Upcoming events for BBC Watchers in the UK

CAMERA and BBC Watch are delighted to invite readers to two events which we will be hosting next month in the UK.pic BBC

On November 10th, at 19:30 at a venue in north London, we will hold a discussion on the impact of BBC coverage of Israel on attitudes towards Jews in the UK. The panel will feature a prominent keynote speaker together with lecturer and writer Denis MacEoin, Jonathan Turner of UK Lawyers for Israel, law lecturer Lesley Klaff and BBC Watch’s managing editor Hadar Sela.

“The upcoming review of the BBC Charter presents a once in a decade opportunity to address issues relating to BBC coverage of Israel, Jews and anti-Semitism and to examine the wider effects on community cohesion in the UK. 

Prime Minister David Cameron’s July speech outlining his government’s 5 year strategy dealing with extremism in the UK raised issues including conspiracy theories relating to Israel, Jews and antisemitic tropes.

With its unparalleled outreach and worldwide influence, the publicly funded BBC has an obvious obligation to exercise responsibility regarding those issues, amongst others, but does it live up to that expectation and how does its self-regulating complaints system fair when dealing with matters flagged up by its funding public?”

Advance registration is required – details can be found here.

On November 12th at 19:30 we will be holding a discussion on the same topic at a venue in Manchester, hosted by the Zionist Central Council.

For details of that event and booking, please contact zcc.man@zen.co.uk

Looking forward to meeting our UK-based readers at both events. 

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BBC News tells audiences Israeli fears of terror attacks are ‘paranoia’

During the first three weeks of October 2015, ten Israelis were killed and 112 wounded – eleven of them seriously – in forty stabbing attacks, four shootings and five vehicular attacks which took place throughout the country.

On October 23rd, however, BBC News told its audiences that Israelis are suffering from either a collective psychosis ‘characterised by delusions of persecution’ or ‘unjustified suspicion and mistrust of other people’ – depending on which definition of the word paranoia BBC editors intended their headline to communicate.

Paranoia Connolly

Either way, it is obviously extremely hard to believe that if British citizens had been subjected to such a wave of terror attacks, the BBC would characterize their mood as unjustified or disconnected from reality by using the term ‘paranoia’. And it is of course equally unlikely that after over fifty attacks on British citizens in three weeks, the BBC would still be avoiding the use of the word ‘terror’ – as it continues to do in its current coverage of Israel.

In that article – which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page – the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly promotes the notion of equivalence between the distress of Israeli Jerusalemites who have seen at least sixteen terror attacks resulting in five fatalities in their city in the last three weeks with that of Palestinians who, according to his account, are inconvenienced by roadblocks and suspicious looks.

“But at times of rising tensions and rising casualty figures like this, the two populations that normally lead parallel lives share something very profound in common.

They are united by their fears for the dangers their families might face and by the deep urge that’s within all of us to keep our children safe.”

In the section of his report devoted to the neighbourhood of Issawiya, Connolly writes:

“Even in better times there is deep resentment in Issawiyah at the practical outworking of the occupation – Palestinians in villages like this pay the same local taxes as Israelis in West Jerusalem but strongly feel they don’t receive the same services.

They point to the condition of the roads and pavements and the absence of recreational facilities.

“There are Jewish districts where they have parks for their dogs,” one man told me, “And here we don’t even have a park for our kids.””

He of course refrains from informing readers that residents of Issawiya were at the forefront of opposition to the creation of a national park on their doorstep.

Although he describes the inconvenience of roadblocks implemented to try to deal with terrorism, Connolly does not provide audiences with relevant context, failing to clarify that a very significant proportion of the perpetrators of attacks during the first three weeks of October came from Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem.

“There is an Israeli checkpoint at the main entrance to the village. The local people say that if anyone throws stones at the soldiers who man it, they close the road and force commuters returning from Jerusalem to wait in their cars for anything up to an hour.”

Connolly tells readers that:

“Fear for the safety of children does unite the two communities, although the fears are different.

Israelis worry their children might be the victims of a politically-motivated street attack – Palestinians fear the readiness with which Israeli police and soldiers resort to lethal force, especially if they live in a part of the West Bank where it is easy to get caught up in street protests.” [emphasis added]

Those “street protests” are of course more accurately described as organised violent rioting and Connolly’s apparent belief that Palestinian parents lack the agency required to prevent their offspring from participating in such activities is quite remarkable.

Connolly closes his article with promotion of a dominant – yet inaccurate – theme seen in much BBC coverage in recent weeks.

“…the fears and anxieties triggered in this latest round of violence here are individual and deeply personal just as the attacks appear to have been spontaneous. […]

But the random nature of the violence and its lack of an apparent link to any known organisation is going to make any kind of diplomatic or political intervention here even harder than usual.”

Yet again the BBC conceals the incitement from assorted Palestinian factions which has fueled this wave of terrorism – and the known links of some of the perpetrators to terrorist groups – from audience view.

In addition to his written report, Kevin Connolly also produced a similar audio one which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on October 24th. The item (available here from 01:49:43) opens with the following introduction from host James Naughtie.

“As if he didn’t have enough on his plate, the American Secretary of State John Kerry has begun a round of diplomacy trying to reduce tension in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories where an upsurge of violence has left about 60 people dead in the last few weeks. Most of the dead are Palestinians. Some have died in the familiar violent clashes with the Israeli security forces in the West Bank but some of the deaths have occurred when individual Palestinians not known to be members of militant groups have made stabbing attacks on Israelis and then been shot by the police or the army. It’s a new kind of attack and its left people in both communities anxious and frightened.”

Could audiences determine from that introduction that one-sixth of those casualties are Israelis murdered in terror attacks? Would they understand that those killed whilst engaged in violent rioting include some 17 people from the Gaza Strip and that the border fence there has been breached by such rioters on several occasions? Would they also comprehend that Naughtie’s portrayal of “some” Palestinians shot whilst carrying out terror attacks (and not only stabbings, as he inaccurately states) actually means that they number around half of the Palestinian fatalities and that a similar number of terrorists have been caught alive?

