BBC News report on Gaza tunnel equivocal about its purpose

On October 30th the IDF carried out a controlled explosion on a cross-border attack tunnel running from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory.

“The military said the tunnel had been under surveillance for an extended period of time and was under active construction at the time of the demolition.

The tunnel, which the IDF described as a “grave and unacceptable violation of Israeli sovereignty,” started in the Gazan city of Khan Younis, crossing under the border and approaching the Israeli community of Kibbutz Kissufim, the army said.

“The tunnel was detonated from within Israel, adjacent to the security fence,” the military said in a statement.

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the tunnel was approximately two kilometers away from the Israeli kibbutz. […]

The demolition was carried out near the fence separating Israel from Gaza.”

In the hours that followed it emerged that a number of operatives from the terror groups Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas had died.  

“At least seven men were killed and another 12 injured on Monday when the Israeli army blew up an attack tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said […]

“The explosion took place inside Israeli territory. The majority of the dead were activists that entered the tunnel after it was exploded and died in the Gaza Strip, and not as a result of the explosion,” said an IDF spokesperson Avichay Adraee. […]

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said four of the dead were Islamic Jihad members, including two senior commanders, Arafat Abu Murshad, the Islamic Jihad’s central Gaza commander and his deputy Hassan Abu Hassanein. […]

Two Hamas members, Musbah Shabir, 30 and Mujahid Mohammed Marwan Algha, were also killed during the rescue operation, Hamas said.”

The BBC News website’s October 30th report on that story ran with a headline that gives readers the inaccurate impression that the tunnel’s destruction took place in the Gaza Strip: “Gaza: Palestinian militants killed as Israel hits tunnel“.

The original text of the article similarly failed to adequately clarify to BBC audiences that the controlled explosion took place inside Israeli territory.

“Seven Palestinian militants were killed and several others injured when Israel destroyed a tunnel running from Gaza into Israel, Palestinian officials say. […]

The Israeli military said the tunnel it destroyed on Monday ran from Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, into Israeli territory, about 2km (1.2 miles) from the town [sic] of Kissufim.”

The day after the article’s appearance the words “[t]he army said the destruction took place on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza” were added following complaints and a footnote appended to the report.

So perhaps (in addition to not knowing that Kissufim is a kibbutz rather than a “town”) the BBC was not initially aware of the fact that the operation took place inside Israel? A Tweet from a “BBC News senior producer in Israel” shows that is not the case and also casts light on the use of superfluous punctuation around the phrase terror tunnel in the report:

 “The Israeli military said the “terror tunnel” was still under construction when it was “neutralised”.”

Does the BBC really believe that there is room for doubt about the purpose of a tunnel infiltrating Israeli territory constructed by an Iranian backed terrorist organisation? Apparently it does because the article went on to unquestioningly amplify that terror group’s propaganda.

“An Islamic Jihad statement said the tunnels were “part of the policy of deterrence to defend the Palestinian people” and accused Israel of a “dangerous escalation”, according to AFP news agency.”

In addition, this report included a recycled paragraph on the topic of casualty figures during the summer 2014 conflict which the BBC attributes to “the UN”.

“The conflict left at least 2,251 Palestinians dead – including more than 1,462 civilians, according to the UN – and 11,231 injured. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed, and up to 1,600 injured.”

In fact – as has been shown here before – the casualty figures and debatable civilian/combatant casualty ratios that the BBC elects to repeatedly amplify were supplied by Hamas and NGOs involved in ‘lawfare’ campaigning against Israel, funnelled through a partisan UN agency and subsequently promoted in a controversial and biased UNHRC report.

Since the end of the 2014 conflict the BBC has consistently under-reported the story of cross-border attack tunnels constructed by Gaza based terror groups. Audiences have heard very little about the diversion of construction materials and funds for that purpose and nothing at all about the Israeli civilians living adjacent to the border with the Gaza Strip who are under threat from such tunnels. This latest report obviously contributes little to rectifying that.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Sommerville showcases PIJ rearmament but refrains from asking who supplied the weapons

BBC News continues to promote dubiously sourced Gaza statistics

BBC News conceals part of a story on Hamas tunnels

Tepid BBC reporting on discovery of Hamas cross-border tunnel

 

 

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Background on a recurrent BBC interviewee

Over the last three and a half years the Hebron-based professional activist Issa Amro and his group ‘Youth Against Settlements’ have from time to time appeared in content produced by various BBC departments.

