Half a story time with the BBC’s Middle East editor

The August 3rd edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ included an item described as follows in its synopsis:

“The humanitarian disaster in Syria continues to unfold but there’s little pressure from outside to stop the killing of civilians. Our correspondent considers the contradictions.”

And:

“Television footage from Idlib in northern Syria continues to provide distressing evidence of civilian suffering. But the world’s leading nations are unwilling or unable to intercede. Jeremy Bowen recalls his visits to the region in former, peaceful times but sees no end to the current violence.”

Presenter Kate Adie introduced the item (from 00:38 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Adie: “Events in Idlib province in Syria in 2011 led to a devastating war and Idlib still remains a centre of resistance to Bashar al Assad’s regime. Civilians there are enduring appalling conditions as the Syrian army has driven rebel groups out of other towns and villages elsewhere in the country. Idlib is now the last major bolt-hole against Assad but, says Jeremy Bowen, that may not be for much longer.”

The following day – August 4th – a slightly different version of the same item was aired on BBC World Service radio’s version of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’.

“As President Bashar al Assad’s forces advance on Idlib province, one of the last pockets of armed resistance to his regime in Syria, the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen weighs up what is really at stake, and what course the civil war might take from here onwards.”

Presenter Anu Anand introduced the item (from 06:20 here) as follows:

Anand: “In recent weeks there’s been a surge of violence in the civil war still tearing away at the fabric of Syria and particularly at the country’s north-west and the province of Idlib. This is a part of the Middle East that’s seem millennia of human history and been witness to many an autocratic regime, to countless bloody conflicts and innumerable fighting forces. And since the protests broke out in the Spring of 2011 it’s always been a centre of resistance to the regime of Bashar al Assad. By 2017, as President Assad’s military drove rebel groups out of one urban centre after another elsewhere in Syria, Idlib became the last major bolt-hole for his opponents. But, as Jeremy Bowen explains, that may not be true for much longer.”

Both those introductions – including the highlighted sentences – fail to adequately clarify to listeners that the Assad regime methodically ensured that ‘evacuation agreements’ reached after fighting in other parts of the country often included the transportation of rebels and their families to Idlib province. For example in March 2018 in eastern Ghouta near Damascus:

“Fighters from Ahrar al-Sham, which holds Harasta, agreed to lay down arms in return for safe passage to opposition-held northwestern Syria and a government pardon for people who wished to stay, the opposition sources said.

Some 1,500 militants and 6,000 of their family members will be transported to rebel-held Idlib province in two batches starting on Thursday, the Hezbollah military media unit said.”

In April 2018 civilians and rebel fighters from southern Damascus were also sent to Idlib and in July 2018 some 4,000 people were evacuated from south-west Syria to Idlib, with AP noting at the time that:

“The U.N. and human rights organizations have condemned the evacuations as forced displacement. More than half of Idlib’s population of two million is of displaced Syrians from other parts of the country, following similar military offensives and evacuations.”

In August 2018 the Independent similarly reported that:

“Backed by Russia, the forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad have conquered swathes of territory in recent months. In a now-familiar pattern of evacuation agreements, they have effectively corralled fleeing civilians, moderate rebels and also hardline jihadis into the northern province. The battle Assad is expected to launch on Idlib will likely be one of the final showdowns against the embattled opposition, and possibly mark a bloody end to the civil war.

The United Nations has expressed deep concern for the nearly 3 million people trapped in Idlib. […]

The UN said this week it was bracing for “the most horrific tragedy” in Idlib and dubbed it a “dumping ground” for fighters and civilians. Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy for Syria, warned on Thursday that as many as 800,000 people could be displaced if the fighting does begin. He said he feared the potential use of chemical weapons by the regime and al-Qaeda.” 

That important context – along with the fact that in September 2018 Russia and Turkey agreed to create a demilitarised buffer zone in Idlib province – was likewise absent from the account given by Jeremy Bowen, which began with a description of his own family trip to the district in 2010 before going on:

Bowen: “Since the [Syrian] regime and its Russian allies launched an offensive against the province three months ago, 450 civilians have been killed. Idlib is the last big piece of land and major population centre they still haven’t recaptured. A few days ago, in a speech overflowing with frustration and anger, the UN’s humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council that 440,000 people had been displaced within the Idlib enclave and the biggest humanitarian disaster of the 21st century was in the making. ‘Are you going to shrug your shoulders?’ he asked them ‘or are you going to listen to the children of Idlib and do something about it?’. But the Security Council will not, cannot act. The five permanent members are deeply divided over Syria. The result is a deadlock that discredits an organisation that’s only as strong as the political will of its members.”

Bowen however stopped short of clarifying to audiences that his euphemistic portrayal of a “deeply divided” UN Security Council in fact means Russian vetoes – as reported by AP in June.

“Russia blocked the U.N. Security Council on Monday from issuing a statement sounding alarm about the increasing fighting in and around Syria’s Idlib province and the possibility of a humanitarian disaster, a council diplomat said. […]

The Security Council has struggled to speak with one voice on Syria in recent years. In one notable example, a 2017 Russian veto put an end to an initiative that determined accountability for chemical attacks in Syria. That effort was run jointly by the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.”

In April 2018 the Guardian had already noted that:

“Russia has used its security council veto powers 11 times to block action targeting its ally Syria.”

After reminiscing about another trip to the Idlib region in 2012, Bowen told listeners:

Bowen: “Turkey and Russia are the outside powers that matter in Idlib. The regime needs Russia’s power. Turkey wants a big say in the future of land just across its border and to destroy the power and national aspirations of Kurds who did the hard fighting on the ground against IS. And caught in the centre of it all are three million people in Idlib province. That includes tens of thousands of armed men loyal to a range of militias under an alliance led by a Salafist jihadist fighting group, some of whose leaders come from Al Qaeda. The regime and the Russians say they’re fighting terrorists. Many in the West would not disagree even as they deplore their methods.”

Just as was the case when he reported from Syria in 2015, Bowen made no effort to balance that promotion of a Syrian regime talking point by clarifying to BBC audiences that many more Syrian civilians have been killed by regime forces than by Jihadists of various stripes.

And so, once again, BBC audiences get a carefully framed story on Syria which omits relevant information essential for its proper understanding from the man charged with making news from the Middle East “more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”.  

