BBC Education ignores assault on free speech at UCL

As readers may be aware, a talk by an Israeli speaker at University College London (UCL) on October 27th, which was organised by CAMERA on Campus together with student groups from that university and King’s College London (KCL), was disrupted by anti-Israel activists. Members of the audience were intimidated and harassed and eventually had to be evacuated by the police.

“Police had to accompany Jewish students from a lecture hall at a London university after they were trapped by anti-Israel protesters. […]

Officers entered the room and carried out an evacuation of members of UCL’s Friends of Israel group amid chaotic scenes.

Demonstrators had entered the room to fly Palestinian flags and chant. The event was being live-streamed online and the disruption was clear on the video footage, with protesters banging on windows and screaming “Palestine! Palestine!”.”

A first-hand account of the incident can be found here. This latest pre-planned disruption aimed at closing down free speech for an Israeli speaker at a British university has been condemned by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and additional Jewish groups as well as by Sir Eric Pickles. The university has announced that it will carry out an inquiry into the incident.education-page

The incident of course received wide media coverage, including from many of the UK’s prominent outlets such as the Times, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Independent, the Express, the Evening Standard and LBC.

However, members of the BBC’s funding public looking for that story on the corporation’s website – including the regional and ‘Education‘ pages – over the last four days would not have come across any coverage of the incident whatsoever.

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Mangled statistics in BBC’s US Election in Israel reports

On October 27th the BBC News website published two filmed reports (apparently also shown on BBC television programmes) concerning the upcoming election in the United States.us-election-first-report

A video headlined “US election: How Israelis view the presidential contest” appeared on the website’s Middle East page as well as on its page titled ‘US Election 2016’ and its synopsis reads as follows:

“Israelis have been watching the US presidential election closely, with many focusing on how the candidates stand on bilateral relations, the stalled peace process with the Palestinians, and regional security issues.

The BBC asks Israelis how they would vote.”

The vast majority of Israelis are of course not entitled to vote in the US election and so that question actually has no practical relevance. Nevertheless (and despite the above claim that “the BBC asks Israelis”), in that video BBC audiences were presented with statistics credited to “The Peace Index”.

us-election-vid-1

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However, examination of the original data (see ‘Data File’) on ‘The Peace Index’ website shows that the BBC has misrepresented the information by claiming that those statistics relate to “Israeli” opinions when in fact they only represent the results obtained from Jewish Israelis who make up 74.8% of the country’s total population. 

“At this time a clear majority (55%) of the Jewish public holds the opinion that Hillary Clinton will win the U.S. presidential elections, while only 25% believe that Donald Trump will be elected (note that the survey was conducted before the publication of the “hot-mic tape”). With a smaller but still considerable disparity, a majority of the public (42%) thinks that from Israel’s standpoint it is preferable for Clinton to be elected, while 26.5% see it as preferable for Trump to be elected. At the same time, an overwhelming majority (63% vs. 8%) assesses that if Clinton is elected she will exert heavier pressure on the Israeli government to renew the negotiations with the Palestinians. Among the Arab interviewees the picture is very similar: 57% anticipated that Clinton would be elected, 41% saw her as preferable from Israel’s standpoint, but only 30% thought she would exert stronger pressure on Israel regarding the conflict with the Palestinians. The highest rate (34%) of the Arab interviewees assessed that neither of the two candidates for the U.S. presidency will exert pressure on Israel to return to the negotiating table.”

peace-index-data

Another filmed report headlined “Who are Israeli-Americans supporting in the US election?” appeared very briefly on the BBC News website’s Middle East page as well as on the ‘US Election 2016’ page.fessy-report-us-election

In the synopsis BBC audiences are told that:

“The US election campaign has been followed around the world.

Israel is perhaps one of the countries where the vote will be most closely watched.

In fact, it is being keenly fought there too, among the estimated 300,000 American citizens who have settled in Israel, America’s key ally in the region.

American-Israelis are thought to have traditionally favoured the Republican Party and Trump supporters have been particularly active on the ground hoping that absentees registered in some of the swing states could make a difference.

Thomas Fessy reports from Jerusalem.” [emphasis added]

In the report itself Thomas Fessy shows a debate between Republicans and Democrats in Jerusalem and tells viewers that:

“….both sides [are] courting up to two hundred thousand potential voters.” [emphasis added]

Viewers are not told where the numbers 300,000 and 200,000 come from but a report from the Times of Israel suggests that they are not based on official US figures.

