Weekend long read

1) At the JCPA, Yoni Ben Menachem documents a recent Palestinian Authority story that was predictably sidelined by the BBC.

“PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced on August 19, 2019, that all of his advisers had completed their work, regardless of their level and titles, and the conditions afforded by their status no longer applied.

This announcement relates to dozens of advisers that Abbas employed in various capacities. The most prominent include Nabil Shaath, adviser on international affairs; Mahmoud Al-Habash, adviser on religious affairs; Gen. Ismail Jaber, adviser on security affairs; Ali Mahana, legislative adviser; and Majdi Al-Haldi, adviser on foreign affairs. […]

Fatah sources are not sure if Abbas fired all of his advisers because his decision did not include a list of all of them and their functions. Mahmoud Abbas remains vague here because some of his associates were defined as his “advisers” so that they could receive a large salary and the perks of the job, such as an office, a car, and so forth.”

2) The ITIC analyses this week’s speech from Hasan Nasrallah.

“On August 25, 2019, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah gave a belligerent speech claiming Israel was behind the two attacks in Lebanon and Syria: a quadcopter attack on the southern Shi’ite suburbs of Beirut (Israel did not claim responsibility) and the aerial attack on a base southwest of Damascus (Israel did claim responsibility). The attack in Syria disrupted an Iranian Qods Force plan to launch armed quadcopters to attack northern Israel. Nasrallah greatly exaggerated the so-called threat to Lebanon inherent in the use of explosive quadcopters (“suicide quadcopters”) which he claimed set a precedent in the attack on the southern suburb of Beirut. Such a precedent was liable, he claimed, to turn Lebanon into another arena for Israeli attacks (as he claimed Israel had done in Iraq).”

3) Writing at An Nahar, the Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing in the U.S Department of the Treasury explains “Why we sanctioned Jammal Trust Bank”.

“Jammal Trust Bank is a primary Hizballah banker in Lebanon, with a long and continuing history of providing an array of financial services to the terror group. Jammal Trust Bank has tried to conceal its relationships with numerous front companies for the U.S.-designated Martyrs Foundation. The malfeasance within Jammal Trust Bank runs to the core. Hizballah’s Member of Parliament, Amin Sherri, who engages in criminal behavior on behalf of Hizballah, openly coordinates Hizballah’s financial activities at the bank with its management. By working with Sherri in this way, the bankers of Jammal Trust Bank have betrayed the trust of their fellow citizens and their banking colleagues. By actively concealing Hizballah’s affiliation with these accounts from the Central Bank of Lebanon, these bankers violated their civic, social, and business responsibilities to innocent account holders, and have risked damage to the international perceptions of the Lebanese banking sector.”

4) At the FDD Jacob Nagel and David Adesnik examine “How the UN’s Nuclear Watchdog Can Restore its Credibility on Iran”.

“After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the Mossad’s discovery of a secret atomic archive in a Tehran warehouse, Amano’s response entailed a blend of procrastination and excuses. Last November, seven months after the Israeli revelations, Amano was still insisting, “We need to analyze the information, and it will take time, of course.” To this day, the IAEA has not stated whether its inspectors have ever visited the Tehran warehouse that stored the archive, or even that the agency requested a visit. Meanwhile, independent experts demonstrated, based on documents from the archive, that Iran’s nuclear weapons program had been far more advanced than the IAEA had ever known.”

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BBC World Service radio’s OS promotes narrative over fact

h/t ED

The August 28th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘BBC OS’ closed with an item (from 48:15 here) promoting the filmed report about teenage Palestinian detainees published on the BBC News website on the same day which was discussed in an earlier post.

[emphasis in italics in the original]

Luke Jones: “Now one of the most watched videos on the BBC News website today focuses on Palestinian children who have been incarcerated in jails in Israel. Megha Mohan, the BBC’s Gender & Identity reporter made the video, met some of the families of these children. She’s joined us at our desk here in the newsroom. When did you first come across this as a thing that was happening?”

Mohan stated that it was not her idea but that of Yousef Eldin – the video’s producer – claiming that:

Mohan: “…the news peg for it was a couple of months ago when the Israeli Supreme Court denied a petition to allow Palestinian children in incarceration to have phone calls with their parents.”

The Supreme Court did not ‘deny’ that petition from the political NGO HaMoked: it refused to discuss it because it had not been first submitted by an individual prisoner to a District Court.

After Mohan had claimed that the “conversation” had been “bubbling around” since the year 2000, Jones asked:

Jones: “And why are these children incarcerated in the first place?”

If listeners thought they were going to be given information about terror attacks and assaults on security personnel carried out by Palestinian minors, they would be disappointed.

Mohan: “So this is when you get into technical international law. So the West Bank as we call it is occupied territory which means there’s a…it’s the only place in the world where there’s a dedicated juvenile military court system that Israel says they have to impose because they are the occupiers. So it has to…so if it’s Palestinian children they have to put them through a military court procedure. However if it’s Israeli children they go through civilian procedure. However, the process that we found when we were out in the West Bank for these children being arrested – and when we say children we mean by international law so that’s under 18s: Generation Z – when they are being arrested, a number of the clauses from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – which is a legally binding human rights document that Israel is signatory to – a number of those clauses were failed. So things like being allowed to have translators, being allowed to have legal representation. A lot of the children we interviewed told us that wasn’t the case.”

