Inaccuracies unchallenged in BBC ‘Hardtalk’ interview on UN ‘apartheid’ report

The April 17th edition of the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk‘ was devoted to an interview with Rima Khalaf – the former head of UN ESCWA.

The programme was broadcast on BBC television channels (available to UK-based readers on iPlayer here) and a clip from the filmed version was promoted on the BBC World News website under the title “Non-Jewish Israelis ‘cannot challenge’ their status”.

“The former head of a UN agency has said that under current laws, non-Jewish citizens of Israel “cannot challenge their subordinate status”.

Rima Khalaf was the executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) until March 2017.

She resigned in March 2017, after the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres asked her to withdraw a report categorising Israel as an apartheid regime.”

An audio version of the interview was also broadcast on BBC World Service radio.

“Why did a UN agency publish a report that categorised Israel as an apartheid state? Rima Khalaf was Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia until March 2017. She commissioned a report which accused Israel of systematically implementing apartheid policies and promptly resigned from her UN post when the Secretary General refused to accept the work. What were her motives?”

Audiences certainly did not hear an honest account from Khalaf of her own motives or those of the member states of the UN agency she headed. They did however hear presenter Stephen Sackur challenge her robustly on that topic as well as on the issue of the controversial choice of authors for the report and on the use of the term ‘apartheid’ in connection with Israel.

However, Sackur was apparently less able or willing to challenge the numerous falsehoods promoted by Khalaf throughout the interview, with the result that audiences were highly likely to go away with numerous inaccurate impressions.

On more than one occasion Khalaf brought up the subject of the legal system in Judea & Samaria.

“I mean in the West Bank you have a dual legal system; one that applies to Jewish settlers and one that applies to the Palestinian inhabitants of the occupied territory.”

“When Richard Falk said that there is a dual legal system applied in the West Bank, there is a dual legal system.”

“…the apartheid problem emerges not from the occupation but from the fact that you have two populations on the same land and you have two different laws applying to the two populations.”

Audiences were not informed that the legal system that exists does so because Israel has not annexed the area and that certain elements of that legal system – e.g. Ottoman law (1517-1917), which regulates property and lands; British law (1917-1948), which regulates defense; Jordanian law (1948-1967), which regulates planning, construction and parts of the penal code – pre-date Israeli control over the territory. Neither were they informed that the vast majority of Palestinians – who reside in Areas A and B – are subject to the legal system of the Palestinian National Authority under the terms of the Oslo Accords.

Khalaf’s false claim that Israel “sends” civilians to live in Judea & Samaria was not challenged.

“…this is a case where Israel sends its population to settle in the West Bank, to colonise the West Bank…”

Khalaf’s false claims concerning the rights of Israeli citizens were not challenged at all.

“… in Israel there is a differentiation between nationality and citizenship – and this is very strange by the way – and that you have to be a Jew in order to be a national. And there are lots of rights that are associated with nationality. So you can be a citizen but you cannot have those other rights. And this is extremely important. You cannot discriminate between your citizens.”

Likewise, her misrepresentation of land related issues – further amplified in the promoted clip – went unchallenged.

“In Israel, I’m sure you know that 93% of the land is owned by the state. And land laws allow agencies to develop and sell land to Jews only. So you talked about 20% of the population who are non-Jewish; fine. But they’re not allowed to buy land in Israel except the lands that stayed with them after Israel was established…”

While it is true that the Israel Land Administration does administer around 93% of the land, it is not true that land is only sold to Jews – as explained in this backgrounder produced by CAMERA.

“In 1960 under Basic Law: Israel Lands, JNF-owned land and government-owned land were together defined as “Israel lands,” and the principle was laid down that such land would be leased rather than sold. The JNF retained ownership of its land, but administrative responsibility for the JNF land, and also for government-owned land, passed to a newly created agency called the Israel Land Administration or ILA.

Today, of the total land in Israel, 79.5% is owned by the government, 14% is privately owned by the JNF, and the rest, around 6.5%, is evenly divided between private Arab and Jewish owners. Thus, the ILA administers 93.5% of the land in Israel.

Statements that Israel refuses to sell state-owned land to Israeli Arabs are extremely misleading, since, as stated above, such land is not sold to Israeli Jews either, but is instead leased out by the ILA and is equally available to all citizens of Israel.”