“According to American officials, it is unclear exactly how many American citizens live in Israel, how many register to vote, and how many actually send in their ballots.

“We actually don’t track the number of American citizens in Israel. It is really impossible to know at any given time how many there are,” the US ambassador in Tel Aviv, Dan Shapiro, said Thursday.” 

The same report informs us that:

“It is generally assumed, based on surveys and exit polls, that up to 80,000 US citizens living in Israel cast absentee ballots in 2012, which marked a drastic increase from 2008, when only 30,000 voted.”

And as for the number of dual American-Israeli citizens who have actually engaged in the process which would make them “potential voters” – opinions vary.

“In an interview Thursday with The Times of Israel, the co-chair of the Republicans’ Israel branch, Marc Zell, acknowledged that “nobody really knows” the exact numbers of Israelis registered to vote. But he insisted that, according to his assessment, the number must be somewhere between 100,00 and 120,000. […]

…US law requires Americans living abroad to request an absentee ballot before every single election. That means that even if 80,000 Israelis voted four years ago, it should not be taken for granted that they would automatically do so this year as well.

“Past numbers of overseas voters are not a valid indicator and should not be used for predictions about 2016,” said Eitan Charnoff, the national director of I Vote Israel, a nonprofit encouraging US expats to make use of their right to vote and helping them navigate the complicated registration process.

So far, Charnoff said Thursday in an interview, I Vote Israel has assisted only about 12,000 Americans in Israel who requested absentee ballots for the 2016 election. He noted, however, that “the final number is very likely to be higher than that, because many people are choosing to vote last minute who previously had not considered voting.” […]

Chaim Waxman, a former sociology professor at Rutgers University who now lives in Jerusalem, said he strongly doubts that 120,000 American-Israelis registered to vote in this election.

“I find it extremely difficult to believe it’s anywhere near that figure. I believe the numbers of voters from Israel will not be higher, possibly even lower than in the past,” he told The Times of Israel on Thursday.”

The BBC’s presentation of figures and statistics in these two reports obviously fails to meet editorial standards of accuracy. 

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BBC News gives a whitewashed account of ‘controversial’ meeting in House of Lords

On October 27th the BBC News website’s UK Politics page ran an article headlined “Lib Dems suspend peer over controversial meeting“. Readers of the second version of the report were informed that:tonge-art

“A former Lib Dem MP has had her membership of the party suspended after chairing a meeting criticised as “shameful” by the Israeli embassy.

Baroness Tonge, who was already sitting as an independent peer, said she would now quit the party for good.”

Readers trying to understand why that meeting in the House of Lords was “controversial” and “shameful” had to make do with the following thirty-two word explanation:

“One person at the meeting reportedly compared Israel to so-called Islamic State. […]

The Jewish Chronicle reported that another audience member had implied an American rabbi had provoked Hitler into murdering Jews.”

A more comprehensive account of the proceedings is provided by David Collier, who was present at the event.

With regard to the purpose of the meeting, BBC News website readers were given the following vague description:

“The event, in the House of Lords, was organised by the Palestinian Return Centre as part of its campaign calling for the UK Government to “officially apologise for its past colonial crimes in Palestine”.”

In fact – as the PRC’s promotional material for the event clearly states – the meeting was part of an ongoing campaign by the PRC (and others – as the BBC has already partly reported) to get Britain to specifically ‘apologise’ for the Balfour Declaration rather than for any generalised “colonial crimes”.

“The Palestinian Return Centre is hosting an event inside the UK Parliament a week ahead of the 99th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration which will be on November 2nd. The Balfour Declaration, which had no basis of legal authority, promised the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, where the indigenous Palestinians amounted to 90% of the total population.

After the Balfour Declaration Palestine became the victim of colonialism and Britain’s legacy is still evident today as Palestinians continue to be denied the right to self-determination and suffer from living under military occupation or as refugees. As the 100th year since the Balfour declaration approaches, the Palestinian Return Centre has decided to re-launch its campaign which started in 2013 called Balfour Apology Campaign which asks the UK Government to officially apologies for its past colonial crimes in Palestine.”

The BBC’s portrayal of the aim of the event therefore conceals the real agenda of the campaign of which this meeting was part: an agenda recently described by David Horovitz at the Times of Israel.

