BBC News turns media blunder into story about Israeli PM’s ‘comment’

On February 17th the BBC News website published a report titled “Poland PM cancels Israel trip after Netanyahu’s Holocaust comment”.

The story – which had in fact begun several days earlier – was presented to readers as follows:

“PM Mateusz Morawiecki has cancelled a trip to Israel following comments on the Holocaust by Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Netanyahu was quoted in Israeli media as saying “Poles co-operated with the Germans” during the Holocaust.

He later issued a clarification saying he was not referring to the Polish nation or all Polish people.”

Under the sub-heading “What were Mr Netanyahu’s comments?” readers were later told that:

“Mr Netanyahu was on a state visit to Poland on Thursday when his comments were reported in Israeli media, including Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post.

The Jerusalem Post said its version used the term “Polish nation”, which it said it quickly amended.

Mr Netanyahu’s office issued a clarification, saying: “In a briefing, PM Netanyahu spoke of Poles and not the Polish people or the country of Poland.””

Linking to a Tweet, the BBC’s report went on to state that:

“Mr Morawiecki took to Twitter to say there was “no Polish regime” during the Nazi occupation of Poland.”

The BBC did not bother to explain that it was not clear whether that Tweet from the Polish prime minister related to Mr Netanyahu’s misquoted statement or to a different story involving an American journalist.

The BBC’s portrayal obviously does not provide readers with a clear understanding of the story. The Times of Israel explains what actually happened:

“Top Polish politicians were thrown into a frenzy Thursday after reports emerged that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Warsaw for an international conference on the Middle East, had said that “the Poles cooperated with the Nazis” during the Holocaust.

Warsaw was apparently particularly riled by a story in The Jerusalem Post, which initially mischaracterized the Israeli leader’s quote as saying the Polish nation had cooperated with the Nazis. […]

Several reporters in the room reported Netanyahu had said “the.” But the Prime Minister’s Office spokeswoman Shir Cohen later played reporters a recording of the conversation in which it was clear the prime minister had indeed not used the definite article.

As for The Jerusalem Post’s error, Cohen told The Times of Israel: “The prime minister’s comments concerning Poland were misquoted by The Jerusalem Post, which quickly issued a correction clarifying that an error had been made in the editing of the article.””

So this is in fact a story about Polish politicians jumping to conclusions following a media accuracy error.

BBC audiences unfamiliar with the story would however have been unlikely to understand that from the report’s headline – “Netanyahu’s Holocaust comment” – and opening paragraphs which refer to “comments on the Holocaust…by Benjamin Netanyahu”.  

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BBC WS tells listeners to go online for part of a story it didn’t tell

 

 

 

 

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Hizballah video brings BBC narrative into focus

The Jerusalem Post reports:

“[The] Terror group Hezbollah published a video of the 2015 attack on an IDF convoy on the Israel-Lebanon border that killed two soldiers and wounded seven others.

The video shows the rocket launcher used in the attack, as well as the launch of a rocket and the explosion when the convoy was hit and Staff-Seargent Dor Nini and Major Yochai Kalengel were killed in January 28, 2015.”

The Times of Israel adds:

“Hezbollah operatives interviewed by al-Mayadeen [the Hizballah linked channel that recently aired the video] said the attack was ordered by the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah and was meant to demonstrate it had the willingness and ability to respond militarily, according to Israel’s Channel 12 news.

They said the decision to attack at Mount Dov, known to the Lebanese as Shebaa Farms, was because the Israeli territory is claimed by Lebanon. The operatives also said Hezbollah had observed the road on which the vehicles were hit for several days before attacking.”

That reference by the terror group’s operatives to the Shebaa Farms of course stems from Hizballah’s use of that issue as one of the pretexts for its continued existence.

As readers may recall, BBC reporting on the January 28th 2015 attack amplified that Hizballah narrative.

