What is the BBC’s take away message on end of Israel-PLO negotiations?

Early on the morning of April 29th the BBC News website’s Middle East page ran a lead item under the headline “Middle East peace deadline expires”.

MEPP expires on hp


The article – titled “US-set Middle East peace deadline expires” – opens with the egregiously context-free filmed report by Jeremy Bowen previously discussed here and with two hundred and three words of repeated amplification of John Kerry’s recent ‘apartheid’ remark.

The conclusion of the negotiations themselves is described thus:

“A US deadline for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians has ended without an agreement being reached.

Talks resumed in July after a three-year hiatus but made little progress.

The latest round was halted by Israel last week after the main Palestinian factions announced a political pact.”

The report goes on to state:

“Talks between the two sides were already troubled after repeated disagreements over settlement building and the release of prisoners.

Negotiations were suspended by Israel after the two main Palestinian factions, secular Fatah and Islamist Hamas, signed a reconciliation deal last Wednesday.”

So as we see, in addition to stressing that the talks were “halted by Israel” (less than a week before their pre-set expiry date), the BBC notes two factors which it claims caused the negotiations to be “already troubled” – both of which are related to Israel – but fails to clarify to audiences that Israeli building tenders were not one of the issues included in the run-up agreement to the talks.

Notably, the BBC makes no reference whatsoever to any ‘trouble’ or difficulties afflicting the negotiations caused by the actions of the Palestinian side.

No mention is made of the PA’s continued incitement and glorification of terrorism throughout the nine-month period of negotiations. Audiences are not reminded that the PA applied to join assorted UN bodies in early April in direct contravention of the agreement which preceded this round of talks or that the prisoner releases scheduled under the same agreement were linked to progress in the talks. Neither are they informed of the PA’s repeated refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state or its Arab League backed refusal to come to viable agreements regarding security arrangements in the Jordan Rift Valley.

And of course in this report – as in all its ample coverage of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal – the BBC makes no attempt to explain to audiences that the PLO and PA knew well in advance exactly what the effects of such a deal would be on the negotiations, but chose to go ahead with it anyway.

Significantly, the points the BBC intends audiences to take away with them on the subject of the reasons for the end of this latest round of negotiations are exclusively related to Israeli actions: Israel “halted” and “suspended” the talks which were already on the rocks because of Israeli “settlement building” and the eventual Israeli decision not to release the final tranche of prisoners – although the BBC ‘forgets’ to note that this was after the PA made its applications to the UN.

The Palestinian Authority and the PLO on the other hand – according to this BBC version of events – have been completely passive throughout the entire nine months, doing nothing whatsoever to cause the talks to become “troubled” and with the only active move on their part worthy of report being the forging of a cuddly unity deal with their Hamas brethren right at the end of the nine months.

Of course anyone who has been closely following the BBC’s reporting of these negotiations throughout the entire nine months would not expect any other framing of the story.  

The BBC ME editor’s role: comparing theory and practice

As part of the process which led to the publication of the Thomas Report on “Impartiality of BBC Coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” in 2006, BBC news management produced a document titled “Editorial coverage of Israel and the Palestinians” which laid out the corporation’s strategies for ensuring accurate and impartial reporting of that topic, in line with BBC editorial guidelines. Included in that document is a description of the role of BBC Middle East Editor – a position created in 2005.

 “The challenge for our daily news coverage is to provide an appropriate balance between the reporting of a ‘spot news’ event and the analysis that might help set it in its context.

This challenge is particularly acute on the television news bulletins, where space is at a premium, and because the context is often disputed by the two sides in the conflict. To add more analysis to our output, our strategy is to support the coverage of our bureau correspondents with a Middle East editor. 

Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”

Just such a case – in which an event needed to be “set in its context” and BBC coverage required “analysis” and “support” in order to “make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” – occurred on April 29th 2014 when the time frame of the latest round of American-brokered negotiations between Israel and the PLO came to its unfruitful conclusion.

So what did Jeremy Bowen produce in order to make that event better understandable to BBC audiences? Part of the answer to that comes in the form of a filmed report shown on BBC television news programmes which also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the heading “Inside Palestinian man’s cave home”.

Bowen film cave home on hp

The report itself is titled “Middle East peace: Symbols of scepticism on West Bank” and it opens with Bowen in Hebron.

“I’m in Hebron on the Israeli-occupied West Bank and it’s a place where fences and soldiers divide the population; large population of Palestinians who live in that direction with…from Jewish settlers who live cheek by jowl, some of them over there.”