Jones: “You did the video, which lots of people are watching online. You also did a radio piece as well. Let’s listen to a bit of that.”

Listeners then heard a clip presented by Mohan as follows:

“Malah is now 16 years old. At 14 she was arrested at a checkpoint for an alleged knife attack on Israeli soldiers.”

The teenager was described as having spent “8 months in detention” and audiences heard her account of how she refused to sign a document allegedly written in Hebrew before saying:

“…and I said no, I haven’t done anything.”

As we noted earlier, apparently the BBC thinks it legitimate to portray travelling to a checkpoint with a knife and failing to stop when told to do so by police officers as “haven’t done anything”.

Mohan went on to claim that “what we wanted to do…was to just really stick to the legal aspect of this…” and that the ‘children’ she interviewed “were also speaking on a legal ground. They want the, you know, kind of right to defend themselves”.

Jones next asked “what did the Israeli authorities say about this?”.

Mohan: “They said that they don’t believe that they’ve broken any of the UNCRC rules and they said it’s not a perfect procedure but they, you know, they’re doing what they can.”

Jones: “Were you surprised by that?”

Mohan: “Ehm I…[laughs] was I personally surprised by that? Probably not.”

Jones: “And some of the people who…we were hearing there were being interrogated in Hebrew so they didn’t necessarily even know what was happening.”

Mohan: “They were made to sign confessions in Hebrew. So the interrogations were happening without lawyers for, in the case of Ahed Tamimi, over several days, several times but the confessions were in a language they couldn’t understand.”

In the video former IDF chief military prosecutor Maurice Hirsch clarified that the claims that teenagers had been asked to sign confessions “they couldn’t understand” is not true. That information was not communicated to listeners to this programme and as we see, Megha Mohan chose to repeat those unsubstantiated allegations anyway.

The BBC is clearly very keen to widely promote this report to its audiences even though it is based entirely on claims that the BBC has obviously not been able to independently verify made by a handful of teenagers convicted of acts of violence whom it is quite possible were put in contact with the BBC by the political NGO Addameer whose director was featured in the video.

But the BBC evidently has no intention of allowing facts to get in the way of the political narrative to which Yousef Eldin and Megha Mohan have self-conscripted.

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Partisan report on detained Palestinian ‘children’ from BBC’s Gender and Identity correspondent

Partisan report on detained Palestinian ‘children’ from BBC’s Gender and Identity correspondent

On August 28th the BBC News website published a filmed report by the ‘Gender & Identity correspondent’ for the BBC World Service and BBC World, Megha Mohan. Others involved in the production of the eleven-minute video include Yousef Eldin and Ramallah-based Tala Halawa of BBC Monitoring.

The report is titled “Palestinian conflict: Diaries of childhood in Israeli military detention”. The word ‘childhood’ is defined as the period of time between infancy and puberty. The people showcased in this film would be better described as adolescents and of course none of them spent their entire “childhood in Israeli military detention”. That sort of manipulation however is evident throughout the entire report.

The report’s synopsis promotes an unsubstantiated claim from unidentified “critics”. The likewise unidentified “human rights group” is HaMoked: a political NGO with a very limited definition of human rights which campaigns solely on behalf of Palestinians.

“Last month Israel’s Supreme Court refused to hear a petition by a human rights group demanding that Palestinian children detained in Israeli jails be allowed to telephone their parents.

The case cast a spotlight on children tried in military courts for crimes committed in the occupied West Bank. Israel is believed to be the only country that tries children that way. Critics have said the ill-treatment of detainees is widespread.”

The first of the “children” showcased by Mohan is Ahed Tamimi, whose case was vigorously promoted by the BBC last year. Showing footage from December 2017, Mohan tells viewers:

“It was this slap that made global headlines. Then sixteen-year-old Ahed Tamimi spent eight months in prison after it.”

Ahed Tamimi of course spent that time in prison after she pleaded guilty to one count of assault, one count of incitement, and two counts of obstructing soldiers. BBC audiences were however once again led to believe that she was convicted for a “slap” and even though towards the end of the film (10:12) viewers were told that “the Israeli military told the BBC that Ahed Tamimi accepted a plea deal for a number of charges”, they were not told what those charges were and no information concerning the context of the grooming of Ahed Tamimi by her family of professional activists was provided.

Later on viewers heard that Tamimi “alleges that she was mistreated on several occasions following her arrest” and later still Tamimi told BBC audiences of ‘difficulties’ concerning sanitary pads. When interviewed by a Russian TV journalist a year ago, Tamimi told a different story.

“I did a lot of things: a legal course, we spent a lot of time on that, and matriculation exam studies; I read books; we would sing; we even had joint breakfasts of the entire wing – we would go outside, every room would bring its things, and we would eat together. We also ate lunch together most of the time. We also had parties; we would sit and sing, and dance. There were a lot of things that we did to pass the time: We watched TV, for example we jumped around in the rooms and did silly things; we did a lot of things.” 

