More ME news the BBC elected to ignore

On the evening of Tuesday July 16th a man was stabbed several times in the chest and abdomen near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem in what the police said they suspect was a nationalistically motivated attack. 

On the evening of Thursday July 18th another man sustained injuries after rocks were thrown at his vehicle whilst he was travelling on Route 55 near Karnei Shomron. 

MDA tweet 18 7

Later the same evening air-raid sirens sounded in the Eshkol Regional Council area adjacent to the border with the Gaza Strip as two missiles were again fired at Israeli civilian targets. No injuries were reported. In addition, stone-throwing incidents took place near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Damascus Gate - שער שכם.jpg

On Friday, July 19th, three more wounded Syrians were transported into Israel to receive medical treatment.

Yet again, none of the above was deemed newsworthy by the BBC.

Related posts:

BBC fails to report on Route 5 terror attack

BBC ECU publishes outcome of complaint about World News Tweet

Readers may remember that last November the following Tweet was sent from the BBC World News official account.

Tweet BBC world news Tel Aviv

The BBC Editorial Control Unit has now published its findings after a complaint was made by Mr Stephen Franklin. 

ECU TA tweet

The finding does not link to a publicly available “correction and apology” and so it is difficult to determine to what exactly the ECU is referring with that wording. Mr Franklin did receive a reply to his complaint from the Audience Relations department of BBC World News in December 2012 in which it was stated:

“With regards to the tweet concerning Tel Aviv, from November 15th:

“It was an error, which we apologise for.  The editorial team involved have been reminded of the need to take great care with language used in reporting this story.” “

It is interesting to see that greater “care with language” – rather than facts – is apparently the BBC’s prescription for such an obvious case of inaccuracy. But this case also suggests that something in the BBC’s system of drawing conclusions from audience complaints is awry. In July 2011 Mr Franklin made a similar complaint regarding a statement made on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme in which James Naughtie referred to the Israeli government as being situated in Tel Aviv. At the time he was informed that:

“I can assure you that I have registered your concerns on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s made available to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers. The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content. The logs are also published on the BBC’s intranet site, so are available for all BBC staff to view.”

And yet, sixteen months later, some BBC staff still apparently did not know where the capital of a country they report about on a daily basis is located.

As we saw in Operation Pillar of Cloud, the application of BBC editorial guidelines to the Twitter activities of its staff is of ever-growing importance, both due to the medium’s speed and the fact that it cuts out the editorial middle man between the journalist and the audience – making it more open to abuse.

 

The Christians who do not fit into the BBC’s Middle East narrative

A few weeks ago the BBC covered the subject of the recent Middle East tour made by the new Archbishop of Canterbury on the UK page of the BBC News website.

An article dated June 21st 2013 included a side box of ‘analysis’ by John McManus which for some obscure reason went off on a tangent on the subject of the protests by ‘Women of the Wall’ – a subject hardly relevant to an article about the visit of the head of the Anglican Church. 

A of C trip analysis

An article dated June 22nd quoted the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent:

“BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said the trip was partly intended as support for hard-pressed Christian minorities.

Archbishop Welby said he was “deeply concerned” about the “pressures on Christian communities” in the region. […]

Our correspondent said the political turmoil that has followed the national revolutions of the Arab Spring and the conflict in Syria has undermined Christian communities.

Christian minorities have suffered violent attacks and harassment in Iraq, Syria and Egypt, among other countries, and many Christians have fled the region, he added.”

Significantly, the article makes no mention of the persecution of Christians in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority controlled areas, despite the fact that – unlike Syria and Iraq – the latter actually was on the Archbishop’s itinerary. 

A third article from June 28th has the BBC quoting one anti-Israel activist and linking to other sources quoting additional ones – with the Guardian link also including the usual distortions by Harriet Sherwood.

“But reports in the Times and the Guardian contained strong criticism from local Christians of the archbishop’s position that he had not had time to visit Bethlehem and Nazareth.

Nora Carmi, of the Kairos of Palestine Christian group, called for the Church of England to “call a spade a spade” over persecution of Christians.”

Notably, the BBC only seems to recognize the existence of one genre of Palestinian Christian – the type involved in anti-Israel campaigning. The others – the ones who are persecuted by their fellow Palestinians – cannot rely on the BBC to tell their stories or grant exposure to their point of view. And there are other Middle East Christians ignored by the BBC too. 

