Promoting a well-worn narrative on the BBC News website

On February 11th the BBC News website published an article headlined “Trump warns Israel that settlements ‘complicate’ peace hopes” on its Middle East page.

Based entirely on an interview given by the US president to an Israeli newspaper, the article opened:

“US President Donald Trump has said Israeli settlements “complicate” the peace process with Palestinians and urged “care” over the issue.

He also told an Israeli newspaper that he did not believe the Palestinians, and possibly Israel as well, were ready to make peace.”

The parts of that interview which the BBC chose to highlight were as follows:

“Asked by editor-in-chief Boaz Bismouth when the US would present its peace plan, Mr Trump said: “We will see what happens. Right now the Palestinians are not into making peace, they are just not into it. Regarding Israel, I am not certain it, too, is interested in making peace so we will just need to wait and see what happens.”

Asked whether Israeli settlements would form part of the peace plan, he said: “We will be talking about settlements. The settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements.””

And:

“In excerpts of the interview published on Friday, Mr Trump said that recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had been a highlight of his first year in office.

“I think Jerusalem was a very big point and I think it was a very important point,” he said.

“The capital, having Jerusalem be your great capital, was a very important thing to a lot of people. It was a very important pledge that I made and I fulfilled my pledge,” he said.”

Readers also found promotion of the corporation’s standard mantra on ‘settlements’ which – in spite of ‘due impartiality’ requirementsfails to inform audiences of the existence of legal opinions that do not conform to the BBC’s chosen narrative.

“More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The BBC’s selected framing was further promoted in a photo caption:

“Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have long been a stumbling block to peace deal”.

As readers who bothered to click on the link to the Israel HaYom article upon which this report is based would see, the US president also answered questions additional topics including Iran’s presence in Syria and Lebanon, the JCPOA, relations between Israel and Gulf states and Egypt’s role in the ‘peace process’.

While the BBC apparently did not consider the US president’s comments on those topics interesting or important enough to report, it did go to the trouble of constructing an entire article around the three responses to the twenty questions asked by the interviewer which could be used to once again promote the political narrative the BBC has chosen to adopt.  

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BBC WS tells listeners to go online for part of a story it didn’t tell

The February 17th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item described in its synopsis as being about “Poland’s controversial WW2 death camps law”.

Presenter Rebecca Kesby introduced the item (from 14:06 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Kesby: “Last month the Polish parliament approved a bill to make it illegal to accuse Poland of complicity in the crimes of the Nazis during the Second World War. At least six million Poles were killed – about half of them Jewish. Many more fled the country. There’s no question that the country suffered horribly but lately a row has erupted about those Poles who may have colluded with the Nazis and why that word – colluded – is so contentious. Today at a panel discussion at the International Security Conference in Munich, an Israeli journalist challenged the Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki about the new law. Here’s part of Ronen Bergman’s challenge.”

Listeners then heard a recording of Ronen Bergman speaking during the Q&A session.

Bergman: “Both my parents were born in Poland – my late mother and my father. My mother received a special prize for good Polish from the Polish minister of education when she was five. Then the war started and they lost much of their family because their neighbours – their Polish neighbours – snitched to the Gestapo that they are holding Jews. My mother was able to save much of her family because she heard during the night that the neighbours are going to tell that they have Jews in their vicinity to the SS the next morning. And after the war my mother swore that she will never speak Polish for the rest of her life – not even a single word. If I understand correctly, after this law is legislated I will be considered a criminal in your country for saying this. What is the purpose, what is the message that you are trying to convey in the world? You are creating the opposite reaction and just attracting more attention to these atrocities. Thank you.”

However, BBC World Service listeners did not hear the Polish prime minister’s response (which can be seen here) and so they did not know that he began by saying:

“It’s extremely important to first understand that, of course, it’s not going to be punishable, not going to be seen as criminal to say that there were Polish perpetrators – as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators, as there were Ukrainian…. not only German perpetrators.” [emphasis added]

Kesby made no effort to inform listeners of that obviously crucial part of the story before going on to introduce Ronen Bergman.

Kesby: “Well a short time [sic] we managed to get through to Ronen Bergman and he told us more about his challenge.”

Listeners then heard Bergman’s comments on the Polish prime minister’s remarks – without having heard the statements themselves and without it being clarified that “he” refers to Morawiecki.

