Revisiting BBC reporting on Palestinian social media incitement

In October 2015 the BBC News website published an article titled “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?”. The question posed in that headline was addressed in fewer than 200 words which did little to inform readers of the scale and significance of the role of incitement spread via social media in fuelling the wave of terror at the time, of the kind of content appearing on such platforms or of the use of social media by official Palestinian groups other than Hamas – including Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party

In July 2016 the BBC published two articles relating to the topic of Palestinian incitement of terrorism against Israelis on Facebook: “Israel angered by Facebook hatred rules“ and “Facebook sued by Israeli group over Palestinian attacks“. 

In October 2016, listeners to a radio programme broadcast on the BBC World Service relating to the Twitter hashtag ‘Facebook Censors Palestine’ were told:

“And this is really the problem: narrative. With two completely opposing views on events, what Israelis see as inciting violence, the Palestinians see as telling the truth and vice versa.”

Earlier this month the BBC News website published a report in which Yolande Knell told readers that:

“The PA denies Israeli accusations that it incites militant attacks.”

Several days after the appearance of Knell’s article, Palestinian Media Watch published a report titled “Fatah’s official Facebook page in 2018 A platform for glorifying murder and promoting terror”.

“This Palestinian Media Watch report demonstrates that the Fatah Movement used its official Facebook page throughout 2018 to glorify terror and terrorists, and to support continued Palestinian terror against Israelis. As its fundamental policy, Fatah glorified terrorists from all periods of its history including mass murderers and suicide bombers. Significantly, immediately following terror attacks, Fatah used Facebook to praise the contemporary terror and glorify new terrorists throughout the year. Although Fatah’s use of Facebook for these purposes is in direct violation of Facebook’s guidelines set out in its Community Standards, Facebook has not deleted these terror glorifying and terror promoting posts, and has not closed down Fatah’s Facebook account.”

While Yolande Knell was not wrong when she wrote that “[t]he PA denies Israeli accusations that it incites militant attacks” (as does Fatah) neither she nor her colleagues have made any effort to inform BBC audiences of the type of material regularly posted on Fatah’s official Facebook page and thereby enable them to judge for themselves whether, despite those denials, the Fatah dominated PA does or does not incite terrorism against Israelis.  

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting on social media incitement in Europe and Israel

Poor BBC reporting on Palestinian incitement again mars audience understanding

BBC Trending presents Palestinian incitement as ‘narrative’

 

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Revisiting a BBC report from November 2018

On November 13th 2018 the BBC News website published a report which included the following statements:

“…the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out what it called a wide-scale attack against military targets belonging to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups.

It said they included Hamas’s military intelligence headquarters in northern Gaza and “a unique vessel” in a harbour in the south of the territory.

The building housing Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV was also bombed after being evacuated. The IDF said the outlet “contributes to Hamas’s military actions”.”

A report published by the Israeli Security Agency on February 13th clarifies the background to that quoted IDF statement concerning the strike on the Al Aqsa TV building.

“The Shin Bet security service on Wednesday accused the Palestinian Al-Aqsa broadcaster and Gaza-based journalists of acting as agents of the Hamas terror group’s military wing in an effort to recruit young Palestinians with Israeli ID cards to carry out terror attacks inside Israel.

According to the security service, the Al-Aqsa television station was used to pass clandestine messages to Hamas operatives in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, using quotes from the Quran or subtle gestures by the presenters. […]

In one case, a 21-year-old from the Hebron suburb of Yatta was “asked by Hamas operatives in the [Gaza] Strip to carry out a suicide bombing with an explosive vest on a bus in the city of Lod,” the Shin Bet said. […]

The Shin Bet said the recruitment plot was a key factor in the decision made by the Israel Defense Forces to bomb Al-Aqsa TV’s headquarters in Gaza in November. […]

Shortly after the razing of the station’s building, the Hamas-affiliated outlet appeared poised to close, but was kept on air at the last minute because of an influx of money from the terror group.

Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh declared in a statement that Al-Aqsa TV’s broadcast would not be halted. He also said a “clear and direct decision” was made to keep the channel on air, without elaborating.”

During the November 2012 conflict BBC staff accused Israel of “targeting journalists” when a communications antenna on the roof of the building used by Al Aqsa TV (which was designated in 2010 by the US Treasury Department) was struck by the IDF.

Whether or not BBC audiences will be provided with any coverage of Hamas’ effort to recruit terror operatives with the help of journalists’ working for its TV station which is the background to the reporting it produced last November remains to be seen.  

