When the BBC News website reported an enduring conflict without a narrative

In addition to covering the conference on the topic of the Arab-Israeli conflict held in Paris earlier this month, the BBC News website also reported on talks, held in Geneva, relating to another long-standing conflict.cyprus-art

Hope for a fresh settlement in Cyprus James Landale, January 8th 2017

Cyprus peace talks begin on future of divided island January 9th 2017

Cyprus peace talks ‘resolve many issues’ January 11th 2017

Cyprus peace talks: Can Cypriots heal their divided island? Selin Girit, January 12th 2017

Cyprus peace deal close, says UN chief after Geneva talks January 12th 2017

With one exception, all the reports concerning the Cyprus talks included an impartial and nuanced explanation of the main issues underlying the dispute:

cyprus-arts-sticking-points

In contrast to BBC coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, audiences reading the coverage of the Cyprus talks did not find any pronouncements allocating disputed territory to one side or the other in the style of the frequently seen terminology “occupied Palestinian land” and “Palestinian territory”.

Regarding the 30,000 or so Turkish troops in northern Cyprus, audiences were told that “Greek Cypriots see them as an occupying force” but not that (with the obvious exception of Turkey) the rest of the world views them in the same way and considers that occupation illegal.

None of the reports concerning Cyprus informs readers of the fact that it was Turkish state policy to facilitate and encourage the immigration of Turkish nationals to the northern part of island during the latter half of the 1970s and – in contrast to BBC reporting on Israel and the Palestinians – the words ‘settlers’, ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ do not appear in any of the reports.

Obviously the BBC is able to report on the enduring conflict in Cyprus in a manner which refrains from promoting a particular politically-motivated narrative and provides audiences with an impartial view of the issue – just as BBC editorial guidelines demand. Unfortunately for BBC audiences seeking to understand the Arab-Israeli conflict, the same standards are not evident.

Related Articles:

Not all ‘occupied territories’ are equal for the BBC

 

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OFCOM launches more BBC related public consultations

In preparation for its new regulatory role under the terms of the new BBC Charter and Agreement, OFCOM has announced further public consultations.ofcom  

“Under a new BBC Royal Charter, Ofcom will become the BBC’s first external regulator in April 2017.

Over the next few months, Ofcom will put together an ‘Operating Framework’ for the BBC, covering performance, content standards and competition.”

1) A consultation on Ofcom’s proposed procedures for enforcement of BBC competition requirements – submissions should be made before March 6th 2017. Relevant reading can be found here.

2) A consultation on new procedures for handling content standards complaints, investigations and sanctions for BBC programmes:

“In this consultation we set out our proposed procedures that Ofcom will normally follow for complaints about BBC television, radio and on-demand programmes, and how we will conduct investigations and sanctions.”

Submissions should be made before March 6th 2017. Relevant reading can be found here.

3) A consultation on procedures for enforcement of requirements in the BBC Agreement and compliance with Ofcom enforcement action – submissions should be made before March 6th 2017. Relevant reading can be found here

4) A consultation on revising the procedures for TV, radio and video-on-demand services – submissions should be made before March 6th 2017. Relevant reading can be found here.

As a reminder, previous public consultations which were launched last month will close in early February – details here.

Additional consultations are expected in Spring 2017.

An overview of “Ofcom’s preparations for regulation of the BBC” can be found here.

The Draft BBC Royal Charter (updated in November 2016) can be found here.

The Draft Framework Agreement (updated in November 2016) can be found here. The subject of the BBC complaints system and OFCOM’s role is addressed in sections 56 to 60 inclusive. 

Related Articles:

2016 Charter Review 

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2016 – part two

As noted in part one of this post, between October 1st and December 31st 2016, sixty-nine reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, some of which were cross posted from other sections of the site. 8.7% of those reports covered stories relating to security/terrorism.website

The remaining 91.3% of those articles can be categorised according to a number of categories. (The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which each report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Three reports related to historical subject matter:

Jerusalem reference found on ancient wine ledger (26/10/16 to 27/10/16) discussed here.

Oldest Ten Commandments carving auctioned for $850,000 in US (17/11/16 to 18/11/16)

Israel unveils Bronze Age ‘Thinker’ figurine (23/11/16 to 24/11/16)

Two reports can be categorised as miscellaneous:

Swimmers attempt to cross Dead Sea (15/11/16 to 16/11/16)

Bethlehem icons created by artists (24/12/16 to 25/12/16) 

Three reports related to the US elections/new US administration:

US election: How Israelis view the presidential contest (26/10/16 to 28/10/16) discussed here.