May 2014 – Disingenuous report from BBC Trending promotes Palestinian agitprop

June 2014 – Yolande Knell’s ‘analysis’ of teens’ kidnappings breaches BBC editorial guidelines

November 2015 – Absurdity of BBC’s ‘international law’ mantra exposed by Yolande Knell

November 2015 – BBC World Service ‘Newshour’: using ‘alleged’ and ‘fact’ for framing

September 2017 – BBC News squeezes ‘settlements’ into internal PA affairs story

In none of those cases, however, did the BBC meet its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by clarifying to audiences the political agenda – or as the BBC terms it, the “particular viewpoint” – of Amro and his group.

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

The NGO ‘Youth Against Settlements’ has been described by the BBC as a group that “train[s] activists and locals in how to use cameras and social media – in order to highlight abuses at the hands of Israelis” and Issa Amro has been portrayed in BBC reports as “a local activist”, “a Palestinian activist”, “a prominent human rights activist” and “a prominent human rights defender”.  

Researcher Petra Marquardt-Bigman has compiled a detailed backgrounder on Issa Amro and his group in which she examines what actually lies behind the media and NGO portrayal of him as a ‘human rights activist’. The study underscores just how deficient the BBC’s partial portrayal of Amro has been to date.

 

Gaza explosion: BBC News silent, BBC Arabic promotes knee-jerk speculation

On October 27th Hamas’ commander of internal security, Tawfiq Abu Naim, was injured in an explosion.

“The head of Hamas’s security apparatus in the Gaza Strip, Tawfiq Abu Naim, was wounded in an explosion on Friday in what Hamas officials called an “assassination attempt.”

Abu Naim, who Israel freed in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap in 2011, has been in charge of Hamas’s security forces in Gaza since December 2015.

“General Tawfiq Abu Naim survived an assassination attempt Friday afternoon, after his car was blown up in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the middle of Gaza City,” Hamas Interior Ministry in Gaza Spokesman Iyad Bozm said in a statement, adding that the security chief suffered moderate wounds, but was doing well and receiving treatment at the al-Shifa Hospital in the Strip.”

While Hamas’ statement on the incident did not identify any suspects, some of the terror group’s officials immediately blamed Israel – without of course providing any evidence. Other Hamas officials however pointed a finger at local Salafists.

“Hamas officials in Gaza believe the Islamic State jihadist group is behind the attempted assassination of their security chief on Friday, reports Saturday in Hebrew-language media said. […]

Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh had initially blamed Israel for the attack, but top Gaza officials say that a preliminary investigation of the incident points to Islamic State, according to Channel 2.”

Amos Harel at Ha’aretz explained the background:

“Abu Naim heads the Hamas security forces in Gaza, and […] he hasn’t helped plan terrorism against Israel. One of his functions has been to lead the fight against people suspected of collaborating with Israel. But most of his efforts in recent years have focused on the war against the Salafi groups that openly rebelled against Hamas rule, clash with its security forces and sometimes still fire rockets at Israel, especially in defiant moves to ratchet up tensions between Hamas and Israel.

Hamas suppressed these organizations violently while secretly assisting another Salafi group, Walayat Sinai, the Islamic State branch in Sinai, which is fighting Egypt. But Cairo’s pressure in recent months has forced Hamas to distance itself from the Sinai group and limit its assistance to it, which included secret hospitalizations in Gaza of fighters wounded in clashes with the Egyptians. At the same time, the battle grew more heated against extremist groups in Gaza.

These are good reasons for the Salafists to hit Abu Naim: the harsher steps against them (including dozens of arrests), Hamas’ drawing closer to Egypt, and the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Abu Naim’s forces are responsible for policing the border between Gaza and Egypt at Rafah — operations that keep the Salafi forces apart on the two sides of the border. […]

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who visited Abu Naim in the hospital, accused Israel of the assassination attempt. But a few hours later, it was reported from Gaza that a suspect affiliated with a Salafi group had been arrested.”

So how has the BBC reported that story? While those getting their news from the corporation’s English language services have seen no coverage of the incident whatsoever, visitors to the BBC’s Arabic language website did find one short report on the story.  