“The Balfour Declaration sought to restore a Jewish homeland while respecting the interests of the non-Jews who share this land. Thirty years later, the UN set out a specific framework for achieving this. This was not acceptable to the Arabs of Palestine and those who spoke for them at the time, since their desire for a first-ever Palestinian state was outweighed by their hostility to the notion of a revived Jewish state alongside them. And it is all too evidently not acceptable to the Palestinian leadership now.

In declaring diplomatic and legal war on the Balfour Declaration, Palestinian leaders are telling the world — to their and our enduring misfortune — that nothing has changed in 100 years, that their opposition to our state in any borders remains greater than their desire for their own independent entity. A century later, they are affirming that their refusal to share any part of this land with the Jewish people remains absolute.”

Readers would of course also have been in a better position to understand that agenda had they been given any background information about the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) and told of its connections to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood or the additional activities of individuals connected to that London-based organisation which has been banned in Israel since 2010.

Neither were readers informed of Jenny Tonge’s record of previous collaboration with the PRC and its various spin-offs which, as the Times recently reported, included a 2009 PRC paid trip to Syria to meet Bashar al Assad.

“Lady Tonge accompanied Mr Corbyn on the PRC trip to Syria in 2009. Mr Corbyn used the visit to allege that “once again the Israeli tail wags the US dog”, an allegation popular with conspiracy theorists and antisemites. […]

The politicians met Assad and thanked him for housing half a million Palestinian refugees since 1948.”

Remarkably, this BBC report gives uncritical amplification to Jenny Tonge’s advancement of a well-worn trope concerning ‘powerful’ Jews:

“Speaking to the BBC, Baroness Tonge blamed the “power of the Israel lobby” and its sway over UK political parties for her suspension.”

As David Aaronovitch noted at the Sunday Times:

“Ten years ago the baroness did the old one about Jewish financial power in the form of “the pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips”. She got a reprimand from her party leader for it. Six years ago it was the ancient blood libel (Jews kill gentiles for their blood or body parts, see also under Shylock), when she demanded an inquiry into absurd allegations that an Israeli aid mission to Haiti was harvesting organs from Haitians. She lost a front bench job for that.”

One might therefore have expected the BBC to provide readers with some obviously relevant context concerning Tonge’s ignominious record of antisemitic statements – and to be able to recognise (and identify as such) a version of the Jewish lobby trope before promoting it in a quote. But sadly, the BBC’s own record on that particular topic has long been disturbingly dismal.

Related Articles:

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The UN, the PRC and Hamas: a postscript with a twist

Weekend long read

1) At the Jewish News, Dave Rich comments on the UK Parliament Home Affairs Select Committee report on antisemitism which was published earlier this month.Weekend Read

“However, it would be a grave error to be complacent, and the report points out exactly why. Some police forces still do not appear to record anti-Semitic hate crime properly. The amount of hate and abuse on social media is enormous and nobody – not the social media companies themselves, nor the police or CPS – has yet found a solution to it.

The National Union of Students comes in for particular criticism, and rightly so: Jewish students need to be allowed to lead the campaign against anti-Semitism on campus, rather than being preached to about what is, and isn’t, anti-Semitic.”

2) Ben Cohen brings us another review of Dave Rich’s very timely new book titled “The Left’s Jewish Problem” at the Tower.

“Rich makes a persuasive case that the Young Liberal model of anti-Zionism—in essence, uncritical support of Palestinian discourse and political and military actions—enjoyed an impact on British views on the Palestinian question that continues today. It certainly exercised a greater appeal upon activists like Ghada Karmi, as well as the parliamentarians who took up the Palestinian cause in growing numbers during the 1970s. As Rich says,

‘In the 1970s, groups like Palestine Action, the Palestine Solidarity campaign and the Free Palestine newspaper helped to establish the notion that Fatah and other Palestinian factions had the right to use violence, although they sometimes differed over the precise tactics used. Since then, attitudes ranging from sympathy for the motivations of terrorists to outright justification for their actions have spread beyond the radical left to become commonplace in mainstream left-wing and liberal thought.’

However, while this model of anti-Zionism studiously avoided Marxist critiques of the PLO and the Arab regimes as well as the possibilities for revolution within Israel, it did drift into discussions that were arguably more bizarre and certainly more disturbing than the notion of a socialist federation of Arab and Israeli workers. This is where Rich’s second decisive contribution comes to fore, in his discussion of the British Left’s attitude towards the Holocaust.”

Read the whole review here.

3) Writing at the Guardian, Howard Jacobson also discusses the implications of the Home Affairs Select Committee report.

