BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’: one to watch out for

This coming week the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk’ will be featuring an interview with Israel’s Minister of Economy and Commerce, Naftali Bennett.

 The programme will be shown on February 24th and 25th on the BBC News channel and also on BBC Two and the World Service. Its synopsis reads:

“Just how stable and sustainable is Israel’s coalition government? Prime Minister Netanyahu currently relies on the support of Jewish Home, a right-wing religious Zionist party strongly supportive of the settler movement. What happens to that coalition as the Americans try to push Israel towards a land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians? HARDtalk speaks to Naftali Bennett, leader of Jewish Home and Israel’s economy minister. Is the Israeli right about to splinter?”

Hardtalk 24 2

Malice Through The Looking-Glass

A guest post by Geary.

What if Israel behaved just like any other Middle Eastern country (and the Middle East started acting like Israel)?

NEWS: Middle East

Good evening.

In the usual weekly display of anti-Iranian feeling, thousands of Israelis poured into the streets of Tel Aviv after Saturday prayers, chanting “Death to Iran, Death to Islam” and burning effigies of President Rowhani and John Kerry.

We are hearing reports of several dead and dozens injured as five Christian churches have been attacked and set on fire by a Jewish mob in central Jerusalem after allegations that an Israeli Christian claimed to be the Prophet Moses. The man was arrested before he could be lynched. Doctors say he suffers from severe mental problems but could still face stoning if found guilty under Israel’s strict blasphemy laws.

Scenes of jubilation, music mingling with gunshots,  were witnessed all over the Israeli town of Ashdod as Mr Avi Sand returned there after serving four years in prison for murdering an entire Arab family, including two young children and a three-month old baby. The town’s Mayor declared a Day of Celebration for his return. Flowers and sweets were distributed among the children in his honour. His poster could be seen on walls alongside other celebrated Israeli militants who had killed Arab civilians in recent years.

The Israeli Prime Minister has reiterated yet again his firm line on the fate of Muslims in the future state of Israel, following any successfully negotiated two-State peace talks. “Muslims have no right to live on this side of the border” he told the collected journalists. “We will not tolerate a single Arab on the Holy soil of Israel. Israel must be Muslim-frei.”

An Education Ministry inspection of a number of Jewish schools has revealed that Jewish children as young as five are routinely being taught not only that the whole of Palestine belongs to the Jews, but also that the Arabs who live there are descended from pigs and apes. A spokesman for the Ministry told the press: “They are only innocent animal stories for children, a bit like Aesop’s Fables”.

A group of Arab NGOs, the Red Crescent and UNWRA issued a joint statement today condemning the continued firing of rockets from Gaza into Israeli civilian centres, which they described as “war crimes”. “We deplore not only the loss of life but the terrible psychological trauma inflicted in particular on the children by these constant acts of barbarity”, a spokesman told us.  Along with a number of sympathetic Western NGOs such as War on Want and Save the Children, they are documenting crimes against civilians which will help bring a case against Hamas at The Hague of preaching genocide.

In other news, the UN is expected later today to pass a motion condemning fifteen Arab states for human rights abuses including the enslavement of foreign workers, religious and gender apartheid and the widespread, indiscriminate use of torture and the death penalty.  The Head of the Arab League was heard earlier to remark: “They have us bang to rights. All this has being going on for far too long. Well, forever, actually. It has to stop.”

And finally, on a lighter note, several witnesses are claiming to have seen what they describe as a pig slowly flapping its wings over the offices of the BBC and the Guardian newspaper in central London. Well, some people will believe anything, won’t they?

Good night.

BBC’s Kevin Connolly comes good on kibbutz caviar

With Radio 4 being one of the departments of the BBC which appears disturbingly frequently on these pages, we’ll file this one under SONY DSC‘credit where credit is due’.

The February 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme Broadcasting House included an item by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly (available here from about 51:10) in which he travelled to Kibbutz Dan in the northern Galilee to report on its production of caviar – and managed to do so accurately and impartially.

Bon appetit! 

 

Don’t mention the money! Where’s the BBC reporting on PA funding of convicted terrorists?

As has been noted here on several occasions, the BBC generally avoids any sort of reporting on the subject of the Palestinian Authority’s finances, its use of foreign donor contributions or corruption – with the exception of one rather lacklustre report on the EU audit of late 2013. Fawlty

As a result, BBC audiences are not informed of the fact that some 6% of the PA budget is spent on salaries for imprisoned terrorists or of the financial packages allocated to recently released prisoners. And of course the related subjects of PA incitement and glorification of terrorism are also pastures which the BBC consistently avoids.

