Former ISM activist medic reappears in BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ show

h/t GB

Since February 28th BBC audiences have seen several examples of uncritical amplification of a UNHRC Commission of Inquiry into the ‘Great Return March’ events along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report

BBC Radio 4 tells listeners that Gaza rioters were ‘innocent civilians’

Disproportionate focus in BBC News report on UNHRC speech

As has been documented here over the past twelve months, the BBC’s coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ weekly violent rioting has uniformly portrayed the events as mere “protests” and “demonstrations”. BBC reporting has serially downplayed or erased the violent nature of the events and the role of terror groups in the organisation and execution of the provocation has been repeatedly ignored.

On March 18th the Commission of Inquiry presented its report at the Human Rights Council’s 40th session in Geneva. Even before that presentation had taken place, the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ aired an item (from 02:49:40 here) in which that partisan framing of the ‘Great Return March’ rioting was repeated.

Presenter Nick Robinson introduced the item with a portrayal of Israel as an ‘occupying force’ in the Gaza Strip despite the fact that Israel completely withdrew from the territory nearly 14 years ago.

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

Robinson: “A commission established by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate what it calls the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians is due to deliver its conclusions later today. Israel has always insisted that it has no choice but to protect its border with Gaza using, if necessary, live fire and dismisses the report as anything but independent.”

Having framed those participating in year-long acts of violence as “civilians” despite the fact that studies have shown that the vast majority of those killed had links to terrorist organisations, Robinson went on to falsely assert that ‘the core facts are not in dispute’ even as he described the violent rioting as “protests”.

Robinson: “The core facts though are not really in dispute. The United Nations has said that over a year of weekly protests at the border with Gaza [sic] 193 Palestinians have been killed and more than 26 thousand injured. Among them is Dr Tarek Loubani, a Canadian Palestinian associate professor at the University of Western Ontario.”

Loubani: “I’d like to say that I was doing something heroic when I got shot but I wasn’t. I was standing. It was quiet, there was nothing else happening on the field. I was just loitering, talking to some of my colleagues. I was marked clearly in greens and had been on the field for a few hours so it was obvious to the soldiers, who were very close to us, exactly what we were doing. And I did not expect that I would be targeted. Up until that point it had been six weeks with no injuries of medics. All of a sudden I heard a loud bang and felt an incredible pain in my legs and found myself on the ground. The paramedic who rescued me, Musa Abuhassanin, Musa was killed an hour later when he was shot in the chest.”

Readers may recall that the BBC News website published an article about Loubani last May in which he made the same claims. As was documented here at the time:

“…a photograph of Captain Musa Abuhassanin also appeared on a poster released by Hamas showing some of its members killed on May 14th.”

As noted here when the BBC interviewed Loubani in 2015:

“…in addition to being a doctor, Kuwait-born Tarek Loubani (who moved to Canada at the age of ten) is a veteran political activist who in 2003 was arrested near Jenin and deported from Israel due to his activities with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Loubani was also arrested in Egypt in 2013 whilst trying to enter the Gaza Strip and in 2014 was detained at Ben Gurion airport.”

Robinson of course did not bother to provide his listeners with that relevant background information before introducing another doctor.

Robinson: “Well listening to that is an orthopaedic surgeon all too familiar with these sorts of injuries. He works at the al Shifa hospital. He’s Dr Mahmoud Mattar and he’s at the United Nations in Geneva today to hear what the UN Human Rights Commission will have to say. […]

Once again Robinson promoted the BBC’s chosen framing:

Robinson: “The Israeli military say that they often fire into the legs of protesters but that they only do it as a last resort and they do it to avoid killing people. Explain to us what the impact of the injury you treat and see is, please.”

After Mattar had described the injuries and the difficulties faced by hospitals trying to treat large numbers of patients (but without clarifying that the hospital where he works is run by the same terror organisation which organises the violent rioting), Robinson again gave an inaccurate portrayal of the past year’s events along the border.

Robinson: “The human toll is terrible but what do you expect from the commission because clearly Palestinians will say they have a right to protest peacefully but Israel will say if you approach the border you are a risk to the Israelis on the other side of the border and they have repeatedly warned that people who do approach the border may well be shot.”

Mattar replied with the claim that hospitals in the Gaza strip should be given better equipment in order to deal with the injuries and Robinson – obviously looking for a political sound-bite – interrupted him.