One doubts very much that Radio 4 listeners went away with an accurate perception of events from that introduction and in addition, they were certainly misled by the inaccurate claim that such terror attacks are “a new kind”. Moreover, with the BBC having failed to provide its audiences with an accurate picture of Palestinian terrorism during the nine months preceding October 2015, listeners would have no way of knowing that Naughtie’s claim is inaccurate.

As in his written article, in that audio report Kevin Connolly promotes the notion of equivalence between victims of terror and their attackers, fails to provide context when describing the inconvenience caused by roadblocks and erases the all-important issue of incitement by portraying the attacks as “random and spontaneous”.

“We think of Jerusalem as a place of division – and so it is – but in times of rising tension and rising casualty figures, there is something that unites its two peoples: the grinding daily fear about how you keep your family safe.”

“On the way into the outlying Palestinian village of Issawiyeh there’s an Israeli checkpoint – an irritation for local people arriving home from their daily work in Israeli West Jerusalem.”

“The US Secretary of State John Kerry is working on all of this now, trying to calm fears. But what can politicians do when attacks are random and spontaneous and fears so personal and so deeply felt?”

Kevin Connolly apparently believes the narrative of equivalence he promotes in these two reports. He is obviously comfortable with promoting the idea that a pensioner murdered in a shooting attack on a city bus, a 59 year-old deliberately run over and then hacked to death with a meat-cleaver and a young father stabbed to death whilst walking with his family are just the same as the people who decided to carry out those attacks and were shot by security forces rushing to the scene.

He is also clearly at ease with promoting the myth that attacks on Jews for no other reason than the fact that they are Jews which are praised and glorified by Hamas and PA officials alike are “spontaneous” and “random”. And, as we see in these two reports, he has no qualms about promoting the narrative that the emotions of people who are experiencing “not a very nice feeling” and traffic inconveniences are the same as those of people who fear that they may be targeted by a terrorist simply because of who they are after seeing over 50 such terror attacks in a matter of a few weeks.

Whilst Connolly’s adopted narrative may serve to provide space-filling material for assorted BBC platforms and advance a political agenda, it certainly does nothing to contribute to meeting the BBC’s obligation to enhance audience understanding of this particular “international issue”.

 

 

 

The UNRWA story which has not appeared on BBC News

Back in early September we reported here on a story which the BBC did not find newsworthy at the time.

“Thanks to a lot of hard work from blogger Elder of Ziyon and the NGO UN Watch, the issue of antisemitic images posted on social media by some UNRWA employees has recently been brought to public attention.

“UN Watch released a new report today documenting 12 different Facebook accounts operated by UNRWA officials that openly incite to antisemitism and terrorism, and urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNRWA chief Pierre Krähenbühl to terminate the responsible officials, condemn the offending posts, and establish a commission of inquiry, comprised of representatives of top donor states to investigate the culture of impunity for perpetrators of racism and incitement that pervades UNRWA.””

At the time, UNRWA’s spokesman Chris Gunness claimed that the report made “baseless allegation about anti-semitism” and urged journalists to ignore it.Gunness tweet FB story

On October 16th, UN Watch submitted an additional report on the same issue to the UN Secretary General and the head of UNRWA.

On October 22nd UN Watch reported that a transcript of a UN press conference revealed that “UNRWA employees have, “in a number of cases,” been subject to disciplinary action, including suspension and loss of pay”. UN Watch noted that the statement was “not posted as a stand-alone statement by the UN, or indeed anywhere at all on the UNRWA website”.

Whilst the BBC has frequently provided a platform for UNRWA and its spokesman in the past, this particular story apparently continues to be of no interest to the BBC.  

More conspiracy theory amplification from BBC’s Yolande Knell – and why it matters

“No-one becomes a terrorist from a standing start. It starts with a process of radicalisation. When you look in detail at the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were first influenced by what some would call non-violent extremists.

Anti-Israel rally, London, UK, 17/10/2015

Anti-Israel rally, London, UK, 17/10/2015

It may begin with hearing about the so-called Jewish conspiracy and then develop into hostility to the West and fundamental liberal values, before finally becoming a cultish attachment to death. Put another way, the extremist world view is the gateway, and violence is the ultimate destination. […]

First, any strategy to defeat extremism must confront, head on, the extreme ideology that underpins it. We must take its component parts to pieces – the cultish worldview, the conspiracy theories, and yes, the so-called glamorous parts of it as well.

We must demand that people also condemn the wild conspiracy theories, the anti-Semitism, and the sectarianism too.”  (PM David Cameron, July 2015)

Over the past few weeks a particularly inflammatory conspiracy theory has been repeatedly amplified on a variety of BBC platforms. 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.

One example of unchallenged amplification of that conspiracy theory came in a filmed report by Yolande Knell on October 13th. Two days later, the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ broadcast an item by Knell (available from 00:44 here) which – among other things – again promoted the words of the same interviewee.FOOC 15 10 Knell

Presenter Kate Adie’s introduction to the item was notable for her use of qualifying terms to describe terrorists and violent rioters – including minors.

KA: “The Israeli army has been deploying hundreds of troops across the country to try to combat the worst surge in violence there in months. Yesterday police in Jerusalem shot dead two Palestinians who they say tried to stab Israelis in separate incidents. So far this month, seven Israelis have been killed in attacks and at least thirty Palestinians have died – including alleged assailants and several children.” [emphasis added]

Adie continued, failing to provide listeners with the full story behind Mahmoud Abbas’ remarks.

“The Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of executing Palestinian children in cold blood – a remark denounced as lies and incitement by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Yolande Knell says the violence if fueling a sense of panic in Israel and raising fears of a new Palestinian Intifada, or uprising.”