Another of the cases highlighted by Mohan is presented as follows:

“Malah is now 16 years old. At 14 she was arrested at a checkpoint for an alleged knife attack on Israeli soldiers.”

The teenager is described as having spent “8 months in detention” and viewers hear her account of how she refused to sign a document allegedly written in Hebrew before she says:

“…and I said no, I haven’t done anything.”

Apparently the BBC thinks it legitimate to describe travelling to a checkpoint with a knife and failing to stop when told to do so by police officers as “haven’t done anything”.

Neither in this nor any of the other showcased stories does the BBC offer viewers any information concerning the incitement and glorification of terrorism in Palestinian society which prompts teenagers to try to carry out terror attacks against Israelis.

Mohan does however tell viewers that:

“Israel is the only country in the world where children are prosecuted through a dedicated juvenile military court system. Israeli military law is applied to Palestinian children in the West Bank because it is under military occupation. Every year more than five hundred Palestinian children, some as young as 12, are arrested by Israeli forces. Israel argues that the children it detains are threats to national security.”

As was noted here last July when similar claims were made on BBC World News TV:

“Of course if Palestinians accused of security offences were tried in Israeli civil courts, the BBC would be the first to be jumping up and down shouting ‘annexation!’ because that would mean that Israeli sovereignty had been extended to Judea & Samaria.”

Viewers hear Mohan claim that “it can take the family up to six hours to cross checkpoints” in order to visit their imprisoned son. The Beit Fajjar resident interviewed by Mohan states:

“The checkpoint. The issue is with the checkpoint. Searching, come forward, go backward, go there. And the machine beeps because of anything. It’s a mess. It’s exhausting, torture. As if we’re also detained.”

Viewers are at no point provided with an explanation of why checkpoints are needed and neither are they informed that until the Palestinians decided to conduct a terror war against Israel’s civilian population – the ‘intifada’ – those checkpoints did not exist.

One of the main interviewees in the report is Sahar Francis of ‘Addameer’ who is presented as follows:

Mohan: “Conversations involving Palestinian territories and Israel are polarising and emotive. Child detention especially so. But Saher [sic] Francis, a lawyer for Addameer – an organisation that advocates for Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank – says the issue is not just moral but legal.”

Viewers are told nothing of Addameer’s political agenda – or of its ties to a terror organisation proscribed by the US and the EU. They do however get a generous dose of Francis’ falsehoods and propaganda.

Francis: “…arresting children is part of the whole system. When you raid a house after midnight in order to arrest a 14-year-old boy it’s not just against the boy himself. It’s against the whole family. Imagine the father and the mother that they cannot protect their son and they see their son is dragged out of his bed at night. I wouldn’t believe it’s about security; it’s about control. It’s about control and maintaining the oppression against the whole society. Especially children. It’s affecting a whole generation at the end of the day.”

Mohan goes on to assert that:

Mohan: “The most controversial form of incarceration is known as Administrative Detention. It allows the Israeli military to hold people without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence that is not shown to the detainee or their lawyer. The military says administrative detainees pose a threat to the national security and their cases are therefore classified.”

That of course is not an accurate or impartial portrayal of Administrative Detention (also used in other countries including the UK), which is only used in specific circumstances.

The report includes an interview with former IDF chief military prosecutor Maurice Hirsch who explains that:

“The military system is specifically for the Palestinians because that is the requirement of international law. Article 66 of the Fourth Geneva Convention said given a breach of the criminal law, protected people – the Palestinians – can only be brought to justice before the military court.”

Hirsch also clarifies that the earlier claims that teenagers had been asked to sign confessions written in Hebrew is not true. As we see, that did not prevent the editors of this film from airing those allegations anyway.

Mohan then moves to another topic.

Mohan: “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a legally binding international agreement that states that children should only be arrested as a last resort. Israel is a signatory. The law says children should not be held in shackles, have prompt access to a lawyer and translations and be treated with respect.”

The relevant articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (37 and 40) do not mention the word “shackles” at all. Mohan of course does not bother to inform viewers that the Palestinian Authority also became a signatory to that Convention in April 2014 and that Article 38 states:

“States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities.”

Regular readers may recall that last December the BBC’s ECU acknowledged that there is a “question” regarding “the extent to which this [the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child] can be described as “international law”” and the BBC claimed that it had “reminded” its journalists that “the reach of international law is not always as it is claimed and should be checked for accuracy”. Apparently Megha Mohan and her team did not receive that memo because she closes her report as follows:

Mohan: “Israel currently denies Palestinian children detained in the West Bank protections granted to Israeli children. Yet agreed international law states the same legal rights should apply to every person going through the judicial process. Especially those under the age of 18.”

As Maurice Hirsch had already explained, “Palestinian children” and “Israeli children” are not subject to the same “judicial process” because:

“Article 66 of the 4th Geneva Convention refers to the role of military courts in areas under military control. The article states that members of protected populations accused of crimes may only be brought before courts whose members have military status (and are subordinate to the military authorities).”

