Omission and inaccuracy on ME terror misleads BBC audiences

May 29th saw the appearance of a filmed report on the BBC News website’s main, Magazine and Middle East pages under the title of “The CIA spy who could have brought peace to Middle East” [sic]. The report is devoted entirely to author Kai Bird talking about his new book concerning the decade-long relationship between the CIA’s Robert Ames and Fatah’s Ali Hassan Salameh.Magazine Ames book

Leaving aside both the perhaps fanciful notion promoted in the BBC’s synopsis that the relationship “helped lay the groundwork for the negotiations which culminated in the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993” and the fact that the Oslo Accords did not bring peace, it is notable that both in the synopsis and in the filmed report itself, Ali Hassan Salameh is described as “Yasser Arafat’s intelligence chief”, “Arafat’s chief body-guard” and “Arafat’s virtual intelligence chief”.

No mention is made whatsoever of the fact that Salameh was a senior figure in Fatah’s Black September terrorist group and one of the architects of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. Black September – established in 1970 – was of course responsible for numerous additional terror attacks during the years between 1969 and 1979 throughout which Ames and Salameh, according to Bird, were in contact – including the deaths of two American diplomats in Khartoum in March 1973.

An equally bizarre inaccuracy in this report comes when Bird, speaking of the bombing of the US embassy in Beirut in April 1983 in which Robert Ames was killed says:

“Oddly enough, there was no retribution for the security lapses. The US government really didn’t know who had done this. Hizballah didn’t exist then.”

Although the Hizballah manifesto was published in 1985, the organization was founded – under Iranian tutelage – in 1982 and so did in fact “exist then”. Moreover, responsibility for the US embassy bombing was, as shown in news reports at the time, claimed by a group calling itself the Islamic Jihad Organisation – one of Hizballah’s early monikers.

The omission of any mention of Salameh’s terrorist activities and the inaccuracy regarding Hizballah’s founding in this report both materially mislead BBC audiences.   

BBC’s Jon Donnison promotes BDS misinformation on Twitter

Perhaps you too are beginning to wonder if and when the BBC’s Jon Donnison will ever get round to reading those guidelines on social media use put out by his employer.

“Those involved in editorial or production areas must take particular care to ensure that they do not undermine the integrity or impartiality of the BBC or its output on their blogs or microblogs. For example those involved in News and Current Affairs or factual programming should not advocate a particular position on high profile controversial subjects relevant to their areas.” [emphasis added]

Donnison tweet

As those responding to Donnison pointed out:

Donnison tweet replies 1

Donnison tweet replies 2

donnison tweet replies 3

Readers no doubt recall that Donnison’s failure to check facts and sources before hitting the Tweet button is by no means confined to this case. Despite those past breaches of BBC editorial guidelines, Donnison apparently once again failed to check out the agenda of the journalist who wrote the story he promotes in this latest Tweet.

Had he done so, Donnison might perhaps have reached the rather obvious conclusion that the promotion of a story touting a non-existent BDS ‘victory’ written by someone who, in his not too distant university days was to be found promoting a Ben White article on Twitter and writing the lines below, is not the smartest move for a BBC journalist committed to standards of accuracy and impartiality.

“Once the Israeli forces finish murdering human rights activists aboard the Free Gaza flotilla, they can wash the blood from their hands in the international waters where this atrocity was committed.” […]

“The blockade on Gaza started in June 2007. This tight squeeze of the area prevents food, water, medical supplies, and even people from entering or leaving the Gaza strip.”

Donnison tweet CroucherRelated Articles:

BBC’s social media guidance continues to be ineffective

BBC’s Jon Donnison Tweets malicious fauxtography

BBC’s Jon Donnison Tweets unverified information again


BBC WS again uses Christians to paint a picture of discriminatory Israel

Those who listened to part one of John Laurenson’s ‘Heart and Soul’ programme titled ‘Christians in the Holy Land’ on the BBC World Service probably did not have very high expectations regarding the accuracy and impartiality of its second and final part – titled “Newcomers”  – which was initially broadcast on May 24th.Heart and Soul WS Newcomers

Even the synopsis on the programme’s webpage manages to inaccurately rename the Tel Aviv neighbourhood Neve Sha’anan.

“The suburb of Neve Shanon is tucked away in the Israeli capital Tel Aviv, out of sight of the large houses where most of the residents work as domestic staff. The people are a multicultural mix of Africans, south-east Asians and South Americans – and represent the new wave of Christians that have made their home in the heart of the Jewish state. 

To mark Pope Francis’s visit to the Holy Land, John Laurenson travelled to the Israeli capital to find out more about these migrants. These newcomers are living in Neve Shanon and are worshipping in the improvised churches of this dilapidated area.” [emphasis added]

Laurenson begins his programme with a group of Indian Catholics on the Mount of Olives and his first identified interviewee is an Indian priest.

“I am Father Turji Jos [phonetic] from India. We have around six thousand Indian Catholics who are working as caregivers. The working conditions are hard and difficult. The caregivers – they are elderly people they have to look after and some of them are very sick, mentally not sound, very hefty people like 130 kgs and all people like that. They can’t be able to lift…”

JL: “Right…”

TJ: “So such cases it is difficult. So some of the employers are very rude and they don’t even give food for these employees and…”

JL: “Don’t give them food?”

TJ: “Food to eat. Sometimes very….”

JL: “But they pay them?”

TJ: “They pay just the minimum what is required by the government. Then sometimes they don’t…very minimum they give for eating.”

No concrete evidence is provided to back up the priest’s allegation that an unspecified number of “very rude” Israeli employers do not provide sufficient food for an unspecified number of employees – and yet the BBC saw fit to broadcast that smear. Laurenson makes no attempt to check whether employers are in fact actually required to feed employees or to inform listeners that legal migrant workers are protected under Israeli law, that the terms of their working conditions are clearly specified and that any complaints about their working conditions can and should be referred to the relevant authorities.

Laurenson goes on:

“Does it help, their religion, do you think? I mean Jesus was a carer.”

TJ: “Yeah, I think the spiritual services, attending the spiritual activities enable them to [unintelligible] all sort of things and hardships and also like they are doing it as a mission or ministry; caring for the abandoned nobody [unintelligible] look after.”

