BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, a filmed report by Jeremy Bowen aired on May 16th downplayed Hamas’ role in organising, encouraging and facilitating the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt that has been going on since the end of March.

A report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman heard by listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ on the same day included the same messaging.

Presenter Sarah Montague introduced the item (from 25:03 here) by promoting a narrative seen in much of the BBC’s coverage: alleged linkage between the ‘Great Return March’ violence – repeatedly described as “protests” – and the relocation of the US embassy in Israel.

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

Montague: “Now, Palestinian protests on the Gaza-Israel border have dropped off dramatically after more than 60 people died during demonstrations against the United States relocating its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Tom Bateman is our Middle East correspondent – he’s in Gaza – and Tom; I know you’ve been speaking to people who were involved in the protests this week.”

Bateman: “Yes, Sarah. The question about the motivation for the protests has become a contentious one amid the recriminations over Israel’s actions in killing more than 60 people this week. Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, was sending people to the perimeter; even paying them to put themselves in the line of fire and to try to storm the fence.”

Of course not only Israel’s prime minister had noted Hamas’ role in encouraging the violence: by the time Bateman produced this report the ISA had published information on that subject given by Palestinians who were arrested while infiltrating Israeli territory. Hamas’ pledge to pay rioters injured or killed while participating in the ‘Great Return March’ had been extensively reported over a month before Bateman made this report – including by Western journalists.

Bateman went on:

Bateman: “Hamas and Islamic Jihad –another militant grouphave acknowledged that 13 of their members died but Hamas says their supporters were unarmed.”

Indeed at the time Hamas had claimed ten of the dead and the PIJ had claimed three – including one person described as a child by the BBC. However, within hours of Bateman’s report having been aired, a Hamas official admitted that fifty of the people killed on May 14th were members of his organisation, meaning that at least 53 of the sixty-two dead were affiliated with terrorist groups. No footnote has been added to the webpage of this programme – which is still available to audiences – advising them of that development.

By the time Bateman’s report was broadcast, the IDF had announced that among the 62 dead were eight armed Hamas operatives killed during an incursion attempt. Bateman’s uncritical amplification of Hamas’ claim that “their supporters were unarmed” therefore obviously raises serious questions about the reliability of BBC reporting.

Bateman next went on to promote the same theme as was seen in Jeremy Bowen’s filmed report:

Bateman: “Now I’ve spoken to a number of men and women who’ve been at the demonstrations: none answered yes when I asked if Hamas had sent them. They were prepared to talk about unrest. Many referred to the issue that they see as at the heart of the so-called ‘Great March of Return’ – yesterday’s 70th anniversary of their ancestors’ displacement when Israel was created.”

Listeners then heard a conversation between Bateman and an inadequately identified person presented as a “student of English Literature” who barely speaks intelligible English.

Bateman: “I spoke to 21 year-old Ahmed – a student of English Literature at Al Aqsa University – who’s been attending the seven weeks of protests since they started.

Bateman: “When you went to the protests, what did you do?”

Ahmed: “I stood on the border and we burn the caoutchouc.”

Bateman: “The tyres.”

Ahmed: “Yes tyres, the tyres.”

Bateman: “Were you hoping to break down the fence? To break it down? To go through?”

Ahmed: “Yes but the Jews he shoot the people and shoot anybody who come to him.”

Bateman: “But do you think you could have got through that fence? Do you think it was possible to go through the fence?”

Ahmed: “No, no, no, no. It’s impossible. It’s impossible.”

Bateman: “If you try and break the fence down, you mean, you’d be shot. So why, why, why then were you burning the tyres? Why were you trying to…”

Ahmed: “To tell them that we are to protest the decision of Trump’s that move the USA to Jerusalem. We will [want to go] back to our home [Israel] but this idea is peaceful. We are a peacefully people.”

Bateman: “When you decided to go to the protest, why did you do that? Was anyone suggesting that you should go?”

Ahmed: “OK.”

Bateman: “Was anyone telling you to? Or was it that you….”

Ahmed: “No, no, no, no. I go to protest with my beliefs and my…”

Bateman: “Your own beliefs?”

Ahmed: “Yes.”

Bateman: “Because Israel says that Hamas is telling people to go.”

Ahmed: “No, no, no. That’s not right. It’s an issue of all Palestinian…”

The report was suddenly cut off at that point.

Hamas’ involvement in preparations for the May 14th chapter of the ‘Great Return March’ was well documented even before the event and, as the ITIC recorded, even the top Hamas leader in Gaza was involved:

“Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas’s Political Bureau in the Gaza Strip, is personally involved in the preparations. He held a preparatory meeting for the events called “the March of the Millions” with representatives of the various organizations, activists of the “Return March” and young Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. The meeting was also attended by senior media figures. At the meeting, he called for extensive participation in the forthcoming events. He called on his audience to carry out the protest actions at all costs, saying that they would rather die as shaheeds; or die hungry and respected rather than humiliated and oppressed. Sinwar further noted in his encouragement statement to the youth that “he is afraid of dying in bed, and is hoping to die as a shaheed in the Return marches”.

Nevertheless, as we have seen in this two-part post, the BBC was clearly very keen to have its funding public believe that Hamas’ role in organising, encouraging and facilitating the ‘Great Return March’ is a figment of Israel’s imagination. How that can possibly be considered to meet the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news” is of course a mystery.

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BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part one

 

 

 

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BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part one

A filmed report by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen which was aired on BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ and on the BBC News Channel on May 16th was also posted on the BBC News website under the headline “Gaza: The bullets stop, the burials go on“.

“More funerals have taken place for the Palestinians killed by Israeli troops in Gaza on Monday.

An emergency session of the UN Security Council has heard condemnation of both Israel and the militant group, Hamas.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call the Catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of people fled – or were expelled from their homes – when the state of Israel was established.

Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen sent this report from Gaza.”

Bowen – who appears to have actually filmed the report on May 15th – began by giving a context-free portrayal of the previous day’s events, which he described as “protests” despite their violent nature.

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

Bowen: “On the border the soundtrack was anti-Israel songs – not gunfire. 24 hours after the killing, the big protests have stopped but tyres were burning and Palestinians looked warily towards the Israeli positions. Enterprising traders brought refreshments.

So what’s next? The Israelis deal with the international political fall-out. The Palestinians have 60 dead. Politicians and diplomats abroad call for peace but real peace talks ended – failed –a long time ago and with the current generation of Palestinian and Israeli leaders, there is no chance of them being revived.”

Bowen refrained from clarifying to viewers that the ‘headline’ of the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt that led to those deaths is promotion of the so-called Palestinian ‘right of return’ – an expression of intent to eliminate the Jewish state, thus rejecting peace altogether. He went on:

Bowen: “The Israelis started firing tear-gas. The crowd by then – including many families – was getting too big and the young men were getting too close to the border wire. On the other side, the Israelis say they’re in the right.”

Viewers then heard from IDF Spokesman Jonathan Conricus.

Conricus: “We are not here looking to create casualties of Palestinians. That is not our aim. We are simply here to defend what is ours. We are defending our sovereignty, our civilians that live in close proximity, against an onslaught led by a terrorist organization that is using civilians in order to penetrate into Israel.”

Bowen next gave a context-free portrayal of the topic of Palestinian refugees – carefully avoiding inconvenient topics such as why generations of Palestinians have deliberately been kept in refugee camps and refugee status for seven decades by their leaders and the leaders of Arab countries. He inaccurately suggested that the flight of those who became refugees is attributable exclusively to Israel – carefully avoiding the subject of the Arab leaders who in many cases urged or ordered them to leave their homes.

Bowen: “Much of Gaza’s rage is born in places like Beach Camp [Shati – Ed.] – still a home for refugees 70 years after more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced out of their homes by newly independent Israel. Palestinians call it Nakba – catastrophe. 70% of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees stuck fast in history.”

Failing to tell viewers about the leaflets warning Palestinians to stay away from the border that were distributed by the IDF on the morning of May 14th, Bowen went on:

Bowen: “At the al Farouk mosque, Yazen Tobasi’s funeral was much quieter than his death: shot through the eye during the protests. His body was wrapped in the Hamas flag. He was 23 and his friends were there to bury him. There were tender moments. Israel says it told them to stay away from the border and Hamas is responsible for what happened. His friend Mohammed al Birawi [phonetic] said Yazen worked at the hospital without pay because of Gaza’s collapsing economy.”

As research by the ITIC shows (see pages 47/48 here), Tobasi – who also had a Hamas Qassam Brigades headband tied around his head at his funeral – was also claimed by another terror group – the DFLP – as one of its members and said by that group to have been killed on May 11. Bowen continued: 

Bowen: “Poverty and grief breed anger. And so do the deaths of children. A family gathered for another funeral. It was for Layla al Ghandour who was eight months old.”

The day before this report was aired on BBC One and posted on the website, conflicting accounts of the baby’s death had already emerged with both a Gaza doctor and her father stating that she had a pre-existing medical condition. Nevertheless, the BBC did not edit out that part of Bowen’s report implying that the child’s death was linked to Israel’s response to the incidents along the border.

Bowen then found a disingenuous way to play down Hamas’ involvement in these incidents:

Bowen: “At Shifa, the main hospital, wounded men were being transferred to Egypt for surgery. Inside they were still treating casualties from the protest. This boy is 16. All day I’ve been asking Palestinians if Hamas forced them to risk their lives at the protests. No-one said yes. ‘I did it because Jerusalem is Palestinian’ said Wadi a Ras [phonetic] – unemployed, 24 years old.”

It is of course not claimed that Hamas has “forced” people to take part in the ‘Great Return March’ events. Hamas has, however, been involved in their organisation from the outset and has laid on transport and promised financial compensation to casualties and participants. Hamas leaders whipped up fervor prior to the May 14th events, urging participants to “bring a knife or a gun” and to use them “to capture soldiers or residents of Israel”.

What BBC audiences will remember though is that “no-one” told Jeremy Bowen that Hamas had sent them.

Viewers heard from a doctor at the Shifa hospital before the report ended:

Bowen: “This is the busiest time at the hospital since the 2014 war.

Sabbani: “As a human being I speak. It’s…it’s horrible to think about if you see yesterday the situation, it’s horrible. Crying, bleeding, pain, painful. What’s happening?

Bowen: “After the protests it seems that many people are hoping for some kind of turning point but the fundamentals of this conflict don’t change.”

The BBC’s Middle East editor’s job is to “make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”. Obviously playing down Hamas’ role in the violence audiences saw on their TV screens on May 14th does not meet that purpose and – as we shall see in part two of this post – Bowen was not the only BBC journalist doing just that.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Middle East editor ‘explains’ Gaza violence

BBC Breakfast blames Israel for Gaza baby death

 

BBC News makes a story disappear by changing photo captions

On May 15th the BBC News website’s ‘In Pictures’ page published an item headlined “‘Hear our message’: Gaza border violence in pictures” which related to the previous day’s events and opened by telling audiences that:

“Monday was the deadliest day since violent unrest returned to the Gaza Strip border fence with Israel almost two months ago.

Palestinian protests were fuelled by the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.

Israeli troops guarding the border killed at least 58 people and injured almost 3,000.”

Obviously “violent unrest” did not just appear out of the blue at the end of March: it was meticulously planned weeks in advance. BBC audiences have however been told nothing of what was organised, by whom, when and why and that means that the corporation can continue to promote false linkage between the pre-planned violence along the border and the relocation of the US embassy to an existing building in Jerusalem.