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BBC WS food programme: inaccurate, lacks context and promotes Hamas propaganda

h/t SG

When, in the summer of 2014, the BBC began describing the counter-terrorism measures employed by Israel along its border with the Gaza Strip as a “siege” we noted that the definition of that term is “a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling those inside to surrender” and commented:

“A besieging army does not ensure and facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid including food and medical supplies to those it surrounds. It does not supply them with 50% of their electricity supply, with oil and diesel or with cooking gas. It does not help them export their produce and give their farmers agricultural training. It does not evacuate their sick and treat them […] in its own hospitals.”

Nevertheless, the BBC continues to promote that Hamas approved terminology and the latest example came in the August 1st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Food Chain’ (repeated on August 4th) which was titled ‘Food under siege’.

“When access to a city is blocked, food supplies quickly plummet, electricity and water become scarce, and people are forced to find new ways to feed themselves. Black markets thrive, and some may risk their lives to feed their families. But a dwindling food supply can also inspire creativity and compassion.

Emily Thomas meets people who have lived under siege in Aleppo, Syria, the Gaza strip, and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. They reveal the uncomfortable reality of eating behind siege lines.

A journalist tells us how it feels to eat abundantly in a café in the middle of a city where most are struggling to eat. An electrician explains why feeding cats in the middle of a war-zone felt like a statement of compassion and resistance. And a cook explains how to run a catering company when electricity, water and food are scarce.”

Presenter Emily Thomas opened the programme with a description of a siege and went on with some clear signposting. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Thomas: “Your home is surrounded. Enemy forces are camped outside the city. They’ve cut off electricity and water supplies and sealed off the main roads out. You can’t leave. Nothing and no-one is coming in. But you still have to eat. Could finding a way to eat well become the ultimate act of defiance? […] In this episode people who’ve lived under siege in Aleppo in Syria, Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia and the Gaza Strip are going to reveal the uncomfortable reality of eating behind siege lines where black markets can thrive and people may risk their lives to feed their families. We’ll hear that even as food supplies run out, creativity and compassion can flourish. How we eat behind siege lines can show our humanity and resilience.”

The first part of the programme related to Sarajevo and the last to Aleppo. In the middle (from 11:50) listeners heard a section which began with more inaccurate framing of the Gaza Strip as being ‘under siege’ from Thomas.

Thomas: “Preserving a food culture is perhaps more important than ever when living under siege.”

Voiceover: “We make a whole variety of regional foods and as well as Arabic dishes we make pastries, different kinds of bread, chicken and rice, couscous; everything you’d expect to find in Gaza.”

Thomas: “But how much variety would you expect when more than half of the population is classed as food insecure by the UN? This is Wada Younis [phonetic]: one of a group of women who runs a catering company in Gaza. […] More than half of the territory’s labour force are unemployed so customers are in short supply.”

After her interviewee had explained that her clientele includes “women who don’t have the time to cook at home” and people with “more money”, Thomas told listeners:

Thomas: “A blockade, which Israel says it’s imposed because of security concerns, has severely restricted imports and exports and the movement of people. Gazans are not allowed to farm in the mile-wide Israeli declared buffer zone on the border: an area with some of its best arable land. Add to that an intermittent power supply and almost every household relying on tanker trucks to deliver their water.”

Notably listeners heard no explanation of those “security concerns” and the words Hamas and terrorism did not cross the BBC presenter’s lips. The inconvenient fact that the Gaza Strip also has a land border with Egypt was likewise airbrushed from Thomas’ portrayal.

Imports to the Gaza Strip are of course not “severely restricted” unless they come under the category of weapons or dual-use goods that can be employed for terror purposes and obviously that does not include food. Even anti-Israel NGOs do not claim that the buffer zone (the width of which varies from place to place) is a mile – i.e. 1,609.34 meters – wide. Gaza’s “intermittent power supply” of course has nothing to do with Israeli counter terrorism measures and everything to do with internal Palestinian disputes. In fact Israel continues to supply more than half of the Gaza Strip’s electricity and about 10 million cubic meters of water a year: hardly the actions of a ‘besieging’ force.

Nevertheless, the BBC World Service is apparently quite happy for its audiences to be misled about the reasons for the chronic power shortages in the Gaza Strip because listeners next heard Younis repeat that falsehood.

Voiceover: “The siege causes loads of problems but the main one is electricity. Sometimes there’s no electricity and when we’re baking or preparing dishes it’s a real issue. And the other problem is the financial situation; people can’t afford much and they don’t all have incomes. Raw materials aren’t available and can be really expensive which means we can’t always make a profit. Sometimes we have to sell at cost price to keep our customers.”

Thomas: “Are there some ingredients it’s impossible to get hold of at all?”

Although Younis replied in the affirmative, the rest of her response showed that the real answer to that question is no.

Voiceover: “Yeah – the ingredients for desserts and cakes aren’t really available and if they are, they’re only in a few shops and are really expensive so we can’t afford to make them. And you just can’t get the kind of ovens we need in Gaza. You can only get them outside. And we often have to throw vegetables away because the electricity cuts out and the fridges go off.”

Thomas: “The electricity then poses a real problem. What about the water supply?”

Voiceover: “You can’t drink the water in Gaza or cook with it. It’s not clean. So we have to buy bottled water for drinking and cooking as well as for washing ingredients to avoid contamination.”

Making no effort to inform listeners why residents of the Gaza Strip face chronic shortages of electricity and clean water, Thomas summed up:

Thomas: “So the electricity supply is intermittent, the water supply is difficult too, you can’t get hold of all of the equipment and the ingredients that you need. It sounds really tough to be running a catering company.”

She later went on to claim that “food is limited” in the Gaza Strip.

Thomas: “Do you think that food and enjoyment of food and the sharing of food become more important when you’re living in the middle of a political situation like this and when food is limited?”

In her closing remarks (25:42) Thomas referred to “inhumane situations” despite the fact that no context to the measures imposed on the Gaza Strip in order to combat inhumane terrorism had been provided.

Thomas: “To me their story of food behind siege lines, like the others we’ve heard, shows not just people’s resilience but also the power of food to comfort and prove our humanity when we’re placed in the most inhumane situations.”

So why did the BBC World Service mislead its audiences by inaccurately framing the Gaza Strip as being ‘under siege’ in accordance with Hamas talking points and misinform them with regard to the background to the chronic problems with water and electricity supplies?

At the end of the interview with Wada Younis, listeners heard that it was set up by the BBC’s Gaza Strip office.

Thomas: “Many thanks to our colleague in Gaza Jihad Masharawi for arranging that interview.”

