Beyond the BBC’s narrative on Israel

This video, showing a recent discussion hosted by the Hudson Institute between Lee Smith and Israeli diplomat George Deek is titled “What Does the Latest Wave of Violence in Israel Portend?” but goes way beyond that subject matter and is well worth the 90 minutes of viewing time for anyone who wants to see beyond the narratives promoted in BBC coverage of the current wave of terrorism. 

 

Advertisements

Weekend long read

Whilst the BBC practice of avoiding reporting on the topic of Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism has been particularly obvious during its recent coverage of the current wave of terrorism in Israel, that policy is of course by no means new and we have even seen BBC journalists trying to whitewash the issue.Weekend Read

Palestinian Media Watch – one of the foremost researchers of that field – recently produced a new report on the topic which was presented to the Knesset’s Education committee.

“Marcus explained that PMW researched formal and informal PA education to assess the prominent educational messages impacting on peace with Israel. Tragically, the report documents that killers of Israelis are depicted by the PA Ministry of Education as heroes and role models for children. In addition, Marcus explained that the PA teaches that Israel has no right to exist and eventually will be replaced by “Palestine.”

The members of the committee were shown that the PA has named at least 25 schools after terrorists, including mass murderers. For example, three schools are named after terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who led the most lethal terror attack in Israel’s history, the Coastal Road massacre in 1978, in which 37 civilians were killed, 12 of them children.”

Readers can find PMW’s report here.

Another subject meticulously avoided by the BBC is that of Palestinian and/or Israeli Arab voices which do not conform to the corporation’s narrative-driven, monochrome portrayal of ‘the conflict’. ‘Mida’ brings us one such voice: that of Nael Zoabi – principal of the Tamra Ha’emek elementary school and an activist for Jewish-Arab coexistence.

“I feel that I am the silent voice. We are not being heard because we don’t have a well-oiled PR and media machine. There are dozens of microphones for every provocation by Arab MKs, but no one listens when someone wishes to present a different side, either in the Arab media or the Israeli media. The media and society in general love to hear totally extremist voices. Talk of coexistence and peace—that we have no other country, no other state, and we have no other citizenship—no one listens to these things. The spotlight is always on the agitators.”

Over at the Times of Israel, Haviv Rettig-Gur has a thought-provoking article titled “Losing Palestine”.

“The Palestinian national movement once had a coherent narrative. The Israeli polity, it claimed, was a political construct resting on force of arms and doomed to collapse under the weight of its own injustice, taking with it back to the colonialist, imperialist West the millions of Jews it dragged into this land. This narrative formed the underlying logic of Palestinian terrorism. Brutality was lionized precisely because in this analysis of the Israeli enemy, exacting a high cost for Israel’s continued existence hastened the day of its collapse, of its succumbing to its inherent weaknesses.

This narrative drove Palestinian politics for generations. It was believed by moderates and extremists alike. Its essential premise, that the Jews of Israel are not a rights-bearing nation with nowhere else to go, but rather a colonialist ideological construct imposed on this land by foreigners, has become a pillar of more than Palestinian politics; it lies at the root of Palestinian identity, of what Palestinian nationhood has come to mean. Palestine, an identity that had no political expression until Zionism came into being, is for Palestinians, at least in part, that cultural and social reality delineated by the experience of being pushed back by the invading imperialism of the Jews. […]

Yet this vision of the Jewish state has a glaring problem: it has failed monstrously to predict events. Israel, that supposedly hollow shell, that artificial ideological construct, has failed to collapse under its own weight. Indeed, it is the Arab world that has collapsed around it while the Jewish state continues, maddeningly, unjustly, to flourish. The promise of Israel’s inner weakness, offered to the Palestinians as often by Jewish activists as by Palestinian ideologues, has betrayed them. The Jews have failed to leave, and despite the rallying of a handful of radical Jewish intellectuals to the cause, won’t even acknowledge that their national identity is something less than authentic. […]

The Palestinian national movement has paid a monstrous price for its misreading of the Jews — for failing to understand that Israeli Jews are largely the descendants of refugees who had nowhere else to go in the brutalities of the 20th century, and thus could not be driven away with terrorism as scattered European colonialists, far from their distant homelands but never estranged from them, emphatically could. The Jews’ resilience to Arab violence lies not in historical realities, but in psychological ones; the Jews believe that they are a people defending themselves, and that is enough to inoculate them to terrorism. Terrorism, after all, is an attempt to exact a cost from a certain behavior; it depends heavily on the victims perceiving a viable alternative to their present behavior.”

Read the whole article here.

BBC WS ‘Newsday’ passes up opportunity to inform on Palestinian politics

A theme prominently seen in BBC reporting of the ongoing wave of terrorism in Israel advances the idea that the roots of the surge in violence are to be found in ‘the occupation’ and Palestinian frustration over the lack of progress in bringing about the creation of a Palestinian state.

Of course that theme is by no means new; it has been a feature of BBC reporting since long before the current surge in terror attacks began. But the BBC’s habitual one-dimensional portrayal of the ‘peace process’ as something dependent on one party to the conflict alone means that its audiences remain severely under-informed with regard to the role played by Palestinian leaders and internal Palestinian politics (another subject consistently under-reported by the BBC) in the failure to reach a negotiated end to the conflict.

