BBC Business ‘forgets’ to clarify that quoted academic is BDS campaigner

An article headlined “How tech is bringing Israelis and Palestinians together” appeared in the ‘features’ sections of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ and ‘Business’ pages on the morning of April 30th. Written by Melissa Jun Rowley, most of the article focuses unremarkably on various “technology partnerships” but some interesting framing is also in evidence.

Paragraph three of the article tells readers that:

“…Israeli-Palestinian relations have been relentlessly grim ever since the foundation of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent Arab-Israeli conflict that has been rumbling on ever since.”

The word subsequent of course means “coming after something in time” but “grim” Israeli-Palestinian relations and the Arab-Israeli conflict of course did not commence following – and as a result of – “the foundation of Israel in 1948” as Rowley’s framing suggests.

Another notable point concerns some of the six images used to illustrate the article. Three of the photographs show people who participate in some of the programmes it features. One is a video first published by the BBC in December 2018. One is an image of torn Palestinian and Israeli flags captioned “In a fractured land, many young people from opposite sides never meet each other”. The final image shows buildings (in Givat Ze’ev, but readers are not given the location) with the caption “Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are one of many contentious issues in the region”.

Interestingly, out of “many contentious issues” the BBC chose to exclusively highlight “Israeli settlements” rather than, say, Palestinian terrorism or the Palestinian refusal to accept the existence the Jewish state.

Rowley’s take-away messaging comes at the end of the article.

“But will such collaborations lead to a stronger economy for the region and potentially a resolution of the conflict?

That remains unlikely, believes Magid Shihade, faculty member at the Institute for International Studies at Birzeit University on the West Bank, while onerous trade restrictions remain in place.

Under the Paris Protocol between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, Palestinians cannot import what they like from abroad and are prevented from developing their own products freely.

“The first step for change is to remove all Israeli restriction in trade, thus letting Palestinian and Israeli businesses collaborate on an equal footing,” says Mr Shihade.

But Israel believes such restrictions are necessary to maintain its security in the troubled region.”

The 1994 Paris Protocol was of course signed by the PLO rather than “the Palestinian Authority” and was incorporated into the Oslo II agreement of 1995. Rowley fails to provide any proper explanation of her dubious claim that “Palestinians cannot import what they like from abroad and are prevented from developing their own products freely” which apparently relates to restrictions on dual-use goods which can be used for terrorism.

Neither does Rowley bother to inform readers that while her quoted ‘authority’ Magid Shihade is not an economist, he is a ‘one-stater’ who co-founded the ‘US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel’ as well as (together with his wife) another pro-BDS group called ‘Pakistanis for Palestine’.

The Paris Protocol is seen by the BDS movement as part of the cooperation with Israel which it rejects and in 2007 PACBI (The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) recommended that the BDS campaign “Build pressure on PA officials for ending normalization with Israel (end security coordination, rescind Paris Protocol on economic cooperation, etc.)”. It therefore comes as no surprise to see BDS campaigner Magid Shihade advocating the annulment of that treaty.

Unfortunately it is equally unsurprising to see the BBC amplifying a position taken by the anti-peace BDS campaign without full disclosure – as required by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – of the ‘particular viewpoint’ of the sole academic ‘expert’ quoted in this article.  

Related Articles:

BBC News’ ‘different side’ to Gaza is much of the same

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2018

BBC promotes selective narrative on PA economy

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC senior editor defends double standards on terrorism

Those who have been following the BBC’s coverage of the recent attack at a synagogue near San Diego may have noticed that the sole use of the word terrorist appears in a quote from the wounded Rabbi in one of the BBC’s reports. A programme aired last month casts some light on related editorial policy. 

The March 22nd edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Feedback’ included an item (from 1:03 here) concerning criticism of the BBC’s coverage of the terror attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the previous week. Presenter Roger Bolton spoke with the BBC News editorial director Kamal Ahmed and from 5:20 the conversation turned to “the use of the word terrorism”. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Bolton: “Should the BBC have used the term ‘terrorist attack’ instead of ‘shooting’?”

