One to watch on BBC Two: ‘Haifa to the Negev’

h/t MC

On Wednesday December 3rd at 21:00 GMT, BBC Two will air an edition of the documentary travel series ‘Great Continental Railway Journeys’ – presented by Michael Portillo – titled ‘Haifa to the Negev’.

Portillo prog

Already in the programme’s synopsis audiences are inaccurately informed that the Western Wall is “the holiest of all monuments for Jews” as well as that Portillo will be seen visiting “the Haram ash Sharif”, to which one of course doubts he gained access “in the Muslim quarter” as stated because entry to non-Muslims is via the Mughrabi Gate, located near the Western Wall. 

“Following his 1913 Bradshaw’s guide, Michael ventures beyond Europe to the Holy Land. His journey begins in Haifa in modern-day Israel. Struck by the spectacular shrine of the Baha’i and its beautiful gardens on the slopes of Mount Carmel, Michael learns about the faith and how, at the time of his guide, it spread to Britain.

Michael is shown how to cook a takeaway, middle-eastern style, before heading to Haifa’s original station to find out about its branch line to the famous Hejaz Railway.

In Tel Aviv, Michael marvels at the city’s futuristic skyscrapers and railway lines, threaded along the centre of modern highways. He hears the story of its birth, which was just before his guidebook was published, discovers how its population was swelled by refugees from Europe and learns the roots of the modern-day conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

On his way to Jerusalem, Michael hears how the Jaffa to Jerusalem railway was the first line to be built in the Holy Land. Constructed for pilgrims to journey to the holy places, it encouraged more modern tourists to explore these exotic destinations.

In Jerusalem’s Christian quarter, Michael meets British tourists at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and finds out about a surprising Holy Land tradition, subscribed to by the most illustrious visitors, among them British royalty. In the Jewish quarter, he visits the holiest of all monuments for Jews – the Western Wall. In the Muslim quarter, admission to the Haram ash Sharif, to see the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque, hangs in the balance. In 1913, as now, application must be made to the authorities.

Crossing the separation barrier between Jerusalem and the West Bank in the company of his Palestinian guide, Michael heads for Bethlehem where he meets the embroiderers of the Arab Women’s Union and finds out about their handiwork.

Heading south, Michael arrives at the lowest point on earth – the Dead Sea, where he takes to the buoyant waters.

On the train south to Beersheba, Michael learns about the work of the London-based Palestine Exploration Fund at the turn of the 20th century. In the Negev Desert, he learns about a celebrated British military hero with railways in his sights.”

One can only hope that more attention is paid to accuracy in the programme itself.

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BBC continues to promote the notion of a ‘siege’ on Gaza in report on flooding

As regular readers know, whilst the BBC has still not comprehensively and accurately informed its audiences what happened during the battles in the Gaza Strip neighbourhood of Shuja’iya in July of this year or why the fighting there was so intense, it has – on the other hand – devoted much airtime and column space to context-free depictions of the destruction of buildings in that district. November 28th saw the continuation of that practice in an article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza floods: UN declares state of emergency“.Flooding Gaza written

That report was presented on the Middle East page together with links to four additional items of recommended reading which included Yolande Knell’s problematic feature on Shuja’iya from September 15th and her August 19th report “Gaza’s infrastructure crippled by conflict“.

In this article, readers were informed that:

“In the Shejaiya neighbourhood, where air strikes during the recent conflict damaged many of the buildings, residents already face a cold winter without electricity or water.”

An illustrative photograph was captioned:

“Shejaiya’s infrastructure remains extremely damaged since the summer conflict”.

No mention was made of the very relevant fact that Shuja’iya was the location of considerable Hamas infrastructure, including the entrances to numerous cross-border attack tunnels, weapons stores and missile launching sites. 

Also evident in this report is the BBC’s continuing practice of quoting old UN statements on the subject of civilian/combatant casualty ratios in the Gaza Strip which were already problematic at the time they were published and have been shown to be even more so in the light of subsequent research – completely ignored by the BBC – which indicates that the ratio between civilians and combatants is similar.Flooding Gaza on HP

“The seven-week Gaza conflict, which ended in a truce on 26 August, killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, the UN says, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel.”

The flooding in the Gaza strip was also the topic of an item in the BBC World Service’s radio programme ‘Outside Source’ on November 28th (available here for a limited period of time from 27:15). Presenter Chloe Tilley spoke with BBC Arabic’s Shahdi Alkashif in Gaza City who, after describing the situation, told listeners:

“But this bad weather made the situation more worse here in Gaza Strip that is still under siege. And there is no enter now Israeli permits to allow to the building material to go to Gaza to rebuild the homes that destroyed it.”

As has been pointed out here before, the definition of the term ‘siege’ does not accurately describe the restrictions on the import of dual-use goods with the potential for use in terrorist activities which is applied to the Gaza Strip by Israel and yet, as we see, that Hamas-favoured terminology is still being used by the BBC.Flooding Gaza OS

And what of Alkashif’s claim that Israel is not allowing building materials for reconstruction into the Gaza Strip? Let’s take a look at just a few of the recent reports from COGAT.

On November 23rd 2014, 311 truckloads of goods entered the Gaza Strip, 94 of which carried 3,760 tons of construction materials.

On November 20th 2014, 403 truckloads of goods entered the Gaza Strip, 93 of which carried 3,720 tons of construction materials.

On November 18th 2014, 340 truckloads of goods entered the Gaza Strip, 101 of which carried 4,002 tons of construction materials.

On November 17th 2014, 274 truckloads of goods entered the Gaza Strip, 99 of which carried 3,960 tons of construction materials.  