“The mantra bedevilling reasonable conversation about Israel is that the Jews have only one motive in labelling anti-Zionism antisemitic and that is to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel. This assertion defames Jews, the majority of whom, in my experience, take issue not with the idea of legitimate criticism, but with what in any given instance “legitimacy” amounts to. Criticism is not an inviolable concept. It can be moderate or extreme, truthful or mendacious, well-intentioned or malign. To complain when it is unjust is not to shut down debate. It cannot be exorbitant to argue that what will determine whether criticism of Israel is antisemitic is the nature of the criticism.

The effect of a libel is to exhaust trust. It should not be automatically assumed that, when it comes to Israel, Jews are incapable of arguing honestly, an assumption that itself edges dangerously close to the racism that is being denied. We need to separate this from that. No, “legitimate” (that is to say fair and honest) criticism of Israel as a nation among nations does not amount to antisemitism. Anti-Zionism, on the other hand – the repudiation of Israel’s right to exist – almost invariably does.”

4) Also in relation to the Home Affairs Select Committee report, at the Huffington Post, Elliot Miller argues that “When It Comes To Antisemitism, The NUS Just Doesn’t Get It“.

“Unsurprisingly, the HASC report’s section on campus antisemitism refers to the well-known comments of NUS President Malia Bouattia, in which she described the University of Birmingham as a “Zionist Outpost.” The committee’s MPs have concluded that such behaviour – among many other incidents – smacks of outright racism. This is not to mention the scathing conclusion that Bouatia appeared not to have taken campus antisemitism “sufficiently seriously.” […]

While the report has admirably tried to draw attention to a generally ignored issue, the response to it among the student movement has not been encouraging. One open letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee in support of Malia Bouattia – signed by over 150 student leaders – encapsulates the problem of antisemitism among the student left.” 

Third time unlucky for BBC audiences trying to understand UNESCO charades

The BBC News website’s reporting on the latest ignominious resolution concerning Jerusalem that was adopted by UNESCO on October 26th was to be found tagged onto the end of a report concerning an archeological discovery titled “Jerusalem reference found on ancient wine ledger“. Readers were told that:jerusalem-papyrus

“The discovery was announced on Wednesday shortly after the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco) adopted a second resolution in a week that Israel said denied Judaism’s ties to Jerusalem.

The resolution, according to copies seen by news agencies, mentions only the Islamic name for a key holy site in the city known to Jews as the Temple Mount and al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) to Muslims.” [emphasis added]

According to the Times of Israel:

“A draft of the resolution obtained by The Times of Israel on Sunday once again referred to the Temple Mount compound solely by its Muslim names, “Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” and defined it only as “a Muslim holy site of worship.”

As the site of the biblical temples, the mount is the holiest place in Judaism. Unlike last week’s resolution, the draft likely to be adopted Wednesday will not mention the importance of Jerusalem’s Old City for “the three monotheistic religions.””

The BBC, however, was apparently incapable of informing audiences in its own words that such language does indeed deny the ties of Judaism (and Christianity) to Jerusalem, preferring instead to employ its jaded – and redundant – “Israel says” formula. The article closed:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised the “absurdity” of Wednesday’s decision and said he would recall his country’s ambassador to Unesco for consultations on how to proceed.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said the resolution was aimed “at reaffirming the importance of Jerusalem for the three monotheistic religions”.”

While amplifying that particular part of the PLO-NAD issued statement, the BBC failed to balance it by informing readers that officials from both Fatah and Hamas lauded the previous UNESCO resolution’s denial of Jewish history.  

“A spokesman for the Gaza-based terror group Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement that his group “welcomes” the resolution’s wording to the effect that “al-Aqsa is of purely Islamic heritage.” He said the decision marks a “victory for the Palestinian people.”

Abu Zuhri added that the UNSECO text “demolished the Israeli fiction” concerning the Temple Mount, the holy area Jews consider to be their most sacred place as the site of the two biblical temples.”

Readers were also not told of the threats issued by the Palestinian and Jordanian delegations to members of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee ahead of the vote.

As was the case in the BBC News website’s previous two reports concerning UNESCO (see ‘related articles’ below), audiences learned nothing of prior UNESCO motions and resolutions which have similarly erased Jewish ties to historic sites or of the all-important context of this latest UNESCO resolution in the long-standing Palestinian campaign to erase Jewish heritage and history as part of the tactical delegitimisation of Israel. 