Robinson [interrupts] “So you think the right reaction today is a humanitarian response – more money for medical care – rather than a political response about who is to blame.”

Mattar: “Yes actually I’m not here to blame anyone actually. With all the aggression we know by all the international law that the protester have the right to demonstrate peacefully. In addition we also have the right to be treated fully as the international world.”

Robinson: “But of course the Israelis would say they have the right under international law to defend their border.”

Mattar: “Yes actually I’m talking from this point as a medical professional. I’m not know too much about the border and what happen in the border but actually what I know…”

Apparently realising that he was not going to get the reaction he was looking for, Robinson interrupted his interviewee again and closed the conversation.

Robinson [interrupts]: “But you will be back, Dr Mattar, in Gaza soon.”

Mattar: “Yeah, yeah.”

Robinson: “Well thank you so much for taking the time to join us.”

The BBC’s consistently one-sided coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ over the past twelve months, means that audiences lack essential background information on that topic. Rather than try to make up for the serial failure to clarify that what it uniformly portrays as “protests” and “demonstrations” is actually violent rioting which has included hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and shooting attacks as well as infiltration attempts, this latest BBC item again downplays the threats facing Israel and ignores the fact that the violence is orchestrated by terror groups. Once again we see unquestioning amplification of the UNHRC report without any mention of its defects and the continuing promotion of a blatant politically motivated narrative.

Related Articles:

BBC WS amplifies former ISM activist’s falsehoods about Gaza blockade

BBC again amplifies Gaza claims from political activist medic

 

 

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Happy Purim!

Wishing all our readers celebrating Purim a very happy holiday.

 

A BBC Jerusalem reporter’s framing of protests against Hamas – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, on March 18th the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell reported on terror attacks in Samaria, rocket fire on Tel Aviv and recent demonstrations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme. All those separate events were framed as being linked to the upcoming election in Israel and Knell rounded off that report by quoting unnamed “Israeli commentators” who turned out to be one journalist writing at Ha’aretz.  

Later the same day a very similar written report by Knell appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the title “Gaza economic protests expose cracks in Hamas’s rule”. That article ended with the same curious framing of those domestic protests.

“Israeli journalists have observed that right now their country faces a paradox.

Usually, Israel would be pleased to see an uprising against Hamas in Gaza, hoping this could lead to the group’s downfall.

But in the run up to April’s general election in Israel, the country worries about turmoil and what other diversions Hamas might have in mind.”

Knell’s written report opened thus:

“In Gaza, it is no surprise to hear complaints about the terrible living conditions – after all, the World Bank describes a local economy in “free fall” with 70% unemployment among young people.

However, what has been extraordinary in recent days is that large crowds of Palestinians have been turning out on the streets to voice their frustration and even criticise Hamas – the militant Islamist group which rules the strip with an iron fist.”

The explanation given by Knell for those “terrible living conditions” read as follows:

“At the heart of Gaza’s economic woes is a blockade by neighbouring Israel and Egypt – restricting the movement of people and goods – which was tightened after the Hamas takeover. Hamas is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US, EU and UK.

In the past two years, the PA has piled on financial pressure as it has tried to reassert its control over the strip. Cash-strapped Hamas has recently hiked taxes, raising prices and pushing many people in Gaza to the brink.”

As we see Knell claimed that Israeli and Egyptian counter-terrorism measures are “at the heart the heart of Gaza’s economic woes” but without telling readers of the Hamas terrorism which made those measures necessary.

While describing Hamas as “cash-strapped”, Knell made no effort to explain why one of the richest terror organisations in the world could be in that position despite generous hand-outs from countries including Qatar, which gave Hamas $200 million in 2018 alone.

She erased from the picture Hamas’ spending of hundreds of millions of dollars on cross-border attack tunnels and weaponry. She ignored the cost of Hamas’ efforts to build terror networks in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas and its financing of nearly a year of ‘Great Return March’ weekly rioting, including payments to the families of those injured or killed in the provocations it initiated.

Obviously Knell’s minimalist explanation of Gaza’s “economic woes” is distinctly unhelpful to BBC audiences trying to understand the real background to the situation which has brought demonstrators onto the streets.

No less unhelpful is her bizarre insistence on linking those social protests and acts of terror alike to next month’s elections in Israel.