Nevertheless, Mohan’s claim is not justified, as explained here.

It is of course amply obvious that this highly partisan report falls into the category of journalistic activism and does not meet either supposed BBC standards of accuracy or impartiality or the corporation’s public purpose remit.

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BBC’s ECU acknowledges ‘international law’ inaccuracy

 

 

 

 

 

Inaccuracy left unchallenged and unedited on BBC R4 ‘Any Questions?’

BBC Radio 4 describes its programme ‘Any Questions?’ thus: [emphasis added]

“Any Questions? is the flagship political panel programme that goes out live on Friday evenings at 8pm on BBC Radio 4 (repeated on Saturday afternoons at 1.10pm). It was first broadcast in October 1948 and its current chair is Jonathan Dimbleby. Each week Any Questions? visits a different part of the country with a diverse panel of four speakers who answer questions from the audience. The programme provides the opportunity for people to challenge leading politicians, policy makers, writers and thinkers.”

The programme’s web page offers audiences the possibility of listening to past episodes – currently 521 of them – going back over a decade.

One would hence assume that the BBC would ensure that any issues arising which were not taken care of by means of the live show’s broadcast delay would be ironed out before the repeat airing and certainly before the recording was added to the archive of past episodes.  

Such issues might include what the BBC’s editorial guidelines call “a Serious Incident in a Live Broadcast” such as “offensive comments” or “factual errors”.

“If offensive comments are expressed during live interviews, the interviewer should normally intervene, challenge the comments where appropriate and/or distance the BBC from the comments. If this doesn’t happen we may need to consider making an on-air apology at the earliest opportunity. Potentially offensive comments include remarks that may be interpreted as, for example, racist, sexist, homophobic, prejudiced against a religious group, or reflecting an unflattering national stereotype. If offensive comments are made when, for example, football fans chant racist abuse we should consider making an on-air apology for broadcasting the comments.”

“If it is established during a live programme that a factual error has been made and we can accurately correct it then we should admit our mistake clearly and frankly. Saying what was wrong as well as putting it right can be an important element in making an effective correction. Where the inaccuracy is unfair, a timely correction may dissuade the aggrieved party from complaining. Any serious factual errors or potential defamation problems should be referred immediately to Programme Legal Advice.”

The edition of ‘Any Questions?’ which was broadcast on August 23rd and repeated on August 24th included the following question (from 34:28 here) from a member of the audience:

“Should we understand and learn the lessons of history rather than attempting to pay for them?”

Presenter Ritula Shah explained the background to that question:

Shah: “This of course follows the announcement that the University of Glasgow’s agreed to spend £20 million in reparations after finding out it benefited by tens of millions of pounds from the slave trade…”

The third of the programme’s panellists to respond to the question (from 37:24) was the Conservative MEP for South East England Daniel Hannan.

Hannan: “…I think it’s important to look at and learn from things but it’s also important to remember the basis of modernity, the basis of post-enlightenment civilisation, which is that every individual is responsible for himself and that we shouldn’t define people through membership of a group. We should all ultimately stand in defence of our own actions. It’s striking to me that when…very often the kind of people who say ‘well, you know, we need to have reparations or we need to have kind of collective identity on these things’, when the same argument is made in the case of…I dunno…eh…Israel flattening a Palestinian village as a collective punishment, they are quite rightly the first to say ‘well hang on; you don’t do collective guilt. It’s banned by the Geneva Conventions’. And they’re right the second time. So we should never lose sight of the fact that everyone is ultimately responsible for himself.” [emphasis added]

Neither Ritula Shah nor anyone else challenged that highlighted offensive and factually inaccurate statement at the time that it was made. The BBC allowed it to remain in situ in the repeat broadcast and it appears in the archived version of the programme which will be available on demand for a very long time to come, thus leading the BBC’s funding public to wrongly believe that Israel ‘flattens’ Palestinian villages “as a collective punishment”. 

Once again we see just how seriously the BBC takes its own editorial guidelines.  

Revisiting a BBC journalist’s claim about ‘Palestinian land’

Back in April 2013 we documented some less than impartial Tweets from the then BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Wyre Davies.

As was noted here at the time:

“The site of the Al Mahrour (also spelt Al Makhrour) restaurant is situated in Area C where, according to the Oslo accords signed willingly by the representatives of the Palestinian people, Israel has administrative and security control.

The restaurant was constructed without planning permission or the appropriate building permits and hence was the subject of a demolition order issued in 2005 and carried out in May 2012. The restaurant was then rebuilt – also illegally without the necessary planning permission or building permits. The restaurant’s owner/constructor was given the opportunity to appear before the planning committee of the Civil Administration. A second demolition order was issued and that was carried out on April 18th 2013. The electricity line to which Davies refers was also illegally connected.”

The story did not however end there. In late July the High Court of Justice handed down a ruling which – as the Times of Israel reported – brought a long legal battle to a close.

“Israeli security forces demolished a family’s home and restaurant near Bethlehem on Monday, ending a nearly 15 year-long legal battle against the Palestinian locals led by a subsidiary organization of KKL-JNF Jewish National Fund.