Clearly Alkashif’s presentation of that topic is inaccurate and misleading. Later on he also told BBC World Service listeners that:

“Gaza needs everything: Gaza without electricity, Gaza without clean water…”

Whilst the situation in the Gaza Strip may be far from ideal, it is certainly not accurate to say – as Alkashif does – that there is no electricity or clean water there at all.

“The electricity supply to the Gaza Strip remains at approximately 75% of the norm, 125 MW from Israel and 32 MW from Egypt.Over 80% of the damage to the electricity grid in the Gaza Strip has been repaired.”

“Water access remains constrained, following extensive damage to infrastructure and the electricity shortage. Over 80% of the damage to water infrastructure in Gaza has been repaired.”

Obviously Shahdi Alkashif’s reporting is neither accurate nor impartial and the BBC World Service needs to urgently correct the inaccurate impressions given to its listeners. 

 

Kevin Connolly’s cameo of a ‘popular’, ‘forgiving’ terrorist on BBC Radio 4

The BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly continued his role as the corporation’s ‘chief Jerusalem explainer’ (see some previous instalments here, here, here, here and here) on November 28th with a report broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme – available for a limited period of time from 02:39:22 here.Today 28 11 14

Presenter John Humphrys introduced the item as follows:

“If you’re a Muslim you will know it as al Haram al Sharif. If you’re Jewish you’ll call it Temple Mount. Home to the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, this holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem is the focus of rising tensions between the two communities: tensions that some see as indicative perhaps of a kind of third Infitad…Intifada uprising. From Jerusalem, our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly with this report.”

Kevin Connolly: “One by one, second by second, the mosques of East Jerusalem raise a call to prayer that hangs over the white stone skyline of this anxious, divided city. Somewhere in that plangent chorus is the call from the Al Aqsa Mosque which stands on ground sacred in Judaism and Islam alike, where Muslims have a monopoly of worship. Palestinians see a campaign by religious Jews for the right of worship to be extended to them in the context of a history of dispossession and defeat.”

Connolly fails to inform listeners that the Israeli authorities have stated on numerous occasions – including in interviews given to the BBC – that Israel has no intention of making any changes to that status quo. Audiences then hear interviewee Amir Heshin say:

“Today it’s a nuclear bomb. You just have to push the button and the whole Middle East will blow up.”

Connolly: “Amir Heshin is a former advisor on Arab affairs to the Mayor of Jerusalem. He says frustration has fuelled Palestinian fear and anger.”

Heshin: “On one side you have all these measures which are against and on the other side of the scale you have nothing. We are in the middle of the Intifada: Intifada which is based upon disappointment. They are sick of the Israeli attitude and they would like to change it.”

It would of course have been helpful to listeners trying to place Heshin’s words in their appropriate context had Connolly informed them that, in addition to indeed having been an advisor to former mayors of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek and Ehud Olmert, Heshin is also linked to an NGO called the Jerusalem Conflict Academic Centre which promotes a specific political approach to the issue of Jerusalem, including its division and the declaration of Temple Mount as an area of no sovereignty. Connolly continues:

“Not everyone is calling this a third Intifada but there are plenty of depressing straws in the wind. [sound of a detonation] That was the Israeli army blowing up the house of one of the Palestinians who’ve run over and killed hitch-hikers, tram passengers and pedestrians in recent months. It’s a form of punishment the state has revived in Jerusalem in recent weeks. But punishment is easier than prevention. [sound of a radio broadcast in Hebrew] Take this crime. At a railway station a young Palestinian stabs an equally young Israeli soldier.”

The incident Connolly describes occurred on November 10th and the terrorist did not just ‘stab’ his random victim Almog Shiloni – who, notably, remains unnamed in Connolly’s account – but killed him. Connolly continues:

“Suddenly the weapons are cars or knives – not guns or bombs – and the attacks appear spontaneous: the acts of individuals, not organisations. Israel’s intelligence services are struggling.”

Not for the first time we see the BBC erasing from audience view the fact that among the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks in recent weeks have been several members of known terrorist organisations, some of which have claimed responsibility for the attacks. Listeners then hear Connolly say:

“That young Palestinian was Nur Abu Hashem, a jobbing painter and decorator who often came from his home at Nablus in the occupied West Bank to work without papers in Israel.”

The terrorist is actually called Nur al-Din Abu Hashaya and his entry into Israel was illegal: a fact which Connolly’s euphemistic presentation does not make adequately clear. Neither does Connolly bother to inform listeners that Nablus (Schem) has been under the control of the Palestinian Authority for almost two decades – since December 12th 1995 – under the terms of the Oslo Accords. Listeners then hear a recording of the terrorist’s mother speaking in Arabic, with Connolly saying:

“Nur Abu Hashem’s mother, Salsan [phonetic] waits with resignation for the inevitable demolition of her home. But worse for her than that are the nagging questions about how her popular son – a forgiving boy, she says – could have done what he’s accused of.”

So, whilst the victim of a vicious terror attack remains unnamed and impersonalised, Connolly did find it editorially justifiable to present a humanizing cameo of the murderer and his family, at the same time erasing Hashaya’s Hamas affiliations from audience view.

photo credit: Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

photo credit: Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

Connolly goes on:

“History focuses in Jerusalem like rays of sunlight concentrated through glass. This is the City of David archaeological site which lies between the Al Aqsa compound and the Arab suburb of Silwan; occupied by Israel in the war of 1967 and reserved in the eyes of the world for a future Palestinian state.”