Related Articles:

A BBC Jerusalem reporter’s framing of protests against Hamas – part one

BBC News reports fatal terror attacks over 27 hours later

BBC News reports rocket attack on TA fifteen hours later

A BBC Jerusalem reporter’s framing of protests against Hamas – part one

On March 18th the BBC got round to telling listeners to one of its radio stations something about the demonstrations against Hamas which have been taking place in the Gaza Strip since last week.

That day’s edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 37:47 here) by Yolande Knell in which – oddly – those and other recent events in the region were framed as being connected to the upcoming general election in Israel.

Presenter Nick Robinson began by referring to the terror attacks that took place the previous morning in Samaria which had hitherto been ignored by the BBC.

Robinson: “Tensions are rising ahead of Israel’s elections. The Israeli army says that a person has been killed and two seriously injured in a shooting near the Ariel settlement on the occupied West Bank. We can talk to our correspondent Yolande Knell. Tell us more about that incident, Yolande, please.”

Knell began by giving an account of the incident which – predictably – did not include the words terror or terrorist.

Knell: “Well the Israeli military is still searching this morning for a Palestinian man who was…ehm…this attacker yesterday in the West Bank. He killed an Israeli soldier of 19 years old and then wounded badly two other people. Basically he stole the gun of the soldier after stabbing him and then started firing at cars heading towards the nearby settlement. He took one of those cars, having injured a man inside, and then drove it to another nearby junction where he shot and badly injured a second soldier before he drove off. So I mean really Palestinian attacks with guns, knives, car rammings; they have continued to occur sporadically in the West Bank but really the frequency of such attacks has decreased a lot from back in 2015 and 2016 when there was a real series of them. But this in very worrying for the Israelis as they head towards the April 9th general election where the prime minister wants to run for his fifth term. He’s really brandishing his credentials as Israel’s Mr Security.”

As recently reported at the Times of Israel, Knell’s portrayal of “decreased” terror attacks since 2015/16 does not tell the whole story.

“…Israeli officials say that slightly more than 200 terror attacks were prevented in 2015, about 350 in 2016, roughly 400 in 2017, and almost 600 in 2018. So far in 2019, there have been almost 100 thwarted terror attacks — and these are only of the kind defined as severe: shootings, explosives, vehicle-rammings, and the like. In other words, terrorists are attempting to perpetrate more terror attacks each year, and their motivation remains high.”

Robinson continued with further reinforcement of that questionable framing.

Robinson: “I talked of increasing tensions ahead of those elections. There were rocket attacks on Tel Aviv from Gaza and retaliatory strikes on Gaza by the Israeli armed forces.”

Knell: “That’s right. Quite a lot of unusual things happening in Gaza in just the last few days. Last Thursday night, as Hamas leaders sat down with an Egyptian security delegation which has been trying to mediate a longer-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, there were two longer range rockets fired from Gaza at Tel Aviv. That’s something that has not been seen here since the 2014 full-scale armed conflict…ahm…between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. Then the Israel military responded with airstrikes on dozens of Hamas targets.”

Notably Knell failed to inform listeners that residents of communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip had also been targeted with several barrages of rocket fire overnight and the following morning. However we discover that – in contrast to her colleagues at the BBC News website – Yolande Knell was able to tell ‘Today’ listeners who is behind the weekly rioting along the border fence.

Knell: “There was then this insistence from Hamas and the Egyptians that the rocket fire was some kind of mistake and as Egypt tried to broker calm, Hamas called for the cancellation of its demonstrations along the boundary fence last Friday. That’s the first time that’s really happened since those protests began nearly a year ago.”

Knell moved on to another topic:

Knell: “The other thing that’s caught us somewhat by surprise…erm…is…several days of protests in Gaza by another group calling itself ‘We Want to Live’ and they’re really protesting – defying the tight control of the Hamas authorities – protesting about the rising cost of living and high taxes in Gaza. And that’s led to dozens of arrests, people being beaten up by the Hamas security forces including journalists and human rights workers.”

Failing to mention the reports of Hamas’ use of live fire against the demonstrators, Knell then rounded off her report with more dubious framing relating to the upcoming election.