Bergman: “[….] He did not admit that there were Polish collaborators. He did not use that word; he said perpetrators and the use of that word  – while saying in the same line, in the same sentence, that there were Polish as well as Jews – so like making one line connecting all of them – he said these were perpetrators – meaning criminals – who mushroomed – that was the word that he said – who mushroomed in the sense…so the subtext is basically this: there were criminals in Poland, some of them were Jews, some of them were Poles, and they were the ones who gave Jews to the Gestapo. This is nothing but Holocaust denial and an outrageous lie.”

Kesby then asked:

Kesby: “These terrible events are seventy years old. Why is this such a current issue now?”

Bergman: “Because Poland – or elements in Poland as well as in some other Eastern European countries – are trying to rewrite the history of the Holocaust and there should not be any debate. […] But the Nazi Germans they were the ones who initiated the extermination and they were the ones who managed it. But there were many, many people of some of the local countries that were under German occupation who assisted them and much of the Holocaust could not have been executed without them. Now some of these countries are now trying to say that they were nothing but victims and the Polish government have gone to a much further extent to say that if someone says anything else he’s a criminal.”

Kesby: “And why do you think that it the case? Why do you think there is this sensitivity to admitting what has happened in the past?”

Bergman: “Well I think that nobody wants to admit that he was part of the most vicious crime in the history of humanity. And I think that these countries basically are trying to say that the Germans – and only the Germans – are to blame. They want retribution – meaning compensation – and taking from their shoulders any kind of guilt. […] You know this sort of narrative is something that we always suspected still exists but I think that we have never heard from such a senior official of these countries speaking this language.”

Obviously having belatedly realised that listeners had not heard the remarks from the Polish prime minister’s that were the subject matter of this interview, Kesby closed the item by saying:

Kesby: “That was Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman there and apologies – there wasn’t the full exchange there as I anticipated, of his exchange with the Polish prime minister but it is available online if you’d like to do a search and see both sides of the argument.”

The newly appointed Director of the BBC World Service group recently claimed that BBC World Service radio’s English services “remain the gold standard for international news” and that:

“With global concern growing about disinformation, ‘fake news’ and media literacy, the World Service Group has never been in a stronger position to show the way forward. We spot the stories, see the patterns and make sense of the world for our audiences.”

Obviously sending audiences to “do a search” on the internet in order to find for themselves the crucial part of a story is hardly “the gold standard” of news provision.

 

Serial BBC failure to report rocket attacks comes home to roost

On the afternoon of February 17th an incident took place along the border fence with the Gaza Strip in the Khan Younis region.

“Four IDF soldiers were wounded when an explosive device was detonated on an IDF patrol along the Gaza Strip border on Saturday. Two of the soldiers were in a serious condition and two were moderately hurt, the army said. […]

The [IDF] spokesperson told reporters that the patrol stopped along the border to remove a flag that had been placed at the fence a day earlier during a protest, and that a device planted below the flag then detonated.”

Following that attack the IDF carried out strikes on Hamas military installations in the Gaza Strip. Residents of the Western Negev spent the night in air-raid shelters as alarms went off repeatedly and one house in the Sha’ar HaNegev district was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip – fortunately with no physical injury to the family of five. Further strikes on Hamas and PIJ targets took place after that attack and the following morning another incident took place when two Palestinians approaching the border fence in the southern sector were killed.

On the evening of February 17th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel Gaza: Four Israeli soldiers injured in border blast” on its Middle East page. The incident that sparked the chain of events was described as follows:

“Four Israeli soldiers have been hurt, two of them seriously, in an explosion near the Israeli-Gaza border.

The army said a Palestinian flag was flying in the area, and when the troops approached they were hit by the blast.”

And:

“No group has so far said it was behind Saturday’s explosion, which happened at 16:00 local time (14:00 GMT) east of the town of Khan Younis.

The army said the explosive device had been planted during a demonstration there on Friday and was attached to a flag.

The troops were approaching from the Israeli side when the device detonated.”

BBC audiences were not informed that the army also commented on Hamas’ involvement in that “demonstration” and others.

“The [explosive] device belonged to rogue organizations and not Islamic Jihad. Hamas is responsible for the incident because it brought protesters to these ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations during the past few weeks, which are then utilized for terror.”

Despite photographs of the damage caused to the house that took a direct hit on its roof being readily available in the Israeli media, the BBC’s report described that incident as follows:

“Israeli media also said a rocket from Gaza fell near a house in the south of the country on Saturday evening. There were no casualties.” [emphasis added]

Readers were told that:

“Correspondents say the border area has been generally quiet in the last few years but there has been an increase in violence since US President Donald Trump’s announcement in December recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

The same statement (together with the claim that “a rocket from Gaza fell near a house”) appeared in an article titled “Israel Gaza: Air strikes follow bomb blast on Gaza border” which replaced the previous one on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of February 18th.