JL: “No family.”

TJ: “No families, yes.”

Of course beyond the motivations the priest suggests exists a major factor of which neither he nor Laurenson apparently sees the need to inform listeners. Unskilled migrant workers from SE Asia are paid at considerably higher rates in Israel than they would be in their home countries and that is a major motivation for their choosing to work there.

Without clarifying who “they” are, Laurenson then asks:

Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, March 2012

Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, March 2012

“Do you think that you have your place here in a country they often call the Jewish state?”

TJ: “We believe that we have a place because place of Jesus and also for us is giving a testimony. The Indian Catholics’ activities are more prominent than the local Catholics here. We gather in large numbers and really make an impressive presence in this Holy Land.”

JL: “You’ve got a big smile when you say this. You think this is a good thing to do then? You think that you should show yourselves, yes?”

TJ: “Yes, yes. Ahm..yes because many people in the world think there are no more Christians in the Holy Land and we have come from another to land and making our presence here in the Holy Land – a Christian presence – is something wonderful, I believe.”

JL: “Do you ever experience any sort of rejection or hostility or suspicion?”

TJ: “This hostility from the ultra-Orthodox groups when we go on the streets with our religious garments. They spit on the road and they shout at us.”

JL: “This doesn’t happen every time says Father Turji, but it happens.”

Laurenson’s next named interviewee is then introduced.

“David Neuhaus – an Israeli Jew who converted to Christianity – is the Catholic Patriarchal vicar responsible for these new Catholic communities in Israel. He says the arrival of Christians like these women has led to a doubling of Israel’s Christian population over the last 15 to 20 years.”

DN: “In the Holy Land we have 160,000 Christian citizens of Israel. 160,000. 75% of them are Palestinian Arabs, OK? The other quarter of Christians are coming from the countries of Eastern Europe, particularly the ex-Soviet Union. And then we have this huge population – we’re not sure how many – but probably up to 150,000 migrants. And again, these migrants are coming from Asia and Africa and opening up new paths of dialogue with the Jewish people because Jews identify Christians in this kind of collective Jewish memory as European white people. And so when they enter into contact with black, brown and yellow people who are Christians, that also helps to change the idea of what Christianity is. And by the way these African and Asian Christians often have very little perception of the dynamic of Jewish-Christian relations over the centuries and the trauma that has been involved for Jews, so that they too, they come in – and this is very important to underline – particularly the Asian Christians – come in as loving hands. Because they come in as care-givers. Our rich people don’t take care of their old people any more. Nor of their sick people, nor of their handicapped and the Asians are bringing in to do particularly that work and very often do it with an incredible dedication.”

Neuhaus’ simplistic, over-generalised and distinctly uncharitable portrayal of Israeli society conceals from listeners the fact that not all families who find themselves obliged to take on the services of care-givers are “rich” by any stretch of the imagination and that the permit to employ a foreign care-giver is granted according to professional assessment of the patient’s needs – not the family’s bank account. Notably, Laurenson made no effort to bring the voices of families who employ such care-givers to BBC audiences.  

Laurenson then visits a church in Neve Sha’anan in Tel Aviv and listeners hear his interviewee Lourdes Evangelista.

“…so I find employer. She is a Alzheimer woman. She’s very good woman. […] and in my room I have an altar. I put the picture of Jesus Christ and she see that I am reading the Bible and praying. She’s not asking me what are you doing. But the problem – they have a grandchildren is a religious, so when I’m coming in my – in the flat – they see my room. They asking me what is this, like that, I said this is Jesus Christ because I’m a Christian. No, no, no; I don’t like that. No choice. So I hide the picture and the cross but I’m still continuing to read the Bible and I say Lord I’m sorry but you know what doing and you know what is in my heart.”

Apparently it is difficult for both Laurenson and his interviewee to conceive that the placing of Christian ornaments and symbols in their family home might be offensive to some non-Christians. Laurenson then goes out of his way to find interviewees from a section of Israeli society representing no more than 10% of the whole who will confirm his touted theme of Israeli hostility towards Christians.

JL: “So I’ve come along to Shabbat Square which is one of the more Orthodox parts of Jerusalem and we’ve found ourselves right in the middle of a demonstration against the extension of the draft to Orthodox Jews. […] We’re thinking that if there is a part of the Israeli population that is concerned about the quite rapid rise of the Christian population of this country, it’ll be in this more religious element of Israeli society.”

Laurenson seems surprised to find that some people are not keen to talk to him and equally amazed that other Israelis speak Hebrew. But eventually, of course, he finds what he was looking for in order to ‘prove’ his point.

JL: “But what I met with was an extraordinary amount of this…”

Man: “To be honest with you I don’t talk to…”

JL: “And a lot of this…”

Man 2: “I’d rather not tell you with a microphone.”

JL: “Though usually the refusals to speak were in Hebrew. As for the few who didn’t mind talking to us…”

Man 3: “It’s all in the Shem’s hands; in God’s hands. This is the home of the Jewish people so, it’ll always be our home and it doesn’t mean that other people can’t live here and there certainly are a lot of people that live here but this is the Jewish homeland.”

Displaying incredible ignorance regarding the diverse religious and ethnic make-up of Israel’s population since the first day of its founding, Laurenson asks:

JL: “You’d be fine with Israel being a sort of multi-religious country really – which is what it is becoming?”

Man 3: “Yeah, I mean why not? I mean it’s…people are welcome to live here and I don’t see a problem with that at all.”

JL: “And a couple said this…”

Man 4: “It’s an awful thing the rise in the number of Christians here because it will cause assimilation. If Jews marry Christians they risk disappearing. And this doesn’t apply only to Israel – to everywhere in the world as Jews are a minority.”

Sharp-eared Hebrew speakers may be able to hear snippets of the man’s actual words which might cause them to question the accuracy of the translated voice-over.

Man 5: “It’s very sad. It’s worse than Islam. Their people might be blowing themselves up but this is a quiet war that’s taking place. Legal measures should be used to stop things going too far because this is a threat to the Jewish identity of the State of Israel.”

Laurenson then moves onto another named interviewee – Hana Bendcowsky.