In a 2014 article titled “Palestine Needs Better Friends“, the WSJ’s David Feith examined the dynamics behind representations of the conflict of the kind seen in BBC content.

“The Palestinian cause has attracted international sympathy for decades, so why do Palestinians still suffer so grievously? The burdens of Israeli occupation aren’t the full story. Palestinians also suffer from bad leaders and bad friends who do them more harm than good. In newsrooms, universities and governments world-wide, supporters of Palestine are more like enablers choosing to ignore the terrorism and tyranny that have wrecked Palestinian politics. […]

Such Western enablers emphasize many of the genuine tragedies of Palestinian life, but they elide whatever facts contradict their pro-Palestinian articles of faith. They insist that Israel won’t compromise and a powerful Israel lobby steers U.S. policy, overlooking that Palestinian leaders rejected Israeli offers of statehood in 2000 and 2008. Their idea of progressivism means admiring the Palestinian “resistance”—and remaining silent about the illiberal horrors facing Palestinian women, religious minorities, gays and political dissidents.

This approach isn’t simply a whitewash. Rather it portrays Palestinian leaders in purposefully limited fashion, as victims and pawns forever being acted upon by Israel and other outsiders, and not as decision makers choosing how to act toward Israel and their own people. This denies Palestinians’ agency, treating them as if they have no responsibility for tyrannizing other Palestinians or terrorizing Israelis. […]

The custom now is a pro-Palestinian neo-Orientalism that glosses over the real conditions of Palestinian life, focusing instead on condemning Israel. Yet the effect of this neo-Orientalism isn’t pro-Palestinian. By ignoring the pathologies of Palestinian politics, it condemns Palestinians to live under leaders who would rather impoverish and endanger their own people than compromise with Israel.”Newsday Dennis Ross int

The October 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ included an interview with former US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross.  Readers can listen to that item here from 18:02 and a version of it was also promoted separately on Twitter, using an image which does not match its caption’s claim that it is a photograph of Dennis Ross.

The introduction to the interview concluded as follows:

“Newsday’s Tom Hagler asked him if he had any optimism for a success story at the moment, with the background of the stabbings going on now”.

However, if listeners were expecting to hear analysis and information which would enhance their understanding of an issue which the BBC has repeatedly cited over the past few weeks as a factor driving the current wave of terror in Israel, they would have come away disappointed.

Although Ross provided some interesting anecdotes and insight into his negotiations with Yasser Arafat, unfortunately the brief item did little to counter the chronic deficit of information suffered by BBC audiences on the topic of why negotiations have repeatedly failed or to provide them with a view of Ross’ broader approach to the issue.

That wasted opportunity gives all the more reason to expect BBC promotion of the selectively framed theme of ‘Palestinian frustration’ as a cause for terrorism to continue. 

Terrorist? Motorist? It’s all the same to the BBC’s Kevin Connolly

As noted in a previous post, the October 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World This Weekend’ included an item by Kevin Connolly (available for a limited period of time from 25:41 here).The World This Weekend

In addition to Connolly’s amplification of baseless conspiracy theories pertaining to Temple Mount and promotion of the notion that the “identity” of Temple Mount is “Islamic”, a number of additional themes seen repeatedly in BBC coverage of the current wave of terrorism in Israel were promoted by Connolly and the programme’s presenter, Edward Stourton.

Stourton’s introduction began with promotion of equivalence between Israelis murdered by terrorists and the perpetrators of those attacks – who clearly interest him more than their victims.

“Forty-one Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed in the latest eruption of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories but the figures don’t really tell the full story. Many of the attacks which have resulted in those deaths were carried out by young Palestinian men with knives and they must surely have acted in the knowledge that they would almost certainly be killed themselves. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has thrown up violence in all sorts of forms, but this is new.”

The inaccurate notion that the current violence is “new” has also been seen in previous BBC content but of course there is nothing “new” at all about knife attacks or – as the second Intifada showed – about Palestinians committing terror attacks in which the likelihood of their being killed in the process was either obvious or intended.

Kevin Connolly opened his report in his typical flowery style.

“I have brought you to the Hass Promenade – a steeply terraced park not far from my home that looks east towards the hills of Jerusalem: a holy city, wholly divided.”

He later told listeners that:

“One of the recent stabbing attacks happened a few hundred meters from where I’m standing. The Palestinian village of Jabel Mukaber – home to at least one of the attackers of the last few weeks – is just beside me.”

In fact at least four perpetrators of attacks which took place before Connolly’s report was aired came from Jabel Mukaber – including the two who carried out an attack on a city bus in East Talpiot which has now claimed three fatalities and the one later described by Connolly in this report as “a motorist” – not, of course, a terrorist – who murdered a Rabbi waiting for a bus.

Connolly continued; his commentary too garnished with ample dollops of equivalence:

“Now I said ‘wholly divided’ but that’s not quite right. When the atmosphere suddenly sours as it has soured here in the last few weeks, Israelis and Palestinians alike are angry and frightened. There are victims on both sides, of course. But most people would struggle to identify with the sufferings of the victim on the other side.”