With this being the third report concerning Palestinian and Arab abuse of the UNESCO forum for political ends that the BBC News website has produced in twelve days, it is by now very obvious that the corporation has no intention whatsoever of providing its funding public with the information which would enhance their understanding of this particular “international issue” – as its remit obliges.

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Another deficient BBC News report on UNESCO denial of Jewish heritage

BBC report on UNESCO row marred by lack of context and previous omission

BBC R4 programme on UNESCO omits negation of Jewish heritage

 

 

 

 

BBC News producer breaches impartiality guidelines on social media

BBC Editorial Guidelines on impartiality state:

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.  They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views in BBC output, including online, on such matters.”

The BBC’s guidance on social networking states:

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, News and Current Affairs staff should not:

  • advocate support for a particular political party;
  • express views for or against any policy which is a matter of current party political debate;
  • advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate.” [emphasis added]

A story which was not reported by the BBC but which was recently “an issue of current public controversy or debate” in Israel concerns the decision of the political NGO B’Tselem to participate in an informal session at the UN Security Council. As Ynet reported ahead of the session:

“The Palestinian delegation to the United Nations successfully initiated an informal meeting of the Security Council on Israeli settlements in the West Bank that is to be held on Friday and to be attended by representatives of B’Tselem.

According to the UN’s website, the “Arria-Formula meeting,” which is how Friday’s discussion has been defined, is a “very informal, confidential” meeting that enables “Security Council members to have a frank and private exchange of views.”

 It is believed that this meeting is the Palestinian delegation’s first step in a plan to have the Security Council issue a resolution against Israel regarding the settlements.

Friday’s meeting will take place at 10am EDT (5pm Israel time) and will be co-chaired by Angola, Egypt, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela. The meeting’s title is ‘illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and Two-State Solution.'”

Predictably, the participation of B’Tselem (which has received funding from UN bodies) in such an event created controversy, as did the actual messaging delivered by its director Hagai El-Ad to the forum. One Israeli politician declared his intention to weigh “the possibility of taking legal action against El-Ad to strip him of his Israeli citizenship”. That, of course, will not happen because not only was David Bitan subsequently advised that there is no legal basis for such action but parliamentarians from across the political spectrum – including his own party – publicly declared their opposition to any such move.  

Nevertheless, Bitan’s declaration did provide the opportunity for some PR posturing from B’Tselem’s director.

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And that second Tweet was given further amplification by BBC News producer “in Israel and the West Bank” Michael Shuval who went on to add his own commentary – notably and oddly, in English.

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Those Tweets clearly “advocate” a “particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate” and thus contradict the BBC’s guidance and compromise its impartiality. The fact that B’Tselem was the local political NGO most quoted and promoted by the BBC throughout 2015 and 2014 makes that lack of impartiality even more worthy of note.

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BBC Jerusalem bureau ignores a story that challenges its chosen narrative

Back in April the BBC’s Yolande Knell produced written, filmed and audio reports from Gush Etzion. None of those reports presented audiences with anything other than the corporation’s standard narrow portrayal of the factors supposedly underlying the Palestinian-Israeli conflict:

“Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and the expansion of settlements are often cited as reasons for Palestinian anger…”

Last week a journalist from the Washington Post also visited Gush Etzion to attend an event in the town of Efrat. efrat

“Efrat’s mayor, Oded Revivi, who is also a lieutenant colonel in the Israeli army reserve, invited Palestinians from surrounding villages to come to his house and celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, when the faithful gather in palm-roofed huts, a remembrance of the 40 years of wandering landless in the desert back in the time of Moses.

A couple of dozen Palestinians accepted the mayor’s invitation this week to share brownies, grapes, cookies, apples and coffee, alongside 30 Israeli settlers. This was a first. […]

One Palestinian stood and told the guests that he didn’t want to see the West Bank “turn into Syria.”

Another said he didn’t like “being lumped together with the terrorists.” […]

Ahmad Mousa, 58, a contractor from the neighboring Palestinian village of Wadi Al Nis, said, “We consider ourselves part of the family, part of the people of Efrat.”

You do not hear that much in the West Bank, at least not in public, with smartphone cameras rolling.

He said, “Seventy percent of our village works in Efrat. They treat us very well and we are very good to them, too.”

Noman Othman, 41, a construction worker from Wadi Al Nis, said this was his first time as a guest in a home in the settlement, although he had worked here for years, building houses.