Knell: “And Israeli commentators writing in the papers this morning that there’s kind of a paradox here. Normally Israel would be very pleased with the kind of public protest in Gaza, seeing it as proof that its closure policy in Gaza, which often says could lead to Hamas’ downfall, is working. But right now this is the kind of turmoil that will be more worrying for Israeli officials. It doesn’t want to see some kind of disintegration in Gaza – possibly even leading to another full-armed conflict – just ahead of those elections.”

Despite Knell’s use of the plural, one Israeli commentator wrote one piece in one newspaper claiming a “paradox” on that day. The paper is Ha’aretz and the commentator is Zvi Bar’el. This is what he wrote:

“The paradox is that under other circumstances, Israel would be pleased with the public protest in Gaza and see it as proof of the success of the closure policy, which it believes could lead to Hamas’ downfall. But the turmoil Hamas is experiencing worries Israel too. It needs a partner to take responsibility for running the Strip, stop a disintegration that could lead to a large-scale armed conflict on the eve of the election, and serve as an address for mediation. Suddenly it turns out that the confrontations at the fence are a marginal threat, if at all, compared to the risk of instability of the Hamas government.”

Leaving aside the fact that what Knell and her unnamed source describe as “closure policy” primarily came about because of Hamas’ terrorism against Israeli citizens, the BBC’s domestic audiences now know that their obligatory licence fee goes towards paying for Yolande Knell to sit in a Jerusalem studio and recite almost word for word selected passages from a publication read by less than 4% of the Israeli public which they could actually have found online for themselves.

Knell also used Bar’el’s commentary in a written report published later in the day on the BBC News website as we shall see in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

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BBC News reports rocket attack on TA fifteen hours later

 

BBC News tells only part of an Israeli elections story

On the evening of March 17th the BBC News website published an article headlined “Israel elections: Court bans far-right candidate Ben-Ari” in which readers were told that:

“Israel’s Supreme Court has disqualified the leader of the far-right Jewish Power party, Michael Ben-Ari, from next month’s elections.

In doing so, it overturned an earlier decision by the electoral committee.

Mr Ben-Ari has faced criticism over his comments about Israeli Arabs. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has said they amount to “incitement to racism”.”

Under the sub-heading “What did the court rule?” the BBC provided readers with further information about the comments which led to Ben Ari’s disqualification.

“The court backed an appeal from left-wing politicians who argued that Mr Ben-Ari had made racist remarks.

The Times of Israel website reports that the appeal cited Mr Ben-Ari from August 2018, saying: “We have to change the equation regarding anyone who dares to speak against a Jew.

“[Such a person] is a dead man. He must not come out alive. No expelling him, no stripping him of his citizenship. He does not live! A firing squad takes him out as the Arabs understand [best].”

Mr Ben-Ari has claimed that he was referring to Hamas leadership – not all Arabs.”

Only readers who bothered to click on that promoted link would learn that:

“Michael Ben Ari, party leader of Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), has faced multiple appeals to outlaw his candidacy under Article 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset, which lists “incitement to racism” as one of three actions that disqualify a candidate from running for Knesset.”

In addition the BBC’s report told readers that:

“The court also reinstated Israeli Arab parties previously banned from contesting the 9 April poll.

They had been barred from standing for their critical remarks about the state of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces.”

Notably those “Israeli Arab parties” were not named by the BBC and no further information was provided concerning their prior disqualification by the Central Elections Committee on the basis of what the BBC chose to euphemistically portray as “critical remarks”.

The parties concerned are Ra’am-Balad – currently running on a joint electoral list. BBC audiences were not informed that the Central Elections Committee had also earlier in the month “voted to disqualify Ofer Kasif, a Jewish member of the other Arab-Israeli party, Hadash-Ta’al”.

“The petition against Balad-Ra’am was filed by the Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and Otzma Yehudit parties, which claimed that the Arab-Israeli party is “seeking to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state, and supports the violent Palestinian resistance and Hezbollah, and most of its members are supporters and backers of terror.” […]

In addition to Ra’am-Balad, the committee accepted a petition to disqualify Kasif of Hadash-Ta’al, citing provocative comments he has made in the past, including calling the justice minister “neo-Nazi scum.”

Along with his comment against Ayelet Shaked, Kasif in the past was accused of comparing Israel and the IDF to the Nazi regime, of calling to fight against “Judeo-Nazis,” and voicing support for changing the national anthem.