HB: “I think since Israel was established as a shelter for Jewish people the fear and the worry that the demographics would be different than they are now or they used to be – that the Jews would become a minority here – that’s a fear that the authorities have, that many of the people have.”

JL: “At her office in Jerusalem I meet Hana Bendcowsky – programme director of the Centre for Jewish-Christian relations – who tells me about many Israelis’ perceptions of Christians that started out negative and are getting more so.”

HB: “These are the memories of the past that accompany every Israeli Jew although many of us are third and fourth generation in Israel. The fear of Christians, the persecution of the Jews is being taught in school. It’s even being used – or I would say abused – in politics. When the Jews were kicked out of England in 1291 or when they were expelled from Spain in 1492, or they were persecuted in different places and the hatred and the antisemitism and – the final stage – the Holocaust, which is also seen as part of the Jewish-Christian tension.”

JL: “That’s a big leap, obviously. I mean talking about the Holocaust as a Christian phenomenon (laughs).”

HB: “Obviously, obviously, but that’s how Jews see that. They see it as another step; Crusaders, persecution, expulsion and then the Holocaust. For Israelis and for Jews today it’s part of the same story. Now, for the first generation who came to Israel who had very strong relations with Christians or people who lived among Christians, for them Christian is a person. For the young generation in Israel who grew up here, who learned in history classes only about persecution, expulsion and of course the Holocaust, why would he have a positive opinion about Christianity? How could he develop a positive opinion about Christianity? Even the fact that we actually live in a Western culture and we consume Western culture – Western television, art – which is all Christian – we kind of forget that and keep focusing on the negative parts of the history.”

JL: “You think Christians here really should be more sensitive towards..yeah…Jewish sensitivities regarding Christian symbols?”

HB: “I don’t expect the minorities to make such an effort for the majority. I think first of all it’s our responsibility as Jews, as the majority here to educate ourself and to help the minorities to understand us. So I expect us to help them to understand the background that we come from and I think I also try to educate myself and I want to educate others, not to forget or to forgive if you don’t want to, but to put the history behind and to move forward. If the cross was a symbol of conflict, of persecution, now we’re in a different situation. We are having our own state. We’re the majority here. We have army, we have security forces, we are secure here. So it’s about time to relate to the cross as a symbol of two billion people in the world; a symbol of their faith – not a symbol of our persecution because it’s not relevant.”

Judging from the amount of programme time Laurenson devotes to airing Bendcowsky’s ‘progressive’ opinions, it appears that he too leans towards the opinion that Jews are far too stuck in the past. Notably, he makes no effort at this point or throughout his entire report to introduce his listeners to topics such as contemporary Christian proselytism in Israel or the part played by various churches and church-related bodies – including some of those which partner and donate to Ms Bendcowsky’s organization, such as Trocaire – in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which aims to delegitimize the one Jewish state into extinction.

Echoing Bendcowsky’s “not relevant” diagnosis, Laurenson continues:

Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, March 2012

Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, March 2012

“What is, on the other hand, pressingly relevant is the suffering of people that have come to Israel’s door. We’re going to meet the asylum seekers.”

Returning to Neve Sha’anan, Laurenson interviews a man he dubs Sumari Abraham [phonetic] – an illegal migrant from Eritrea. He tells audiences of Sumari’s prowess as a runner and then facilitates the telling of a very dubious story.

JL: “When I met him he was about to attend a Passover dinner organized by some Israeli friends, but he was no more able to follow his dream [to become a runner] here than he was at home. To do that, he says, he would have had to convert.”

SA: “There is one law here in Israel. If you are not a Jew you cannot participate in outside races like Olympics and also World Championships like that. Very hard for me. I had a team here in Israel also. I made medical check; everything was right. They told me you have to sign for the Rav [Rabbi]. Rav means like a priest of the Jews. I don’t have a Rav. I am Christian so my boss he told me, my coach, if you are not a Jew you don’t have any chance to competing in competitions; things like World Championship.”

JL: “But the problem is more, isn’t it, that you don’t have Israeli nationality? You can’t be in the Israeli team if you’re not Israeli?”

SA: “Yeah, I think this and I am not a Jew also. They say it’s the Jew state and a Jew country. If you are not a Jew here you are nothing.”

Laurenson clearly understands the real reason that his interviewee cannot compete as a member of a team representing Israel and, had he done the research, he would also know that Israelis of all colours, creeds and ethnicities represent their country at sporting and other international events. Nevertheless, he elected to include and amplify these inaccurate and deliberately misleading claims in this programme.

Next, Laurenson returns to the Jesuit priest (and Vatican spokesman in Jerusalem and former B’Tselem board member) Father David Neuhaus.

DN: “Since 2007 until now we have had two Eritreans recognized as refugees. The parallel in Europe is around 70% of the Eritreans who are coming into Europe are recognized as refugees, of course with differences from country to country.”

JL: “Why is the percentage so low here?”

Promoting once again the theme of “rich” Israelis, Neuhaus is permitted by Laurenson to erase from listener consciousness the fact that Israel is a country which took in around a million refugees from post-war Europe, around three-quarters of a million refugees from Arab and Muslim countries, about million refugees from the former USSR and non-Jewish refugees from Vietnam, the former Yugoslavia and Lebanon to name but some.

DN: “Because in Israel there is a policy not to take on refugees. Israel was created as a Jewish state and any Jew can come – refugee or not – but there is little awareness that we are also a rich society and therefore have responsibilities – ethical responsibilities – towards a world population and particularly those that have found their way here. And I want to add what we are facing now with opposition for laws that are termed infiltration laws where a whole population is being criminalised for seeking refuge in Israel. They are being called infiltrators. The infiltrators in the 1960s were those that came in to commit acts of sabotage – Palestinians – so calling them infiltrators raises the anxiety level. Instead of looking at these people and deciding some of them are bona fide refugees and we need to take on that responsibility, not only because we signed on to international conventions but also because of the history of the Jewish people in this country . And what is now the added unfairness is that those that have been here the longest time – in particular single men who have somehow found their feet here, have found jobs as difficult as that is and have somehow integrated into the environment, are now being rounded up and sent to a camp in the Negev desert where they can be held for a long period of time, where there is nothing to do and again it seems that the authorities have made a decision they want this population out of here and they’re making life really unbearable.”

