the BBC has covered in the past.

“Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Thursday announced an agreement that will provide millions of cubic meters of drinking water to the Palestinians from a desalination process. […]

The agreement announced Thursday is part of a larger trilateral agreement for the construction of a 220-kilometer (137-mile) pipeline transferring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea — the lowest body of water on earth — to benefit Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians, and replenish the dwindling Dead Sea. As the water runs down the gradient it will be used to generate electricity that will also power a desalination plant to produce drinking water. […]

The water sharing deal reached on Thursday calls for an Aqaba desalination plant in Jordan to sell water to southern Jordan and Eilat, while water from the Sea of Galilee will be sold to northern Israel and Jordan. Israel will sell 32 million cubic meters of water to the Palestinian Authority from Mediterranean desalination plants — 10 million to Gaza and 22 million to the West Bank…”

BBC audiences have seen much politicised coverage of the topic of water in the past. Only last March BBC World Service audiences heard unchallenged promotion of the falsehood that Israelis consume ‘Palestinian’ water.

Nevertheless, the media organisation that pledges to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world” did not find this latest landmark water-related story newsworthy either.

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Accuracy trumped by politics in BBC report on Israeli PM’s Paris visit

On July 16th an article titled “Netanyahu in Paris to commemorate Vel d’Hiv deportation of Jews” appeared on the BBC News website’s Europe and Middle East pages. However, the version of that report which is currently available is markedly different from its earlier editions.

The article originally opened as follows:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Paris to commemorate the victims of a mass arrest of Jews in Nazi-occupied France in 1942.

More than 13,000 Jews were rounded up and detained at a cycling stadium, the Velodrome d’Hiver, before being deported to Nazi death camps.

Mr Netanyahu will also hold direct talks for the first time with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The visit has been criticised by some groups as politicising a tragedy.” [emphasis added]

About an hour after publication, that latter sentence was amended to read:

“The visit has drawn consternation from critics of the Israeli PM.” 

BBC website visitors who read the article’s first two versions were later told that:

“Mr Netanyahu’s attendance at the commemoration ceremony has not been welcomed by everyone in France.”

That statement was replaced in version 3 by the following:

“The visit has drawn consternation from critics of the Israeli PM.

Some in France have criticised Mr Netanyahu’s attendance at the commemoration ceremony arguing it was becoming too politicised.”

Readers of the first three versions of the report were next informed that:

“Elie Barnav, a former French ambassador to Israel, told AFP news agency: “The presence of Netanyahu makes me a little uneasy.

“This story has nothing to do with Israel.””

Obviously the BBC did not copy/paste the AFP report it recycled properly because the person concerned is actually called Elie Barnavi rather than ‘Barnav’.

Clearly too, the BBC did not bother to check the original AFP article in French because had it done so, it would know that Mr Barnavi is in fact “l’ancien ambassadeur d’Israël en France” – the former Israeli ambassador to France – (2000 to 2002) rather than “a former French ambassador to Israel” as was inaccurately claimed in the English language version of that AFP report.

As regular readers know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state that:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

It would therefore have been appropriate for readers to have been informed of Mr Barnavi’s links to political groups of a particular stripe – which are far more relevant in the context of his comments than his time spent in the diplomatic service.

“Within months of being sent off to Paris by Prime Minister Ehud Barak, he found himself with a new boss: Ariel Sharon. Barnavi, a Peace Now activist, wondered what to do. Many French Jews expected him to resign.”

Similarly, when the BBC decided to promote the view of a tiny fringe French group also quoted in the AFP article (including a link to its website) it should have clarified to readers that UJFP supports the anti-Israel BDS campaign.

“The Union of French Jews for Peace (UJFP) described the decision to invite Mr Netanyahu as “shocking” and “unacceptable”.”

BBC Watch contacted the BBC News website raising those issues and subsequently the article was amended yet again to correct the inaccurate reporting of Mr Barnavi’s name and former position. The tepid and unhelpful description “a pro-Palestinian organisation” was added to the sentence promoting the UJFP.

No footnote was added to advise BBC audiences who had read the earlier versions of the report of the inaccuracies in its first three editions.