Hence, these two recent stories will most likely also find themselves in BBC limbo.

Earlier this month Palestinian Media Watch reported on an announcement made in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida by the Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Karake. According to Karake, the PA has passed new regulation which “is concerned with improving conditions for released [prisoners]”, with a budget of some $46 million having been allocated for the purpose.

The Palestinian Authority is of course funded to a large extent by outside sources (60.8% of its GNP came from foreign donors in 2008), with the resulting effect of the freeing up of resources for payments to released convicted terrorists.

The PA also funds the payment of salaries to those prisoners still held in Israeli jails on counts of terrorism.  An example of the potential effects of that practice came with the news that a Palestinian man from Hebron told the Israeli police that he had planned to get arrested by the Israeli authorities on terrorism charges in order to qualify for the PA payments and thus pay his debts. 

“The prisoner, Husni Najjar, informed interrogators in August that he plotted a fictitious attack with the explicit aim of being charged for a crime with at least a five-year sentence, during which he would receive a monthly salary that would cover the expenses for his upcoming nuptials. Najjar had already served a prison term for plotting a suicide bombing.

“Because of my difficult financial situation, as I told you, I decided to arrange an imaginary plan for the Shin Bet [security service] so that I will be arrested and receive more than five years in prison in order to receive a steady salary as a stipend from the PA in order to cover my debts and pay for my wedding,” the Hebron resident explained.

Najjar’s previous sentence had brought him only 45,000 shekels in total from the PA. The longer terms he anticipated, would yield 135,000. According to PMW, prisoners who receive more than five years in prison receive a steady salary of NIS 4,000 ($1,140) during their imprisonment, and continue to collect for three years following their release.”

The potential impact of such a ‘cottage industry’ should surely be of interest to any Middle East journalist worth his or her salt, but of course the BBC systematically avoids any mention of the vast amounts of money spent by the PA on convicted terrorists both inside and outside prison walls, the resulting glorification of terrorism and the effects of those policy decisions on Palestinian society and on the prospects of a peace agreement.  

One hundred and sixteen stories the BBC chose not to tell

Last March we noted here that the BBC had completely ignored an incident which took place on the major highway Route 5, near Ariel, in which a mother and her three small daughters were involved in an accident caused by Palestinian rock throwers who attacked the vehicle travelling in front of them. 

The youngest little girl, Adele – who was only three years old at the time – was very seriously injured and is still unconscious eleven months after the attack. Recently her mother – Adva Bitton – gave evidence at the trial of those arrested for throwing the rocks which caused the accident.

“Since the attack, “our life is no life,” Bitton said. “Adele is still unconscious, it hurts me to see her confined to a wheelchair, not engaging with the world.”

“She doesn’t laugh, doesn’t eat, doesn’t do anything on her own,” she added.”

She added:

“I am not home anymore, I am not available for my three kids,” she said. “I’m supposed to be a mother but I live in Levenstein Hospital. My husband has not really been home in over 10 months. He doesn’t sleep at home at all. It’s like you have no family.”

“To see a child connected to a million pipes is very difficult. Her life has been destroyed because of rock throwing. It is difficult for me to cope with the fact that my daughter will be handicapped in every way because of such an act. It’s a daily trauma when you see your child gasping with her head hanging down and you can’t do anything.”

The IDF Spokesperson notes that:

“In 2013, Palestinians directed more than 2,400 rock throwing incidents at Israelis. Of these, 30 percent were directed at civilian vehicles. 116 civilians were injured due to these incidents.”

BBC audiences of course know nothing at all about little Adele Bitton or any of the one hundred and fifteen other people injured in the hundreds of rock-throwing attacks at Israeli motorists last year alone. They also know very little at all about the scale of daily terrorism directed at Israelis by means other than rock-throwing because BBC reporting is confined almost exclusively to incidents which result in fatalities. But as Adva Bitton’s testimony reminds us, the effects of non-fatal terror attacks can be devastating to victims and their families too.

This is clearly information which is crucial to the BBC’s mission to form “a global understanding of international issues” and to enable audiences to “participate in the global debate on significant international issues” such as the Middle East peace process and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in general. But it is information which is being consistently withheld from the people to whom the BBC is supposedly accountable.