Laurenson’s programme is twenty-six and a half minutes long. Less than one minute of that time is afforded to the Israeli view of the points and claims raised in the rest of the programme and even that is paraphrased by Laurenson himself.

JL: “I got on the phone to the Foreign Ministry about Father David’s claims and this is what spokesman Paul Hirschson had to say. It’s true that few illegal migrants obtain refugee status but few actually apply, he told me, perhaps because they know that – unlike many countries – Israel applies a policy of no forced repatriation to Eritrea, Sudan or Somalia. As part of its new infiltrators law, a physical barrier has been built along much of the border with Egypt that has radically reduced illegal immigration and Israel is building detention centres similar to those operated in the Netherlands and Britain, he says. Illegal migrants may be held in these facilities for up to a year. The idea is to prevent them working and therefore lower the incentive for coming here. If we didn’t have those restrictions, the spokesman said, illegal immigrants wouldn’t come to Israel in their thousands, but in their millions. At some point Israel would collapse under the weight of numbers.”

Laurenson continues by briefly acknowledging one important point:

“The doubling of Israel’s Christian population – while across the Middle East their numbers have fallen dramatically – is proof that in Israel there is a degree of freedom of religion that’s become rare in the region.”

He goes on to make an assertion which ignores the all-important fact that, unlike Christianity, Judaism is not a proselytising religion.

“But the future of the Holy Land’s new Christians is fragile, in part because the assimilation some Jews fear cuts both ways. How many young Indians and young Filipinos will choose to jettison the religion of their parents along with their language?”

Laurenson closes by leaving audiences with the take-away message of Israel as a discriminatory society.

JL: “And for the asylum seekers the past is bleak, the present is bleak, the future is bleak. A walk across a desert that now has this camp whose name is Holot. Sumari Abraham again.”

SA: “They don’t want me because I am a Christian. They think if I stay here for a long time, they fear about their identity. If they are proud about their identity, why they are afraid of me? If they strong in their religion, if they strong in their faith, why they are afraid of others? They are blaming Christian [unintelligible] of nothing.”

JL: “Israel is the homeland of my God, says Sumari. It’s the homeland of my soul, but of my flesh – no.”

Like the first part of John Laurenson’s  programme, this one too is replete with inaccuracies and omissions which severely compromise its impartiality. The end result in both programmes is the presentation of a one-sided view of Israel which includes nothing fresh, new or innovative.

In part one of the programme the real reasons for the plight of Palestinian Christians were concealed in favour of the promotion of politically motivated propaganda. In part two, Laurenson completely ignored Israeli Christian citizens; not least those who do not fit into the BBC’s pre-existing narrative. Laurenson’s one-dimensional picture of “Christians in the Holy Land” failed to go anywhere near the topics of the Palestinian politicization of Christianity and the heavy involvement of various Christian streams in the delegitimisation of Israel.

The result is just another jaded chapter in the BBC’s repeated attempts to persuade audiences that Israel is a society riddled with discrimination and racism.

Related Articles:

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BBC R4′s ‘Today’ programme implies persecution of Christians in Israel

BBC’s ECU publishes findings on complaint about R4 ‘Today’ programme

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

Fact check failure: BBC recycles story Reuters got wrong

“Spar: To bandy words about in argument; dispute.” (source)

The ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page included an article titled “Who, What, Why: What language would Jesus have spoken?” on May 27th. The article opens: [emphasis added]BBC art language Jesus

“Israel’s prime minister has verbally sparred with the Pope over which language Christ might have spoken. Several languages were used in the places where Jesus lived – so which would he have known, asks Tom de Castella.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Pope Francis appeared to have a momentary disagreement. “Jesus was here, in this land. He spoke Hebrew,” Netanyahu told the Pope at a public meeting in Jerusalem. “Aramaic,” interjected the Pope. “He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew,” Netanyahu shot back.”

But did Netanyahu and the Pope really ‘spar’ or have a “disagreement” over the issue of Jesus’ language skills? As Yair Rosenberg points out, the media – BBC included – has inflated and distorted what was in fact a few seconds of amicable conversation.

“Yesterday, the press reported a sparring match between Pope Francis and Benjamin Netanyahu that never really transpired. To judge by media reports, the Israeli Prime Minister had a testy exchange with the Supreme Pontiff over whether or not Jesus spoke Hebrew. Reuters broke the story with the headline “Pope, Netanyahu spar over Jesus’ native language.” Using the language of verbal combat, the piece reported the Israeli leader as saying, “Jesus was here, in this land. He spoke Hebrew.” The Pope was said to have “interjected” with a correction: “Aramaic.” To this, Bibi “shot back” that Jesus “spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew.” The Chicago Tribune soon dubbed the incident a “spat,” and by the time it made its way to The Age in Australia, Netanyahu was said to have “publicly bickered” with the Pope, evincing the “sour undertone” of the Catholic leader’s entire visit to Israel. […]

But unfortunately for headline writers hoping to gin up controversy for clicks, there is video of this supposed smackdown, and it shows nothing of the sort.”

The BBC article includes a link to the Reuters report upon which it appears to be based. There too, the words ‘spar’ and ‘shot back’ appear.

Reuters art language

The fact that the BBC joined the ranks of the many media organisations which got this story wrong is entirely attributable to an obvious failure to check the facts before recycling this Reuters piece. 

Did the BBC recycle a Gaza report from a Saudi-owned website?

On May 20th a filmed report shown on BBC World television was placed in the video section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Titled “Gaza bees seek Egyptian nectar“, the report’s synopsis informs audiences that:Bees Gaza BBC

“Beekeepers in Gaza are reporting their best harvest in more than a decade.

The combination of fighting, urban development and disease had seen honey production drop dramatically but beekeepers have changed their strategy.”

But in the filmed report itself, “urban development and disease” do not get a mention: there, the woes of the Gaza honey business are all down to one tediously predictable factor – Israel.