This is of course far from the first time the employees at the BBC’s Gaza office have amplified Hamas propaganda and neither is it the first time that Masharawi has been involved in producing BBC content that promotes the false notion that the Gaza Strip is ‘under siege’ by Israel.

How the BBC can possibly claim that this item meets editorial guidelines on either accuracy or impartiality is unclear.

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BBC radio audiences get ‘the word’ and ‘theories’ instead of facts and analysis

On the same day that the BBC News website published a highly partial report on the topic of new Israeli building permits, listeners to the July 31st evening edition of  the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard presenter James Coomarasamy introduce the final item (from 48:49 here) with the claim that security cabinet approval for those permits came a day later than was actually the case.  

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

Coomarasamy: “Now let’s hear about some developments in the Middle East because President Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy Jared Kushner has been meeting Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. The meeting comes on the day when the Israeli government gave rare approval for the building of 700 Palestinian homes in a part of the occupied West Bank, along with permission for another 6,000 homes for Jewish settlers. The Palestinians bitterly oppose Jewish settlement building and they say this permission is simply another land seizure.”

Seeing as any building would likely take place within the boundaries of existing communities, that claim of a “land seizure” is clearly far fetched and Coomarasamy’s suggestion that the security cabinet approval stipulates the religion/ethnicity of potential residents is equally inaccurate. He went on:

Coomarasamy: “Omar Hajajrei [phonetic] lives in the affected area.”

Listeners were not informed who that interviewee is, to which organisation – if any – he belongs or what makes him qualified to comment on the topic besides his place of residence.

Voiceover translation from Arabic: “This is a lie and it’s only for the media. It’s an excuse to build settlements and to have a barrier of settlements around Jerusalem as you can see in front of us. There are around 1,500 residential units. They started six months ago and look how much they’ve built so far. They will build all around the mountain. It is a lie. Even if they will give permits, they will not give it the right way.”

Coomarasamy: “I’ve been discussing this decision with Raphael Ahren, a diplomatic correspondent of Times of Israel.”

The ‘analysis’ that listeners heard from Raphael Ahren commenced – and continued – with pure speculation.

Ahren: “It is quite unusual. Usually it’s not the security cabinet who debates and decides these issues. It doesn’t need security cabinet discussions. The word here in Israel is that Netanyahu decided to bring this topic up for discussion among the ministers so he can sort of share the blame. If people criticise them for it he can say ‘well all the ministers in the cabinet bear responsibility for that decision and it’s not just me’.”

Coomarasmay: Why might he have decided to go ahead with it?”

The answer to that question was no more evidence based.

Ahren: “Well nobody really knows. There are several theories going around. I’ll offer you two theories. One is that the American administration which is preparing to release its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan has asked him to do so.”

However Ahren then admitted that not only does he have nothing to support that speculation but it has actually been refuted.

Ahren: “This evening the US ambassador David Friedman and his people say that they made no such request and that they didn’t even hint at it. But sometimes, people say, you don’t even have to make an explicit request. Everybody knows that as the Trump administration releases its probably pro-Israel peace plan, it probably looks good to have this gesture for the Palestinians.”

Ahren then presented more evidence-free speculation:

Ahren: “The second reason I would offer had nothing to do with the Americans, had nothing to do with the forthcoming peace plan but rather with the fear of litigation in the International Criminal Court in the Hague. I heard reports tonight that the special prosecutor is in the final stages of her decision-making process whether to proceed from the currently ongoing preliminary examination in the situation in Palestine to a full-fledged investigation. According to that logic the settlements are a war crime and if then Israel only ever advances housing for Jewish residents but not for Palestinian residents of the West Bank it wouldn’t look good, it would kind of provoke her.”

Coomarasamy made no effort to question the assertion that the ICC bases its decisions on whether or not it is ‘provoked’ and Ahren continued:

Ahren: “You might have heard even last week it made international headlines that Israel demolished illegal structures in the West Bank. I toured the West Bank today where settlement leaders have different opinions on this but some people are actually saying in a world where everything’s forbidden, everything’s allowed. If we never give permits for them to build we cannot expect them not to build and then it doesn’t look good if we only destroy and we don’t let them build.”

Coomarasamy: “If it is the first of the two theories you put forward and it is a bone, as you put it, to be thrown to the Palestinians, is it one that they’re likely to touch?”

Ahren: “Well yeah I mean of course they want to be a building for their people so it’s not something that they’re going to reject. I may say, some of these houses may already have been built and these permits are sort of coming retroactively. Palestinians, as I mentioned, do not get a lot of permits to build in the West Bank and there is natural growth of the Palestinian population there and therefore a lot of illegal structures are going on. These 700 permits might just be used sort of to legalise them after the fact.”

How the BBC can possibly claim that those unsupported speculations would help BBC audiences understand the story is of course unclear and listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Midnight News on August 1st (from 22:10 here) did little better.

Newsreader: “Israel has given rare approval for 700 Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank. It also said that 6,000 homes could be built for Jewish settlers. The announcement was made as President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner arrived in Jordan to drum up support for US attempts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. From Jerusalem, here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Tom Bateman of course recited the BBC’s usual partial mantra on ‘international law’.

Bateman: “The government decision gives the go-ahead for a significant number of new homes in settlements – which are seen as illegal under international law – and is said to further extend Israeli presence in the occupied West Bank. But it is Israel’s approval for Palestinian homes that is unusual. It is not clear whether these would be 700 new constructions or merely legal consent for existing homes in what is known as Area C. Here, Israel has full control and builds new settlement houses but new Palestinian homes are frequently demolished as Israel virtually never gives them building permission.”

Bateman next amplified an obviously absurd Palestinian claim and presented listeners with yet another speculative theory.

Bateman: “The Palestinian leadership called the announcement piracy. The timing, with Mr Kushner’s visit to the region underway, may be significant. The White House’s faltering attempts to deliver what Mr Trump has called ‘the ultimate deal’ between Israelis and Palestinians is based on money and backing from Arab states. This may have been one way of trying to convince them to take part in the process and address the long-held criticism that the administration’s support is heavily weighted towards Israel.”

That, apparently, is what the BBC thinks it can pass off as “a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers”.

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More repetition of the BBC’s partial narrative on construction

On the afternoon of July 31st the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel backs West Bank homes for settlers and Palestinians” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

Unfortunately for any reader hoping to gain a better understanding of the broader topic behind the specific story, the report offered nothing but a repeat of well-worn framing intended to advance a particular political narrative.