Obviously the BBC was far more concerned with amplifying politically motivated criticism of the Israeli prime minister’s Paris visit (at the invitation of the French president: a point strangely absent from the BBC’s account of the story) than it was in ensuring that audiences were provided with accurate and impartial information.

Eventually – some six and a half hours after its original appearance – the article was amended once again and the sections amplifying politically motivated criticism of the Israeli PM’s participation in the ceremony that was its subject matter were completely removed.  

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BBC coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack – part two: BBC radio

Several hours after the terror attack at Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem on the morning of July 14th in which police officers Haiel Sitawe and Kamil Shnaan were murdered and two others wounded, the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ aired a report (from 19:18 here) on that story that was introduced by Julian Marshall as follows:

“And we go now to Israel where two Israeli police officers have died after three Israeli Arab gunmen opened fire on them in Jerusalem’s old city. Police chased the attackers into one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites – known to Jews as Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al Sharif. All three attackers were killed.”

As was the case in the BBC’s written report on the same incident, that description does not adequately clarify that the terrorists had been on Temple Mount for an unknown period of time before the attack – and had even posted photographs of themselves there on social media – or that, as the Times of Israel reports, they returned to that site – with the police in pursuit – after carrying out the attack.

Marshall continued:

“The mosque complex at al Aqsa has been closed and evacuated and Friday prayers there have been cancelled for only the second time in 50 years. The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the attack in a telephone call with the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Israel’s minister of public security, Gilad Erdan, said the Palestinian leadership should be held responsible.”

Listeners then heard a recording of Erdan speaking which included the only mentions of the words terror and terrorists in the entire report.

“The terrorists they used firearms inside the Temple Mount violating, violating the holiness of this important place. I say and repeat again and again: Israel has kept the status quo on Temple Mount and continue to keep the status quo here. We always respected the freedom of worship to everyone – Muslims, Jews, Christians – but we all should understand that the incitement that was led by President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority directly led to this terror attack that happened this morning.”

Marshall: “Well let’s go live now to Jerusalem and the BBC’s Tom Bateman. So what actually happened in this incident, Tom?”

Although several hours had already passed since the incident took place and the sequence of events was by that time clear, Tom Bateman had apparently not been keeping up with events. [emphasis added]

“Well this happened at 7 o’clock this morning local time. You’ll remember that this is in the vicinity of the most revered site in Jerusalem; holy to both Jews and to Muslims. Now the exact location of this attack has remained still a bit unclear but what we know is that they were close to the Lions’ Gate entrance beside that compound. And the police say they were armed with an automatic weapon, a pistol – there was a knife involved too – and that they opened fire on police officers. Now there was then a chase of some sort and some mobile phone footage has shown that at least one of the attackers was chased by police officers and shot.”

In fact the terrorists had two automatic weapons and Bateman similarly failed to clarify that the terrorists were on Temple Mount before they launched the attack or that they intentionally returned there afterwards. He continued:

“Now as a result of the initial fire by the attackers two police officers were fatally wounded. Ah…they were Israeli police officers. They were Druze – an Arab minority religion in Israel – and the attackers themselves were Israeli Arabs. They were from a town in the north of Israel and had Israeli ID and the domestic security services said that they were not aware of these men beforehand.”

Given the failure by both Marshall and Bateman to provide listeners with the full sequence of events, listeners would be unable to understand the context to their next topic of discussion.

Marshall: “And I would imagine tensions heightened by that decision to close the mosque complex at al Aqsa.”

Bateman: “Yeah, that’s right. As you said that is a highly, highly unusual move. There have been closures in the past for short periods of time when there have been incidents but for the police to say they’re closing it and that prayers not take place is significant. And in response, as you’ve heard, there has been much criticism from Palestinians. There have been prayers taking place outside the compound itself this afternoon. Obviously there a scene of heightened tension.”

Bateman did not clarify to listeners that those “prayers […] outside the compound” were not coincidental.

“The Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein, told Maan News that he was prevented from going to site. “”We are determined to reach the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to hold all prayers in it,” he said. He called on Palestinians to come to Jerusalem or to head to the checkpoints near Jerusalem to protest the cancellation of prayers.

Hundreds of Muslims gathered outside the walls of the Old City, behind hastily set up police cordons, to pray and protest the actions of the Israeli police.