Any Middle East Editor genuinely committed to providing BBC audiences with the crucial context necessary to understand the situation would of course have pointed out at this juncture that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria – including those in Hebron – live in areas A and B, which are under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Any journalist with integrity would also have clarified that Israelis living in Hebron do so because in 1997, the Palestinian Authority signed the Hebron Protocol, thus agreeing to their presence in area H2 of the city and to the deployment of Israeli security forces there.  Jeremy Bowen, however, prefers to paint an inaccurate and misleading picture. He continues:

“When I first came to live in this part of the world twenty years ago, it was at the high point of the peace process and there were lots of Israelis and Palestinians who really thought there was a good chance that their lives were about to get a lot better. More than two decades on, with no peace agreement and the conflict continuing, I think that people now are sceptical – even cynical – about the chances of things improving. And they get on with their daily lives; there are shops, people go to work, but it means there is – for both Israelis and Palestinians – a very uncertain future.”

Bowen then moves to an unidentified location where he tells an unsourced, context-free story about an anonymous man and repeats hearsay which audiences have no way of verifying.Bowen film cave home

“This is a cave that’s been made into a home by a Palestinian man whose house in occupied East Jerusalem was demolished by the Israelis. Now, he admits that he’s making a political point. He says he’s living here because he wants to show that Palestinians will not be shifted from their land and he says as well that twenty years of peace talks have made his life not better, but much worse because so many Israeli settlers have come to live around here.”

Having already opted to use the partial term “Israeli-occupied West Bank” in his opening sentence, Bowen now promotes the equally politically loaded term “occupied East Jerusalem”. He of course does not bother to inform audiences of any details of the purported house demolition – including the all-important question of whether the construction had building permits. Notably, Bowen also promotes the politically loaded concept of “Palestinian land” and fails to inform BBC audiences that no clause in the Oslo Accords – willingly signed by the internationally recognised representatives of the Palestinian people – prevents Israelis from relocating to or living in communities in Judea & Samaria. He goes on:

“As a matter of fact, the one thing that unites Israelis and Palestinians I’d say more than anything else is their scepticism about peace negotiations and where they might ever lead.”

Bowen then relocates once again and is to be found standing by a portion of the anti-terrorist fence constructed from concrete – less than 10% of the structure as a whole.

“The Israelis say their first duty is to protect their people, which is why, they say, they have been forced to build walls and fences to separate themselves from the Palestinians.”

Of course the real aim of the anti-terrorist fence is not to “separate” Israelis from “the Palestinians” as Bowen inaccurately states, but to prevent terror attacks on Israeli civilians. Bowen however makes no mention whatsoever of the second Intifada or of the thousands of Israeli victims of Palestinian terror, thus deliberately denying BBC audiences the necessary context his job description obliges him to provide. He continues:

“Now for twenty years, off and on, they’ve been talking – the Israelis and Palestinians – about creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel – the so-called two-state solution – the idea being that they would split the land that they have been fighting over. Now look at this [points to a concrete section of the anti-terrorist fence]. It hasn’t happened.”

Not only is Bowen clearly herding audience towards the impression that peace and a Palestinian state have not been realized because of the anti-terrorist fence, he is also clearly steering viewers towards a mistaken and superficial view of the conflict as being one purely about land. He fails to make any mention of the fact that the Palestinian Authority chose to sabotage the Oslo Accords by initiating the second Intifada and fails to remind viewers of Mahmoud Abbas’ failure to respond to the 2008 Olmert offer. Bowen concludes:

Maybe the time has come to face an uncomfortable fact: that there will be no two-state solution. So commentators have been talking about alternatives and nobody has come up with anything that looks any easier than this solution they’ve been trying and failing to get for more than twenty years, which is why – on this sunny Jerusalem day – the future looks stormy.”

Clearly, Bowen’s report not only fails to make this particular “complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”, but his deliberate removal of all crucial context actively impedes audience understanding of the issue and raises the very important question of what in fact is the point of a BBC Middle East Editor who in practice does the exact opposite of the stated raison d’être behind his role.   

BBC’s Danahar fudges chance to explain significance of Kerry ‘apartheid’ remarks…and worse

On the evening of April 28th the BBC News website published an article titled “Kerry warns of ‘apartheid’ without Middle East peace” on its US & Canada page.Kerry apartheid art

The report relates to remarks made by the US Secretary of State during a meeting of the Trilateral Commission.

Since the publication of Kerry’s remarks, and as noted in the BBC article, both condemnations and clarifications have been made, including an official statement from Kerry himself.

The most notable point about the BBC’s report on the subject – including the appended analysis by Paul Danahar – is that at no point does it attempt to clarify to audiences one very important issue of context to the story.