Yolande Knell’s relatively long account began as follows: [all emphasis in bold added]

YK: “It’s a scene so familiar that it could be from almost any time over the past three decades. Palestinian teenagers wearing jeans and T-shirts and checkered keffiyeh scarves fling stones and marbles at heavily armed Israeli soldiers. And today there’s a swift response: an army jeep tears down this hotel-lined road in Bethlehem, firing out white ribbons of tear gas. Soon we hear the crack of gunfire. Recently there’ve been almost daily battles like this across the occupied Palestinian territories.

Anti-Israel rally, London, UK, 17/10/2015

Anti-Israel rally, London, UK, 17/10/2015

The anger’s fueled by a row over access to al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City which is built in a place that’s both sacred to Muslims and Jews. Despite official Israeli denials, many Palestinians believe there’s a plan to change long-standing rules and give Jews the right to pray openly at the site they call Temple Mount.

‘This started because Israelis entered our al Aqsa Mosque and disrespected it’ a young protester Ahmed tells me, referring to an incident last month. During a Jewish holiday, Palestinian worshippers clashed with Israeli troops after the forces went briefly inside the mosque in response – they say – to stone-throwing rioters.”

Knell’s description of violent rioters as “worshippers” is obviously misleading, as is her attempt to claim that the rioting was caused by the actions of the Israeli police. All the incidents in which the police have been obliged to keep order at the site over the last weeks began because of organised Palestinian attempts to violently disrupt visits by non-Muslims to the site. This of course is not the first time that Knell has misrepresented those events. The report continues with Knell once again amplifying the particularly inflammatory falsehood that Israel is conducting a “fight” against Islam.

“‘It’s a red line’ Ahmed goes on. ‘All our lives we’ve been dealing with Israel’s occupation as a political struggle but now they’re turning it into a fight against our religion’. The activist has already spent four years in an Israeli prison for rock throwing. Now he hopes for a third Palestinian uprising and tells me he’s ready to go back to jail. On a nearby street I also meet Mustafa who’s 25 and says he’s prepared to die for the nationalist cause. ‘I like to go and throw stones and whatever happens, happens’ he remarks. ‘It’s for al Aqsa, it’s for our martyrs and all our humiliations’.”

Demonstration in London, UK, 2010

Demonstration in London, UK, 2010

Next, Knell revisits one of her regular themes: misrepresenting the anti-terrorist fence in the vicinity of Bethlehem whilst failing to clarify to audiences that it exists because of Palestinian terrorism.  

“The shop worker describes a daily life where he’s hemmed-in by checkpoints, by the concrete wall that surrounds much of Bethlehem – part of Israel’s separation barrier – and expanding Jewish settlements near his home on the edge of the city. Despite his university education, his career prospects are limited. Mustafa connects his feelings of anger to local unrest in the West Bank and the recent spate of knife attacks and shootings across Jerusalem and Israel. Amateur video of almost every assault is posted on social media and he watches them all. ‘Maybe this will be the stabbing Intifada’ he says.”

Downplaying the violence of the first Intifada – during which around a thousand Palestinians were murdered by Palestinian vigilantes – Knell goes on:

“The first Palestinian Intifada which began in 1987 was marked by coordinated popular unrest while the second, starting from 2000, produced suicide bombings by militants. Together, they claimed the lives of over 5,000 Palestinians and over 1,100 Israelis. The latest stabbings have so far caused several deaths and dozens of injuries. Police blame most on lone-wolf attackers making personal decisions to act. But while the intensity and pattern of the violence may not match the experience of previous uprisings, it’s stirred up old fears for Israelis.” […]

Knell’s closing words include whitewashing of the incitement coming from Mahmoud Abbas and completely ignore the issue of incitement from official PA and other Palestinian sources. 

“The Israeli authorities have struggled in their response to the recent crisis. Some far-right politicians are demanding action over Temple Mount. Meanwhile, security officials and the Israeli prime minister have largely held back – worried about exacerbating the troubles. On the Palestinian side, Islamist groups have declared the attacks heroic while the ageing secular president says he supports popular protests but not violence. The current unrest isn’t organized in any meaningful sense. It has no clear and unified goal. It comes as a generation of young Palestinians have lost faith in their leaders. They’ve watched peace talks fail to deliver a promised independent Palestinian state. For all those reasons, it’s very hard to predict what will happen next and whether those who are trying to bring the situation under control really can do so.”

Of course listeners to this programme would be incapable of putting Knell’s makeover of Mahmoud Abbas into its appropriate context because the BBC has studiously refrained from informing its audiences of what “secular” Mahmoud Abbas says to his people in Arabic.

This message, for example, was broadcast on PA TV nineteen times in three days during October 2014.

More recently, this was shown on official PA TV:

Obviously, the fact that the BBC gives unchallenged amplification to conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount is a problem. The fact that it also refrains from clarifying to its audiences in its own words that Israel has no intention of changing the status quo at that site is another, as is the fact that the BBC has consistently concealed from its audiences the religiously themed rhetoric and incitement fueling the conspiracy theories surrounding Temple Mount.Al Aqsa UK FOAA  

Those problems do not just raise questions about the BBC’s ability to report on this Israel-related topic accurately, impartially and responsibly. They also have the potential to affect British domestic issues because conspiracy theories about Temple Mount and al Aqsa Mosque are by no means confined to the Middle East – as this page from the website of the Leicester-based group ‘Friends of Al Aqsa’ and scenes from the anti-Israel rally held in London just last weekend demonstrate.

Prime Minister David Cameron clearly understands that a vital part of combating extremism in the UK is confronting and exposing conspiracy theories.  With its unrivalled outreach, the BBC is of course well placed to play a part in contributing to that aim – should it so choose. 

BBC response to complaint about report criticized by MP and former BBC chair

As readers will recall, a BBC News report by Orla Guerin broadcast on October 11th was the subject of criticism from Sir Eric Pickles MP and from the BBC’s former chairman, Lord Grade, prompting reports in the mainstream media in the UK and in Israel.Guerin filmed 11 10

That same report by Orla Guerin was also the topic of a complaint submitted to the BBC by a member of the public. Here is the response received.