“This is good,” he said. “Our relationship is evolving.”

Asked whether he bore any grudge against the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, now home to 400,000 settlers, which the Obama administration has condemned as “an obstacle to peace,” Othman said nope. He didn’t have any problem with Efrat.

If there was a Palestinian state someday, a dream Palestinians say is growing more distant, Othman said the Jews in Efrat “should stay on their land.”

He saw it this way: “These are their houses. They bought them with their own money. We should have no problem living together — if there is peace.”

Ali Musa, 49, came from the village of Al Khader. He told the gathering: “I came for a reason. I came to talk about our relationship, between you and us.”

He reminded his hosts that there is a locked yellow gate that blocks the entrance to his village, a closure enforced by Israeli security ­forces. “That gate should be removed,” Musa said.

He added: “And that racist sign? That should also be removed. It’s outrageous. It prevents our Jewish friends from visiting us.”

Musa was referring to the large red signs posted across the West Bank warning Israelis in capital letters that it is against the law and “dangerous to your lives” to enter “Area A,” cities and villages under full control of the Palestinian Authority.”

However, events later took a less positive turn when some of the Palestinian participants were arrested by the PA security forces.

“In a move against normalization with settlers, Palestinian Authority security forces have held four Palestinians from the village of Wadi al-Nis since Thursday after they visited Efrat council head Oded Revivi’s succa. […]

On Saturday night, Revivi said he was unable to determine what had happened to the four visitors from Wadi al-Nis.

“I’m sorry that human rights organizations have not spoken out about this situation,” he said.

In an interview with Wattan TV on Thursday, the PA’s Deputy Governor of Bethlehem Muhammad Taha said the incident was under investigation. The government, in coordination with the PA security forces, will hold these people accountable according to Palestinian law, he said.

Taha clarified that the participants will be dealt with through legal processes, and added that what they did is not a part of his people’s culture and upbringing.

“All Palestinians condemn the [visit], and visiting settlers is completely unacceptable,” he said.”

After being detained for four days, the men were finally released.

While BBC audiences are regularly and repeatedly instructed that “settlement expansion” endangers the possibility of peace between the Palestinians and Israel, they are rarely given insight into issues such as the Palestinian Authority’s incitement, glorification of terrorism and rejection of normal neighbourly relations between Palestinians and Israelis. Neither of course do the corporation’s audiences get to hear the kind of opinions voiced by the Palestinian guests in the Succa in Efrat because such voices which do not fit the BBC’s chosen narrative. 

The BBC’s job, however, is not to give weight to a specific political narrative but to provide its funding public with the full range of available information. 

 

 

BBC News passes up chance to explain why Israeli counter-terrorism measures exist

The BBC’s portrayal of the reasons for restrictions on entry to Israel from the Gaza Strip is usually at best superficial and at worst misleading and politically motivated. Two months ago, for example, Yolande Knell made opportunistic use of a story about the rescue of neglected animals from a Gaza zoo for the promotion of a deliberately incomplete representation of those travel restrictions that made no mention of the factor which necessitates them: Palestinian terrorism.

“In Khan Younis at the Mahali [phonetic] family home, the children show me their plastic zoo animals and I tell them Laziz [the tiger] is moving to South Africa.”

“Akram Mahali says daily life is a struggle. Neither he nor his six children have ever seen life outside Gaza and they’re not likely to any time soon. With Hamas in control of the Palestinian territory, both Israel and Egypt impose tight border restrictions and limit travel.”

Voiceover Mahali: “There is nothing nice in Gaza. Really if I could I would take them out. I wish I could. There is no money, no happy life and there is no work. There are power cuts. I see now the animals are living better than humans.”

Knell closed that radio report with the following loaded statement:

“Then, just after dawn, the animals leave Gaza. Their suffering will soon be over but they leave behind Palestinians who continue to feel trapped.”

That report was not atypical: in the past BBC audiences have seen or heard restrictions on the movement of people and specific categories of goods in and out of the Gaza Strip inaccurately described as “collective punishment” or a “siege”.

There is therefore all the more reason for the BBC – which claims to be impartial and is tasked with building audience understanding of “international issues” – to report stories which would help its audiences understand the real reasons for the counter-terrorism measures which include restrictions on entry to Israel from the Gaza Strip. One such story was recently cleared for publication.erez

“On 21 September 2016, at Erez Crossing, the ISA, in cooperation with the Israel Police, arrested Mahmoud Yusuf Hasin Abu Taha, a resident of Khan Younis, as he sought to enter Israel via the Erez Crossing ostensibly for commercial purposes.