Related Articles:

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Toddler injured by stone-throwers in Jerusalem not news for the BBC

BBC continues to ignore non-fatal terror attacks

BBC manages to report on three terror attacks without mentioning the word terror

Review of the BBC’s reporting of security incidents in Judea & Samaria in January

Sources, outsourcing fact-checking and the BBC

A report titled “Egypt taking ‘ultimatum against tourists’ seriously” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on February 18th relies heavily on information previously published in a Reuters article of the same date.  ABM story

“Officials say they are taking seriously a reported ultimatum by Islamist militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis for tourists to leave the country.

The threat was reportedly made on a private Twitter account affiliated with the group, according to Reuters.

The Egyptian government has struggled against rising militancy in the Sinai.

The Twitter message gave all tourists until Thursday to leave Egypt or face attacks.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has denied using social media, but Reuters says the account has spoken for the group in the past.”

In other words, the BBC has produced an article based on a claim published by a news agency which got its information from an unverified source and – despite the fact that the BBC clearly has not checked that source itself, as evidenced by the use of wording such as “according to Reuters” and “Reuters says” – it has decided to run the story anyway.

Let’s take a look at what Reuters had to say about the source of its information:

“A militant Islamist group has warned tourists to leave Egypt and threatened to attack any who stay after February 20, raising the prospect of a new front in a fast-growing insurgency in the biggest Arab nation.

The Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group, which claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed two South Korean tourists and an Egyptian on Sunday, made the statement on an affiliated Twitter account.

“We recommend tourists to get out safely before the expiry of the deadline,” read the tweet, written in English, which Egypt’s prime minister said on Tuesday aimed to undermine the political process begun after an army takeover in July.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has said that it does not post statements on social media sites, but statements that appeared on the Twitter account in the past have afterwards surfaced on jihadist websites which the group says it does use.”

That is obviously a very circumstantial basis for the assumption of the reliability of the source, and one which cannot be said to support the BBC’s claim that an “ultimatum” was issued “by Islamist militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis” – even with its caveat placement of the word “reported” beforehand.

These are the Tweets upon which the Reuters article – and the subsequent BBC report – is based:

DBarn ABM faux twitter

That Twitter account has already been shown not to be operated by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.

“However, the group [ABM] has no official Twitter account as of today. In fact, in late October the group issued a statement in which it said it was not operating any social media accounts and that any purporting to be the group’s account were unofficial. “[T]he only source of our statements and productions are the jihadi forums from al-Fajr Media Center (Shumukh al-Islam Networking and al-Fida’ Islamic Network),” the group said.”

There is of course a distinct difference between “unofficial” and “affiliated” as claimed by Reuters and the BBC. Furthermore, as David Barnett (research associate at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies) has pointed out, the @ansar_elmakds account has itself made it clear that it is not an official ABM account.

So the bottom line of this story is that somebody sent some Tweets, around which Reuters decided to build an article and the BBC then elected to duplicate and amplify that report with no independent checking of its source. This type of repetition of claims appearing in news agency stories without proper BBC verification before publication appears to be becoming increasingly prevalent.

Of course at some point BBC audiences may arrive at the conclusion that if the BBC has decided that it is sustainable policy to recycle second-hand reports with apparently no further fact-checking to guarantee the editorial standards of accuracy to which it professes to adhere, they may just as well read the original news agency stories elsewhere online.

  

Another ‘stealth’ correction on the BBC News website

As was noted here last week, a BBC News website article from February 12th included the following statements:

“Israeli newspapers quoted the national water authority as saying the figures quoted by the European Parliament chief were “wrong”, with Israelis receiving 170,000 litres of water per person per year and Palestinians more than 110,000 litres.

However, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said last month that per capita water use in Israeli towns – 242 litres – was three-and-a-half times higher than by Palestinians in the West Bank.”

Following a reader’s complaint which pointed out the BBC’s confusion of water consumption with allowances, that section of the article was amended and now reads as follows:

amendment Schulz article

BBC audiences are however not informed of the amendment to the report in a footnote and of course those who had already viewed the item during the two days which passed between its publication and the amendment would be highly unlikely to revisit it just to see if any sort of correction has been made, meaning that the initial misleading impression will remain.

The BBC’s ‘Corrections & Clarifications’ webpage specifically notes that:

“This page contains the BBC’s responses to editorial, technical and corporate issues. It includes apologies, significant corrections, statements and responses, and findings from the BBC Trust.

It does not include routine corrections to news stories, minor on-air apologies and schedule changes.” [emphasis added]

In other words, the BBC – an organization supposedly committed to standards of accuracy – apparently does not deem it necessary to relieve members of its audience of any misleading impressions they may have received from its online news output. 