US election 2016: Middle East awaits Trump policy decisions (9/11/16 to 11/11/16) discussed here

Trump chooses pro-settlement hardliner as Israel envoy (16/12/16 to 18/12/16) discussed here

23 reports related to Israeli diplomatic/international relations and/or political aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict:

US ‘strongly condemns’ Israel over new settlement plan (6/10/16 to 9/10/16) discussed here.

Fifa urged to give red card to Israeli settlement clubs  (13/10/16) discussed here

Israel freezes Unesco ties for ‘denying Jewish holy sites’ (14/10/16 to 16/10/16) discussed here

Unesco passes contentious Jerusalem resolution (18/10/16 to 19/10/16) discussed here

Gas pipeline hope heals rupture in Israel-Turkey ties (19/10/16 to 23/10/16) discussed here

Spain questions Israel over helicopter drone gift to Russia (25/11/16 to 28/11/16)

Turkey drops case against Israeli officers in Gaza flotilla killings (9/12/16 to 10/12/16) discussed here

Egypt delays UN motion on Israel as Trump intervenes (23/12/16)

UN Security Council votes against Israeli settlements (23/12/16 to 29/12/16)

Israel blasts US over UN vote on settlements (23/12/16)

Israeli settlements: UN Security Council calls for an end (23/12/16 to 24/12/16) discussed here together with the additional reports on the same topic.

Israel settlements: Netanyahu rejects ‘shameful’ UN vote (24/12/16)

Israel settlements: Netanyahu orders UN ties review (24/12/16 to 25/12/16)

Israeli PM summons US ambassador amid UN vote row (25/12/16 to 28/12/16)

John Kerry warns Israel over peace deal with Palestinians (28/12/16 to 29/12/16)

Netanyahu: John Kerry blamed Israel for lack of peace (28/12/16 to 29/12/16)

John Kerry warns Israel over peace deal with Palestinians (28/12/16) discussed here

Israel-Palestinians: Netanyahu condemns John Kerry speech (29/12/16 to 30/12/16)

Israel and the Palestinians: Can settlement issue be solved? (29/12/16 to 3/1/17) later revised and date stamp changed, discussed here and here.    

Obama and the Middle East – too little, too late?  (29/12/16 to 7/1/17)

Trump and the Middle East: an impossible disengagement? (30/12/16 to 7/1/17)

Downing Street criticises US comments on Israel (30/12/16 to 2/1/17)

Five issues which shaped the Middle East in 2016 (31/12/16 to 8/1/17)

Four reports related to Palestinian affairs:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas undergoes heart tests (6/10/16 to 8/10/16)

Palestinians face uncertainties over Abbas succession (28/10/16 to 3/11/16) discussed here.   

100 Women 2016: The woman defying Gaza’s biking ‘ban’ (26/11/16 to 29/11/16) discussed here

Hamas accuses Israel of killing its Tunisian drone expert (17/12/16 to 19/12/16) discussed here and here

Of the 28 reports on Israel related stories, eight related to the death and funeral of former president Shimon Peres with seven of those having been carried over from September. The reports can be divided into sub categories including:

a) Shimon Peres:

Shimon Peres: Long legacy of Israel’s elder statesman (28/9/16 to 2/10/16) discussed here

Shimon Peres’s death closes a chapter in Israel’s history (28/9/16 to 3/10/16)

Body of Shimon Peres lies in state (29/9/16 to 1/10/16)

Shimon Peres funeral: Leaders hail legacy of former Israeli leader (30/9/16 to 3/10/16) 

Palestinian and Israeli leaders shake hands at Peres funeral (30/9/16 to 7/10/16)

Shimon Peres was a great man of the world, says Israeli PM (30/9/16 to 3/10/16) 

Obama: Abbas at Peres funeral ‘a reminder of unfinished peace’ (30/9/16 to 3/10/16)

Israel to rename Negev nuclear site after Shimon Peres (9/10 16 to 10/10/16)

b) reports relating to legal and/or criminal issues:

Israel fires: Dozen suspects arrested on suspicion of arson (25/11/16 to 28/11/16) discussed here

Israel’s Moshe Katsav to be freed on parole (18/12/16 to 19/12/16)

Israel’s Netanyahu denies wrongdoing ahead of investigation (30/12/16 to2/1/17)

c) society:

Israel in food fight over kosher licensing (10/10/16 to 12/10/16)

Israel’s Arab soldiers who fight for the Jewish state (8/11/16 to 14/11/16) discussed here

Lifting the covers on boudoir in the Holy Land (21/11/16 to 22/11/16)

How Judaism’s definition of death can boost organ donations (11/12/16 to 20/12/16)

d) domestic news/politics:

Scuffles break out at Jerusalem’s Western Wall (2/11/16 to 3/11/16)

Quieten calls to prayer in Israel – Netanyahu (13/11/16 to 14/11/16) discussed here

Israeli bills draw Palestinian warning (14/11/16 to 15/11/16) discussed here.

