What context is missing from the BBC’s report on Umm al Hiran?

On January 18th the BBC News website published an article on its Middle East page under the headline “Israeli policeman and Bedouin killed during clashes over demolitions“.umm-al-hiran-art-main

The overwhelming majority of that article’s 614 words are devoted to conflicting accounts of the tragic events in Umm al Hiran earlier that day. Seeing as even now – four days later – the post-mortem examination has not been completed and the ballistics report has yet to be published, the value of some of the subjective and speculative accounts the BBC found it appropriate to publish can at best be said to be doubtful as far as helping readers understand what actually happened is concerned.

Facts were however readily available concerning another part of the story: its context. Strangely, the BBC devoted just 12.2% (75 words) of the article’s word count to informing its audiences of the background to the incidents.

umm-al-hiran-art-background

The BBC’s claim that the people concerned were moved to Umm al Hiran in the 1950s is inaccurate – they were moved to the nearby Yatir area and some of them later took over land in Umm al Hiran. The claim that “they have now been told to move to new housing elsewhere” does not give BBC audiences a proper perspective of what the squatters have actually been offered. Neither is the BBC’s claim that the new town of Hiran is “mainly Jewish” supported by the facts.

One journalist who has studied the case of Umm al Hiran extensively is Ben Dror Yemini.

“The members of the al-Qiyan tribe are right. They were indeed transferred to the Yatir Forest area in the 1950s. They settled there with permission. Precisely because they have certain rights which have been recognized by the authorities and by the courts, they were offered to move – for free – to the regulated community of Hura. Not only did they receive free land, a quarter of an acre for each household, and not only was the infrastructure supplied by the government, but each family received an additional payment, at least NIS 100,000 to build its own home. Moreover, every man married to more than one woman received land units according to the number of his wives – even though polygamy is illegal. And in order not to discriminate against the young ones, all those over the age of 24 received an independent home as well.

Before you say that this is an insufficient settlement, it should be noted that most tribe members considered it a fair and sufficient proposal. They moved to the village of Hura. Very few decided to stay. And out of the very few, a small minority left the Yatir area and spread to the Hiran area. Aerial shots document exactly what went on there starting in the 1960s: The illegal construction continued even after it was decided in 2002 to build the community of Hiran, not just for Jews as the slanderers claim. […]

The arguments I am making here do not belong to a certain side. They are based on a Supreme Court ruling, which determined in these words that “most of the tribe members moved to Hura – a Bedouin community, which is regulated and connected to infrastructures – and the remaining ones are required to evacuate their homes, and are being offered to move to Hura… They are not being expelled and not being abandoned. The suggested evacuation involves different proposals for a move, construction, compensation and a housing option, whether in the town of Hura or in the community of Hiran which is about to be built… The planned community does not prevent the tribe members from living there… Anyone wishing to live in Hiran is entitled to do so, subject to the law and under the fixed conditions.””

Another Israeli journalist who has done extensive work on this topic is Kalman Liebskind. (translation: BBC Watch)

“For very many years the State has been trying to move members of the Abu al-Qiyan family from the area in which they settled and on which they illegally built tens of structures and sheds. In order to persuade them to move to Hura – an organized community with services they do not have in their present location – the State was ready to make generous offers of land and money. Most members of the tribe chose to accept the offers. Some of them, after additional financial encouragement from the state, demolished their illegal buildings themselves.

Among those who chose to stay and refused to move even after all the legal proceedings dismissed their claims, the State defined 58 as being ‘entitled’ to compensation if they agreed to move. Who are those ‘entitled’? Families with children, married couples, one-parent families and single people over the age of 24. What was each of the ‘entitled’ to get? A developed plot of one dunam in a neighbourhood in Hura which was prepared especially to absorb the family members, together with financial compensation for each illegally constructed structure that would be demolished.

But the story did not end there. ‘Where will our children live when they grow up?’ asked members of the tribe. ‘We want plots for them too’. The State also agreed to that. And so, for example, parents of four children aged 3, 5, 7 and 9 got a commitment of financial compensation – a one dunam plot for the parents and four more plots which would be put aside for the children which, when the time came, they could purchase for the symbolic price of a few tens of thousands of shekels. Just a moment, you ask, what happens if the Bedouin has two wives and each one of them has four small children? Well then each woman will get her own plot – and for the eight small children plots would also be put aside.

Last Thursday, when the State’s representatives asked to sign the agreement, the Bedouin announced that they had a few more demands; that what they had got until now was not enough; that in addition to all that they also want a million shekels compensation for each family for the illegal structures that they had built and also 400,000 shekels for each family for the emotional damage caused to them and also plots for business and for greenhouses and also tender-exempt plots in the industrial zone of Hura.