As usual the report employs partisan terminology to describe Israelis living in places the BBC believes they should not and the communities and region in which they reside. [emphasis added]

“Israel has approved the construction of 6,000 new homes for Jewish settlers and 700 homes for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

The decision about new homes in settlements further extends the Israeli presence in the West Bank.”

As usual readers are presented with a partial portrayal of ‘international law’.

“Israeli settlements in the West Bank are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

Moreover, embedded into the report is a video narrated by the Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which first appeared in June and in which it is claimed that ‘international law’ not only applies to places but also to people.

 Settlers are seen as illegal under international law but Israel rejects that.” 

Later on – under the sub-heading “Why are settlements such an issue?” – the report claims that:

Israel has settled about 400,000 Jews in West Bank settlements, with another 200,000 living in East Jerusalem.”

Of course Israelis residing in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem which were illegally occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967 do so because that is their own personal choice and not because they were “settled” there by any Israeli government. The use of that terminology is a nod to the claim that Israeli towns and villages in those regions are ‘illegal under international law’ based on the Fourth Geneva Convention which states “[t]he Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

The article tells readers that:

“It is not clear whether the Palestinian homes would be new constructions or merely legal approval for 700 already existing homes in what is known as “Area C” of the West Bank – where Palestinian villages often lie close to Israeli settlements, and where Israel has full control of the territory.”

It does not however inform audiences that “Israel has full control” of Area C – including planning -because the Palestinians agreed to that nearly twenty-four years ago and the absence of that information means that readers are unable to put the predictably unquestioned and unqualified Palestinian claims promoted in the next two paragraphs into their correct context.

“The Palestinian leadership dismissed the announcement, saying it rejected any Israeli construction or controls over Palestinian construction in the West Bank.

It said it was “evidence of the dark colonial mentality of the rules [sic] in Israel and which ignores all United Nations resolutions, international law and the signed agreements”.”

Providing no evidence to support its claim concerning a plan which has not even been published, the report goes on:

“The move comes ahead of a visit by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who heads the White House’s faltering attempts to broker a peace deal.”

As has so often been the case in the past, the BBC conceals the fact that in 1995 the US Congress passed the ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act’ – a law declaring that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.”

“In 2017 Mr Trump announced that the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, overturning decades of official US policy.”

While the BBC continues to ignore allegations of corruption at the top of UNRWA management and the related suspension of funding by Switzerland and the Netherlands, readers are also told that:

“Last year the US stopped contributing to the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), which has been supporting Palestinian refugees since 1949.”

UNRWA was actually only set up in December 1949 and clause 6 of the relevant UN resolution refers to the commencement of “direct relief and works programmes” from January 1st 1950.

Readers see more unquestioning amplification of Palestinian messaging with no alternative view and no information concerning Israel’s past evacuations of communities in Sinai, the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria provided.

“What happens to the settlements is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians – Palestinians say the presence of settlements makes a future independent state impossible.”

The report closes with a characteristically euphemistic portrayal of past events:

“Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since 2014, when a US-brokered attempt to reach a deal collapsed.”

Readers are not informed that those negotiations actually collapsed because, in addition to breaching an undertaking to avoid acts of accession to international institutions during the period of negotiations, the Palestinian Authority chose to opt for ‘reconciliation’ with Hamas.

As is the case in any BBC report concerning building tenders and construction in the areas occupied by Jordan for nineteen years, the corporation once again demonstrates that its professed commitment to ‘impartial’ reporting is pure fiction.

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Jews of the Middle East in the eyes of BBC Arabic

This is the first in a series of posts by CAMERA Arabic showing how Arabic language channels belonging to Western media outlets frame the topic of Jews who originate from or live in the Middle East and North Africa by distinguishing ‘loyal’ Jews from ‘treacherous’ Zionists. All translations, emphasis and in-bracket remarks are by CAMERA Arabic unless otherwise specified.

“May God bless the soldiers of Israel […] may he shed his light on us, on Israel and on Tunisia, long live Israel and long live Tunisia!

Those spontaneous words, originally an excited mixture of Hebrew and a colloquial dialect of Arabic, were chanted by a woman on a bus full of fellow tourist-pilgrims, with many others in the group cheering and responding to her wishes with “amen”. Most if not all of them were Jewish Israelis of Tunisian heritage. Their journey’s destination was the al-Ghriba synagogue, one of the oldest in the world, located on the Tunisian island of Djerba. Jews have been conducting an annual celebration there every Lag b‘Omer (which usually falls in May) for generations, and this year (2019) saw the number of pilgrims and visitors to the site exceeding all previous gatherings since the country underwent the Jasmine Revolution in January of 2011.

The entire trip was documented by Rina Matsliah, a well-known Israeli journalist who was born in Tunisia herself. It was her report that brought a seemingly marginal moment to the public eye: the enthusiastic woman and her group were shown for a few seconds in an evening news program on Israel’s Channel 12. The report also revealed to the viewers that the group had the opportunity to look from outside at the house near the capital Tunis where, in 1988, Israel had assassinated Yasser Arafat’s deputy, Khalil al-Wazir (a.k.a Abu Jihad) – one of Fatah’s leading terrorists and a man responsible for the murders of dozens of Israeli civilians.

That documentation of a group of Israeli tourists proudly praising Israel and its soldiers on Tunisian soil and later looking at a site where a prominent Palestinian leader was assassinated soon sparked a scandal in the North African country.

An Arabic subtitled version of the report was promoted by Hezbollah affiliated ‘al-Mayadeen’ channel, and demonstrations and sit-ins were subsequently held in front of government buildings in Tunisia. Under the accusation of “normalization” with the “Zionist entity”, the protesters specifically demanded the removal from office of René Trabelsi – Tunisia’s minister of tourism and the first Jew ever to be appointed minister in modern Tunisian history. Trabelsi is a member of a tiny Jewish community of no more than 2,500 people.

The story was reported widely on Arabic-speaking channels, including those belonging to Western media organisations. Some quoted Arab social media without fact-checking the preposterous claims raised there. For example, a television program produced by BBC Arabic uncritically amplified outraged comments which viewed the visit as a military act.

“If this is true, Khalil al-Wazir Abu Jihad became a martyr twice, the first time when Israel assassinated him in 1988 and the second when his killers visited the house where he became a martyr in Tunis” (2:11)

I have no problem with Tunisian Jews in either Tunisia or France, I have a problem with the ‘Zionists’ who live in occupied Palestine, they’re all soldiers, whether on active duty or in the reserve forces, since military service is compulsory in the Zionist entity… I mean, [how can] we consider them tourists and their origin to be Tunisian!?” (2:26)

The BBC Arabic program also quoted an additional edited comment (1:54), by a Tunisian journalist who insisted there was nothing new about “Zionists” entering Tunisia.