Presenter Alpa Patel opens:

“On this small plot of land near the Egyptian border these bee-keepers are hard at work. And they’re not the only ones. The bees have been swarming to these hives, producing more honey in Gaza than they have done in more than ten years.”

Patel then introduces some context-free “violence” into the story, failing to make any attempt to inform viewers that what she is actually talking about is the Palestinian Authority’s decision to launch the second Intifada terror war in late September 2000.

“Prior to the outbreak of violence in 2000, honey production topped around 750 tonnes per year but the unrest slashed production by more than half to around 250 tonnes and that’s because many trees and crops were damaged, which are a vital source of pollen and nectar for bees. But this year, farmers say they’ve experienced the best harvest in over a decade with 320 tonnes of honey produced so far.”

Ahead of a gratuitous mention of security-related travel restrictions, more context-free reporting ensues, with no explanation of why it would be necessary to clear vegetation from the border of a territory ruled by a terrorist organisation.

“The change in fortunes is down to a change in strategy. The bee-keepers have placed their hives near the border with Egypt, hoping the bees would seek out trees and plants there which no longer exist on Gaza’s border with Israel after being cleared by bulldozers. It seems the bees can cross borders some Gazans can’t. “

Apparently the producer of this report is counting on audiences not having heard of Egypt’s security zone along its border with the Gaza Strip or upon them working out that the same bees are quite capable of navigating security zones to the east as well as south. The report cuts to an interview with apiarist Raed Zuroub.

“The bees cross to the Egyptian side and bring the nectar because there are citrus and other farms there. The bees can travel three to four kilometers and bring back the pollen.”

Patel concludes:

“The tactic is working, reviving the honey-making industry. It’s a symbol of hope for the future for a region so often associated with conflict and hardship.”

Notably, the filmed footage in this report bears remarkable similarity to – and appears to have been taken from – one on the same topic which appeared four days earlier on Al Arabiya’s English language site, with the wording of the BBC’s item strongly resembling that of the Reuters article also appearing on that Saudi-owned site and the same interviewee appearing in all three items. At the end of the Reuters piece, however, it is noted that:Bees Gaza Al Arabiya

“Honey production has also been affected by growing urban sprawl, increasing salinity in Gaza’s ground water and cultivation of olive trees which do not produce nectar suitable for honey production, according to the Middle East news website al-Monitor.”

The article to which that paragraph refers is this one and it also notes another interesting aspect of the honey producing industry in the Gaza Strip.

“Gaza mainly depends on Israeli experience in the field of honey production and for obtaining beekeeping supplies, which are all imported from Israel, says Ghazal, the president of Gaza’s beekeeping association.

The honey-production sector encountered difficulties in the Gaza Strip under the first years of the blockade, after the apiary owners were prohibited from entering Israel to import queen bees and various supplies, a situation that has changed over the past three years.

Ghazal told Al-Monitor that during the blockade, Israel did not end the joint cooperation to combat disease among the bees, and medication continued to be sent, for fear that these diseases would be transferred to Israeli farms from the besieged Gaza Strip.

He explained that during the first years of the blockade, beekeepers in Gaza tried to import supplies from Egypt, but they were surprised by their significantly poor quality compared to those imported from Israel, which lead to significant financial losses during that period.”

Suddenly, the BBC’s whimsical tale of a Gaza honey industry bouncing back despite the big, bad Israelis is not quite as straightforward as it first seems. But perhaps that is what happens when Britain’s national broadcaster bases its content on the recycling of a report from an outlet based in a country which Freedom House described in 2013 as having a media environment “among the most repressive in the world”. 

Licence fee payers might be very interested to know whether or not there is more where that came from: is the recycling of news items from media outlets in repressive Gulf states which do not respect press freedoms a regular event at the BBC? 


Accuracy failure in Yolande Knell’s BBC report on Pope’s visit to Jerusalem holy sites

One might think that a correspondent with several years’ experience of working at the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau would by now be capable of accurately informing audiences about the status of religious sites in that city.

Here is Yolande Knell in a BBC News broadcast from May 26th on the subject of the Pope’s visit to Jerusalem.

“You can see the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem just behind me and that’s where he [the Pope] went to the two most important sites in the Old City for Muslims and for Jews, starting at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound. He also met the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem there and then he went to the Western Wall – the most holy place for the Jewish people.” [emphasis added]

Fortunately, Dr Jeffrey Woolf was on hand to correct that:

“The Temple Mount is not just sacred to Muslims; it’s sacred to Jews. It is the most sacred place in fact in the Jewish religion…”

This really is not a complicated issue, and yet it is one that for some reason, the Western media – including the BBC – gets wrong time and time again. 

Yom Yerushalayim

On the day upon which the reunification of Jerusalem on the 28th of Iyar 5727 (7th June 1967) is marked, it is worth devoting some thought to the potential consequences and practicalities of the political campaign still going on 47 years later to re-divide the city – supposedly in the name of peace.

The person who has done the most comprehensive work on this subject is of course Yaacov Lozowick. Starting in 2010, he published a series of posts on his sadly now largely dormant blog which address the subject of what would actually happen if Jerusalem were returned to the divided state it was in from 1948 to 1967 as a result of the Jordanian occupation and whether it is even physically possible to re-divide the city.

Here are links to some of those posts:SONY DSC

Don’t Divide Jerusalem: Context

Nine Logical Outcomes to Dividing Jerusalem

The border at Jaffa Gate


The impossible border through the Old City

The Armenian Quarter

Maronites in Jerusalem

Abu Tor Preview                                                                                                                                 SONY DSC

Asael Street

Virtual Tour of the Shepherd Hotel Area

Har Homa

The Curious Case of Beit Safafa

 Do the Palestinians of Jerusalem Prefer to be Israelis?

The funding public – whom the BBC pledges will be able to”participate in the global debate on significant international issues” after watching, hearing and reading its coverage – might well appreciate some similarly in-depth information on what the proposal to divide Jerusalem (defined by the BBC as one of the ‘core issues’ of negotiations) actually means.

Happy Jerusalem Day! 