While the “correspondents” who made that statement were not identified, it is of course significant that throughout 2017 BBC journalists based in Jerusalem ignored the vast majority of missile attacks that were launched from the Gaza Strip and that two of the three attacks that were reported were attributed – as in this report – to ‘rising tensions’ following the US announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In late 2014 and throughout 2015 the majority of attacks launched from the Gaza Strip were not reported in English and in 2016 the BBC ignored all but one attack. The four attacks in 2018 which took place before this latest one were similarly ignored.

It is hence unsurprising that BBC journalists describe the Gaza border area as “generally quiet” despite the fact that – as noted by the ITIC in a summary (Hebrew – see p. 42) of last year’s terror attacks – during 2017 there was a 50% rise in rocket fire against Israel compared to the previous year.

As has been noted here on several occasions in the past, the fact that the BBC routinely under-reports terrorism against Israel – including missile attacks – leads to audiences and BBC journalists alike being unable to put events into their appropriate context when Israel is obliged to respond.

Related Articles:

For the first time this year, BBC reports Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

Correction secured to inaccurate BBC News website claim about Gaza attacks

BBC News reverts to ignoring Gaza missile fire

 

BBC News Channel apologises for HMD broadcast errors

In a report aired on January 25th on the BBC News Channel the BBC’s Religion editor Martin Bashir referred to Holocaust Memorial Day as about to be “celebrated” two days later and misquoted Britain’s Chief Rabbi, claiming that he said that “our silence would be to mourn the loss of those six thousand Jewish men, women and children…” [emphasis added]

Mr Stephen Franklin submitted a complaint to the BBC concerning those inaccuracies and received a reply including the following:

“Thank you for contacting us regarding the BBC News Channel’s ‘Afternoon Live’ on 25 January.

We understand you feel our Religion Editor Martin Bashir used insensitive language to describe Holocaust Memorial Day and misquoted the number of Jewish victims.

During this timeframe Martin described events leading up to Holocaust Memorial Day and the people involved in the commemorations.

Please be assured, we strive to present accurate and relevant information throughout our news service. Reporters closely follow these guidelines while providing distinctive descriptions. They often deliver items under pressure and time restrictions, particularly in a live ‘rolling’ news environment.

We regret any editorial oversights but mistakes of this nature can occasionally slip through, despite the best endeavours of our experienced reporters.”

In light of that unsatisfactory response, Mr Franklin submitted a second complaint, to which he received an apposite reply from the Executive Editor of the BBC News Channel.

“I wanted to let you know in person that I think you are quite right to point out the errors in this broadcast.

Regrettably, Martin Bashir misspoke when he said Holocaust Memorial Day was being ‘celebrated’ when he intended to say ‘commemorated.’

I am very sorry for this mistake.

Clearly, too, Martin meant to give the figure of six million victims, not six thousand, and again we are sorry for this mistake.

The correct figure of six million victims was used before the report, and within it by a Holocaust survivor herself, but you are right to say this should not have happened.

While mistakes do occur in live broadcasting, it was very unfortunate that they should have occurred on this subject above all others.

Yours sincerely,

Sam Taylor

Executive Editor BBC News Channel.”

The fact that a member of the public had to submit two complaints before obvious inaccuracies were appropriately acknowledged once again demonstrates the inefficiency of the BBC’s outsourced audience services.

Related Articles:

How the BBC outsources its complaints system

Weekend long read

1) MEMRI provides a translation of an article appearing on a pro-Hizballah website.

“A February 9, 2018 article on the pro-Hizbullah Lebanese website Dahiya claims that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad recently rejected an Israeli demand, relayed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, to remove some 70,000 Iranian long-range missiles that Hizbullah has deployed throughout Syria and are aimed at Israel. The article claimed further that Syria and Hizbullah will wage a “joint missile campaign” against Israel, and that Iranian experts are ready to launch missiles at Israel from every part of Lebanon and Syria. According to the article, Assad has instructed his army to help Hizbullah construct and camouflage missile silos across the country; moreover, intense activity is underway to bring more Iranian missiles to Syria via Iraq, so that within a year Hizbullah will have 500,000 missiles in Syria, in addition to the ones it has already deployed in Lebanon.”