He next promoted a theme which has been dominant in his own previous reports and in other BBC coverage: the description of attacks directed at Jews (rather than “Israelis” as Connolly suggests) as ‘random’ events. Concurrently, Connolly ignored the known affiliations of some of the attackers with terrorist organisations and, predictably, refrained from telling listeners about the connecting thread between all those ‘random’ attacks: incitement.

“Israelis see their country as an island of democracy in a region of chaos and Islamic extremism and they crave a sense of normality. The attacks of the last few weeks have punctured that sense. They have been the work of individual Palestinians who’ve decided to take knives from their kitchens to randomly stab Israelis – soldiers, police officers and civilians. In one case a motorist drove his own car into a queue of pedestrians, with deadly intent. Those knives tear at the fabric of daily life here. Jewish Jerusalem is an edgy place these days where people suddenly feel that any Palestinian might be a knife attacker; any passing car might pose a deadly danger.”

But just in case listeners were by now drifting off message, Connolly brought them back with more promotion of equal suffering and inaccurate portrayal of violent riots as “protests”.

“But Palestinians are fearful too. It’s nearly fifty years since Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank. You are almost a pensioner if you can remember when every detail of daily life wasn’t under the control of the occupier. […]

And there’s deep anger and resentment at the readiness with which Israeli forces resort to lethal force against Palestinians in protests.”

Of course the vast majority of Palestinians in “the West Bank” have actually lived under the control of the Palestinian Authority for the past two decades, meaning that Connolly’s attempt to persuade listeners that Israel controls “every detail of daily life” in places such as Ramallah, Nablus or Jenin is decidedly embarrassing.

This report from Connolly contributed nothing new to audience understanding of the wave of terrorism in Israel because it followed the now well-established template of BBC coverage according to which attacks not named as terrorism are portrayed as ‘random’ or ‘spontaneous’  and attributed to ‘fear’ and ‘anger’ created by “the occupation”. 

Disturbing themes in BBC coverage of the wave of terror in Israel

After almost four weeks of BBC coverage of the current wave of terror attacks in Israel, the promoted themes – and the deliberate omissions – which reflect the corporation’s editorial approach to the story have become clear and we will be addressing that topic fully in a future post.

One particularly disturbing aspect of some of the BBC’s coverage in recent weeks (especially given the corporation’s global outreach) has been the amplification of baseless conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount – as was noted in this article:

“According to that conspiracy theory, Israel seeks or intends to change the status quo on Temple Mount and whilst assorted versions of that libel have been published and broadcast by the BBC, the corporation has to date not told its audiences in its own words that they are baseless. At best, it has opted to tell them that “Israel says” it has no intention of changing the status quo at the site. At worst, it has lent the BBC’s reputation of reliability to such lies.”

As can be seen in the above link, on September 13th listeners to the BBC World Service were told by BBC Arabic’s Nawal Assad that Temple Mount is a “Muslim site” and that: [all emphasis added]

“The Israeli government seems like it’s going towards a situation where there would be shared times of prayers in that area which Muslims consider it to be their third holiest mosque.”

And:

“Muslims in Jerusalem are petrified that Israel plans to rebuild the Temple Mount which means that they will have to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque.” 

Nawal Assad also promoted the Palestinian narrative according to which all of Temple Mount is “the al Aqsa Mosque”.

On October 9th viewers of a filmed report broadcast on  BBC television news programmes heard Orla Guerin also promoting the inaccurate notion that all of Temple Mount is “the al Aqsa Mosque” when she told them that “It’s [the Old City of Jerusalem] home to the Al Aqsa Mosque; sacred to Muslims and Jews“.  

On October 13th an interviewee in a report by Yolande Knell told viewers of BBC television news programmes that al Aqsa Mosque had been ‘invaded’ and ‘disrespected’ and that Israel is “fighting our religion” – Islam. Not only did Yolande Knell fail to relieve viewers of the misleading impressions created by those inaccurate claims, she went on to amplify them yet again in an audio report broadcast two days later on BBC Radio 4.

On October 16th the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen also told viewers of a filmed report shown on BBC television news programmes that Temple Mount is “the Aqsa Mosque”.

“Only Muslims can pray in the compound around the golden Dome of the Rock at the Aqsa Mosque.”

On October 24th in an audio report aired on BBC Radio 4 Kevin Connolly likewise promoted the notion that Temple Mount is “al Aqsa compound” – and that the entire site is solely “Islamic”.

“The victory brought the holy places – the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Jewish Western Wall and the Islamic al Aqsa compound – under Israeli control…” 

Prior to that, on October 18th, Connolly had also told listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World This Weekend’ (from 25:41 here – the rest of the item will be discussed in a separate post) that the “identity” of Temple Mount is “Islamic”:The World This Weekend

“There’s a nagging fear that Israel might be planning to erode the Islamic identity of the sacred compound around that golden dome in the distance.”

Refraining once again from clarifying to listeners in his own words that such claims are entirely baseless, he continued:

“Israel repeatedly denies having any such plans but the denials fall on deaf ears. That is an issue with the power to provoke a kind of anger which is just not understandable in Europe or North America.”