Related Articles:

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks

BBC Jerusalem Bureau leads the charge in false accusations of “targeting journalists”

US designates founder of Hamas media outlet championed by BBC staff

BBC News ignores fatal terror attack in Jerusalem

BBC correspondents based in Jerusalem could not fail to be aware of the murder of a nineteen year-old Israeli on February 7th that has been widely reported by local media.

“Ori Ansbacher, 19, from the West Bank town of Tekoa, was named Friday as the murder victim whose body was found a day earlier on the outskirts of Jerusalem. […]

On Thursday evening, Ansbacher’s body, with “signs of violence” on it, was found in woodland at Ein Yael to the south of Jerusalem, police said.

She had been reported missing since early Thursday. […]

Ansbacher was carrying out a year of national service at a youth center in Jerusalem at the time of her death.”

The following day an arrest was made in Ramallah and the suspect was later identified.

“The Palestinian suspect in the murder on Thursday of Israeli teen Ori Ansbacher in Jerusalem was identified Saturday as Arafat Irfayia, a 29-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Hebron who was in Israel illegally. A Channel 12 news report quoted Israeli security officials saying he had confessed to the killing.”

The murder was categorised as a terror attack on February 10th.

“On Sunday, the Shin Bet announced that the murder was a nationalistically motivated terror attack. […]

The Shin Bet said that Irfaiya reenacted the murder in front of interrogators and “implicated himself definitively in the incident.” […]

Citing the suspect’s account under questioning, the Shin Bet said in a statement Saturday night that Irfaiya left his home in Hebron on Thursday armed with a knife and made his way toward Jerusalem, where he spotted Ansbacher in the woods and fatally attacked her.

A spokesman for the Shin Bet said Irfaiya had spent time in prison for security-related offenses and that he had crossed into Israel without a permit before carrying out the murder. Hebrew media reported that the suspect is affiliated with Hamas, though neither the terror group nor others have claimed responsibility for the attack.”

Last month the BBC News website published three articles concerning the murder of a young Israeli woman in Australia. In contrast, BBC audiences have to date seen no reporting whatsoever on the terror attack in which Ori Ansbacher was murdered.

Related Articles:

BBC News website reports on terror attack one week later

Keeping Knell’s crystal ball gazing alive on BBC Radio 4

BBC domestic radio would not usually bother to report on closed primary elections held by one of tens of parties set to run in a foreign country’s general election that is two months away.  

That, however, is exactly what listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard on February 6th and to understand why, it is worth recalling Jerusalem correspondent Yolande Knell’s crystal ball gazing on the same radio station in late December 2018.

Knell’s predictions for the year ahead in the Middle East focused not on Syria, Iran, Yemen or the embattled Kurds but on a story much closer to her own office’s back yard.

Knell: “In terms of new names I mean I’m going to say the Attorney General here in Israel. Avichai Mandelblit. I mean he’s very well-known here but I really think he’s going to be internationally sort of known in the months ahead because he has to make this big decision about whether to charge the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in these public corruption cases. And there’s real drama here because Mr Mandelblit was Mr Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary. When he was appointed originally he was accused of being too close to the prime minister and now he could become the man who takes down the prime minister after a decade in power. And if Mr Netanyahu can stay in office until the middle of next year he would actually be the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history, taking over from the founding father David Ben Gurion so there’s a real legacy issue here. Ahm…the BBC did get to ask Mr Netanyahu about all of this at an end of year journalists’ event and we just got his usual mantra which is nothing will come out of this because there’s nothing in it and I think this is going to be a fascinating year for Israeli politics. I mean certainly that is something that his party supporters believe that this has been some kind of witch hunt and just to go back to Mr Mandelblit, I mean this man many journalists remarked how he’s gone from having red hair to turning grey in the few years he’s been in his job, having to make lots of tough decisions. He already, I think, lost his invitations to go to the prime minister’s luxury private residence in the north of Israel because he charged his wife Sarah in a case about misusing state funds for catering when she has a cook paid for by the state. So I’m foreseeing lots more political drama here in the months ahead.”

Many of those themes were recycled in this latest report from Knell which was introduced by presenter Mishal Husain (from 2:41:17 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Husain: “In Israel the Likud party of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been voting on its list of candidates to contest April’s general election. While it faces new competition, polls suggest that Mr Netanyahu is best placed to lead the next coalition government, putting him on course to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister this summer. But he might also become the first sitting Israeli leader to face a criminal trial. There’ll be a decision soon on possible corruption charges. He denies any wrongdoing. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell reports from Jerusalem.”