The BBC makes no attempt to explain the political background to the intentional use of the ‘apartheid’ trope and its significance in the context of the campaign of delegitimisation against Israel.  

As we have noted here before:

“The small, but noisy, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel  – led by its ‘high priest’ Omar Bargouti – has, according to him, three basic aims:

“… ending Israel’s occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands occupied since 1967; ending racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens; and recognising the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

As Norman Finkelstein (not one of the better known card-carrying Zionists) pointed out earlier this year, the makers of those demands have one end-game in their sights.

“They call it their three tiers… We want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever, because they know the result of implementing all three is what? What’s the result? You know and I know what’s the result: there’s no Israel.” […]

The methods used to try to bring about that end game include the delegitimisation of Israel: the attempt to paint a picture of a country so morally unacceptable that any ‘right-minded’ person cannot possibly tolerate its continued existence.

One way of doing that is to use the ‘apartheid’ trope. By deliberately employing rhetoric which the public associates with a universally morally unacceptable theme, the BDS movement aspires to brand Israel in the minds of the general public with the same stigma as the former racist regime in South Africa.

Of course a close and factual examination of the situation immediately reveals that the use of the ‘apartheid’ trope in relation to Israel is utterly unfounded.  But sadly, many if not most members of the general public do not have sufficient knowledge of the facts to be able to assess the ‘apartheid’ trope for what it really is: a rhetorical tactic relying on the human mind’s natural tendency to make associations.” 

In order to be able to understand the full significance of John Kerry’s use – intentional or not – of a theme promoted by some of Israel’s most virulent detractors and of the subsequent reactions to that use of such a loaded word, BBC audiences would have to be made aware of what the ‘apartheid’ trope means and who uses it.

Not only did that not happen in this article, but in his side-box of analysis, former BBC Jerusalem Bureau head Paul Danahar wrote: [emphasis added]

“The US state department is telling everyone that it’s no big deal that John Kerry used the ‘A’ word to describe the impact on Israel if the two-state solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict collapses.

A spokeswoman has pointed out that senior Israeli politicians have also referenced apartheid before when talking about the risks to Israel’s reputation. This point though is frankly spin. It is one thing for Israeli politicians to use provocative language in their own political arena. When used by the US secretary of state it adds legitimacy to the debate about whether there is an equivalence between the old South African regime and the situation on the West Bank.

Whether the “apartheid” reference was a gaffe or deliberate there is no doubt that Secretary Kerry believes Israel’s government is stubbornly ignoring his warnings that a failure to agree a peace deal will feed a campaign trying to delegitimise their state.”

So as we see, not only does the BBC fail to inform readers of the political origins and aims of the ‘apartheid’ trope, its Washington Bureau chief and former Jerusalem Bureau head tells BBC audiences that there is a “debate” which already has “legitimacy” to be conducted on the subject.

Paul Danahar knows perfectly well that the vast majority of Palestinians live under either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas and vote for the legislative body which rules them and makes the laws which govern their lives. He also knows full well that Israeli policies and actions in Judea & Samaria have nothing to do with the skin colour or race of people living there, but are entirely security-related and aimed at preventing terrorism against civilians of all colours, races and creeds. And Danahar spent enough time in the Middle East to know exactly where the ‘apartheid’ trope comes from and the reasons for its employment.

But instead of using his specialist knowledge to clarify to North American readers why Kerry’s remark is so controversial and problematic, Danahar chooses instead to promote the falsehood that there is a “debate” to be had. 




BBC News enables Hanan Ashrawi’s defamatory PLO propaganda fest

Within the framework of the BBC’s generous coverage of the Hamas-Fatah unity deal, BBC television news programmes aired an interview with one of the Palestinian officials who has been doing the media rounds  – Hanan Ashrawi. The interview, conducted by Zeinab Badawi, was also posted on the BBC News website on April 24th under the unambiguous title “Hanan Ashrawi: ‘Israel destroying peace talks’“.

The interview was also promoted on Twitter using similar language.

Ashrawi tweet

The synopsis to the interview as it appears on the website states:

“The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told the BBC he would never negotiate with a Palestinian authority that included Hamas, which he called a terrorist organisation committed to the destruction of Israel.” [emphasis added]

Hamas is of course recognized as a terrorist organization by numerous countries and its Charter clearly states its intentions with regard to the destruction of Israel. Neither of those issues – as this synopsis leads readers to believe – is exclusively the view of the Israeli prime minister.  

During the interview Ashrawi – with very little interference from Badawi – goes to great pains to try to convince audiences that the new ‘unity government’, the PLO and Hamas are all unconnected subjects.