Notably, this item has not been updated to inform BBC audiences that 50 of the people killed on May 14th were – according to Hamas – linked to that terrorist organisation.

Scattered among the photographs are what the BBC describes at the bottom of the report as “witness interviews” gathered by “Reuters and AFP news agencies”. Notably, those ‘witnesses’ – identified only by their first name – tell only one side of the story.

“Many may get martyred today, but the world will hear our message. Occupation must end.

Ali, science teacher, Gaza”

“Killing me will not change anything. They need to kill every last one of us to change the facts.

Samir, refugee, Gaza”

“I am happy that my son is a martyr. He is among dozens who died for the sake of Palestine.

Ibrahim, 50, whose son was killed near Gaza City”

Although all the photographs used in this item were sourced from various agencies, the BBC replaced their original captions with its own. Photo number one, for example, was originally captioned:

“Palestinians protesters pull barbed wire fence installed by Israeli army along the border during clashes after protests near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza Strip, May 14, 2018.”

The BBC replaced that description with:

“Israel says some 40,000 Palestinians took part”

The seventh photo was likewise originally captioned:

“Palestinians protesters pulling barbed wire fence installed by Israeli army along the border during clashes after protests near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza Strip, 14 May 2018.”

The BBC replaced that with:

“Israel said soldiers had fired on people carrying out “terrorist activity and not on demonstrators””

The original caption to the fourth photo read:

“An Israeli armoured personnel carrier (APC) maneuvers on the Israeli side of the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip May 14, 2018”

The BBC replaced that with:

“Israeli forces responded to protesters with tear gas and live fire from snipers”

In light of the BBC’s ongoing failure to inform its audiences about the multiple incidents of damage caused by ‘Great Return March‘ participants to the crops and irrigation systems of Israeli farmers in fields adjacent to the border, the change made to one caption is particularly noteworthy.

The BBC’s caption to the eighth image is:

“Israeli soldiers patrolled along the Gaza border”

However, that photograph was originally captioned:

“Israeli soldiers walk amidst smoke from a fire in a wheat field near the Kibbutz of Nahal Oz, along the border with the Gaza Strip, which was caused by incendiaries tied to kites flown by Palestinian protesters from across the border, May 14, 2018.”

In other words, the BBC elected to remove that brief reference to the story of millions of shekels-worth of deliberate damage caused by rioters along the Gaza Strip border in recent weeks.

Once again the narrative – or “our message” as it is described in this item’s title – that the BBC intends to communicate to its audiences is amply clear. 

 

BBC News website amplifies the NGO echo-chamber

On May 9th the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel orders Human Rights Watch activist to leave for ‘supporting boycott’“.

On the one hand, readers were told that:

“Israel has ordered the senior representative of Human Rights Watch in the country to leave within 14 days.

The interior ministry said it had terminated the residency permit of Omar Shakir, who is a US citizen, because he had supported a boycott of Israel.”

On the other hand, they were also told that:

“HRW insists that neither it nor Mr Shakir promote boycotts of Israel.”

However, BBC audiences were not told which of those claims is true.

Apparently the BBC could not be bothered to take a closer look at Omar Shakir’s history of anti-Israel activismincluding pro-BDS Tweets.

Obviously too, the BBC has ‘forgotten’ that an anti-Israel campaign at FIFA (which it vigorously promoted at the time) was supported by political NGOs including Human Rights Watch. In fact, Shakir even went so far as to fly to Bahrain a year ago to lobby FIFA officials and – as Professor Gerald Steinberg recently noted:

“In the past year alone, HRW pushed divestment from Israeli banks, targeted Israel’s membership in FIFA (the international soccer association), called for arms embargoes and ending security cooperation, lobbied the UN to “blacklist” companies doing business in Israel, and petitioned the International Criminal Court to open prosecutions against Israeli officials.”

Nevertheless, the BBC chose to devote over 25% of this report’s word count to the amplification of statements from some of its own most quoted and promoted political NGOs.

“This is not about Shakir, but rather about muzzling Human Rights Watch and shutting down criticism of Israel’s rights record,” said Iain Levine, a deputy executive director of the New York-based organisation.

“Compiling dossiers on and deporting human rights defenders is a page out of the Russian or Egyptian security services’ playbook.” […]

Other human rights groups also criticised the expulsion of Mr Shakir.

Amnesty International called it “yet another worrying sign of the country’s growing intolerance of critical voices”.

Israeli organisation B’Tselem, meanwhile, said it was a “sign of the times”.”

In other words, rather than providing audiences with the facts about HRW’s anti-Israel activity which would enhance their understanding of this story, the BBC preferred to amplify the NGO echo-chamber of which it is frequently part.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns anti-Israel NGO into hi-tech story

BBC amplified anti-Israel campaign rejected by FIFA

BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

 

 

 

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – April 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during April 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 223 incidents took place: 83 in Judea & Samaria, 22 in Jerusalem and 118 in the Gaza Strip/Sinai sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 94 attacks with petrol bombs, six attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), four shooting attacks and one arson attack. In the Gaza Strip sector the agency recorded 98 attacks with petrol bombs, three shooting attacks, 15 attacks using IEDs, one grenade attack and one arson attack. No missile or mortar attacks were recorded during April. 

Two Israelis were injured during April. In Jerusalem a civilian was wounded by a petrol bomb on April 19th and in Jenin a member of the security forces was wounded in a shooting attack on April 24th.

Visitors to the BBC News website saw no reporting on any of the incidents in Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria.