2) Writing at the JNS, Yaakov Lappin discusses Hizballah’s influence on the Lebanese military.

“For the United States, the LAF is a regional partner in the war against the Islamic State. It has received both U.S. funding and arms sales for that purpose.

According to Israeli military assessments, however, the LAF is increasingly coming under the sway of the Iranian-backed terror organization Hezbollah, which dominates Lebanon politically and militarily. […]

A recent visit to the Lebanese-Israeli border by a high-ranking Iranian official, Ebrahim Raisi, who is close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, offers an accurate illustration of who is in control of Lebanon. Raisi was given a tour by armed Hezbollah members, vowing during his visit that “soon, we will witness the liberation of Jerusalem.””

3) At the Asia Times, former UNHCR official Alexander Casella addresses the debate surrounding UNRWA.

“The creation of UNRWA 70 years ago corresponded to a real humanitarian need. However, inbuilt in the fulfillment of that need were two political considerations, the so-called “right of return” and the fact that Palestinian refugee status would be handed down from generation to generation. Both these notions were predicated on what was at the time the core of Arab policy as regards Palestine, namely the obliteration of the State of Israel.

Not only did this not happen but with the recognition of Israel by Jordan and Egypt and the de facto rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, what started off as a political expedient is today a major handicap, and the Palestinian refugee issue is one that both the Arab states and Israel could well do without.

While addressing it is a major political issue that continues to bedevil the Middle East, UNRWA, which started off as a solution, is now part of the problem. And, perversely, while it continues to discharge its assistance mandate, doing so has created among many of its wards as well as among several Arab governments a dependency, not to say a premium for inaction, of which Gaza is a prime example.”

4) Jonathan Spyer discusses the recent Russian sponsored Syrian peace conference.

“The Russians first of all failed even to bring the main protagonists of the war around the table.

The main, UN-recognised Syrian opposition formation, the Syrian Negotiation Commission, did not attend.  One senior member of the commission described the conference as a ‘meeting between the regime and the regime.’  An opposition website produced a picture of a beaming Syrian President Bashar Assad shaking hands with himself as a representation of the Sochi gathering. […]

The United States, France and Britain also did not attend the gathering, seeing it as a Russian attempt to circumvent the UN-sponsored process in order to bring about an outcome more favorable to the Assad regime.

Representatives of the Kurdish Federation of Northern Syria, which controls Syria east of the Euphrates, were not at the conference. The Syrian Kurdish leadership has sought to maintain working relations with Moscow, despite the Kurdish cooperation with the US in Syria.  But Moscow’s acquiescence to the current Turkish assault on the Kurdish Afrin canton in north west Syria has led to widespread anger among the Kurds.  Kurds belonging to rival factions also did not attend.”

 

Key background absent from BBC reporting on Israel PM allegations

On February 14th the BBC News website published a lengthy article titled “Israel PM Netanyahu defiant in face of bribery allegations” on its Middle East page in which readers were told that:

“A police statement on Tuesday said there was enough evidence to indict him for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases.

The attorney general’s office could take months to decide if Mr Netanyahu should face charges.”

Following sub-sections titled “What was Netanyahu’s response?” and “What are the allegations?”, readers found a section headed “What has the reaction been?” in which comments from members of four political parties were highlighted, including the following:

“Earlier, Israel’s centre-left opposition alliance, the Zionist Union, called on the prime minister to resign.”

The last section of the article was titled “What happens now?”.

“A final decision on whether Mr Netanyahu should face charges will come down to the attorney general’s office. A decision could take months to reach.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said any prime minister who has been charged should not be obliged to resign.”

While it is unclear which particular statement from the Justice Minister the BBC is quoting in this report, significantly at no point did the BBC make any effort to clarify to audiences that – as Ms Shaked has pointed out in the past – under Israeli law, police recommendations are not a legal reason for a prime minister to resign.

Unlike a minister, a prime minister is not obliged by law to resign even if indicted. Only after being convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude – and following any appeals – can a prime minister (and with him the government) be removed from office.

Clearly that information is crucial to understanding of both quoted statements concerning the topic of resignation and the story in general but it was not provided to BBC audiences reading either this report or another one on the same topic that appeared on the previous day in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel’s dilemma over PM’s future“.