Ashrawi: “What President Abbas and Fatah and the PLO did was to try to repair the political system, to reinvigorate the democratic system and practices in Palestine, to build an inclusive…err…pluralistic…err…democracy that will represent all the Palestinians in more ways than one and that will be able to deliver. Now that government, as I said, will be a government of independent professionals and of course the PLO will continue to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians and anybody who joins it will be committed to the PLO programme to a two state solution and to peaceful settlement of the conflict and will honour all commitments.”

Badawi: “Alright. So basically Hanan Ashrawi…..OK….so you are basically saying that Hamas will not be part of a unity government in the future because if it were, as you know, that would trigger sanctions both from the Israelis and the Americans, on whom you depend for a great deal of aid.”

Unfortunately Badawi refrains from asking the crucial question of what will happen if elections take place as stated in six months’ time and this unelected “government of independent professionals” is replaced by one which includes Hamas. She does not ask exactly what such an unelected interim government will be “able to deliver” to the Palestinian people or what will happen if that “unity government” adopts policies at odds with those of the PLO. Neither does she press Ashrawi on the non-inclusive and non-democratic make-up of the PLO itself, with members of the Palestinian National Council – the PLO’s legislative body – being nominated by the PLO Executive Committee rather than by the ordinary Palestinian people. Likewise Badawi makes no attempt to unravel the obvious complications arising from the fact that Hamas – which won a significant proportion of the votes in the 2006 PLC elections – is not currently a member of the PLO. 

Instead, Badawi allows Ashrawi to distract audiences from the issue of Hamas’ terror designation with a smoke and mirrors tirade of defamation.Ashrawi interview

HA: “Now excuse me. I think the government we’re talking about is not a factional government – a government of representatives of political parties – but it is a government of independence that will deliver the required services; this is it. But too I don’t see why it is any of…emm…Netanyahu’s…Israel’s business or even America’s business to tell who’s acceptable and who’s not in a pluralistic political system. I can tell you I don’t want to talk to Lieberman or we don’t want to talk to Naftali Bennett. These are people who are either racist or settlers or who deny Palestinian rights or who reat us as sub-human species or who want to take all of historical Palestine for greater Israel. These are people who are in the Israeli government coalition and the Israeli government is responsible for an army that is daily killing Palestinians and yet they tell us that if we reconcile and if we repair our system and if we have elections, then that means we don’t want to negotiate. What about [unintelligible] settlements?”

In near-apologetic manner and folding quickly, Badawi replies:

ZB: “OK well I was asking you about the formation of a unity government that would include Hamas. I was just seeking your clarification on that.”

HA: “It’s a government of national accord.”

ZB: “So it may not have a Hamas..”

HA: “It’s a government of national accord.”

ZB: “Alright. I understand.”

HA: “No, there will be no card-carrying member of any faction or any party. That’s the government we have agreed to and everybody knows that. It’s no secret. And we’ve been striving for national unity because it is the responsibility of any leadership to repair this lethal rift that has weakened the Palestinians and of course the EU welcomed it.”

Expressing no interest in which ‘non-card-carrying’ personality is set to head the ‘unity government’ to be set up according to the Shati Reconciliation Agreement, Badawi says:

“Alright. Tell me briefly though….OK….briefly, do you accept though that President Abbas has basically given a hand up to Hamas, which has been looking pretty isolated and relatively weak, particularly since the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi in Egypt?”

HA: “Definitely Hamas has been weakened, but what President Abbas has done is he has responded to the Palestinian people’s persistent and vocal demands to go back to unity, to try to repair the system itself, to try to bring Hamas to the fold and to have elections – because we need elections badly and without Hamas we cannot have it – and to present Hamas as part of this fabric – the political fabric of the Palestinian system – rather than as an alternative to it.”

Again, Badawi does not use the opportunity to ask what will happen if Hamas once again wins the next election. She concludes by providing Ashrawi with yet another opportunity to promote PA political propaganda.

ZB: “Alright. In a quick word – are the peace talks dead then; in the future they may not be revived?”

HA: “I think Israel has done everything possible to destroy the peace talks, to sabotage the process itself, and I think this time its withdrawal from the talks – even though we still have a few days left till April 29th – is a clear signal that it’s looking for any pretext, any excuse, to undermine them and to bring them to an end while giving it a free hand to continue with its settlement activities, its siege of Gaza and its annexation of Jerusalem, plus reneging on its commitments and its signed agreements – particularly the release of Palestinian prisoners.”