Had BBC audiences received comprehensive information over the past four weeks on the topic of the incitement concerning Temple Mount which has been put out by Palestinian Authority sources and officials of the highest level (among others), they might have been able to understand what causes those “deaf ears”.

Likewise, had they been informed of the religious motifs evident in much of that incitement, they would have been better placed to join the dots between the whipping up of anger to a point at which young Palestinians murder Jews on the street in Jerusalem and the murders of cartoonists and Jews in a shop in Paris or a British soldier on a London street. 

But of course the topic of the incitement fueling this wave of terror – and in particular that disseminated by the ‘moderate’ Palestinian Authority and its ‘secular’ president – has been studiously avoided by the BBC over the last few weeks, except when alluded to briefly using the standard ‘Israel says’ formula. The reason for that is that the religious aspect of this story is one which does not comfortably fit into the BBC’s wider narrative and so it has been consistently sidelined in favour of ‘contextualisation’ featuring ‘occupation’, ‘humiliation’ and ‘failure of the peace process’.

However, as can be seen in the examples above, the BBC apparently has no problem accepting – and amplifying – the falsehood that Temple Mount (significant to all three Abrahamic religions) is “the al Aqsa Mosque” and exclusively “Islamic” or “Muslim”. The aim of that narrative is of course to deny Jewish history and negate Jewish links to Jerusalem.

Who would have thought that we would have reached a point where the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” has embraced the role of amplifier of a false narrative rooted in religious and racial intolerance? 

 

BBC News finds Halloween costume newsworthy – terror victims and missile attack not

If you happen to get your news from the BBC News website, you might be under the false impression that the wave of terror in Israel has come to an end. The last mention of any of the still ongoing attacks came in an article published on October 24th and the last report on incidents appeared on October 22nd. The news that a third victim of the terror attack on a Jerusalem bus on October 13th succumbed to wounds sustained in that attack has not been reported by the BBC.

However, those visiting the BBC News website on October 27th discovered that the corporation has not entirely lost interest in Israel related topics. Whilst ignoring yet another missile attack from the Gaza Strip and several stabbing attacks, editors did find it essential to inform audiences that “Walmart’s Israeli army Halloween costume sparks controversy“.

Halloween costume on ME pge 27 10

Readers of the report are told that:

“US supermarket Walmart has caused controversy by stocking an Israeli army Halloween outfit for children. […]

Some users of social media expressed outrage at the costume. It comes at a time of spiralling violence between Israel and the Palestinians. […]

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) costume was also heavily criticised by many on Twitter. Walmart has not as yet reacted to the criticism.

More than 40 Palestinians have died in unrest in Israel and the Palestinian territories this month, many killed carrying out attacks on Israelis. Nine Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in stabbings and some gun attacks.”

BBC audiences are not, however, told who “expressed outrage” over the Halloween costume or why, or what exactly “heavily criticized” entails.

According to the Daily Beast’s distinctly partisan article on the topic:

“…members of the Palestinian community took to WalMart’s Twitter and Facebook in an effort to get the retailer to stop selling the item…”

That apparently includes the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Ha’aretz reports:

“One post [on Facebook] called the costume “extremely offensive and highly insensitive, not only to the millions of Palestinian-Americans that shop in your stores, but to anyone who has an ounce of humanity in their bodies.” […]

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee welcomed Walmart’s decision to discontinue the sale of the costumes.

“The Israeli forces are responsible for the continued death and occupation of the Palestinian people. Such a symbol of fear, violence and a long history of dispossession should not be used for entertainment purposes,” ADC President Samer Khalaf said in a statement.”

Globes adds:

“The US giant’s consumers, on the other hand, were less thrilled with the idea. One post, titled “Costume of the Chosen Apartieid Army”, says, “Your little one can now go to his friend’s house, and take over their bedroom, and all of their toys and claim that God has given him/her the right to take it.”

Another based Walmart for the “immoral” product, writing: “Might as well sell a Hitler outfit for children as well! Pitiful!””

The story the BBC is reporting in this article is not about “controversy” over a Halloween costume but actually about yet another coordinated attempt to delegitimise Israel. By concealing that aspect of the story from its audiences, the BBC gives mainstreaming backwind to that delegitimisation.

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ amplifies Israel delegitimising lawfare campaign

A photography exhibition currently on display in London was the subject of an article appearing in the BBC News website’s ‘culture’ section on October 7th. The same exhibition was also the topic of an item (available from 15:42 here) broadcast in the October 18th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’.Newshour logo

Here is how presenter James Coomarasamy framed the report’s subject matter in his introduction: [emphasis added]

“Now, getting to the truth of the ultimate crime of murder – whether that of an individual or genocide – is a painstaking job. Photographs are integral to the evidence gathering process. They’re used in courtrooms around the world as an essential tool for justice. Now, ‘Burden of Proof’ is the name of a new exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery here in London and it charts the changing history of the form, from photographs of a crime scene in the 19th century to the graphic reconstruction of a recent bomb attack on Gaza.”

And indeed, tucked in between depictions of Victorian-era murder scenes, victims of Stalinist purges and the Holocaust and Joseph Mengele’s skull, is the following exchange (from 19:08) between Coomarasamy and the venue’s Head of Exhibitions Clare Grafik.