Yet again we see BBC presentation of Silwan – Kfar Shiloach – without any mention of its Jewish history. Like the rest of the areas of Jerusalem which came under Israeli control after Jordan – despite an explicit warning from the Israeli prime minister – decided to attack Israel in the Six Day War, the status of Silwan is subject to final status negotiations under the terms of existing agreements signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people. Kevin Connolly, however, clearly has no time for such negotiations: he is already promoting the notion of a worldwide consensus opinion on the issue and in doing so, obviously misleads BBC audiences.

Connolly then goes on to promote a theme which has been popular with BBC correspondents in recent weeks: the notion that the legal purchase of existing property in certain neighbourhoods of Jerusalem turns people of a specific religion/ethnicity into “settlers” – and that despite the BBC’s own definition of ‘settlements’ being “residential areas built by the Israeli government”.

“Daniel Luria works for an organization that helps Jews to find property in the area. He calls them residents – not settlers – and says proximity to Temple Mount – as Jews call the Al Aqsa compound – is a selling point.”

After a brief contribution from Daniel Luria, Connolly closes:

“The recent upsurge in violence here has been sporadic, unpredictable. But this jaunty cartoon video circulating on Arabic social media sites warns Israelis, in Hebrew, to expect more. No-one knows what today or tomorrow might bring but non-one thinks this is over.”

So what did listeners to Radio 4 learn about the factors causing the latest surge in violence and terror in Israel from this item by Kevin Connolly? The campaign for equal rights of worship for non-Muslims on Temple Mount and the purchase of houses in Silwan by Jews are subjects which we have also seen previously promoted by the BBC in that context. Connolly’s narrative also includes portrayal of “frustration” and “disappointment” felt by Palestinians but the issues of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials and the role of terrorist organisations in turning those feelings into violent acts of terror were once again concealed from BBC audiences.  

BBC WS promotes Hamas claim of “normal right” to carry out terror attacks

As readers may have heard, the Israeli Security Agency announced on November 27th that it had arrested some 30 Hamas operatives, including some foreign nationals, located throughout Judea & Samaria. The Hebrew announcement is available here and it notes the role of the Turkey-based Hamas official Saleh al Arouri in organizing and financing this latest terror network to be uncovered.

“As with the previous network, the man behind the terrorist grouping was Saleh al-Arouri, a Hamas leader who was deported from the West Bank to Turkey in 2010, the sources said.

Arouri, they said, built up and funded the network, and has effectively established a Hamas command post in Turkey which is leading terror efforts in the West Bank. Arouri is reportedly aided by dozens of operatives, some of whom were deported by Israel in the wake of the Gilad Shalit prisoner deal in 2011.”

As was the case when a previous network was discovered in August of this year (see here and here), BBC coverage of this story fails to adequately inform audiences of the fact that Hamas’ operations in territory under the control of the Palestinian Authority are being run from a NATO member country.

The BBC News website’s Middle East page covered the story on November 27th with an article going under the interestingly punctuated title of “Israel ‘foils Hamas cell planning Jerusalem attacks’“. Apparently the BBC is not totally convinced either that a Hamas plot was foiled or that the cell was planning attacks.Hamas cell written

Notably, in a story about a Hamas terror cell, BBC audiences were not informed of the highly relevant subject of Hamas’ terror designation, with the organization being portrayed in the following terms:

“Hamas, which dominates Gaza and backs the Palestinian Authority’s national unity government in place since June, has so far not commented.”

The operatives themselves were described throughout the article exclusively as “militants”.

“Shin Bet said it had arrested more than 30 militants who were trained abroad, and recovered weapons and explosives.”

“Shin Bet said the militants whose arrests were revealed on Thursday had plotted to attack Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium and a tram, as well as carry out car bombings and kidnap Israelis in the West Bank and oversees.”

Whilst the BBC is obviously aware of the cell’s connections to Hamas’ Saleh al Arouri in Turkey, the article failed to expand on that issue and to provide audiences with the necessary background and context.  

“The suspects – who include a number of Palestinians from the West Bank, two Jordanians and a Kuwaiti – had received orders from Hamas officials based in Turkey, it added.”

The report did, however, include the following paragraph in which Israelis – mostly civilians – murdered in terror attacks and the terrorists who carried them out – several of whom were members of assorted terror organisations – were presented side by side. 

“Over the past month, 11 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians, including four rabbis and a policeman who were stabbed and shot at a synagogue in Jerusalem last week. Twelve Palestinians have also been killed, including several of those who carried out the attacks.”

The same story was also covered on November 27th by BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (available from 34:10 here). In that item the role played by Hamas operatives based in Turkey in planning, financing and purchase of weapons for this latest plot was again downplayed and Hamas’ terror designation was similarly ignored. Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item by presenting the ISA’s announcement in words (such as “militant organization” and “Israeli-occupied West Bank”) which were obviously not included in the original statement.Hamas cell WS radio Newshour

Coomarasamy: “Now, the Israeli security forces say they’ve made more than 30 arrests to disrupt what they describe as a plan by the militant organization Hamas to attack targets in Jerusalem and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Our correspondent in Jerusalem is Kevin Connolly.”

Connolly: “Israel’s intelligence agency – the Shin Bet – says the plot which it uncovered in September had something of an international character. The plans described were orchestrated in Turkey by officials of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Several of the militants were recruited in Jordan and some military training had been conducted in Syria and in Gaza. The Shin Bet statement says the group planted two bombs during the summer which exploded on the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank without causing injury and that further, more ambitious, operations were planned.”

In fact the two incidents Connolly described took place in Area C at the Rehalim junction and the Jit junction.

“In the first attack, an explosion was reported at the Rehalim junction, near the Tapuah junction, in an area used by Israeli hitchhikers.

Shortly afterward, two pipe bombs were hurled at the nearby Jit junction. The bombs were thrown at a main road used by hitchhikers.”