The online BBC report about the same story noted that the journalist, Habib Bouajila called for the sacking of Trabelsi in order to “protect Tunisian national dignity”. Bouajila accused Trabelsi of dangerously distorting facts and inflaming tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites because the minister had pointed out al-Mayadeen’s affiliations with Hezbollah and claimed that the channel’s translation from Hebrew into Arabic was mistaken.

The full, unedited version of Boualija’s comment as embedded in a BBC Arabic webpage, is saturated with antisemitic tropes, undertones and dog-whistles. It views the incident as a new level in the prosecution of a conspiracy against the Tunisian people, involving Jews of many countries as well as Trabelsi himself (to whom he consistently refers by his Hebrew name Roni). The hateful comment concludes with death wishes to Israel and America.

The admittance of Zionists into Tunisia is not new – since the nineties everybody knows they’re entering with their Zionist passports in tourist groups or, in rare occasions, with their second passports. [This is the case] as long as all the Zionist settlers, from the minister to the last occupier-usurper, retain their original nationality, or [obtain] a western nationality, such as most members of Jewish diasporas all over the world have. The Jews of Tunisia, previous or current, and those who left it for occupied Palestine, are no exception.

This is not what’s new – the new provocation is the boldness of Roni Trabelsi, who holds the tourism portfolio and in his last statement assumed the role[s] of the [entire] Tunisian diplomatic corps, the President of the Republic and the Parliament, so that he would decide on Tunisia’s alignments along the international axes. He also assumed the role of a media analyst [who specializes in] TV-stations and affiliations, in order to classify the al-Mayadeen channel as Lebanese Shi’ite […], despite [the fact] it was merely conveying and literally translating the report of the Zionist channel. On top of that, he arrogantly surmised the ratio of Tunisians who deplore his tendencies towards normalization and shamed with what he sees as ‘disgrace’, i.e. Shi’ization and siding with the Resistance [Hezbollah]…

The audacity of the minister stems from his (admittedly correct) estimation that he is stronger than the Tunisian government and state. In a Tunisian landscape that sets his path [forward] and promotes him to be a ‘high-ranked official’, Roni is the distinguished, the selected; he has more power and importance than all the ‘indigenous’, ‘gentile’ ministers and officials. It also derives from his (admittedly accurate) understanding that the straw man of ‘antisemitism’ and the allegations of bigotry, terrorism and assaulting ‘our Jewish brethren’ will deter the cowardly politicians, commentators and academics who want to stay where they are or aspire to move up the ladder. In [such] a Tunisian landscape Roni knows, and those who fear of Roni know, that his installment, as well as the installment of his minions [lit. players], is at the hand of the great supervisor, who loves Roni and loves those who love Roni and isolates whoever hates him.

Once again and forever, past, present and future, we say to Roni and his supervisor, and to whoever loves Roni and whoever acts obsequiously towards Roni and his supervisor, and [to whoever] wants to reposition Tunisia in service of Roni’s friends and entourage in a supine Arab world and international community [lit. landscape], we say: Tunisia is Arab – Its spirit is [of] resistance despite our setbacks and breakdowns – it belongs with its [Arab/Islamic] Ummah – its compass is Palestine – and its voice is loud and clear: death to Israel – death to America – and glory to the resistance… and whoever doesn’t like it can go drink the water of La Goulette [a city on the Tunisian Mediterranean coast]. He can present himself as an ‘outside observer’ [lit. a bird at the roof] or an alcohol merchant or a civil servant, [all are] typical hypocritical stories [dipped] in nostalgia [that is made out] of Zio-Masonic [sic] flour between al-Ghriba and the Bab Bahr Cathedral [a famous church in Tunis which represents to the writer a Tunisia that’s not exclusively Arab/Muslim, like al-Ghriba]. We do not buy this position in our homeland, treacherous as it is coming from its honey-tongued proponents…”

In addition BBC Arabic’s online report also brought comments from other Tunisians who, in BBC’s words,

“feared […] that the incident would reflect badly on the Jews of Tunisia, who rejected Israel’s temptations and have confirmed their clinging to their Tunisian roots.

The protests eventually died out after the government responded by clarifying that none of the visitors has entered Tunisia under an Israeli passport. As for Trabelsi himself, he repeatedly denied any connection between Israelis who visit Tunisia and the perceived act of “normalization” that he was blamed for. In one interview, he also “firmly” condemned the tourists who, in his words, “celebrated the Israeli army on Tunisian soil.” Indeed, it seems that this time the Jewish minister has dodged the bullet. But as long as the debate that surrounds Jews who live in the Middle East is framed the way it is – framing that BBC Arabic obviously finds acceptable – it seems that he and his community will always be suspected of dual loyalty and will carry the burden of proof for their innocence.

Related Articles:

BBC whitewashes Islamist antisemitism with semantics

BBC whitewashes anti-Jewish extremism in Tunisia

Airbrushing terror: the BBC on Abu Jihad

 

 

The BBC and definition of terrorism

Earlier this year we noted statements made by the BBC News Editorial Director Kamal Ahmed during a BBC Radio 4 interview about public criticism of the corporation’s reporting of the Christchurch terror attack. During that interview Ahmed claimed that:

“There is no definition of what is a terrorist attack and who is a terrorist.”

“…terrorism and a terror attack carry a huge amount of different opinions about when we should use that term…”

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

The introduction to Section 11 of the BBC’s new editorial guidelines – “War, Terror and Emergencies” – references the OFCOM Broadcasting Code:

“The BBC has a special responsibility to its UK and international audiences when reporting conflict including wars, acts of terror, sieges and other emergencies. People across the world access our services for trustworthy news and information. They expect us to provide context and analysis and to offer a wide range of views and opinions. We need to be scrupulous in applying due accuracy and impartiality [1] […]

[1] The sections of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code that relate to this are 3: Crime, Disorder, Hatred and Abuse and 8: Privacy.”

Section 3 of the OFCOM Broadcasting Code – “Crime, disorder, hatred and abuse” – includes the following:

“Meaning of “terrorism”: see the definition in section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which is also summarised in Ofcom’s guidance to this section of the Code.”

Citing section 1 of the UK government’s Terrorism Act 2000 that guidance states:

““Terrorism” is the use or threat of action which:

    • involves serious violence against a person;
    • involves serious damage to property;
    • endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action;
    • creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public; or
    • is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system,

where the use or threat is designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.”