Even the BBC must be aware that when the PA demanded the inclusion of Israeli Arabs among the list of terrorists to be released it knew exactly how that demand would endanger the talks.  Of course when Mahmoud Abbas signed applications to join various UN bodies in defiance of the ‘pre-nup’ agreement which facilitated the current round of negotiations, it was perfectly obvious that their continuation was in jeopardy. Likewise, the PA and the PLO were well aware in advance of the precise reactions that a ‘unity agreement’ with Hamas would bring from Israel and the international community. But Badawi makes no attempt to clarify those points to BBC audiences and instead allows them to go away with only Ashrawi’s unchallenged PLO propaganda.  

Once again the BBC makes a mockery of its commitment to “enable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”. 


How did the BBC frame Mahmoud Abbas’ remarks on the Holocaust?

On April 27th – the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel – an article appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website under the title “Palestinians’ Mahmoud Abbas calls Holocaust ‘heinous crime’“.Abbas Holocaust statement

Let’s take a look at how the BBC report represents the statement made by Abbas.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called the Holocaust “the most heinous crime” in modern history. […]

In his statement, Mr Abbas “expressed his sympathy with the families of the victims and many other innocent people who were killed by the Nazis”.

“The Holocaust is a reflection of the concept of ethnic discrimination and racism which the Palestinians strongly reject and act against,” he went on.

He also urged the Israeli government to use “the incredibly sad commemoration of Holocaust day” to take the chance to find a “just and comprehensive” peace with his people, based on a two-state solution.”

Now let’s look at Abbas’ entire statement as published by the Wafa News Agency.

Abbas Holocaust statement Wafa

As we see from the Wafa report and as is supported by other sources, Abbas’ statement apparently came as the result of a question from an American Rabbi active in interfaith work; a fact which is not noted in the BBC report.

As we also see, the very significant part of Abbas’ statement which, through use of the words “the world must do its utmost to fight racism and injustice”, promotes the notion of linkage between the Holocaust as “a reflection of the concept of ethnic discrimination and racism” and “the Palestinian people, who suffer from injustice, oppression” is also not reported by the BBC.

Although it once again downplays Hamas’ terror designation by numerous countries, the BBC article notes correctly that:

“Hamas officials have made statements denying the Holocaust, and in 2009 objected to a UN proposal to teach children about it in UN-run schools in Gaza.”

It goes on to state:

“Mr Abbas’s comments were the strongest that he has made publicly on the Holocaust and appear to be an attempt to reach out to a mistrustful Israeli public, the BBC’s Yolande Knell reports from Jerusalem.”

In fact, Abbas has made numerous public remarks in the past regarding the Holocaust, which Knell’s adjective “strongest” might also be used to describe – though in a decidedly different sense. The Israeli public is of course aware of the fact that Mahmoud Abbas’ PhD dissertation was based on a form of Holocaust denial.

“His 1982 dissertation, published as “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism,” famously argues that the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis in order to spur more Jewish immigration to Palestine. “The Zionist movement,” it explains, “led a broad campaign of incitement against the Jews living under Nazi rule, in order to arouse the government’s hatred of them, to fuel vengeance against them, and to expand the mass extermination.” The Zionists, the work asserts, were the Third Reich’s “basic partner in crime.” It also claims that the figure of six million dead has been exaggerated for political gain, and suggests one million as a more reasonable estimate. Abbas has never unreservedly repudiated the document, and has in fact regularly reaffirmed its core argument, saying in 2013 that he had “70 more books that I still haven’t published” proving the Zionist-Nazi partnership.”

Had BBC audiences also been made aware of that fact, they might have been better equipped to understand Yolande Knell’s description of the Israeli public as “mistrustful” and to understand why this prompted statement from Abbas – and the inappropriate political messaging it includes – is not the news item it is framed to be in this report. 

Bowen misleads BBC audiences with irrelevant Northern Ireland analogy

Over the past nine months, since the most recent round of negotiations between Israel and the PLO commenced, we have frequently noted on these pages that BBC reporting on the topic has invariably steered clear of the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s incitement and glorification of terrorism (see here) as well as its payments to convicted and released terrorists. In addition, the BBC has also failed throughout those nine months to properly clarify to its audiences the real significance of Israel’s demand that the PA recognise Israel as the Jewish state (see for example here, here and here).

Beyond the significant fact that these editorial policies have clearly sold short the very BBC audience members to whom the corporation pledges to build a global understanding of international issues which will supposedly “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”, those policies have also established an internal structure of ‘no-go areas’ for BBC journalists themselves.

Those ‘no-go areas’ are essential foundations for the framing of BBC presentation of the entire topic of the latest round of negotiations as well as the broader representation of the entire peace process. Nowhere was that more clear than in the recent interview with the Israeli Prime Minister conducted by Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen which was broadcast on BBC television news and publicized on the BBC News website on April 24th.Bowen Netanyahu interview

If we break the interview down, we see that after the initial three short questions – two open and one closed – Bowen shifts to much longer ones which are actually constructed primarily around his own messaging, with a component of a question added in some cases. His fourth question is a repetition of the previously used theme of isolated focus on scepticism concerning the deal itself, but without any relevant information concerning its real significance.   