As ever, we see the BBC portraying an area which is under Israeli control according to the terms of the Oslo Accords signed willingly by the representatives of the Palestinian people and which has yet to have its status determined in final status negotiations as “occupied Palestinian territory”, despite the fact that the BBC style guide states:

“Strictly speaking, the phrase ‘Palestinian Territories’ refers to the areas that fall under the administration of the Palestinian Authority…”

Connolly continued:

“These were to include shooting attacks and attempted kidnappings at Jewish settlements on the West Bank. The main football stadium in Jerusalem and the city’s light railway system are also said to have been targets. It’s not clear how close those plans were to being realized but the scale of operations is certainly substantial.”

Connolly’s account lasted 51 seconds. Following that, the ‘Newshour’ editorial team found it appropriate to devote well over double that amount of time to the amplification of unadulterated propaganda from a member of the terrorist organization concerned.

Coomarasamy: “Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem. So what does Hamas have to say about these allegations? Osama Hamdan is a senior member of Hamas based in Lebanon.”

Hamdan: “As everyone knows, the military wing of Hamas always announces the attacks they carry out against Israelis. Without the announcement we cannot trust the Israeli story. Israelis have their own stories. They fake and create all the time just to say that the Palestinians are to be blamed. We cannot also say if they are members of the military wing of Hamas without a declaration of Al Qassam brigades.”

Coomarasamy: “So…so you’re not saying it is impossible that this was being planned; you’re just saying you personally don’t know?”

Hamdan: “What we are saying clearly is that the resistance against occupation is a normal right for Palestinians and any nation under occupation. Israelis are trying to say that they are now under terrorist attacks, which is not the actual fact. So maybe there are some Palestinians who are trying to protect their people and Israelis are trying to create a story around it.”

Coomarasamy: “So you are arguing with the interpretation of what these people might have been planning rather than the fact that they might have been planning something?”

Hamdan: “No-one knows what they were planning to do. The fact here to be concentrated on is that we have an occupation and resisting to occupation is a normal right according to international law. If they were planning to resist the occupation, then they have the right to do so.”

Coomarasamy: “So you are saying that they have the right to attack football stadiums, light rail systems, which is what the Israelis are saying was being planned. You believe that is legitimate?”

Hamdan: “Well no-one trusts the Israeli story. So they have the right to resist the occupation and this is the fact which we believe in.”

Coomarasamy: “What about the Israeli claim that they were being trained in Turkey and Jordan?”

Hamdan: “Well, Israelis know better than anyone else that this is a lie. But I think they want to use that for their own purpose. No-one can say there’s training under the supervision of Jordanians or Turks. Everyone knows that this is not happening. I think by creating false links between Hamas and some countries, they’re trying to provoke some international reaction against those countries.”

Coomarasamy: “Osama Hamdan from Hamas, there.”

Of course there has been no claim made that either Jordan or Turkey as countries were involved in training the terrorist cell, but that training by Hamas terrorists took place in Jordan, Turkey, Syria and the Gaza Strip. But as is the case with the rest of Hamdan’s falsehoods, that one too went unchallenged, meaning that BBC audiences worldwide were misled on that issue as well as by the claim that there is no terror in Israel and that terrorism is a “normal right” under “international law”.

Notably, recent BBC reports on terror-related arrests in the UK have not included promotion of the notion of a “normal right” to murder British citizens. BBC audiences and politicians would of course be unlikely to accept that sort of framing of domestic terror stories but – as we have noted here on numerous occasions – a double standard continues to be employed by the BBC when it comes to reporting terrorism in Israel. 

 

BBC’s Bowen dumbs down and distorts the Iranian nuclear issue

h/t S

BBC coverage of the latest P5+1 talks with Iran in Vienna on November 24th included both filmed and written reports by its Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen.

Viewers of BBC television news saw a report which also appeared on the BBC News website under the title ‘“Points of disagreement”: Iran nuclear talks extended‘. In that report, Bowen told audiences that:Bowen Iran talks filmed

“The agency’s [IAEA] latest report says Iran is reducing stockpiles of enriched uranium which could be used for a nuclear bomb. That’s not enough for Israel – the only Middle Eastern state with nuclear weapons.”

The report to which Bowen refers is this one and of course his overly simplistic and inaccurate representation of that report’s content does not adequately inform audiences of the entire picture.

“Contrary to the relevant resolutions of the Board of Governors and the Security Council, Iran has not suspended all of its enrichment related activities in the declared facilities referred to below.

However, since 20 January 2014, Iran has not produced UF6 enriched above 5% U-235 and all of its stock of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 has been further processed through downblending or conversion. All of the enrichment related activities at Iran’s declared facilities are under Agency safeguards, and all of the nuclear material, installed cascades, and feed and withdrawal stations at those facilities are subject to Agency containment and surveillance.”

The key phrase in that statement is of course “declared facilities”. Elsewhere the report states:

“The Agency is not in a position to provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities”

“Iran has not provided any explanations that enable the Agency to clarify the outstanding practical measures, nor has it proposed any new practical measures in the next step of the Framework for cooperation”

As was reported by Reuters:

“Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium gas has grown by 8 percent to nearly 8.4 tonnes in about two months, U.N. atomic inspectors say, an amount world powers probably will want to see cut under any nuclear deal with Tehran.[…]

Iran’s holding of refined uranium gas is one of the factors that could determine how much time it would need for any attempt to assemble nuclear weapons. […]

The IAEA report said Iran’s stock of uranium gas refined to a fissile concentration of up to 5 percent stood at 8,390 kg, a rise of 625 kg since its previous report in September. […]

Iran halted its most sensitive enrichment work – of 20 percent refined uranium – under an interim deal with the powers last November. But it is still making the lower-grade uranium.”