Israeli Arabs and Palestinians spread the message using social media. Using the hashtag #Go_and_pray_at_alAqsa, they called for the faithful to come to the mosque.

The Director of the Mosque, Sheikh Ahmed Omar al-Kiswani, in a video shared on social media, said Israel was “taking advantage of what happened” at the Temple Mount “to impose a new reality on the ground.”

As we saw in part one of this post, the BBC News website was able to report that the closure of Temple Mount after the terror attack was necessary to allow the police to carry out their investigation – just as British police closed areas of London on two occasions following terror attacks there earlier this year – and not just some arbitrary move by the Israeli authorities. The fact that Tom Bateman failed to clarify that point in this report is therefore all the more remarkable and that failure was repeated later on the same day when Bateman gave another report to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM‘.

Following a news bulletin in which listeners were told that “two Israeli police officers have been killed in Jerusalem’s Old City by Israeli Arab gunmen who were then shot dead”, presenter Eddie Mair introduced Bateman (from 14:32 here) “live from Jerusalem”.

Bateman: “Eddie, the ancient walls of Jerusalem encircle this city’s most revered site. From where the golden Dome of the Rock rises over the Old City’s narrow streets is the third holiest mosque in Islam; al Aqsa. For Jews the site is the abode of God’s presence where the first and second Temples once stood. The Old City, heavily guarded, is also one of the most acute flash points in this decades-old conflict and it was not long after dawn that police say three men armed with an automatic rifle, a pistol and a knife attacked Israeli police officers at one of the gates to the site.

Mobile phone footage showed a rapid exchange of fire as one of the assailants was chased within the compound before falling to the ground. The attack killed two Israeli police officers. They were Druze – a minority Arab religion in Israel –whilst officials said the attackers were Arab Israeli citizens from a town in the north of the country and were not known to the security services. Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan spoke from the scene.”

Listeners then heard an edited version of the statements from Erdan aired in Bateman’s earlier report – and with it the sole mention of the word terrorists in this item too.

“The terrorists they used firearms inside the Temple Mount violating, violating the holiness of this important place. I say and repeat again and again: Israel has kept the status quo on Temple Mount. We always respected the freedom of worship to everyone – Muslims, Jews, Christians.”

As we see, Radio 4 listeners were also not provided with a full picture of the sequence of events including the fact that the terrorists were on Temple Mount – apparently with their weapons – before they launched their attack and that they returned there afterwards. Like World Service audiences, listeners to Radio 4 would therefore be unable to appreciate the context to the next part of Bateman’s report.

Bateman: “After the shooting police began a search of the site and sealed it off. Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque are usually attended by thousands of Muslims but the closure prevented that: a highly unusual decision by the Israeli authorities. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the preacher at the mosque, was defiant saying no force on earth could prevent prayers there. Instead though, they took place outside the compound amid signs of growing tension and angry scuffles at another of the Old City’s gates. Adnan Husseini – the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem – criticised the closure.”

Listeners were not told of Husseini’s record of inflammatory statements before they heard his comments.

Husseini: “This is the first time that they announce the prayer will not take place; the Friday prayer. And this has never happened before and I think this is very dangerous. They have to use their mind, you know, when they declare such things. This moment is very sensitive moment. We have to go to pray.”

Erasing all pre-1967 Jerusalem history in typical BBC fashion, Bateman continued:

Bateman: “The Old City is within East Jerusalem which was annexed by Israel after the 1967 war – a move not recognized by the international community. Israel’s government said today’s incident crossed red lines. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas – under pressure in the past from Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to condemn such attacks – did just that during a phone call between the pair but also said that closing down the area could have repercussions. Since the autumn of 2015 there have been a wave of attacks involving knives, guns and car rammings which had decreased in frequency but had not stopped. Today’s shootings in Jerusalem have already led to concerns about a fresh escalation in tensions.”

It is of course highly doubtful that the BBC would find it appropriate to provide a platform to people in a European country who used veiled threats to demand access to the scene of a terror attack just hours after it had taken place and while the police were still carrying out investigations. However, as we see in these two reports, for Tom Bateman the focus of this story is exactly those people rather than the incident itself, which he fails to explain in a manner which would enable audiences to understand why such the highly unusual action of closing Temple Mount had to be taken.