Knell: “There’s a big effort here in Jerusalem to put on a positive show as the Likud faithful vote for their preferred candidates in a primary election. But there’s no disguising that the upcoming general election is going to be tough for the party leader Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s facing possible corruption charges and his most formidable political rival in years, a former general, Benny Gantz. Ha’aretz journalist and Netanyahu biographer Anshel Pfeffer sees the PM on the attack.”

Pfeffer: “He’s very much under pressure, he’s very much acting impulsively. The more time passes, the more these indictments will create more problems for him and these challenges on the political scene with a new party like the Gantz party and with rivals within Likud perhaps starting to speak out against him, we’ll see less the statesman and more the local politician fighting a very dirty battle of survival.”

Knell continued with portrayal of daily videos posted on Facebook as a television channel.

Knell “And as part of that battle, this week Mr Netanyahu launched Likud TV – his own channel to counter what he describes as fake news. He’s furious at the media coverage of three criminal investigations against him, calling it a witch hunt and insists he won’t step down. Before the election Israel’s attorney general has said he’ll announce whether he intends to prosecute. Guy Luria of the Israel Democracy Institute says it’s not clear what happens next.”

Luria: “No prime minister in Israeli history has been indicted while in office. It’s really difficult to see how he could conduct himself in court facing serious potential multiple corruption charges and continue to conduct government. We are in uncharted waters. We don’t know how that will take shape.”

Knell: “At a recent press event the BBC asked the prime minister about his legal predicament.”

Recording Netanyahu: “I believe nothing will come of it because there’s nothing in it. And it doesn’t affect me, it doesn’t affect my support because people believe what I just said and they also believe that we’re doing the right things for the country.”

Knell: “Here on a main road by the Likud polling station you can see how Mr Netanyahu is building his campaign around that belief. There’s a huge billboard showing him with President Trump, beaming and shaking hands. ‘Netanyahu – a different league’ reads the slogan. The prime minister is stressing how his close relations with this White House has helped deliver a tough approach on Iran and the Palestinians as well as US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Grass roots Likud voters strongly support their leader.”

Unidentified Man: “Currently there is no-one that is nearly as strong or as intelligent or as experienced as Netanyahu is.”

Unidentified Woman: “Netanyahu I think is the best prime minister we had here, not just for security – also for the economic situation.”

Knell: “If, as polls predict, Mr Netanyahu is set to win his fifth election, this summer he’ll take over from the founding father David Ben Gurion as Israel’s longest ever serving prime minister. But he could also make another record: as the first sitting prime minister to fight criminal charges. The coming months will define his legacy.”

As we see, while this item used the previous day’s Likud primaries as a hook, BBC audiences actually heard nothing at all about the results.  Neither – once again – did they get any information about the policies of the party described by the BBC as “new competition” headed by a “formidable political rival” or news about any of the additional parties which have so far registered.

Rather, the BBC continues to focus audience attention on Yolande Knell’s speculations concerning an indictment which may or may not be issued and a court case which may or may not take place – all the while failing even to provide audiences with relevant factual background

Related Articles:

An Israel elections story that falls outside BBC framing

More inaccurate and context-free Gaza framing on BBC Radio 4

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ airs second item in five days on Israel election video

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ perpetuates framing of rioting and elections

As we have seen, a significant proportion of the January 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme was given over to two items relating to Israel and the Gaza Strip. The second of those items was discussed here:

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part two

We have also looked at one aspect of presenter Mishal Husain’s introductions to both those items:

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

The first item began (from 37:13 here) with an opaque reference to a new political party running in the upcoming general election in Israel – but without listeners being told even the party leader’s name – and yet more euphemistic portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting as “protests”.

Husain: “A former Israeli military chief has launched a bid to challenge Benjamin Netanyahu in the elections scheduled for April. They’ll come a year after weekly Palestinians protests at the boundary fence between Israel and Gaza began. The UN says that last year 295 Palestinians were killed and 29,000 injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza – the highest annual figure since 2014. Fifteen Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks in the same period. Tom Bateman, our Middle East correspondent, is on the line from Jerusalem and in this coming election campaign, Tom, how much will relations with Palestinians and security feature?”

As BBC reporting on past Israeli elections shows, the corporation has repeatedly promoted the notion that the ‘peace process’ was the most important issue facing the Israeli electorate even when that was patently not the case.