Khalaf also misled audiences – unhindered – on the topic of political parties and that misinformation was further amplified in the promoted clip from the programme.

“But you mentioned also political parties. Do you know that it is unlawful in Israel to establish a political party that questions the nature of the state as a Jewish state. So basically you’re telling the non-Jewish citizens of Israel you can vote but once you’re elected you cannot…you cannot question your subordinate status. OK; you can lobby for better budgets, for municipal services, for better health and better education. But the basic laws that discriminate against you and that establishes [sic] inequality are beyond your reach because if you do, you’re illegal as a party.”

In fact, the establishment of such a party is not illegal as Khalaf claims but it might be prevented from running in elections as explained here:

“According to the Basic Law: The Knesset, the Central Elections Committee may prevent a candidates’ list from participating in elections if its objectives or actions, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:

  • negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people;
  • negation of the democratic character of the State;
  • incitement to racism.”

That clause was applied in 1988 in the case of the ‘Kach’ party. In contrast to the impression given by Khalaf, the anti-Zionist party Balad has been continuously represented in the Knesset since 1996 and one would of course expect a seasoned interviewer such as Stephen Sackur to know that and to ensure that audiences were provided with that information.  

Khalaf invoked UN GA resolution 181 but the fact that the Arab states rejected that recommendation was not clarified to BBC audiences.

“I suggest you and probably the audience they go back to the UN resolution that establishes Israel: the Partition resolution. That resolution was very clear: there is a Jewish state and there is an Arab state. But neither of the two states – neither the Jewish state nor the Arab state – can have laws that discriminate between people based on religion, sex or race. So that was the condition for establishing the state. Actually the declaration of independence for Israel does not discriminate based on any of those factors. But then later on, laws that discriminate based on religion and ethnic origin crept into the legal structure of Israel.”

Khalaf’s suggestion that peace in the Middle East depends on Israel was not questioned and her deliberate misrepresentation of the words of the Israeli prime minister was not challenged or clarified.

“What I am saying is, if we want peace in the region, we really need to address those laws, particularly now that we’re talking about recognising Israel as a Jewish state. My reference is the prime minister of Israel. When asked what do you mean by a Jewish state, his response was a state for the Jewish people and for the Jewish people only.”

In fact, while referring in 2014 to a proposed bill, Netanyahu said:

“The State of Israel provides full equal rights, individual rights, to all its citizens, but it is the nation-state of one people only – the Jewish people – and of no other people. And therefore, in order to bolster the status of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, I intend to submit a basic law that will anchor this status. The new law will be formulated in dialogue with all components of the coalition so that the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state are preserved.”

Sackur made no comment when Khalaf invoked the Livingstone Formulation.

“Look, and I know that there are lots of laws where criticising Israel will lead to defamation and to labelling you as an antisemite….”

Moreover, Sackur himself contributed to the misinformation relayed to audiences in this interview by referring to “roads that are specifically for Jewish settlers”.

Sackur [13:21]: “Of course the Israelis say that so many of the conditions they impose on Palestinians in the occupied territories in the West Bank are connected to security. It is security, they say, that led them to build that barrier fence or wall – whatever you choose to call it. It is security that leads them to have roads that are specifically for Jewish settlers to get them safely to their settlements. And that is not about a racial theory; that is about the practicalities of security.” [emphasis added]

Such roads of course do not exist: while vehicles with PA plates have been restricted from travelling on a small number of roads (a total of 40.22 kms according to B’Tselem) in Judea & Samaria for security reasons, non-Jewish Israelis and tourists were always free to use them. CAMERA has secured numerous corrections in the past from media outlets that have promoted the same falsehood.

Stephen Sackur’s robust questioning on the topic of the intentions behind the ESCWA report, its author and the use of the ‘apartheid’ smear was a refreshing novelty on ‘Hardtalk’ and particularly important seeing as previous BBC coverage of the story (see ‘related articles’ below) refrained from addressing those issues. Unfortunately, his failure to challenge Rima Khalaf’s misleading claims equally robustly and his own promotion of inaccurate information detracted from the interview and made it highly likely that uninformed members of the public would go away with multiple misconceptions.   