Patchy BBC reporting on Hizballah attacks in northern Israel

How the BBC framed the story of Hizballah’s latest attack

The recently released Hizballah video includes footage shot from a similar angle to that shown in a filmed report by Orla Guerin which is still available online under the interestingly punctuated title “Hezbollah ‘attack site’ near Shebaa Farms identified“ and which likewise promotes the terror group’s  “disputed border” narrative.

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The BBC News website’s muddled geography confuses audiences

More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

 

 

Revisiting BBC reporting on Palestinian social media incitement

In October 2015 the BBC News website published an article titled “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?”. The question posed in that headline was addressed in fewer than 200 words which did little to inform readers of the scale and significance of the role of incitement spread via social media in fuelling the wave of terror at the time, of the kind of content appearing on such platforms or of the use of social media by official Palestinian groups other than Hamas – including Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party

In July 2016 the BBC published two articles relating to the topic of Palestinian incitement of terrorism against Israelis on Facebook: “Israel angered by Facebook hatred rules“ and “Facebook sued by Israeli group over Palestinian attacks“. 

In October 2016, listeners to a radio programme broadcast on the BBC World Service relating to the Twitter hashtag ‘Facebook Censors Palestine’ were told:

“And this is really the problem: narrative. With two completely opposing views on events, what Israelis see as inciting violence, the Palestinians see as telling the truth and vice versa.”

Earlier this month the BBC News website published a report in which Yolande Knell told readers that:

“The PA denies Israeli accusations that it incites militant attacks.”

Several days after the appearance of Knell’s article, Palestinian Media Watch published a report titled “Fatah’s official Facebook page in 2018 A platform for glorifying murder and promoting terror”.

“This Palestinian Media Watch report demonstrates that the Fatah Movement used its official Facebook page throughout 2018 to glorify terror and terrorists, and to support continued Palestinian terror against Israelis. As its fundamental policy, Fatah glorified terrorists from all periods of its history including mass murderers and suicide bombers. Significantly, immediately following terror attacks, Fatah used Facebook to praise the contemporary terror and glorify new terrorists throughout the year. Although Fatah’s use of Facebook for these purposes is in direct violation of Facebook’s guidelines set out in its Community Standards, Facebook has not deleted these terror glorifying and terror promoting posts, and has not closed down Fatah’s Facebook account.”

While Yolande Knell was not wrong when she wrote that “[t]he PA denies Israeli accusations that it incites militant attacks” (as does Fatah) neither she nor her colleagues have made any effort to inform BBC audiences of the type of material regularly posted on Fatah’s official Facebook page and thereby enable them to judge for themselves whether, despite those denials, the Fatah dominated PA does or does not incite terrorism against Israelis.  

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Weekend long read

1) At the Gatestone Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh reports on ‘“Journalism” Hamas Style’.

“Hamas, as part of its crackdown on freedom of the media, has imposed yet another restriction on the work of journalists in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas measure has left many Palestinian journalists worried about their ability to report on what is happening in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Foreign journalists, for their part, have yet to respond to the latest assault on public freedoms. […]

Earlier this week, the Hamas-controlled Government Press Office issued a directive in which it said that, as of April 1, journalists will not be permitted to conduct interviews or enter government institutions in the Gaza Strip unless they have obtained a “press card” issued by the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Information. […]

The new measure is Hamas’s way of controlling the story. Hamas clearly wants to make sure that the journalists who work in the Gaza Strip report only on issues that make the movement and its leaders look good in the eyes of Palestinians and the international community.”

2) At the INSS, Orna Mizrahi takes a look at “Challenges Facing the New Government in Lebanon, and Implications for Israel”.