Against all that background, another small problem was born. It turned out that in the tribe there are ten Palestinian women who were brought by the al-Qiyan tribe to live here as second wives. Not only are they not Israeli citizens, but their presence is not legal. The State’s representatives explained to the Bedouin that with all the goodwill in the world, the State cannot give a gift of land to Palestinians from Hebron or Ramallah – Palestinian Authority citizens – that nobody knows how they got here.

In light of the new and inflated list of demands, the negotiators understood that the Bedouin were not interested in closing a deal. This was a list of demands from parties trying to end the negotiations. Nevertheless, the State’s representatives decided to see what more could be done in order to leave an opening for a quiet evacuation. A round of telephone calls between the members of the Israel Land Authority committee produced another better offer. Take ten more plots and we’ll close the deal. Nobody explained, of course, that this is an elegant way to give plots to the Palestinian women without saying so outright but each one understood what he was supposed to understand.

Yesterday evening [January 17th], after the last meeting, it was clear to the State’s representatives that there was nothing more to discuss and no-one to talk to and the evacuation went ahead.”

The vast majority of that highly relevant background is markedly absent from the BBC’s minimalist portrayal of the context of this story. To those familiar with the BBC’s partial portrayal of stories concerning Bedouin land claims over the years (see ‘related articles’ below) that will probably not come as much of a surprise. But nevertheless, the corporation cannot possibly claim that it met its remit of providing accurate and impartial information in order to enhance “audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” with those 75 words.

Related Articles:

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BBC amplification of organised anti-Israel delegitimising campaign

 

BBC News ignores two water-related stories

Back in February 2015 the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet produced a number of reports on different platforms concerning the city of Rawabi. As was noted here at the time:Rawabi 1

“The main focus of all these reports is the issue of Rawabi’s water supply. […] the bottom line impression given to BBC audiences is that Rawabi’s lack of water is Israel’s fault.

At no point does Doucet clarify to her audiences on various platforms that the Joint Water Committee (JWC) is a product of the Oslo Accords – signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people. Those same accords stipulate that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the water supply in Areas A (where Rawabi is located) and B.

Whilst she does tell audiences that the JWC “hasn’t met for years”, Doucet refrains from informing audiences why that is the case, avoiding any mention of the fact that the Palestinian Water Authority suspended cooperation in 2008 as part of a political strategy and with no interview or comment from that body appearing in any of her reports. Hence, audiences remain ignorant of the fact that the committee which must convene in order to approve the water pipeline to the new Palestinian city is hobbled by the Palestinian Water Authority and Doucet makes herself party to the Palestinian politicisation of water issues.”

In the month after those reports appeared the problems concerning Rawabi’s water supply were solved, but no follow-up coverage from the BBC appeared.

That, of course, is not the only example of politicised portrayals of the subject of water that BBC audiences have seen over the years.

Last week – as the BBC was busy once again telling its audiences that the two-state solution is “fading” and “may be passing” – an event took place which went entirely unreported on the corporation’s various platforms.

“Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) office, and the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh signed an agreement to restart the Israeli–Palestinian Joint Water Committee.

The committee is tasked with developing and modernizing the water infrastructure in the West Bank, allowing better water access to Palestinian towns and villages, maintaining existing infrastructure and approving new projects. It hasn’t met in six years. […]

Key topics under discussion include increasing water supplies to the West Bank and Gaza, as well as approving drilling new wells and updating water rates.

The agreement was signed in winter in order to allow the committee to be fully operational when water demand is at its highest in the summer months.

The parties also announced that the two sides have approved a joint strategic planning mechanism that will operate until 2040, including new infrastructure ventures to deal with expected population growth.

Mordechai said the agreement shows it is possible to reach “understandings and agreements when dealing with practical, bilateral issues, free of external influences, dealing with natural resources and other infrastructure issues that affect the entire population.””

Also last week, a second desalination plant was opened in the Gaza Strip.

“It is the Hamas-ruled territory’s second and largest desalination plant. While it will not solve Gaza’s water woes, officials say the project marks an important step. […]

The European Union says it invested 10 million euros, or $10.6 million, in building the plant with UNICEF. It has pledged a similar amount for a second phase meant to double capacity by 2019.

Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules Gaza, did not participate in the project, and is not represented at the ceremony.”

That event was not deemed newsworthy by the BBC either: could it be that only water-related stories which can be framed with a specific angle are of interest to the corporation?  