Related Articles:

BBC News erases identity of authors of UN ‘apartheid’ report

A new BBC ‘explanation’ for its double standards on terror

As readers no doubt recall, when a vehicular and stabbing attack took place in London last month, the BBC made appropriate use of the word terror in its reports on the story.

In contrast, the word terror is consistently absent from reports concerning similar acts of terrorism that take place in Israel.

A member of the corporation’s funding public, Mr Neil Turner, wrote to the BBC to ask them to explain that lack of consistency in the use of the term terror. The reply he received includes the following (emphasis added):

“Thank you for getting in touch about our report on the attack carried out on Westminster Bridge in London and please accept our apologies for the delay in our response.

The BBC sets out clear parameters on how terms such as “terrorist” might be used:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/guidance/terrorism-language/guidance-full

Where there is an ongoing geopolitical conflict – as in the Middle East – to use the term “terror attack” or similar might be seen to be taking sides. There are those who might consider the actions of the Israeli government to be considered as terrorist acts.

In a situation where a country that is not involved in a direct physical combat comes under attack, it may be reasonable to construe that as a terrorist incident.

The use of such terminology is never an exact science but where a continuing conflict exists, it is reasonable that the BBC would not wish to appear to be taking sides.

Thank you again for raising this matter.”

Once again we see that the BBC chooses to deliberately conflate means with ends, putting forward the obviously flawed argument that if a person commits an act of violence against civilians with the purpose of furthering a political or religious agenda in a country in which there is “an ongoing geopolitical conflict”, that is not terrorism but if he does the exact same in a country where there is no such ongoing conflict, it is.

The bottom falls out of that argument when we recall that the BBC did use the term ‘Jewish terrorists’ to describe the perpetrator/s of the arson attack in Duma, despite the existence of an “ongoing geopolitical conflict”.

The corporation’s complaints department also appears to have tried to find a way of dismissing the fact that UK forces are involved in the military campaign against jihadists in Iraq and Syria by means of use of the term “direct physical combat”. Notably, the BBC is apparently not inclined to promote the notion that those actions of a state fighting terrorism might be “considered as terrorist acts”.

While there appears to be no limit to the ‘creativity’ of BBC Complaints when challenged on the issue of the corporation’s double standards and lack of consistency when reporting acts of terror, audiences are of course likely to remain unimpressed by these repeatedly contorted excuses.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

  

 

How to complain to OFCOM about BBC programmes

As noted here earlier this month, OFCOM is now able to consider complaints concerning content on some of the BBC’s platforms.

Background information – including the Broadcasting Code against which complaints are assessed – is available here and here.

Before a complaint concerning a BBC TV channel, radio station or BBC iPlayer can be considered by OFCOM, it should in most cases have first been made to the BBC itself: details and online form available here

Note: it is important to keep the reference number of any complaint made to the BBC that you may wish to pursue further through OFCOM.

Different categories of complaints to OFCOM are explained here and the online form for submission of a complaint concerning a BBC programme is available here.

We have updated our ‘Resources’ section and the page titled ‘How to Complain to the BBC’ in the ‘Get Involved’ section of the menu bar above to include information concerning the new system.

Related Articles:

OFCOM begins new role as BBC’s external regulator

Weekend long read

1) NGO Monitor reports on ‘EU Funding to NGOs Active in Anti-Israel BDS Campaigns‘.

“The European Union (EU) is the single largest donor to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in the Arab-Israeli conflict, accounting for NIS 28.1 million in 2012-2014 to politicized Israeli NGOs alone.

Indeed, NGO funding is a central component of EU foreign policy, claiming to promote peace, cooperation, and human rights. In contrast to the stated objectives, the EU funds a number of highly biased and politicized NGOs that exploit the rhetoric of human rights to promote anti-Israel BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) and lawfare campaigns, inflammatory rhetoric, and activities that oppose a two-state framework.”

2) During the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas the BBC World Service broadcast a particularly egregious interview with an ISM activist called Joe Catron who also writes for an outfit called Mint Press News. As our colleagues at CAMERA recently noted, a document that purports to be a guide to help readers discern reliable and unreliable news sites and is promoted on the Harvard University Library website includes incorrect classification of Mint Press News.