The razing of the Cassia family’s compound followed a High Court of Justice ruling last month that rejected the Palestinians’ last ditch petition against the demolition orders.

 The property, located between the villages of Battir and Beit Jala south of Jerusalem, are located in Area C of the West Bank, where Israel exercises civilian and military control.

The Cassia family claims to have owned the property for generations. To prove ownership, they provided Israeli authorities with a so-called malia document, which shows property tax payment from when Jordan controlled the West Bank.

However, the Defense Ministry on several occasions over the past two decades rejected their requests for building permits, saying the tax paper was not enough to prove ownership under Israeli law.

Nonetheless, the family went ahead and built on what long had been agricultural lands in 2005, constructing a large home as well as a restaurant and a farm. The Civil Administration – the Defense Ministry body that authorizes construction in Israel-controlled Area C of the West Bank, issued demolition orders and razed several structures in the decade and a half that followed, but the home and restaurant had remained standing as the Cassias fought the orders in court.

In 2017, Himanuta, a KKL-JNF branch organization known for purchasing lands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, joined the state’s legal efforts against the Cassias, coming forward with documents showing that they purchased the land in 1969, which the court accepted as legitimate.”

In other words, Wyre Davies’ claim that the restaurant was located “on Palestinian land” has been shown to be inaccurate. That, however, is what happens when BBC correspondents make blanket assumptions based on a politically motivated narrative which inaccurately portrays all locations beyond the 1949 Armistice lines as “occupied” and “Palestinian”.  

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BBC’s Wyre Davies Tweeting for illegal building

BBC News whitewashes one terror group, uncritically quotes another

Hot on the heels of some superficial BBC reporting on alleged Israeli strikes in Iraq, Syria and Beirut came another BBC News website report on August 26th with the headline “‘Israeli strikes’ target Palestinian group in Lebanon”.

That “Palestinian group” was no less euphemistically described as a “militant group” in the article’s opening lines.

“The Israeli military carried out air strikes on a Palestinian militant group backed by Syria’s government in eastern Lebanon overnight, Lebanese media say.

A position of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command near Qusaya was hit, the state-run National News Agency reported.

The group responded with a barrage of anti-aircraft fire, it added.”

The PFLP-GC is listed as a terrorist organisation by several countries including the UK.

The BBC’s new editorial guidelines state that:

“11.2.6 Any proposal to approach an organisation (or an individual member of an organisation) designated a ‘terrorist group’ by the Home Secretary under the Terrorism Acts, and any proposal to approach individuals or organisations responsible for acts of terror, to participate in our output must be referred in advance to Director Editorial Policy and Standards.”

Interestingly the article went on: [emphasis added]

“The National News Agency reported that Israel carried out three air strikes on the outskirts of Qusaya, a village in the Bekaa valley near the border with Syria, early on Monday.

A top official from the PFLP-GC told the BBC that a drone carried out the raid.

There were no reports of any casualties and the Israeli military did not comment.”

BBC audiences were told that:

“The PFLP-GC has been operating in Lebanon for decades and has close ties to the Syrian government, whose forces it has supported in the country’s eight-year civil war along with Hezbollah.”

In fact:

“During the Syrian civil war the PFLP-GC was operated by the Syrian army. Its fighters also enlisted in the ranks of the al-Quds Brigade. The organization’s main theater of operations was the al-Yarmouk refugee camp south of Damascus. Ahmed Jibril, interviewed by Syrian TV, said his organization had fought in the al-Yarmouk refugee camp although it had limited means. He said more than 100 of his fighters had been killed in combat and about 300 had been wounded (Syrian TV, June 10, 2013). His organization, and other Palestinian organizations operated by the Syrian regime in the al-Yarmouk refugee camp, were unsuccessful and most of the camp fell into the hands of ISIS.”

The report went on to quote a PFLP-GC official speaking to a Hizballah-linked media outlet:

“This aggression is a continuation of what happened in Beirut and a provocative attempt that is a direct reaction to Nasrallah’s statements,” Khaled Jibril, a PFLP-GC official, told al-Mayadeen TV.”

“What happened in Beirut” refers to an alleged incident the previous day. As was the case in the BBC’s previous reporting on that story, this article too gave generous but completely uncritical amplification to some far-fetched claims from Hizballah.

“On Sunday, the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement accused Israel of trying to carry out a drone attack in Beirut.

After two drones came down in the capital, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said its fighters would shoot down any drones that entered Lebanese airspace. […]

Early on Sunday, two drones that the Lebanese army said were Israeli crashed in the southern Beirut district of Dahia, which is dominated by Hezbollah.

One of the drones hit a building that houses Hezbollah’s media office, while the other exploded and crashed nearby, causing material damage.

Again, no-one was injured and Israel declined to comment.

“What happened… was an attack with a suicide drone,” Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech later on Sunday. “This is the accurate description.”

The Hezbollah leader called it a “very, very, very dangerous development” and a “clear breach of the rules of engagement” established after the month-long war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.”