Weekend long read

1) Back in July 2015 the BBC’s Yolande Knell produced two campaigning reports concerning illegally built structures in Susiya in the South Hebron Hills which lacked both impartiality and information essential for understanding of the story. At the Tower, Eylon Aslan-Levy now has a long article explaining its background.Weekend Read  

“Khirbet Susiya is an unlikely cause-célèbre. Deep in the South Hebron Hills, this shantytown comprises a few dozen tents, animal pens, and German-donated solar panels. Israel insists it was built illegally and wants to demolish it while offering to rehouse the residents nearby. The Palestinian Authority encourages further construction without permits and in defiance of Israeli court orders. The European Union funds this construction, and together with the U.S. and UN publicly warns Israel to back off. Meanwhile, non-governmental organizations on both Left and Right continue to petition the Israeli Supreme Court and wage an international public relations battle over the fate of the windswept hamlet.

How did Israel, the Palestinians, the international community, and an assortment of NGOs reach this unsightly stalemate over an obscure Judean hill?”

2) At the Jerusalem Post, Professor Amnon Rubinstein writes about Israeli Arab views of Western values.

“Public opinion polls should be handled with caution, but this latest one chimes in with other developments characterizing the Arab minority in the Jewish state: There has been a gradual shift in Israeli Arabs’ attitude toward Western values. In fact, the Israeli-Arab minority appears to have formed a community which is distinct from its brethren across the border: They have evolved into a multi-cultural society, which, while sharing a strong religious and nationalistic common denominator, incorporates a growing strong Western-style liberalism, perhaps as a reaction to the horrors of the “Arab Spring.”

Take the liberal litmus test of attitudes to gay rights as a yardstick. A Pew Research Center poll, conducted in 2013 in Arab countries, asked “whether society should accept homosexuality.” A vast majority (97% in Jordan, 95% in Egypt, 93% in the Palestinian Authority) gave a negative reply. Three years earlier, in a poll sponsored by a German foundation, 45% of Israeli Arabs supported equality for gays.

Indeed, Israeli Arabs, dominated as they are by the Muslim faith , amazingly support civil marriage (43%), and the proportion of Israeli Arabs supporting separation of state and religion and gay marriages is truly astounding – 65% and 45%, respectively. The University of Haifa’s Prof. Sammy Smooha’s latest poll reveals the extent of this unheralded shift: 52.9% of Israeli Arabs advocate a policy that would integrate Israel into the West and maintain only necessary links with the Arab world, and this proportion grows to 62% when dealing with Israel’s external cultural links, a higher level than the Jewish-Israeli response (58.9%).”

3) The JCPA recently published a letter it received from a Palestinian attorney which gives some insight into topics habitually ignored by BBC correspondents in the region.

“I demand of the international legal organizations that pretend to defend human rights, the states of the European Union, and the United States, the great economic and rhetorical supporter of the PA, and even of the United Nations, which has a commitment to human rights, to set up investigatory committees on the irregularities of the Palestinian Authority, whose legal branch is nothing but an arm of Fatah’s governmental terror, and that includes the civilian and military prosecution. The security apparatus of the PA and the Fatah movement has already been committing crimes against the Palestinian people, which reach the level of crimes against humanity, for half a century – and the crimes continue.”

4) Readers may have heard that the BBC recently announced that it is “to assemble a team to fact check and debunk deliberately misleading and false stories masquerading as real news”. Stefan Frank addresses that move at Gatestone Europe – with a quote from BBC Watch.

“Other British newspapers report that “the BBC is to assemble a team to fact check and debunk deliberately misleading and false stories masquerading as real news.” Masquerading as real news? Wow, sudden self-criticism! Even at her age, Auntie never ceases to surprise us.

No, wait: According to The Guardian, “the plans will see the corporation’s Reality Check series become permanent, backed by a dedicated team targeting false stories or facts being shared widely on social media.””

 

BBC’s Yolande Knell touts the ‘1967 borders’ illusion on Radio 4

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sundayclaims that it gives listeners “a look at the ethical and religious issues of the week”. However, the lead item in its January 15th edition fell outside that mission statement and, as its description in the programme’s synopsis shows, was in fact a transparently political story.r4-sunday-us-embassy-15-1

“Yolande Knell reports on the implications of a proposal by President elect Trump to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Presenter Edward Stourton introduced the item (from 00:61 here) as follows:

“Will Donald Trump follow through with his campaign promise to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? The answer to that question could have huge implications for the Middle East. We’re joined from Jerusalem by our correspondent Yolande Knell. Yolande; it matters because the status of Jerusalem is absolutely crucial to the two-state solution that people, until now, say they want.”

Predictably, Knell’s response had the history of the millennia-old city beginning just fifty years ago, with no mention of the preceding 19-year Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem.