“But looking at it realistically, they’ve [the Palestinians] tried before to mend this split. They haven’t succeeded; there are still many differences between them; the chances are it may well not work. But isn’t it…wouldn’t it be better for you to be able to speak to a Palestinian side as well which is united, because if they ever made a deal with you, they’d be better placed to deliver it?”

In his fifth question, Bowen invokes the inaccurate, misleading – and very jaded – IRA analogy which steers audiences towards the misconceived impression that the two conflicts are comparable and therefore solvable in the same fashion.

“Now, Britain negotiated with the IRA and finally managed to make a peace agreement and Britain continued to negotiate with the IRA even when they were taking action against the British. Isn’t that the sensible way to make peace?”

As Prime Minister Netanyahu points out in his reply to Bowen’s question and as Lord Trimble has previously noted:

“Republicans in Northern Ireland wanted to wrest it away from the United Kingdom, but never assaulted the legitimacy of Great Britain or aspired to destroy it. Why, then, should lessons from the British-IRA conflict apply to that between Israel and Hamas or Hizballah, when the latter terrorist organizations declare Israel illegitimate and vow to destroy it?”

Additionally, Bowen’s time-wasting and misleading use of that inappropriate analogy fails to clarify to viewers that the international body under the leadership of George Mitchell, which was involved in brokering the Irish agreement, demanded the “absolute and total commitment” of parties involved in the negotiations to six pre-established principles.

“a. To democratic and exclusively peaceful means of resolving political issues;
b. To the total disarmament of all paramilitary organizations;
c. To agree that such disarmament must be verifiable to the satisfaction of an independent commission; 
d. To renounce for themselves, and to oppose any effort by others, to use force, or threaten to use force, to influence the course or the outcome of all-party negotiations;
e. To agree to abide by the terms of any agreement reached in all-party negotiations and to resort to democratic and exclusively peaceful methods in trying to alter any aspect of that outcome with which they may disagree;
f. To urge that ‘punishment’ killings and beatings stop and to take effective steps to prevent such actions.”

Of course, no such demands have been made of Hamas – with which the PA has now signed a unity deal – or the other Palestinian rejectionist factions.  

 Bowen’s sixth question is enabled by the fact that – as noted above – BBC audiences have not been informed of PA incitement, glorification of terrorism and payment to convicted and released terrorists.  

“But Mr Abbas is not doing any of those things [preaching and practicing attacks on Israel]. He says he wants to continue with negotiations. But isn’t it a fact that as well that people negotiate peace and peace deals with their enemies, not with their friends? You’re gonna have to get over that.”

In question seven Bowen says:

“The fact is though that Mr Abbas does not want to annihilate Israel. He wants to work with Israel. The PLO recognized Israel as a legitimate entity – as a legitimate state – a long time ago and the issue of recognizing Israel as a specifically Jewish state – with your 20% Arab population here – is something for them which is a different issue.”

Again, the fact that BBC audiences not only remain unaware of the real significance of the PA’s refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state, but also have had the topic presented to them exclusively as framed under the Palestinian narrative, is very important here. Bowen could not pose his question in this manner if viewers were aware of what that recognition – and Abbas’ refusal to give it – really means and he could not categorically claim that the Palestinian president “does not want to annihilate Israel” had BBC audiences been informed of the real meaning and aims of the PLO’s demand for Palestinian ‘right of return’ and its support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, as noted and promoted by Bowen in a previous report.

Bowen’s final two ‘questions’ are simply amplifications of the Palestinian Authority’s position.

“Now I’ve been talking to the Palestinians today about all of this and a lot of them are saying look – the Israelis never had their hearts in this. Mr Netanyahu never wanted to make a deal and now he’s simply grabbing onto this and running with it because it gives him an excuse to get out of it.”

“The Palestinians say that you continue to take their land, to build and extend settlements, that you’re not serious about a peace process and that is why they’re build….they’re moving to some internal unity and applying as well to international organisations and in their view they feel they can change the balance of power and get a stronger position for them in any future negotiations.”

Despite the fact that this is a relatively long interview, we see that much of it was wasted on the introduction of an irrelevant analogy between two very different conflicts and on the promotion of the Palestinian Authority/PLO narrative.  We also see the cumulative effects of nine months of reporting with ‘no-go areas’ – such as the subject of recognition of Israel as the Jewish state and PA glorification of terrorism – and how that well-entrenched framing of the issue interferes with the BBC’s ability to facilitate real audience understanding of this latest development.  