“Following nine months of difficult and tiresome negotiations, a new government has been formed in Lebanon that includes 30 ministers: 18 from Hezbollah’s relatively united camp, and 12 from Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s divided camp. Hariri was forced to accept almost all of Hezbollah’s demands, first and foremost control over portfolios that will provide the organization with access to national budgets (the Ministry of Health, with its large budget; and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs), and the appointment of a Sunni minister from among Hariri’s opponents, which will enable Hezbollah to can gain support from the greater Sunni camp. […] From Israel’s perspective, Hezbollah’s continued takeover of the political system in Lebanon, along with its ongoing military buildup, is a negative development. At the same time, this trend deepens Hezbollah’s responsibility for the Lebanese state and strengthens Israel’s claims regarding Lebanon’s responsibility for the organization’s actions, including Iran’s influence over Lebanon.”

3) At Foreign Policy, Colin P. Clarke proposes that ‘Hezbollah Is in Venezuela to Stay’.

“Hezbollah has long maintained a presence in Latin America, especially in the infamous Tri-Border Area, a semi-lawless region where Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil converge. But even beyond the Tri-Border Area, Hezbollah is well-entrenched in Venezuela, where the Shiite terrorist group has long worked to establish a vast infrastructure for its criminal activities, including drug trafficking, money laundering, and illicit smuggling. For example, Margarita Island, located off the coast of Venezuela, is a well-known criminal hotbed where Hezbollah members have established a safe haven. Under the regime of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the government took a more active approach to offering sanctuary to Venezuela-based supporters of Hezbollah.”

4) Philip Mendes presents a case study in ‘How the BDS movement is poisoning academic discourse’ at the Fathom Journal.

“In September 2018, the respected journal Critical and Radical Social Work (Policy Press, University of Bristol) published a remarkably simplistic and arguably non-scholarly paper by an academic from Scotland about the controversy concerning left-wing anti-Semitism within the British Labour Party (Maitles 2018). The paper, whilst of minimal importance in itself, can be seen as symbolising the extent to which sections of the academic Left, influenced by the Boycott, Divestment and Sections (BDS) movement, have abandoned even the pretence of applying core academic standards to debates regarding the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Instead, the presentation of historical facts and empirical evidence concerning Jewish history and experiences, and indeed the determination of political strategies towards anti-Jewish racism, is increasingly subordinated to the higher priority of fighting what is labelled ‘Zionism’ and to aiding the Palestinian nationalist agenda.”

 

BBC Monitoring’s Warsaw Summit hashtag ‘research’ gets mixed reception

On February 12th BBC Monitoring put out a Twitter thread about a hashtag relating to the Warsaw Middle East Summit.

Interesting use of a photograph which is not related to the Warsaw summit at all but was in fact one of several taken in Tel Aviv in April 2018 is seen in the second Tweet.

As can be seen in the replies to those Tweets, many disagreed with BBC Monitoring’s analysis and one response was particularly detailed.

Interestingly, BBC Monitoring’s thread was taken up by an outlet called ‘Persia Digest’ which told its readers that BBC Monitoring revealed that “these tweets are artificial and not the real view of Iranians”. The founder of that outlet, Mohammad-Hossein Khoshvaght, was formerly head of Iran’s international press bureau and is apparently related by marriage to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

At least now we know who does appreciate BBC Monitoring’s ‘research’.

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Revisiting a BBC report from November 2018

On November 13th 2018 the BBC News website published a report which included the following statements:

“…the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out what it called a wide-scale attack against military targets belonging to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups.

It said they included Hamas’s military intelligence headquarters in northern Gaza and “a unique vessel” in a harbour in the south of the territory.

The building housing Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV was also bombed after being evacuated. The IDF said the outlet “contributes to Hamas’s military actions”.”

A report published by the Israeli Security Agency on February 13th clarifies the background to that quoted IDF statement concerning the strike on the Al Aqsa TV building.

“The Shin Bet security service on Wednesday accused the Palestinian Al-Aqsa broadcaster and Gaza-based journalists of acting as agents of the Hamas terror group’s military wing in an effort to recruit young Palestinians with Israeli ID cards to carry out terror attacks inside Israel.