While that definition of terrorism is not included in the OFCOM Broadcasting Code in relation to the issue of “use of language”, obviously the claim from the Editorial Director that the BBC only uses the term terrorist with attribution because “[t]here is no definition of what is a terrorist attack and who is a terrorist” does not hold water.

As we see the UK government has defined terrorism and OFCOM has adopted that definition. The question therefore arising is why the BBC – to which the OFCOM Broadcasting Code applies in relation to television, radio and on-demand content – does not also use that same definition and thus bring an end to the long evident double standards in the language it uses when reporting terrorism.  

Related Articles:

BBC senior editor defends double standards on terrorism

Are BBC guidelines on ‘language when reporting terrorism’ about to get worse?

BBC Radio 4 again purports to explain antisemitism

The purpose of the Livingstone Formulation was described by the person who named it, David Hirsch, as follows:

“the use of the Livingstone Formulation is intended to make sure that the raising of the issue of anti-Semitism, when related to ‘criticism of Israel,’ remains or becomes a commonsense indicator of ‘Zionist’ bad faith and a faux pas in polite antiracist company.”

Lesley Klaff describes it as:

“…the practice of responding to claims of contemporary antisemitism by alleging that those making the claim are only doing so to prevent Israel from being criticised; in other words, they are ‘playing the antisemitism card.’”

As has been noted here before, the BBC has been promoting that device for over three years – for example: 

Mainstreaming the Livingstone Formulation on BBC Radio 4

BBC promotes the Livingstone formulation – again

More promotion of the Livingstone Formulation from BBC News

BBC News ‘explanation’ of antisemitism promotes the Livingstone Formulation

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part two

BBC R4 report on antisemitism in the US uses the Livingstone Formulation

Another BBC antisemitism backgrounder promotes Livingstone Formulation

Concurrently, the BBC continues to ignore the fact that anti-Zionism in the form of denial of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination has been defined as antisemitism under the IHRA working definition which has been adopted by numerous countries, more than 130 UK local councils, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the judiciary – but not the BBC.

On July 24th the BBC’s domestic radio station – Radio 4 – aired yet another discussion of antisemitism (which it still does not spell properly) on its ‘Moral Maze’ programme presented by Michael Buerk.

The synopsis to that programme begins by mentioning “the anti-Semitism crisis engulfing the Labour party” (obviously a topic which might be of interest to domestic BBC audiences) and goes on to cite statements and polls concerning antisemitism in Europe before promoting the Livingstone Formulation:

“Less clear cut is the relationship between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. There is an argument about where the line is, and who has the right to draw it. Since Zionism has at its heart a belief in the Jewish right to self-determination, many Jews believe that those who oppose the state of Israel are anti-Semites. Others – many Jews included – don’t think that anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic, and argue that saying so is merely a way of ignoring Palestinian grievances. Anti-Semitism may be the oldest ethnic hatred, but is it just another form of racism? Or is it a distinct and uniquely pernicious prejudice which must be understood in the context of centuries of violent oppression, dehumanisation and genocide? Anti-Semitism: what is it? what isn’t it? and how can it be defeated?” [emphasis added]

In his introduction Michael Buerk described the first of the two questions to be discussed as:

“…where do you draw the line between criticism of Israel and prejudice against Jews? Between antisemitism and anti-Zionism?”

The programme’s panel included Melanie PhillipsMona SiddiquiTim Stanley and Matthew Taylor. The ‘witnesses’ were Julia Neuberger, Adam Sutcliffe, John Inge and ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’ member Robert Cohen who has previously appeared in similar Radio 4 content in which the BBC fruitlessly ‘discussed’ issues already addressed by expert bodies, while failing to inform its audiences of the existence of accepted definitions of antisemitism that have already answered the question of whether anti-Zionism is an expression of antisemitism.

This programme was no better and did little to contribute to audience understanding of the issue of antisemitism in British society in general or in the Labour party – not least because falsehoods such as the portrayal of Israel as a “settler colonialist project” and the claim that Israel is “besieging Gaza” were inadequately challenged.

Despite its own dismal record and the plethora of evidence illustrating that the BBC does not have the authority or the expertise – let alone the remit – to define antisemitism, it continues to insist on producing content purporting to inform its audiences on that issue.

Related Articles:

In which the BBC asks ‘is Zionism wrong?’

 

 

 

How BBC management of online content works

The new BBC editorial guidelines include a section titled “Managing Online Content” which states:

“13.3.22 At the time that editorial content is posted online, the editorial managers responsible for its creation should decide on a strategy for its management over time. They should consider how frequently pages need to be updated or how they are to be treated if they are not to be updated.”

That decidedly vague and inconsistent instruction leads to situations such as the following:

On July 17th the BBC News website published a report on its ‘UK’ page headlined “Twelve arrested in Ayia Napa ‘over alleged rape of British woman’” which opened by telling readers that:

“Twelve Israelis have been arrested in Ayia Napa in Cyprus over an alleged rape of a British woman, reports say.”

On July 18th the BBC News website published another report on its ‘UK’ and ‘Middle East’ pages headlined “Ayia Napa: Twelve in court after ‘British woman raped’” in which readers were informed that:

“Twelve Israelis have appeared in court in Cyprus over the alleged rape of a 19-year-old British woman.”

On July 28th the BBC News website published a third report on its ‘UK’ and ‘Middle East’ pages titled “British woman arrested over ‘false rape claim’ in Ayia Napa”.

“A British woman who alleged she was raped in Cyprus has been arrested on suspicion of making a false allegation, according to news agencies.

The 12 Israelis arrested over the alleged attack, which was said to have taken place on 17 July in Ayia Napa, have all been released.”

However, the editorial managers responsible for the creation of those first two articles have not bothered to update them with a link to the third report, meaning that anyone accessing the content published on either July 17th or July 18th – for example via the ‘tourism’ tag which only appears on the second report – would remain unaware of the significant later development in the story.

It is surely obvious that best practice would be for the BBC to uniformly ensure that any developments in stories concerning alleged crimes should be added to earlier reports as a link under the “more on this story” heading at the bottom of the article in order to avoid inaccurate and misleading information becoming part of the “permanent public record”.

BBC continues to obstruct audience understanding of UN bias

The issue of anti-Israel bias at the United Nations is not one taken seriously by the BBC.