Last month, in an interview with Haaretz, Kasif said Israel was carrying out a “creeping genocide” of the Palestinians.”

Kasif is also on record as having “voiced support for cancelling the Law of Return”.

In addition to incitement to racism, Israel’s election law – Basic Law: The Knesset – forbids any person or list that promotes “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” and/or “support of armed struggle, by a hostile state or a terrorist organization, against the State of Israel” from running in elections.

The Balad party rejects the existence of the Jewish State, promotes the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees and aspires to a bi-national state.

However, while the BBC did provide its audiences with details of the racist comments which led to Ben Ari’s disqualification in this report (tagged, inter alia, racism) it chose not to supply an explanation of the background to the Central Elections Committee’s decision – later overturned by the Supreme Court – to ban other candidates, while euphemistically framing their negation of Jewish self-determination as mere “critical remarks”.

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BBC News reports fatal terror attacks over 27 hours later

On the morning of Sunday, March 17th terror attacks took place at two locations in Samaria.

“One Israeli was killed and two were critically injured in a pair of shooting attacks in the northern West Bank on Sunday, the military said.

The attack began at around 9:45 a.m. near the Ariel Junction, where the terrorist assaulted a soldier with a knife and managed to gain control of his weapon, IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said.

The attacker then fired at passing vehicles, hitting a civilian in the first vehicle. A second vehicle was hit, but managed to flee the scene. A third car stopped, and the attacker, whom Conricus said “appears to be a Palestinian,” took it and fled the scene. […]

Conricus said that the suspect then continued to the nearby Gitai Junction, where he shot at a soldier standing at a hitchhiking post, injuring him. […]

According to Conricus, the attacker then drove to the nearby Palestinian village of Bruqin, leaving the vehicle near the entrance before fleeing inside the village where Israeli security forces are currently in pursuit of him.”

The victim of the initial attack was later identified as Staff Sergeant Gal Keidan, aged 19, from Be’er Sheva. The following morning the civilian driver – Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, a father of 12 from Eli – also succumbed to his injuries. At the time of writing the soldier shot at Gitai Avisar Junction remains in serious condition and the search for the terrorist continues.

The Jerusalem Post reports that:

“Both Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror groups welcomed the attacks, but did not claim responsibility.

The attack in Ariel was a “response to the crimes of the Israeli occupation, and to the events in Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Hamas said in a statement, adding that “all the acts of oppression and attempts to undermine the resistance will not succeed in defeating the will of our people or preventing them from following the path of jihad.”

PIJ said that the attack “was carried out in order to move the compass and bring the struggle to its natural location.We welcome the attack and salute the rebel heroes in the West Bank.””

Although locally based BBC journalists were aware of the attacks having taken place, it took the BBC News website audiences over 27 hours to produce any reporting on this story.

In line with BBC editorial policy the article – titled “Israeli soldier and rabbi killed in West Bank attack” – only mentions the word terror in a direct quote from a family member of one of the victims. 

The report closes with a formulation the BBC has used in the past.

“More than 50 Israelis have been killed since late 2015 in a series of stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks, predominantly by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs.

More than 260 Palestinians have also been killed over the same period. Most have been assailants, Israel says. Others have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops.”

In fact the number of Israelis killed in the type of attacks described by the BBC since September 2015 is nearer to seventy

Related Articles:

BBC News ignores fatal terror attack in Jerusalem

BBC News website reports on terror attack one week later

BBC’s Stephen Sackur does ‘the Israeli psyche’

The guest appearing in the March 13th edition of the BBC’s interview programme ‘Hardtalk’ was Israeli author Ayelet Gundar-Goshen who has previously appeared in BBC content.

Hosted by Stephen Sackur, the programme was aired on the BBC World News television channel, on BBC World Service radio and is also available as a podcast. A clip from the programme was posted on the BBC News website.

“Stephen Sackur speaks to Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, a prize-winning Israeli novelist who brings a trained psychologist’s eye to compelling stories set in her home country. Hers is a world of moral ambiguity where truth, memory, right and wrong aren’t necessarily what they seem. Does her work tell us something important about the Israeli psyche?”