The BBC of course did not bother to inform readers that under those so-called “rules of engagement” – i.e. UN SC resolution 1701 – there should be “no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon” and that previous accords pertaining to “the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon” should have been implemented. Neither were readers told that Hizballah is funded and supplied with weapons (also in violation of that same UN resolution) by a foreign power.

The article continued with more uncritical amplification of quotes from Nasrallah’s speech as well as from the Lebanese president and prime minister (who are of course well aware that their country is held to ransom by the Iranian backed terror group) before unquestioningly promoting what the BBC undoubtedly knows to be a blatant falsehood from Nasrallah:

“Hassan Nasrallah also said the Israeli air strikes south-west of the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Saturday had hit a Hezbollah rest house and not a military facility.”

The article closed with the BBC’s usual unnecessarily qualified portrayal of Iranian activities and more amplification of claims from Iranian assets in Iraq.

“Israel has been so concerned by what it calls Iran’s “military entrenchment” in Syria and shipments of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah that it has conducted hundreds of air strikes in an attempt to thwart them since 2011.

Meanwhile in Iraq, the powerful Iranian-backed paramilitary Popular Mobilisation force again accused Israel of what it said was a drone attack near the Syrian border in Anbar province on Sunday that killed two of its members.”

In other words BBC audiences reading this article found a tepid and euphemistic portrayal of the PFLP-GC terror group along with uncritical repetition of unsubstantiated claims and utter falsehoods from the leader of another terrorist organisation proscribed by the UK government.

Quite how the BBC can claim that such coverage will “build people’s understanding” of the story is beyond belief.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting on incidents in Syria and Lebanon

BBC News promotes Iran loyalist’s unproven claims

 

BBC editorial standards bypassed in Radio 4 framing of Iraq story

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on accuracy begin with a section titled ‘Gathering Material’.

“3.3.2 In news and current affairs content, achieving due accuracy is more important than speed.

3.3.3 We should try to witness events and gather information first-hand. Where this is not possible, we should talk to first-hand sources and, where practicable, corroborate their evidence.

3.3.4 We should be reluctant to rely on a single source. If we do rely on a single source, it should be credible, and a named, on-the-record source is always preferable.”

A later section titled “Material from Third Parties” states:

“3.3.13 Material supplied by third parties, including news providers, needs to be treated with appropriate caution, taking account of the reputation of the source.

We should normally only rely on an agency report if it can be substantiated by a BBC correspondent or if it is attributed to a reputable news agency.

We should only use other material supplied by third parties if it is credible and reliable.”

A sub-section titles “Sources” flags up criteria indicating the need for a “Mandatory Referral”: [emphasis added]

“Any proposal to rely on a single unnamed source making a serious allegation […] must be referred to Director Editorial Policy and Standards and Programme Legal Advice, who will consider whether or not:

    • the story is of significant public interest 
    • the source is of proven credibility and reliability and in a position to have sufficient knowledge of the events featured
    • a serious allegation was made or substantiated off the record
    • a response to serious allegations has been sought”

And:

“When the allegations have not been independently corroborated, we should consider if it is appropriate to inform the audience.”

On August 22nd the New York Times published a report which claimed that:

“Two senior American officials…said that Israel had carried out several strikes in recent days on munitions storehouses for Iranian-backed groups in Iraq.”

The New York Times did not identify those “two senior American officials” or provide any information concerning their qualification to comment on the matter. It is therefore difficult to believe that the BBC could have ensured that “the source is of proven credibility and reliability and in a position to have sufficient knowledge of the events featured” or that the corporation ensured that the allegations made were “independently corroborated”.

Nevertheless, on August 23rd the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ aired an item which was introduced by presenter Ritula Shah (from 36:36 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Shah: “Reports from US officials in American news outlets say that Israel carried out an air strike on a weapons depot in Iraq, which officials say is being used by Iran to move weapons to Syria. It appears to be a significant escalation in Israel’s campaign against what it sees as Iranian military assets in Iraq and could destabilise the country.”

Note the framing there: Radio 4 listeners are told that it would be any Israeli action to counter the transfer of weapons from Iran to Syria via Iraq which “could destabilise” the latter country rather than the transfer of weapons itself or the presence of Iranian assets in Iraqi militias.

Shah then introduced her sole interviewee – without clarifying that she is not a military correspondent – and while claiming that third hand statements – unverified by the BBC – from anonymous sources constitute “confirmation”.

Shah: “Let’s speak to Allison Kaplan Sommer who is a journalist at the Left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haretz [sic]. Ahm, just what does…what does this tell us that the confirmation of these air strikes have come from US sources?”

Towards the end of the nearly four and a half minute-long item, Shah returned to her earlier framing.

Shah: “…this is believed to be the first Israeli bombing in Iraq in nearly four decades. Do you think that this is a dangerous opening up of a new front?”

When this story first broke the BBC News website promoted unsubstantiated claims concerning Israeli involvement from an inadequately identified senior Iranian asset. The following day those claims were slightly walked back in another report.

Now we see the BBC using anonymous and uncorroborated claims published by another media outlet to promote the framing of the story it obviously wishes to amplify – with blatant disregard for its own editorial standards.