“Orla Guerin’s report looked at the increasing violence from both sides of the conflict. During the live introduction to her report from Jerusalem she mentioned recent Palestinian casualties, but also pointed to the stabbing of three Israelis in the city of Hadera [the attack was actually near Gan Shmuel – Ed.]. Orla emphasised that this was the third such attack on Israelis that weekend.

While reporting on the Israeli Defense Forces’ strike in Gaza, Orla Guerin reflected Israel’s position that the IDF were targeting a weapons facility following a rocket attack into southern Israel. The report also went on to mention Israel’s security forces stopping a potential attack on the road to Jerusalem earlier that day. We believe we reported clearly on the threat of violence faced by Israelis on an increasingly regular basis. 

Orla Guerin then spoke to the father of Muhannad Halabi, the Palestinian who was shot dead by Israeli security forces after he attacked an Israeli couple in the Old City in Jerusalem the previous weekend. She clearly described Halabi as a “Palestinian law student, turned killer”. She went on to describe the attack, where Halabi stabbed an Israeli couple, killing the husband and a rabbi who intervened. Viewers were given a clear account of what Muhannad Halabi had done.

BBC News tries to report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an accurate and duly impartial manner. Sometimes this means we can’t always reflect the full extent of the complexities of the conflict during one standalone report. We try to tell the story of the conflict as experienced by both sides, across programmes and bulletins and over time.Guerin filmed 9 10

With this in mind, you may not be aware of Orla Guerin’s report during the News at Ten two day before the report being discussed here was shown. This report showed video footage of Muhannad Halabi’s attack on the Israeli couple in the Old City. Orla also spoke to the injured wife of the man killed by Muhannad Halabi. From her hospital bed, Odel Bennet spoke of her fear and pain, and of the poor treatment she endured by Palestinian passers-by while she lay wounded on the street after the attack.

BBC News has reported extensively on the escalation in violence in recent weeks and we’ve heard from those affected from both sides of the conflict. We feel we have allowed our audience to make up their own minds, but we’re sorry to read you felt this wasn’t the case on this occasion. We’ve raised your complaint with senior editorial staff at BBC News and we would like to assure you that your feedback is very important to us.”

The earlier report by Guerin cited in this response (in which she told BBC audiences that al Aqsa Mosque is “sacred to Jews” and that stabbing attacks on Israelis are “new”) was discussed here.  

One does hope that Sir Eric Pickles and Lord Grade will receive a more substantive response.

Selective framing, inaccuracies and omission of context on BBC’s Hardtalk

Israeli MK and leader of the ‘Yesh Atid’ party Yair Lapid appeared on the BBC World News and BBC News Channel programme ‘Hardtalk‘ on October 21st. Readers in the UK can find the programme on BBC iPlayer here and a clip also appeared on the BBC News website.Hardtalk Lapid

Many of the questions posed by presenter Stephen Sackur during the interview provide an opportunity to look at the way in which inaccuracies, falsehoods and selective framing can be casually promoted by an interviewer.

In his introduction, Sackur frames audience views of the programme’s subject matter by depicting a wave of terror attacks carried out by Palestinians on mostly civilian Israelis as equivalent violence “between Israelis and Palestinians”, whilst portraying attacks in which people were deliberately sought out because of their ethnicity as “random” and their perpetrators as “suspects”. [all emphasis in bold added]

“The latest paroxysm of violence between Israelis and Palestinians has conjured up a host 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.”

In that last sentence Sackur refers – as is evident later on in the interview – to Haftom Zarhum who was killed during a terror attack at the main bus station in Be’er Sheva on October 18th. As the post-mortem showed, Zarhum’s death was actually caused by bullet wounds sustained when members of the security forces shot him after mistaking him for a second terrorist – but that does not prevent Sackur from promoting an inaccurate and context-free version of the story.

Sackur steers viewers towards a specific view of the cause of the current wave of terrorism in several ‘questions’, whilst again promoting the notions of equivalence and random attacks:

“Are you suggesting that the violence coming from the Palestinian side; that is the random stabbings we’ve seen – primarily stabbings – are you suggesting that it has nothing to do with the realities that Palestinians have to live with?”

“Of course that narrative may suit you but the Palestinians are quite clear. As Mahmoud Abbas has said, you know, ‘we are living’, he says, ‘under unbearable conditions’. And when that is the case, you get the kind of desperation – particularly amongst nihilistic young people – that results in the violence on your streets.”

Sackur manages to insert several ‘questions’ relating to a particular incident without providing viewers with a particularly important piece of context.

“Are you saying that some of the videos we have seen uploaded onto Youtube and elsewhere of Israeli police appearing to shoot in cold blood young Palestinians who appear to present no real and present threat – are you saying that those must be investigated and the police must be punished?”

“Have you seen the videos? Have you seen the killing of Fadi Aloon? You used the word justification earlier; are you saying to me that in the case of the young teen Fadi Aloon who was running toward the police, trying to get away from a mob who were baying for his blood and when the police apprehended him he ended up shot dead – are you telling me that was justified?”

Crucially, Sackur neglects to clarify to audiences that nineteen year-old Fadi Aloon had just stabbed a fifteen year-old boy when he was shot.

Sackur goes on to deliberately conflate terrorism with crime and imply Israeli institutional racism.

“But the bottom line is when people are committing crimes you don’t necessarily know whether they’re Jewish, whether they’re Muslim – whatever they are. Coming back to the words of the police chief; he says anyone who stabs a Jew is due to be killed. I mean, let’s face it; there are serious crimes in Israel that doesn’t involve Muslims. […] Do you think that the police chief would have said of a Jewish criminal that as soon as he commits any sort of crime like that he is due to be killed?”