In the only country in the Middle East in which the Christian population is growing and thriving, a months-long story of persecution has been completely overlooked. A Greek Orthodox priest from Yafia, near Nazareth, has been threatened by his own church and subjected to incitement by Arab members of the ‘Balad’ party for supporting service in the Israeli army by Christian Israelis. 

“The persecution of Greek Orthodox priest Father Gabriel Nadaf has escalated to a new crescendo, as the Jerusalem Patriarchate threatens to sack the Nazareth-resident and deprive him of his livelihood.

Nadaf’s sin is his open activism on behalf of integration by Arab Christians – or Arab-speaking Christian Israelis, as Nadaf prefers to call himself and his followers – into Israel’s mainstream.

He openly and bravely supports, though does not necessarily encourage, the growing number of young Christians who are interested in enlistment in the IDF. He also supports those interested in performing national service in their own communities. This sufficed to put him on the hit list of radical Arab MKs – including the only Greek Orthodox Arab MK, Basel Ghattas (Balad) – and to create inordinate pressure on the Jerusalem Patriarchate to dissociate itself from Nadaf and to punish him. The Palestinian Authority is also reportedly leaning on the patriarchate.”

The tribulations of Father Nadaf and others were discussed in the Knesset earlier this month and Christian Israelis have begun speaking out. They have even formed a new political party which calls for the full integration of Christians into Israeli life.

Apparently though, none of that fits in with the BBC’s Middle East narrative and so BBC audiences remain unaware of such cases of harassment and persecution.

SONY DSC

Outside the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth – March 2012

SONY DSC

Outside the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth – March 2012

 

A long history of complaints of BBC distortion by omission

“The presentation of the Palestine issue to the British public by the BBC has, for the last two years or so, been a model of distortion by omission.”

Those words are not a quote from a previous BBC Watch article. They in fact appeared sixty-six years ago in the December 21st 1947 edition of the Palestine Post.

Don’t miss the last line!  

(For easier reading – click on the screen shots to enlarge.)

PP 21 12 47 a

PP 21 12 47 b

PP 21 12 47 c

PP 21 12 47 d

BBC promotes PA lies about Israeli planning decisions

On July 17th 2013 the BBC News website’s Middle East page featured an article entitled “Arab League backs Kerry’s Israel-Palestinian plan“.

Arab League Kerry

 

By the article’s third paragraph the BBC is once again misleading readers on the subject of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to continue negotiations in September 2010 by inserting its usual euphemistic pro-forma sentence which is no longer even correct time-wise.

“The last round of direct Israeli-Palestinian talks broke down two years ago over the issue of settlements.”

As we have unfortunately had to point out here many times before:

“The statement fails to inform readers that prior to that break-down in talks, a ten-month freeze on construction had been implemented by Israel in order to encourage the renewal of discussions, but the Palestinian Authority failed to come to the negotiating table for nine of those ten months and then used the end of the construction freeze on September 26th 2010 as a pretext to refuse to continue talks.”

In the latter part of the article the BBC yet again promotes its highly selective narrative on the subject of ‘obstacles to peace’:

“The issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank remains one of the biggest stumbling blocks between the two sides.”

It also promotes an egregiously partisan distortion of Israeli planning processes which clearly breaches BBC guidelines on both accuracy and impartiality:  

“Israel gave its final approval on Wednesday for the construction of more than 700 new settlement homes in Modiin Ilit, halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

One of the Palestinians involved in negotiations with Mr Kerry, Mohammed Ishtayeh, said the approval had been timed to obstruct Mr Kerry’s efforts.

“It has become a trend to see such Israeli behaviour each time an American or an international official visits the region to push forward the negotiation track,” Mr Shtayyeh said.”

In fact, as reported in Ha’aretz, the approval of 732 housing units in Modi’in Ilit (located in one of the large blocs which will, under any realistic scenario, remain under Israeli control after final status negotiations on the subject of borders) was given at a pre-scheduled meeting at which the discussion of additional planning applications in Shilo, Kochav Ya’akov, Kibbutz Almog (near the Dead Sea) and Kibbutz Gilgal (in the Jordan Rift Valley) was also supposed to take place. 