The BBC ME editor’s response to criticism of his recent reporting

The February 11th edition of the BBC Radio 5 live programme hosted by Peter Allen and Caroline Barker included an interview (from 01:37:07 here) with the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

Following stories about Bowen’s experiences in Bosnia and Bangladesh, Peter Allen turned the conversation (at 01:45:27) to an incident which will be familiar to long-time readers because Bowen has recounted it on various platforms on numerous occasions in the past.

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

Allen: “The turning point for you, I guess, came with the death of your driver, your friend, your producer Abed Abu [unintelligible] in Lebanon.”

Bowen: “Yeah…in 2000 when the Israelis were pulling out.”

Allen: “You thought you’d set up for a piece to camera, wasn’t it?”

Bowen: “I was gonna stop…the Israelis were leaving Lebanon after an occupation in the south that had lasted more than 20 years. And there was this guy Abed Takkhoush who had worked with the BBC for many years and he was very experienced and he loved doing what he was doing and we had…I was working as well with a Lebanese cameraman – a guy called Malek. And Malek and I we stopped to do a piece to camera by the border wire – you could see into Israel. And we didn’t want to get anywhere close to the retreating troops because, you know, a retreating army leaving is always dangerous. But I didn’t enough think…I didn’t think enough about the fact that they could shoot at us from the other side of the border wire. I thought because we were a long way back from the troops they wouldn’t.

But a couple of minutes after I got out with Malek there was a bright – you know, early summer day – there was a huge explosion and I turned round. And it was filmed because we were trying to do the piece to camera at the time it was…and there was a big explosion behind me and then I could see…he leapt out through the window – not leapt: he managed to force his body out –I mean he was on fire. And I said to Malek ‘come on, let’s get up there’ and he said ‘no, no; don’t go up there Jeremy because believe you me he’s dead. He may have had the strength to get out  but he’ll be dead now and if you move up there they’ll kill you too’. And eventually I did try and move up there, they opened up in our direction with a heavy machine gun from the tank and a colleague from the Times, his driver had heard the radio traffic in Hebrew and they had said ‘we’ve got one, we’ll get the other two with a heavy machine gun’. So I know that if I’d gone up there I’d have been killed or badly hurt but I still feel bad that, you know, I didn’t have a Hollywood ending, you know, or rather he couldn’t.”

Allen: “You had to shelter under a rock while you made…”

Bowen: “Yeah, yeah we were stuck there, we were shouting to him. I was under cover trying to keep out of trouble myself and shouting out to him and he didn’t answer. In fact in the end…the Lebanese Red Crescent take the bodies off the road in these situations and they couldn’t get up there for hours and hours and hours until they…I think they…through the UN. They coordinated a, you know, a mission to pick up the body between the UN and the Israelis. But the Israelis claimed that we were terrorists. I don’t believe that there was any sign that we were terrorists. I think that they were just trigger happy. And I even went to see a…a general in Tel Aviv when I got back to Israel – I was living in Israel at the time – and he said ‘look, look you’ve got to imagine what it’s like. There were three young boys in that tank. They were terrified. They’d had warnings there’d be…there’d be…ah…terrorists in the area’. And you know I thought where do you start with all of that? You know the fact is that my colleague, my friend, got killed. I think that they…we did a big investigation and we showed that they were shooting quite a lot at civilian vehicles. I think maybe what they were trying to do is to keep people back from the army as it went back. But you know we shouldn’t have stopped. I mean that was my fault for stopping.”

Allen: “At the time you thought it was safe. I mean…”

Bowen: “I thought it was safe.”

Allen: “You felt you were indestructible in those years; you thought it won’t happen to me.”

Bowen: “Yeah and I was wrong.”

Allen: “And that changed it. That changed everything.”

Israel did not of course ‘claim’ that Bowen and his crew “were terrorists”. As the IDF’s investigation into the incident at the time showed:

“…in the early morning hours of that day an intelligence alert was passed to the tank crew regarding the possibility of the firing of rockets by terrorists at IDF tanks and armoured vehicles. The tank crew identified a vehicle and in it people in civilian clothing and suspected that they were a terror cell with equipment to fire anti-tank missiles. In line with the protocol the tank crew passed on the information to the appropriate bodies and was given permission to open fire. Later, said the IDF spokesperson, it transpired that a tragic mistake had been made and that a BBC film crew had been mistakenly identified as a terrorist cell.”

The interview included questions from listeners and later on (at 01:51:58) Caroline Barker read one of them.

Barker: “…Jeff says ‘how hard is it to stay impartial in your reporting after you’ve seen your friend killed?'”