However, that article – which is headlined “Hamas accuses Israel of being behind the attempted assassination of its security chief” and which again amplifies the same completely unsupported knee-jerk speculation in its opening paragraph – makes no mention whatsoever of the fact that other Hamas officials suspect that the attack was perpetrated by Salafists.

So much for the BBC’s commitment to “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards” and its director-general’s claim that the BBC World Service (of which BBC Arabic is part) is an antidote to “fake news”. 

Related Articles:

BBC Arabic inaccurately portrays 2002 terror attack victims

BBC Watch secures another correction to a BBC Arabic article

A Gaza border closure not deemed newsworthy by BBC News

 

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 puff piece on an anti-Zionist

On October 15th BBC Radio 4 aired a half-hour long programme called “My Father’s Israel” that is described in its synopsis as follows:

“How a bitter dispute over Israel’s future split a country and divided a family. In June 1967, Israel had just won the Six Day War, defeating the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and occupying much new territory. Israelis sensed a transformation in their country’s destiny. Most were euphoric. A few were fearful. Two declarations drawn up in neighbouring Tel Aviv cafes and published on the same day symbolised this bitter divide.

One, now seen as hugely significant in shaping Israeli history, declared that ‘The Land of Israel is now in the hands of the Jewish people’. It was signed by more than fifty members of the country’s leading cultural and political elites. It encouraged the wave of settlements that would arise in the territories which Israel had recently occupied. The other declaration, concocted by two friends over an espresso, warned that the Israeli victory was a ‘fateful’ moment, and that holding onto occupied territories ‘will make us a nation of murderers and murdered’. It was signed by just 12 people.

These heretical views, published in a leading daily newspaper, prompted intense criticism and its signatories were called traitors to the Zionist cause. Some received threats of violence, amongst them Shimon Tzabar, who was one of the authors. In this programme, his son Rami explores what this moment of dramatic change meant for Israel, and for his family. He travels to Tel Aviv and talks to those involved in making the two declarations, as they recall the extraordinary atmosphere surrounding them.

This is also a personal story, as Rami discovers the consequences of his father’s passionate actions. After ostracism in Israel, his father went into exile in London (where Rami was born), and continued his campaigns with weapons of art, satire and unshakeable faith in his cause. The cost for the family was high.

Arguments still rage today about Israel’s actions and destiny – an argument within Israeli society, within the international community and among individuals. This programme reveals, in one dramatic story, the roots of that argument, and how it reverberated so strongly across a family’s life.”

Neither in the programme’s trailer, its synopsis nor in the programme itself are audiences informed of the relevant fact that the narrator and producer Rami Tzabar is a BBC employee.

The programme itself is likewise dogged by omission. At no point are listeners told that Shimon Tzabar – who is described as “playful, profound and …just a little bit annoying” – was a member of the Communist  Party of Israel (Maki). Later on, while in conversation with one of two of the featured co-signatories to Shimon Tzabar’s “declaration” – Moshe Machover (who was recently expelled from the UK Labour Party and is still doing the anti-Zionist rounds) – Rami Tzabar describes his father as a “naughty boy” and a “thorn in (the) side” of “the establishment” without bothering to mention his association with the extreme-left anti-Zionist group ‘Matzpen’.

Omission likewise plagues the programme’s portrayal of the event that led to Shimon Tzabar’s “declaration”. Listeners hear nothing of the background and context to the Six Day War or the Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria.

“Jerusalem – always hugely symbolic in the region – was a divided city between 1948 and ’67; the east controlled by Jordan, the west by Israel. But with victory the city was united once more.”

Neither does Rami Tzabar make any mention of the attacks launched upon Israelis before the Six Day War – for example from the Golan Heights – which are crucial to the understanding of his commentary at 14:32.

“What’s so surprising about the greater land of Israel petition is that these are not the people you tend to associate with the settlement movement today: the religious parties. These were poets, philosophers, artists, writers. Zionists, of course, but secular ones, many aligned with the centre left Labour movement. And though the settlement project would later be led by religious groups, then it was rooted in the elites of the political mainstream.”

While Shimon Tzabar is described by his son as an “exile”, a reading of his own writings later clarifies that his departure from Israel was self-imposed.

“At the beginning of December 1967 I left my wife and my son in Tel Aviv and embarked on a Turkish liner at Haifa and sailed to Marseilles. I had no intention of leaving Israel for good. I just wanted to do something, to carry on the fight against the occupation abroad and then to return home.”