Commentary: [sound of explosions] “This is the bombing of the Tannur neighbourhood: the deadliest attack of the first of August 2014. [sound of screaming]

Coomarasamy: “This is the ‘Gaza Book of Destruction’; we’ve got video and this is a graphic reconstruction of what would have been there.”

Grafik: “What it shows is how ‘Forensic Architecture’ use digital technology to reconstruct a bombing. What they’ve done is they’ve taken footage of the bombing and they’ve frozen literally a few seconds in time around that bombing and have picked it apart with satellite imagery, with architectural software, to try to reconstruct what happened.”

JC: “And this is being done, I see, in collaboration with Amnesty International. What’s the goal of this reconstruction?”

CG: “To try and prove that certain strengths of bomb were used in this attack that were originally denied.”

JC: “So we now have moving images trying to make sense of how people died?”

CG: “Yes – essentially – and also how those moving images become increasingly subservient to software and data.”

Coomarasamy did not tell listeners is that the incident portrayed in this exhibit took place during the 51-day conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014 or that the Tannur neighbourhood is located in Rafah and that the August 1st 2014 counter-offensive there took place because Hamas had broken a ceasefire by kidnapping Lt Hadar Goldin. Neither did Coomarasamy clarify that of the 41 Gazans killed in that particular counter-offensive in Rafah, 12 have been identified as terrorists and 13 as civilians, with the rest categorized as undetermined, but “of fighting age”.

Coomarasamy also refrained from informing audiences that Amnesty International’s campaign of ‘lawfare’ against Israel includes the use of this incident and he likewise made no effort to explain what the organization called ‘Forensic Architecture’ is and who is behind it or that it also partnered Amnesty International in the production of an app called ‘the Gaza Platform’ which reproduces and promotes one-sided and inaccurate information put out by two of AI’s lawfare partners – Al Mezan and the PCHR.

So, whilst failing to make any effort to provide BBC audiences worldwide with either the context or insight into the political motivations behind the exhibit to which he gave amplification, Coomarasamy did propagate the notion that Israeli actions during a military campaign brought about by terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians should be lumped into the same “ultimate crime” category as criminal murders, political murders and genocide.

Related Articles:

BBC amplification of Amnesty’s lawfare agenda again compromises impartiality

 

BBC backgrounder manipulates audience perceptions of wave of terror in Israel

Those visiting the BBC News website’s Middle East page may have come across an article currently going under the title “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?” which was actually first published on October 13th and has undergone numerous changes since then.backgrounder

The article, which purports to function as a backgrounder on the topic of the current wave of terror in Israel and has hence been promoted via links in several other reports, currently opens as follows:

“Violence between Israel and the Palestinians is once again spiralling, with casualties mounting by the day.

Here are some key questions and answers about what is going on.”

The question posed in its headline is addressed in a relatively small section of the report (fewer than 200 words) which actually does little to inform readers of the scale and significance of the role of incitement spread via social media in fueling the current wave of terror, of the kind of content appearing on such platforms or of the use of social media by official Palestinian groups other than Hamas – including Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party

“While there is no clear evidence that the attacks have been centrally organised, some Palestinians have taken to social media to champion them.

Posts praising and encouraging attacks on Israelis have emerged on YouTube and Facebook, while Twitter hashtags including “Jerusalem Intifada” or “Intifada of the Knives” are gaining traction among Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin has described the inflammatory use of social media as “Osama Bin Laden meets [Facebook founder] Mark Zuckerberg”.

A staged online video in the name of Hamas, the militant group which dominates Gaza, which portrayed an Arab bystander stabbing two “Jews” for bullying Arab children and called for a new intifada, was removed from Hamas’ YouTube channel after Israel’s foreign ministry complained that it glorified violence.

Many of the attacks and aftermath have been filmed on mobile phones and CCTV, getting quickly uploaded and shared. Israeli officials have expressed fear that images of assailants being shot could fuel anger and inspire further attacks.

Experts have also noticed a marked increase in anti-Arab rhetoric on Israeli social media sites, according to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. It says the use of inciteful language among Israelis on the internet soared in the wake of the first stabbing attacks.”

The article purports to inform readers on the subject of “What is happening between Israelis and Palestinians?” and a photograph appearing under that sub-heading – which shows one of the fatalities from the October 13th terror attack on a bus in Jerusalem being removed from the scene – promotes a theme seen in much other BBC content:

“Israelis have been targeted in a growing number of apparent lone-wolf attacks”

Notably, one of the terrorists who carried out that attack was lauded by Hamas on social media.

The BBC’s account of “what is happening” of course does not include the use of the word terror.

“There has been a wave of stabbings and some gun attacks on Israelis by Palestinians since early October, and one apparent revenge stabbing by an Israeli.

The attacks, some of which have been fatal, have struck in Jerusalem, across Israel and in the occupied West Bank.

Israel has tightened security and clashed with rioting Palestinians, leading to deaths on the Palestinian side.

There has also been associated violence in the border area inside the neighbouring Gaza Strip.”