All the website’s coverage of the incidents along the Gaza border during April is listed below. As can be seen, the sole first-hand account from a BBC journalist relates to stone-throwing (which is not recorded by the ISA). The only mentions of firebombs, weapons and explosive devices are found in quotes or descriptions of statements from the IDF/Israel. 

Gaza protests: further deaths in renewed border protest April 6th

Yolande Knell: “Now we have seen Palestinians who have been throwing stones.”

Deadly unrest on Gaza-Israel border as Palestinians resume protests April 7th

“Protesters threw stones and firebombs at troops deployed on berms on the Israeli side of the frontier, the Israeli military said, and multiple attempts were made to break through the border fence.”

Israel to investigate killing of Palestinian journalist April 7th

None

Israeli minister praises viral video sniper April 10th

“Israel has defended its actions, saying it has only used live fire against individuals trying to breach the border fence, or those using weapons or explosives.”

Fierce clashes continue at Gaza-Israel border fence April 13th

Israel’s army estimated there were 10,000 people “rioting” on Friday, with some attempting to breach the fence with firebombs and explosive devices.”

Israel border clashes: Three Palestinians killed, Gaza officials say April 27th

Israel said hundreds of rioters had tried to burn the fence, and threw rocks and firebombs. Its soldiers used tear gas, rubber bullets and live fire.”

In other words, the BBC did not itself report on any of the 118 recorded incidents along the Gaza Strip-Israel border during April and all four generalised references to such attacks seen by audiences throughout the month’s 30 days were attributed to a third party.   

If, notwithstanding the unspecific nature of that coverage, we count those four references as ‘reporting’ we can say that the BBC covered 1.79% of the terror attacks that took place during April 2018 and that since the beginning of the year the BBC has reported 1.6% of the attacks and 100% of the fatalities. Just one of the six separate incidents of rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip that have taken place since the beginning of the year has been mentioned in BBC News website coverage.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – March 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2017 and year summary

 

 

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part four

In previous posts we looked at how the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the rioting along the Gaza Strip-Israel border were portrayed as they happened in the May 14th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour‘ (available here).

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

In this post we will look at what BBC audiences worldwide were told in real-time about the context to the poorly portrayed violence along that border.

The long introduction given by presenter Razia Iqbal included misrepresentation of the locations of previous ‘Great Return March’ events – which actually were confined to the Gaza Strip border. Iqbal also promoted the blatant falsehood that the displacement of all Palestinians in 1948 was “forced”.

01:28 Iqbal: “Dates are significant here. It is the 70th anniversary of the foundation of Israel and there has been a six-week protest by Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and – the most deadly – in Gaza. Scores have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers on the Gaza-Israel border. The protests are to culminate on May the 15th, tomorrow, called the Nakba or catastrophe by Palestinians as the day when they were forced from their land and homes as Israel was established.”

In contrast to the very clear – but inaccurate – impression given by Razia Iqbal, the facts are of course much more nuanced:

“Historians agree that there was no single cause of the Arab flight from Palestine. In large part, the masses fled because they saw the Palestinian elite doing the same thing. In part, it was in response to exhortations by Arab military and political leaders that Palestinian civilians evacuate their homes until the end of the fighting. Vast numbers were simply fleeing the heavy fighting that surrounded them, or that they expected to soon disrupt their lives. In some instances, Palestinians were forced from their homes by the Jewish military.”

The vast majority of the context to what was, as we saw earlier, overwhelmingly portrayed as “peaceful marches” and “protests” came in Yolande Knell’s report near the beginning of the programme.

05:15 Iqbal: “Yolande, just remind listeners that this has been going on for several weeks now and it’s very specifically to mark a day tomorrow for the Palestinians.”

Knell: “That’s right. This has been called the Great March of Return by the Palestinians. It was organised in Gaza over the past 6 weeks. The 15th of May is always a date of protest for Palestinians when they remember how, back in 1948, more than 700,000 people lost their homes on land that became part of Israel. [….] The people [Knell spoke to in Gaza] were saying that they really felt that the historic injustice as they saw it was at the heart of all the modern-day problems that they have in Gaza, where they have chronic electricity shortages, this long-time blockade that’s been enforced by Israel and Egypt which now means that the Gaza Strip is an extremely poor place – it suffers from extremely high unemployment.”

Obviously the fact that there are chronic electricity shortages in the Gaza Strip has nothing whatsoever to do with the refugee issue (it is, as Knell well knows, in fact due to infighting between Hamas and Fatah) and neither do the counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel and Egypt in response to the surge in terrorism since Hamas’ violent coup in the Gaza Strip in 2007. Knell went on:

Knell: “One woman told me ‘I wouldn’t have come down here if Gaza wasn’t in the state it was but people need to see what the issues are for us’. They felt that this was putting back the suffering of people in Gaza back into the spotlight. Also a lot of concern…they think that the issue of Palestinian refugees – which is a key issue in the Israel-Palestinian conflict – they feel that there have been attempts – particularly by Washington – to try to push this off the table of any future negotiations. They say that because of course earlier this year the US did announce big cuts to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.”

Yolande Knell (nor anyone else in this programme) made no effort to inform listeners why Palestinians – even when living under PA or Hamas control – are still kept in refugee status by UNRWA, their own leaders and the leaders of Arab countries seventy years on.

Listeners were also told that:

Knell: “Now on top of that, another key issue – the future status of Jerusalem. That is also at stake and of course that’s just added fuel to the flames, brought more people out for these demonstrations. “

As we see, listeners to this broadcast were wrongly led to believe that Palestinians were ‘protesting’ on the border because of a bad electricity supply, high unemployment and poverty – even as the BBC serially ignored the repeated attacks by ‘protesters’ on the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Additional factors cited included “the future status of Jerusalem” and the anniversary of a “historic injustice” which Knell failed to put into its correct context. Interestingly, while BBC reports on previous bouts of ‘Great Return March’ violence had touted the ‘right of return’ that is supposedly the publicity stunt’s raison d’être (see for example here and here), in this report that topic was largely avoided and listeners were not informed of the basic fact that the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ means rejection of the two-state solution and that its real intention is to threaten the existence of Israel as the Jewish state. 