“The lengthy document lists various websites, either news sites or sites designed to look like news sites, and rates each site using a combination of labels including (among others):

Fake News (tag fake): Sources that entirely fabricate information, disseminate deceptive content, or grossly distort actual news reports. … 

Extreme Bias (tag bias): Sources that come from a particular point of view and may rely on propaganda, decontextualized information, and opinions distorted as facts. …

Proceed With Caution (tag unreliable): Sources that may be reliable but whose contents require further verification or to be read in conjunction with other sources.

Political (tag political): Sources that provide generally verifiable information in support of certain points of view or political orientations.  

Credible (tag reliable): Sources that circulate news and information in a manner consistent with traditional and ethical practices in journalism (Remember: even credible sources sometimes rely on clickbait-style headlines or occasionally make mistakes. No news organization is perfect, which is why a healthy news diet consists of multiple sources of information). … 

Two listings on the site stand out as mislabeled. Dr. Zimdars lists the Alternet site as “political” but “credible,” and MintPress as simply “political.” Both of these sites are extremely biased, and have published false assertions concerning Israel and the Middle East. MintPress, moreover, appears to have affiliations with hate sites.”

Read the whole report here

3) Vimeo has an interesting video of a discussion between Dave Rich and Nick Cohen at Jewish Book Week.

“In his thought-provoking new work, The Left’s Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism, Dave Rich offers a judicious analysis of the Left’s increasingly controversial ‘Jewish problem’. He examines the widening gulf between British Jews and the anti-Israel left and, based on fresh academic research, demonstrates that while the election of Jeremy Corbyn may have thrown a harsher spotlight on the crisis, it is by no means a recent phenomenon. In conversation with journalist Nick Cohen.”

4) Ahead of Yom HaShoah Rabbi Sacks has produced a new video titled ‘The Mutation of Antisemitism’.

BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

A video currently appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page includes the following statements:

“There are strict controls on the movement of goods and people going in and out of Gaza.

Israel and Egypt tightened their blockade after Hamas, a militant group, took control in 2007.”

Similar messaging – often with political overtones – is frequently seen in content provided to BBC audiences.

“Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade around Gaza aimed at preventing attacks by militants there, though the measure has been condemned by rights groups as a form of collective punishment.” BBC News website, February 13th 2017.

“…the stifling border closures the Israeli government says are for security, the people here say are for collective punishment.” BBC World Service radio, February 1st 2017.

“One of the reasons Gaza’s often described as the largest open-air prison in the world is the difficulty of getting across the border with Israel.” BBC World Service radio, May 19th 2015.

However, beyond the ‘Israel says’ mantra, BBC audiences rarely hear about the reasons why restrictions placed on the border with the Gaza Strip are necessary because Hamas terrorism is consistently ignored, downplayed or erased.

On April 19th another story illustrating the need for border restrictions came to light.

“Israeli authorities on Wednesday morning intercepted material used to manufacture explosive devices hidden inside spools of medical material at the Erez Crossing, the Shin Bet announced in a statement.

According to the statement, the material was located during the security check at the crossing in the luggage of two sisters who are residents of the Gaza Strip. The two women had been approved to enter Israel for the purpose of receiving medical treatment for cancer, which one of the two sisters suffers from.

An initial Shin Bet investigation indicated that the explosives were sent by Hamas and that the group was planning to carry out terror attacks in Israel in the near future, the statement read, adding that the material was destroyed by a sapper of the Southern District police force.

“The terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, including Hamas, continue to exploit the humanitarian and medical assistance provided by Israel to the residents of the Gaza Strip in order to perpetrate terrorist attacks in Israel.””

Predictably, the BBC has not found that story newsworthy.

As long as it continues to avoid reporting such stories and the broader context behind them, the BBC’s omission of vital information continues to shape audience views of Israeli counter-terrorism measures in a manner clearly incompatible with its supposed commitment to accurate and impartial reporting. 

Related Articles:

Documenting the BBC’s continuing silence on Gaza smuggling

BBC waives another chance to explain why Gaza’s naval blockade exists

BBC News passes up chance to explain why Israeli counter-terrorism measures exist

 

BBC News promotes PLO narrative in copious coverage of prisoners’ strike

Since the commencement on April 17th of a hunger strike by some of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons led by Marwan Barghouti, the BBC News website’s Middle East page has published no fewer than three reports on the subject.