Knell: “That’s right and Jerusalem has proven time and time again to be one of the most explosive issues; one of the most difficult issues to solve in this decades-old conflict, not least because of its holy sites for Jews, Muslims and Christians. And of course Israel captured the east of the city – which includes the Old City – in 1967 in the Middle East war. It went on to annex East Jerusalem, declare all of Jerusalem its united, eternal capital – although that’s never been recognised internationally. And the Palestinians are basically saying that any move for a US embassy – bringing it from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – would kill the two-state solution; this long-standing goal of international policy on this conflict. It’s enshrined in UN resolutions: the idea of creating a Palestinian state to live peacefully alongside Israel. It will be based in Gaza, the West Bank and have East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Stourton: “I think I’m right in saying the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been in the Vatican this weekend. He’s been talking about some of this, hasn’t he?”

In her response to that question, Knell introduced the falsehood of “pre-1967 borders” – a concept which not only does not exist, but was specifically and deliberately rejected by the parties to the 1949 Armistice Agreement.

Knell: “That’s right – very deliberate timing. He was actually at the Vatican to inaugurate an embassy for the State of Palestine. This is after the Vatican recognised a State of Palestine on pre-1967 borders and he was there for talks with the Pope. He told reporters while he was there that this…again, this move would destroy the two-state solution and he talked to the Pope about the need for Jerusalem to be an open city for three religions, we’re told. The Vatican’s position is that it seeks an internationally guaranteed status for Jerusalem: a status that would safeguard its sacred character.”

Stourton: “The…Donald Trump is not the first American president to have talked about the possibility of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. Ahm…it hasn’t happened though in the past. How strong is the evidence that he’s really serious about this?”

Knell: “Well, because Donald Trump made this campaign promise and so many previous presidential contenders have – George W Bush and Bill Clinton at least and then they didn’t do it – that means that people really didn’t take it very seriously at first. But then we heard from one of his advisors – from Kellyanne Conway – that this was for him a very big priority. There was also the State Department official who came out saying to the press that it had been asked for logistical advice on a move. And then we know as well that the nominee for ambassador to Israel chosen by Mr Trump, David Friedman – somebody with very hardline views – he wants this very much. He issued a statement when he was nominated saying that he looked forward to moving the US embassy to Israel’s eternal capital Jerusalem: those were his words. So when I’ve been briefed by Palestinian officials – even in just the last few days – one of their fears is this announcement could come in the inauguration speech of Mr Trump.”

According to reports from the time, the words Knell claims to quote were actually these:

“In the statement, Freidman said he was “deeply honored and humbled” that Trump selected him to represent the US in Israel, and that he aimed to “strengthen the bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.””

Stourton continued:

Stourton: “What about the international background to all this because there’s this…as we have in the news, there’s this conference in Paris today on this question.”

Knell: “Yes and it’s also coming after a UN Security Council resolution was passed last month restating this commitment to the two-state solution and well-informed sources are basically saying that a draft statement from the Paris talks is going to come out with a similar kind of statement. It will affirm also the international community will not recognise changes to the pre-1967 lines for Israel unless they’re agreed with the Palestinians. It will make clear that a negotiated solution is the only way to ensure enduring peace but it’s also going to warn, I think, against unilateral moves. That could be a reference to the idea of Donald Trump moving…eh…moving the embassy because that would basically recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.”

In fact, the reference to “unilateral steps” in the text of the conference’s closing statement specifically relates to the two parties to the conflict rather than to the US or any other outside country.

Stourton: “And, Yolande, finally: do you detect internally any appetite for renewed negotiations between the two sides?”

Once again, BBC audiences heard a sanitised version of the breakdown of negotiations in 2014 that promotes false equivalence in Knell’s response to that question. However, Knell made sure to close with some very clear signposting with regard to which side listeners should view as being responsible for the lack of current negotiations.

Knell: “Ahm…both sides say that they’re ready to have talks but then the talks have been frozen since April 2014. They fell apart and I think that’s why there is now this…a lot of frustration from the international community. You have 70 countries and international bodies like the EU, the UN, the Arab League, other organisations, coming together for these talks. When you talk to analysts they really see these as a last-ditch attempt to try to save the moribund peace process but they don’t expect much to come out of these talks because – as much as the Palestinians are supporting them – the Israelis say that these are futile, they’re rigged, this pushes peace backwards and they’re not even going to go for a meeting with President Hollande in the coming weeks to be debriefed on what happened.”

Fatah Facebook account

Fatah Facebook account

Since mid-December the BBC has produced several items concerning or mentioning the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem. All those reports – including this one – have amplified the Palestinian messaging on that topic but BBC audiences have yet to hear any opposite viewpoint – as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality demand.

Seeing as we now know that Yolande Knell is “briefed by Palestinian officials – even in just the last few days”, that lack of due impartiality is perhaps more comprehensible.