Ahmed: “On the issue of terror and terrorism our guidance is clear. There is no definition of what is a terrorist attack and who is a terrorist. If we use the word we want to attribute it and we attributed it correctly to the New Zealand prime minister…”

Bolton: “What our listeners come back and say, and quite forcibly, if this had been conducted by Islamists you would have called it terrorism. Because it was conducted by someone who is not, you’re more reluctant to apply the term terrorism.”

Ahmed: “We went through a long list of other headlines and how we had covered other atrocities like the London Bridge attack, like the Westminster attack, like the Manchester concert attack. Because terrorism and a terror attack carry a huge amount of different opinions about when we should use that term, we need to explain what happened first, as I say…”

Bolton: “You say that straightforwardly but for some reason – the audience largely I think does not understand this – you are reluctant to use the word terror. Clearly one of their aims is not just to kill people but to gain publicity and to create a sense of terror.”

Ahmed: “There is no agreed definition of what a terrorist is. It is disputed.”

Bolton: “So does that mean we will never use it independently?”

Ahmed: “No, there is no ban on any use of words in the BBC…”

Bolton: “So would you use the expression without attributing it to somebody?”

Ahmed: “We have very clear guidelines that the use of the word is surrounded by all sorts of complications and actually confuses the issue.”

Bolton: “So it’s something you are reluctant to use, that term. Does that mean your instruction to those who write scripts and so on is avoid using the word terrorism?”

Ahmed: “Not at all. Not at all.”

Bolton: “I still don’t understand when you think it would be suitable to use it other than when you’re attributing it to someone else.”

Ahmed: “I think, Roger, we’re trying to get down to a kind of precise definition which we’re not going to get to. We want to be consistent. One of your listeners said that it was because we were worried about inflaming the masses. That is not the issue. These are live discussions. These are delicate, complicated areas which we discuss with colleagues throughout. But we’re very clear: the most important point is that audiences understand what has happened.”

Roger Bolton is of course understandably confused by the BBC’s approach to the issue because despite Ahmed’s claim that the BBC wants “to be consistent”, it is anything but.

Just over a month before the New Zealand attacks the BBC News website had once again described the 2015 attacks against mainly British tourists in Tunisia as terror.

The 2017 Westminster Bridge incident mentioned by Ahmed was described from the outset by the BBC as terrorism and the term has been used in reports on the Manchester and London Bridge attacks.  

Attacks in Barcelona, Stockholm, NiceBerlinBrussels and Paris have been reported using the term terrorism while attacks in Egypt – and of course Israel – have not.

Notably among the BBC reports tagged ‘Christchurch mosque shootings’ is an article headlined “Far-right terror poses ‘biggest threat’ to north of England”.

Kamal Ahmed is of course not the first senior BBC journalist to defend the corporation’s double standards on language when reporting terrorism but his claim that “there is no definition of what is a terrorist attack and who is a terrorist” is weakened by the fact that when it has wanted to, the BBC has found just such a definition.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

BBC double standards on terrorism surface yet again

A new BBC ‘explanation’ for its double standards on terror

 

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 discusses journalists’ impartiality

On April 26th BBC Radio 4 aired a programme titled “Call Yourself an Impartial Journalist?” by Jonathan Coffey.

“Amid the anger increasingly directed at broadcast journalists from those who claim that the so-called “mainstream media” can’t be trusted, a battle is being fought over impartiality.

The big, regulated broadcasters – including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky – argue that their output has to meet the test of “due impartiality”; their critics claim that too often programmes in fact evince bias.

In this documentary, Jonathan Coffey – who has worked on major stories for “Panorama” for over a decade – explores what impartiality means as our politics and national discourse have become increasingly polarised. Does it still matter as a concept for broadcasters? And how should broadcasters approach controversial issues like Brexit, immigration and transgenderism?

He considers how well impartiality is understood, the arguments advanced by the broadcasters’ critics about alleged failures of impartiality; the BBC’s track record on reflecting significant strands of thinking; the “liberal media bubble”; how far broadcasters are open-minded in avoiding biases; and if a more rigorous and radical open-minded journalistic approach is needed, especially in the coverage of deep value disputes.”

While the programme focuses primarily on domestic issues and does not relate at all to the BBC’s coverage of the Middle East, it nevertheless makes for interesting listening while keeping the corporation’s track record on that topic in mind.

Notably the contributors chosen by Coffey for this programme all come from the media world and include the BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ presenter Emily Maitlis.

2:20 Maitlis: “I think it’s [impartiality] absolutely intrinsic to what the BBC does and at its centre it’s about giving the public as much as they need to understand the story better. I think it’s about helping the audience to form their views. So for us, it’s trying to work out how best we do that and to be honest it’s a really live, ongoing discussion.”

8:10 Maitlis: “I think it’s [impartiality] really, really important to hold on to. I think it’s something that we grapple with every single night. It’s what we do and I don’t want to be working somewhere that has given up on impartiality because then we’re just opinion. We’re ranty radio or ranty TV. And there’s plenty of that in other parts of the world.”

Regular readers may recall Ms Maitlis’ own departure from those fine principles less than five years ago.

“BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ presenter Emily Maitlis however did not need to wait until investigations had been completed in order to determine whether the UN facility was hit by an errant IDF shell, a shortfall terrorist missile, terrorist mortar fire aimed at IDF troops or any combination of the above. Interviewing Israeli spokesman Mark Regev just hours after the incident – and clearly completely misunderstanding the nature and intention of IDF warnings to evacuate because of fighting in the area – she emotionally charged Regev with the following:

“But you said you were going to hit it. You hit it. You killed them.”

Beyond Maitlis’ distinctly unprofessional demeanor throughout this interview, her repeated interruptions and her obvious urgency to promote her own version of events to audiences, one patronizing statement she makes is extremely revealing and actually captures the essence of much of the BBC’s reporting of the current hostilities in a nutshell.

“You have a very effective defence system. It’s called the Iron Dome. It stops you for the most part being hit. They [the people in Gaza] don’t and they’re paying the price with their dead children.”

Another of Coffey’s contributors was ‘The Canary’ editor Kerry-Anne Mendoza who claimed that the views of the Left are under-represented in UK broadcast media.

12:45 Mendoza: “Whose view is under-represented? It’s the Left. It’s just a fact and on issues say like climate change or Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party, the guest list is often weighted towards the status quo and weighted towards the media which is hostile to any kind of politics or economics outside the bubble that it’s used to.”

Mendoza has herself been a not infrequent contributor to BBC programmes such as ‘Question Time’, ‘Newsnight’ and political shows. Regular readers may recall her inadequately challenged promotion of falsehoods designed to equate Israel with the Third Reich on BBC Radio 4 three years ago.

Nevertheless, these are some of the voices that Jonathan Coffey apparently considered would contribute to Radio 4 audiences’ understanding of “open mindedness” and “escaping bias” as impartiality is defined throughout the programme.

Related Articles:

BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis to Israeli spokesman: “You killed them”

What Beit Hanoun tells us about BBC impartiality

BBC Radio 4 promotes Nazi analogy in a discussion on antisemitism

 

 

 

A Times columnist treads where the BBC has gone before

Our colleague Adam Levick at UK Media Watch has noted a recent claim from the ‘Times’ columnist Janice Turner.

“The first sentence in the paragraph we highlighted, where she claims to have watched “ultra-orthodox settlers enter the Al-Aqsa mosque” to “pray”, would strike anyone familiar with regulations at the holy site as (at the very least) extraordinarily unlikely.  Jews are not allowed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and are not allowed to pray anywhere on the Temple Mount.  In fact, Jews even suspected of silently praying on the Temple Mount are often arrested.  Further, we confirmed with Israeli Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld in a phone call this morning that – as we suspected – no Jews have entered the mosque and there have been no ‘incidents’ of illegal Jewish prayer.”

Turner later clarified on Twitter that she was in fact referring to the Temple Mount compound rather than the mosque itself.

But where would a British journalist have got the idea that Temple Mount – known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif – is called “the Al-Aqsa mosque”? Could it be from the self-declared “provider of news that you can trust”?

Back in 2016 we documented changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount which coincided with the publication of a ‘media advisory document’ for foreign journalists by the PLO.

After a brief return to the use of the location’s titles as specified in the BBC’s style guide, the employment of PLO approved terminology resurfaced again in BBC coverage in the summer of 2017.

BBC’s ME correspondents revert to partisan terminology for Temple Mount – part one

BBC’s ME correspondents revert to partisan terminology for Temple Mount – part two

While we of course do not know where Turner picked up her erroneous terminology, it is obvious that the leading UK broadcaster’s repeated use of PLO approved nomenclature does not help members of the British public to be aware of the political motivations that lie behind its promotion. 

Related Articles:

Times of London columnist claims to have watched Jews pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque  UK Media Watch

Once again, BBC history begins in June 1967

Visitors to the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on April 23rd were informed that: “Israel to name Golan town after Trump”.

Those who bothered to click on the link discovered in the report itself report  – “I will name a Golan town after Trump, says Israel’s Netanyahu” –  that the story is distinctly less cut and dried than that headline claims.

“Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says he intends to name a new settlement in the occupied Golan Heights after US President Donald Trump.

Mr Netanyahu said the move would honour Mr Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan in March. […]

“I intend to bring to the government a resolution calling for a new community on the Golan Heights named after President Donald J Trump”, he said in a video message.”

In other words, such a proposal would first have to pass a vote in the cabinet and then – assuming the community was indeed a new one – go through years of planning permission before a new town or village bearing the name of the (by then most likely former) US president could come into being. 

Seeing as there was obviously not much meat to a story based on two similar videos in Hebrew and English together totaling less than one and a half minutes, over 60% of the BBC’s report was given over to background information and as usual the BBC’s portrayal of history began in June 1967.

“Israel seized the Golan from Syria in 1967 and annexed the territory in 1981. The move has not been recognised internationally. […]

Israel seized most of the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Middle East war, and thwarted a Syrian attempt to retake the region during the 1973 war.”

Obviously that framing tells BBC audiences nothing at all about what happened before “Israel seized the Golan” or why it did so.

“In the years and months leading up to the 1967 war, Syria had played a crucial role in raising tensions by engaging in acts of sabotage and incessantly shelling Israeli communities. The second half of 1966 and spring of 1967 saw increasing friction and incidents between the IDF and Syrian forces. […]

By 1967 more than 265 artillery pieces were aimed down at Israel, and on the plateau itself Syria had constructed a dense network of fortifications, trenches and concrete bunkers with overlapping fields of fire, all sitting behind dense mine fields. Just before the outbreak of the war the Syrians forces in the Golan totaled over 40,000 troops with 260 tanks and self-propelled guns, divided up among three armored brigades and five infantry brigades. Facing them, the Israelis were heavily outgunned, with just one armored brigade and one infantry brigade. […]

During the first day of the war, on June 5, Syrian planes attacked communities in the north of Israel, including Tiberias, and attempted to attack the Haifa oil refineries. The Israeli air force responded later that day with an attack on Syria’s airbases, destroying 59 Syrian aircraft, mostly on the ground.

In the early morning hours of June 6, however, Syria intensified its attacks, launching a heavy artillery barrage against Israeli civilian communities, and then sending two companies of infantry across the border to attack Kibbutz Dan. […]

On June 8, the fourth day of the war, Syria accepted a UN cease-fire, and for five hours there was a lull in the shelling. But then the barrages resumed, and state radio announced that Syria did not consider itself bound by any cease-fire.”

The public purposes set out in BBC’s Royal Charter oblige it to “build people’s understanding” and “offer a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available…so that all audiences can engage fully with major…global issues”. 

Obviously the omission of the background to the Six Day War that is so often seen in BBC content and the employment in its place of simplistic statements such as “Israel seized the Golan from Syria” do not contribute to meeting those public purpose obligations. 

 

An overview of the BBC News website’s 2019 election coverage

As we saw in an earlier post the BBC News website published fifteen reports relating to the 2019 general election in Israel between the date of its announcement and the commencement of polling.

As has been the case in previous years, the vast majority of the contending lists were totally ignored in that coverage. Most of the BBC’s attention was once again focused on the right of the political map with the exception of the Blue & White Party.

Of the seven contenders featured in a BBC backgrounder about the election’s “key candidates”, three (Naftali Bennet, Ayelet Shaked and Moshe Feiglin) failed to secure any seats at all in the Knesset and one (Avi Gabbai) got just six seats.

The day after the election – April 10th – the BBC News website published two additional articles:

Israel election: Netanyahu set for record fifth term

Israel election: ‘Bibi the magician’ pulls off another trick  by Lyse Doucet

While audiences saw significantly fewer interviews with Palestinian commentators than in previous years, those two reports nevertheless revived the favoured BBC practice of framing Israeli elections  in terms of their potential effect on ‘the peace process’.

The first article included a section titled “What does it mean for the peace process?” which began by whitewashing terrorists’ rocket attacks on Israeli civilian communities.

“Recent weeks have seen tensions flare between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, and US President Donald Trump is expected to publish his plan which aims to solve Israel’s long-standing conflict with the Palestinians soon.”

Readers then saw a portrayal of the two-state solution which (as has been BBC practice for over two years) promotes the Palestinian interpretation of that term.

“Many Israelis appear to see little hope in the longstanding international formula for peace – the “two-state solution”. The phrase denotes a final settlement that would see Israel living peacefully alongside an independent state of Palestine, defined within pre-1967 ceasefire lines in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.”

That framing was again reinforced just a few paragraphs later in the Saeb Erekat quote which appears to be a near permanent feature in any BBC report mentioning ‘the peace process’.  

The article by the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet promoted inaccurate and misleading comment from another BBC favourite, Mustafa Barghouti.

“The disillusion and despair in Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza will be even greater as they see the results of an election, in which they had no say, that will shape their future.

“There’s no difference between one party or another,” comments veteran Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti, chairman of the Palestinian National Initiative. “All of them are calling for the continuation of the occupation and settlement building.”” [emphasis added]

Doucet did not bother to clarify that the reason residents “in the West Bank and Gaza…had no say” is because they are not Israeli citizens and they instead have the right to vote in elections for the Palestinian parliament if and when those take place.

As was the case in BBC coverage of the two previous elections in 2013 and 2015, coverage of this election presented a picture which disproportionately focused on one side of the Israeli political map with audiences learning very little about the policies of participating Centrist and Leftist parties.

Overall, the BBC News website’s selective coverage of the 2019 election conformed to the agenda evident in the corporation’s reporting of the two previous ones. Israel was once again portrayed as a country ‘shifting’ to the right and that alleged shift was depicted as the exclusive reason for the predicted failure to make progress in ‘the peace process’.

In order to promote that framing, the BBC of course has to ignore the fact that no matter which Israeli political party has won elections over the past twenty-seven years, all attempts to bring an end to the conflict have been met with a negative response from the other side.  

And yet, despite its obligation to “build people’s understanding” the BBC continues its dumbed-down, narrative-driven portrayal of the ‘peace process’ as being entirely dependent upon the paper placed in the ballot box by Israeli voters. 

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website pre-election coverage

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

Elections 2015 – a postscript on BBC framing of Israeli elections over 23 years

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC reports on the “Nature and Functioning of the Supreme National Authority of the Return Marches and Lifting the Siege”.

“A year has passed since the return march project began. Preparations for the project began in early 2018 as an initiative of social activists and organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. In the early stages, when the idea was being formulated, the organizers of the march claimed that the events would not be of a political nature, that official representatives of the various organizations would not participate, and that there would be no violence. Hamas supported the idea of the marches, but preferred to remain behind the scenes in the initial preparation stage. However, Hamas quickly took over the reins and took control of the return marches, even before the first march took place, on March 30, 2018. The longer the marches continued, the greater the importance attached to them by Hamas.”

2) At the INSS, Sarah J Feuer analyses the unrest in North Africa.

“With the apparent defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS), the approaching end to the civil war in Syria, and sovereignty returning to Iraq, the Middle East has appeared to settle into a relative, if tense, calm. Across North Africa, however, where the upheavals began eight years ago, recent weeks have witnessed a growing unrest reminiscent of the Arab Spring’s early days. Though ostensibly unrelated, the removal of longtime autocrats in Algeria and Sudan, and an emerging strongman’s bid for hegemony in Libya, collectively point to competing visions for a post-Arab Spring order whose fate remains uncertain.”

3) Writing at Bloomberg, Daniel Gordis argues that “Israel’s Election Didn’t Kill Hope for Peace. It Was Already Dead.

“Many Israelis still hope for peace, and many (though a steadily decreasing number) still favor a two-state solution. But few imagine that there is any chance for either in the coming years. U.S. President Donald Trump has long promised to deliver the “deal of the century,” but Israelis are largely of two minds on that: Many believe it will never see the light of day; most of the rest think that because the Palestinians have already declared the program “born dead,” it makes no difference what Israelis think of it.

There is no “deal” now or in the foreseeable future primarily because the Palestinians have still not made peace with the idea that a Jewish state is here to stay. When Hamas, which controls Gaza, started its “March of Return” last year, it promised that the march would mark the beginning of the “liberation of all of Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.” The march, in other words, was simply the latest chapter in Hamas’s drive to destroy the Jewish state.”

4) At the JCPA Pinhas Inbari takes a look behind the scenes of the formation of the new PA government about which BBC audiences have yet to hear.

“On April 13, 2019, Dr. Muhammad Shtayyeh announced the formation of his new Palestinian Authority government. The announcement followed earlier reports he was going to ask President Mahmoud Abbas to give him an extension to complete his task of government formation. […]

The reason for the extension was that he wanted to meet the challenge of defining the government as a broad, Palestinian “PLO government” as pre-announced. He also wanted to include personalities from the diaspora who had been invited to Ramallah.

However, the leading factions of the PLO – the Democratic Front and the Popular Front – are allied with Hamas, and they refused to participate. The Fatah faction in the West Bank rejected the “outsiders.”  They wanted all of the portfolios to be kept in local Fatah’s hands – except for a few, such as Riad Malki, a PFLP associate.

For this reason, Shtayyeh’s administration is not a “PLO government” as pre-designed, but only “just” a government.”

 

Happy Pessah!

Wishing all our readers celebrating the 7th day of Pessah and all our Druze friends celebrating the festival of Nabi Shu’ayb a very happy holiday.

 

BBC Europe editor devotes over half a report on antisemitism in Poland to Israel

The April 22nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ included an item (from 24:32 here) that began by relating to an event which had taken place a few days earlier in Poland.

Newsreader: “The World Jewish Congress has condemned an Easter ritual in a town in Poland during which an effigy of Judas Iscariot depicted as an Orthodox Jew was hanged, beaten and burned. Media in the south-eastern town of Pruchnik said the events were a revival of a Good Friday tradition that targets the disciple who’s said to have betrayed Jesus. Here’s our Europe regional editor Danny Aeberhard.”

Aeberhard: “Video footage shows a crude sackcloth Judas stuffed with straw with a large red nose, sidelocks and a black hat, the word ‘traitor’ in Polish daubed on its front. The effigy is battered with sticks by groups of children as it’s dragged through the streets before being burnt. The head of the World Jewish Congress, Robert Singer, called it a ghastly revival of medieval antisemitism.”

Aeberhard did not however conclude his report there. Although the World Jewish Congress is not an Israeli organisation, he chose to spend over half his air time bringing Israel into the story while uncritically re-promoting a highly offensive statement made by the Polish prime minister in February 2018 which the BBC failed to adequately report at the time.