“The most outstanding characteristic of BBC reporting on the 2015 Israeli election from day one was the insistence of its journalists on framing the story from the angle of its effect on negotiations with the Palestinians – despite the fact that other concerns were much higher up on voters’ lists of priorities. So, whilst BBC audiences heard or read occasional brief references to ‘economic issues’, ‘the cost of living’ and ‘house prices’, they were never actually provided with any in-depth background information on those topics and hence were incapable of appreciating why – for example – a previously non-existent party (Kulanu) won ten seats in the incoming Knesset.”

If this item is anything to go by, the BBC has obviously not abandoned that redundant framing. A prominent politics journalist at the Jerusalem Post notes that:

“The Palestinians, peace talks, and settlements seem to be almost entirely irrelevant to this election season.”

Bateman began by airbrushing Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip nearly 12 years ago and whitewashing the background to “the conflict between Israel and Hamas”.

Bateman: “Well it will play a role…ah…but I think that the degree to which it’s decisive or significant will very much depend on what happens really on the ground, particularly in relation to the conflict between Israel and Hamas which runs Gaza. And also in terms of the sort of rhetorical situation that you’ll hear Mr Netanyahu talk about a lot in terms of the most strategic threat that he sees which is from Iranian entrenchment, Iranian forces inside…ah…neighbouring Syria. Now on that front there’s been, you know, a significant move in the fact that President Trump has said that US troops will be withdrawn. That is very concerning for Israel but you’re not gonna hear it publicly from Mr Netanyahu who has made a relationship with President Trump key in a priority to his…ehm…diplomatic focus. In terms of what the polls are saying, well despite the situation that we’ve had with Mr Netanyahu; people in his right-wing coalition trying to portray him as being too weak when it comes to Gaza – the more hawkish elements of his cabinet and his defence minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned late last year over this – despite all that the polls still suggest his Likud party’s on course to be again the biggest party, could even gain seats and that it is likely then that he will be able to put together another right-wing coalition.”

Husain: “And on this point about the conflict with Hamas I mean those casualty figures, a big part of them is what’s been going on in Gaza and it…you know you might say it can’t go on like that, it’s not sustainable and yet it has for many months and we reported from there last month.”

Failing to clarify that “the health ministry in Gaza” is the same terror group behind the weekly violent rioting at the border, Bateman went on to make a context-free reference to an earlier incident.

Bateman: “Yeah and I think the protests at the fence every Friday show few signs of going away. Just last Friday another 14 year-old boy was shot and died later of his wounds according to the health ministry in Gaza. However, the numbers have reduced since the peak of the protests in the spring and summer of last year.”

What Bateman and Husain describe as “protests” included the following on that day:  

“About 13,000 Palestinians participated (10,000 last week). The demonstrators gathered at a number of locations along the border. During the events there was a high level of violence, which included burning tires as well as throwing stones, IEDs and hand grenades at IDF soldiers and at the security fence. In the northern Gaza Strip there were at least three attempts to break through the fence into Israeli territory. In one instance IDF forces fired shots at suspicious Palestinians who fled back into the Gaza Strip. One IDF soldier was slightly injured by a stone.”

Downplaying of the violence that has included hundreds of incidents of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, Bateman continued:

Bateman: “There’s been a series of military escalations between Hamas and Israel. Now whether or not that will flare up again I think could have a significant impact on the election process. It may conversely be inspired to some degree by the fact that there are elections in Israel. But what the Israeli prime minister or the tack he has chosen is to try to take a bit of political damage from his own right-wing…from the more hawkish elements and try to contain that situation. That is in the form of a very indirect arrangement brokered by the Egyptians, by the Qataris and by the UN in which the Israelis effectively asked for calm on the perimeter fence. In return Hamas – which is under significant pressure financially because of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade, because of sanctions by the internationally recognised Palestinian leadership too…eh…there are suitcases full of cash – millions of dollars – coming from Qatar into Gaza to pay civil servants’ salaries and also to prevent a collapse of the electricity supply in Gaza. Now that is being permitted by Benjamin Netanyahu. The third payment of $50 million was postponed last week which shows I think just how very fragile this sort of uneasy truce is.”

Bateman failed to inform listeners that those “civil servants” are employees of the Hamas terror organisation or that the reason for the postponement of that “third payment” was a rise in violence that included more rocket attacks that went unreported by the BBC.

While the BBC has not yet produced much reporting on the upcoming election in Israel its framing of that topic so far is just as inflexible and unhelpful to audiences as its framing of almost ten months of weekly violent rioting and border infiltrations which it persists in portraying as “protests”.