April 17th: “Palestinians in Israeli jails hold mass hunger strike” 

April 18th: “Israel rules out talks with Palestinian hunger striking inmates

April 19th: “Palestinian anger at Israeli refusal to talk to hunger striking inmates

However, in that remarkable display of conscription to the cause of publicising that story, the BBC has refrained from providing its audiences with background information crucial to their understanding of the topic.

In all three of those articles readers are told that the strike:

“…is being led by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader jailed by Israel for life for five murders.”

They are not, however, informed of the full background of Barghouti’s role in instigating the second Intifada or his involvement in additional acts of terror. Predictably, his victims do not even get a mention from the BBC.

BBC audiences are also told in all three reports that:

“Barghouti has been touted as a possible future successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.”

They have not, however, been informed of the political background to the strike which is rooted in internal Fatah power struggles.

Readers of those three reports are told that the hunger strikers are protesting “detention conditions” and “conditions in Israeli jails”. They are not told what those conditions are or what the strikers are demanding.

“Among the demands from Barghouti and the prisoners are the resumption of a second monthly visit by family members (a benefit that was cancelled by the International Committee of the Red Cross due to budget cuts), the prevention of family meetings being cancelled for security reasons, and the restoration of academic studies and matriculation exams to prisoners. Other demands include more television channels being available in cells and cell phones in security wings.”

Significantly, in all three of the reports, readers find (not for the first time) amplification of the PLO’s narrative concerning Palestinian prisoners – as promoted, for example, in a PLO ‘media brief’ from June 2015. [emphasis added]

Report 1: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 2: “Palestinians say the detainees are political prisoners, while Israel describes them as “terrorists”” (photo caption)

                  “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 3: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis.”

The idea that people who have been convicted of perpetrating acts of terrorism are ‘political prisoners’ is rejected in Europe and we certainly do not see the BBC promoting the notion that people imprisoned in the UK for terror related offences may be defined in such terms.

There is of course nothing novel about BBC compliance with the PLO’s ‘advice’ to the media. However, the repeated promotion of the narrative according to which convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’ in this over-generously covered story obviously calls BBC impartiality into question.   

Related Articles:

BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

BBC coverage of prisoner release amplifies narrative of ‘political prisoners’

 

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

As noted in part one of this post, between January 1st and March 31st 2017, ninety-one 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 site and seven of which were carried over from 2016. 12.09% of those reports covered stories relating to security/terrorism.

The remaining 87.91% 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.)

Five reports (5.49% of the total) related to historical subject matter:

‘Anne Frank link’ unearthed at Sobibor camp (16/1/17 to 17/1/17)

‘Yolocaust’: How should you behave at a Holocaust memorial? (20/1/17 to 29/1/17)

New Dead Sea Scrolls cave discovered (9/2/17 to 12/2/17)

British WWI alcohol stash unearthed in Israel (22/3/317 to 23/3/17)

Holy Sepulchre Church: Discovery at ‘Jesus’s tomb’ in Jerusalem (22/3/17 to 26/3/17)

Middle East page, 13/2/17

Four reports (4.4%) can be categorised as miscellaneous:

Hilarion Capucci: Arms-smuggling archbishop dies aged 94 (2/1/17 to 4/1/17)

Peru asks Trump to consider deporting ex-President Alejandro Toledo (13/2/17)

Jordan releases soldier who shot Israeli schoolgirls (12/3/17 to 13/3/17) discussed here

Israel: Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine ‘killed by own men’ (21/3/17 to 23/3/17) discussed here

One report related to the US administration:

Pro-settlement hardliner Friedman confirmed as US envoy to Israel (23/3/17 to 26/3/17) discussed here

35 reports (38.46%) related to Israeli diplomatic/international relations and/or political aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict:

Israel and the Palestinians: Can settlement issue be solved? (29/12/16 to 3/1/17 – date stamp later changed) discussed here and here

Trump and the Middle East: an impossible disengagement?  Jonathan Marcus (30/12/16 to 7/1/17)

Obama and the Middle East – too little, too late? Paul Adams (29/12/16 to 7/1/17)

Five issues which shaped the Middle East in 2016 Jeremy Bowen (31/12/16 to 8/1/17)

Downing Street criticises US comments on Israel (30/12/16 to 2/1/17)

Israel’s ambassador sorry over ‘take down’ Sir Alan Duncan comment (8/1/17 to 9/1/17) discussed here