It really would not be so difficult for the BBC News website to set up a dedicated corrections page along the lines of the one run by the NYT. As Craig Silverman wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review in 2011:

“The point of an online corrections page is to have a centralized place where readers can see the latest mistakes and corrections. It gives them the opportunity to discover if a recent article they read, or reporting they heard or saw, has been updated or corrected. It also provides a basic element of transparency. A dedicated page makes corrections more visible and accessible, and it increases the likelihood that people will receive the corrected information. After all, that’s the point of making correction in the first place.”

One would naturally expect that an organisation which aspires to remain the standard-setter for international journalism” would be enthusiastic about taking onboard such a simple method of increasing transparency and improving its reputation for accuracy.

 

 

New publication highlights an issue the BBC urgently needs to address

Professor Alan Johnson of BICOM has produced a new publication titled “The Apartheid Smear” which can be downloaded here or viewed hereSONY DSC

“The idea that Israel is an ‘apartheid state’ is the intellectual foundation of the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (BDS). This pamphlet shows it is a smear: a malicious lie that does huge damage to the peace process.”

Shockingly, it is not rare for the BBC to permit promotion and amplification of the ‘apartheid’ calumny on its various comments boards and even in the articlesreports and interviews which it produces and broadcasts.   

The corporation’s systematic failure to tackle the subject of its enabling and amplifying of a politically motivated smear designed, as Professor Johnson notes, to advance “the demonisation of Israel as a pariah state in order to prepare the ground for its eventual destruction” is a very serious issue which obviously needs to be urgently addressed by BBC management.

 

Nazi analogies and ‘apartheid’ defamation on BBC World ‘Have Your Say’ Facebook account

Here are the BBC’s house rules for its ‘Have Your Say’ comments boards. They include the following:

“No defamatory comments. A defamatory comment is one that is capable of damaging the reputation of a person or organisation. If successfully sued you could be held liable for considerable damages and costs.”

“Do not incite people to commit any crime, including incitement of racial hatred.”

“Do not post messages that are unlawful, harassing, defamatory, abusive, threatening, harmful, obscene, profane, sexually oriented, homophobic or racially offensive.”

Here is a page (still available on the internet) from the BBC World ‘Have Your Say’ programme’s Facebook account which invites the public to comment under the heading “We’re live speaking to a cross-section of people in Israel, including the settler community. What would you like to ask them?“. The solicited responses – which have remained in public view since December 2012 – include those below.

WHYS 1

WHYS 2

WHYS 3

WHYS 4

WHYS 5

WHYS 6

WHYS 7

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on “Moderation, Hosting, Escalation and User Management” state that:

“There must be a named individual in the relevant Division to take responsibility for user contributions, just as for BBC content. They should ensure that the space maintains appropriate overall standards of moderation, hosting and user management. “

And

“Every online space where user contributions are published must be moderated to remove illegal and inappropriate content, it must have appropriate user management, and it should normally have a host to provide a visible and active presence.”

Clearly the system defined in that guidance is not working sufficiently well if antisemitic Nazi analogies and defamatory ‘apartheid’ slurs remain on a BBC message board for over a year. 

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The BBC, the British Council and BDS: what Simon Cox didn’t report

The February 13th edition of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ – broadcast both on Radio 4 and on the BBC World Service – was titled “Come to Sunny Gaza!”.

FOOC 13 2

The programme can be heard here (with the relevant section beginning at about 22:48) or here. A written version of the same report by Simon Cox also appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Discovering Gazans’ resilient side“. Simon Cox art

Listeners to the audio version may well have been quite bowled over by the fact that presenter Kate Adie actually mentioned the escalation in missile fire from the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year in her introduction to the item and also by the fact that Cox does not stick entirely to the ‘Gaza doom and gloom’ route so well-trodden by herds of BBC correspondents before him.

All the same, he offers no context or explanation for statements such as:

“I had come prepared for trouble, with a flak jacket and helmet, driven from the border with Israel in an armour-plated car past a plethora of grey breeze block structures, unfinished due to a lack of cement.” [emphasis added]

Or:

“Rawan, my young translator, explained how the electricity was only on for eight hours a day so work, shopping, everything had to be crammed into this brief window.” [emphasis added]

Or:

“You need this kind of ingenuity when half the population is unemployed.” [emphasis added]

In fact, the PCBS cites an unemployment rate of 31.0% – not 50% as Cox claims – during the first quarter of 2013 and of course that is influenced by the fact that only 17.1% of women participate in the labour force.