Additionally, the Sunday Times reported that:

“Olli Heinonen, who spent 27 years at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Iran could have up to 5,000 IR-2m centrifuges rather than the 1,008 it has claimed. The IR-2m devices are up to five times more effective in enriching uranium than older IR-1 types. […]

Heinonen said Tehran “could have up to 4,000 to 5,000 [IR-2m] centrifuges or raw materials for them” located outside two of its largest nuclear sites, Natanz and Fordow. […]

Heinonen said negotiators should broker an agreement with Iran to give the IAEA full access to its centrifuges and not only those located in Natanz and Fordow. […]

Heinonen warned any agreement that does not compel Iran to open all its nuclear facilities to scrutiny would “make no sense”.”

However, Bowen implies that Israel is making much ado about nothing and goes on to say:

“…the alternative to this negotiation may well turn out to be war. A year ago, before they made an interim agreement, Israel had threatened many times to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

Bowen failed to provide BBC audiences with any of the essential background to that statement, in particular Iran’s repeated threats against Israel.

Visitors to the BBC News website on November 24th found an article by Jeremy Bowen in the Middle East page’s ‘Features & Analysis’ section under the title “Iran nuclear talks thrown lifeline, but time running short“. In that article readers were told:Bowen Iran talks written

“Before the initial agreement in Geneva a year ago, the Middle East seemed to be sliding slowly but inexorably into a war over Iran’s nuclear plans.

Israel had threatened an attack many times.”

Yet again, audiences were not provided with any information about Iranian threats to Israel’s security.

Bowen also wrote:

“A tacit alliance seems to be forming between Saudi Arabia and Israel to torpedo negotiations with Iran.

Both countries have deep suspicions about the Islamic Republic.

For the Saudis, Iran is the rival regional superpower.

And as the negotiators were meeting in Vienna, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu once again compared Iran to Nazi Germany.”

In fact, what Netanyahu actually said in an interview with Kevin Connolly is:

“So Iran, I think everybody understands, is unabashedly seeking to develop atomic bombs and I think they shouldn’t have the capacity either to enrich uranium or to deliver nuclear warheads. And I think that’s the position that the P5+1 – the leading powers of the world – should take. What is the justification of not taking this position? They say well, it offends Iranian pride. So what? I mean if this position was taken in the 1930s against Germany it would have offended German pride, but it would have saved millions and millions of lives.”

Obviously, what Netanyahu is talking about is appeasement and the potential of that factor to result in the failure of the P5+1 to reach an effective deal which prevents Iran from acquiring the ability to produce nuclear weapons. Contrary to Bowen’s trite and misleading claim, Israel is not trying to “torpedo” negotiations with Iran, but to ensure that any deal which is reached is an effective one which will prevent future disaster.

Jeremy Bowen’s ‘analysis’ is clearly neither accurate nor impartial, with its political framing and motivations glaringly apparent. BBC audiences are clearly entitled to much more serious reporting on this issue than these two widely promoted items provide. 

 

BBC misleads on Arab Jerusalemites’ citizenship status yet again

Over the past few weeks BBC audiences have been misled with regard to the issue of Arab Jerusalemites and Israeli citizenship on several occasions.

On November 7th Yolande Knell told listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outside Source’ that:

“…Palestinians in East Jerusalem are considered to be residents of Israel – not citizens of Israel – and they do feel very isolated, very disenfranchised….”

On November 18th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘PM’ were informed by guest academic Rosemary Hollis that:

“…the East Jerusalem Palestinian population are not citizens of Israel like the Arab citizens of Israel that Mr Goldberg’s cousin was describing. They have what they call laissez-passer: they have an East Jerusalem ID.” 

On November 26th visitors to the BBC News website were told in an article titled “Israel revokes residency of Jerusalem attacker’s widow” that:residency art

“The two Palestinians, who were shot dead at the Kehilat Bnai Torah synagogue after killing four rabbis and a police officer, were cousins from occupied Arab East Jerusalem.

Uday and Ghassan Abu Jamal were therefore entitled under Israeli government regulations to residency rights, although not to citizenship, says the BBC’s Kevin Connolly.”

The Abu Jamal cousins lived in Jabel Mukaber: a district located within the Jerusalem municipality. Contrary to Connolly’s assertion, they were therefore entitled to apply for Israeli citizenship like any other resident of the areas of Jerusalem which came under Israeli control in 1967. If they chose not to exercise that entitlement, they would still remain permanent residents with the right to vote in municipal elections and to receive the same social security benefits, education, pensions and healthcare as any other Israeli. Regardless of whether or not they hold Israeli citizenship, Arab residents of Jerusalem have a blue ID card of the same format as any other Israeli citizen – not “an East Jerusalem ID” as was claimed in the Radio 4 programme – with the exception being that those who have chosen not to take Israeli citizenship would have the nationality clause left blank.

This is not a complicated issue but as we see, the BBC repeatedly gets it wrong and hence materially misleads its audiences on the topic.

The article also states:

“Under what is known as a “family reunification” rule, Palestinians elsewhere can apply for the right to live with a husband or wife in East Jerusalem once they are married.

That is the right that Israel said it was revoking in the case of Nadia Abu Jamal, who is believed to have been married to Ghassan Abu Jamal.”

The legislation referred to here is the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law which is classed as a temporary provision and, contrary to the impression given by the BBC, does not apply exclusively to Palestinian spouses of Arab residents of Jerusalem but means that the spouses of Israeli citizens or permanent residents who come from countries or territories in a state of war with Israel are not automatically entitled to residency in Israel as a result of marriage, but must apply for that status.