Can Paris summit save fading two-state solution? Yolande Knell (14/1/17 to 20/1/17) discussed here

Mahmoud Abbas: US embassy move to Jerusalem would hurt peace (14/1/17 to 16/1/17) discussed here and here

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Summit warns against unilateral actions (15/1/17 to 17/1/17) discussed here

Why aren’t the Israelis and Palestinians talking? (14/1/17 to 22/1/17) discussed here

Obama fears moment ‘may be passing’ for two-state solution (19/1/17 to 20/1/17)

Israel approves settlement homes following Trump inauguration (22/1/17 to 24/1/17) discussed here

UN condemns Israel’s West Bank settlement plans (25/1/17 to 27/1/17) discussed here

Netanyahu: Iran missile test must not go unanswered (31/1/17 to 1/2/17) 

New Israel settlements ‘may not be helpful’ to peace, says US (3/2/17 to 6/2/17) discussed here

What will the Trump presidency mean for Israel?  Jonathan Marcus (3/2/17 to 8/2/17)

Benjamin Netanyahu discusses Iran threat with Theresa May (6/2/17 to 8/2/17)

Is a new Middle East war on Israel’s horizon? Jonathan Marcus (8/2/17 to 14/2/17) discussed here

Trump urges Israel to ‘act reasonably’ on settlements (10/2/17 to 12/2/17)

Do Trump and Netanyahu see eye to eye? Barbara Plett Usher (14/2/17 to 20/2/17)

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Two-state solution not only option, US says (15/2/17) discussed here

Trump relaxes US policy on Middle East two-state solution (15/2/17 to 16/2/17) discussed here

Trump and Netanyahu – in 90 seconds (15/2/17 to 16/2/17)

Trump: ‘Mideast peace up to them’ (15/2/17 to 16/2/17)

PJ Crowley: Trump unveils a subtle but vital shift in US policy (16/2/17 to 24/2/17) discussed here

Israel-Palestinian conflict: US ‘thinking outside box’ (16/2/17 to 19/2/17)

Israel and the Palestinians: What are alternatives to a two-state solution? Colin Shindler (17/2/17 to 24/2/17)

Israeli PM criticises UN ‘hypocrisy’ on historic Australia visit (22/2/17) discussed here

Australian ex-PM Kevin Rudd berates Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (23/2/17 to 25/2/17) discussed here

Banksy decorates West Bank hotel with views of Israel’s wall (3/3/17 to 6/3/17) discussed here

Banksy hotel, The Walled Off, opens in Bethlehem  3/3/17 to 7/3/17) discussed here

Putin and Netanyahu: A complex diplomatic dance  Jonathan Marcus (9/3/17 to 20/3/17)

UK pro-Palestinian activist deported from Israel (13/3/17 to 14/3/17) discussed here

UN’s Rima Khalaf quits over report accusing Israel of apartheid (17/3/17 to 20/3/17) discussed here

Israel approves first new West Bank settlement in 20 years  (30/3/17 to 3/4/17 – date stamp changed) discussed here

Four reports (4.4%) related to Palestinian affairs:

Gaza electricity crisis: Hamas breaks up protest (13/1/17 to 14/1/17) discussed here

Angry protests in Gaza over crippling power shortages Rushdi Abu Alouf (14/1/17 to 21/1/17) discussed here

Hamas hardliner Yehiya Sinwar elected as Gaza leader (13/2/17 to 16/2/17) discussed here

Trump Middle East: Palestinian leader invited to White House (10/3/17 to 13/3/17) discussed here

The thirty-one reports (34.07% of the total) concerning Israeli affairs can be divided into sub categories including:

a) reports relating to legal and/or criminal issues:

Israel’s Netanyahu denies wrongdoing ahead of investigation (30/12/16 to 2/1/17)

Israeli police question PM Netanyahu in corruption probe (2/1/17 to 4/1/17)

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria convicted over Hebron death (4/1/17) discussed here

Israeli PM Netanyahu backs pardon for manslaughter soldier (4/1/17 to 5/1/17)

Israel police arrest two over threats to judges in Elor Azaria case (5/1/17 to 6/1/17)

Israel PM Netanyahu questioned again in corruption probe (5/1/17 to 8/1/17)