But the less obvious (and much more interesting) aspect of this report – which Simon Cox does not seem too keen to expand upon – is the one reflected in this paragraph:

“I was not here to report, but to train a group of journalists from Alwan radio for a weekly programme they had been making with other stations in the West Bank as part of a wider BBC and British Council project.”

BBC audiences might at this point have been interested in some context regarding the media scene in the Gaza Strip post the 2007 violent coup carried out by Hamas. The fact that media outlets associated with political and terrorist groups other than Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were quickly forced to close down, revise their content or relocate is, after all, a relevant factor – particularly perhaps for audience members who fund both the BBC and the registered charity the British Council via Foreign Office grant-in aid funding.

“The majority of media outlets in Palestine are based in the Gaza Strip. Since June 2007, Hamas loyalists have either shut down or assumed control of these outlets. As of August 2007, only two TV stations are currently available: Hamas’s Al Aqsa and the Islamic Jihad’s Sawt Al Aqsa, and two radio stations: Al Qur-an Al-Kareem which is run by Hamas’ Religious Affairs ministry, and Radio Alwan which is considered a pro-Hamas station.” [emphasis added]

In other words, only media organisations run or tolerated by Hamas can operate.

“Today [Ed. – August 2007] there are seven radio stations broadcasting from the Gaza Strip, most of them affiliated with Hamas and Islamists: Hamas’ Radio Al-Aqsa, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Radio Al-Quds, four independent stations (Sawt al-Iman (The Voice of Faith), Radio al-Manar, Radio ‘Alwan and the entertainment station, FM-Gaza). They all broadcast, as does Radio al-Qur’an al-Karim, which belongs to the Palestinian ministry of Islamic endowments.” [emphasis added]

Radio Alwan does not however confine itself to being on the receiving end of training projects provided by benevolent foreign organisations. Recently it ran a training project of its own in collaboration with an organisation called iPal

iPal fb Alwan

And what is iPal’s raison d’etre? Well we can learn more about that via the Anna Lindh Foundation website where, in among the jargon and buzz words and in addition to “collaboration with Alwan Radio” and “collaboration” with the Hamas supporting organisation Islamic Relief which Israel designated in 2006, we find the following among iPal’s stated activities:

“BDS Movement: building workshops about the BDS as an introduction for the youth in Gaza to let them know more about this campaign and the importance of it and how it plays an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for Justice and also to get them a part in some BDS activities in Gaza.”

iPal’s “coordinator in Gaza” Abeer Abu Shawish also works for the Arab Centre for Agricultural Development (ACAD) and in November 2013 she was to be found organizing on its behalf “a conference on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid, colonization and occupation” at which “Zaid Shuabi, outreach officer of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), gave a report by Skype from the West Bank.”.

However, Radio Alwan is far from being the sole organization with British Council and BBC links which directly or indirectly supports and promotes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which aims to delegitimize Israel into extinction

As we noted here only recently, the British Council has a “partnership” with the BDS supporting ‘Palestine Festival of Literature’ – or PalFest. Among the British Council’s partners in Israel is the Mossawa Centre and among its partners in the Palestinian controlled territories are the Maan Development Centre, Miftah and Palestinian Vision which employs a media spokesman who is a veteran of the BDS campaign and in its 2010 annual report (scroll down for English) noted inter alia that its activities include the organization of quiz nights with the theme “Judaizing of names in the city” [Jerusalem] and included the illustration below. Palestinian Vision 2010 report

In addition to Miftah and ‘Palestinian Vision’, the British Council’s partners in its ‘Tajaawob‘ project include Oxfam and the BBC’s own charity ‘BBC Media Action’ which gets over 40% of its funding from departments of the British government.

The same British government claims that it does not support the BDS movement.

“In correspondence with NGO Monitor, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stated: “The UK Government does not support the BDS movement,” and “we have been very clear that the boycotts movement is not productive… it could be deeply corrosive.” “

However, the same government department which wrote those words funds both the British Council and departments of the BBC which do partner organisations that directly or indirectly oppose a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and work towards the elimination of the Jewish state. 

Isn’t it odd that the BBC’s “investigative journalist” Simon Cox should have missed all that? After all, UK-based members of the BBC’s audience might like to be enlightened as to what lies behind some of the projects and organisations which their taxes and obligatory payments are actually funding.

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