Listeners also heard nothing of the fact that the ‘Great Return March’ events were organised by factions including Gaza-based terror groups. They were not told of the payments made by Hamas to participators or of the organisers’ calls for breaching of the border fence and martyrdom. Even Yahya Sinwar’s March 31st statement of intent – “We will take down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies” – did not receive any BBC coverage either in this programme or elsewhere.

Sadly it is all too obvious that both of the topics covered in this May 14th ‘split screen’ edition of Newshour – the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the rioting on the Gaza border on the same day – were presented in a manner intended to amplify a specific political narrative rather than to provide BBC audiences with “accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues” as required by the corporation’s public purposes.

In the context of the question of whose interests this edition of ‘Newshour’ served, it is worth noting what Hamas’ leader Yahya Sinwar had to say about the Western media’s ‘split screen’ reporting two days after this BBC programme was broadcast:

“Our people have imposed their agenda upon the whole world. There was supposed to be a romantic picture of the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on the world’s television screens, but our people, in their collective consciousness, forced the whole world to split the television screens between the footage of fraud, deception, falsehood, and oppression, manifest in the attempt to impose Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation state, and between the image of injustice, oppression, heroism, and determination painted by our own people in their sacrifices – the sacrifice of their children as an offering for Jerusalem and the Right of Return.”

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

BACKGROUNDER: PALESTINIAN ARAB AND JEWISH REFUGEES (CAMERA)

 

 

 

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

Last week we looked at how the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem was reported live in the May 14th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour’.

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

The same programme – presented by Razia Iqbal and available here – concurrently gave listeners a portrayal of events along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on that day – as described in its synopsis.

“Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and nearly 2,000 injured by Israeli forces on Gaza’s border. The clashes came as the United States formally opened its embassy in Jerusalem. We will hear from both Palestinian and Israeli voices.”

That content related to two topics: what was happening along the Gaza border and why. In this post we will first take a look at the ‘what’: how the events themselves were portrayed.

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

03:34 Iqbal: “Thousands of Palestinians have gathered on the edge of the border between Gaza and Israel fanning out along the fence that separates Palestinian territory from Israel. There have been demonstrations by Palestinians in Gaza, in Jerusalem and in the West Bank.”

Listeners heard a report from Yolande Knell who began by failing to inform listeners that the “Palestinian health officials” she quoted are in fact Hamas employees.

03:56 Knell: Well the latest we’re hearing from Palestinian health officials is that at least 37 people have been killed, one of them as young as 14. Many hundreds of people have been injured – several of them are journalists – and this, of course, is on top of at least 40 people who’ve been killed by Israeli soldiers during the past 6 weeks of protests…eh…during the demonstrations themselves. So really a very deadly day: the bloodiest day since the war in Gaza back in 2014.

Knell – who had previously been described by Iqbal as being in Ramallah – refrained from describing the events in the BBC’s own words.

Knell: “We’re hearing there are about 35,000 Palestinians spread across 12 locations. These are figures from the Israeli military. They say that Palestinians are throwing fire bombs, burning tyres and throwing rocks along the border. They said that they are sticking to what they call the usual rules of engagement. They have been warning they expected hundreds of Palestinians to try to approach the perimeter fence, to try to cut their way through it and break into Israeli territory and they made it clear that they would open fire in such cases to stop people from attacking the fence and from possible attacks being carried out on the Israeli communities that live nearby.”

She went on to promote the view of additional people not actually present on the Gaza border but, like her, commenting from Ramallah.

Knell: “But the PA government is accusing the Israeli military of carrying out a terrible massacre in Gaza.”

That portrayal of Israeli army statements from Yolande Knell in the first five minutes of the programme was in fact also the last account listeners heard of what the Palestinians at the border were actually doing. Throughout the rest of the programme they heard a series of context-free statements from Razia Iqbal such as the following during an interview with Israeli MK Sharren Haskel.

12:11 Iqbal: “If I could just get your response to what is happening not very far away from where the embassy is being inaugurated. Gazans are being shot dead by Israeli forces.”

13:22 Iqbal: “Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and more than a thousand injured by Israeli forces on Gaza’s border. These clashes come as the United States formally opens its embassy in Jerusalem.”

At one point – as Haskel spoke of “violent riots in the attempt to break the border” – Razia Iqbal abandoned journalistic impartiality altogether:

15:07 Iqbal [interrupts, shouting]: “They’re unarmed, Sharren Haskel! They’re unarmed! It’s the Israeli forces who are armed and shooting at them.”

Listeners also heard a portrayal of the events along the Gaza border from yet another person located over a hundred kilometres away in Ramallah – Mustafa Barghouti.

16:46 Barghouti: “And now the Israelis are thinking that they got a green light from the Americans to do whatever they want. What we see today is a real massacre. So far Israel is responding to peaceful marches. They respond to us with lethal weapons. So far they killed 20 Palestinians and injured no less than 900.”

Despite the fact that many of those killed in prior bouts of rioting over the previous six weeks had been identified as members of Hamas and other terror groups (information that was not disclosed to listeners of this programme) Razia Iqbal provided Mustafa Barghouti with the cue to disseminate more propaganda.

19:11 Iqbal: “Those who speak on the side of Israel and Israeli security forces in particular will argue that Hamas is using in some cases children as human shields. Is there any truth to what they say?”