(The pictures above were taken at the recently renovated First Train Station in Jerusalem)


BBC Radio 5 Live provides platform for Catholic anti-Israel campaigning

h/t RM

The May 25th edition of Radio 5 Live’s programme ‘Up All Night’ – presented by Dotun Adebayo – included an item ostensibly concerning the Pope’s recent visit to the Jordan which can be heard for a limited period of time from around 13:00 here.up all night 25 5

The item is composed of an approximately twelve and a half-minute interview with James Salt – executive director of the Washington DC-based organisation ‘Catholics United’. In breach of BBC editorial guidelines, Adebayo fails to provide listeners with any information regarding the political agenda of the interviewee or his organisation.

At around 22:06 in the recording above, Salt says:

“I also want to say, Dotun, there’s something to be said though about the Palestinian Christians as well. Tomorrow he’s [the Pope] headed to Bethlehem. Bethlehem is actually a Christian town in the occupied territories and many of the Palestinians are Catholic Christians, many of whom are being squeezed to the point where they’re emigrating out but nonetheless, they’re very much part of the fabric of Palestinian life. And it’ll be interesting to see Pope Francis navigate that geo-political religious conflict when we know that Palestinian Christians are so close to the heart of many leaders of the Catholic Church. The Patriarch of Jerusalem Emeritus is very outspoken. I mean he’s a bishop of Palestinian Christians who live and die under occupation and we know that the Vatican is very clear about the need to protect the dignity of the Palestinians. How he does this in a stage where Israel and other forces are so critical will be a very interesting test of his papacy.” [emphasis added]

Adebayo fails to point out to listeners that Bethlehem has been under the control of the Palestinian Authority since 1995 and hence is not “occupied”. He fails to enlighten them that the “many” Palestinian Catholics Salt describes actually number around 80,000 and he fails to inform listeners of the persecution of Palestinian Christians by elements among the Muslim Palestinian population or of the fact that Christians have become a minority in Bethlehem not least due to changes in the town’s municipal boundaries enforced by the PA.

“In 1947 the population of Bethlehem was 85% Christian. In 1990 23,000 Christians lived there, as a 60% majority. After the Palestinian Authority took over control of the town in 1995 the town’s municipal boundaries were altered to include concentrations of Muslim population, turning the Christians into a minority. By 2010 the number of Christians in Bethlehem had fallen to 7,500.”

Adebayo also fails to clarify to listeners that the “Patriarch of Jerusalem Emeritus” to whom Salt refers is of course Michel Sabbah – one of the instigators of the Kairos Document and the former president of Pax Christi – for which, coincidentally, James Salt used to work.

Without the necessary background knowledge regarding James Salt’s connections to anti-Israel campaigning faith-based organisations, listeners of course will be unable to put the political messaging he is allowed to promote in this interview into its correct context. 

Wall to wall political messaging in BBC coverage of Pope’s visit

Yesterday we took a look at Yolande Knell’s context-free amplification of politically motivated falsehoods and inaccuracies in her May 25th article concerning the Pope’s visit to the Middle East. Some of those same themes were to be found repeated in much of the rest of the BBC’s written and filmed coverage of the visit, suggesting that an element of editorial policy is at work.

In the May 24th report titled “Pope Francis praises Jordan at start of Middle East visit” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the first day of the visit, there appears an insert of commentary from the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. Despite the fact that the first leg of the visit took place in Jordan, Bowen was already promoting specific misleading and inaccurate themes.Pope Bethlehem Bowen insert 1

“In Bethlehem, which is in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinians say they are threatened by the encroachment of Jewish settlements.”

Bethlehem is of course situated in Area A and has been under Palestinian Authority control since 1995, in accordance with the terms of the Oslo II Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In other words, it – like the rest of the PA controlled areas – is not “Israeli-occupied” as Bowen inaccurately informs readers. Not content with eradicating the Oslo Accords, Bowen also misleads BBC audiences with regard to the geography of the area by amplifying the baseless claim that Bethlehem is “threatened by the encroachment of Jewish settlements”. It is patently ridiculous to suggest that any “settlement” would at any time in the future ‘encroach’ into Areas A or B and – as has been repeatedly shown here – there are no Israeli towns, villages or neighbourhoods to the east and south of Bethlehem at all.

map Bethlehem

But by far the most heavily promoted theme in all of the BBC’s remarkably extensive coverage of the Pope’s visit, both on its website and in television reports, was a distorted representation of the anti-terrorist fence.

Let’s remind ourselves what the BBC’s style guide says about BBC presentation of that topic.


BBC journalists should try to avoid using terminology favoured by one side or another in any dispute.

The BBC uses the terms “barrier”, “separation barrier” or “West Bank barrier” as acceptable generic descriptions to avoid the political connotations of “security fence” (preferred by the Israeli government) or “apartheid wall” (preferred by the Palestinians).

The United Nations also uses the term “barrier”.

Of course, a reporter standing in front of a concrete section of the barrier might choose to say “this wall” or use a more exact description in the light of what he or she is looking at.”

So did BBC journalists reporting the Pope’s visit stick to the use of accepted variations of the term ‘barrier’ and thus avoid “political connotations”?

An article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 25th indeed runs with that BBC approved terminology in the headline “Pope prays at Israel’s West Bank separation barrier” and opens:

“Pope Francis has prayed at the concrete barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank during his three-day tour of the Middle East.”

Later on in the article readers are told that:

“On his way to Bethlehem, he stopped to pray at an 8m concrete wall that is part of the barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank.

The Pope rested his head against the wall – which Israel says is needed for security, but the Palestinians see as a land grab – near graffiti reading: “Free Palestine.” “

Those statements are clearly inaccurate and misleading to BBC audiences: Israel is not building a “concrete barrier….In and around the West Bank”. 97% of the anti-terrorist fence is just that – fence – with only 3% being constructed from concrete, mainly in areas where protection from snipers is necessary.

This article also includes an insert from Jeremy Bowen in which he states:Pope Bethlehem Bowen insert 2

“Palestinians have used social media to post pictures of Pope Francis praying at the 8m concrete wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem. The Israelis say the wall and other parts of the separation barrier are vital for the security of their people. But for Palestinians the wall is tangible symbol [sic] of what they say is Israel’s intention to grab as much land as possible.”