Embedded under the sub-heading “What’s behind the latest unrest?” is the previously published problematic backgrounder on Temple Mount by Yolande Knell. Readers are told that:

“Violence between the two communities has spiralled since clashes erupted at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site in mid-September.

It was fuelled by rumours among Palestinians that Israel was attempting to alter in favour of Jews a delicate long-standing religious arrangement governing the site. Israel repeatedly dismissed the rumours as incitement.”

No mention is made of the fact that the intention of the violent rioting on Temple Mount “in mid-September” was to prevent Jews from visiting during a holiday – as was similarly the case previously on Tisha B’Av and later at Succot. The article then goes on to mislead readers by stating that stabbing attacks against Israelis “began” on October 3rd when in fact sixteen such attacks had already taken place in the first eight months of 2015.  

“Soon afterwards, two Israelis travelling with their four children were shot dead by Palestinians in the West Bank. Two days later the stabbing attacks began.

Both Israel and the Palestinian authorities have accused one another of doing nothing to protect each other’s communities.

Israel says the Palestinian leadership is inciting attacks, and that the attackers are driven not by political frustration but by a radical religious ideology which opposes Israel’s very existence.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has blamed “acts of aggression” by the Israeli authorities and Jewish settlers for the latest violence.”

As has been the case in all BBC coverage of this wave of terror, this backgrounder fails to tell readers in its own words that there is no basis to the conspiracy theories concerning a change in the status quo on Temple Mount and also neglects to inform them on the issue of Mahmoud Abbas’ incitement promoting that theme.

The article’s next sub-heading asks the rhetorical question “But isn’t there more to it than that?” and that section is illustrated using a photograph captioned:

“The war which followed Israel’s creation left generations of Palestinian refugees”.

Naturally, no effort is made to explain exactly why “generations” of Palestinian refugees inherit that title even whilst living under PA or Hamas rule or why those in Arab countries have been deliberately kept in that status. As usual, Jewish refugees from Arab lands do not get a mention in this article.

Readers are then told that the answer to the subheading’s question lies in “narratives” – with the BBC’s portrayal of the Palestinian narrative erasing the religious themes seen in the incitement fueling the current wave of terror from audience view and its paraphrasing of Israel’s position failing to inform readers of the legal basis for Israel’s existence. 

“Yes. Much more. The current violence stems from decades of unresolved conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. At its most basic, it is a fight over land and national rights.

There are rival and seemingly incompatible historical narratives. The Palestinian position is that Israel was created on their land in 1948, turning many into refugees, and further occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, in the 1967 Middle East war. They say any hoped-for future Palestinian state is being undermined by Israeli settlement-building in the occupied territories. The settlements are seen as illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Added to this is Israel’s expansion in East Jerusalem, where the proportion of Jewish Israeli inhabitants has swelled compared to the number of Palestinian residents, and where Palestinian districts suffer from poor infrastructure and services.

Israel’s counter-position is that its right to exist is incontestable and that the Palestinian refugee problem is the result of wars forced on it by Arab neighbours. It says the Palestinian leadership – despite officially recognising Israel – have not proven they are willing to accept its permanence nor give up violence to achieve their aims.

Peace talks aimed at ending the conflict by creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel have repeatedly collapsed over the years and many on both sides have lost faith in the process.”

One paragraph in that account is particularly notable. Readers are told that “in East Jerusalem […] the proportion of Jewish Israeli inhabitants has swelled compared to the number of Palestinian residents”.

Quite how the BBC compares a “proportion” of Jews to a “number” of Palestinians is unclear but notably, no mention is made of the fact that all Jews living in what the corporation defines as “East Jerusalem” – which as we know, includes the Jewish Quarter of the Old City – were forcibly displaced by the Jordanian invasion in 1948. Hence, if even one Jew went to live in “East Jerusalem” after the Six Day War, the proportion of Jews living there would have risen.

But do the available statistics actually back up the BBC’s implication that there are more Jews than Palestinians in “East Jerusalem” either proportionally or in terms of actual numbers and that their proportion of the population in that area is ‘swelling’?

According to the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, in 2003 a total of 403,263 Jerusalemites lived in areas the BBC defines as “East Jerusalem” including 173,500 Jews (some in neighbourhoods which did not exist before 1967, some in those which existed before 1948 such as Neve Ya’akov and the Jewish Quarter)  and 224,028 Muslim and Christian Arabs.  In other words, in 2003 Jews made up 43.02% of those living in “East Jerusalem”.

Ten years later, in 2013, the number of Jerusalemites living in the areas the BBC defines as “East Jerusalem” had risen to 509,440 and included 197,250 Jews (a rise of 23,750) and 305,470 Muslim and Christian Arabs (a rise of 81,442). In other words, Jews made up 38.7% of those living in “East Jerusalem” in 2013.

So in fact, contrary to the BBC’s claim that “in East Jerusalem […] the proportion of Jewish Israeli inhabitants has swelled compared to the number of Palestinian residents”, the actual number of Arab residents in those parts of the city rose more than the number of Jews and the percentage of Jews making up the total population of “East Jerusalem” fell during the decade 2003 – 2013.

Had the BBC confined itself to stating that the number of Jews living in what it terms “East Jerusalem” has risen since 1967, that claim would of course have been accurate – although sadly lacking in historic context. The claim as it stands, however, is inaccurate and misleading.