19:24 Barghouti: “Not at all. They are shooting civilians. The people who are killed are 30 years old. Some of them are children also. But no; people are marching peacefully. But Israel is shooting us. The world must take a stand here and must tell Israel enough is enough. You can’t continue to kill Palestinians as if they are not equal human beings.”

Later on in the programme Iqbal interviewed a Palestinian from Gaza.

33: 26 Iqbal: “Not very far from where people were hearing President Trump there are protests going on along the border between Gaza and Israel. We have just got through to a Palestinian activist. His name is Fadi Shamala…”

Shamala spoke of “tear gas” and “seeing hundreds of the youth are getting shot and killed”, claiming that:

Shamala: “More than 41 Palestinians is killed in these demonstration and more than also thousand of Palestinians were got injured.”

Referring to her first interview with Sharren Haskel, Iqbal asked:

34:41 Iqbal: “Fadi – so I was speaking to an Israeli member of the Knesset earlier and she was saying that the Palestinians are being provocative, they are armed and they are threatening Israel. Were you carrying a weapon today? Did you see other people who were protesting with you carrying weapons?”

After a sarcastic quip, Shamala replied:

Shamala: “No absolutely not. We were just thousands of Palestinian protesters who are unarmed. Just making a peaceful – a very peaceful – demonstration inside the Palestinian side. I mean they are till now are in the Palestinian side and around 3,000 journalists are seeing what is going on in the Palestinian side and also the activities of the demonstration, the protests themselves.”

During a later conversation with former Senator Joe Lieberman, Iqbal again gave a context-free portrayal of the day’s events:

41:07 Iqbal: “I wonder if I can just ask you to reflect then on the word ‘peace’ because today we are seeing Israeli forces shooting dead currently at least 16 protesters on the border between Gaza and Israel proper.”

41:52 Iqbal: “Since I did that interview with Senator Lieberman the number of Palestinians dead has gone up to 37.”

Later on, she repeated the exercise:

44:11 Iqbal: “Not very far from where the ceremony was taking place, dozens of Palestinians have been killed and more than a thousand injured by Israeli forces on Gaza’s border.”

Iqbal’s final interview was with the head of an American political NGO.

48:20 Iqbal: “And what do you think then is going to be the direct result of what President Trump has done? I mean we’re seeing today coinciding with the opening of the embassy, continuation of protests on the border between Gaza and Israel and the death toll of Gazans is going up by the hour. What are we to make of those two parallel – almost parallel – universes that are existing today?”

Freidman: “This is part of a shifting, a recalibration of relations around Israel-Palestine and we don’t know where it goes just yet. It is currently being measured in blood.”

As we see, BBC World Service audiences were presented with a very blinkered view of what actually happened along the Gaza border on May 14th. Yolande Knell told listeners that the IDF had said that “Palestinians are throwing fire bombs, burning tyres and throwing rocks” but BBC audiences heard nothing at all about the more violent incidents that took place before and during the time that this programme was on air – including attempts to breach the border.

  • “At around noon an IDF force near the fence in the Rafah region, the site of one of the main riots, prevented a three-man squad of armed terrorists from placing an IED. The force shot and killed the terrorists.
  • Also during the afternoon, two shooting attacks were carried out against IDF forces. In response Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked a Hamas post in the Jabalia region (northern Gaza Strip).
  • At around 1500 hours an IED exploded near the fence in the northern Gaza Strip. In response Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked 11 Hamas targets. IDF tanks shot at Hamas posts in the northern Gaza Strip.”

BBC audiences did however repeatedly hear descriptions of “peaceful marches” and “protests” and were led to believe time and time again that the IDF was shooting unarmed civilians, with Hamas’ role in organising the riots mentions erased from audience view. On two occasions the events were described as a “massacre” – even as the BBC concealed the more violent incidents from listeners.

Like the programme’s portrayal of the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, the information and descriptions heard by BBC World Service listeners were obviously intended to steer audiences towards a very specific and one-sided understanding of events.

As Rod Liddle summed it up at the Times:

“Having listened to and watched the BBC news all last week, I am of the firm opinion that the fascist, apartheid state of Israel has been guilty of genocide against the peaceable Palestinian teenagers and toddlers who simply wanted to hold a kind of alcohol-free fundraising gala near that border fence, to celebrate diversity and niceness and raise money for worthy concerns. It is outrageous that the Israelis should have fired on unarmed civilians simply when they were running a tombola.

Some people will have been taken in by stuff less extensively reported by the BBC. Such as that more than four-fifths who were shot by Israeli soldiers were members of the terrorist organisation Hamas. Or that Hamas had ordered and in many cases paid demonstrators to breach the border and “tear the hearts out of the Jews”. Or that Egypt had summoned Hamas’s leader and told him to stop the bloodshed. Or that Molotov cocktails were thrown.

None of this has shifted my opinion, because it was not reported by our impartial state broadcaster. So it cannot possibly be true, can it?”

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

The May 14th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ – presented by Razia Iqbal – included a pre-recorded interview (from 16:05 here) with regular BBC guest Mustafa Barghouti in which many of the themes already apparent at the beginning of the programme (discussed in part one of this post) were repeated and reinforced.

Iqbal: “Let’s hear now from the Palestinians. Mustafa Barghouti is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He also sits on the central council of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. A short while ago I spoke to him from our Ramallah studio. He gave me his reaction to the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.”

Barghouti: “This move from the side of the administration of President Trump is very bad and I think it makes the United States complicit and even participant in violating international law and actually committing a war crime by approving the annexation of occupied territories by force. It also destroys the ability of the United States to be a negotiator in any peace process.” […]

Iqbal: “Let’s start with that first point that you made – that the US is in violation of international law. President Trump would argue that the peace process was moribund and by taking Jerusalem off the table, he has a plan to reinject life into a process that was dead.”