The actual words of the Jerusalem police chief were spoken immediately following yet another terror attack – which Sackur again refrains from mentioning.

“Police said officers who ran to the scene “saw two Jewish men with stab wounds to their upper bodies. The policemen saw the terrorist with a knife in his hand and called on him to halt. The terrorist ran towards them with his weapon and the two cocked their weapons, fired at him and neutralized him.” […]

Jerusalem Police chief Moshe Edri praised the officers’ actions, and warned that anyone attacking civilians faced a similar fate.

“Policemen carried out their duties and arrived quickly. The terrorist was killed in under 90 seconds. Anyone who stabs Jews or hurts innocents — his due is to be killed,” Edri said.”

Sackur promotes the notion that Israeli politicians are to blame for “fear and anger” among the population while again inaccurately describing 29 year-old Haftom Zarhum as having been killed “by a mob” and giving a very tepid account of the terror attack in the bus station in which Sgt Omri Levy was killed:

“Did it give you any sort of pause when the young Eritrean man in Be’er Sheva was beaten to death by a mob who thought, wrongly, that he was involved in the shooting of an Israeli soldier? Did that make you wonder whether your message to the Israeli people was perhaps inflammatory and dangerous?”

“Senior politicians like you help to establish that fear and anger.”

Although he categorically states that Israelis have ‘dehumanised’ Palestinians (with no factual evidence provided for the claim), Sackur has nothing to say on the topic of whether those who shoot, stab or deliberately run over identifiably Jewish people have dehumanised their victims.

“Why do you think that – you called it a lynching – that kind of incident can happen in today’s Israel? Why is it, do you believe, that some Israelis have dehumanised the other – the Palestinians – to the point where they are prepared to engage in that sort of behavior?”

Viewers are told by Sackur that the “Palestinian leadership” (he doesn’t clarify whether that includes Hamas) is “committed” to the two-state solution.

“Of course the Palestinian leadership is committed to a search for a two-state solution. They say the problem is that Binyamin Netanyahu and his government have no intention of delivering a two-state solution and they say Netanyahu’s own words prove that because during the election campaign he made it quite plain: under his watch there would be no two-state solution.”

That very selective presentation of course fails to inform viewers that following the March 16th interview with NRG, Netanyahu later clarified his stance.

When Lapid tries to explain the significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people, Sackur interrupts:

“Jerusalem is also the site of the third holiest religious site in all of Islam. […] Palestinians see what has happened; they see the facts of the last ten years. Used to be only hundreds of Jews every year would make the ascent up onto the top of the Haram al Sharif, Noble Sanctuary, the Temple Mount – call it what you will. Now it is thousands. They see that the Ministry of Religious Affairs in your government is now offering prayers of service guidance to people for the top of the esplanade. To Palestinians it looks as though this idea that the government of Israel will guarantee the status quo as was is no longer true.”

BBC Watch has been unable to find any factual information pertaining to that claim that the Ministry of Religious Services – as it is actually titled – “is now offering prayers of service guidance to people for the top of the esplanade”. The Israeli government, as Lapid notes, has repeatedly clarified that there is no intention of changing the status quo on Temple Mount. 

Once again donning his Palestinian advocate hat, Sackur also misleads viewers on the topic of construction.

“Let’s talk about settlements too because you say, you know, what’s happening today has nothing to do with the facts on the ground but the Palestinians beg to differ and they point to the massive growth of settlement activity over the last decade. Now, most of their towns across the West Bank, ringed by Jewish settlements.”

Had Sackur consulted the BBC’s favourite Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, he would know that:

“In fact, since Netanyahu became prime minister in 2009, there has been less construction activity in the settlements than under any other prime minister since 1995.

According to data from the Housing and Construction Ministry, an average of 1,554 houses a year were built in the settlements from 2009 to 2014 — fewer than under any of his recent predecessors.

By comparison, the annual average was 1,881 under Ariel Sharon and 1,774 under Ehud Olmert. As for Ehud Barak, during his single full year as prime minister, in 2000, he built a whopping 5,000 homes in the settlements.”

So Sackur’s claim of “massive growth of settlement activity over the last decade” is as inaccurate and misleading as his claim that most Palestinian towns are “ringed” – i.e. surrounded – by “Jewish settlements” and that has happened within the last ten years.

During this interview, Sackur claims that Palestinian interviewees on Hardtalk are ‘challenged’.

“Believe me; we challenge the Palestinians on the language they use….”

Readers wishing to judge for themselves whether that claim is true can find several interviews with figures such as Saeb Erekat and Suha Arafat here. Notably, Erekat was not challenged when he told ‘Hardtalk’ audiences that there is such a thing as “the ’67 borders” and Stephen Sackur had nothing to say about Erekat’s claim to be “a Canaanite”. 

So, while this may have been an interview with an Israeli politician, BBC audiences were also treated to selective framing, omission of relevant context and the promotion of inaccurate information which was not only materially misleading but would clearly influence their views of the subjects selected for discussion and the wider topic in general.

 

 

 

What will the BBC’s ‘historical record’ of the October terror wave look like?

As we already know, on Friday October 16th the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet was out and about in Jerusalem. Another of the filmed interviews she conducted on that day was posted on the BBC News website under the title “Palestinian student: Israeli restrictions are ‘very oppressive’“.Doucet filmed int Awad

Hamas had already declared that day to be yet another ‘Day of Rage’ and the Israeli security forces had taken steps to try to reduce the possibility of violence.

“Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip but has a lesser presence in the Palestinian Authority-ruled West Bank, has called for another “Day of Rage” on Friday and for Palestinians to march on Israeli checkpoints after noon prayers. Hamas had also called for a “Day of Rage” on Tuesday, when three Israelis were killed and several others wounded in a series of attacks in Jerusalem and Ra’anana.

Police announced Thursday night that access to Friday prayers to the flashpoint Temple Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, would be restricted to Muslim men over 40 and women of all ages. A similar restriction was put in place last week.”