This backgrounder falls short of meeting its declared aim of providing “answers about what is going on” because it adheres to the selective framing of the story adopted by the BBC from the beginning of its coverage of the current wave of terror.

Any backgrounder genuinely seeking to provide information which would help audiences understand this topic could not ignore the issue of Palestinian Authority incitement and glorification of terrorism, would not obscure the religiously themed – and frequently racist – nature of that incitement and would not herd readers towards a view which obscures those uncomfortable issues by means of ‘contextualisation’ of the current wave of terrorism as “a fight over land and national rights”.

An article intended to mould readers’ perception of the story and advance a wider political narrative would, however, do exactly that. 

BBC’s Connolly contorts Israeli – and British – history to fit his political narrative

The BBC’s reputation as a reliable source – underpinned by a supposedly unwavering commitment to cast-iron accuracy and impartiality in its reporting – means that members of the public, researchers and educators regard its content as being an authoritative record. The BBC itself relates to its online archive content as “historical record” and its Director of Editorial Policy and Standards has stated that “[h]owever long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it”.

Mr Jordan might therefore care to consider a report by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly (available from 00:43 here) which was broadcast in the October 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent”.FOOC Connolly 24 10

Ostensibly providing listeners with a historical angle to the current wave of terror in Israel, Connolly’s report is remarkable for the fact that it once again promotes the notion that the attacks are of a “random and spontaneous nature”, ignoring the issue of incitement and the growing number of cases in which perpetrators have been shown to have links to terrorist organisations.

Concurrently, Connolly’s messaging for listeners includes the employment of statements such as:

“…the readiness with which Israel’s security forces resort to lethal force against Palestinians”

And, referring to checkpoints outside the Jerusalem neighbourhoods from which a very significant proportion of the attackers have come:

“….the sense that restrictions on movement are a form of collective punishment”.

But Connolly’s politically motivated framing of the story reaches its zenith in his inaccurate portrayal of the history of Jerusalem.

“Even the British – eternally torn between the desire to have an empire and the desire to have an empire on the cheap – left some kind of mark.”

“British rule lasted more than thirty years in the Holy Land.”

Mandate Palestine was not of course part of the British Empire, as Connolly implies in those two proximate statements. Britain indeed administered the Mandate for Palestine, but that mandate was established (along with several others) by the League of Nations with the specific aim of reconstituting a Jewish national home: a task which the administrator did not complete in the years before it returned that mandate to the League of Nations’ successor, the United Nations, on May 14th 1948.

Having distorted one very relevant part of the history by erasing the Mandate for Palestine from audience view, Connolly then goes on to promote a blatant factual inaccuracy.

“The British left in 1948, leaving the Arab kingdom of Jordan in control of East Jerusalem and the Old City and West Jerusalem in Israeli hands.”

The uninformed listener would obviously take that statement to mean that Jordanian control over parts of Jerusalem was both recognised and perfectly legitimate: the result of their having been handed over to it by the previous ‘landlord’.

Despite having erased from the picture the fact that Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem actually came about by means of a belligerent invasion of Israel by Jordan (together with four other Arab nations) immediately following Britain’s abandonment of its role as administrator of the League of Nations mandate and Israel’s declaration of independence, Connolly goes on to include a demilitarized zone (surely unexplainable according to his version of events) in his story.

“The route I follow crosses what was then an edgy and dangerous DMZ – a demilitarized zone across which Israel and the Arab world contemplated each other in mutual hostility.”

He proceeds, erasing yet another episode of Jordanian belligerence from his account:

“In the war of 1967 Israel crossed the DMZ and drove the Jordanians out of the Old City and out of East Jerusalem. The victory brought the holy places – the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Jewish Western Wall and the Islamic al Aqsa compound – under Israeli control, where they remain to this day.” [emphasis added]

Here we have yet another example (previous recent ones can be seen here, here and here) of the BBC’s adoption and promotion of the inaccurate narrative whereby all of Temple Mount is al Aqsa and Connolly even portrays the site as exclusively “Islamic” – despite the fact that it is of significance to members of three religions.

He continues:

“…the victory of 1967 brought the Arab population of East Jerusalem and dozens of outlying villages which had belonged to Jordan under Israeli military occupation.” [emphasis added]

Of course those locations were in fact under Jordanian occupation and their later annexation by Jordan was not recognized by the international community, meaning that Connolly’s claim that they “belonged to Jordan” is inaccurate and misleading.

The take-away message promoted to listeners to this report is that the roots of the current wave of violence are to be found in the Israeli occupation of areas that previously belonged to “the Arab kingdom of Jordan”. Not only is that an inaccurate portrayal but in order to frame the story in such a way, Connolly distorts and erases the history of the region in a manner which actively hinders audience understanding of the wider issue.

Given that this report potentially risks wasting public resources by becoming the subject of editorial complaints, the BBC clearly needs to issue prompt corrections to the plethora of inaccuracies promoted by Kevin Connolly.

Resources:

BBC Radio 4 – contact details

‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on Twitter   

 

BBC Hardtalk for Israel, Softchat for Palestinians

This is a guest post by Aron White.