Listeners even hear a cheap stereotype when Rami Tzabar describes his parents as being:

“…argumentative, of course, but that’s Israelis for you.”

Towards the end of the programme Rami Tzabar tells listeners that his father designed a “new flag” for Israel featuring a tank instead of the Star of David and that he was sued for copyright infringement after publishing a “Michelin guide to Israeli prisons”. Tzabar neglects to tell listeners that the full title of that booklet was “Guide to Israeli prisons, jails, concentration camps and torture chambers” or that in it, his father promoted Nazi analogies

Framed as a ‘family story’, this one-sided, romanticised account makes no effort to explain to Radio 4 listeners why Shimon Tzabar’s demand for immediate and unconditional withdrawal from the land taken during the Six Day War was so unpopular with a nation that had at the time been under existential threat throughout the nineteen years of its existence.

BBC News website tones down Assad regime propaganda

The recently released report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons -UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) concerning the chemical weapons attack in April in Khan Sheikhoun was of course covered by many media organisations.

Once again many Western outlets (e.g. Reuters, NYT, Guardian, Telegraph) managed to strike an appropriate balance between portraying the report’s findings and putting the related denials of the Assad regime and its Russian patrons into appropriate perspective.

However, the BBC News website’s October 27th report on that story – “Assad forces behind deadly Syria sarin attack – UN” – yet again displayed false balance with its extensive promotion of responses from those sources.

“However, Syria’s foreign ministry said on Friday it “categorically denies” the report’s conclusions.

“This report and the one that preceded it are falsifications of the truth and distort the exact information on what happened at Khan Sheikhun,” the statement said.

The ministry went on to accuse the report of being a tool with which the UN could “exert more political pressures”, according to news agency AFP.

Syria’s opposition and Western powers have blamed the incident on a government air strike on the area, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his ally Russia have repeatedly said the incident was fabricated.

Damascus and Moscow say an air strike hit a rebel depot full of chemical munitions. […]

Speaking to the Interfax news agency, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the UN report had “many inconsistencies”.

He said: “Even the first cursory read shows many inconsistencies, logical discrepancies, using doubtful witness accounts and unverified evidence.”” [emphasis added]

The BBC did not provide a link to the AFP report from which it ostensibly quoted the highlighted statement above but one of AFP’s articles on the story includes the following:

“”Syria categorically denies the content of the joint report between the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” a foreign ministry statement said.

“This report and the one that preceded it are falsifications of the truth and distort the exact information on what happened at Khan Sheikhun.” […]

The Syrian statement, quoted by official media, denounced the “method of investigation”, saying it was based on “the words of the criminals who committed this immoral act in Khan Sheikhun and on dubious witnesses”.

The ministry said the UN report was written on the basis of “instructions from the US administration and Western countries to exert more political pressure” on Damascus.”

In other words, while the BBC tells its audiences that the Syrian statement said that the report “could” potentially be used by the UN in the future to exert political pressure on the Assad regime, AFP in fact reports that the Syrian statement claimed that the JIM report was intentionally written for that purpose.

A look at the report put out by the Syrian Ministry of Information linked state media organisation SANA confirms that the Assad regime is in fact claiming that the report’s findings were dictated in advance by “Western countries”. [emphasis added]

“Syria rejected the report of the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), which was announced yesterday, stressing that it came in implementation of the instructions of the US administration and Western countries to exert more political pressures and threats to Syria’s sovereignty. […]

The source said that since the establishment of this mechanism, Syria has repeatedly expressed that the Joint Investigative Mechanism needs to carry out its work in a professional and impartial manner and that if its reports were prepared in advance by the Western intelligence services then its work would be ineffective, noting that the manner of its investigative procedures showed the dominance of Western countries over it.”

Moreover, the Assad regime goes on to accuse some Western countries of supporting “the terrorist parties” that it alleges were in fact responsible for the chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun.

“The source asserted that Syria has cooperated with the UN-OPCW mechanism and did not delay or hesitate to work with them in various fields, including providing accurate information required to show the fact that the terrorist parties had used chemical weapons directly and indirectly and are supported by parties in the region and beyond, particularly the US, France, and Britain, and their tools in the region such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and other countries.”