Allen: “And of course you’ve had accusations, haven’t you? Plenty of accusations from the Israelis.”

Bowen: “Well the last few weeks, after a story – the most recent story I did over there which was about a young woman who’s been accused of all sorts of things and is in prison awaiting trial after she slapped a soldier. Ahm…so yeah; I’m very used to that. Actually I think it’s remarkably easy.”

The “recent story” to which Bowen refers is of course that told in his filmed and audio reports concerning Ahed Tamimi (see ‘related articles’ below) in which he concealed an actual charge of incitement against her while disingenuously leading BBC audiences to believe that Israel is charging her with terrorism offences because of “a slap”.

And yet, Mr Bowen still claims that keeping to professed BBC standards of impartiality is, for him, “remarkably easy”.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen diverts Ahed Tamimi story with a disingenuous red herring

Jeremy Bowen’s Tamimi PR continues on BBC World Service radio

BBC’s Peter Allen: “Israel always wreaks its revenge”

A Gaza medical story that is not newsworthy for the BBC

Between mid-September and the beginning of November 2017 the BBC produced numerous reports on the topic of a Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ which was supposed to put the Palestinian Authority back in charge of the Gaza Strip ten years after the Hamas coup.

Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part one

The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part two

The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part three

BBC News sidesteps the topic of Hamas disarmament yet again

BBC’s Bateman misleads on US and Israeli approach to Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’

BBC News continues to mislead on Gaza electricity crisis

BBC’s chief international correspondent claims Hamas changed its charter

BBC adds superfluous punctuation to US and Israeli statements on Hamas

BBC News continues to conceal Hamas refusals to disarm

Selective BBC framing of Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ continues

However, as that ‘reconciliation’ began to falter, so did BBC coverage and so audiences were not informed that the deal it had so generously reported failed to immediately solve an issue which was also the subject of many BBC reports – the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza’s electricity crisis continues but BBC reporting does not

BBC fails to produce follow-up reporting on Gaza power story

Another crisis related to that failed ‘reconciliation’ has recently emerged in the Gaza Strip – as Ha’aretz reports.

“The cleaning and maintenance staff at Gaza’s hospitals went on strike Sunday until further notice to protest the nonpayment of wages.

The 830 people involved work via manpower contractors, but the Health Ministry in Ramallah has failed to pay its share of their salaries for four months. The ministry accuses Hamas of failing to hand over full control over the Strip, a charge Hamas denies. […]

In January the cleaners struck for a few days but returned after receiving part of the money owed them.

At the end of last week, a Hamas delegation headed by Ismail Haniyeh spoke with Egyptian intelligence officials in Cairo. The Egyptians hope to help the Palestinians resolve the Palestinian Authority-Hamas rift, with the aim of resolving Gaza’s humanitarian crisis.”

The Times of Israel adds:

“Shifa Hospital, the largest medical complex in the Gaza Strip, announced on Sunday that it was suspending all surgeries, with the exception of emergency cases, due to a cleaners’ strike over unpaid salaries.

“It has been decided to postpone all scheduled surgeries, including those for patients with tumors,” the hospital said, noting that the decision excluded “life-saving cases.” […]

Last month, the cleaners agreed to return to work after the Palestinian Authority government promised to pay them their salaries. However, the government has since paid salaries for only two months, prompting the cleaners to renew their strike.

Hamas officials have accused the PA government of failing to provide funds to the health system in the Gaza Strip despite a Hamas-Fatah “reconciliation” agreement signed in Cairo in 2017. According to the officials, many hospitals are suffering from a severe shortage in medicine and generator fuel as a result of the PA’s failure to carry out its duties.”

Notably the BBC – which only last month aired a programme in which a Hamas official was allowed to promote the inaccurate yet unchallenged claim that the problems plaguing medical services in the Gaza Strip are exclusively the result of Israel’s counter-terrorism measures – has not found this particular story about Gaza’s medical services newsworthy.

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ continues to trivialise the Ahed Tamimi story

The February 13th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item described in its synopsis as follows:

“Also in the programme; the trial of a Palestinian teenager who slapped an Israeli soldier and lunged at another has begun in an Israeli military court”

Presenter Julian Marshall also used the terms ‘slapped’ and ‘lunged’ in his introduction to the item (from 14:04 here).

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

Marshall: “Now, so the trial of a Palestinian teenager who slapped an Israeli soldier and lunged at another has begun in an Israeli military court. Ahed Tamimi, aged 17, is charged with 12 offences including assaulting security forces and incitement to violence. If convicted, she could face a lengthy jail term.”