Barghouti: “No, he is substituting the peace between two sides with…and enforcing a deal unilaterally with Israel on the Palestinian side, consolidating the occupation and the system of apartheid and racial discrimination. He’s taking off the table the issue of Jerusalem, the issue of settlements, the issue of refugees. So practically he’s saying I’m fulfilling what the Israelis want.”

Listeners heard no challenge to Barghouti’s ‘apartheid’ smear from Razia Iqbal, who went on to ask a ‘question’ which is obviously irrelevant given that Israel’s position on its capital has not changed in thirty-eight years and merely served as a cue for more of Barghouti’s deliberately delegitimising falsehoods and smears.

Iqbal: “A third of the residents of Jerusalem are Palestinians. Given what Prime Minister Netanyahu has been saying about Jerusalem being the undivided capital of Israel, what do you think is going to happen to those Palestinians now.”

Barghouti: “Well they are treated as third grade citizens. They are discriminated against. There is one law for Israelis and another for Palestinians. Their properties are confiscated. They are prohibited from building new homes. In reality, Mr Netanyahu is trying to push the Palestinians out of Jerusalem and trying to exercise ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people.”

Razia Iqbal could have put Barghouti’s allegations of ethnic cleansing into proportion had she told listeners that the Arab population of Jerusalem grew from 69,000 (26%) in 1967 to 324,000 (37%) in 2015. She chose not to do so. Listeners then got an insight into the source of Iqbal’s earlier claim that “many people” think that “the United States is joining the occupier in violating international law”.

Iqbal: “How are the Palestinians going to respond in the context of what you regard as a violation of international law? If you’re saying that the US is now siding with the occupying power, what is it that you can do about the United States breaking those resolutions at the United Nations?”

Barghouti responded with promotion of the BDS campaign – which as usual was not explained to audiences. Later on he was given another opportunity to promote the ‘apartheid’ smear unchallenged.

Iqbal: “The United States is clearly moving in a direction unilaterally in many different spheres. Who would you like to intervene now?”

Barghouti: “Look I believe our case is very similar to the case of South African people who struggled against apartheid. There was a time when most governments turned their backs to Nelson Mandela who was described as a terrorist. […] I think the peoples of the world are now realising how just the cause of the Palestinians is and how it is unacceptable to allow Israel to create a system of apartheid in the 21st century.”

After a break, Iqbal returned to the story at 30:06 with more of the same messaging.

Iqbal: “We’re going to return to our top story today – the story that’s dominating our programme – the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem: an issue that has been hugely contentious. The Israelis of course welcoming it. Palestinians and many in the international community seeing it as going against international consensus.”

At 36:09 Iqbal spoke to former US Senator Joe Lieberman who was at the US embassy event and –as she clarified – was one of those who put forward the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act.  Iqbal told listeners:

Iqbal: “It [the act] did pass both Senate and the House but it was not signed into law by then president Bill Clinton.”

That obviously implies to BBC audiences that the Jerusalem Embassy Act did not become law. In fact, a footnote states:

Ignoring the fact that in his December 6thstatement the US president specifically said “[w]e are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders”, during their conversation Iqbal ‘asked’ Lieberman:

Iqbal: “The president could have said though – couldn’t he? – that the US would move its embassy to west Jerusalem. The idea of claiming Jerusalem in its entirety as the capital sends out a very hostile – at the worst – but in some respects not a neutral position or signal to the Palestinians.”

Iqbal again promoted the ‘US embassy relocation as the end of the peace process’ theme.

Iqbal: “Do you think there still is scope for a peace process?”

She promoted another recurring theme by referring to the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem as a decision that “puts Washington completely at odds with the rest of the international community” and when her interviewee responded that “a country puts its embassy in the city that the host country declares to be its capital”, Iqbal interrupted him.

Iqbal: “But Senator Lieberman – I’m so sorry to interrupt you – under the UN resolution East Jerusalem is occupied territory.”

Iqbal did not bother to clarify to listeners that the UNSC resolution to which she referred – 2334 – is non-binding.

At 45:03 Iqbal introduced her final pre-recorded interviewee – the head of an American political NGO that claims to have been trying (obviously unsuccessfully) to “promote a just resolution” to the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1979. Listeners however were not provided with background on that NGO’s political stance (as required by BBC editorial guidelines) which would help them put the contributor’s words into context.

Iqbal: “We are going to stay with our top story now and hear from Lara Friedman who is president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace in Washington. I began by asking her a little while ago how significant she thought the move was for the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Unsurprisingly, Friedman’s responses dovetailed with the themes Iqbal had chosen to promote throughout the programme.

Freidman: “The moving of the embassy has been a red line politically.”

Friedman: “The notion that you reinvigorate a peace process by effectively telling one side all of the arguments we made to you to come into a peace process are now dead and we expect you to stay or come into a peace process based on an entirely different set of arguments that compromise everything that you need – it doesn’t pass what I call the laugh test. It’s impossible to hear that without laughing if you understand what is necessary for Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

Iqbal: “The Palestinians argue that in doing this President Trump and the United States has placed itself on the side of the occupying power and that by recognizing Jerusalem in its entirety as the capital of Israel, it is in violation of international law since East Jerusalem is an occupied territory recognised by international law. Is there any scope in taking that route?”

Friedman: “It isn’t the Palestinians who say that – it’s pretty much the rest of the world except for Guatemala and possibly Paraguay down the road. This is not a move that is recognised as legitimate by anyone and on the question of whether or not President Trump is taking the side of Israel – the occupier – I mean Mr Trump himself has said ‘I’ve taken Jerusalem off the table’.”

Freidman: “The United States really has in the views of almost anyone who looks at this issue seriously, they have taken themselves out of the room as a viable or credible steward of a peace process…”

And with that cosy little echo-chamber interview, ‘Newshour’ reporting on the topic of the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem came to a close.