BBC Monitoring amplifies PA outlet’s propaganda

Among the considerable coverage of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal which has appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in the past few days was an article dated April 24th which was compiled by BBC Monitoring and is titled “Media divided over Palestinian unity deal“.

In that round-up of reactions to the deal in the Palestinian and Israeli press, the section dealing with the former ends with the following paragraph.

“The Jerusalem-based paper, Al-Quds, notes Washington’s expression of “disappointment” that the deal could seriously complicate peace talks, while Al-Hayat al-Jadidah says that Israel’s immediate reaction to the announcement was to bomb Gaza.” [emphasis added]

HF deal BBC monitoring

Israel of course did not “bomb Gaza” as a “reaction” to the announcement of the deal at all. What did happen – as even the BBC itself reported at the time – is that coincidently shortly after the deal was announced, a terrorist about to perpetrate a missile attack on Israeli civilians was targeted in the Beit Lahia area. Here is how BBC News reported the incident eventually:

“Shortly after Wednesday’s reconciliation deal was announced, five people were injured in an Israeli air strike in northern Gaza, Palestinian medics said.

Israel said it had targeted militants preparing to fire rockets. On Monday, seven rockets were launched from the territory into southern Israel.”

BBC Monitoring however makes no attempt to inform the readers of this report that the claim made by the Palestinian Authority mouthpiece Al-Hayat al-Jadidah is inaccurate both in terms of its suggestion that the incident was in “reaction” to the announcement of the deal and in terms of its misleading assertion regarding the scope of the incident: one man in Beit Lahia was attacked: not “Gaza”.

It is of course highly unfortunate that BBC Monitoring – with disturbing similarity to Al-Hayat al-Jadidah – appears to consider the unqualified amplification of misleading defamatory falsehoods promoted by the Palestinian Authority to be part of its repertoire.  


BBC’s Bowen promotes BDS and apartheid analogy on main TV news programme

An interview with the BBC’s Middle East Editor which was broadcast on one of the main BBC television news programmes on the evening of April 25th also appeared on the same date on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Jeremy Bowen on US bid to broker Mid-East peace deal“.

Bowen News at 10 interview

Presenter: “What is America’s plan B then?”

Bowen: “You know I don’t think they have one particularly. Eh…Mr Obama’s in his second term and he’s running out of time to try and make the big changes which, as a candidate, he really wanted to make in the Middle East and he’s said that he doesn’t think they’d be able to make the hard choices necessary for a deal within six months. Now; more than six months: they’ve been talking about this – about trying to build a Palestinian state alongside Israel – for more than twenty years and they haven’t got anywhere. It’s a long record of failure.”

Bowen makes no attempt to clarify to viewers why previous attempts to bring about a peaceful conclusion to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have failed. He refrains from mentioning the wave of Palestinian terror which followed the signing of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority’s decision to scupper those agreements by initiating the second Intifada, its failure to even reply to the deal proposed by Ehud Olmert in 2008 and much more. Bowen continues:  

“Now that is one reason I think why Fatah went for that unity deal with Hamas, because they’re not getting what they want out of talks and also because there’s a current within the PLO that says they need to try a different strategy…ah…building internal unity and also what they call non-violent resistance, which includes the movement for ….ah….for the boycott, disvestment… disvestment [sic] and sanctions; in other words, trying to isolate Israel in the way that South Africa was isolated in the 1980s.”

Here Bowen fails to clarify to viewers why any PLO claim of adoption of a policy of “non-violent resistance” is patently at odds with its latest initiative to join forces with Hamas; a group which is recognised internationally as a terrorist organisation and which repeatedly makes abundantly clear in both words and action its unwavering commitment to the annihilation of a UN member state through violent means.

Although incapable of pronouncing it correctly, Bowen gives context-free promotion and amplification to the BDS movement, failing to clarify to viewers what the end-game of that political campaign actually is and providing it with back wind through his context-free analogy which inaccurately – yet deliberately – herds audiences towards linkage between Israel and the apartheid era in South Africa. He continues:

“Now as for the Israelis, Mr Netanyahu seems pretty happy with the status quo; keeping a lid on things, expanding settlements, Israelis are making good money. But he’s also been warned that long-term, if there’s no Palestinian state, he might well be forced to…ah…ultimately Israelis might be forced….ah….to give Palestinians who live under their control the vote and since most likely Palestinians would be in the majority, that would open up a whole new range of electoral possibilities….ah….which many Israelis would certainly fear.” [all emphasis added]

Bowen’s reference to the finances of Israeli citizens of course has absolutely nothing to do with this topic, but it certainly reveals much about his own mindset and the depths to which he is prepared to go in order to try to convince audiences that Israel is the party not interested in a peace deal. That framing continues with his failure to inform audiences of the dramatic rise in Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli civilians since this latest round of negotiations began and his predictable insertion of a context-free reference to “expanding settlements”. Bowen then goes on to introduce the familiar ‘demographic threat’ argument, but fails to inform viewers that the vast majority of Palestinians live not under the “control” of Israel, but under the Palestinian Authority or Hamas and that they have voting rights within their own society.