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One month on, BBC silence on UNRWA allegations persists

A month has passed since AFP reported on “alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority at the highest levels of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees”.

During that time three countries – Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium – have suspended their contributions to UNRWA pending the results of a UN investigation. The Czech government has called for the allegations to be “thoroughly investigated”.

Now a fourth country – New Zealand – says it will not make any further payments to UNRWA until that investigation is completed. The Jerusalem Post reports that New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT):

“…said New Zealand’s next payment to UNRWA is not scheduled until March 2020. Therefore, “the ministry will review the findings of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Service report once the investigation is complete and after that point provide advice to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on future funding.”

According to the Israel Institute of New Zealand MFAT committed in May to providing NZ$ 3 million over a period of three years.

One month on, the BBC – which last year put a considerable amount of effort into amplifying UNRWA talking points concerning its funding – has still not provided its funding public with any coverage of this story.

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Inaccurate and partial BBC Radio 4 report from Jerusalem’s Old City

Over the past two years listeners to BBC Radio 4 religious programming have heard a couple of inaccurate and misleading reports on the topic of property transactions carried out by the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem.

BBC Radio 4, ‘religious freedom’ and a half-told story

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Listeners to the August 22nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard another item in that genre which was introduced by presenter Justin Webb (from 43:46 here) as follows:

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

Webb: “Church leaders and Palestinians in Jerusalem are calling for international pressure on Israel to stop Jewish settlers taking over two historic properties at the main entrance to the Old City’s Christian Quarter. The Greek Orthodox Church has filed a new lawsuit to try to overturn a Supreme Court ruling on the sale of the hotels, saying it was clear proof of corruption. The development’s taking place amid a recent increase in settlement building in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank as Yolande Knell reports.”

Webb provided no evidence to support that misleading claim of “a recent increase in settlement building”. Even if his intention was to comment on construction within existing communities rather than to assert that an increased number ‘settlements’ had been recently built, the basis for that claim is unclear because the available statistics run only until the end of March 2019 and they show a decrease in construction completes in Judea & Samaria.

Both Justin Webb and subsequently Yolande Knell told BBC audiences that the story is about “the sale” of properties owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. That is not the case: the story is actually about 99-year leases for three properties (rather than two as claimed by Webb).

Knell’s report commenced as follows:

Knell: “There’s a rush of tourists entering Jerusalem’s walled Old City through Jaffa Gate. They’re here to visit the sacred sites of three faiths: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Over the centuries this place has been the crucible of conflict. Today the struggle is between Israelis and Palestinians and I’m looking up at the impressive façade of a nineteenth century landmark which is now on the front line of that. Wow! So this is the Imperial Hotel.”

Knell then introduced her report’s main protagonist – again inaccurately claiming that “the building” has been “bought”.

Knell: “Abu Walid Dajani’s family has lived in Jerusalem for generations. His father started renting this hotel in 1948. But now Jewish settlers have bought the building and he could soon be thrown out.”

The transaction did not occur “now” as claimed by Knell but a decade and a half ago in 2004.

Dajani: “The only thing I wish that God would give me the help and for my children to continue the battle of my life. We’ve been here for the last 600 years and inshallah we will continue.”

Knell then once again inaccurately referred to “the sale of the property” and told audiences of “a corrupt official” despite the fact that in 2017 the Jerusalem District Court ruled that “the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate was unable to establish that the deals, made in 2004 […] were fraudulent or involved bribery” and in June 2019 the Supreme Court upheld that ruling.

Knell: “During a long court battle the landlords – the Greek Orthodox Church – argued the sale of the property for just over a million dollars was carried out by a corrupt official. But Israel’s Supreme Court found it was legal. Mr Dajani says the buyers were driven by ideology.”

Dajani: “Distorted history. Where this is the land that God give. Who gave you? God was never a real estate man. All right; you can buy but you can do a deal in an honest way.”

Knell next claimed that Jerusalem’s Old City is “East Jerusalem”.

Knell: “Outside the hotel local church leaders pray for peace. They’ve appealed to the Vatican, to Moscow and Washington to intervene to stop a Jewish take-over of Christian properties in the Old City. For Palestinians this is also about protecting their presence in East Jerusalem and the idea of creating the capital of their hoped-for future state here.”

Listeners then heard an unidentified man claim that:

Man: “Every small land here in Jerusalem for Palestinians is very important but here is very like main area for tourists to come in so they see the flag, they see like returns to Israeli but it’s not – it’s Palestinian.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that there has never been a Palestinian state – let alone one which had sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem – Knell went on:

Knell: “But come down to the Western Wall – this crowded spot which is the holiest place where Jews can pray – and Israelis have a very different perspective. They see a united Jerusalem as their eternal capital.”

Listeners then heard two vox pop interviews with people who barely speak English replying to Knell’s question “you wouldn’t give up part of Jerusalem for peace with the Palestinians?”.

The Old City is of course not just any old “part of Jerusalem” but Knell made no effort at all to inform listeners of the fact that it is a location where Jews lived for centuries until they were ethnically cleansed by Jordan for a period lasting nineteen years.