Whilst that all-important context may have been provided to viewers of Doucet’s report on BBC television news programmes, it is not in evidence in the website version – which of course is the one which will remain as part of the BBC’s “historical record”.

The report’s synopsis states:

“A Palestinian student has criticised the restrictions Israel has placed on Palestinians, saying they are “very oppressive”.

Majd Awad said that “people are feeling so angry”.

Israeli authorities have been preventing men under the age of 40 from entering the al-Aqsa mosque, which Mr Awad said is “not just a religious symbol” but also a political one and a point of Palestinian identity.”

Visitors to the BBC News website searching for “historical record” in the years to come will find the following context-free ‘information’ provided by Doucet’s interviewee.

“Well, as Palestinians they find it to be very oppressive what they [Israel] are doing. They [Israel] cutting off all roads. Like, in my whole life I never saw the street empty before. They’re not allowing anyone to enter there [Temple Mount] under the age of 40 [age restrictions applied to men only – Ed.]. For them al Aqsa Mosque is something like….not just religious symbol. It’s also political and identity. So they need to go there and see it and for them to be deprived from go over there – to be in their holy place – they feel very angry, very resentful, hateful. So I don’t think those checkpoints and cutting off all those roads will do anything besides escalating the situation.”

Lyse Doucet remains mute, providing no context concerning the declared ‘Day of Rage’ or the terror attacks which had taken place in the days preceding that interview and resulted in seven Israeli fatalities. Her interviewee goes on:

“This whole situation started – and I’m not justifying what’s going on – unfortunate that this is happening. Nobody wants this escalate like this. Unfortunately people are scared that this holy site – this identity that they have since 1,400 years ago – they don’t want it to be divided. They don’t want their holy places to be divided between them and the Jews. They want just to keep it. That’s what they want to have.”

Doucet stays silent, failing to clarify to viewers that not only are there elements which obviously do want the situation to “escalate like this” (such as those calling for ‘Days of Rage’), but that the conspiracy theories concerning the status quo at Temple Mount are utterly baseless.

And that is the picture of the events of October 2015 in Israel which will remain available to British students, academics, teachers and members of the general public in the BBC’s archive of “historical record”.

 

BBC News gets Israel’s capital city right – and then ‘corrects’

The saga of the BBC’s persistent refusal to tell its audiences that the capital city of Israel is Jerusalem is of course already long. Its most recent chapter began with a television report broadcast on BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ on October 14th.

As seen in the video below, diplomatic correspondent Mark Urban rightly referred to Jerusalem as “Israel’s capital” towards the end of the report (6:57).

Two days later, the following announcement appeared on the BBC’s online ‘corrections & clarifications’ page.

Urban report 14 10

The BBC is not the first UK media organization to publish such a ‘correction’.  

Those following the link in that announcement will find the following:

“The BBC does not call Jerusalem the ‘capital’ of Israel, though of course BBC journalists can report that Israel claims it as such. If you need a phrase you can call it Israel’s ‘seat of government’, and you can also report that all foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv. This position was endorsed by the findings of a BBC Trust complaints hearing published in February 2013.”

Those wishing to understand why the BBC refuses to call even the parts of Jerusalem which were not occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967 the capital of Israel can find the background to that policy decision here.

““The [BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards] Committee noted that while there is no expectation that in a two-state solution West Jerusalem would become Palestinian territory, a UN resolution passed in 1947 has not been rescinded. It calls for the whole of Jerusalem to be an international city, a corpus separatum (similar to the Vatican City), and in that context, technically, West Jerusalem is not Israeli sovereign territory. “

Yes, you read that correctly: the highest BBC body charged with ensuring the corporation’s adherence to editorial standards (including those of accuracy and impartiality) claims that the 1947 UN Partition Plan – aka UN GA resolution 181– has some sort of relevance or validity and based upon that gross misinterpretation, presumes to dictate that a city in which there has been a Jewish majority since the nineteenth century “is not Israeli sovereign territory”.”

On the scale of pomposity it is rather difficult to decide which is more jarring: the BBC’s belief that it is qualified to dictate what is – or is not – the sovereign territory and the capital city of a foreign country or the corporation’s no less bizarre belief that it has both the authority and expertise to decide what is – and is not – antisemitism. 

Explaining away terror BBC Bowen style – part two

In part one of this post we noted that two recent reports from the BBC’s Middle East editor featured interviews with members of the families of two terrorists killed whilst carrying out attacks in Jerusalem.

Both those terrorists – and many others – were motivated by incitement based on conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount and al Aqsa Mosque and hence one would have expected the person charged with providing BBC audiences with “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” to offer them factual background information on how that incitement is propagated, by whom and to what ends.

Jeremy Bowen’s presentation of the issue of incitement in his written report  – “Jerusalem knife attacks: Fear and loathing in holy city“- is as follows:Bowen written Manasra

“The Israeli government blames the attacks on incitement by political and religious extremists. A video has circulated of a Muslim cleric in Gaza waving a knife and calling on Palestinians to slit the throats of Jews.”

And:

“The last straw has been the widespread belief that Israel is planning to allow Jews more access to the compound of the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which Palestinians call the Noble Sanctuary and Israelis call the Temple Mount. […]

The Israeli government denies that it plans to change the status quo around the Aqsa Mosque. It maintains that agitators have incited trouble by spreading baseless rumours.

But the perceived threat to the Noble Sanctuary is widely believed by Palestinians…”

In the filmed report – “Middle East violence: ‘Grief cuts across divided Jerusalem’” – viewers are told by Bowen that:Bowen filmed Manasra

“The Israelis deny that they want Jews, who venerate the site [Temple Mount], to worship there too. Palestinians don’t believe them. That’s a major reason for the anger on the streets across the Palestinian territories.”

And:

“Israel says Palestinian leaders tell lies to incite riots and the killing of Jews. Palestinians say they don’t need to be told when to be angry.”