Israel Chief Rabbi Amar condemned for ‘gay death penalty’ comment (18/11/16 to 21/11/16)

Israel fires: Tens of thousands flee as fires hit Haifa (24/11/16 to 25/11/16) discussed here and here

In pictures: Israel wildfires force evacuations in Haifa (24/11/16 to 25/11/16)

Israeli MPs advance bill to legalise West Bank outposts (6/12/16) discussed here

Netanyahu statue: Golden likeness of PM appears in Tel Aviv (6/12/16 to 7/12/16)

Israeli parliament lifts dress code after protest over short skirt ban (15/12/16 to 18/12/16)

Jewish settlers agree to leave Amona site in occupied West Bank (18/12/16 to 21/12/16)

Israel postpones vote on new Jerusalem settlement homes (28/12/16 to 30/12/16)

e) technology:

How Israel builds its hi-tech start-ups (14/10/16 to 15/10/16)

What if your smartphone is out of touch? (23/11/16 to 27/11/16)

Even discounting the reports related to the death of Shimon Peres, Israeli domestic affairs once again received considerably greater coverage than did Palestinian affairs in the fourth quarter of 2016.

q4-reports

Overall throughout the year of 2016, 20.7% of the BBC News website’s reporting on Israel and the Palestinians related to security issues. Israeli internal affairs were the subject of 33.3% of the BBC’s reporting while just 8.3% of the coverage related to Palestinian internal affairs.

2016-reports-chart

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2016 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2016 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2016 – part one 

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2016 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q3 2016 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q3 2016 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2016 – part one

 

 

 

 

 

BBC reporting on Israeli offer to take in Syrian refugees

On January 26th the BBC produced two reports concerning the previous day’s announcement by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri that Israel will take in one hundred orphaned Syrian refugees.

The BBC News website published an article titled “Israel ‘to take in 100 Syrian orphans’” which, while understandably tagged “Syrian civil war’, did not include an ‘Israel’ tag – apparently because, as noted here several months ago, such a tag has not been instated to date.syrian-orphans-art

The article itself gives an accurate account of the story, although the term “dormitories” could have been better translated as boarding schools.

“Under the plan, the orphans would be housed in dormitories to begin with, then absorbed into the education system, Israel’s Channel 10 News reported.”

On the same day, the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an interview by Tim Franks (from 18:40 here) with Gal Lusky of the charity ‘Israel Flying Aid’.

“Millions of Syrians have fled the civil war. Their search for refuge has become one of the defining stories of recent years. Now there’s been an unusual offer for 100 orphans from Syria to be given homes in Israel. They share a border, Israel and Syria, but they also consider each other enemy states.”

The fact that the BBC managed to report this story accurately, impartiality and without needless politicisation should not of course be noteworthy – but it is.

The BBC, jihadists and Islamists

Back in December 2014 the BBC News website published a backgrounder titled “What is jihadism?” which included the following section:

islamists-vs-jihadists-backgrounder

In other words, audiences can apparently conclude that when the BBC uses the term ‘jihadist’ it is telling them that the group described as such uses violence and that when the term ‘Islamist’ is employed, they can understand that those described in that way are non-violent.

With that in mind, it is interesting to see how an article published on January 26th under the headline “Syria war: Rebels unite after attack by Idlib jihadists” describes differing factions in Syria. [all emphasis added]ahrar-al-sham-art

“Insurgent factions in Syria have joined together to fight off an assault by a powerful jihadist group which launched an attack on rebels this week.

Several militias formed an alliance with key Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham amid some of the worst inter-factional clashes in recent times.

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham has accused the rebels of conspiring against it at peace talks in Kazakhstan this week. […]

JFS has been involved in clashes with rebels in Idlib and neighbouring west Aleppo since Tuesday.

Ahrar al-Sham, which has rejected calls by outside powers to dissociate itself from JFS, blamed the jihadists for starting the fighting. […]

On Thursday, Ahrar al-Sham said JFS had rejected its attempts to mediate. The Islamists warned JFS that any attack on its members would be considered a “declaration of war”, according to Reuters news agency.”

The Reuters article also provides more detail:

“Rebel factions Alwiyat Suqour al-Sham, Fastaqim, Jaish al-Islam’s Idlib branch, Jaish al-Mujahideen and al-Jabha al-Shamiya’s west Aleppo branch said in a statement they had joined Ahrar al-Sham.