Marshall then went on to introduce a recording of a statement made by Tamimi’s lawyer – who has been featured in two previous BBC reports by Yolande Knell.

Marshall: “The case of Ahed Tamimi is being heard behind closed doors on the judge’s orders as the 17 year-old is being tried as a minor. Speaking to reporters outside the court, Miss Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky criticised the decision to close the trial to the public.”

Lasky: “The court decided what is good for the court and not what is good for Ahed. They understand that people outside of the military court are interested in Ahed’s case. They understand that her rights are being infringed and her trial is something that shouldn’t be happening. So the way to keep it out of everybody’s eyes is to close doors and not allow people inside the court for her hearings.”

A report by the Times of Israel provides some background to the statement from Lasky which the BBC chose to promote.

“Lasky popped out of the courtroom to provide a quick statement to reporters — in English, of course — expressing her outrage over the ruling.

The attorney explained that upon returning inside chambers, she would argue that because Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people is illegal, the military court hearing Tamimi’s case was illegitimate as well.

The line of defense appeared to establish an uphill battle for Lasky in that it required the judge to denounce his own authority in order to rule in Tamimi’s favor.

But her audience outside the caravan, didn’t seem concerned as they nodded their heads in approval of the defense.”

Marshall next introduced the BBC’s Rome correspondent who appears, once again, to have been temporarily reassigned to the Middle East.

Marshall: “Well let’s speak now to the BBC’s James Reynolds live in Jerusalem and James, remind us of the facts of this case – those, that is, that are not disputed.”

Reynolds: “Right, let’s take you back to December tw…last year in her West Bank village – the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh. There are around 600 people live there. They often periodically every Friday have clashes with Israeli soldiers and at one point on the 15th of December, mobile phone footage shows her confronting and speaking to two Israeli soldiers on the outskirts of the driveway of her family home. And the mobile phone footage – which I’m sure a lot of people have seen – shows her arguing. It shows her first trying to hit one soldier – I think on the arm – and then she slaps him on the face. He doesn’t react. She then moves towards the second soldier and is eventually separated from them. Israel says that that mobile phone footage is enough evidence – it is enough proof of assault – to put her on trial along with a number of other incidents. But Palestinians of course see it very differently.”

Given that Reynolds was asked to state “the facts of this case”, it is of course remarkable that he failed to mention that the Friday “clashes” in Nabi Saleh are organised by Ahed Tamimi’s father and extended family or that the mobile phone footage he partially describes was filmed by her mother Nariman and live-streamed on Facebook. All the more significant is the fact that he failed to inform listeners of Ahed Tamimi’s “message to the world” – as defined by her mother – in that same footage which included the call for violence that is the basis for the charge of incitement against her.

“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine”

Those highly relevant omissions facilitated subsequent trivialisation of the charges against Ahed Tamimi by both Marshall and Reynolds.

Marshall: “It seems – well ehm…I suppose it depends on your perspective – but a relatively minor offence to be tried in front of a military court.”

Reynolds: “Yes and it does sound incredibly surprising when you think of an army – a hugely powerful army – why it would be spending its time prosecuting what on any judgement is a relatively minor misdemeanour. “

In addition to incitement, the charges against Ahed Tamimi include two counts of aggravated assault of a soldier, two counts of stone-throwing, two counts of threatening a soldier and four counts of obstructing a soldier in execution of his duty. In the UK, the charge of obstructing or assaulting a police officer would not be considered “a relatively minor misdemeanour” – i.e. a non-indictable offence – as the BBC well knows.

Displaying his ‘expertise’ by twice inaccurately describing the IDF as “a volunteer army”, Reynolds then went on to bizarrely suggest that the charges against Ahed Tamimi are steered by public mood rather than by the law and to further trivialise her actions.

Reynolds: “But Israelis say it’s about more than that. It is about soldiers. The key thing from Israel’s point of view is this: the army is at the heart of the society here. It is a volunteer army – a lot of Israelis can identify themselves with those soldiers. There’s been praise for the fact that they didn’t react and there’s been a thought among some in Israel that you have to stand up for those soldiers, who are clearly identifiable with the rest of the population, and you have to protect them against insultshowever trivial those insults may be. That might be an explanation which is very difficult to understand outside Israel but here, because of the centrality of a volunteer army to society, it is perhaps more understandable.”

Marshall: “And very briefly, James, what kind of sentence could she face if convicted?”