On several occasions throughout the interview, Stephen Sackur employed fictional characters and quotes from Gundar-Goshen’s novels to try to support his own narratives concerning Israel and Israelis and many of his questions were – predictably – aimed at framing Israel in a specific fashion. [emphasis in italics in the original]

0:40 Sackur: “That is interesting ‘cos it’s searching for the nuance, for a deeper understanding of actions and events. It seems to me that may be difficult in a country, Israel, which I know from personal experience is such a very intense place where people, in a sense, always feel there are existential questions and there are always sides to be taken – our side, their side, good against bad.”

8:29 Sackur: “In some ways your books have magic in them but they also have very difficult, dark stuff in them and when we come back to this theme of your take on truth and lies, you examine and challenge some of the truths that all Israelis think they know and hold very dear, some of them connected with the Holocaust which in your books hangs over so much of your fiction and it’s interpreted in different ways and frankly some people tell lies about what happened […] But also, the story of Israel’s creation. The coming about of the state, the fight in ’47 and ’48 that established the nation. You suggest in one of your books that people who fought in that war don’t always tell the truth about it. That there are serious lies told about how Israel was created.”

11:41 Sackur: “Do you think Israel has a problem with empathy with those who are not – well, we’re talking about Israeli Jews – those who are not Jewish?”

18:46 Sackur: “You live in a country where, if one looks at politics, the majority opinion right now is pretty Right-wing. Binyamin Netanyahu’s been prime minister for a long time. The Likud party looks like it, you know, might well win the next election too. You and a whole bunch of Israeli writers – if I can put it this way – of the progressive Left seem to be out of sync with the majority of the people in your own country.”

In one part of the conversation Sackur brings up the topic of African migrants in Israel in relation to one of Gundar-Goshen’s books. After his guest has clarified that the dilemmas raised in that novel do not apply solely to Israelis, Sackur goes on to contradict her with some obviously pre-prepared material.

13:45 Sackur: “I think that is a really powerful point you make but nonetheless there are some interesting statistics around this which do suggest there’s a difference between Israel and some European countries. For example many people won’t know but there is a significant number of Eritreans and other Africans – but mostly Eritreans – who illegally migrated into Israel in search of a better life. They’re mostly kept in detention centres. Some live illegally in the country. There are believed to be 40 – 50 thousand of them. Israel has recognised the refugee status…actually I think literally of a handful of Eritreans. In…in Europe the EU says that Eritreans who actually make it onto European territory, 90% of them – because of the way Eritrea is – are given refugee status. So there is a difference and it does seem that Israel is absolutely adamant that it doesn’t want to help the outsider in that way.”

Let’s examine Sackur’s claims one by one. Firstly, according to the government office responsible, there were 37,288 migrants in Israel at the beginning of 2018 rather than “40 – 50 thousand” as claimed by Sackur. Those migrants are not “mostly kept in detention centres” – the Holot detention centre was closed a year ago – they “mostly” live in southern Tel Aviv and in additional towns.

While failing to clarify how many of the people he admits “illegally migrated into Israel in search of a better life” have actually made applications for refugee status, Sackur compares an unspecified number – “a handful” – with a percentage. He quotes an EU statistic but without clarifying that in 2017 for example, “90%” in fact related to some 26,900 Eritreans granted protection status (rather than exclusively “refugee status” as claimed by Sackur) in 28 EU countries with a collective population of well over 500 million. So while in 2017 for example Croatia accepted 100% of the applications made by Eritreans, that actually amounted to ten people. Lithuania also accepted 100% of applications – 25 people – as did Latvia – 20 people in all. 

Of course those familiar with Stephen Sackur’s track record when interviewing Israelis would not be in the least surprised by this latest promotion of his long evident chosen narrative concerning their country.

 

 

OFCOM to review BBC news and current affairs

OFCOM recently announced a “Review of BBC news and current affairs”.

“We are conducting a review of the BBC’s news and current affairs output across television, radio and online.

The way we consume and engage with news is changing. The traditional mix of television and radio bulletins, giving audiences an authoritative daily summary of major events, has been replaced for many people by a far more complex news environment.

In this climate, the role of the BBC as an impartial provider of news and current affairs across all its platforms is just as important as ever. The challenge the BBC faces is to remain a relevant and trusted source of news, which delivers high quality content for all audiences. The aim of this review is to understand how well the BBC is adapting to meet that challenge.”

The background to that review is explained in an accompanying document.