BBC article on Israel & UN HRC omits important context

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ dodges the issue of UN bias against Israel

BBC policy on portrayal of UN anti-Israel bias on display again

BBC fails (again) to give audiences the full story in UN HRC article

BBC News ignores a case of UN anti-Israel bias

On the other hand, the BBC uncritically quotes and promotes Israel related reports and resolutions produced by assorted UN departments.

BBC does free PR for UN HRC

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report

Examining UNHRC statements uncritically amplified by BBC News

BBC ignores UN HRC report’s political agenda – and worse

As UN Watch reports, last week a UN body condemned Israel as the world’s only violator of women’s rights.

“Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan were among members of the UN’s 54-nation economic and social council, a principal organ of the world body, who voted to single out and condemn Israel yesterday as the only country in the world that violates women’s rights.

The Jewish state was harshly and repeatedly condemned in a resolution, adopted 40 to 2 with 9 abstentions and 3 absent, for allegedly being the “major obstacle” for Palestinian women “with regard to their advancement, self-reliance, and integration in the development of their society.”

Out of 20 items on the UN Economic and Social Council’s 2018-2019 agenda, only one — Item No. 16 against Israel — focuses on condemning a specific country. All the other focus areas concern global topics such as disaster relief assistance and the use of science and technology for development.

The resolution completely ignores how Palestinian women’s rights are impacted by their own governing authorities—the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and Hamas in Gaza—nor does it mention how women are discriminated against within patriarchal Palestinian society.

Moreover, ECOSOC concluded its annual session by ignoring the world’s worst abusers of women’s rights, refusing to pass a single resolution on the situation of women in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, or DR Congo, all of which ranked in the top ten worst countries in last year’s Global Gender Gap Report, produced by the World Economic Forum.”

That resolution was apparently recognised as being ridiculous even by the BBC and the story does not appear on the BBC News website’s ‘United Nations’ page.

But by ignoring such egregious proceedings at the UN – and failing to take the opportunity to explain to audiences how and why they come about – the corporation is denying its audiences the opportunity to understand what actually lies behind its use of phrases such as “Israel has long been angered by what it claims is unfair criticism from the body” or “the organisation’s perceived anti-Israel bias”.

 

 

 

BBC WS radio fails to adhere to new editorial guidelines in partisan ‘Great Return March’ report

h/t ED

The closing item in the July 25th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was introduced by presenter Tim Franks (from 45:03 here) as follows:

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

Franks: “The Israeli army has instructed its snipers to shoot at the ankles of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border in an effort to reduce deaths. A senior Israeli officer said that the policy of shooting above the knees had led to many being killed. The health authorities in Gaza say that nearly 300 Palestinians have died on the border since the weekly protests began more than a year ago. Over twenty thousand people have been injured. The demonstrations have seen Palestinians massing and marching towards the barrier that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel. We’ve spent the day trying – and failing – to get an interview or even a statement from the Israeli army.”

As we see, almost sixteen months on the BBC is still inaccurately portraying the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting as “protests” and “demonstrations” and the participants as “protesters”, while concealing the hundreds of incidents such as shooting attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks, petrol bomb attacks, arson attacks and infiltration attempts which have taken place during those so-called “protests”.  

The fact that around 80% of the fatalities have been shown to have links to terrorist organisations continues to be ignored by the BBC, as does the fact that the “health authorities” it quotes are part of the same terrorist organisation facilitating, organising and financing the violent rioting. Franks made no effort to clarify that more than half of the 20,000 people he described as injured actually suffered temporarily from tear gas inhalation. Neither did his description of IDF “policy” give listeners an accurate account: the actual rules of engagement include firing at the lower half of the body – not just “above the knees” as claimed by Franks.

Franks then introduced the one and only interviewee heard throughout the entire seven minute and 42 second item.

Franks: “Nadav Weiman is a former member of the Israeli Defence Forces. Indeed he was with the special forces sniper team that operated in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He’s now with the advocacy group ‘Breaking the Silence’. What does he make of the news that there’d been a change in the rules of engagement?”

The new BBC editorial guidelines which came into force ten days before this item was aired include the following:

“4.3.12 We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.” [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, listeners were told nothing about the highly relevant topic of the political agenda and funding of what Franks blandly described as an “advocacy group” without explaining what it ‘advocates’ for and why. Neither were they told anything of the former Nahal reconnaissance unit soldier’s own record of reliability before the item continued on a less than ideal phone line, in less than ideal English.  

Weiman: “I think it’s quite crazy that for at least a year and three or four months since the right of return marches started to happen and we sent our snipers to stop them, we at ‘Breaking the Silence’ and other organisation and international organisation questioned about those rules of engagement; shooting at unarmed protesters approaching the fence. And everybody in Israel and the IDF told that we have to do it for security, it’s a necessity. And then suddenly this message comes out – barely talked about in Israel – it means one thing: that the IDF admits that the rules of engagement that IDF snipers got on the Gaza Strip border were wrong, were wrong, were absolutely wrong. And it means that we have over 100 Palestinian families that lost their loved ones and the IDF’s answer to that is that we made a mistake. And we have almost the same number of IDF snipers nineteen, twenty years old that they have that image in their head of that bullet hitting that Palestinian man because shooting in Gaza like happen in the last year or so, it’s 60, 70, 80 meters, it is midday. And when a sniper shoot at that kind of a distance in midday you see everything. You see the impact.”

The ‘Great Return March’ events did not just ‘start to happen’: they were planned in advance by a collection of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip and others but Franks made no effort to clarify that to audiences or to challenge the misleading and inaccurate portrayal of the participants as “unarmed protesters”. Weiman’s claim that the story is “barely talked about in Israel” is worth noting because Franks expanded on that claim later in the item.

Franks: “But are you saying that at that sort of range…because I imagine that hitting a target below the knee, particularly one that might well be moving, is difficult and if you are fearing that you’re needing to use that level of force because there is some sort of imminent danger, presumably that just is considerably more tricky than aiming at a – to put it crudely – a greater body area.”

Weiman: “Yes and no because first of all, you know, [in] sniping course and in the army they tell you that a legitimate target is an armed [unintelligible] soldier, an armed Palestinian militant. But then our soldiers are getting a command that the legitimate target is an unarmed man or woman or child approaching the fence. And it’s not endangering Israel: it’s endangering our control over the Palestinian territories and within it the Gaza Strip. First of all that’s confusing and a moving target; yes it’s hard but again those kinds of conditions – midday – it is not that hard for a professional sniper. Me and my team when we shot people in our army service it was 400, 500 meters. That kind of a distance midday with the bullet that you have as a sniper that has a lot more gunpowder, that does a lot more damage, it means that the bullet goes right through the man that you’re shooting at. The entry wound would be like a centimetre but the exit wound would be the size of a fist. So yes, when you shoot to the legs of a man standing 60 meters away from you the injury is very severe and I’m guessing that’s why the IDF changed the rules of engagement. And again stopping a human being so close to you – this is an unarmed protester – so again, live ammunition is the last resort, not the first one.”