Related Articles:

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BBC omits key context in account of potential US embassy move

The consequence of BBC failure to make online corrections

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of the Paris conference

 

 

 

 

Compromised BBC backgrounder surfaces again

On January 16th the BBC News website published an article titled “Egypt court upholds ruling halting transfer of islands to Saudi Arabia“. Included in that report was an insert of background information titled “Why the Red Sea islands matter”, which previously appeared in an article concerning the same story in June 2016.tiran-art-jan-17

The insert includes the following context-free information:

“Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967, subsequently returning them to Egypt both times”

As was noted here over six months ago:

“The BBC did not bother to inform readers why that was the case.

“In 1949, Egypt established itself on two small and deserted islands in the straits that had never belonged to it – Tiran and Sanafir. Later, they were leased to it by Saudi Arabia. In January 1950, Egypt assured the United States Government that the occupation of the islands was in no way intended to interfere with shipping in the waters of the gulf. But soon Egypt broke its word, fortified the entrance to the straits and blockaded Israel. Having failed to conquer the southern Negev during the War of Independence or to bring about its cession by Israel through political pressure, Egypt now tried to land-lock Eilat and block Israel’s outlet to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, which meant cutting Israel’s present and future communications with Asia and East Africa. The closure of the Straits of Tiran was one of the main factors that led to the Sinai campaign of 1956. Israel’s refusal to withdraw its forces from Sharm el Sheikh unless its freedom of passage through the straits were effectively safeguarded led to the stationing there of the UN Emergency Force. The blockade was lifted and Israel could freely develop its trade with countries in Asia and East Africa, import oil from the Persian Gulf, and redeem the southern Negev from its desolation. Israel declared solemnly that any interference with its rights of navigation in the gulf would be regarded as an attack, entitling it to exercise its inherent rights of self-defence. […]

On 23 May 1967, President Nasser re-imposed the naval blockade in the Straits of Tiran in a deliberate attempt to force Israel to forfeit its internationally-acknowledged rights or else go to war. Five days earlier the UN Emergency Force was expelled by Nasser, and the units stationed at Sharm el-Sheikh were evacuated. […] The Israeli army reached Sharm el-Sheikh on 7 June 1967 and lifted the blockade. From 1967, freedom of navigation prevails in the Gulf of Aqaba, benefiting shipping bound for Israel and Jordan.”

Apparently the BBC considered it necessary to ensure that its audiences know that “Israel captured the islands in 1956 and 1967” – but not why.”

That observation obviously still applies.

Related Articles:

The missing chapter in the BBC’s coverage of the Red Sea islands story

Context missing from BBC News’ backgrounder on Strait of Tiran

 

 

 

BBC’s Bowen tells WS listeners Israel bombs Syria ‘regularly’

The lead story in the January 13th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was introduced by presenter Paul Henley (from 01:00 here) as follows:newshour-13-1-17-syria

“First; not for the first time, Syria has accused Israel of military aggression, blaming it for a series of explosions at a military airport on the outskirts of Damascus. The Syrian government said it had been a flagrant attack and that there would be repercussions. Their stance was possibly born of a new-found sense of confidence that things in Syria are going the way of the Assad government. Russian involvement in the war has been hugely important and the possibility of a more Moscow-friendly White House come the end of this month will be greeted with delight in Damascus. I’ve been talking to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen who’s on route from the Syrian capital to Aleppo; was he surprised by these accusations of an Israeli military strike in Damascus?”

The idea that the Syrian regime’s response to this incident is any different to the statements it has put out previously on similar occasions is of course not supported by reality. The term ‘flagrant’ was used by Assad spokespeople back in 2013 and the Syrian regime has threatened retaliation against Israel in the past.

Listeners then heard Jeremy Bowen make the following claim:

“No; the Israelis have bombed various parts of Syria before. It’s something they do relatively regularly. “

Israel does not usually officially confirm its involvement the airstrikes it is alleged to have carried out in Syria since 2013 and so Bowen’s “relatively regularly” assertion is based on conjecture and the claims of the Syrian regime. His broad-brush claim that Israel has “bombed various parts of Syria before” is inaccurate and misleading in that it does not clarify that the alleged strikes have been specifically and exclusively connected to weapons supplies to Hizballah or terrorism against Israel and Bowen’s choice of words is likely to lead the uninformed listener to the inaccurate belief that Israel is involved in the war in Syria.

Bowen continued:

“And the question is what they were after hitting that base. Now, it may well be that there was a target there belonging to Hizballah –  the Lebanese group which of course is a mortal enemy of the Israelis – and perhaps that’s what they were after but, you know, it’s a lot of speculation. One of the things that’s very important to Hizballah is their supply of weapons; not just for their activities in Syria but for their operations in Lebanon as well and perhaps the Israelis had some knowledge that something was going on in that department.”