The Ahrar al-Sham statement also mentioned a sixth group, the Sham Revolutionary Brigades, and said “other brigades” had joined.”

In other words, based on the information previously provided in the BBC’s backgrounder, audiences are encouraged to believe that while Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al Nusra) is a jihadist group that uses violence, Ahrar al-Sham is an ‘Islamist’ group which – by the BBC’s definition – does not. That is clearly not the case at all and obviously the terminology used by the BBC in this report is not sufficiently accurate.

Meanwhile, since that January 26th BBC report was published, Reuters and other outlets have reported the formation of another ‘coalition’ in Syria.

“An online statement issued by the Islamist factions announced the formation of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Liberation of the Levant Committee).

It said the alliance was formed to mend splits among insurgent groups and strengthen opposition to the Damascus government.

The signatories were Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, the Nour al-Din al-Zinki group, Liwa al-Haqq, Jaish al-Sunna and Jabhat Ansar al-Din.”

The FDD reports that the leader of that new coalition – which the BBC would presumably have described as ‘jihadist’ had it reported on the topic – was previously the head of the group it portrays as ‘Islamist’.

“In a statement released online, the joint venture partners say they have merged to form Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, or the “Assembly for Liberation of the Levant.” It is led by a jihadi known as Abu Jaber (also known as Hashem al Sheikh), the former head of Ahrar al Sham, which continues to operate under its own name in Syria. […]

Some reports have identified Abu Jaber as a former member of al Qaeda in Iraq. […]

The establishment of Tahrir al Sham comes after weeks of reported clashes and fierce disagreements between different jihadi factions and other insurgents in northern Syria. It is difficult to discern how the situation unfolded, but JFS and Ahrar al Sham have reportedly disagreed over the direction of the insurgency, leading to some clashes. The two groups have long fought side-by-side against the Assad regime and others. Indeed, Ahrar al Sham has its own links to al Qaeda and openly models itself after the Taliban.”

Clearly audience understanding of this complex topic is not enhanced by the BBC’s use of inaccurate and confusing labels.

Related Articles:

Is the BBC’s report of Jabhat al-Nusra ‘split’ from al Qaeda too simplistic?

 

 

 

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2016 – part one

Between October 1st and December 31st 2016, a total of sixty-nine reports with content relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Seven of those reports (all concerning the death of Shimon Peres) were carried over from September.website

Some of the reports were produced by other departments (e.g. BBC Technology, Health) or appeared on other pages of the website (e.g. ‘Europe’ or ‘US Election’) but were also posted on the Middle East page.

Although the Israeli security services recorded 346 terror attacks during the fourth quarter of 2016 (see ‘related articles’ below), just one of the articles appearing on the BBC News website during those three months related to the wave of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis that began in the autumn of 2015 and continued – albeit with lower intensity – during 2016. As readers can see for themselves, the headline did not include the term ‘terror’ and that editorial policy is similarly apparent in the report itself. 

(The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which a report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Jerusalem shooting: Two killed by Palestinian gunman (9/10/16 to 10/10/16) discussed here and here

Another article reported on a thwarted attack against Israelis abroad:

Kosovo police ‘foil IS attack’ on Israeli football team (17/11/16 to 18/11/16)

Three articles related to Syria: one pertaining to a cross-border attack and two about alleged Israeli airstrikes:

Israeli aircraft target IS position in Syrian Golan Heights (28/11/16 to 29/11/16) discussed here.

Syria conflict: ‘Israeli jets’ strike outside Damascus (30/11/16 to 1/12/16) discussed here

Syria conflict: ‘Israel missiles’ hit Damascus military airport (7/12/16 to 8/12/16) discussed here.

One article related to a terror warning issued by the Israeli security services:

Israel warns of New Year terror threat in India (30/12/16 to1/1/17) discussed here

In all, 8.7% of the BBC News website’s reports in Q4 covered stories relating to security/terrorism. The additional topics found in the BBC’s coverage of Israel and the Palestinians during the fourth quarter of 2016 will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2016 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2016 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2016 – part one 

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2016 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q3 2016 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q3 2016 – part two

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – October 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2016 and year summary

Weekend long read

1) As noted at the Tower, the Guardian’s Martin Chulov recently published an interesting article about a particular outcome of the war in Syria. Weekend Read

“Iran is repopulating Syrian territory from Damascus to Homs with Shiites families from elsewhere in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, turning the area into “zones of influence” that Iran “can directly control and use to advance broader interests,” The Guardian reported earlier this month. […]

Lebanese officials have been paying close attention to what they say has been a systematic destruction of Land Registry offices in areas coming under Assad’s control. It has been confirmed that these offices have been burned in the cities of Zabadani, Darayya, Homs, and Qusayr, meaning that residents who fled cannot prove ownership of their homes.