During his investigation it was learned that he led a terrorist cell guided by Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, and had been planning to carry out a large-scale terrorist attack at an events hall in the south and to abduct and murder an IDF soldier for bargaining purposes. 
 
It was also learned that Mahmoud Yusuf Hasin Abu Taha had been recruited by Wael Sufiyan Abu Taha, a senior Islamic Jihad terrorist, who resides in Gaza, and who had directed him to establish a military infrastructure and prepare to carry out the aforementioned attacks. Mahmoud Yusuf Hasin Abu Taha, in turn, recruited three additional cohorts who have also been arrested”.

Unsurprisingly, the BBC did not find that story newsworthy.

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BBC waives another chance to explain why Gaza’s naval blockade exists

 

BBC News still unsure about Iranian involvement in Yemen

In recent weeks the BBC has produced two backgrounders concerning the ongoing war in Yemen.

An article headlined “Yemen crisis: Who is fighting whom?” was promoted in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 14th and a week later – on October 21st – a filmed item titled “Yemen crisis: ‘The forgotten war’” also appeared on the same page, as well as on BBC television.yemen-mai-norman

Both those items include statements relating to Iranian involvement in the conflict in Yemen. In the filmed report Mai Norman tells viewers:

“But just like Syria and Iraq, regional power struggles are also at play and in the Middle East that almost always means Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Saudis back Hadi and they accuse Iran – a Shia country – of supporting the Houthis.” [emphasis added]

Readers of the written article are told that:

“Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states began an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr Hadi’s government.” […]

“The conflict between the Houthis and the elected government is also seen as part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.

Gulf Arab states have accused Iran of backing the Houthis financially and militarily, though Iran has denied this, and they are themselves backers of President Hadi.” [emphasis added]yemen-backgrounder

This is not the first time that audiences have seen the BBC’s apparent inability to inform its audiences whether or not the Houthis in Yemen are backed by Iran expressed in such vague and unhelpful language. A similar portrayal was found in a backgrounder titled “Yemen crisis: Who are the Houthis?” that was originally published in September 2014 and which was later replaced with an earlier version of this latest written backgrounder. In April 2015 BBC audiences saw further ambiguous portrayal in two articles and the following month they were told that the role of Iran in Yemen is ‘over-emphasised’.

Both before and since the March 2015 escalation of the conflict in Yemen, numerous reports concerning Iranian support for the Houthis have emerged (see ‘related articles’ below). Reuters recently reported a rise in the supply of weapons from Iran.

“Iran has stepped up weapons transfers to the Houthis, the militia fighting the Saudi-backed government in Yemen, U.S., Western and Iranian officials tell Reuters, a development that threatens to prolong and intensify the 19-month-old war. […]

“We are aware of a recent increased frequency of weapons shipments supplied by Iran, which are reaching the Houthis via the Omani border,” a Western diplomat familiar with the conflict told Reuters.

Three U.S. officials confirmed that assertion.

One of those officials, who is familiar with Yemen, said that in the past few months there had been a noticeable increase in weapons-smuggling activity.

“What they’re bringing in via Oman are anti-ship missiles, explosives…, money and personnel,” the official said.

Another regional security source said the transfers included surface-to-surface short-range missiles and small arms.

A senior Iranian diplomat confirmed there had been a “sharp surge in Iran’s help to the Houthis in Yemen” since May, referring to weapons, training and money.”

A US State Department spokesman addressed the same issue on October 20th:

“I mean, we’re aware that Iran provides lethal support to the Houthis. We have regularly and routinely called on regional actors to de-escalate the tensions in Yemen and the region, including abiding by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, as well as the ceasefire, which both the – all parties have said they would support.

We’ve also repeatedly raised our concerns that Iran is providing lethal aid to the Houthis in Yemen, including at the UN, when dhows smuggling Iranian weapons to the Houthis were interdicted at sea.”

Remarkably, after over eighteen months of reporting on the conflict in Yemen, the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” is still unable to meet its remit of building “global understanding” of this particular “international issue” by producing a backgrounder which tells its audiences whether or not Iran is involved in that war.

Related Articles:

Limited BBC journalistic curiosity on Iranian involvement in Yemen

BBC News portrays Iranian involvement in Yemen as ‘overplayed’