Here Bowen is misleadingly suggesting to BBC audiences that the aim of what the BBC elects to term the “separation barrier” is to separate Palestinian towns such as Bethlehem “from Jerusalem” when in fact the aim is to curb the infiltration of Palestinian terrorists into Israeli towns and cities. Notably, Bowen uses the standard BBC formula which presents audiences with two narratives concerning the anti-terrorist fence and reduces its proven record of stopping terror attacks to the subjective level of “Israel says”, whilst amplifying the notion of a “land grab” which has not taken place.  As we have noted here before:

“Clearly, the BBC is very comfortable with its standard antique mantra on the subject of the anti-terrorist fence, but that does not mean that it complies with BBC standards of impartiality as set out in its editorial guidelines.

The systematic failure to present audiences with the readily available factual evidence which proves the anti-terrorist fence’s efficiency – rather than the subjective presentation of “Israel says” – is clearly a failure to distinguish “opinion from fact” and a major “omission of an important perspective”.  The fact that a standard formula has been employed for over a decade also represents a failure to adhere to the demand for “impartiality over time”, presenting the same jaded “land grab” theme over a long period of years in which no such thing has happened.”

As we will see below, however, that theme was repeatedly promoted in additional BBC coverage.

In an article published on the BBC News website on May 26th under the title “Pope visits Jerusalem holy sites on last day in Middle East“, the misleading and inaccurate suggestion that the role of the anti-terrorist fence is to separate “Bethlehem from Jerusalem” was repeated and a structure which has saved countless Israeli lives was described to BBC audiences as “controversial”.

“The Pope spent a few minutes praying at the [Western] wall, as he did on Sunday at the controversial Israeli security barrier that separates the biblical town of Bethlehem in the West Bank from Jerusalem.”

In a filmed report by Jeremy Bowen titled “Pope visits refugee camp on Middle East tour” from May 25th which appeared on the BBC News website as well as on BBC television news, audiences were told:

“…the Pope earlier on today decided to stop to pray at the eight foot high – eight meter, I should say – high wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem. The Israelis say it’s vital for their security. The Palestinians say that it’s a naked land grab and shows that Israelis aren’t serious about peace.”

In the synopsis to another filmed report which appeared on the BBC News website’s Europe page on May 25th under the title “What type of Pope is Francis? In 90 seconds” BBC audiences were again misled when they were informed that:Pope visit 90 secs

“Pope Francis has prayed at the concrete barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank…..”

In Yolande Knell’s May 25th filmed report which appeared on BBC television news and on the BBC News website under the heading “Pope Francis prays at Israel’s West Bank barrier” BBC audiences were told that:

“….the Pope got out of his vehicle as he was driving here to the square and he made a prayer next to the eight meter-high concrete wall that Israel has built to separate Bethlehem from Jerusalem. It’s part of the West bank barrier that Israel’s building in and around the West Bank, saying it’s needed for security but the Palestinians see this wall, this barrier, as a land grab.”

In Jeremy Bowen’s May 25th report titled “Pope prays at Israel’s West Bank separation barrier” which appeared on the BBC News website and on BBC television news programmes, BBC audiences heard a Papal mind-reading Bowen say:

“Pope Francis touched his forehead on the wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem to show his concern at the failure to bring peace to the Holy Land. […] Israel says the separation barrier is to keep its people safe. Palestinians say Israel is grabbing land they want for a state.”

So as we see, BBC audiences have been bombarded time and time again with the same jaded mantra: a mantra which deliberately misrepresents the aim and physical characteristics of the anti-terrorist fence.

Not once in any of the above reports were they told of the real reason why the anti-terrorist fence had to be built. Not once werePope Bethlehem graffiti they reminded of the thousands of Israeli civilians of all creeds and ethnicities killed and maimed by Palestinian terrorists during the dark years of the second Intifada. Not once was the phrase ‘Palestinian terrorism’ even mentioned, nor likewise the rise in terror attacks seen since the last round of negotiations commenced. And not once was it pointed out to readers or viewers that the Pope’s photo-op took place beside Palestinian graffiti promoting the antisemitic comparison of Bethlehem to the Warsaw Ghetto.

The uniformity of the style and content of BBC’s ‘wall’ mantra is remarkable: not even one BBC correspondent stepped out of line to bring any remotely deviating information to audiences. It is difficult to believe that this blatant exercise in – excuse the pun – wall to wall politically motivated amplification of PA propaganda was not pre-coordinated at editorial level, but if it was not, it certainly shows the extent to which a uniform political viewpoint has permeated the BBC’s staff. 

Related Articles:

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3

BBC’s Knell exploits Christmas report to lie about anti-terrorist fence

The politics of BBC approved terminology on Israel’s security fence




BBC’s Knell promotes undiluted Palestinian propaganda in coverage of Pope’s visit

Among the BBC’s remarkably extensive coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to the Middle East is an article by the Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 25th under the title “Thorny issues await Pope in Holy Land“.Knell Pope art 25 5

In that article, Knell uses selected quotes from Palestinian interviewees – and adds her own commentary – to produce a concentrated version of some of the prime falsehoods which the BBC has been amplifying for some time now. Notably absent from Knell’s piece is the necessary background needed for BBC audiences to put the highlighted statements in their correct context.

Her first interviewee is Rania Bandak.

“We are not able to move freely to all parts of Palestine. Bethlehem is surrounded by Jewish settlements and the high wall that cuts us off from Jerusalem.”

As has been noted here before on numerous occasions, the number of checkpoints has been reduced dramatically as counter-terrorism measures have proved effective and hence movement within Judea and Samaria has vastly improved since the days of the second Intifada which brought about the need for security checkpoints; a point not made clear to readers either by Bandak or Knell.

removal of checkpoints

The false claim that “Bethlehem is surrounded by Jewish settlements” is a version of a theme also frequently seen in BBC reports – see for example here and here. The word ‘surrounded’ of course means enclosed on all sides but, as can be seen on the B’tselem-produced map below, that is not the case.

map Bethlehem

Neither is Bethlehem “surrounded” by “the high wall”. Not only is there no anti-terrorist fence to the south and east of Bethlehem, but the section which can accurately be described as a “high wall” is one small specific section. On the map below, concrete sections of the anti-terrorist fence are marked with yellow and grey stripes whilst parts made of wire fencing appear in purple and the orange section represents road protection from sniper attacks. 

anti terrorist fence bethlehem

So already in one sentence from her first interviewee, Knell has caused BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Palestinians are not able to travel around Judea & Samaria and that Bethlehem is encircled by “Jewish settlements” and a “high wall” – and all without even a single reference to the Palestinian terrorism which makes security measures necessary. But there is more: carrying straight on from those falsehoods, readers are fed the false implication that Israel is causing Palestinian Christians to leave the area, with Knell failing to make any reference to the issue of intra-Palestinian harassment of Christians.