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BBC coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack – part one: BBC News website

Version 10

Some two hours after the terror attack at Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem on the morning of July 14th in which police officers Haiel Sitawe and Kamil Shnaan were murdered and two others wounded, the BBC News website published an article titled “Israelis injured in gun attack near Jerusalem holy site”. As further details of the incident emerged the article was repeatedly amended and its tenth version now appears on the BBC News website under the title “Israeli police killed in attack near Jerusalem holy site“.

Unsurprisingly – given the BBC’s record of double standards in the language used when reporting terror attacks in different locations – in none the ten versions of that article did the writer/s use the word terror to describe the incident he or she was reporting.

From the second version onward readers found a paragraph that has been frequently seen in previous BBC reporting on terror attacks against Israelis since October 2015.

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

Once again, it is worth remembering that since the surge in terror attacks began in late 2015, the BBC has consistently failed to provide its audiences with any serious reporting on the topic of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials. Readers are hence unable to judge for themselves whether or not what ‘Israel says’ is accurate.

Likewise, it is noteworthy that the portrayal of terrorism as being attributable to “frustration rooted in decades of occupation” conforms to a guidance document for members of the international media put out by the PLO in November 2015.

Version 1

Even after it emerged that in this case the three terrorists were Israeli citizens from Umm al Fahm, that paragraph remained in situ.

Later versions of the report stated:

“Elsewhere, a Palestinian was shot dead in clashes with Israeli forces at a refugee camp near Bethlehem on Friday, Palestinian sources said.

Barra Hamamdeh, 21, was killed during a raid by troops on the Dheisheh camp, the Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.”

The BBC did not clarify to readers that those “clashes” included attacks on the soldiers.

“According to the military, during an arrest raid in the Deheishe refugee camp, outside Bethlehem, Palestinians began throwing large rocks and explosive devices at the troops.”

The report tells readers that “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack in a phone call to Mr Netanyahu” and that “the militant Palestinian Hamas movement, which runs the Gaza Strip, praised the attack as a “natural response to the Zionist ongoing crimes”. It does not mention the additional praise for the attack from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or clarify that members of Abbas’ Fatah party also put out inflammatory statements.

“A member of the Fatah leadership, Abbas Zaki, said closing the Temple Mount “is a blatant violation, which we will not accept. Everyone must resist Israel’s moves. The three young men who were killed in Jerusalem were the ones who faced the real terrorism. We are now paying the price of the fake peace from the Oslo Accords. Resistance is the choice of all Palestinians and it is what will free the homeland.””

Version 2

The sequence of events is described by the BBC as follows:

“Two Israeli policemen have been killed and a third wounded in a shooting attack near a sacred site in Jerusalem.

They were shot by three Israeli Arabs close to the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).

Police chased the attackers into the site and shot them dead.”

And:

“Police say the gunmen opened fire as they made their way from the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif towards Lions’ Gate, an opening in the Old City walls about 100ft (30 metres) away.

The attackers were then pursued back to the compound, where they were killed.”

That description does not adequately clarify that the terrorists had been on Temple Mount for an unknown period of time before the attack – and had even posted photographs of themselves there on social media – or that, as the Times of Israel reports, they deliberately returned to that site after the attack.

“According to police, the attackers came from the Temple Mount. They walked toward the Lions Gate exit, then opened fire at the officers.

After the shooting, the terrorists fled back toward the Temple Mount and other officers gave chase. Police then opened fire, shooting the terrorists dead inside the complex.”

Version 3

This report does however explain that the closure of the site after the incident was necessary to allow the police to carry out their investigation.

“In the wake of the incident, police sealed off the site to search it for weapons. It is the first time in decades that the compound, which contains the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, has been closed for Muslim Friday prayers, which normally draws thousands of worshippers.

The site is administered by an Islamic authority (Waqf), though Israel is in charge of security there. Police are investigating how the attackers managed to smuggle in a handgun, sub-machine gun and knife.”

The fact that the BBC clearly understands why the unusual step of closing Temple Mount had to be taken following the terror attack is particularly noteworthy given two radio reports on the same subject broadcast later in the day that will be discussed in part two of this post.