“The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, which is worded as a temporary order, concerns reunification among families whose entry into Israel represents a security risk in the eyes of the security services. This includes Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza, and foreign nationals from enemy countries or from regions involved in an ongoing conflict with the State of Israel.”

It is of course worth remembering that many countries – including the UK – do not grant automatic citizenship to spouses on the basis of ‘family reunification’.

Whilst this BBC article amplifies second-hand comment from the political NGO B’Tselem, the quoted statement from the Israeli Minister of the Interior appears to have come from Facebook and if the BBC did contact the Israeli government for comment, that is not evident in the report.  

 

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack: Kevin Connolly’s history of Jerusalem

On November 19th – the day following the terror attack in the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in Jerusalem – the earlier edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly (available here from 14:00) which is interesting because it was introduced by presenter Razia Iqbal as a reflection “on the history of this contested city” and hence provides some insight into the accepted BBC narrative on Jerusalem in general, as well as the one being promoted with regard to the current surge in violence and terror attacks.Newshour 19 11

Connolly opened by equating the building of apartments with terrorist suicide bombings:

“Jerusalem has been a place of division and dispute and discord for as long as history has been written. The city was shaped by ancient battles and modern wars but the suicide bombings and settlement constructions of more recent times fuel a sense of separateness – sometimes a hatred – that has its roots in its status as a city holy to Jews and Muslims alike.”

He went on:

“To walk the streets of the Old City within walls built 500 years ago is to sense the antiquity of the dispute and to feel how the closeness of Muslim and Jewish quarters have created a kind of friction of proximity. Grievances passed through the generations lie around as thick as autumn leaves and as dry as tinder, waiting only for the spark of circumstance to ignite them. There is a political vacuum here. The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians is so moribund that the phrase just isn’t part of the daily vocabulary of politics. There was the appalling civilian death toll in the summer fighting in Gaza and there is the corrosive issue of continuing Jewish settlement in Arab East Jerusalem.”

So, couched in Connolly’s flowery language are several messages for listeners, with the first one being that there is a very old dispute in Jerusalem which he is not going to fully explain. However, what audiences are clearly intended to take away as factors causing the contemporary version of that dispute are the absence of political negotiations, the death toll in Gaza in the recent conflict (yet again we see the BBC presenting those hostilities as having taken place exclusively in the Gaza Strip) and Israelis building and living in specific areas of the city. Both the latter two factors will be understood by listeners to be Israeli-caused and members of the audience who followed the BBC’s coverage of the collapse of negotiations last April would be likely to believe that Israel is responsible for the lack of political process too. No Palestinian contributions to the dispute appear on Connolly’s list. He continues:

“But today, as often in the past, those grievances are focusing on one holy site within these city walls. It is a compound which contains both the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, known to Muslims as Haram al Sharif: the place where the prophet Mohammed is believed to have ascended into heaven. It’s also the spot on which the ancient temples of the Jews stood: those buildings destroyed by foreign invaders which contained the Holy of Holies and which are the cornerstone of the Jewish faith and identity. To Jews it is the Temple Mount. The Christian Crusaders coveted it too, but the sectarian passion that made Christianity a factor in these bitter struggles has at least receded over time. By long-standing tradition only Muslims are allowed to pray here. Jews and Christians may visit, but may not threaten that monopoly of worship. Any hint that that status quo might change can have an incendiary effect in Palestinian society and in the wider world which is immediate and deeply felt. It is genuine too, although of course extremist Palestinian groups can manipulate the fear by circulating rumours that change is in the wind.”

If at this stage listeners anticipated finally hearing some BBC reporting on how the topic of Temple Mount is used by groups ranging from Salafist Jihadists, the Northern Islamic Movement, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood through to the Palestinian Authority and Fatah to “manipulate fear” for political benefit, they would be sorely disappointed yet again. Instead, Connolly’s report turned to a very tepid and euphemistic account of the 1929 Arab riots which, like the recent Radio 4 programme on the subject of the Hebron massacre, erases the topic of Arab incitement.

“When Britain governed the Holy Land between the wars, clumsy management of this status quo issue provoked widespread violence that lasted for months and left more than a hundred people dead.”

Connolly goes on:

“Now some Jews do want that status quo to change. They want the right to worship at their own holiest place. We’ve been assured off the record at the highest levels of government here that no change in the current arrangements is contemplated or will be tolerated. The problem is, of course, that in this poisonous atmosphere fuelled by toxic cocktail of suspicions, there are large numbers of Palestinians who just don’t believe that assurance.”

Why Connolly felt the need to describe “off the record” statements from the Israeli government is unclear: identical statements clearly explaining the government’s position have been made publicly on numerous occasions. But of course what is really interesting about both Connolly’s item and the BBC’s treatment in general of this topic is that it has completely avoided any exploration of why the issue of equal rights of worship for members of all religions to whom that site is holy should raise such opposition and be considered so incendiary in the 21st century.

Connolly closes:

“In the Jewish religious tradition of Jerusalem, the dead of yesterday’s attack – killed as they worshipped – were buried within hours. A car toured the neighbourhood alerting mourners to the funeral of Rabbi Moshe Twersky. It’s thought that his grandfather died in those riots back in the 1920s: a grim family history that illustrates the wider history of this place. Palestinians too have died in political violence, of course. We are left to wonder – as previous generations have wondered – how many more funerals there may be before this current cycle of violence plays itself out.”

Once again, BBC audiences are presented with a report which avoids any serious reporting on the contribution of incitement, conspiracy theories and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian leaders and official sources to the recent surge of violence and terrorism in Israel.