The conversation between Bowen and Henley then moved on to a different topic, with no mention made of the fact that Hizballah is a terrorist organisation, no information provided regarding the identity of its providers of arms and no reminder of the fact that the supply of weapons to Hizballah is specifically forbidden under UNSC resolution 1701. As readers may recall, those exact same pieces of information were likewise absent from the BBC News website’s report on the same event.

The BBC defined Jeremy Bowen’s job description as follows in 2006:

“Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”

Here we see that rather than making this story more “comprehensible for the audience”, his omission of key information does the exact opposite and his inaccurate and context-free assertion that Israel has “bombed various parts of Syria….relatively regularly” in fact prevents listeners from comprehending the story correctly.

Related Articles:

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More unquestioned amplification of Syrian regime propaganda from BBC News

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Vacancies: Non-Executive Members of the BBC Board

Applications for the nine vacancies for non-executive members of the BBC’s new Board close on January 20th.pic BBC

“From 3 April 2017, the BBC will be governed by its Board, which will replace the two-tier governance structure of the BBC Trust and the BBC’s Executive Board. The new Board will be responsible for the exercise of all BBC functions in accordance with the Corporation’s Royal Charter.

The Board will comprise fourteen members: a non-executive Chair, a designated non-executive member for each of the Nations of the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales); five other non-executive members and four executive members, including the BBC Director-General.

The Chair and four non-executive members for the Nations will be appointed by The Queen-in-Council. The other non-executive members will be appointed by the BBC Board through its nominations committee. The executive members will also be appointed by the Board through its nominations committee.”

Those interested can find further details here

 

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of the Paris conference

The BBC News website’s coverage of the pretentiously titled “Conference pour la Paix au Proche-Orient” which was held in Paris on January 15th included two items produced before the event took place and one report published after it concluded.

1) “Can Paris summit save fading two-state solution?” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website, January 14th 2017.

2) “Why aren’t the Israelis and Palestinians talking?” – BBC News website and BBC television news, January 14th 2017.

3) “Israel-Palestinian conflict: Summit warns against unilateral actions” – BBC News website, January 15th 2017.

Several noteworthy themes were apparent in those reports.paris-conf-report-2-filmed

a) In the synopsis to the second (filmed) report, audiences were told that:

“The two sides have not spoken directly since the last round of peace talks broke down in 2014.”

The report itself stated:

“The last round [of talks] collapsed in April 2014 and they haven’t met since then”.

In the third report, audiences were told that:

“The last round of direct peace talks collapsed amid acrimony in April 2014.”

BBC audiences have seen that mantra of equivalence promoted on numerous occasions in the past and the BBC’s framing of the story at the time did not provide audiences with the full range of information and background necessary for full understanding of the reasons for the breakdown of that round of talks. Thus we see that almost three years on, the BBC continues to promote a version of events which conceals from audience view the fact that the Palestinian Authority made three important choices between March 17th and April 23rd 2014 (not to accept the American framework, to join international agencies in breach of existing commitments and to opt for reconciliation with Hamas) which had a crucial effect on the fate of those negotiations.

b) The reports continued the long-standing practice of careless wording which leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing towns and villages, most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.

The first report states:

“The conference follows last month’s UN Security Council resolution which called on Israel to stop settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

In the second report, viewers were told that before talks can resume:

“Palestinians first want Israel to stop settlement-building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem”.

And that the chances of renewed talks are “slim” because:

“Israeli settlement activity shows no sign of slowing”.

In report three, readers found the following:

“The meeting also comes at a time of tension between Israel and the international community after the UN passed a resolution last month denouncing Israel’s settlement activity on occupied land. […]

Palestinians fiercely object to Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory it wants for a future state.”

Obviously the use of such inaccurate language does not enhance audience understanding of the subject and none of the reports mentioned the 2009 freeze of construction in communities in Judea & Samaria and the fact that the Palestinians refused to negotiate during most of that ten-month freeze. Likewise, all three reports refrained from informing audiences of the fact that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – place no limitations whatsoever on construction in Area C or Jerusalem. 

c) As ever, audiences were provided with a partial portrayal of ‘international law’ in all these reports. None of the reports provided any relevant historical background on the subject of the 1948 Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem or the 1967 Jordanian attack which subsequently left Israel in control of those areas.

The first report stated:

“Over 600,000 Israelis live in these areas which were captured in the 1967 Middle East war. They are seen as illegal under international law, but Israel disagrees.”