The rationale behind the creation of the role of Middle East Editor in 2005 has been described in the following terms by the BBC:

“Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”

As this interview demonstrates once again, instead of “analysis”, BBC audiences are actually being fed context-free selected slivers of information which in fact hinder their comprehension of the region’s events, but serve to advance the framing of the issue according to a specific political agenda.  

When the person ultimately responsible for the BBC’s Middle East content allows himself to exploit his platform for the promotion and amplification of one-sided political messaging in such a blatant manner, it can hardly be surprising that much of the rest of the BBC’s Middle East coverage looks the way it does.  

Comparing Hamas in its own words to the BBC’s portrayal

BBC reporting on last month’s escalated barrage of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians in the south of the country included the repetition of versions of the following claim, which has also been made in previous BBC reports on other topics:

“Islamic Jihad and other groups have sporadically fired rockets and mortars at Israel since the 2012 conflict ended, while the Hamas movement that governs Gaza has refrained from doing so.” [emphasis added]

That claim was followed by another statement:

“However, an Israeli military statement said it held Hamas “responsible for all attacks emanating” from the coastal territory.”

As we remarked at the time:

“The BBC fails to inform audiences that the terms of the November 2012 ceasefire included the clause:

“All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.”

Seeing as Hamas – as the BBC frequently reminds its audiences – governs the Gaza Strip, it is clear that prevention of missile fire and all other types of terror attacks fall under its responsibility.”

A recent interview with senior Hamas figure Mahmoud Al Zahar, published by ‘Al Monitor’ on the occasion of a visit to the Gaza Strip by Moussa Abu Marzouk, includes some insight into the terror organisation’s policies.

Photo source: @dbarn225

Photo source: @dbarn225


Al-Monitor:  So allow me to pose the question in a different way: Has Hamas truly abandoned armed resistance while other parties insist upon continuing it?

Zahar:  Anyone who claims so must be drunk. How has Hamas abandoned the resistance effort? What are the manifestations of it doing so? Where have we prevented the launching of rockets? The last time three men were martyred as they fired rockets, did we stop them? This so-called ban came as a result of agreements between the factions after the last war. After every war, the factions agree about when to strike and when to stop. Some factions aim to cause tensions on the border crossings, which is not part of the resistance’s plan, but an attempt to bolster the siege by closing down the Kerem Shalom crossing. That is why they are arrested. And, in fact, some of them turn out to be spies or affiliated with factions that have nothing to do with the resistance movement. This is a clear case of psychological projection; those who fought against the resistance, criminalized it, imprisoned it, stripped it of its weapons and cooperated with Israel against it, now want to project their deeds onto Hamas.”

In other words, whilst Hamas may or may not have “refrained” from firing missiles itself, Zahar admits that it only prevents attacks by other factions if it sees that as being in its own interest and not because of the fact that the November 2012 ceasefire demands it. Further, he actually admits that the existence of a ceasefire agreement bringing a conflict to an end is followed by another internal agreement in which “the factions agree about when to strike and when to stop”. Notably too, Zahar’s comments indicate that attacks are deliberately perpetrated by some Palestinian factions in order to cause the closure of crossings, purely for reasons of publicity and political messaging. And clearly Zahar’s comments are ample evidence that if it was interested in enforcing the ceasefire agreement, Hamas is capable of doing so.

The easy ride given to Hamas by the BBC absolves it from all responsibility for enforcement of the ceasefire whilst misleading BBC audiences into believing that Hamas has somehow adopted a more moderate stance which includes having “refrained” from firing missiles at Israeli communities. As is evident from Zahar’s words, if indeed Hamas has – for reasons of its own – been less involved in carrying out such attacks itself, that is because there are plenty of other actors who will perpetrate them in its place and nothing whatsoever has changed in its overall stance.

It is high time the BBC provided its audiences with accurate and impartial information on this subject, including clarification of Hamas’ responsibility under the terms of the 2012 ceasefire to prevent all kinds of attacks from the Gaza Strip and an equally crucial understanding of the fact that it chooses not to do so.