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack: World Service’s ‘Newshour’ – part two

Like the version of the programme broadcast earlier in the day (discussed here), the later edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’ on November 18th devoted a significant amount of air-time to the subject of the terror attack which had taken place that morning in a synagogue in the Har Nof district of Jerusalem.Newshour 18 11 late

Presented by Tim Franks, that edition (available from 00:50 here) also opened with a version of the eye-witness account given earlier by paramedic Akiva Pollak who was one of the first to arrive on the scene. Tim Franks then moved on to interview the Israeli Justice Minister, Tsipi Livni but, despite repeated explanation from the minister, seemed to have difficulty grasping the fact that whilst some people – including MKs – advocate equal prayer rights for members of all religions on Temple Mount, the Israeli government does not intend to change the status quo. Franks’ questions to Livni also included the following:

“You mentioned the responsibility of the Palestinians to try to stop these acts of violence. Hamas – or a spokesman for Hamas – has welcomed today’s killings. The President of the Palestinian Authority Abu Mazen – Mahmoud Abbas – has condemned the killing and yet the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu equates the actions of Hamas and Mr Abbas. He says that they are both responsible for incitement. That’s not true, is it?”

As Minister Livni rightly pointed out, Abbas’ record of incitement began long before November 18th and it includes not only statements he made personally, but also material put out by the party which he heads – Fatah and content disseminated on official PA platforms. As has been noted here on numerous occasions, the BBC has not covered the issue of incitement from official Palestinian sources at all during the last month: had it done so, Tim Franks might perhaps have been well enough informed to refrain from asking such a redundant question.

However, the programme’s next interviewee was Husam Zomlot; described in the introduction as a “senior official” from Abbas’ party and Tim Franks soon got a dose of Fatah-style propaganda and incitement first hand.

Zomlot: “The Palestinian President condemned what happened in Jerusalem this morning in very clear terms and very clear language. And he condemned it on the basis of a very principled position all along through his career and throughout the last many, many years that we reject violence and we promote non-violence. On the other hand, there is sheer violence coming from Israeli-organised terror groups over the last so many weeks. That Israeli targeting Palestinian civilians including just an hour ago here in the west of Ramallah where a Palestinian young man was stabbed by Israeli settlers and including yesterday a Palestinian bus driver with two young sons was hanged in his own bus by again another most likely Israeli-organised terror groups and….”

Franks: “Sorry – sorry to interrupt you there. I mean there has been an autopsy report into that and it has come back as saying the bus driver hanged himself – it was a case of suicide.”

Zomlot: “We are really grown accustomed whenever there is a Palestinian person who commit violence they are assassinated immediately, mostly. Like the last week we had six of them assassinated and some of these cases they could have just arrested them. While when there is an Israeli act of violence, we always hear these allegations. Either Palestinians kill themself or the Israeli person who committed it like the one who burnt Mohammed Abu Khdeir, this young boy in Jerusalem, was mentally disturbed. I doubt the Israeli judicial system and I doubt their police investigations and regardless of what happened we need to hear Mr Netanyahu condemning the hanging; condemning what is happening.”

Franks: “But sorry – how can he condemn a suicide?”

Zomlot: “This is not about just that incident. There has been provocations…”

Franks: “I’m sorry to interrupt you. You do…for you to say that this man was not hanged, he was murdered is a very, very serious charge because it’s not just the case of murder, but what you are saying is that the authorities are colluding to cover up a murder.”

Zomlot:”We need to see real, meaningful transparent investigations in so many cases. And I don’t think the Israeli government – the current government – nor its establishment, is capable of producing a genuine real transparent investigations and this is our experience for years. Why don’t we call for international investigations for these incidents? And we will accept in full the founding [sic – findings] of international investigations.”

Franks: “You can raise doubts but you said in terms that this man had been murdered. My question to you is whether on a day like today when feelings are running very high, whether you should be careful not to incite feelings so that anger goes beyond and that it ends up as an incitement. You may say you don’t want it to be such but it is an incitement to violence: it’s an incitement to rage.”

Zomlot: “I don’t like this term. I don’t like your allegations and accusations. We are religious about non-violence. We roamed the world for years upon years to try and provide our people with non-violent way of achieving their rights and the proof is for the last so many years we actually – the Palestinian Authority and the PLO – have been absolutely clear about our commitments to the security of Palestinians and even to the Israelis, not only by words but by deeds. When we merely state facts, this is not incitement. The incitement is happening on the ground on a daily basis. When every other week we have a theft of our land, this is an incitement for violence. When every other day we have a provocation to enter mosques and burn mosques, this is an incitement every day. We Palestinians are the occupied, are the ones who are subjected to the de-Arabisation of Jerusalem. All what I’m trying to say is let’s not only focus on the symptoms of the situations, but on the root causes of it. We absolutely regret this murder of civilians. We should take it as an opportunity to really, really look at the situation and stop Netanyahu from taking us all to the unknown: from sending this conflict from a national conflict that could be solved to a religious conflict that could not be solved.”

Whilst Tim Franks certainly did better than any of his BBC colleagues in challenging Zomlot’s inflammatory andZomlot Newshour tweet baseless allegations regarding the suicide of the bus driver, that was of course far from the only inaccuracy in Zomlot’s rant. The rest of the falsehoods and distortions by this Fatah senior official went unhindered and unchallenged, including the claim of “de-Arabisation of Jerusalem” and the claim of “assassination” of terrorists caught in the act and the claims of “every other week […] theft of our land” and “every other day […] provocation to enter mosques and burn mosques”.