According to the security service, the Al-Aqsa television station was used to pass clandestine messages to Hamas operatives in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, using quotes from the Quran or subtle gestures by the presenters. […]

In one case, a 21-year-old from the Hebron suburb of Yatta was “asked by Hamas operatives in the [Gaza] Strip to carry out a suicide bombing with an explosive vest on a bus in the city of Lod,” the Shin Bet said. […]

The Shin Bet said the recruitment plot was a key factor in the decision made by the Israel Defense Forces to bomb Al-Aqsa TV’s headquarters in Gaza in November. […]

Shortly after the razing of the station’s building, the Hamas-affiliated outlet appeared poised to close, but was kept on air at the last minute because of an influx of money from the terror group.

Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh declared in a statement that Al-Aqsa TV’s broadcast would not be halted. He also said a “clear and direct decision” was made to keep the channel on air, without elaborating.”

During the November 2012 conflict BBC staff accused Israel of “targeting journalists” when a communications antenna on the roof of the building used by Al Aqsa TV (which was designated in 2010 by the US Treasury Department) was struck by the IDF.

Whether or not BBC audiences will be provided with any coverage of Hamas’ effort to recruit terror operatives with the help of journalists’ working for its TV station which is the background to the reporting it produced last November remains to be seen.  

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BBC Jerusalem Bureau leads the charge in false accusations of “targeting journalists”

US designates founder of Hamas media outlet championed by BBC staff

The BBC examines conspiracy theories – but not its own

Once in a while the BBC produces content relating to the topic of conspiracy theories – for example here, here, here and here.

The latest item in that genre was commissioned from an academic contributor from Oxford University and it appeared on the BBC News website on February 12th under the title “Why so many people believe conspiracy theories”.

The article provides readers with several examples:

Given its long-standing interest in the topic, one would of course assume that the BBC would by now be able to recognise conspiracy theories for what they are and avoid promoting them – and the people who peddle them – in its own content.

One prime example of BBC promotion of conspiracy theories is its relentless amplification – most recently in November 2018 – of the notion that Israel poisoned Yasser Arafat. In November 2013 alone visitors to the BBC News website saw nine separate reports which amplified that conspiracy theory.

Another example is the BBC’s amplification of the dangerous notion that Israel intends to change the status quo on Temple Mount and even destroy the al Aqsa mosque.

In 2015 and 2016 BBC audiences saw amplification of the ‘Mossad stole my shoe’ conspiracy theory. BBC Monitoring has amplified conspiracy theories found in Middle East media and on social networks.

The BBC has amplified Middle Eastern conspiracy theories pertaining to wildlife and in June 2016 the BBC News website promoted a conspiracy theory formulated by a Bangladeshi official.

A 2007 BBC report promoting the notion that “Israel itself was behind” the Entebbe hijacking is still available online.

In July 2018 the BBC amplified misinformation concerning the ‘White Helmets’ put out by Russia and the Syrian regime – despite having previously categorised it as conspiracy theory.

Conspiracy theorists are not considered too outlandish to be quoted or interviewed by the BBC and BBC phone-in shows do not eschew callers who promote conspiracy theories either.

In December 2015 BBC Radio London allowed a phone-in conspiracy theorist thirteen minutes of air-time and the same station repeated the exercise – in the name of ‘free speech’ – just months later.

“In relation to the Brussels attack two days previously, from around 22:17 ‘Steve in Streatham’ told listeners that:

“This is a terrorist false flag. Anyone who knows about false flags will know that these covert operations include Israel’s Mossad, the CIA and MI5 to blame other countries for their agenda in the Middle East and this is what’s going on time and time again. […] Those Zionists out there that are doing all this, they wanna blame certain sections of people to achieve their agenda of taking over the Middle East….””

So before the BBC publishes its next article purporting to inform audiences on the topic, perhaps it should take a long look at its own record of mainstreaming a variety of Middle East related conspiracy theories and seriously consider the question of how that practice contributes to meeting its obligations to audiences.  