In report two viewers were told that:

“The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The third report informed readers that:

“The settlements, home to about 600,000 Israelis, are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

d) Contrasting with the promotion of the well-worn BBC theme of ‘settlements as an obstacle to peace’, the presentation of issues on the other side of the divide was minimal and qualified, using the ‘Israel says’ formula. In the first report readers found the following:

“They [Israeli officials] argue that the very Palestinian leaders with whom they are supposed to be seeking peace have incited an upsurge in attacks, mostly stabbings, since October 2015.”

That, however, was ‘balanced’ with a statement straight out of the PLO’s media guidance:

“Palestinian leaders blame the violence on a younger generation’s anger at the failure of talks to end Israel’s occupation and deliver on promises of an independent state.”

In report two, viewers were told that:

“Israel does not want pre-conditions [to talks]. It says Palestinian violence and incitement is the big problem”.

Only in report three did BBC audiences find a brief reference to the very relevant issue of the PA’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state.

“Israel says Palestinian incitement and violence, and a refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state, are key obstacles to peace.”

e) All three reports included portrayals of Jerusalem which failed to mention that it is one of the issues to be resolved in final status negotiations under the terms of the Oslo Accords.paris-conf-1-knell

In the first report, Yolande Knell told readers that:

“For many, the holy city of Jerusalem is meant to be a shared capital for Israel and the Palestinians – two peoples in two nations, living peacefully, side-by-side.

At least that is the dream of the so-called “two-state solution” to end a decades-old conflict.”

In the second report viewers were told that:

“They also disagree over Jerusalem. Israel says the city is its capital, but Palestinians want their own capital in the east”.

In report three readers found the following:

“The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive and complex issues of the entire conflict. The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state but Israel proclaim the entire city as its capital.”

f) The first and third reports included generous amplification of Palestinian statements concerning the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem – once again without any clarification as to why there should be objection to the transfer of a foreign embassy to a location to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim.paris-conf-3 

Report one told readers that:

“The timing of the talks in Paris – just days before Donald Trump moves into the White House – appear very deliberate.

He has not yet spelt out his vision for the Middle East but has shown strong backing for the Israeli far-right.

He has nominated a lawyer, David Friedman, who is an outspoken critic of the two-state solution and supporter of settlements, to be his ambassador to Israel.

Mr Trump has also promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Like other countries, the US currently keeps its embassy in Tel Aviv, as it does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

“This is very dangerous what President-elect Trump wants to do,” Palestinian official, Mohammed Shtayyeh tells me. “It is American recognition that Jerusalem is part of the State of Israel.”

“We would consider this American move as an end to the peace process, an end to the two states and really putting the whole region into chaos.””

In report three readers were told:

“But they [the conference delegates] shied away from criticising President-elect Donald Trump’s suggested US embassy move to Jerusalem. […]

The conference comes at a time of rising tension in the region, and there are fears President-elect Trump’s plans to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could stoke it further.

There was deep alarm among participants at the conference that if President Trump does break with decades of US policy and move the embassy to Jerusalem, then conditions will be set for another upsurge in violence in the region, says the BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris. […]

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told France 3 TV on Sunday he thought Mr Trump would not be able to make the move, but if he did, it would have “extremely serious consequences”.

On Saturday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned such a move could “bury the hopes for a two-state solution”.”paris-conf-filmed-dt

The third report closes telling viewers that:

“The Palestinians want international involvement, but Israel says a settlement cannot be imposed. And Israel has the backing of Donald Trump”.

Once again the BBC failed to provide its audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the background to this story – and not least the decidedly relevant fact that various Palestinian factions, including Hamas, completely reject the concept of the two-state solution – while promoting some of its regular framing of the topic.  

Related Articles:

Background to the BBC’s inaccurate framing of the end of Middle East talks

Revisiting the BBC’s framing of the 2013/14 Israel-PLO negotiations

BBC News produces eight versions of report on three-hour Paris meeting

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Paris conference falsehood

BBC’s Bowen employs apartheid analogy in report on Paris conference

 

 

 

 

 

A summary of the Gaza smuggling ignored by the BBC in 2016

During 2016 we documented several incidents of attempts to smuggle terror-related equipment and goods into the Gaza Strip – none of which was considered newsworthy by the BBC.kerem-shalom

BBC silent on latest Gaza Strip smuggling attempt

Israel seizes chemicals bound for Gaza – BBC yawns

Gaza terror smuggling again not newsworthy for the BBC

BBC policy of ignoring Gaza smuggling continues

Documenting the BBC’s continuing silence on Gaza smuggling

Israel’s Ministry of Defense recently published a summary of smuggling activity in 2016.