As we see BBC audiences worldwide were fed a highly regimented view of the topic of the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem. They heard no serious discussion of the topic of the ‘international law’ to which Iqbal and some of her guests repeatedly referred as though it was not open to different interpretation. The idea that the US embassy’s move brings about the demise of the ‘peace process’ was repeatedly promoted with no discussion whatsoever of any additional factors affecting that process and the notion of the United States being at odds with an ‘international consensus’ was amplified unquestioningly.

Just as it was all too obvious what impression of the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem  BBC audiences were intended to take away, the programme’s presentation of the second topic on the ‘split screen’ – the Gaza border rioting on May 14th – was equally monochrome, as we will see in a separate post.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

Writing at the New York Times, Matti Friedman discusses media coverage of the May 14th pre-planned events along the Gaza Strip-Israel border:

“About 40,000 people answered a call to show up. Many of them, some armed, rushed the border fence. Many Israelis, myself included, were horrified to see the number of fatalities reach 60.

Most Western viewers experienced these events through a visual storytelling tool: a split screen. On one side was the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem in the presence of Ivanka Trump, evangelical Christian allies of the White House and Israel’s current political leadership — an event many here found curious and distant from our national life. On the other side was the terrible violence in the desperately poor and isolated territory. The juxtaposition was disturbing.

The attempts to breach the Gaza fence, which Palestinians call the March of Return, began in March and have the stated goal of erasing the border as a step toward erasing Israel. A central organizer, the Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar, exhorted participants on camera in Arabic to “tear out the hearts” of Israelis. But on Monday the enterprise was rebranded as a protest against the embassy opening, with which it was meticulously timed to coincide. The split screen, and the idea that people were dying in Gaza because of Donald Trump, was what Hamas was looking for.

The press coverage on Monday was a major Hamas success in a war whose battlefield isn’t really Gaza, but the brains of foreign audiences.”

BBC World Service radio of course does not have a literal split screen but the May 14th afternoon edition of ‘Newshour‘ – presented by Razia Iqbal – certainly managed to create an audio equivalent of that “storytelling tool”.

“Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and nearly 2,000 injured by Israeli forces on Gaza’s border. The clashes came as the United States formally opened its embassy in Jerusalem. We will hear from both Palestinian and Israeli voices.”

The overwhelming majority of that hour-long programme was devoted to those two concurrently presented topics: the inauguration ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the May 14th rioting along the Gaza border. In addition to Iqbal’s own commentary, listeners heard live excerpts from the ceremony at the new US embassy along with a report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell and interviews with one Israeli MK, one Palestinian politician, one Palestinian demonstrator, a former US Senator and an American member of a political NGO.

In the two parts of this post we will look at how the former event was presented to BBC audiences and in a future post we will discuss the programme’s presentation of the second topic.

Razia Iqbal introduced the broadcast (from 00:11 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “Our programme is dominated today by the city of Jerusalem – a city which embodies that very potent mix of religion, politics and history. Today – as we speak – the United States is inaugurating its embassy there following President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in early December last year. It could mark the beginning of a seismic shift in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The status of Jerusalem is among the issues which remain open for negotiation in any final peace accord; as a recognition of how contentious it is. The Israelis regard the undivided city as their capital and the Palestinians – as well as international law – regard the east of the city as territory occupied by the Israelis after the 1967 war and there for the Palestinians to make as their capital of any Palestinian state. The new US embassy will be located in west Jerusalem but President Trump has said that his unilateral decision to recognise it as Israel’s capital takes it off the table. It is among several issues which now separate the United States from the rest of the international community. We’ll be getting views from all sides about what’s happening today, right now, and also what it means for a peace process which has long been dormant.”

Already in that introduction the themes which would be repeatedly emphasised throughout the rest of the programme were apparent. Despite the fact that, even as Iqbal spoke, tens of thousands of Palestinians were literally demonstrating the fact that they are not interested in a peace agreement by participating in an event promoting efforts to eradicate the world’s only Jewish state, for the BBC it was the placement of a new plaque on an existing US mission in Jerusalem which was the “seismic shift” and the factor which would affect the ‘peace process’.

Iqbal’s partisan portrayal of ‘international law’ was likewise a theme repeated throughout the programme, as was that of US ‘isolation’ from a touted ‘consensus’ within the ‘international community’. Notably, on the two occasions that she mentioned the name of the Jerusalem neighbourhood in which the US embassy is now situated, Razia Iqbal could not even be bothered to get its name – Arnona – right.

03:20 Iqbal: “Not very far from what’s happening in the Arona neigbourhood of Jerusalem where the new US embassy is going to be is quite a different scene.”

30:06 Iqbal: “In the past few minutes as the ceremony has been taking place in the Arona suburb of Jerusalem…”

At 08:26 Iqbal began a live interview with Israeli MK Sharren Haskel, asking her first for her thoughts on the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. When in the course of her answer Haskel pointed out that “you cannot separate Jerusalem from the Jewish identity” and that the move is “very exciting”, an audibly hostile Iqbal (and one has to listen to it to appreciate the level of aggression) interrupted her.

Iqbal: “OK. So very exciting from your perspective. Arabs have also lived in Jerusalem for millennia. The Palestinians regard East Jerusalem…please let me ask a question Sharren Haskel. Please let me ask a question. And Arabs regard…Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as occupied territory – occupied illegally by Israel – and they see it as a possible future capital for a Palestinian state. What do you think about the view put by many people, including many in the international community, that the United States is joining the occupier in violating international law?”

The source of that “view put by many people” which Iqbal promoted became apparent minutes later when – at 16:05 –Iqbal introduced a notably less aggressive pre-recorded interview with BBC frequent flyer Mustafa Barghouti which will be discussed in part two of this post.