Related Articles:

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part two

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

BBC News: yellow vests yes, blue gloves no

BBC audiences have seen plenty of coverage of the ‘gilets jaunes’ protests that began in France in November 2018 and the BBC News website even has a dedicated tab and webpage called “France yellow vest protests” which provides news reports and backgrounders.

Those getting their news from the BBC have however seen no coverage whatsoever of the near-weekly ‘blue glove protests which have been going on since mid-October.

“On a sunny, cold morning in mid-December, more than a thousand Palestinians left their workplaces and gathered in a small square adjacent to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s office in the West Bank.

The group, largely clad in formal attire, started chanting against the newly established Palestinian Social Security Institution and impending tax hikes required to fund it, as members of the PA security forces stood nearby, blocking the road leading to Hamdallah’s office in central Ramallah.

“The people want the fall of the Social Security Institution,” the demonstrators shouted in unison, while also calling for the ouster of Hamdallah and PA Labor Minister Mamoun Abu Shahala. […]

“Everyone here wants a social security system, but with rampant corruption in our government we cannot trust an institution created by it,” 30-year-old Nidal Quran, a teacher, said on the sidelines of the protest in Ramallah. “What if the government one day takes our money we give to the institution to deal with what it says is a financial crisis?”

An overwhelming majority of Palestinians view PA institutions as corrupt, according to polls conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR).

The protests against the social security institution have taken place in Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus and other parts of the West Bank, with several Palestinians demonstrating for the first time in their lives.

At the demonstrations, most protesters have worn blue surgical gloves and some have waved blue flags.”

Analysis published by the Washington Institute explains the background to the story:

“The law was created in 2016 by PA president Mahmoud Abbas’s decree, as has been the case with all legislation since the suspension of the Palestinian Legislative Council following Hamas’s 2007 violent takeover of Gaza. It stipulates mandatory contributions by private-sector employers and workers to the Palestinian Social Security Corporation (PSSC): 9% for employers, 7% for employees. Upon reaching age sixty, workers become eligible for a pension.

In light of the dire economic situation in the West Bank, opponents claim the deductions are excessive. They also object to discriminatory provisions in the law, such as one depriving a widow of her deceased husband’s pension if she gains employment, while widowers are not subject to a similar restriction. As for procedure, protestors have decried the lack of consultation during the drafting and enactment of this law since trade unions, private-sector representatives, and civil society organizations were not engaged. They also voice concern that the PA is too unstable and corrupt to reliably manage the funds collected by the PSSC.”

That analysis also explains the significance of the protests.

“…around 61% of West Bankers and 50% of Gaza Strip residents believe they cannot criticize the authority without fear, helping explain their past reluctance to engage in domestic protests.

…the very fact that Palestinians took to the streets to protest, and that these protests were sustained, is a worrying indicator of volatility levels in the West Bank. As already implied, public frustration against the PA can easily shift—or be directed—against Israel. Despite the improved professionalism and effectiveness of the PA security forces, the PA’s eroding political legitimacy complicates the exercise of security control. And in an extreme case, continued lack of legitimacy could even lead to PA collapse, creating a security and political vacuum. Coupled with the tense overall security situation, and with Hamas’s ongoing efforts to foment instability in the West Bank, this could be an explosive mix with impacts not only on the Palestinians but also Israel’s security. The PA’s domestic political woes—as exemplified by the protests against the social security law—are not only a Palestinian problem.”

As has often been observed here in the past, only very occasionally do BBC audiences see stand-alone reports about Palestinian affairs which are not framed within the context of ‘the conflict’ and do not have an Israel-related component.

“Insight into internal Palestinian politics which would enhance audiences’ comprehension of Palestinian society (as well as the conflict) is relatively rare in BBC coverage. Reporting on social and human rights issues within Palestinian society is even more scarce and thus BBC audiences see a blinkered and largely one-dimensional view of Palestinian life.”

That editorial policy continues and so while the BBC has produced dozens of reports on the yellow vest protests in recent weeks, audiences have not seen even one report about the protests in Palestinian Authority controlled towns.

Related Articles:

The Palestinian protests the BBC preferred to ignore

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

Despite a very lively campaign that has so far included the dismantling of previous alliances, the registration of numerous new parties and the standing down of some veteran Israeli politicians, BBC reporting on Israel’s upcoming April 9th general election has to date been confined to a report about the announcement of the election and a mention in a subsequent BBC Radio 4 programme which ignored that announcement.