” “The Pope’s message should be that he wants us to stay in this land,” adds souvenir shop owner, Rony Tabash.”

Under the loaded sub-heading “Barrier fear”, Knell goes on to promote the usual BBC formula regarding the anti-terrorist fence which ignores its proven track record of prevention of terrorism – as well as the issue of terrorism itself –  instead presenting the issue to BBC audiences as one of subjective competing narratives and thus legitimizing the notion of a “land grab” which does not exist whilst erasing from the picture the terrorism which does.

“One issue that is sure to come up is the barrier that Israel is continuing to build in and around the occupied West Bank. Israel says its barrier is needed for security reasons but the Palestinians see it as a land grab.”

Next, Knell returns to one of her favourite topics – the Cremisan Valley – allowing her interviewee to falsely suggest to BBC audiences (also in the accompanying film clip) that there is some kind of connection between the Pope’s visit and the legal proceedings concerning the route of the anti-terrorist fence there and that land belonging to Palestinians from Beit Jala will no longer remain theirs if the fence is built on its proposed route.

“Israel’s Supreme Court has delayed its decision on a controversial section that runs through the Cremisan Valley in Beit Jala, where the land belongs to 58 Christian families and the Roman Catholic Church.

“This valley is very important for Beit Jala and for Christians,” says Maha Saca who joins the weekly open-air Mass in Cremisan. “It’s our land until now. And we’re afraid that after the Pope leaves Bethlehem, the Israelis will take our land through the court.” “

Under the sub-heading “We need our freedom”, Knell writes:

“Representatives from a small Christian delegation given Israeli permits to come to Bethlehem from the Gaza Strip hope to tell the Pope about the impact of border restrictions.

These were tightened by Israel and Egypt after the Islamist group, Hamas, seized control of the Palestinian territory in 2007, a year after winning elections and entering a unity government. Israel, along with other countries, views Hamas as a terrorist group.”

Predictably, Knell fails to clarify to readers that “border restrictions” are necessary measures which are part of Israel’s attempt to protect its citizens against the terror attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip – which she fails to even mention. Likewise, Knell fails to make any reference to the persecution of Christians in Gaza by Hamas and other Islamist extremists.  

As was noted here recently, the Israeli Ministry of Defence provided 500 permits for members of Gaza’s 1,500 strong Christian community to travel to Israel and the PA-controlled areas during the Pope’s visit. That is one-third: hardly a “small delegation” as Knell claims.

Permits Easter

Knell highlights a tided up quote from her next interviewee:

“Pope Francis is our hero,” says George Anton, a teacher at the Holy Family School in Gaza. “We would ask him to interfere so that we can get peace and the Palestinian state very quickly, because we need our freedom. We feel like we are in a big jail here.”

In the film clip of George Anton inserted into that part of Knell’s article, the BBC facilitates the promotion of the inaccurate notion that the Gaza Strip is under “occupation” nine years after Israel’s evacuation.

“We would ask him to interfere that they can get the peace and we can get the Palestinian state, you know, very quickly because we need our freedom, you know. We feel like we are in a big jail here in Gaza. We cannot move, you know. All the people they look to us like we are terrorists, we are criminals. It is really [unintelligible] because we are people, you know. We are Christians, we are Muslims, but we are people. We are under occupation, you know. We are the people who are suffering, you know, so we need somebody to stand by us.”

Neglecting to inform readers of the interesting fact that even the PA acknowledges that it is situated on land owned by the Jewish National Fund since before 1948, Knell then moves on to the topic of Dheishe refugee camp, inserting a passing context-free promotion of the ‘right of return’ without bothering to explain its implications and failing to clarify to readers that “the 1948 war which followed Israel’s creation” was in fact an attack on a nascent state by five Arab states, two irregular armies and an assortment of foreign volunteers – all of whom played their part in the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem.

“As Pope Francis heads out of Bethlehem, he will stop off at a community centre by the Dheisheh camp where local children will sing for him. Their families fled or were forced to leave their homes in the 1948 war which followed Israel’s creation.

While the stop-off is only short, an organiser, Abu Khalil al-Laham, says it is symbolically important to meet Palestinian refugees.

“They’ll bring up the right for refugees to return to their towns and villages and their dream to live in peace and tranquillity,” he tells me.”

The filmed accompaniment to this part of Knell’s piece facilitates yet more context-free Palestinian propaganda, failing to inform viewers that over 95% of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria live under Palestinian Authority rule.

“The children here will deliver a message, in a natural way, about how Palestinians suffer because of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. They’ll bring up the right for refugees to return to their towns and villages and their dream to live – like other people in the world – in peace and tranquility.”

Knell rounds off her article with a decidedly transparent attempt to inject the required dose of BBC ‘impartiality’ by briefly quoting two Argentinian-born Israelis on the topic of the Pope and his mission and she concludes by mentioning some other locations on the Pope’s itinerary.

Clearly, however, the main purpose of this ‘analysis’ was not to meet BBC obligations regarding the building of a “global understanding of international issues”. Had that indeed been its aim, readers would not have been subjected to the politically motivated promotion of the blatant inaccuracies and decidedly partial falsehoods which comprise this latest dose of the kind of context-free Palestinian propaganda which is rapidly becoming ever more entrenched as Yolande Knell’s trademark.

Related Articles:

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3

BBC’s Knell exploits Christmas report to lie about anti-terrorist fence

BBC’s Connolly reports on ME Christians: omits the one place they thrive

Terror excused, Palestinian Christians sold out on BBC World Service