“עם הגעת חברי הוועדה לדיון, התברר כי בלילה החליט שר הביטחון לדחות את הדיון בכל הנוגע לשילה, כוכב יעקב, אלמוג וגלגל. שר הביטחון לא נימק את החלטתו, אך חבר בוועדה העריך כי הסיבה היא ביקורו של שר החוץ האמריקאי, ג’ון קרי, באזור…”

“With the arrival of the committee members at the meeting it became known that during the night the Minister of Defence had decided to postpone the discussion in relation to Shilo, Kochav Ya’akov, Almog and Gilgal. The Minister of Defence did not explain his decision, but a member of the committee estimated that the reason is the visit by the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, to the region…”

One section of the BBC article is devoted to the subject of the 2002 Arab League initiative:

“He [Kerry] also urged Israel to “look hard” at a Saudi-backed peace initiative first proposed in 2002. The plan would offer full recognition of Israel, but only if it returned all land seized in the 1967 war, as well as agreeing to a solution for Palestinian refugees.

Mr Kerry said that it gave Israel the promise of peace with the Arab world.”

However, the article does not link to the text of that initiative (despite the fact that it exists on the BBC website) or give audiences any explanation of the issues surrounding it which would clarify for them the banality of Kerry’s reported statement and explain the next sentence in the article:

“Israel has said it could not accept the terms as originally proposed but has indicated a readiness to consider the idea of the plan.”

On the same day that the Arab League (composed mainly of the very same countries which sought to annihilate Israel in 1948 and again in 1967) declared its ‘peace initiative’ in Beirut – March 27th 2002 – Hamas carried out the suicide bombing in the Park Hotel in Netanya in which 30 Israelis were killed and 140 injured. Hamas has consistently rejected the Arab League proposal since its inception and in its subsequent forms – most recently in May 2013. Hizballah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad also reject any plan which would lead to the recognition of Israel, territorial compromise and an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Quite how Kerry or anyone else expects Israel to respond to a ‘one stop shop’ proposal which is rejected by three of the main terrorist organisations in the region (funded by Iran, which is of course not a member of the Arab League) is unclear. No less problematic is the fact that despite the fine rhetoric, the Arab League plan – conceived in the days when Arab dictators were rather more thick on the ground than they are today – cannot provide any guarantee of clause 3 of the initiative in today’s changing Middle East: 

“3. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:

I- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.

II- Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.”

With the future government of Egypt an uncertainty and Syria suspended from the Arab League since November 2011, the notion that ‘land for peace’ can be guaranteed – particularly in the Golan Heights – is patently dubious at this time.

Aspects of the plan which have been problematic since its beginning include the stipulation of Israeli withdrawal to lines which are not the 1949 Armistice lines and the fact that it negates UN SC resolution 242 by use of the phrase “all the territories”.

“Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.”

That demand is particularly problematic in relation to the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights where the June 4th 1967 lines do not correspond with previous international borders or the 1949 Armistice lines. It also ignores the fact that Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000 is considered by the UN to be a withdrawal to the international border and of course it promotes the anachronistic – and highly problematic – division of Jerusalem. 

Another particularly difficult issue is that of Palestinian refugees, with the Arab League initiative calling for their ‘right of return’ to Israel:

“Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.”

The same document also declares that the Arab League:

“Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.”

That clause is interpreted by many observers as being especially problematic as it provides Arab countries with the legitimacy to refuse naturalisation to Palestinian refugees already living there for generations and potentially inflates the numbers exercising the previously promoted ‘right of return’.

In addition, the Arab League initiative (to which, of course, Israel had no input, making it a dictate rather than the outcome of negotiations – as the Quartet has always claimed to envisage the end to the conflict coming about) makes no mention of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands and no provision for their compensation.

Obviously, the BBC’s dumbed-down presentation of the Arab League initiative as a panacea to the problems of the Middle East actively prevents its audiences from understanding the issues at hand and flies in the face of its commitment to “enable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues” and “enhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”. 

Coupled with the promotion of blatant lies about Israeli planning processes which clearly breach BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, that makes this article a prime example of BBC campaigning rather than the objective journalism to which licence fee payers are entitled. 

New resource on Hizballah gives information not supplied by BBC

Last December we pointed out here that the BBC’s profile of Hizballah has not been updated since July 2010 and therefore includes no information about that terror organisation’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, the murder of Rafik Hariri, its terror attacks and activities in Europe or its involvement in drug trafficking, among other things.

Over six months on, nothing has changed with regard to that BBC profile, which is the first result anyone searching the internet for the words ‘BBC’ and ‘profile Hizballah’ (or any other spelling of the name) will get. 

With the European Union currently engaged in a protracted debate on the subject of the designation of Hizballah, that means that members of BBC audiences hoping to inform themselves with regard to the background of that discussion and to find up to date information about Hizballah will not be able to receive it via the organization which claims that its audiences “can expect the BBC to keep them in touch with what is going on in the world” and that it will “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”.