Abu Mazen Darkoush, a former Free Syrian Army commander, said that after many neighborhoods in Homs were cleansed of their residents, families who returned were refused entry into their homes by officials who cited their lack of proof of ownership.”

2) The Times of Israel has a report on some of the Israeli organisations helping Syrian civilians afflicted by the war in their country.

“In one month, an online crowdfunding campaign, “Just Beyond the Border,” has raised over $350,000 to bring much-needed emergency aid to the children of Syria — more than double its original aim.

The campaign’s title reflects the ideology behind it: that Israelis simply cannot ignore the horrors taking place in neighboring Syria.

Speaking to The Times of Israel recently, Yoav Yeivin, one of the lead organizers of the campaign who is also a Jerusalem city council member for the Hitorerut/Wake-Up Jerusalem movement, said he was inspired by his Holocaust survivor grandmother.

“I was raised with the understanding that apathy could be lethal,” he said.”

3) Although nearly two years have passed since the BBC last reported on the topic, the story of Syrian patients receiving treatment from the IDF and in Israeli hospitals continues – as Reuters recently reported.

“It happens nearly every night. After dark, the Syrian wounded come to known locations on the Israel-Syria front in the Golan Heights, driven by desperation to seek help from an enemy army.

Israeli soldiers on lookout or patrol spot them waiting by the fence and whisk them away to a rear position where army medics soon arrive, according to army officials operating in the Golan Heights.”

4) Israel’s Channel 10 recently reported another development regarding Israeli aid to Syrians.

“Israel is to grant refugee status to 100 orphaned Syrian refugee children, in line with a decision by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Wednesday.

According to Channel 10, the children will receive temporary resident status and become permanent residents after four years, and be able to remain in Israel for their entire lives.

Channel 10 said that the children will be integrated into Arab Israeli families. Furthermore, any of the children’s immediate relatives will also be considered for refugee status.

The government made the final decision on the future of the refugees and will now liaise with the relevant international organizations to bring the orphans into the country.”

Comparing BBC R4 ‘Today’ interviews with two Israeli MKs – part two

The January 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an interview with Balad MK Haneen Zoabi who was in London for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign AGM and other speaking engagements.today-24-1-zoabi-int

As seen in part one of this post, the previous day MK Tzipi Hotovely had been interviewed on the same programme by Sarah Montague and listeners were reminded of that – and obviously intended to view the two interviews as being linked – in the introduction to the item (from 01:24:26 here) by presenter Mishal Husain.

[all emphasis in italics in the original, all emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “On yesterday’s programme Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs made clear how pleased her government was to see the Trump administration take office. Within 48 hours of the inauguration, Israel approved more than 500 new homes in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and Prime Minister Netanyahu will be meeting President Trump at the White House next week [sic]. Here’s what Tzipi Hotovely told us yesterday:

‘We think that we have a true friend in the White House. I think that all the declarations of the Trump administration were showing a deep friendship to Israel. They understand the complexity of the circumstances in the Middle East…’

So how does the new era appear from the Palestinian perspective? Haneen Zoabi is a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Good morning.”

Notably, Husain did not inform listeners to which political party Zoabi belongs and provided no information concerning that party’s anti-Israel platform.

Zoabi: “Good morning.”

Husain: “What do you think President Trump means for the Palestinians?”

Zoabi: “As the Israeli says, it is an expression of deep friendship and unfortunately it’s an expression also of supporting the Israelis’ policies of expanding settlements, of Judaising Jerusalem, of the violence policies of Israel against the Palestinians. So we will be the victims of this and this is also the violation of the international law because according to the international law Jerusalem is an occupied territories. So this is to delete the position; to ignore the position of Israel as occupier. We should always remember that Israel is occupier and without…and what’s the US…eh… do is to give Israel a full immunity to its policies. I think the…”

Husain [interrupts]: “You’re referring to….let’s just take one of the issues you’re referring to which is the suggestion that under President Trump the US embassy is going to move from Tel Aviv…”

Zoabi: “Tel Aviv.”

Husain: “…to Jerusalem. Now, what the White House press secretary has said so far is ‘we are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject’. If it does happen, what will it mean do you think? Will it be a red line as far as the Palestinians are concerned?”