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BBC double standards on disputed territory in evidence again

An article published on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ page on February 13th under the title “Debt misery hits students as dream turns sour in northern Cyprus” provides another example of a double standard in BBC reporting which has been documented here in the past.

Readers saw the location at the centre of the article described as follows:

“…Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, a self-declared republic recognised only by Turkey.” 

“Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the north, in response to a military coup backed by nationalists ruling Greece at the time.

Since declaring independence in 1983, the north has been under international embargo, so it is propped up by Turkey and its currency, the lira.”

“…northern Cyprus is not recognised internationally…”

Readers were also provided with a map:

As has been the case in past BBC reporting on Cyprus (see ‘related articles’ below), the words ‘occupied’ and ‘occupation’ did not appear at all in the report: readers were merely told that northern Cyprus is “Turkish-controlled”. As usual there was no reference in the report to “illegal settlements” or “international law” despite the fact that it was Turkish state policy to facilitate and encourage the immigration of Turkish nationals to the island during the latter half of the 1970s.

In contrast to BBC coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, readers 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” and no mention was made of the presence of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus.

As we have seen in the past, the BBC is able to report on the enduring territorial dispute in Cyprus in a manner which refrains from promoting a particular political narrative. Unfortunately for the corporation’s audiences the same editorial standards are not evident in BBC reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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BBC Radio 4’s statistics programme on Holocaust denial in the UK

The lead item (from 00:28 here) in the February 3rd edition of the BBC Radio 4 statistics programme ‘More or Less’ related to the results of a survey published a few days earlier by Britain’s Holocaust Memorial Day Trust that was previously covered on the BBC News website.

“Is it true that one in 20 adults in Britain don’t believe the Holocaust took place? Those are the findings of a survey commissioned by The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. But Professor Peter Lynn of Essex University explains why the survey is unlikely to be accurate.”

Presenter Tim Harford introduced the item:

Harford: “Last Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day; a day of solemn remembrance. But it was also a day of appalled surprise because a poll was published claiming that [recording] ‘as many as one in 20 adults in Britain don’t believe the Holocaust took place and 1 in 12 believe its scale had been exaggerated’.

One in 20 Britons: that would be about three million people not believing that the Holocaust happened. The survey said that many others were confused about the details.

So to clear up any uncertainty, at least here, the Holocaust is a name given to the genocidal murder of around 6 million Jews led by the German State under Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government and part of an even bigger policy of systematic murder of a variety of targets including the Roma, disabled people, political prisoners and many others.

We’ve always known that a few people love to claim that this never happened or happened on a dramatically smaller scale – but as many as one in twenty?”

Programme producer Ruth Alexander subsequently brought in Peter Lynn, Professor of Survey Methodology at the University of Essex.

Alexander: “Now when Professor Lynn heard about the results of this survey, he raised an eyebrow.”

Lynn: “Yes, I was immediately sceptical that this sounded a bit…ehm…unlikely.”

Alexander: “The number sounds too big?”

Lynn: “Yes.”

With no identification of the additional experts cited, listeners were told that survey participants may have unintentionally stated that the Holocaust did not happen:

Alexander: “In fact, I’ve spoken to three other survey design experts – they all agree, there are some serious flaws with this study. Now it’s true that 5% of people surveyed agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that the Holocaust never really happened. However, Professor Lynn thinks they may not all have done so deliberately.”

Lynn: “I guess the first thing that struck me was that the wording of the question about believing that the Holocaust happened seems to me to have some serious shortcomings and I think that may have caused some people to appear to agree that the Holocaust had never really happened when that wasn’t what they intended.”

Harford: “So the issue here is that people taking part in an online survey like this; they’re ticking boxes, maybe they’re not looking too closely; maybe they’re in a hurry, they’re distracted by what’s on TV; they’re thinking more about the shopping vouchers they might receive for doing the survey than what they’re actually agreeing or disagreeing with and some of them might make outrageous claims just for the fun of it.”