For those readers who are looking for relevant and up to date information on the subject of Hizballah, the New Media desk of the IDF Spokesperson’s unit has recently launched a website dedicated to the subject. 

IDF Hizballah site

The website is available here and it will be updated with new information as that becomes available. Some of the items already available include a report on Hizballah’s drug trafficking and money laundering activities and an article on Hizballah’s media activities. 

Inaccuracies and omissions in BBC article on new EU guidelines

A Tweet from Jeremy Bowen on the morning of July 16th gave an inkling of a BBC article to come – and its source:

Bowen tweet EU BDS

Sure enough, a few hours later an article entitled “Israel condemns EU exclusion rules over settlements” appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. 

EU boycott article

Unfortunately, the BBC habit of cribbing from Ha’aretz is not conducive with the standards of accuracy demanded by its editorial guidelines.

The BBC article states: [emphasis added]

“Under the guidelines, which come into effect on Friday, Israeli projects applying for EU funding will be required to sign a clause to state that it will not apply to the occupied territories.”

In Ha’aretz’s article ($) on the subject (published five and a half hours before the BBC version and apparently rife with inaccuracies) it is written: [emphasis added]

“The regulation, which goes into effect on Friday, requires that any agreement or contract signed by an EU country with Israel include a clause stating that the settlements are not part of the State of Israel and therefore are not part of the agreement.”

In fact – as already stated three paragraphs previously in the BBC article – and as appears at the beginning of the actual EU document itself, the relevance is “from 2014 onwards”, with Friday – July 19th – being the day on which the guidelines are scheduled for publication. 

Commission notice

Of course the BBC article includes the standard misleading slogans inevitably added to any report pertaining even obliquely to “settlements”:

“The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

As usual, the BBC neglects to inform its audiences that there are conflicting legal opinions on that subject.

“Peace talks stalled in 2010 over the issue of Israeli settlements.”

 Yet again the BBC fails to inform readers that prior to that break-down in talks, a ten-month freeze on construction had been implemented by Israel in order to encourage the renewal of discussions, but the Palestinian Authority failed to come to the negotiating table for nine of those ten months and then used the end of the construction freeze on September 26th 2010 as a pretext to refuse to continue talks.

But what is most interesting about this dumbed-down BBC article is that it fails utterly to inform audiences of the important aspects of the European Commission’s document.

Perhaps predictably – seeing as it is often guilty of making the same mistake itself (despite the existence of guidance on the subject) – the BBC does not point out that the document’s reference to “pre-1967 borders” in section A, clause 3 is inept.

“The EU has made it clear that it will not recognise any changes to pre-1967 borders, other than those agreed by the parties to the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP).”

In addition, the article does not make clear that the stipulations do not apply to “Palestinian entities” or to NGOs with missions of which the EU approves – some of which frequently influence EU policy.

Section A, clause 4 reads:

“These guidelines do not cover EU support in the form of grants, prizes or financial instruments awarded to Palestinian entities or to their activities in the territories referred to in point 2, nor any eligibility conditions set up for this purpose. In particular, they do not cover any agreements between the EU, on the one hand, and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation or the Palestinian Authority, on the other hand.”

Section D, clause 15 reads:

“Notwithstanding points 12-14 above, the requirements set out in section D do not apply to activities which, although carried out in the territories referred to in point 2, aim at benefiting protected persons under the terms of international humanitarian law who live in these territories and/or at promoting the Middle East peace process in line with EU policy.”

So in other words, the new guidelines have a specific ‘get out’ clause to  provide for the continuation of EU funding to NGOs – including those involved in the delegitimisation of Israel – several of which are coincidentally frequently used by the BBC as sources.  

EU funding NGOs chart

The BBC’s failure to point out the discriminatory aspects of the EU guidelines (which are of far more consequence than their financial implications) means that – in breach of its stated public purposes – it is not providing its audiences with the type of  background information which would “enable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”.

Of course by now, some may be wondering if whoever wrote the BBC article actually read the EU document before doing so.

New BBC R4 ‘Today’ presenter is “home-made contraptions” Husain

Courtesy of the Daily Telegraph we learn that BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme is to have a new presenter in the autumn.

“There have been increasing calls for more female voices on Today, whose male hosts currently outnumber women by four to one. […]

The previous year, its then editor Ceri Thomas faced criticism after suggesting that female journalists did not have a thick enough skin to deal with the programme’s “incredibly difficult” environment.”