Reynolds: “If convicted of all crimes, essentially she could be looking at around a year in jail if found guilty.”

This is the BBC’s twelfth report (at least) on Ahed Tamimi in less than two months and the third to appear on ‘Newshour’. Only one of those reports – on the BBC’s domestic channel Radio 4 – has provided audiences with any sort of information concerning the background to the charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi.

In other words, this report continues the editorial policy of providing BBC audiences worldwide with a trivialised and one-sided portrayal of the story which resembles activism more than journalism.  

Related Articles:

BBC News website promotes the Tamimi clan again

BBC News omits a relevant part of the Tamimi charges story

BBC radio’s inconsistent coverage of charges against Ahed Tamimi

BBC’s Knell reports on the Tamimi case again – and raises a question

BBC’s Bowen diverts Ahed Tamimi story with a disingenuous red herring

Jeremy Bowen’s Tamimi PR continues on BBC World Service radio

BBC continues its campaigning with eleventh report on Ahed Tamimi

 

 

 

BBC continues its campaigning with eleventh report on Ahed Tamimi

On February 13th the BBC News website published an article titled “Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian viral slap video teen goes on trial” which was presented to audiences together with two items of recycled ‘related reading’: a highly problematic filmed report by Jeremy Bowen dating from January 31st (also embedded in the report itself) and a written report by Yolande Knell from January 17th.

Readers were told that:

“A Palestinian teenage girl filmed slapping an Israeli soldier has gone on trial in an Israeli military court in a case which has split public opinion.

Ahed Tamimi, 17, is charged with 12 offences, including assaulting security forces and incitement to violence.

If convicted, she could face a lengthy jail term.”

However, as has been the case in the majority of the BBC’s copious past reporting on Ahed Tamimi’s arrest and indictment, this article too failed to provide readers with details of her call for violence on social media which is the basis of that incitement charge

Given the article’s title and introductory paragraphs, readers of its first version may have been surprised to find that it actually told them nothing at all about the trial itself. The report’s original text did not clarify that the trial was closed to journalists and the only reference to that was found in a photo caption saying that “the trial is being held behind closed doors”.

Later on the article was amended to reflect the judge’s decision:

“Journalists waiting to report on the trial were ordered to leave by the judge, on the grounds that the accused was being treated as a minor. Such cases are usually tried in private.

But in Ms Tamimi’s case, this went against the wishes of the family.”

Three paragraphs were devoted to a statement given to journalists by Tamimi’s lawyer. 

What BBC audiences did find in this eleventh report on Ahed Tamimi in less than two months was repetition of information seen in previous reports and further amplification of partisan messaging.

“For Palestinians, Ms Tamimi is a symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation, but many Israelis regard her as a violent troublemaker seeking publicity.”

“For Palestinians, Ahed Tamimi has become a national icon for what they see as acts of bravery in standing up to armed soldiers on occupied land.”

Readers also found uncritical amplification of messaging from a political NGO which has been campaigning on Tamimi’s behalf.

“Amnesty International has called for Ahed Tamimi’s release, accusing Israel of discriminatory treatment of Palestinian children.”

The BBC even promoted a link to Amnesty International’s relevant campaign webpage.

“Human rights groups say Ahed Tamimi’s case highlights what they say is Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinian minors.

About 1,400 Palestinian minors have been prosecuted in special juvenile military courts over the past three years, the IDF says.

Civil rights groups are very critical of the Israeli system, saying it lacks fundamental protections and gives no guarantee of a fair trial.”

BBC editorial guidelines on “controversial subjects and linking” state:

“Where BBC online sites covering ‘controversial subjects’ offer links to external sites, we should ensure that the information on those external sites, taken together, represents a reasonable range of views about the subject.”

In addition to that link to Amnesty International’s campaign page the article also included a link to Ahed Tamimi’s mother’s Facebook account and two links to articles on Israeli news sites – neither of which provides the required “reasonable range of views” on the “Israeli system”.

While Amnesty International was presented as a “civil rights” group, no mention was made of the relevant issue of the NGO’s long record of anti-Israel campaigning and its previous sponsorship of a speaking tour in the US by Ahed Tamimi’s father. Readers were not provided with any alternative views of the allegations levelled in AI’s political campaign supporting Tamimi.

This non-event of an article once again makes it blatantly obvious that the supposedly ‘impartial’ BBC has elected to lend its voice and outreach to promotion of a blatantly political campaign.