Later on listeners were told that the result may have come about by accident.

Lynn: “There is always a significant minority of respondents who take short cuts and I think that that could be the case here because the respondents here are presented with a series of statements. Now the first two items in this scale are firstly: ‘It is important to know about the Holocaust in today’s world’ and secondly: ‘More needs to be done to educate people about what happened during the Holocaust’. So, at that point you might be beginning to think, ah I can see a battery of statements about the Holocaust, seems like I’m the kind of person who tends to agree with them; I’ll just agree to the next few and assume that that represents my position.

But the item we’re talking about here, the third item ‘the Holocaust never really happened’ is worded the other way round – it’s what we call a reversed item – where if you believe that the Holocaust happened, you should now be disagreeing with the item. So you could easily fall into the trap of just assuming you agreed with all these items and, therefore, not giving a response to this third item that actually represents your true view.”

With the programme makers’ views of the intelligence of the British public abundantly clear, Harford continued:

Harford: “It seems like there is a lot of ignorance out there and clearly Holocaust denial is a real thing and it would be worth trying to measure how prevalent it is. So do we know of any other, perhaps more reliable, research that can give us a better sense of the true numbers?”

Alexander went on to cite a study conducted twenty-five years ago in the United States (which obviously has no bearing on the issue of Holocaust denial in Britain) and to quote yet more anonymous experts on Holocaust denial in an equally unrelated location.

Alexander: “…it turned out that the correct number of Holocaust Deniers in the US was more like 2% of the population. And experts have told me that studies in Europe have tended to give lower numbers still.”

Apparently the ‘More or Less’ team would have the BBC’s domestic listeners conclude that a study conducted a quarter of a century ago in a country with a different culture, education system and population make up is more likely to reflect the percentage of people in their own country who do not believe that the Holocaust happened than a survey recently conducted in the UK.

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BBC News ignores fatal terror attack in Jerusalem

BBC correspondents based in Jerusalem could not fail to be aware of the murder of a nineteen year-old Israeli on February 7th that has been widely reported by local media.

“Ori Ansbacher, 19, from the West Bank town of Tekoa, was named Friday as the murder victim whose body was found a day earlier on the outskirts of Jerusalem. […]

On Thursday evening, Ansbacher’s body, with “signs of violence” on it, was found in woodland at Ein Yael to the south of Jerusalem, police said.

She had been reported missing since early Thursday. […]

Ansbacher was carrying out a year of national service at a youth center in Jerusalem at the time of her death.”

The following day an arrest was made in Ramallah and the suspect was later identified.

“The Palestinian suspect in the murder on Thursday of Israeli teen Ori Ansbacher in Jerusalem was identified Saturday as Arafat Irfayia, a 29-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Hebron who was in Israel illegally. A Channel 12 news report quoted Israeli security officials saying he had confessed to the killing.”

The murder was categorised as a terror attack on February 10th.

“On Sunday, the Shin Bet announced that the murder was a nationalistically motivated terror attack. […]

The Shin Bet said that Irfaiya reenacted the murder in front of interrogators and “implicated himself definitively in the incident.” […]

Citing the suspect’s account under questioning, the Shin Bet said in a statement Saturday night that Irfaiya left his home in Hebron on Thursday armed with a knife and made his way toward Jerusalem, where he spotted Ansbacher in the woods and fatally attacked her.

A spokesman for the Shin Bet said Irfaiya had spent time in prison for security-related offenses and that he had crossed into Israel without a permit before carrying out the murder. Hebrew media reported that the suspect is affiliated with Hamas, though neither the terror group nor others have claimed responsibility for the attack.”

Last month the BBC News website published three articles concerning the murder of a young Israeli woman in Australia. In contrast, BBC audiences have to date seen no reporting whatsoever on the terror attack in which Ori Ansbacher was murdered.

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