Perhaps that explains the choice of Mishal Husain for the position – although thick skinned may not be the appropriate description for a presenter who just last November suggested that not enough Israelis had been killed by “home-made contraptions” fired from the Gaza Strip. In fact, the adjectives which come to mind when watching the way in which Husain conducts the interview below are ‘rude’, ‘condescending’, ‘badgering’ and ‘bullying’.  

Are BBC audiences to understand that those are the qualities which the corporation considers will enhance adherence to editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality in its flagship current affairs programme? 

Security incidents in northern & southern Israel not newsworthy for BBC

On the evening of Sunday July 14th 2013, residents of communities near the border with the Sinai Peninsula were ordered to take shelter in their homes for several hours due to shooting in the area by gunmen on the Egyptian side of the border. 

Kadesh Barnea

The BBC apparently did not consider that development to be newsworthy.

On the same evening, a mortar shell landed near the village of Majdal Shams in the northern Golan Heights and early on the morning of Tuesday, July 16th, three more mortars landed in areas further to the south, with more following later in the day and tens of mortar shells found on the Israeli side of the border by mid afternoon. During the fighting between the Syrian army and rebel paramilitary groups in the vicinity of Quneitra, the former once more introduced tanks into the demilitarised zone in violation of the ceasefire agreement. Israel has lodged a formal complaint with the UN, but has so far refrained from responding. 

As of Tuesday night local time, there is no mention of any of those incidents on the BBC News website. Likewise, the continuing stream of Syrian wounded receiving medical treatment in Israeli hospitals is also consistently ignored.

 

The BBC’s temple of Alice Walker

For those of us with years of familiarity with the BBC under our belts, it is perhaps difficult to envisage any other scenario than the one in which the persona which is Alice Walker is revered by members of that organisation as an almost divine font of unchallengeable sound bite wisdoms.

Indeed, one only has to look at the frequency of Walker’s various BBC appearances to appreciate how many ‘right on’ boxes she ticks for so-called ‘progressives’.

 Lyse Doucet’s March 2013 World Service radio interview with Walker was conducted in reverential tones under the banner of ‘truth’, even when her guest came out with stereotypical racist and sexist remarks about white European women which – had they been uttered by Betty Walker from Bolton in relation to a supposed unsuitability of  African or Asian women for leadership due to some centuries-old collective trauma – would rightly have resulted in wall-to-wall raised eyebrows at the BBC.

In the May 24th 2013 edition of Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ Alice Walker selected former BBC presenter and conspiracy theorist David Icke’s off-the-wall tome as her book of choice, with presenter Kirsty Young unable to bat an eyelid and Walker predictably unchallenged by anything which could be called journalism. 

On July 7th 2013 BBC Four aired a one hour film about Walker –  under the title of ‘Beauty in Truth’ – made by MercuryMedia and directed by Pratibha Parmar.

 The programme is available on iPlayer here and for those outside the UK, in the video below.

BBC 4 Alice Walker

Having spent fifty-three puffery-saturated minutes idealising and idolising Walker, her work and her activism,  the pseudo-documentary then turns to the subject of her anti-Israel campaigning – although of course it is not presented in that way.

At 53:23 in the video above, she is asked by a ‘Democracy Now’ presenter:  Walker film 3

“You go in the book from Rwanda to Eastern Congo, to Palestine, Israel. It was your first trip?”

Walker answers: “To Palestine? Yes.” After which the film cuts to images of Walker in the Gaza Strip, with her saying in the voice-over:

“It’s easy to make the connection between the Freedom Rides of fifty years ago to the South that helped to bring down apartheid USA and what is happening there in Palestine with the wall and with the abuse of the Palestinian people. It’s very similar. I mean it’s more intense in Palestine.”

The film then cuts to footage of Walker’s participation in the 2011 flotilla, with her saying:  Walker film 5

“My name is Alice Walker and I am with the US boat to Gaza.”

And:

“This is a fine tradition of going to people who need us, wherever they exist on the planet. This is our responsibility.”

Despite the fact that the BBC’s editorial guidelines – including of course those on accuracy and impartiality – apply to commissioned programmes as well as to BBC-produced content, absolutely no attempt is made in this film to balance Walker’s vicious fictions concerning “Palestine” with facts or to make audiences aware of the significance of the practical consequences of the  ideologies to which she subscribes, such as the boycotting of a language or the Walker film 1collaboration with Hamas and its supporters in the flotilla stunt.

Instead, in this programme as in others, the untouchable Alice Walker is yet again permitted to spout her often offensive opinions as though they were fact, with editorial standards apparently an optional extra for patron deities of the BBC Parthenon.