Zoabi: “I think yes and I think the reality after that would not be the same as the reality before that. We heard yesterday the Palestinian Authority saying that the Palestinian Authority will withdraw its recognition from Israel – eh…of Israel – and I think this will be the time that the Palestinian Authority will declare the end of the negotiation illusions because till now the negotiations were just illusions. The real word was that Israel steal the Palestinian land, expand settlements – not just in the West Bank. I am a citizen and I live inside Nazareth…”

Husain [interrupts]: “A citizen of Israel.”

Zoabi: “…of Israel and I live inside Nazareth. Israel also now is evacuating thirty thousand Palestinians from the Negev, destroying five Palestinian villages against citizens of Israel. I am not talking the occupied territories in the West Bank. I’m talking about Palestinians whom Israel didn’t expel in 1948.You remember: Israel has expelled 85% of the Palestinians in 1948. No-one is remembering that now. And now…”

Husain [interrupts]: “When we were talking to the Israeli deputy foreign minister yesterday, I mean, she was stressing that in their view settlements are not…are not the only issue; that there are other issues: obviously the status of Jerusalem, refugees, Israel’s security. Where do you think the best chance of peace lies, given what is happening on the ground at the moment?”

Zoabi: “I think it is so strange to talk about peace while reallocating the embassy, while Israel yesterday has announce 600 housing units. As long as Israel is going with full immunity from the international community, with…with that which is considered to be crimes against humanityit’s a war crime to build settlementsit’s a war crimes. And the problem is not just occupation and oppressing the Palestinians – which no-one talks about it. No-one’s talking about the Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli prisoners [prisons]. We must talk about…eh…making Israel accountable. If you want peace, you want justice. And if you want justice you must make Israel accountable to its crimes. It cannot be…it is not logic to give…to vetoes the UN resolution – Security Council resolution – to give support as the British government gives support to Israel all….all…all along and then to talk about peace. If you want peace you must let Israel pay the price of its crimes, of its oppressions, of its settlements, of its 87 racist laws. In Israel there are 87 racist laws….”

Husain [interrupts] “There was recently a UN Security Council resolution which went against Israel…”

Zoabi: [interrupts] “Exactly: an exception, exception.”

Husain: “…and was supported by the British. Thank you very much Haneen Zoabi, member of the Israeli Knesset.”

Zoabi: “Thank you.”

While this interview was about a minute and a quarter shorter than the one with Tzipi Hotovely the previous day, we see that Zoabi was interrupted on four occasions (compared to seven interruptions in the Hotovely interview) – but with notably less hostility.

None of Zoabi’s blatant propaganda and incitement concerning Israel was challenged by Husain – including her inaccurate claim that the entire city of Jerusalem is “occupied”, the lie that Israel “expelled 85% of the Palestinians in 1948”, the falsehood of “87 racist laws” (with Zoabi adding yet another one since she made a similar claim at the PSC AGM just three days earlier) or the unsourced allegation that 30 thousand ‘Palestinians’ are being ‘evacuated’ “from the Negev” (it was 13,000 at the PSC AGM) – which of course actually relates to the Umm al Hiran story and the generously compensated relocation close by of Bedouin squatters.

In fact, the only time that Husain did intervene to correct misleading information was to clarify that Britain had voted in favour of UNSC resolution 2334.

In short, Haneen Zoabi was given a completely unfettered platform from which to spout her predictably one-sided propaganda (in which Palestinians are exclusively portrayed as victims and Arab belligerence and Palestinian terrorism are erased) in an obviously more sympathetic environment than was evident in the previous day’s interview.

The fact that Mishal Husain failed to challenge even one of Zoabi’s many falsehoods means that the BBC cannot possibly claim that this interview was intended to meet its public purpose remit of enhancing “UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.

Related Articles:

Comparing BBC R4 ‘Today’ interviews with two Israeli MKs – part one

The BBC’s Haneen Zoabi show

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ promotion of Haneen Zoabi omits crucial information

The Independent repeats ‘fake news’, claiming “50 racist laws” in Israel (UK Media Watch)

Comparing BBC R4 ‘Today’ interviews with two Israeli MKs – part one

Earlier this week the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today‘ programme conducted interviews with two members of the Israeli Knesset on consecutive days.

On January 23rd presenter Sarah Montague spoke with Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (from 01:23:56 here), introducing the item as follows: [all emphasis in the original]today-23-1-hotovely-int

Montague: “Israel has approved the building of hundreds of new homes on land it has occupied in East Jerusalem. The settlements are illegal under international law, although Israel disputes that. The deputy mayor of the city, Meir Turgeman, is reported as saying since Donald Trump became US president, ‘now we can finally build’. Well, Tzipi Hotovely is Israel’s deputy minister of Foreign Affairs and a member of Likud party. Good morning to you.”