In his October 21st Hardtalk interview, Israeli MK Yair Lapid turned the tables on presenter Stephen Sackur and made the following remark:Hardtalk logo

Yair Lapid: “I have been watching the show. Whenever a Palestinian is on, you don’t ask the questions that are that difficult.”

Steven Sackur: “Well you haven’t been watching the show enough then, because the Palestinians say exactly what you just said, “Oh, you are tougher on me than you are on him (the Israeli).”

An objective analysis will show that Yair Lapid is totally correct – Israeli guests on the show face a tough grilling whereas Palestinians and their supporters get basically a free pass.

Here is the introduction Stephen Sackur gave Yair Lapid last week:

“The latest paroxysm of violence between Israelis and Palestinians has conjured up a wave of horrifying images. Israelis stabbed in random street attacks, Palestinian suspects shot dead by Israeli police when seemingly no longer a threat, an innocent bystander beaten to death by an incensed Israeli crowd. Well, my guest is Yair Lapid, former finance minister, and leader of the Yesh Atid party. He has called on Israelis to”shoot to kill” at the first sign of danger. Will that kind of language enhance anyone’s security?”

This is a genuinely harsh introduction – and considering that Sackur draws no distinction between the Israeli victims of terror attacks and Palestinian attackers killed by policemen, it maybe is too harsh. But let us compare this with the opening Hardtalk laid out for Saeb Erekat during an interview in February 2014.

“What does the new right-wing Israeli coalition government under Benjamin Netanyahu mean for the Palestinians? The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has made moves recently to win international backing for his cause, particularly through the United Nations. Will this strategy help or hinder their aspirations for statehood? My guest today is the Palestinian veteran chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat. Can they isolate Israel, and achieve recognition of a Palestinian state through international diplomatic channels?”

This is not the opening to a difficult interview in which Palestinian intransigence, rejectionism, incitement, corruption and human rights violations will truly be open for discussion. The question on the table is how best can the Palestinians isolate Israel: instead of asking hard-hitting questions, the BBC is merely asking whether the Palestinians can achieve their goals.

The Hardtalk bias was open for all to see during last summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas. Hardtalk conducted two interviews on consecutive days – the first interview, on July 24th, was with Danny Danon, a former Israeli government minister, and the second interview the next day was with Khaled Mashal, leader of Hamas.

Here is the introduction to the interview with Danny Danon:

“Israel says its current campaign in Gaza is in response to rocket strikes from Hamas militants, and is aimed at destroying its illicit tunnels Hamas uses to smuggle arms. In more than two weeks of conflict, more than six hundred Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed, and nearly four thousand wounded. The U.N. Human Rights Commission (sic.) says Israel may have committed war crimes. About thirty Israeli have died, nearly all of them, soldiers. My guest today is Danny Danon, a member of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, He was dismissed as deputy defence minister earlier this month, for accusing the prime minister of being too weak in his Gaza campaign. How does he justify the high Palestinian death toll?”

Compare this to the introduction to the interview the very next day, with Khaled Masha’al.

“My guest today is Khaled Masha’al, the political chief of the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, which is currently locked in a grim and costly military confrontation with Israel in Gaza. Right now, the pressure on Hamas is immense, military, political and diplomatic. So, is the showdown in Gaza a battle for Hamas’ survival?”

Masha’al is not being asked any hard questions at all – no question about Hamas rockets, human shields, human rights abuses, or its openly jihadist constitution. Rather than hard questions, sympathy for Hamas simply oozes from the description of a “costly” conflict with Israel that may be a battle for Hamas’ very survival.

This highlights a further point: not only does Hardtalk ask Israelis far tougher questions than Palestinians; the interviewers openly display sympathy for Palestinians and their supporters. 

During his interview with William Schabas, initially appointed head of a U.N. Human Rights Council commission of inquiry into the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas who resigned from the post due to concerns about his objectivity, Stephen Sackur asks:

“You have talked about the campaign against you. We remember the full-page ads in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal condemning you, talking about your bias, I believe also, you had personal emails. You had threats. Did it get to a point where you could just stand it no longer?”

Yet when he interviews Yehuda Glick, the man who was shot four times because of his activism to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, Stephen Sackur never asks him how he felt, but instead offers this musing:

“I am guessing, Yehuda Glick, that what happened to you wasn’t entirely a surprise to you. You have been a controversial figure described by many Israelis, indeed many Israelis in the Israeli government and security establishment as a provocative figure and as an extremist for years. You have known that there have been threats upon you for years too. So although it was awful, it wasn’t really a surprise was it?”

So one man who actually got shot four times (for campaigning for what he sees as religious freedom) should have seen it coming because he received threats but another man who received threats (though admittedly, by “personal email,” no less) deserves our deepest sympathy. I mean, how bad are four bullets compared to an advertisement in a newspaper?

Hardtalk is deeply biased. It challenges Israelis about how they defend themselves, but poses no hard questions to the inciters, jihadists, rocket launchers and terrorists. For Israelis, an appearance on the show is a hard talk. For Palestinians and their supporters, it is merely a soft chat. 

Related Articles:

‘Hardtalk’: a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’