“In our first annual report on the BBC, in October 2018, we concluded that the BBC was performing well in many respects against the first Public Purpose. When we asked audiences to rate different aspects of the BBC’s news and current affairs, more than eight in ten told us they valued the BBC’s investigative journalism and analysis of events. More than seven in ten told us they regarded BBC news highly for the quality, accuracy and trustworthiness of its news content.

However, there were some areas of concern. Audiences rated the BBC lower for its depth of analysis, and for providing a range of content not widely available elsewhere, than for many other aspects. Audiences are less likely to rate BBC TV news highly for helping them make up their mind, compared to those who considered this news to be high quality, and previous research shows a similar trend.

In our annual report, we also considered the BBC’s particular responsibility – set out by the Charter – to help people participate in the democratic process. Our research has revealed many people are generally concerned about both the reliability of content in an era of ‘fake news’, and the negative consequences of disinformation for public trust and democratic processes. Nearly a third (29%) of adult internet users express concerns about disinformation online.

The BBC has a central role to play in providing trusted, impartial news. Yet our research has shown that audiences consistently rate the impartiality of the BBC’s TV and radio news less highly than many other aspects of BBC’s news output.

For these reasons we consider it is appropriate to undertake a review, to examine in detail the BBC’s delivery of the first Public Purpose.”

The “first Public Purpose” is “[t]o provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”. Nevertheless, OFCOM states that:

“This review will not assess the BBC’s formal compliance with the ‘due impartiality’ and ‘due accuracy’ requirements of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.”

OFCOM described the methodology of its review as follows:

“As well as speaking to audiences, we will engage with industry and other interest parties throughout the period of our review.”

And:

“We will commission a range of new and in-depth audience research, using a variety of methodologies, to draw a comprehensive picture of what UK audiences and users want from the BBC. […]

This work will include qualitative research with different audience groups across the UK’s nations and regions. We will speak to those who engage regularly with the BBC, and those who do not.”

Although the announcement did not request contributions from the BBC’s (and OFCOM’s) funding public, it did include “contact information” and seeing as that suggests that OFCOM wants to be contacted, BBC Watch wrote to the email address provided to enquire whether or not it was inviting submissions from the public and if so, within what time frame.

Six days later we received what rather looks like an automated reply which does not address our question.

“Thank you for your e-mail with regards to our review of BBC news and current affairs.  

We are not able to respond to every message we receive, but pleased be assured that we will take account of your contribution in developing our work. We expect to publish our findings in autumn 2019 and will write to let you know when we have done so.

The current review is looking at the extent to which BBC news and current affairs output is seen to be relevant to audiences across the UK and trusted by them, as well as distinctive and high quality.

As part of this review, we are unable to consider specific complaints about BBC programming. If you wish to make a complaint, you should complain to the BBC first. Other than in exceptional circumstances, Ofcom only considers complaints about BBC programmes where the complainant has already complained to the BBC and completed the BBC’s complaints process, having escalated the complaint to the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit and received a final response from them. When you reach our complaint form you will be asked for details of the BBC’s investigation and a BBC reference number. 

Please also note that Ofcom does not regulate the extent to which BBC services provide “value for money”. If you have a query in this area, you may wish to contact the National Audit Office.”

That apparently is the best the Office of Communications – which is of course what the acronym OFCOM means – can do. So while the general public which funds the BBC and OFCOM is apparently not invited to contribute to this review, how the “audiences” OFCOM will be “speaking to” are to be selected remains unclear, as does the identity of “industry and other interest parties”.

 

BBC News reports rocket attack on TA fifteen hours later

When the BBC News website finally got round to informing its readers of the rocket fire on Tel Aviv that occurred on the evening of March 14th it did so – over 15 hours after the event – using the frequently seenlast-first reporting’ formulation: “Israel strikes militant sites in Gaza after rockets fired at Tel Aviv”.

“Israel has carried out dozens of air strikes on Palestinian militant sites in Gaza in retaliation for the firing of two rockets towards Tel Aviv.”

In its opening paragraphs the report told readers that:

“Hamas, which dominates Gaza, insisted it was not behind the rocket fire.

Israeli media are citing an Israeli defence official as saying that the rockets may have been launched “by mistake” while maintenance work was being carried out.”

Even though it later repeated Hamas’ denials, the BBC did not bother to clarify to readers that for such a ‘mistake’ to have happened, Hamas would have had to set up and load a missile launcher which was deliberately aimed at Israel’s biggest metropolitan area.