The obvious question which must be asked is if Tim Franks was capable of recognising at least part of Zomlot’s incitement for what it was, why was this interview – which clearly contributes nothing to audience understanding of the facts behind the story being covered – broadcast to millions worldwide and further promoted by the BBC World Service on Twitter as a separate podcast?

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack: World Service’s ‘Newshour’ – part one

The BBC World Service’s news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour’ began its coverage of the terror attack which had taken place at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem earlier in the day on November 18th in the afternoon version of the programme – available here from 00:45 to 12:50 and from 30:00 to 39:00.Newshour 18 11 early

Presenter Razia Iqbal’s short introduction was followed by an eye-witness account from paramedic Akiva Pollak who was one of the first to arrive on the scene. Next came a recording of a statement by the Israeli Minister for Internal Security, Yitzhak Aharonovich, after which Iqbal told listeners:

“The synagogue attack comes a day after a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged in his vehicle in Jerusalem. Israel says this was a suicide but his family says he was murdered. Hamas said the attack was retaliation for the death of the bus driver.”

That was followed by a recording of Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri saying:

“The Hamas movement praises the attack in Jerusalem and considers it a normal reaction to the killing of Yusuf al Ramouni and repeated Israeli crimes at the Al Aqsa Mosque. Hamas confirms how important it is to avenge Israeli crimes.”

This of course was not the only occasion on November 18th upon which the BBC – despite the scientific evidence provided by senior pathologists – elected to amplify a dangerous narrative based entirely on evidence-free Palestinian incitement. That same propaganda was promoted on BBC television news and on the BBC News website – see here and here.

After informing listeners that Mahmoud Abbas had condemned the attack – adding “and also called for an end to what he called Israeli provocations” – Iqbal introduced the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly who claimed that:

“..quite a lot of violent incidents in the past few weeks appear to have been the result of individuals acting alone with no planning and no preparation…”

Connolly did not inform listeners of the very relevant fact that many of those perpetrators belonged to assorted terrorist organisations or that some of the attacks were later claimed by such groups. Later on in the conversation, Connolly presented audiences with his menu of ‘contributing factors’ to the surge of terror and violence over the past few weeks.

“I mean we would say that washing around in the background of what is a palpable increase in tension in Israeli society are a couple of issues. There was the summer conflict in Gaza; there is continued Jewish settlement in an Arab district of East Jerusalem called Silwan.”

Yet again we see inaccurate BBC portrayal of the summer hostilities as having taken place exclusively in the Gaza Strip, along with another politically motivated presentation of the legal purchase of properties in a certain Jerusalem neighbourhood by people of a specific ethnic/religious group as “settlement”. Connolly goes on:

“But the key to all of this, we think, is this ancient dispute about rights of worship at the Al Aqsa Mosque – which is called Temple Mount by Jews of course. Now that is a site sacred to both faiths – to Muslims and to Jews. Muslims believe Mohammed ascended to heaven from that very point. Jews believe that it’s where their ancient Temple – destroyed by the Romans – stood; where the Holy of Holies of the Jewish faith is. Now by a very long tradition, only Muslims are allowed to pray at that site. Jews can go there but they may not pray. Now in recent years a Jewish religious movement has grown up arguing the right of prayer should be extended to Jews. Any attempt to tinker with the status quo is regarded as an incendiary issue – not just in Palestinian society but in the wider Arab and Muslim world – and I think it’s almost certainly that issue much more than the others which is fuelling, as I say, what is a very, very noticeable increase in tension, not just in Jerusalem but also in the occupied West Bank as well. So the atmosphere is changing here for the worse and of course you know the lesson of history here is that cycles of violence like this one are much easier to start than they are to stop. You know, Israel says it has no plans to change that status quo whatever religious Jews argue but that assurance is simply not believed in sections of Palestinian society.”

As has been noted here before, the status quo on Temple Mount actually relates to additional issues besides prayer rights for non-Muslims (Connolly failed to inform listeners that the site is also holy to Christians, who are not allowed to pray there either) and other changes have been made to aspects of the status quo over the years which have not been regarded as an “incendiary issue”. Interestingly, despite its being defined by Connolly as a “key” issue, at no point in its extensive coverage of the topic of Temple Mount has the BBC made any attempt to address the subject of why the egalitarian idea of equal prayer rights for members of all faiths at a site holy to three religions should produce such a violent reaction in the “Arab and Muslim world” or how that issue has been employed over the years as a catalyst by leaders with political interests, just as it is being used now.

Kevin Connolly did, however, respond appropriately in this item to Razia Iqbal’s following statement:

“And the attack at the synagogue has provoked extremist views on both sides and there have been calls for all sorts of reactions to it today. Has there been any reaction on the street?”

Connolly: “There have been small gatherings of people on the streets and I think I’d be cautious of the word extremist in terms of the reaction here. People here are very shocked by the scale and the nature of the violence. A lot of pictures are circulating here on social media of bloodstains on the floor of the synagogue, of bodies of the dead covered in prayer shawls, so there’s a real sense of shock here.”

Later on in the programme, listeners heard a recording of the US Secretary of State’s condemnation of the terror attack before Razia Iqbal introduced two interviewees from Jerusalem – presented as giving an Israeli and an Arab view of life in the city. However, in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality (as was also the case on the BBC News website’s live page of the same day), the Israeli interviewee – Daniel Seiderman – was presented only as “a lawyer” and not as a political activist with the NGOs ‘Ir Amim’ and ‘Terrestrial Jerusalem’, meaning that audiences were not able to place his contribution in its correct political context and to understand that they were actually hearing two views from the same school of thought rather than differing ones.

The evening version of the November 18th edition of ‘Newshour’ will be discussed in a later post.