This of course is far from the first time that BBC audiences have seen amplification of unchallenged Syrian propaganda that is presumably intended to tick the ‘impartiality’ box and give an impression of ‘balanced’ reporting. This time, however, that propaganda was apparently too ridiculous even for the BBC and so it was toned down and distorted into an inaccurate representation of the Syrian Foreign Ministry statement.

Related Articles:

Why does the BBC describe the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack as ‘suspected’?

Are BBC audiences getting the full picture on Syria’s chemical weapons?

Despite evidence, the BBC won’t let go of Assad propaganda

BBC amplified anti-Israel campaign rejected by FIFA

For over a year the BBC has been lending its voice to amplification of an anti-Israel campaign at the international governing body of football – FIFA.

BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

BBC’s Knell relegates impartiality to the bench in campaigning football report

PA’s anti-Israel campaign at FIFA gets BBC WS amplification again

BBC World Service tells sports fans tall tales of ‘stolen Palestinian land’

Instigated by the Palestinian Football Association, the latest campaign led by Jibril Rajoub was supported by so-called ‘human rights groups’, BDS campaigners and political NGOs, some of which (e.g. Human Rights Watch) are frequently quoted and promoted in BBC content.

FIFA recently released a statement regarding its decision concerning the PFA’s attempt to have the body take action against six Israeli teams in Area C. 

“Following the report submitted by the FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine chaired by Tokyo Sexwale and after a thorough legal consultation process, the FIFA Council has agreed on a position with regard to the administration of football in the West Bank territories. […]

The FIFA Council acknowledges that the current situation is, for reasons that have nothing to do with football, characterised by an exceptional complexity and sensitivity and by certain de facto circumstances that can neither be ignored nor changed unilaterally by non-governmental organisations such as FIFA. Given that the final status of the West Bank territories is the concern of the competent international public law authorities, the FIFA Council agrees that FIFA, in line with the general principle established in its Statutes, must remain neutral with regard to political matters. […]

Therefore, the FIFA Council has decided to refrain from imposing any sanctions or other measures on either the Israel FA or the Palestinian FA, as well as from requesting any other FIFA body to do so. The matter is declared closed and will not be the subject of any further discussion until the legal and/or de facto framework has changed.”

To date BBC audiences have not seen any reporting on the failure of this latest attempt to delegitimise Israel at international bodies – despite the corporation’s previously animated interest in the story.

Weekend long read

1) At the Spectator, Jake Wallis Simons proposes that “The left’s sinister disdain for Israel betrays their movement’s pro-Zionist origins“.

“In the beginning, the Guardian was a friend of the Jews. Or rather, those Jews who believed that after millennia of persecution in exile, they deserved the right to live freely in their ancestral homeland. The overwhelming majority, in other words. The Zionists. The Labour party liked them, too. Three months before the Balfour Declaration, Britain’s key declaration of support for Jewish national aspirations – the centenary of which will be marked next month – Labour compiled a memorandum of policy priorities. ‘Palestine should be set free from the harsh and repressive government of the Turk,’ it said, ‘in order that the country may form a Free State, under international guarantee, to which such of the Jewish People as desired to do so may return, and may work out their salvation, free from interference by those of alien race or religion.’”

2) The Jerusalem Post recently published an editorial titled “Celebrating Balfour“.

“More pernicious, however, than the attempt to discount the Balfour Declaration’s importance or to claim that it was the product of a British government under the sway of Christian Restorationists (which has no basis in documented facts) is the ongoing attempt to discredit the declaration as a criminal act committed against the indigenous Palestinian people.

If 20th century history has taught us anything it is that the real “crime” committed by Britain was the postponing of the creation of the State of Israel. If Britain’s 1939 White Paper had not been issued as Nazi Germany prepared to articulate and implement its Final Solution, millions of Jews living in Europe at the time could have been saved. Six years later, when six million of them were dead, the British remained steadfast in their opposition to immigration.”

3) The National Library of Israel has a post about “The Secret Drafts of the Balfour Declaration“.

“On November 2nd, 1917, a declaration that changed the course of history was published.

The document that would become the foundation of the state of Israel was sent in the form of a letter by Lord Arthur James Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild. Rothschild was to pass it on to the Zionist Organization headed by Dr. Chaim Weizmann.

The unpublished drafts of the declaration open a window to an entirely different and equally significant history.”

4) Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks reflects on the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

“First of all, this was the ultimate anti-imperialist gesture. Don’t forget, between the Roman Conquest and the First World War, Israel had simply been a part, an administrative district, in an empire. Christian empires, and then the various Islamic empires, ultimately by the Ottoman Empire. So it had never been a nation in its own right. So as part of this new world brought into being in the First World War, one consequence of which was the final death of the Ottoman Empire, was the sense of giving lands back to their original inhabitants. All the lands given back to Arabs, given back to Jews. So it was the anti-imperialist gesture.”

BBC News and BBC Sport ignore Judo tournament anti-Israel bigotry

A major Judo tournament organised by the International Judo Federation is taking place in Abu Dhabi between October 26th and 28th.

However – and not for the first time – members of the Israeli team taking part in that tournament have been barred from displaying the Israeli flag.

“The blue-and-white delegation to the final Grand Slam competition of the year is set to include 12 athletes, but Israel Judo Association chairman Moshe Ponte was informed by the organizers that they won’t be able to have the Israel flag on their judo uniform, as they do in every other event across the world. Instead of having ISR (Israel) by their names on the scoreboard and on their backs, they will have to take part in the contest as representatives of the IJF (International Judo Federation). The national anthem will also not be played, should an Israeli win a gold medal.”

And on the competition’s first day that is exactly what happened.

“An Israeli judoka won a gold medal on Thursday at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament, but had to sing his own private “Hatikvah” because the organizers refused to play the Israeli national anthem.

He also had to celebrate his victory under the International Judo Federation’s flag, because the emirate banned the display of Israeli symbols.

Tournament organizers did not play Israel’s national anthem as Tal Flicker stood on the podium after receiving his medal in the men’s under-66 kilograms (145 pounds) category.

With the medal around his neck, Flicker sang his own “Hatikvah” while the International Judo Federation’s (IJF) anthem played in the background.”

The BBC Sport website (which usually displays an interest in reporting bigotry and discrimination in sport) has no coverage of that story either on its home page or on its Judo page. The BBC News website’s Middle East page similarly did not find this story of blatant discrimination in sport newsworthy.

Related Articles:

BBC Sport whitewashes Islamist bigotry with a euphemism

Tepid BBC report on Lebanese Olympic team’s bigoted agitprop

 

 

 

 

BBC practice of repeat reporting of Israeli planning permits continues

Earlier this month the BBC’s most quoted Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, published an article by Barak Ravid and Chaim Levinson titled “Netanyahu Pledged 3,800 New Settlement Homes, but Only 600 Will Be Actually Built” and sub-headed “[c]lose examination of the list of construction plans expected to be approved next week reveals that the number of units presented to the public inflated and recycled”.

“The 3,800 units presented to the public is an inflated, recycled number, with the government expected to give immediate building permits to only 600 units.

Of these, 300 homes will be in Beit El, promised to the settlement after the demolition of the homes in Ulpana Hill over five years ago.[…]

Final approval will also be given for 102 homes in the new settlement of Amichai, which is being built for those evacuated from the illegal outpost of Amona. But since there has been no decision made yet on the objections that were submitted to the plan, construction isn’t expected to begin in the near future. […]

The total of 3,800 units includes plans that were approved in the past but which have had some units added. For example, Kfar Etzion already had 120 units approved, and the 38 have now been added. The government is thus presenting all 158 as “new” homes to be approved. A similar trick was pulled in Har Adar, where 10 additional homes were added to a previously approved plan of 60 homes and together became a “new” plan for 70 homes.

That’s not the only strange matter on the list published Tuesday. In Elkana, there had been a previously approved plan for 45 homes. Now the planning council is meant to turn that plan into a sheltered housing facility for 250 elderly people. The government is counting it as 250 new homes.”

On October 25th (two weeks after the appearance of that Ha’aretz article) readers of a report published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel approves 176 new settler homes in East Jerusalem” were told that:

“Last week, Israeli authorities approved the construction of more than 2,600 additional homes in settlements across the West Bank.”

The BBC already reported on the planning approval for 234 units in Elkana over a year ago. In January of this year it reported on the approval for 100 units in Beit El and in June it reported on the plans for Amichai.

In other words we see that the BBC policy of reporting the same planning applications over and over again – and thereby inflating the number of what it likes to call “settler homes” constructed in the minds of its readers – continues to be an issue.