“The number of attempt to smuggle goods from Israel into the Gaza Strip rose 165% in 2016, the Ministry of Defense Land Crossings Authority reported today.

The Land Crossings Authority’s figures show that attempts to smuggle forbidden goods and items to the Gaza Strip increased over the past year. Such items are banned due to concern about strengthening Hamas and other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip.

The goods involved include military clothing items, laser systems, metal balls, aluminum and metal pipes, snappling equipment, diving suits, model airplanes, drones, disassembled commercial vehicles, engines, etc. […]

Ministry of Defense figures show that 175,000 trucks carried goods of various kinds to the Gaza Strip in 2016, and that 1,126 smuggling attempts were stopped.”

On the one hand, BBC audiences have frequently 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”. On the other hand, since the end of the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, the BBC has shown no interest whatsoever in informing its audiences of terror-related smuggling attempts.

The result is that when the BBC tells its audiences that “Israel says” the restrictions on the import of weapons and dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip are for reasons of security, they have insufficient information to be able to put that statement – and the restrictions themselves – into the correct context. 

Obviously the BBC – which claims to be impartial and is tasked with building audience understanding of “international issues” – should be reporting stories such as those above in order to help its audiences understand the real reasons for the counter-terrorism measures which include restrictions on the entry of specific items to the Gaza Strip.

The consequence of BBC failure to make online corrections

On May 16th 2015 the BBC News website ran a story titled “Pope Francis calls Palestinians’ Abbas ‘angel of peace’” which was discussed here. A link to that article was included in an additional report that was published the following day.

Two days after the appearance of the original article – on May 18th 2015 – a follow-up article was published under the headline “Vatican clarifies Abbas ‘angel of peace’ comments” but as was noted here at the time, no action was taken regarding the two previous articles.

“The section of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on accuracy which deals with the subject of ‘managing online content’ states that:

“Unless content is specifically made available only for a limited time period, there is a presumption that material published online will become part of a permanently accessible archive and will not normally be removed.

For news stories, the archive is intended to act as a permanent public record.”

Given that and the appearance of this latest article, one would of course expect to see clarifications appended to the two previous reports in which the inaccurate claim was promoted. At the time of writing, no such clarification appears in either article.”

The consequence of that failure to clarify inaccurate information in a timely manner to both BBC audiences and BBC staff was apparent in a report which appeared on the BBC News website on January 14th 2017 under the title “Mahmoud Abbas: US embassy move to Jerusalem would hurt peace“. There, the ‘angel of peace’ theme – which the BBC itself reported as being misleading twenty months ago – is repeated.

angel-of-peace-para

The link in that paragraph leads to a filmed report by the BBC’s Vatican correspondent David Willey dating from May 17th 2015 which also does not include any notification based on the BBC’s subsequent report clarifying the Pope’s remarks. Viewers are told:

“Prominent among the guests at the Vatican ceremony was Mahmoud Abbas, the president of Palestine. He was told by Pope Francis that he’s an angel of peace. […]

The saints are the first from Palestine to be named by the church since the earliest days of Christianity.” [emphasis added]

The BBC Academy’s style guide of course advises the corporation’s staff that:

“There is no independent state of Palestine today, although the stated goal of the peace process is to establish a state of Palestine alongside a state of Israel. […]

But the UN vote has not created a state of Palestine (rather, it failed in its bid to join the UN as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the Security Council).

So, in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.”

An additional noteworthy aspect of the January 14th report is its portrayal of the comments made by Mahmoud Abbas which are reflected in its title.abbas-us-embassy-art

“Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has warned that peace could suffer if President-elect Donald Trump carries out plans to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. […]

On Saturday, President Abbas reiterated his concern over President-elect Trump’s plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and said he had written to Mr Trump to warn him of the risks of such a move.

“If this is the decision, to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem, it will not help peace and we hope it doesn’t happen,” President Abbas told reporters outside the Vatican.

Palestinian officials say the plan would undermine chances of a negotiated peace based on a two-state solution, in which Palestinian and Israeli states would live side-by-side.

“Not only would this move deprive the United States of all legitimacy in playing a role in conflict resolution, it would also destroy the two-state solution,” Mr Abbas was quoted earlier as saying in French paper Le Figaro.”

Remarkably, the BBC made no effort to provide audiences with information which would help them reach their own conclusions concerning the veracity of Abbas’ claim that relocation of the US embassy to seemingly any location in Jerusalem would “undermine” the chances of a peace agreement and did not update this report to include later related threats made by a Fatah spokesman.

Seeing as the BBC regularly informs its audiences – including in this report – that “the Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their promised future state”, it would of course have been appropriate for this article to clarify why Mahmoud Abbas should object to the transfer of a foreign embassy to a location to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim.