BBC’s Tim Franks promotes falsehoods in ‘peace plan’ reports – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, listeners to BBC World Service radio on May 20th heard two long reports from Tim Franks in two separate editions of the ‘Newshour’ programme.

In the first report – aired in the programme’s afternoon edition (from 14:05 here) – listeners heard that despite increased access to prayer services at the al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, the security measures employed were “racist” and “discrimination”. Franks also failed to clarify to audiences that changes in “freedom of movement” occurred because of Palestinian terrorism. After having interviewed two Israelis both retired from public life, Franks concluded his report about the as yet unpublished US peace initiative with an interview with a Palestinian minister.

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

Franks: “Ahmed Majdalani is the Palestinian minister for social development here in Ramallah. Aren’t he and his colleagues just running out of space and leverage?”

Majdalani is also Secretary-General of a small faction called the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (which uses a logo that erases Israel) and PLO Executive Committee member.

Majdalani: “No because the Palestinian leadership until now have the veto.”

Franks: “So you’re rejecting this deal before you even know what’s in it.”

Majdalani: “Look, you can see what the American implement until now. Jerusalem as the capital for Israel started this…this deal. The United States started to implement his deal before submit his document. If the Palestinian leadership say no, there is no Arab country – [not] one Arab country – he will be partner to this deal. And after that you see the position of the international community.”

In contrast to that claim, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have said they will send delegations to the summit in Bahrain next month. Franks closed his report as follows:

Franks: “Defiance from the Palestinian minister. No-one here – how many times over the years have I said this – but no-one here is predicting a quick breakthrough. Some are even doubting whether President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner will ever present his plan. But remember: when people talk about the status quo here, they don’t mean things remaining the same. Faith in a two-state solution is only diminishing.”

By the time the May 20th evening edition of ‘Newshour’ came around, Franks’ report had become the lead item (as well as longer) and it was introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy (from 00:09 here) thus:

Coomarasamy: “Can a catchy slogan breathe life into a moribund Middle East peace process? There are now not one but two slogans associated with the Trump administration’s efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians back around the table. On Sunday the White House announced that its long-trailed ‘deal of the century’ would be accompanied by a peace to prosperity workshop in Bahrain next month. Today, Palestinian officials announced that they wouldn’t be attending that economic conference. In case you’re wondering, Newshour’s Tim Franks is not a no-show today. He’s in Jerusalem and he told me why the Palestinians aren’t going.”

Franks: “Well James, they’re in a blind fury about the Americans right now. I’ve had one very senior Palestinian official using words I’m not allowed to say on air about the Trump administration moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem. Well that was one thing that hacked them off. Closing the PLO office in Washington, another. Cutting funding to the Palestinian refugee agency. The Palestinians just think that the US are no longer honest brokers.”

Franks made no effort to clarify to listeners that the Palestinians actually brought the closing of the PLO office in Washington upon themselves.

Franks: “So, yes, you’re right: at the moment moribund sums up the state of the peace process. But at the same time there’s a feeling the landscape may be shifting with some Arab states seeing their regional interests align with Israel’s. The Israeli prime minister talking about annexing parts of the West Bank – he did that just before the election last month – despite the rest of the world viewing the West Bank as occupied territory. So how is this all playing among Israelis and Palestinians? Let me take you first just south of where I’m speaking to you from, Jerusalem, into Bethlehem.”

Listeners then heard a repeat of Franks’ earlier report (apart from his closing comments) – including this:

Franks: “It’s Friday, it’s just gone noon, it’s Ramadan and this is one of the main checkpoints in Bethlehem. It’s rammed with men trying to get to al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem – very short distance away – in order to pray.”

Franks: “How long have you been waiting? Good grief! So you’ve been waiting seven and a half hours.”

Man: “This is, you know, denying people [the] right to get into Jerusalem. Whether they are Muslim or Christian, [it] is racist, it’s discrimination.”

After that repetition of Franks’ earlier report he went on (from 09:03) to bring in another Palestinian interviewee after giving a portrayal of the Palestinian economy which did not include the highly relevant issue of the PA’s prioritisation of salaries for convicted terrorists over the welfare of civilians.

Franks: “But given just how terrible the state of the Palestinian economy is at the moment, how their institutions are creaking and gasping from a lack of funds, why not just go to this US led investment conference next month in Bahrain? It’s a question I put to the spokesman based here in Jerusalem for the main Palestinian Fatah faction. He’s Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad.”

Readers may recall that last year Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad was given a platform by ‘Newshour’ to tell BBC audiences that Palestinians “arrived to this country” 300 years before the Jews – in 650 BC.

Abu Zayyad: “First of all we were not consulted at all regarding the meeting that is supposed to be held in Bahrain. And another thing is that, as we have been saying all the way, that we don’t believe any kind of economic solution for the sake of normalising actually the Israeli occupation of Palestine will bring us anywhere. We’re speaking about the conflict itself; we believe this is a political conflict that needs to be solved by giving the Palestinians the most basic rights that they’re asking for in order to move forward. Then after that, any kind of economic cooperation would come as a second step to strengthen a political solution between the two sides.”

Franks: “It’s not either/or is it? I mean why not accept economic help first and then move to trying to forge a political solution? It’s not…doesn’t exclude the possibility of then negotiating a full peace.”

Abu Zayyad: “Well the interest that is coming out of this American initiated [initiative] is not actually to serve the interests of the Palestinian people which is to end the Israeli occupation of their lands. The real interest out of such a meeting or initiative is to try to normalise the relations between Israel and the Arab countries. We tried other plans before that were more about economic cooperation as to try to build bridges between the Arabs and the Israel indirectly while keeping Palestine on the side and it did not help any side of the conflict or the region itself.”

Franks: “If that’s the case, it must be pretty disheartening for you that all these Arab countries have said that they’re going to turn up at this conference.”

Abu Zayyad: “Well the formal position of the Arab countries have been made clear in the last Arab summit in Tunisia where all the Arab countries stated clearly that they would not accept the deal such as the century deal that the Trump’s administration speaking about if it does not state clearly that there will be an end for the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands.”

Once again Franks failed to clarify to listeners that the relevant part of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria were never “Palestinian lands” and that they were in fact occupied by Jordan for 19 years until that country elected to attack Israel in 1967.

Franks: “Sure, but are you urging them to boycott this conference in Bahrain as well?”

Abu Zayyad: “Well we have our communication that is ongoing with the Arab countries and other actors and players in the region and internationally and we….”

Franks: “It’s going to be humiliating for you if you don’t turn up and they do and they say we accept the American notion that actually there could be something here in boosting the Palestinian economy.”

Abu Zayyad then brought up the topic of the February 2019 Warsaw Conference.

Abu Zayyad: “Well I want to remind you: there were other meetings. There was the Warsaw Conference just a few months ago and there was a meeting and there were discussions and there were suggestions made by the American administration but they did not change anything on the ground because here also the Arab countries and the world recognises the Palestine Liberation Organisation as the sole and only representative of the Palestinian people that must be [a] side of [in] any kind of negotiation or talks regarding reaching a solution for the conflict. So we don’t feel humiliated. We feel confident that we are united on this matter. We hear statements coming out of senior businessmen and leaders of the Palestinian economic sectors stating clearly that they will boycott this meeting and they will not attend it.”

Failing to inform listeners that the PLO does not include all the Palestinian factions and hence does not represent all the Palestinians, Franks closed his report there.

Remarkably, despite having dedicated two long reports to the topic of the US peace initiative, Tim Franks managed – like many of his colleagues before him also engaged in preemptive framing of that story – to completely avoid salient issues such as the divisions between the Palestinian factions, the fact that some of those factions oppose any resolution of the conflict and Palestinian terrorism.

He did however twice use part of over 21 minutes of airtime allotted to him to steer BBC audiences around the world towards the erroneous view that Israeli security measures are implemented not because of the terrorism he failed to even mention, but because of ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination’.

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BBC’s Tim Franks promotes falsehoods in ‘peace plan’ reports – part one

Listeners to BBC World Service radio on May 20th heard two long reports from Tim Franks in two separate editions of the ‘Newshour’ programme.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the report aired in the programme’s afternoon edition (from 14:05 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “Now in recent years, hopes for a resolution to the decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians have stagnated. Now, two separate developments suggest the landscape may be shifting. Last month, before winning the Israeli general election, the prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. In other words, make them fully part of the State of Israel. And there’s wide speculation that next month President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner may at last unveil his ‘deal of the century’ to chart a new way forward for the Israelis and Palestinians. So, how’s all this playing out in Israel and the occupied territories? Newshour’s Tim Franks is there.”

Iqbal’s claim that Netanyahu “promised to annex parts of the occupied West Bank” is of course based on statements made by the Israeli prime minister three days before the election. As was noted here in relation to the BBC’s coverage at the time, that was:

“…a political story taken rather more seriously by the foreign press than the Israeli public which emerged in an April 6th Channel 13 interview with Israel’s prime minister. During that interview Netanyahu was asked why, during his 2015-2019 term of office, he had not annexed Gush Etzion or applied Israeli law to Ma’ale Adumim. Avoiding the word annexation, Netanyahu replied that the topic is under discussion and that he intends to apply Israeli law to Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria during his next (potential) term.”

The BBC has now turned that into a “promise”.

Franks’ report opened with the sound of shouting.

Franks: “Sometimes as you try to work out the situation in the West Bank it can seem phenomenally complex and detailed. The jigsaw there is of Israeli settlements and Palestinian communities, different areas of control, different levels of access and restrictions. But sometimes the picture that confronts you is very stark and very clear and, in this case, pretty noisy.”

In other words, what listeners were about to hear was signposted in advance as a “clear” portrayal of “the situation in the West Bank”.

Franks: “It’s Friday, it’s just gone noon, it’s Ramadan and this is one of the main checkpoints in Bethlehem. It’s rammed with men trying to get to al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem – very short distance away – in order to pray.”

Franks then spoke to one of those men, who replied in Arabic.

Franks: “How long have you been waiting? Good grief! So you’ve been waiting seven and a half hours.”

The man continued to speak in Arabic and listeners heard someone else translate.

Man: “This is, you know, denying people [the] right to get into Jerusalem. Whether they are Muslim or Christian, [it] is racist, it’s discrimination.”

Franks made no effort whatsoever to inform listeners of the fact that entry into Israel from the PA controlled areas had actually been eased for Ramadan (as is usually the case) and that tens of thousands of people had attended related prayers on Temple Mount on that particular Friday and the previous one.  He failed to inform BBC audiences that most Palestinians were given free access while for security reasons – and not because of ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination’ as Franks chose to promote – some males were required to apply in advance for a travel permit.

“The admission for prayer in the Al-Aqsa Mosque for men under the age of 16 and over the age of 40, and women of all ages, without the requirement of a permit. Men between the ages of 30 and 40 are required to obtain an entry permit via the Palestinian Coordination Office.”

Franks then asked his unidentified interviewee:

Franks: “The last 25 years you’ve had the Palestinian Authority. What’s changed for you?”

Man: “The situation is becoming more and more worse. It’s going backwards instead of forwards. Before the Palestinian Authority we used to have freedom of movement, we used to work. But the situation is only getting worse after the PA who are ruling. Meanwhile me and you are under occupation.”

Once again Franks made no effort to inform listeners that it was the Palestinian decision to launch the five-year terror war known as the Second Intifada which actually brought an end to the level of “freedom of movement” which existed previously. Franks then brought in the first of two Israeli interviewees.

Franks: “It’s a common view among Palestinians anyway, as long as I’ve been coming here, that things are getting worse. Further north from Bethlehem, for the people in this part of the West Bank the outlook is rosier. This is the Israeli settlement of Kfar Adumim. Arieh Eldad has lived here for nearly 40 years. His terrace, I’m told, has one of the most commanding views of the West Bank you’ll ever see.”

After Eldad had described that view, Franks went on to repeat the Netanyahu “promise” claim made earlier by Iqbal.

Franks: “Arieh Eldad is a former member of the Knesset. He’s retired now and has long been one of the most forthright advocates of a simple solution to the problem of land in the West Bank: Israel should annex it all. Towards the end of last month’s election campaign the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he didn’t go quite that far but he did throw out a promise formally to extend Israeli sovereignty to settlements in the West Bank. Arieh Eldad the old politician is not punching the air just yet.”

Eldad: “Netanyahu he never suffered from an overdose of ideology but his ideology wouldn’t drive him to annex Judea and Samaria. More and more voices are calling for Israel sovereignty on Judea and Samaria and he will not. He will say so again and again: nothing at the end. He is not the guy to annex it.”

Franks: “But maybe, when this long-awaited peace plan from Jared Kushner comes out, that plan will be to bury once and for all the idea of a Palestinian state. Do you not see the direction of travel in the way that you would like it to be?”

Eldad: “Yes certainly. Sometimes it seems that Trump is right to [on the Right of] Netanyahu on several issues. While I don’t remember easier international political climate for us. They are looking for plan B. They are looking for an alternative.”

Franks: “Arieh Eldad and what he says is now the American-led hunt for plan B. But another old hand sees it differently. Shabtai Shavit is the former director of the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency. In his Charles Eames armchair, tumbler of Scotch whisky in hand, Shabtai Shavit says that after all Donald Trump has given Binyamin Netanyahu, now could be payback.”

Shavit: “From what I hear and what I read, I conclude that Trump is going to pressure us to make concessions. He is in a good position to do it. He tell Bibi ‘listen, I move my embassy to Jerusalem – you owe me’.”

Franks: “One of the things that Jared Kushner has said is that in a sense we need to stop obsessing about two states. So what he’s talked about is security for the Israelis, economic prospects for the Palestinians. But do you think removing the idea of a formal Palestinian state is possible? I mean is it just imaginative thinking or is it fantasy?”

Shavit: “It’s fantasy. With all the respect that I have to Jared Kushner and to Jason Greenblatt, when it comes to the Middle East they are rookies – both of them.”

Franks: “So what could be the Palestinian response to all this? Here at the Yasser Arafat museum in Ramallah you can hear, well not just the former Palestinian leader’s words but the whole narrative that the current Palestinian leadership wants to tell, spinning a story of a charismatic figurehead, of mass support, of heroic setbacks, of loyalty to a struggle in the forging of a nation.”

Franks then went on (21:05) to again signpost the false claims of ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination’ heard earlier in his report as ‘the real thing’.

Franks: “But the picture beyond these polished, quiet corridors is different. We heard it through those voices in Bethlehem at the start of the report expressing frustration and disillusion. And with the Israeli and American governments uniting to put the squeeze on that leadership.”

As we will see in part two of this report, listeners then heard comments from a PA minister – but with no descriptions of his terrace, his chair or his preferred beverage from Tim Franks.

No BBC reporting on terror attacks by PA employees

On May 20th the Israel Security Agency announced that it had solved a series of shooting attacks that were carried out in the Ramallah district. As the Times of Israel reported:

“Israel has accused former Palestinian terrorist leader Zakaria Zubeidi of committing several fresh shooting attacks on Israeli buses in recent months, and also indicted him for attacks dating back over a decade that had previously been excused under an amnesty deal, including two murder charges.”

Zubeidi had been arrested along with a lawyer named Tarek Barghout in late February.

The ToI goes on to report that the two were charged in a military court.

“Zubeidi was indicted on 24 separate counts, the earliest of them from 2003. In addition to the recent alleged shooting attacks, he was charged with two counts of intentionally causing death — the military legal system’s equivalent to murder — as well as multiple counts of attempting to intentionally cause death, membership in a terrorist group, weapons sales, firing guns at people and preparing explosives. […]

According to the Shin Bet, the two were responsible for two shooting attacks on buses outside the Beit El settlement in the central West Bank in November 2018 and January 2019, injuring three people in total.”

The BBC did not cover either of those shooting attacks on buses at the time. 

Zubeidi’s history is well known:

“During the Second Intifada, which broke out in 2000, Zubeidi served as the commander in the Jenin region of Fatah’s military wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. He was also suspected of being one of the chief architects of several terror attacks during that time period. […]

Zubeidi, who also helped found Jenin’s Freedom Theatre in 2006, evaded capture by Israeli forces for years, until the Israeli government offered him and several other al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades members amnesty in 2007.

Under the initial agreement with Israel, Zubeidi and the other terrorist operatives who were involved would be granted clemency if they agreed to “give up all violent and illegal activities and abandon the terrorist networks that they’d been a part of,” the Shin Bet said.

According to the security service, Zubeidi’s alleged participation in the shooting attacks outside Beit El represents a “blatant and violent violation of these agreements” and thus negates the amnesty agreement, opening him up to prosecution for his terrorist activities during the early 2000s as well.”

Both men were employed by the Palestinian Authority’s Prisoner Affairs Ministry until their arrest.

“Barghout, who has an Israeli ID card and belongs to Israel’s Bar Association but lives in Ramallah, worked on behalf of the Palestinian Authority until his arrest in February, representing terror suspects in both civilian courts in Israel and military courts in the West Bank. […]

According to the Shin Bet, the pair used Zubeidi’s car in the attacks and in the preparations for them — a vehicle he was given by the PA as part of his work for the Prisoner Affairs Ministry.

“This was a grave act in which a senior member of the Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Ministry and an Israeli lawyer who worked for the Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Ministry carried out serious terror attacks, using a PA car that was used by Zakaria for his work in the ministry,” an unnamed senior Shin Bet official said in a statement.”

Remarkably, BBC audiences have seen no coverage of the arrest and indictment of two Palestinian Authority employees on terrorism charges.

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Examining BBC WS ‘Newshour’ framing of the WhatsApp story

Earlier this week we saw how the BBC News website promoted Paul Danahar’s narrative driven speculations concerning the WhatsApp security flaw story.

On the same day that Danahar’s article appeared – May 14th – the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ devoted over twelve and a half of its 53 minutes to the same story.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced that lead item (from 00:12 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “We begin today with WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging service owned by Facebook used by 1.5 billion people. Well it turns out that encryption is not fail-safe after all. Hackers have been able to remotely install surveillance software on phones and other devices using a major vulnerability in the platform. WhatsApp said the attack targeted a select number of users and was orchestrated by an advanced cyber actor. They say they fixed the vulnerability on Friday and urged their users to update their apps as an added precaution. This is quite a complicated story with potentially far-reaching consequences. We’re going to try and unpick it for you. The surveillance software called Pegasus, developed by an Israeli company called NSO Group, has been identified as the software which has breached the encryption of WhatsApp. Let’s start with the technology then and speak to our technology correspondent Chris Fox who joins me in the studio.”

Chris Fox began by explaining the technical details of the story, including the fact that the spyware targeted WhatsApp messages at either end – not their encryption as claimed by Iqbal. In response to a request from Iqbal to “tell us about Pegasus, this software that’s been developed by this company NSO”, Fox clarified that – in contrast to the claim made by Iqbal in her introduction:

03:18 Fox: “We don’t know for sure that it was Pegasus involved in this attack. What we do know is that there was a flaw in WhatsApp that could let something like that in and that flaw has been closed but exactly what the software was is not clear because WhatsApp hasn’t said.”

That did not stop Iqbal from continuing to promote linkage between this story and Israel.

04:42 Iqbal: “Now human rights groups are anxious about this kind of surveillance software, obviously. Amnesty International has filed a petition in an Israeli district court asking to revoke the defence export licence of that cyber surveillance company NSO Group. The petitioners who filed to revoke that export licence claim the firm’s Pegasus software has been used in the past and may still be in use for the surveillance of human rights activists of Amnesty International and also other groups. But what evidence do groups like Amnesty have? I asked Danna Ingleton, deputy director of technology for Amnesty International, what evidence they had that will make a strong case for revoking this license.”

The responses given by Ingleton to Iqbal’s questions were the same as statements she made in an affidavit presented as part of the law suit filed with the Tel Aviv district court by Amnesty International and others the day before this programme was aired. Ingleton told of a colleague (who declines to be named) being sent a message on WhatsApp which Amnesty International believes was linked to an attempt to install spyware on his or her phone. In response to a question from Iqbal about “what’s happened” in such cases, Ingleton spoke of a “chilling effect” also presented in her affidavit.

At 08:38 Iqbal moved on to another interviewee.

Iqbal: “Let’s take a look now at how this technology has become what some people have described as a trophy weapon in the rivalries between various countries.”

Those “some people” would appear to be the Financial Times.

Iqbal: “I’m joined in the studio by now by Thomas Brewster: security, surveillance and privacy reporter for Forbes. Let’s start by getting you to outline a little bit more about what NSO Group is and what they do. We’ve heard that of course they do…ahm…use this Pegasus software to…give it [sic] to countries to prevent terrorist attacks, infiltrate drug cartels etc. But just give us a broader picture of who they are.”

Brewster: “If you think about NSO Group as one of many Israeli surveillance companies who are very, very talented at getting into people’s smartphones…”

Later on Iqbal interrupted Brewster to ask:

Iqbal: “Is it significant that these companies are in Israel or this particular one is in Israel?”

Brewster: “Well I mean Israel…the reason why Israel has this kind of cadre of businessmen who are very, very good at creating these kinds of companies and this kind of technology is because, you know, they come out of a country where they have to go into service. And if you’re technically very smart you get put in, you know, eh…either unit 8200 which is the kind of…eh….GCHQ, NSA equivalent or you go into Mossad and do technical things there or you’re a part of the IDF technology division, you know, there’s all…”

Iqbal [interrupts]: “The Israeli Defense Force.”

Brewster: “Exactly, yeah. All these incredibly talented units and you come out of those units and you either set up a consumer technology business, you set up a cyber security business or, like these handful of people, you set up a surveillance company that, you know, is bypassing cyber security.”

Iqbal: “And is it the case that this kind of software is used in terms of geo-politics in a region like the Middle East?”

Brewster: “If you’re able to do it like they did with WhatsApp today, very, very hard to trace back to who the actual owner of the product is. You know you can take guesses and a lot of them are geo-political guesses, you know…”

The signposting in this long item is of course amply evident. Despite Chris Fox having clarified near the beginning that “[w]e don’t know for sure that it was Pegasus involved in this attack”, rather than ‘unpicking’ the “complicated story” as promised in her introduction, Iqbal simply pursued her Israel theme for more than nine and a half additional minutes.

The day after this item was aired to audiences around the world Thomas Brewster made a discovery.

Those following the Israeli media would have already known in February that the NSO Group had been acquired by the London-based firm Novalpina Capital, whose above letter can be found here.

Remarkably though, ‘Newshour’ listeners heard nothing at all about that British connection to the company the BBC has chosen to portray as being linked to this story.

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BBC Travel serves up politicised narrative in food item yet again

h/t YM

May 19th saw the appearance of yet another BBC Travel article belonging to the genre of ‘promotion of a political narrative in an item ostensibly about food’.

Titled “Meet the chefs reinventing Palestinian cuisine”, the article was written by freelancer Tessa Fox who has previously had content published at ‘Middle East Eye’ and who is a contributor to the controversial Qatari network Al Jazeera.

As is so often the case in BBC content concerning “the Palestinian kitchen”, readers are told by one interviewee of supposed culinary appropriation by Israelis.

“We’re facing a daily threat of [our food just] being called ‘Middle Eastern cuisine’ or ‘Israeli cuisine’. Today, you have Israeli chefs selling [Palestinian recipes] as Israeli food.”

Readers also find unquestioning promotion of political narratives from the same interviewee, who has appeared previously in BBC content.

“Kattan emphasised that foraging, once popular with many Palestinians, gives residents a strong link to their land. He says that so long as Israel continues its settlement program in the West Bank and confiscates Palestinian territory, this connection among Palestinians to their land is increasingly important.”

Another interviewee is quoted as claiming that:

““As a Palestinian, I realise how much impact ‘the occupier’ has had on our culture. We feel a little ashamed [of our] Palestinian roots,” he added, citing the increased number of restaurants in the West Bank serving non-Palestinian fare.”

The article includes one-sided political messaging served up with Western buzz words such as “farm-to-table” and “land-to-table”.

“As the bitter, decades-long conflict with Israel continues, the Palestinians’ traditional cuisine is under threat, as families have been separated from the farms and valleys that supplied their regional ingredients for hundreds of years. As a result, locals worry that their once-proud culinary identity is disappearing and their food is losing its distinct land-to-table flavour.”

“Israeli settlements, which the UN Security Council has deemed illegal, are sometimes built on Palestinian farmland, thereby destroying the crops or rendering them inaccessible to Palestinians due to security checkpoints. Crops that traditionally require large swathes of land, like wheat, have become increasingly difficult to grow. In addition, Israeli restrictions on Palestinians importing fertiliser, which Israel deems as ‘dual-use’ item along with certain chemicals that could be used to manufacture weapons, have had a “detrimental impact on Palestinian agriculture,” according to a UN study, causing Palestinians’ agricultural production to decline by up to a third.”

That “UN study” was produced by UNCTAD and relies on information sourced from political NGOs such as ARIJ.

“Like Kattan, Bukhari feels strongly that the Israeli government’s settlement policy in the West Bank and its restriction of movement of Palestinians is not only disconnecting Palestinians from their land, but dissolving their distinct culinary identity.

“They say ‘Arab’, not ‘Palestinian’,” Bukhari said. “They’re doing their best to remove Palestine from the map, from history. So, anything that is Palestinian should be mentioned more and more.””

“Daher believes that since the erection of the barrier and restriction of movement from the West Bank into Israel, many Palestinians living in the Occupied territories have forgotten the importance of the sea in Palestinian cooking. Outside the Gaza Strip and coastal Israeli communities like Acre with sizeable Palestinian populations, most Palestinians no longer have access to the Mediterranean and have stopped cooking traditional seafood dishes.”

As is all too often the case in BBC reporting, readers are wrongly told that Palestinians began leaving their homes “after Israel declared its independence in 1948”. In fact, roughly half of those who fled did so between November 1947 – when Arabs responded to the United Nations partition recommendation with anti-Jewish violence – and May 1948 when five Arab armies invaded the nascent State of Israel.

“Mustafa explained that on the other side of the Israeli West Bank barrier, there are cities such as Nazareth where the majority of people are still Palestinian, but are now residing in Israel. After Israel declared its independence in 1948, many Palestinians fled or were forced to flee their homes in the war that followed Israel’s declaration of independence.”

Notably, this one-sided account makes no mention whatsoever of the Arab violence, the invasions by Arab armies or the Palestinian terrorism which made measures such as the anti-terrorist fence and checkpoints necessary.

Readers also find misrepresentation of history:

“One such chef is Yousef Hanna, the owner of Magdalena – an upscale restaurant on the banks of the Sea of Galilee in the village of Migdal. Now located in north-east Israel, Migdal was built on top of a Palestinian village depopulated in 1948 called al-Majdal.”

In fact Migdal was established in 1910 – adjacent to the village of al Majdal rather than “on top” of it – and is named after the Second Temple era Jewish town of Magdala, on the site of which the Arab village was constructed.

As we see, BBC Travel’s promotion of partial political messaging by freelance writers of ‘life-style’ articles that potentially reach audiences less familiar with the political ins and outs of the Middle East continues.

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BBC News plugs PA rejection of US peace initiative

On May 17th the BBC News website published an article headlined “US Israel-Palestinian peace plan ‘a surrender act’ – Palestinian FM” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

The article is based on a speech given by Riad Malki at an event organised by the Chatham House think tank on the same day.  

“The Palestinian foreign minister has branded the anticipated US plan for ending the Israel-Palestinian conflict an unacceptable “surrender act”.

Riad Malki said the plan that Donald Trump calls the “deal of the century” was in fact “the consecration of [Palestinians’] century-old ordeal”.”

The BBC’s account of Malki’s speech circumvents the majority of his falsehoods and offensive remarks, with one exception: [emphasis added]

“Speaking at Chatham House think tank in London, Mr Malki said all the indications were that “this [US] administration is preparing to give its stamp of approval to Israel’s colonial policies” [punctuation in the original]

The BBC found it necessary to ‘contextualise’ those remarks as follows:

“The Palestinians often describe Israeli settlement and other activity in the occupied territories as a form of colonialism, a characterisation which Israel strongly rejects.”

The BBC did not however find it necessary to explain to its audiences why that description is not correct and how it is invoked for political purposes.

As is the case in much BBC reporting relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict, readers found the usual BBC mantra on ‘international law’ and the inevitable erasure of all history before June 1967.

“Israel has built about 140 settlements, home to more than 600,000 Jews, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since it occupied them in the 1967 Middle East war.

Palestinians claim the territories for a future Palestinian state.

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

Near the beginning of the article readers were correctly told that:

“No confirmed details have been revealed of the plan, which Washington says could be unveiled next month.”

Despite that, the BBC had no qualms about later amplifying what are clearly no more than speculations on Malki’s part.

“Mr Malki said the Trump administration’s plan offered “no independence, no sovereignty, no freedom and no justice – and if [the US] do not think that this situation will have an impact on the future of Israel and the region one way or another, they are the ones that are delusional and not us”.”

In paragraphs six and seven of this article the BBC recycled some very problematic framing that it has been promoting for the past two and a half years.

“It is unclear whether the plan will be based on the so-called “two-state solution” – a long-standing formula for resolving the conflict by creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with Jerusalem a shared capital.

The Palestinians and most of the international community support this approach in principle, while the Israeli leadership is cooler towards it.”

In addition to avoiding the obviously inconvenient fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected offers based on the two-state solution which the BBC claims they “support”, the BBC’s implication that there is one unified Palestinian voice which supports the two-state solution is clearly inaccurate and misleading.

Factions such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas – which the BBC repeatedly reminds us won the majority of the popular vote the last time elections were held – obviously do not support the two-state solution or any other formula short of the destruction of Israel. Other factions, including the PFLP for which Malki was formerly spokesman, set themselves up as ‘opposition’ to the Oslo Accords negotiation process at the time.  

In addition, the BBC’s wording does not inform readers that an essential part of the two-state solution is the concept (repeatedly endorsed by the Quartet) of ‘two states for two peoples’ – a definition which would require Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state – and that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have repeatedly refused to do so.

The article’s claims concerning ‘East Jerusalem’ conceal the fact that – as the BBC itself reported in 2003 – the text of the ‘Roadmap’ compiled by the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia (the Quartet) defines the two-state solution as including:

“…a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides, and protects the religious interests of Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide…”

Given that it rejected complaints on this issue over two years ago, we should of course not be surprised that the BBC continues to promote its inaccurate narrative concerning Palestinian support for a two-state solution (along with a portrayal of entirely passive Palestinians devoid of agency or responsibility) as part and parcel of its framing of anticipated events relating to the ‘peace process’.

Related Articles:

BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state

BBC News amplifies PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution

BBC News website’s explanation of the two-state solution falls short

BBC Complaints: inaccurate portrayal of Palestinian leadership is not a ‘significant issue’

 

 

 

 

 

Looking beyond BBC Two’s portrayal of the Gaza Strip

As recorded here last week, the recent BBC Two film ‘One Day in Gaza’ told viewers that:

“…Israel tightened its blockade on the region citing security concerns and strictly controlling all movement of goods and people in and out of the Gaza Strip. Today the economy is in freefall. More than half of Gaza’s two million inhabitants live in poverty and rely on aid. And they’re prevented from leaving what is one of the most densely populated regions on earth.” [emphasis added]

That misleading claim is of course not novel to BBC content and neither is the related and not infrequently seen politicised framing of the Gaza Strip as an ‘open-air prison’ – see examples here, here and here.

At the Erez crossing into Israel:

“Every day an average of 1,000 Gazan residents enter Israel through Erez Crossing. The vast majority of these people are those in need of medical treatment, but it also includes businessmen, industry professionals, students, individuals going to pray on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and others.”

The BBC Two film made no mention whatsoever of the fact that the Gaza Strip also has a border with Egypt and that the territory’s other pedestrian crossing into a neighbouring country is located on that border. The Rafah crossing into Egypt has been mostly open since November 2017 and Ha’aretz recently reported that:

“According to data compiled by aid agencies affiliated with the United Nations, 60,907 Palestinians left Gaza via Egypt in 2018…”

That data of course refutes the BBC’s claim that inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are “prevented from leaving”. However, the Ha’aretz report goes on to state that:

“…only 37,075 returned, a net exodus of around 23,800. But other sources provide different numbers, and Israel’s estimate is that around 35,000 Gazans left for good. […]

Hamas initially viewed Rafah’s opening as a source of income, since anyone who leaves must pay it to obtain a passport, visa and other documents. Additionally, an industry of bribes soon developed, in which anyone who sought to obtain the documents quickly had to pay Gazan government officials hundreds of dollars.

But in recent months, Hamas realized that Rafah’s opening had allowed educated members of the younger generation to leave and sought to stem the brain drain. In particular, due to Gaza’s collapsing health system, it decided to bar doctors from leaving.” [emphasis added]

It remains to be seen whether or not the BBC will tell its audiences about those particular restrictions on movement for Gaza Strip inhabitants – and who is enforcing them.

Related Articles:

BBC’s ‘Life in the Gaza Strip’ backgrounder not fit for purpose

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News claims BDS is solely about ‘a cultural boycott’

On May 17th the BBC News website published a report concerning the passing of a motion in the German parliament denouncing the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions campaign against Israel as antisemitic.

The BBC’s take on the story was titled “Germany labels Israel boycott movement BDS anti-Semitic” and was it was illustrated using a photograph captioned “Protesters call for a boycott of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv” rather than with an image of, say, the German parliament.

The article opened by materially misleading readers with regard to the BDS campaign’s aims and tactics. [emphasis added]

“Germany’s parliament has condemned as anti-Semitic a movement calling for a cultural boycott of Israel over its policies towards Palestinians.”

The BDS campaign does not call for a cultural boycott of Israel alone: it also promotes consumer and trade boycotts, sporting boycotts and academic boycotts. In addition it campaigns for ‘divestment’: the withdrawal of investments in Israel by banks, pension funds, and other large investors or from companies operating in Israel. The campaign also calls for sanctions: punitive actions by governments and international organisations, including trade penalties or bans, arms embargoes, and cutting off diplomatic relations.

With readers having been wrongly told that the BDS campaign is only about a cultural boycott, it is unclear how they were to be expected to understand the following statement found in the BBC’s report:

“”The ‘don’t buy’ stickers of the BDS movement on Israeli products [could be associated] with the Nazi call ‘don’t buy from Jews’, and other corresponding graffiti on facades and shop windows,” the non-binding resolution said.”

While 142 of the 329 words used in this report described the German parliament’s decision,  seventy-four words related to the topic of the Eurovision Song Contest, thereby reinforcing the inaccurate impression that the BDS campaign is all about ‘cultural boycott’.

“It comes after the group [the BDS campaign] called for artists to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest held in Tel Aviv this week.

Ahead of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, the BDS movement called on artists and broadcasters to distance themselves from the event, which they said was being used to “distract attention from [Israel’s] war crimes”.

Madonna was among those facing calls to boycott the contest, but she confirmed on Thursday that she would be performing.”

At the bottom of the article readers found a link to one of the many recent BBC reports concerning the Eurovision Song Contest in which the BDS campaign has been given context-free amplification.

Readers also found 62 words (and a link) of unquestioning amplification of the BDS campaign’s response to the German decision.

“The BDS movement described the decision as “a betrayal of international law”. […]

Condemning the move, the BDS group said the “unconstitutional resolution” was anti-Palestinian and unhelpful in the fight against “real anti-Jewish racism”.

“BDS targets complicity not identity. The academic and cultural boycott of Israel is strictly institutional and does not target individual Israelis,” the movement said in a statement posted online.”

BBC audiences were also told that:

“Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has previously said that the BDS movement opposes his nation’s very existence, welcomed the “important” decision in a statement posted on Twitter.

“I hope that this decision will bring about concrete steps and I call upon other countries to adopt similar legislation,” the statement said.”

There is of course nothing new about the BBC framing the BDS campaign’s ‘one-state’ opposition to the existence of the only Jewish state in the world as a claim that is made solely by Israeli government officials.

The meaning of the BDS campaign’s stance concerning the ‘right of return’ of Palestinian refugees to Israel – described by campaign leader Omar Barghouti as the “most important” of its demands – has never been adequately clarified to BBC audiences and neither has the fact that the campaign is viewed as antisemitic because it singles out the Jewish state alone and because it negates the right of Jews to self-determination.

Instead of BBC audiences being provided with information which would help them understand the full background to this story, readers of this report were fed uncritical amplification of the cynical BDS campaign lie that it is concerned about “real anti-Jewish racism”.

Related Articles:

Why BDS is antisemitic – David Hirsh (Engage)

BDS, Academic/Cultural Boycott of Israel, and Omar Barghouti (CAMERA)

 

BBC News website showcases Paul Danahar’s Middle East narrative

An AFP report from May 14th about the WhatsApp security flaw story states: [emphasis added]

“”This attack has all the hallmarks of a private company that works with a number of governments around the world” according to initial investigations, it [WhatsApp] added, but did not name the firm.”

AFP’s article goes on:

“The spyware appears to be related to the Pegasus software developed by Israeli-based NSO group, which is normally sold to law enforcement and intelligence services, according to Washington-based analyst Joseph Hall.

The spyware “could have gotten into someone’s hands” outside legitimate channels for nefarious purposes, Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told AFP.

It’s unclear who is doing this.””

Former BBC Jerusalem bureau chief Paul Danahar however has no such doubts and on May 14th he published an article on the BBC News website’s ‘US & Canada’ and ‘Middle East’ pages titled “Why the WhatsApp spies may have eyes on Iran”.

Readers got some early signposting in the form of the main photograph used to illustrate the article. The image – which has no connection whatsoever to the story itself – was captioned “Young Israeli soldiers take a selfie”.

Danahar opened his article as follows: [all emphasis added]

“Time to join some dots.

The WhatsApp hack, “sabotaged” oil tankers, the push in the US to proscribe the Muslim Brotherhood and “plans” to deploy American troops to the Gulf are all strands of the same story. At its heart is the struggle between Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran.”

Danahar then spent the next seven paragraphs establishing linkage between the Israeli army and tech companies while promoting an unsupported claim regarding the function of intelligence units.

“The Israeli army takes in every youngster, assesses their greatest strength and parks them where they can do the most national good.

The computer nerds who would otherwise be locked in their mum’s basement are forced out into the light and into doing their national service in cyber-warfare.

When they leave the army, they take the skills and the connections they made into the industrial sector and they form companies like the NSO Group.”

That section also promotes a link to another report on the WhatsApp story written on the same day by the BBC’s North America technology reporter, Dave Lee. In that report Lee linked to an article he wrote in 2016 in which he made some dubious claims concerning NSO and the IDF’s 8200 unit which remain in situ.

Danahar next managed to bring Palestinians into the story:

“The NSO Group makes hacking tools to sell to governments to fight crime and terrorism.

But – and it is a big but – they’ll only get an export licence from the Israeli government if it deems that the sale does not harm the national interest.

In the past that meant no sales to Iran and nothing to Arab Gulf states either.

That’s because in the past the Gulf states stood with the Palestinians against Israel.”

Ignoring the fact that the Gulf Cooperation Council states ditched the Arab League boycott of Israel in 1996, Danahar went on to claim that:

“In the post-Arab Spring period, the Gulf states (apart from Qatar) have all but abandoned the Palestinian cause and moved to side with Israel against Iran.

This slow shift was accelerated by the election of Donald Trump and the appointment of so many anti-Iran hawks to his administration, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.”

The Gulf states’ recognition of threats posed by Iran was of course amply evident long before Donald Trump ran for president. Providing no concrete supporting evidence, Danahar then promoted “speculation”.

“There’s much speculation that the Israeli government would, to build relations with their new friends in the Gulf, have allowed the NSO Group to sell their software to Gulf states.

What suggests that? Well it’s perhaps not a coincidence that among those reportedly targeted by the WhatsApp hacking software were lawyers investigating human rights abuses in Gulf states, a Saudi dissident and a Qatari citizen.”

Failing to inform readers of Iran’s financing and support of terror groups such as Hizballah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas and ignoring the regular Iranian threats against Israel, Danahar continued:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made his reason for being (and his only political legacy) his effort to contain Iran, which he projects as Israel’s only existential threat.”

Danahar – now the BBC’s Americas Bureaux Editor in Washington then went on to promote his notion of how US foreign policy is made.

“The Saudi rulers see two existential threats. One from without: Iran. And one from within: the Muslim Brotherhood. The Saudis are scared of Iran because of its military might.

They are scared of the Muslim Brotherhood because they offer political Islam as an alternative to the dynastic rule of the royal family.

The Trump administration is made up of people who hate the Iranian regime and everything it stands for.

So, this new “Axis of Egos” is all doing each other favours to position themselves collectively to fully unite against Iran.

Lots of trades are taking place.

Some involve arms sales, some involve the price of oil and gas, some involve political trades like the one that some in the White House are doing for the Saudis by trying to designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist group.”

A photo caption tells readers that: “The Trump administration decided to pursue sanctions against the Muslim Brotherhood following an April meeting with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi”.

As was noted here when the BBC previously promoted that claim in late April, “the idea of designating the Brotherhood” predates both the Trump administration and that meeting.

Danahar next invoked the Iraq war spectre while a photo caption once again used scare quotes around the word “sabotaged” to suggest to readers that damage done to four ships off the coast of the UAE on May 12th may not have been deliberate.

“In a replay of what happened before the invasion of Iraq, it appears that any strand of intelligence that can be spun into a reason to ratchet up the pressure on Iran is being used.

This atmosphere is all very familiar to those of us who were around to witness the build-up towards the war in Iraq.”

Danahar closed his polemic by trying to persuade audiences that if the US did go to war with Iran, it would ultimately be because of Israel. 

“The present occupant in the White House has far fewer ideological bones in his body, perhaps none. […]

He’s unlikely to sign up to another war in the Middle East, certainly not this side of the 2020 election, unless he is seriously provoked.

That would require being able to pin some very bad action on Tehran. The best way to do that is to gather intelligence.

And the best way to gather intelligence is for all your allies to be spying on as many people in the region as you can.

One of the best ways to do that is to hack into the Trojan horse we all voluntarily carry with us, our smartphones.”

As we saw in November 2012 when Paul Danahar – then head of the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau – signed off and personally promoted inaccurate reports concerning the death of a child in the Gaza Strip, he apparently does not find it necessary to have verified evidence before promoting a version of events which fits in with his chosen political narrative.

And as we see in this item, Danahar’s chosen narrative includes an Iranian regime which is so passive and innocuous that it would have to have “some very bad action” pinned on it by underhand actors.

Notably, that is being presented to BBC audiences as “news that you can trust”.  

Related Articles:

Odd claim from BBC Technology appears – and disappears – on Wikipedia

Superficial BBC News reporting on Muslim Brotherhood