Again Franks made no effort to challenge the myth of the “unarmed protester” and neither did he bother to clarify to listeners that Israel does not “control” the Gaza Strip because a complete withdrawal was carried out fourteen years ago.

Franks: “We’ve heard though earlier this year, even before this came out, from the head of the Israeli military’s southern command, the man who’s in charge of the area that includes the Gaza border, Major General Herzi Halevi, saying he wishes that there were, as he put it, better non-lethal weapons which he could use in order to secure the boundary, the border, with Gaza. He says he doesn’t have those and although you say that some of the people who’ve been hit are unarmed protesters, I imagine that one of the arguments that’s been used is that just in the  great crush of people who were moving towards the separation zone between Israel and Gaza, there is a fear that they could provide cover for others who do have more lethal intent.”

Franks is referring to remarks made by Maj Gen Herzi Halevi in May of this year. He did not however bother to inform audiences of additional statements made by the officer at the time.

“Halevi said the Israel Defense Forces maintains strict rules of engagement for soldiers, requiring approval of senior commanders before a shot can be fired, and performs investigations into every bullet fired.

“We don’t have results on every bullet because of the tough conditions [on the border],” he said, referring to the thick smoke, masses of people and general confusion.

“But we have not — I’m not saying not yet, I’m saying not — found even one incident of a soldier [just] deciding to shoot into the crowd, even on tough days,” Halevi said.

According to Halevi, the IDF has made use of the less-lethal weapons already at its disposal, contacted foreign countries to look into purchasing their equipment and attempted to develop new tools to respond to the riots.

These included rubber bullets, which were found to have an insufficient range; a foul-smelling spray known as the Skunk, which didn’t work well in the open fields along the border; and most recently a truck with a high-powered speaker to be used against rioters, which has not been found to be sufficiently effective.

The tear gas, which Israel continues to use along the border, is found to often be ineffective as the breeze coming from the Mediterranean blows it back into Israel.”

That information – as well as the knowledge that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005 – would have helped listeners put Weiman’s subsequent claims into their correct context.

Weiman: “I’ve got to say Herzi Halevi is right. An army has [a] couple of tools in its toolbox and it’s basically violent intimidation – that’s a military occupation. This is what it means. So my criticism is not against the IDF; it’s against the policy of our government. Governments for the past 52 years decided to control the Gaza Strip by military force which means basically that you don’t have a military solution to a political problem. The IDF is not equipped to stop the protests on the fence. The IDF is equipped to be a stand up army when needs to which means the solution to these kinds of problems is not supposed to be in Herzi Halevi hands. It’s supposed to be in the hand of our government and the people of Israel that’s giving the mandate to that kind of a government. And I’ve got to say that the IDF actually has other tools that they can do. You know we have a siege on Gaza since 2007. You know we are giving IDF soldiers the order to take those firearms and to go over there but there are other non-lethal means in the hands of the IDF.”

Franks did not bother to clarify to listeners that there is no such thing as “a siege” on the Gaza Strip before he went on to pick up on a claim made by Weiman near the beginning of the interview.

Franks: “This change in the rules of engagement came out a few days ago from the military reporter for Israel’s public radio station, Carmela Menashe. It didn’t get a huge amount of take-up and only belatedly did it get really any kind of attention as far as I’m aware in the Israeli media. I wonder how far that suggests to you that, I mean, although you’ve been speaking very passionately about it, whether this really registers across much of Israel.”

Carmela Menashe Tweeted about that story on July 22nd. On the same day the same information appeared in reports at Ma’ariv, Channel 13 and others following what appears to have been a tour for military journalists of a counter-terrorism training facility. The Jerusalem Post published similar report on July 25th. Channel 13 correspondent Or Heller reported that a senior officer responsible for training snipers deployed to the border with the Gaza Strip told the journalists that in relation to the conclusions drawn from investigations into the incidents along the Gaza border:

“Their [the snipers’] aim is not to kill but to wound and so one of the conclusions reached was about the direction of fire – in the beginning we told the snipers to shoot at the leg and when we saw that could result in death we told them to shoot under the knee. Later on we refined the order to hit the ankle.”

In other words, not only is this item’s claim of a change to the rules of engagement somewhat exaggerated – a more accurate description would be a refinement of orders in relation to a specific location within the general framework of the rules of engagement – but Franks’ claim that the story was not widely reported and only “belatedly” got attention in the Israeli media is completely inaccurate.

Weiman then went on to give an inaccurate portrayal of Israeli society and the Israeli media: in fact barely a day goes by without multiple media reports concerning the Gaza Strip.

Weiman: “After so much time people in Israel are not interested in what is happening over there because Gaza used to be and now and will be our back yard that Israelis don’t want to listen what is going on over there. And I think that the fact that you are interviewing me at the moment is important, you know, because we’re not talking about it in Israel. The international audience should hear about it as well. I wish the journalists inside Israel would do the same thing because this is a burning issue on the table of our government and the responsibility lies on the shoulder of every Israeli about what we’re sending our kids to do over there, our soldiers to do over there. And I’ve got to say it doesn’t really shock me that it didn’t reach the media in Israel because Gaza is such a volatile issue [in] the Israeli society that a lot of people prefer not to touch it.”

Franks closed that long item with yet another totally unsatisfactory portrayal of the political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’.

Franks: “Nadav Weiman, formerly with the Israeli Defence Forces, eh…now with the advocacy group ‘Breaking the Silence’.”

Although the BBC has regularly provided platforms to ‘Breaking the Silence’ in the past, given Franks’ adoption of its PR talking points, his failure to challenge any of Weiman’s inaccuracies and falsehoods and the absence of any mention whatsoever of the words ‘Hamas’ and ‘terrorism’ throughout, one can only wonder whether this sympathetic interview was the result of the BBC contacting that political NGO or the other way round. Either way, BBC World Service radio listeners heard a totally partisan item replete with crucial omission which actively misled them on the topic of the ‘Great Return March’ and more. 

Related Articles:

Breaking the Silence and the British Media (CAMERA)

Breaking the Silence gets failing grade in Channel 10’s fact-check  (CAMERA)