Moreover, Knell then went on to promote a politically motivated narrative long embraced by the BBC: the notion that any and all Jews living in the Old City are ‘settlers’ and their homes ‘illegal settlements’.

Knell: [shouting] “A Palestinian woman screams after she’s evicted from her Old City home earlier this year so Jewish students can move in. Settlements are seen as illegal by most countries but Israel disagrees and in East Jerusalem one group – Ateret Cohanim – is behind a lot of the house purchases. Its director Daniel Luria recently told me he hopes to see many more Jews living here.”

Following that short and obviously carefully edited interview, Knell closed her report.

Knell: “Back at the Imperial Hotel an Israeli court worker serves Abu Walid Dajani with a new lawsuit, freezing his assets. The pressure on him from the settlers is mounting. At the heart of this deeply contested holy city, real estate has much more than just a financial value. It has an emotional and political one too.”

Not only did this report repeatedly promote inaccurate information concerning the properties which are ostensibly its subject matter but Yolande Knell has clearly exclusively embraced the Greek Orthodox Church’s narrative.

More gravely, Knell unquestioningly promoted the partisan political narrative she long since adopted with her framing of Old City houses inhabited by Jewish Israelis as ‘illegal settlements’, the inhabitants as ‘settlers’ and her uncritical amplification of the claim that the location is “Palestinian”.

Clearly this report does not meet the standards of either accuracy or impartiality laid down in the BBC’s editorial guidelines.  

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‘Homemade’ Palestinian weapons return to BBC news reporting

Back in November 2012 a BBC TV presenter told viewers that Hamas was ‘only’ firing “home-made contraptions” at Israeli civilians.

Not enough Israelis killed by “home-made contraptions” for BBC’s Mishal Husain

During the conflict in the summer of 2014, BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondents repeatedly described the missile arsenals of the Gaza Strip based terrorist organisations as “homemade rockets”.

BBC continues to promote theme of “homemade” rockets

As was noted here at the time:

“The obvious intention is to steer audiences towards a view of these weapons as being crudely and simply made, with the implication that they are ineffective and do not present such a dangerous threat to Israeli civilians.”

Five years on, BBC audiences were told of a “homemade” improvised explosive by one of the same BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondents in the August 24th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ (from 17:23 here).

The newsreader began by framing the story according to BBC editorial policy – i.e. by failing to describe a violent politically motivated attack on civilians as terrorism and by using politically partisan language to portray a geographic region. [emphasis added]

Newsreader: “An Israeli teenager has been killed and her father and brother injured in a suspected Palestinian militant attack near a settlement in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli military says an improvised bomb was used. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

Yolande Knell chose to use the Arabic pronunciation of the name of an Israeli city and – in line with BBC policy throughout the past 18 months – to portray violent rioting that included the throwing of explosives, grenades and Molotov cocktails as “protests”.

Knell: “As the funeral took place for seventeen-year-old Rina Shnerb in the central Israeli city of Lud [sic – Lod], her father – a rabbi – and older brother remained in hospital, being treated for their injuries from the explosion. In the hilly area of the West Bank, Israeli soldiers searching for the girl’s killer have blocked roads leading to Palestinian villages. Unusually, a homemade bomb is said to have been used. It’s thought it was planted close to a natural spring in a popular hiking spot and detonated as the family approached it. There’s been a recent rise in Palestinian attacks – several linked to the Islamist movement Hamas – raising concerns about a possible upsurge in violence ahead of next month’s Israeli elections. In Gaza, where there was a large turn out for the regular Friday protests along the border fence with Israel, the Hamas leader praised the latest attack in the West Bank but didn’t say whether his group was responsible.”

Since the beginning of this year the Israel Security Agency has recorded monthly use of improvised explosive devices and pipe bombs in attacks carried out in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem:

January – 15 attacks using pipe bombs

February – 11 attacks using IEDs

March – 16 attacks using IEDs

April – 21 attacks using IEDs

May – 4 attacks using pipe bombs

June – 15 attacks using pipe bombs

July – 6 attacks using pipe bombs

Since the BBC has refrained from reporting the majority of those attacks (with four of those seven months seeing no reporting on terrorism against Israelis whatsoever) it is hardly surprising that Yolande Knell portrays this latest attack using an IED as being ‘unusual’.

As for Knell’s claim that the device was “homemade”, the Times of Israel reports that:

“The army said an improvised explosive device was used in the attack. Police sappers determined that the bomb had been planted earlier at the spring and was triggered remotely when the family approached it. […]

Channel 12 quoted unnamed officials as saying that the size and complexity of the device indicated that one of the major terror groups was behind the attack.”

Channel 13’s military correspondent Alon Ben David reported that the IED weighed between three and four kilos and contained a large amount of shrapnel, adding that the incident was “planned and organised – and not a spontaneous or improvised terror attack”.

Yolande Knell’s use of the term “homemade” does not convey that information to BBC audiences and – as was the case when she used it in 2014 – downplays the gravity of events.

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