Israel bribery inquiry: ‘Audiotape’ adds to pressure on PM Netanyahu (8/1/17 to 9/1/17)

Israeli soldier gets 18 months for killing wounded Palestinian attacker (21/2/17 to 22/2/17) discussed here

Israeli policeman filmed beating Palestinian driver (23/3/17 to 26/3/17)

Video of Israeli policeman hitting Palestinian driver draws anger (23/3/17 to 24/3/17)

Israel holds 19-year-old over threats against Jewish centres (23/3/17 to 26/3/17) discussed here

b) society:

Israel’s Mossad spy agency on the hunt for women agents (5/1/17 to 7/1/17)

The female soldiers serving in Israel’s army (11/2/17 to 14/2/17)

Israeli army sets sights on recruits with autism (1/3/17 to 8/3/17)

c) domestic news/politics:

 Israeli policeman and Bedouin killed during clashes over demolitions (18/1/17 to 19/1/17) discussed here

Israel ‘to take in 100 Syrian orphans’ (26/1/17 to 27/1/17) discussed here

Israel approves 3,000 new settler homes as Amona evacuation begins (1/2/17) discussed here

Amona settlers dragged from homes by Israeli police (1/2/17 to 3/2/17)

Israeli police move in on unauthorised Amona outpost (1/2/17 to 2/2/17)

Israel police evict settlers from unauthorised Amona outpost (2/2/17)

Amona: Israel police clear last protesters from settler outpost (2/2/17 to 3/2/17)

Israel passes controversial law on West Bank settlements (6/2/17 to 8/2/17 – date stamp changed)

Rights groups challenge Israel settlements law in court (8/2/17 to 10/2/17)

Jesus miracle church in Israel reopens after arson attack (12/2/17 to 14/2/17)

Israel’s Netanyahu criticised over 2014 Gaza war preparations (28/2/17 to 2/3/17) discussed here

Israel marijuana: Users to face fine rather than criminal charge  (5/3/17 to 7/3/17)

Israel Arafat street sign dropped after Netanyahu anger (6/3/17 to 7/3/17) discussed here

Israeli Arab anger as parliament backs ‘muezzin bill’ (8/3/17 to 10/3/17) discussed here

Israeli nurse dies after being set alight by patient (14/3/17 to 17/3/17)

Netanyahu denies claim he was ejected from convoy by wife (14/3/17 to 16/3/17)

d) technology:

Intel buys driverless car technology firm Mobileye (13/3/17 to 15/3/17)

As was the case throughout 2016 (see ‘related articles’ below) Israeli domestic affairs once again received considerably greater coverage (34.07%) than did Palestinian affairs (4.4%) in the first quarter of 2017. Remarkably, 16.48% of the headlines of the 91 reports published included the name Netanyahu while Mahmoud Abbas’ name was present in just one headline. 

Related Articles:

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

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 one

Between January 1st and March 31st 2017, a total of ninety-one reports with content relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Seven of those reports were carried over from December 2016.

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

Although the Israeli security services recorded 321 terror attacks during the first quarter of 2017 (see ‘related articles’ below), just one 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.)

Jerusalem lorry attack: Four Israeli soldiers killed (8/1/17 to 9/1/17) 

Jerusalem attack: Uncle of the lorry driver speaks out (8/1/17 to 12/1/17)

Jerusalem attack eyewitness: ‘I saw the truck hitting the soldiers’ (8/1/17 to 17/1/17) 

Jerusalem lorry attack: ‘I fired until my magazine was empty’ (9/1/17 to 18/1/17) 

Netanyahu: ‘We will overcome terror attacks’ (8/1/17) 

Jerusalem lorry attacker ‘was IS supporter’ (9/1/17 to 10/1/17)

One article (carried over from December) related to a terror warning issued by the Israeli security services:

Israel warns of New Year terror threat in India (30/12/16 to 1/1/17) discussed here

Two articles related to Hamas:

Israel will no longer return bodies of Palestinian Hamas militants (1/1/17 to 2/1/17) discussed here

Israeli soldiers ‘caught in Hamas online honey trap’ (12/1/17 to 13/1/17)

Two articles related to Syria:

Syria accuses Israel of bombardment (13/1/17 to 15/1/17) discussed here

Israel’s Arrow anti-missile system ‘in first hit’ (17/3/17 to 20/3/17) discussed here