Later on in the report, viewers hear an Israeli police spokesman say:

“We’re talking about a small number within the Israeli-Arab population that unfortunately is both listening to the incitement that is being put out on the internet as well as by different organisations.”

In other words, in neither of these reports is the issue of incitement concerning Temple Mount explained to BBC audiences in Jeremy Bowen’s own voice. Instead – as has been the case in much other recent BBC reporting – that topic is presented exclusively as something which “Israel says” or “Israel maintains” and audiences are given no tools with which they can assess whether what “Israel says” is correct or not.

Like his colleagues, Bowen refrains from showing his audiences examples of that incitement on the internet, on social media (including accounts run by Palestinian organisations such as Fatah and Hamas), on official PA television and official PA newspapers. As has long been the case – even before this latest wave of terrorism – Bowen refrains from clarifying to BBC audiences that incitement concerning holy sites in Jerusalem is coming from differing sectors of Palestinian society – including the PA president, Palestinian Authority ministries and religious leaders.

Bowen also refrains from telling BBC audiences about the long history of the exploitation of the topic of Temple Mount for purposes of incitement and makes no effort to examine why that particular subject is so potent or what the aims of those employing such incitement are.

Significantly, neither he nor his colleagues have to date made any effort to independently inform their audiences worldwide that there is no basis to those conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount and al Aqsa Mosque. Moreover, Bowen opens this filmed report with promotion of an inaccuracy which has been seen in other recent BBC content but, when coming from a supposed expert responsible for the accuracy and impartiality of the world’s largest broadcaster’s Middle East content, is particularly remarkable.

“Jerusalem: city of beauty, sanctity and hate. Its holy places are at the centre of the conflict. Only Muslims can pray in the compound around the golden Dome of the Rock at the Aqsa Mosque.” [emphasis added]

The Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa Mosque are two of many structures in existence on an enclosed area known by Muslims as Haram al Sharif and Jews and Christians as Temple Mount. That entire area is not al Aqsa Mosque, even if some interested parties with a very clear political/religious agenda would like to claim otherwise for the purpose of denying Jewish history in Jerusalem.

The fact that we have seen repeated cases of adoption and promotion of that narrative from assorted BBC correspondents over the past few weeks raises considerable cause for concern with regard to the BBC’s ability to report on this very sensitive topic to audiences in the UK and worldwide accurately and responsibly.

However, whilst the BBC’s Middle East editor avoids providing audiences with comprehensive information on the issue of incitement, he does use his own words – together with paraphrasing of anonymous sources – to tell them what they should see as the cause of the current violence. In the written article, for example, readers are told that:

“Jerusalem has been simmering dangerously for two years or more. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been asserting what it believes is its national right to build homes for Jewish Israelis wherever it decides they are needed in a city that it calls its undivided, eternal capital.

The government’s backing for the expansion of settlements in the sections of Jerusalem captured during the 1967 war, and classified as occupied territory by most of the rest of the world, has transformed some districts.

Palestinians feel they are being squeezed out of their home. They believe that their territory is being eaten up by Israel’s appetite for land, and loath what they see as a national ideology designed to enforce the dominance of Israel and Judaism. […]

Jews have settled alongside areas that were wholly populated by Palestinians, in some cases right in the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods.”

Bowen even promotes a spurious link between incitement concerning Temple Mount and Israeli construction.

“But the perceived threat to the Noble Sanctuary is widely believed by Palestinians, not least because it comes when Israeli settlements in occupied Jerusalem have been expanding.”

It is unclear upon what factual information Bowen bases that claim of ‘expansion’ because not only do official figures document construction in all of Jerusalem without differentiation between its various districts, but the available statistics for building up to the end of the second quarter of 2015 show no sign of “expanding” construction beyond the usual rate throughout the last four years and figures for the third quarter of 2015 are not yet available.

Besides ‘settlements’, Bowen promotes additional themes as explanations for the current violence in both his reports. In the written article readers are told that:

“Many Palestinians have told me they believe the reason for the attacks is that another generation is realising its future prospects will be crippled by the indignities and injustice of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. […]

Israel’s use of considerable force in defence of its people also causes anger. The shooting dead of some assailants has been condemned, not least by the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.”

And:

“Violence does not come out of the blue. It has a context. Once again, the problem is the unresolved conflict between Palestinians and Jews. It is at the heart of all the violence that shakes this city.

A big part of the conflict is the military occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, that has lasted for nearly 50 years. It is impossible to ignore the effects of an occupation that is always coercive and can be brutal.

In successive Palestinian generations, it has created hopelessness and hatred. In some cases, that bursts out into murderous anger.”

Similar themes are promoted in Bowen’s filmed report:

“Palestinians say they don’t need to be told when to be angry after almost fifty years of an occupation that is always coercive and often brutal”

“Palestinians get constant reminders that Israel is in charge. It can mean a lifetime of humiliations. […] For some, that produces a murderous rage.”

These two reports present audiences with two categories of ‘context’ for the current wave of terrorism in Israel. One the one hand, Bowen gives a completely inadequate representation of the issue of incitement concerning holy sites, presented exclusively using the “Israel says” formula which signals to audiences that he and his organisation do not stand behind it.

On the other hand we see Jeremy Bowen using his own voice – and reputation – to persuade audiences that the explanation for the violence is to be found in a “military occupation” which includes “settlements” and causes “humiliation”, pushing apparently agency-free Palestinians towards “murderous rage”. 

Obviously any explanation of why that ‘occupation’ came about or what was the status of the geographical areas concerned before the Jordanian occupation (which Bowen naturally refrains from mentioning) would detract from the narrative he is trying to promote and so audiences are deprived of that context and left with the take-away message that Israelis are to blame for the terrorism against them.