Hotovely: “Good morning”.

Montague: “Five hundred and sixty-six new homes approved in East Jerusalem on occupied land: are we going to see more settlement building now that President Obama is gone?”

Hotovely: “Well, this is not an occupied land. This is the Jewish land, forever, and I must say that every time this terminology is being used, I must say this is a political terminology; this is not legal terminology because according to international law, when you think about Judea & Samaria – look at the words: Judea – this is part of the Jewish heritage. Think about Jerusalem; the only capital that it was, it was of the Jewish people. So you can’t…”

Montague [interrupts]: “Of course it is only Israel’s interpretation of international law.”

Hotovely: “No, no. This is history. This is pure history because in international law and according [to] all the peace agreements that were signed, never said that Israel can’t build on Jewish land and this is definitely a Jewish land.”

Montague: “Of course, as I say, the majority of the rest of the world take a very different view but one thing that – clearly you think differently – but do you recognise that the building of these homes makes peace less likely?”

Hotovely: “Absolutely not. What we saw throughout last year is that every time Israel went through a process of concessions and when Israel committed disengagement from the Gaza [in] 2005, what we saw was more extremists on the other side. We saw Hamas regime taking over; terror regime that the Palestinians chose on a democratic vote. So what we saw is actually the opposite. When settlements were not there, instead of having democratic flourish in the Palestinian side, we just saw extremist radicalism and radical Islam taking over. Unfortunately…”

Montague [interrupts]: “You’re talking about a flourish…yes…you’re talking about flourishing of a particular one [laughs]…the…the…Israeli Jews in settlements; they are flourishing. Of course the Palestinians are not. I wonder, do you think that the idea of a two-state solution – because this is of course land that would have been Palestinian under the two-state solution – is the idea of that now dead?”

Hotovely: “Can you ask yourself how come, after 25 years that Israel said that it would [be] willing to give the Palestinians a Palestinian state, it never happened? Never in history when a minority wanted sovereignty it refuses to get the sovereignty. Now, the Palestinians are unique on this. When you see other minorities in the world that want to be independent, whenever they were offered the independency they said yes. The Palestinians are singling themselves out from this process – this historic process – because they said no to every international or Israeli offer, what [which] means that this is not what they really want. We see leadership that refuses to come and negotiate…”

Montague [interrupts]: “What…do you really believe…do you really believe that the Palestinians don’t want their own state?”

Hotovely: “Absolutely, because they said no to every Israeli offer and to every international offer. You can ask every American secretary of state that spend more time in the Middle East than in any other conflict and eventually, after so many years, so many offers, so many programmes…”

Montague [interrupts]: “What is it that you think…can I ask you, sorry…what is it you think they want if you don’t think they want their own state?”

Hotovely: “Well at the moment, unfortunately, they prefer Israel’s delegitimation [delegitimisation] than having a good life, than having sovereignty. They definitely don’t do any step in order to achieve any kind of agreement because when you want to reach an agreement you usually sit and negotiate. They refuse to negotiate for the last few years.”

Montague: “So settlements will continue and more settlements will be build [sic] on land that had… for decades has been considered to be the future Palestinian state?”

Hotovely: “Since 1967 this is a Jewish land as you know and of course when we build there…can you imagine that when….”

Montague [interrupts]: “Since Israel occupied it in 1967.”

Hotovely: “No. Israel was in a defend [defensive] war because after not accepting any kind of partition from the UN, from the beginning of the way the state [of Israel] has started, the Palestinians and other Arab states refused to accept the idea of a Jewish state in the Middle East and this is really the issue. I think that the international community…you know what? Let me quote Theresa May. Theresa May – your prime minister – said in a very clear voice that the settlements are not the main issue. And I think this should be the guiding line for the international community. Everyone has been dealing with the settlements even though everyone knows that the Palestinian…the PLO…was established in 1964 when there was not even one settlement…”

Montague [interrupts]: Tzipi…Miss Hotovely – the arrival of Donald Trump as American president; does it change the way that things operate in Israel between Israel and the Palestinians? Is this a game-changer?”

Hotovely: “First of all we think that we have a true friend in the White House. I think that all the declarations of the Trump administration were showing a deep friendship to Israel. They understand the complexity of the circumstances in the Middle East. The fact that in a world that everything is falling apart around us, when we see countries that are basically…are just not becoming countries anymore – we saw that in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen all these circumstances that are creating more and more radicalism. When Israel keeps on being the only democratic regime in the region, they want to keep Israel in its best shape and I think….”