As is inevitably the case, this latest BBC report (which once again promotes a partisan map produced by a political NGO) fails to meet the corporation’s own editorial guidelines on due impartiality by failing to give “due weight” to alternative views of its standard mantra:

“About 200,000 Jewish settlers and 370,000 Palestinians currently live in East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

As usual too, this report portrays history as having begun in June 1967 with no mention of the Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem or explanation of the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish National Home in 1922.

“Israel has occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 in a step that was not recognised by the international community.”

The article portrays the story which is its subject matter as follows:

“Israeli authorities have approved a major expansion of a Jewish settlement in occupied East Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem municipality issued permits for 176 new housing units in Nof Zion, which is surrounded by the Palestinian district of Jabal Mukaber.

It will almost triple in size, making it the largest settlement inside a Palestinian area of East Jerusalem.”

BBC audiences were not, however, told that preliminary plans for those “new housing units” were already approved in 1994 and that the first 91 units were built in the early 2000s. Neither were they informed of some relevant background to the story: (translation by BBC Watch)

“The basis of the neighbourhood [Nof Zion] is on lands that were purchased on the hill by 11 Jewish families in the 1930s. After the War of Independence the Jewish contractor Rahamim Levi bought lands on the slope overlooking Temple Mount from residents of the Arab village. His children, Yehuda Levi and Evi Levi, completed the job in the coming years when they bought the plots from the Jewish families. But the area did not have building permits and in the coming decades, until the beginning of the 1990s, the land stood empty. Only during the time of the Rabin government were building plans approved for the site.”

When, in April 2015, planning permission was granted for over 2,000 units in Jabel Mukaber the BBC did not bother to report that story because the permits were for the Arab sector. In other words, once again we see that the BBC’s interest in reporting on Israeli planning permits is not determined by the project’s location or by the ownership of the relevant land but is entirely dependent upon the faith and ethnicity of the people it assumes will be moving into newly built apartments and houses in specific areas.

That is self-conscription to a political cause rather than journalism.

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes more of its unvarying narrative on Israeli construction

‘Due impartiality’ and BBC reporting on Israeli construction

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part two

BBC presents property purchased by Jews as ‘settlements’

Why is this Israeli planning decision different from others for the BBC?

What does the BBC refuse to tell its audiences about ‘settlements’ in Jerusalem?

BBC News continues to mislead on Gaza medical services

For years the BBC has been steering its audiences towards an inaccurate understanding of the reasons for the chronic shortage of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip by promoting the false notion that Israeli counter-terrorism measures pertaining to the movement of goods and people adversely affect medical services in the territory.

For years too, the BBC has unquestioningly promoted maps, information and allegations – often inaccurate – put out by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian AffairsUN OCHA – despite the less than neutral and impartial stance taken by that organisation.

It therefore did not come as much of a surprise to find quotes from and links to UN OCHA material promoted in an article published on the BBC News website on October 23rd under the headline “Gaza conjoined twins ‘need life-saving treatment abroad’“.

After telling the story of the conjoined twins, the report concludes:

“Israel and Egypt have maintained a land and sea blockade on Gaza for a decade in an attempt to prevent attacks by militants based there.

The restrictions, repeated cycles of armed conflict, Palestinian political divisions and budget cuts have led to a serious deterioration in the availability and quality of health services in the territory, according to the UN.

Severe power shortages earlier this year forced hospitals to postpone elective surgeries, discharge patients prematurely, and reduce cleaning of medical facilities.”

As has been noted here on numerous occasions in the past, the restrictions placed on the import of dual-use goods (i.e. items which can be used for terrorist purposes) to the Gaza Strip do not apply to medical supplies. The party responsible for medical services in the Gaza Strip is the Palestinian Authority and it is that body which has in recent months exacerbated the chronic crisis affecting  the healthcare system in Gaza by severely cutting medical aid and referrals for treatment in Israel. Likewise, it is the Palestinian Authority which is solely responsible for those “severe power shortages” in the Gaza Strip that have affected medical services as well as additional fields.

The BBC knows that full well and yet, rather than telling this straightforward story clearly and accurately, through omission and implication it continues to steer its audiences towards the inaccurate assumption that the dire state of medical services and electricity supply in Gaza is connected to Israel, using ‘reports’ produced by a partisan body as back-up.  

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