Jeremy Bowen’s choice of politically motivated narrative is cringingly obvious. The problem is that there is another, much older and deeper story here which predates ‘occupation’ and ‘settlements’ and is related to the issue of incitement concerning Temple Mount. That is a story which Bowen and his colleagues have avoided telling BBC audiences, not just in these two reports and not only over the last few weeks, but for a very long time indeed.

Explaining away terror BBC Bowen style – part one

Two recent reports by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen – the man responsible for providing his employer’s audiences with “analysis that might help set it [news] in its context” – included interviews with the father of one of the teenage terrorists from the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina who stabbed a man and a thirteen year-old boy in nearby Pisgat Ze’ev on October 12th.

In an article titled “Jerusalem knife attacks: Fear and loathing in holy city“, which appeared on October 15th and remained in the BBC News website’s Middle East page’s ‘Features’ section for five consecutive days, readers once again saw politicised terminology used to describe the neighbourhood of Pisgat Ze’ev.Bowen written Manasra

“When I met Khaled Mahania, the father of 15-year-old Hassan Mahania, who attacked and badly wounded young Israelis in a settlement in East Jerusalem, he is unable to explain.

Hassan was shot dead as he carried out the attack; his 13-year-old cousin and accomplice was run down by a car and badly hurt.

The Israeli government blames the attacks on incitement by political and religious extremists. A video has circulated of a Muslim cleric in Gaza waving a knife and calling on Palestinians to slit the throats of Jews.

Khaled Mahania told me he had not replaced his son’s smartphone since he broke it last year. He had no mobile internet access, and none at home.

Khaled had even thrown out the TV because he believed his children should read and talk to each other. Khaled broke down as he said his son was a typical teenager, not political and certainly no radical.”

In other words, readers are encouraged to believe that the “typical teenager” and his cousin were not influenced by “a video” (apparently the only example of incitement of which Bowen is aware, despite there being dozens of others in various media) because he did not have a mobile phone, internet access or a TV.

Interestingly, the terrorist’s family name has been given as Manasra by most media outlets and official sources – rather than ‘Mahania’, as used by Bowen. However, one place which does use the name “Mahayneh-Manasra” is the website of the Wadi Hilweh Information Centre – a highly partisan organisation which has been used by Bowen as a source of information in the past. Of course if the information about the current wave of terrorism in Israel being provided to BBC audiences is coming, even in part, from a body with a record of anti-Israel activity and links to similarly inclined organisations, then that should be clarified to audiences. 

In a similarly themed filmed report produced for BBC Television news programmes and promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Middle East violence: ‘Grief cuts across divided Jerusalem’” on October 16th, Bowen tells viewers:Bowen filmed Manasra

“Hassan Mahania [sic] aged 15 was shot dead after he stabbed two young Israelis and attacked the police. His father Khaled can’t understand where, as a parent, he went wrong.”

Footage then cuts to the weeping father saying:

“I don’t know. Really, I don’t know.”

But Bowen fails to bring his audience’s attention to the fact that the image appearing on screen as he leads into that segment shows a ‘martyrdom poster’ with a photo of Hassan Manasra together with a large picture of the Dome of the Rock. He fails to tell viewers that, for example, two days after the terror attack in Pisgat Ze’ev, the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education glorified terror by planting trees in honour of ‘student martyrs’ such as Manasra. And he avoids informing BBC audiences that Hassan Manasra’s cousin and accomplice Ahmed Manasra (later exploited by Mahmoud Abbas for even more incitement) provided insight into their motivations.

““I went there to stab Jews,” he told investigators at the Hadassah Hospital where doctors have been treating him for wounds he sustained during the incident, police said.

Manasra said he was motivated to carry out the attack by the Palestinian claim that Israel has been trying to change the status quo on the volatile Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”

Likewise, Bowen ignores long-standing issues such as terror groups’ activities in Arab areas of Jerusalem and delegitimisation of Israel and incitement in schools – an issue now being investigated in schools in Beit Hanina attended by the Manasra cousins and an additional perpetrator of one of the recent terror attacks.

In the same filmed report Bowen also visited the family of another terrorist who, on October 13th, carried out this attack:

“On Malkhei Yisrael Street in Geula, a terrorist drove a car into a bus stop, hitting three pedestrians – one of whom, 60-year-old Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky, was killed. The terrorist then left the vehicle and started repeatedly stabbing his victims.” 

Bowen’s description of the incident is as follows:

“He [Rabbi Krishevsky] was killed last Tuesday when a Palestinian rammed his car into a bus queue.”

He continues:

“The rabbi’s killer, who was shot dead, came from Jabel Mukaber in occupied East Jerusalem. He was Alaa Abu Jamal who snapped; ground down by the occupation according to his cousin Wawiya [phonetic]. He wants peace, even though his house has just been destroyed in an Israeli reprisal against his brother who killed five Israelis last year.”

Bowen does not clarify that the incident “last year” is the terror attack in Har Nof in which worshippers at prayer in a synagogue were hacked to death by cousins Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal from Jabel Mukaber. Neither does he tell viewers that Alaa Abu Jamal was an Israeli citizen who worked for the telephone company Bezek and used his company car to carry out the attack or that following the terror attack committed by his relatives last November in Har Nof, Alaa Abu Jamal publicly praised it, describing the attack as:

“…”something normal which could be expected from anyone who is brave and has a feeling of belonging to his people and Islam.

 “This act was carried out because of the pressure placed on the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation government in Jerusalem, as well as the continued acts of aggression against al-Aqsa,” he continued.

Following the axe attack that killed four worshipers and a policeman, Abu Jamal said: “People reacted with cries of joy when we received word of their death. People here handed out sweets to guests who came to visit us, and it was a great celebration for our martyrs.””

Clearly both the terrorists highlighted by Bowen in these two reports were influenced by the religiously themed incitement concerning Temple Mount. But did the BBC’s Middle East editor clarify that point to viewers and readers of these two reports and did his ‘analysis’ include any attempt to explain how that incitement is spread, by whom and to what end? Those questions will be examined in part two of this post.