Aeberhard: “Relations between Poland and Israel – in some ways close – have been strained by bitter exchanges over the extent of antisemitism in Poland, linked to a row over the Holocaust. Poland’s prime minister said some Jews had helped perpetrate the Holocaust as well as some Poles. And Israel’s acting foreign minister used a quote from a former prime minister to allege that Poles imbibed antisemitism with their mothers’ milk. The Israeli press has picked up on the Pruchnik Judas ritual which raises the possibility of further less than diplomatic exchanges.” [emphasis added]

The item ended there, with no further information given to listeners regarding that “row over the Holocaust” and no explanation as to why that remark from the Polish prime minister – which has been described as “not only ugly but telling in its deliberate bracketing of the Holocaust’s principal victims with Polish and other Eastern European collaborators” – was widely condemned at the time.

Listeners did learn, however, that any follow-up to the story portrayed at the beginning of the item will be because of “the Israeli press” rather than because of the actions (now apparently under criminal investigation) of residents of a small Polish town.

Related Articles:

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

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

 

 

Examining the rationale behind BBC policy on Israel’s capital

Over the years we have documented numerous examples of the BBC’s refusal to call Jerusalem Israel’s capital city.

“The BBC does not call Jerusalem the ‘capital’ of Israel, though of course BBC journalists can report that Israel claims it as such. If you need a phrase you can call it Israel’s ‘seat of government’, and you can also report that all foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv. This position was endorsed by the findings of a BBC Trust complaints hearing published in February 2013.”

Those wishing to understand why the BBC imperiously refuses to call even the parts of Jerusalem which were not occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967 the capital of Israel can find the background to that policy decision here.

“The [BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards] Committee noted that while there is no expectation that in a two-state solution West Jerusalem would become Palestinian territory, a UN resolution passed in 1947 has not been rescinded. It calls for the whole of Jerusalem to be an international city, a corpus separatum (similar to the Vatican City), and in that context, technically, West Jerusalem is not Israeli sovereign territory. “

In other words the BBC erroneously claims that the 1947 UN Partition Plan – i.e. UN GA resolution 181 – has some sort of contemporary relevance or validity and on that basis dictates that all of Jerusalem “is not Israeli sovereign territory”.

Despite what the now defunct BBC Trust may have chosen to believe, like most UN General Assembly resolutions, 181 was non-binding and in fact it was no more than a recommendation – the implementation of which depended upon the agreement of the parties concerned. As is well known the Arab nations rejected the Partition Plan outright and even threatened to use force to oppose it. The recommendation hence became a non-starter and its various clauses – including the corpus separatum proposal – irrelevant.

But let’s take a closer look at the BBC’s rationale. While the corporation claims that UN GA resolution 181 “calls for the whole of Jerusalem to be an international city, a corpus separatum” it does not acknowledge that the proposed corpus separatum actually included other places too.

In other words, if the BBC cannot describe Jerusalem as Israeli territory because the city was included in a proposal which never got off the ground, then logically it should not be describing places such as Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Abu Dis and Bethlehem as ‘Palestinian’ because they too were included in that same proposal.

But is that the case in BBC reporting? Here are a few examples: [emphasis added]

In December 2018 listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard that St Nicholas Day “is still widely celebrated and nowhere more so than among the Christians of the Palestinian town of Beit Jala”.

In March 2018 Radio 4 listeners heard a drama called “The Bethlehem Murders” which they were told was “Crime fiction set in Palestine” and in which the narrator was introduced as “a teacher in the city of Bethlehem in Palestine”. Another character was portrayed as living in “Beit Jala – a Palestinian Christian town”.

In November 2015 the BBC’s Lyse Doucet reported from a location she described as “a Palestinian village…the city of Beit Jala – very close to Bethlehem”.

A May 2013 report from Abu Dis by Yolande Knell told BBC audiences of “Palestinian parts of East Jerusalem”. 

In December 2012 Kevin Conolly informed BBC audiences that “Christians are…even in a minority in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem”.

So as we see, not only is the ‘rationale’ behind the BBC editorial policy of not accurately informing its audiences where Israel’s capital is located totally misguided, it is not even applied uniformly and impartially. More double standards from the self-declared “provider of news that you can trust”.

Related Articles:

Why does the BBC Trust’s ESC pretend that the 1947 Partition Plan is a thing?

BBC News gets Israel’s capital city right – and then ‘corrects’

BBC WS misleads on Israel’s capital city yet again