In all, 12.09% of the BBC News website’s reports in Q1 covered stories relating to security/terrorism. The additional topics found in the BBC’s coverage of Israel and the Palestinians during the first quarter of 2017 will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – March 2017

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

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

As noted in a recent post, the April 17th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ included a monologue from a person described as “the mother of a Palestinian inmate”. The monologue was also promoted to the BBC World Service Twitter account’s 303,000 followers and those who listened to the clip heard the following in a voice-over:

“I haven’t seen or visited my son for around maybe ten months. Israeli security won’t let me see him. When I used to visit Diya I felt as if I owned the world. Every visit request I put in only comes back with rejection, rejection, rejection. I’m 67 years old. What risk am I to Israel’s security? I am of no danger. All I want is to see my son, to check on him and he can check on me. This is all I want but they deprive even a mother from seeing her son and a son from seeing his mother.”

While BBC audiences are no strangers to the promotion of pathos-rich stories from the elderly mothers of convicted terrorists, the fact that listeners were not told who the speaker is or why her son is in prison and did not hear any response to her allegations from the Israeli authorities obviously does not inspire confidence in the BBC’s commitment to impartial reporting of this story.

So who is this “mother of a Palestinian inmate”? A clue to that question comes in a video that appears on the BBC Arabic website and is also embedded in an Arabic language article titled “More than a thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails begin hunger strike” that, like its English language equivalent, promotes the notion that Palestinian “detainees” might be seen as “political prisoners”.

The woman extensively profiled in that BBC Arabic video is called Najat al Agha and she lives in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. Mrs al Agha is by no means publicity shy: she recently told a very similar story to the one promoted by ‘Newsday’ to ‘Amnesty International’ which, predictably, is supplying publicity for the current Fatah hunger strike.

“Najat al-Agha, a 67-year-old woman from Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, told Amnesty International that her son, Dia al-Agha, 43, has been imprisoned in Israel for the past 25 years. At the age of 19 he was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted on murder charges.  He is being held in Nafha prison in Mitzpe Ramon in the south.

“I don’t know why I get rejected. I am 67 years old. What security threat am I to Israel? All I want is to see him and make sure he is well. I don’t know how long I will live, any visit can be my last. I am scared of dying without seeing him,” his mother said.

“Every time I apply for a permit I get rejected. It is almost a year that I haven’t seen my son, it is devastating. They are punishing us, they are trying to break us.””

Moreover, Najat al Agha – who actually has had two sons serve time in prison in Israel – appears to come forward to tell her story quite frequently and – perhaps not unrelatedly – has been the recipient of ‘honorary gifts’ from the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.

The son she names in the ‘Newsday’ clip is Diya Zakariya Shaker Al-Agha “Al-Faluji”. He was convicted of the murder of Amatzia Ben Haim from Kibbutz Yad Mordechai in a greenhouse in Ganei Tal in October 1992.

“…Amatzia worked as an engineer in the fledgling electronics factory of the kibbutz. The final product was a computer controlled irrigation and liquid fertilization system sold to farmers who owned greenhouses, small plots of land, who grew tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, and flowers.

Amatzia would go to these farms, install the systems, and often go back to maintain them or to troubleshoot them if needed.  Some of these farms were in the Gaza Strip, prior to the Israeli evacuation of all farms and settlements in Gaza.

It was on one of these trips that Amatzia was helping one such farmer in the Gaza strip, focused entirely on an irrigation line that may have been clogged, or a computer lead that may have malfunctioned. He did not pay attention to the young teen working nearby with a hoe, weeding the furrows. It was to be Amatzia’s last day on earth, as the teen brought the hoe down on Amatzia’s head, killing him instantly, widowing Amatzia’s wife, and orphaning his children.”

A media organisation truly committed to accurate and impartial journalism would of course have provided its audiences with information concerning the “Palestinian inmate” and the act of terror he committed. The BBC World Service, however, chose to give completely context-free amplification to his mother’s claim that Israel is ‘depriving’ her of seeing her son, without any mention of the fact that her son deprived three children – the youngest of whom was only five years old at the time – from ever seeing their father again.

That, of course, is not accurate and impartial journalism but self-conscription to a political campaign.

Related Articles:

BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike

The BBC, the elderly mothers of convicted terrorists and Twitter