Motague [interrupts]: Tzipi Hotovely; we must leave it there. Thank you very much.”

Hotovely: “…we are very happy about the new administration.”

So what did audiences hear in this interview? They heard an Israeli MK interrupted at least seven times in a six minute-long interview. They heard Hotovely’s statements and positions challenged on numerous occasions – including Montague’s inaccurate claim that “only” Israel has a different “interpretation” of international law than the one promoted by the BBC.

Listeners also heard Montague twice inaccurately state that the area of land designated to a Palestinian state according to the two-state solution principle has already been fixed – with the added implication that negotiations on topics such as Jerusalem and borders are in fact superfluous.

And of course listeners heard Montague’s inappropriate editorialising in the form of the statement “Israeli Jews in settlements; they are flourishing. Of course the Palestinians are not” which clearly breaches editorial guidelines on impartiality.

The following day another Israeli MK – Haneen Zoabi of Balad – was interviewed on the same programme. In part two of this post we will be comparing that interview with this one.

More partial reporting on Israeli building permits from BBC News

On January 25th the lead story on the BBC News website’s Middle East page once again concerned Israeli planning permits.

In that article – titled “UN condemns Israel’s West Bank settlement plans” – readers were told that:building-permits-js-25-1

“The United Nations has condemned Israeli plans to build more settlements in the occupied West Bank.

A UN spokesman said “unilateral actions” were an obstacle to peace based on a two-state solution. […]

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, said: “For the secretary general there is no Plan B for the two-states solution.

“In this respect any unilateral decision that can be an obstacle to the two-state goal is of grave concern for the secretary general.

“There is a need for the two parties to engage in a bona fide negotiation to reach the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, two states for two people.””

Readers also got the take of the Palestinian Authority:

“Palestinian officials said the plans undermined peace hopes by building on land they want for a future state.”

As well as that of the PLO:

“Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi strongly denounced Tuesday’s announcement.

“Once again, the Israeli government has proved that it is more committed to land theft and colonialism than to the two-state solution and the requirements for peace and stability,” she said in a statement.

“Such a deliberate escalation of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise constitutes a war crime and the flagrant violation of international law and conventions, in particular UN Security Council resolution 2334.”

Ms Ashrawi called on the US and the rest of the international community to “undertake serious and concrete measures to bring about a full cessation of all settlement activities and to hold Israel to account for these disastrous plans with punitive measures and sanctions before it completes the destruction of the territorial and demographic contiguity of the West Bank”.”

In short, 44.5% of this article’s 593 words were allocated to unquestioned amplification of comment from interested parties.

A further 173 words related to the new US administration and of course no article concerning Israeli building permits would be complete without the obliteration of pre-1967 history and the BBC’s standard partial mantra on ‘international law’.

“About 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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

In contrast, the article devoted just 81 words to telling readers what the story is actually about and only in the thirteenth paragraph did they discover that most of the approved plans are located in “existing West Bank settlement blocs”.  

“On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would build 2,500 more homes in Jewish settlements “in response to housing needs”. […]

Most of the new homes approved on Tuesday will be built in existing West Bank settlement blocs, including 902 in Ariel and 652 in Givat Zeev.

One hundred will be constructed in Beit El, a settlement near Ramallah that reportedly has received funding from a foundation run by the family of Mr Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.”

Not surprisingly, the BBC chose not to tell its audiences about another part of the announcement.

“Liberman also said he would request permission from the cabinet for the construction of a Palestinian industrial park in Tarkumiya, northwest of Hebron.

“It will be one of the largest industrial zones in the West Bank, in which we are planning to set up warehouse and fuel storage infrastructure, along with other elements,” Liberman’s office said in a statement.”

BBC audiences were not, however, provided with context crucial to their proper understanding of this story in general and the generously amplified comments from the UN and from the PA and the PLO in particular.

They were not told that under the terms of the Oslo Accords Israel has full control over Area C and that the agreements – signed willingly by the Palestinians – place no ban or restriction on construction in the Israeli communities located in that area. Neither were they told that the future of Area C is, according to those agreements, to be determined in final status negotiations. And as usual, even though the BBC knows it full well, they were not informed that the main “settlement blocs” such as Ariel and its surrounding area would be likely to remain under Israeli control in the event of a peace agreement in exchange for land swaps.

It is patently obvious that the BBC is not even trying to give the impression of adhering to its professed editorial standards of ‘due impartiality’ when reporting on Israeli planning permissions.

 Related Articles:

The Jerusalem building permits the BBC didn’t report

Examining the BBC’s claim that Israeli building endangers the two state solution