The article – which included two images from the Gaza Strip and one embedded IDF Tweet with a video of sirens sounding in Tel Aviv – later informed readers that:

“The organising committee of a months-long Palestinian protest campaign also announced that Friday’s weekly demonstrations along Gaza’s border with Israel had been called off “in keeping with the public interest”.”

BBC audiences were not told that among the members of that “organising committee” are terror groups including Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Neither did the BBC bother to clarify to readers that this demonstration of Hamas’ ability to turn off the ‘Great Return March’ tap at will and according to its own interests illustrates just how far off the mark the BBC’s year-long portrayal of the rioting as spontaneous public ‘protests’ has been.

Notably, the BBC’s report did not include any information concerning the related topic of some other protests which have been taking place in the Gaza Strip over the past few days.

“Palestinians in the Gaza Strip took to the streets on Friday for the second successive day to protest against Hamas and the dire economic condition in the Strip, with some reports saying the terror group used live fire to put down the demonstrations. […]

The center of the demonstrations was in Deir el-Balah, where Hebrew media reports said protesters burned tires and blocked one of the central Gaza city’s main roads.

Similar protests were also taking place in Khan Younis in the south of the Strip. […]

Quoting the demonstrators, the Ynet news site said they were beaten by security forces loyal to Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules Gaza. The Hamas members also reportedly used live fire to disperse the protests.”

Those familiar with the BBC’s serial under-reporting of Palestinian affairs will not be surprised by the fact that those demonstrations against Hamas have to date received no coverage.

Related Articles:

Rocket attack on Tel Aviv ignored by BBC News website

BBC News: yellow vests yes, blue gloves no

 

Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer looks at “The Fall of the Caliphate”.

“Even as the global media watch the last stand of the diehards at Baghouz, ISIS has already shifted its own focus. The intention is to build an infrastructure that will then, at the opportune moment, strike again in the cities of Iraq, and Syria, too.

 The reason this, or a rival Sunni Islamist project, is likely to once again emerge to prominence is that the final twilight of the caliphate at Baghouz will not settle any of the issues that led to its emergence, and of which it was a symptom.

 The main butcher of civilians over the last decade in the area in question has been the Assad regime.”

2) The ITIC documents “Reactions to Britain’s decision to ban Hezbollah”.

“Hezbollah responded formally to the decision on March 1, 2019, after the British Parliament approved it. Hezbollah vehemently rejected the accusations of terrorism “which the British government had fabricated” and stressed that the organization was a “resistance movement” against the Israeli occupation. The announcement attacks Britain, perceiving it as a “proxy in the ranks of the American patron.” The announcement stresses that Hezbollah would continue to “defend Lebanon, its liberty and its independence.””

3) At the INSS, Pnina Sharvit Baruch analyses “The Violent Events along the Gaza-Israel Border: The Report of the Commission of Inquiry of the Human Rights Council”.

“The report claims that the demonstrations were civilian in nature, had clearly stated political aims, and despite some acts of significant violence, did not constitute combat or a military campaign. Israel, however, contends that one cannot view the events as peaceful demonstrations within a state, since these were violent riots taking place along the border between two entities engaged in an armed conflict, organized and led by one of those parties, i.e., Hamas. The huge gap between the positions of Israel and the COI stems mainly from the fact that the report adopts entirely the viewpoint of the Palestinian victims, with no regard to the complex reality of the situation and to the ramifications of the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas.”

4) At the Tablet, Israel’s former state archivist Yaacov Lozowick writes about a topic the BBC has covered in the past in an article titled “The Myth of the Kidnapped Yemenite Children, and the Sin It Conceals”.

“In May 2016 we told the cabinet that we would gladly unseal the files, if they gave a green light. The cabinet appointed Minister Tzachi Hanegbi to oversee our efforts; Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked sent a top official to assist in redefining the rules of privacy in as liberal a manner as the lawyers could dare, in order to enable our efforts.

We scanned hundreds of thousands of pages in a few days, recruited dozens of students to speed the process and implemented an advanced knowledge management system. Thousands of files were closely examined, and mostly opened. The full archives went online at the end of December 2016. […]

There are no documents that tell or even hint at a governmental policy of kidnapping children for adoption. Not one.”