Before the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau commences coverage of the 2019 election it is worth taking a look at its record of reporting on previous Israeli elections.

In the 2013  election the BBC’s reporting focused predominantly on one side of the political map and presented Israel as a country lurching rightward while depicting that perceived shift as the sole reason for the predicted failure to make progress in the peace process. When that predicted lurch to the right did not happen, some furious backtracking ensued and as was noted here at the time:

“Most blatantly obvious is the fact that the BBC’s insistence upon framing this election almost exclusively in terms of the potential effect of its results on ‘the peace process’ reflects its own institutional attitude towards that subject, both in terms of its perceived importance and in terms of the curious notion that only what Israel does has any effect upon that process’ chances.”

In coverage of the 2015 election BBC audiences once again saw the corporation focus on the topic of the ‘peace process’.

“Connolly’s article frames the fate of the ‘peace process’ as being entirely dependent upon political developments on one side of the negotiating table. That portrayal is not only obviously absurd but it actually hinders audience understanding of the fact that the reason why that topic is not a major campaign issue in this election is precisely because the majority of Israelis understand that progress on that issue is not dependent on their government alone.”

As had been previously seen in 2013, BBC coverage of the 2015 Israeli elections bizarrely included a remarkable number of interviews with Palestinian commentators and in fact audiences heard and read more commentary on the Israeli election from Palestinian contributors than they did from Israeli candidates standing for election.

“The most outstanding characteristic of BBC reporting on the 2015 Israeli election from day one was the insistence of its journalists on framing the story from the angle of its effect on negotiations with the Palestinians – despite the fact that other concerns were much higher up on voters’ lists of priorities. So, whilst BBC audiences heard or read occasional brief references to ‘economic issues’, ‘the cost of living’ and ‘house prices’, they were never actually provided with any in-depth background information on those topics and hence were incapable of appreciating why – for example – a previously non-existent party (Kulanu) won ten seats in the incoming Knesset.”

Whether or not in the coming weeks BBC journalists will produce any reporting that informs audiences about the full range of issues that concern Israeli voters in the April general election remains to be seen but if its previous record is anything to go by, it seems likely that the corporation will continue to promote the facile and narrative-driven portrayal of the ‘peace process’ as being entirely dependent upon the paper placed in the ballot box by Israeli voters.

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

 

 

 

 

BBC News continues to ignore a Palestinian Authority legal story

Over the past couple of months we have documented several stories linked to the subject of property sales by Palestinians – a topic that the BBC has so far managed to avoid.

Two stories that fall outside BBC framing

BBC again passes up on Palestinian affairs reporting

Since then new developments have emerged in connection with the same topic – one, as reported by Khaled Abu Toameh, on December 23rd:

“The Palestinian Authority announced on Sunday that its security forces have thwarted attempts by Palestinians to sell lands and houses in the West Bank and east Jerusalem to Jewish buyers, and the PA’s Preventive Security Service said in a rare statement that it has arrested 44 Palestinians suspected of involvement in the alleged real estate transactions. […]

In recent weeks, Palestinian religious authorities have repeatedly warned Palestinians against engaging in such deals and said that anyone who violates the law would be accused of “high treason.” The warning came in the aftermath of a number of cases in which east Jerusalem residents either sold their houses to Jewish organizations or were suspected of acting as middlemen in the real estate transactions. […]

The purported transactions were supposed to take place in the areas of Ramallah, el-Bireh, Hebron, Salfit, Nablus and Kalkilya, the statement said, adding that 44 Palestinian suspects have been arrested.

The suspects have been referred to the PA prosecutor-general so they could face legal measures, the statement said. Three of the suspects, who were not identified, have been sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor, it added, while the remaining suspects are currently standing trial.”

On December 31st a development emerged in the case of a US/Israeli citizen who has been in Palestinian Authority custody since October.

“A Palestinian Authority court in Ramallah sentenced… [Issam] Akel, a resident of East Jerusalem and in his 50s, to life in prison for attempting to sell land to Israeli Jews in Jerusalem, an official in the PA judiciary’s media office said. […]

Issam Akel, a resident of Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood, is a holder of a blue Israeli identification card. The official in the PA judiciary’s media office said the PA arrested him October and has since held him in its custody.”

The fact that BBC audiences have to date seen no coverage of this topic does not come as much of a surprise given that only very occasionally do we see reporting on Palestinian affairs which is not framed within the context of ‘the conflict’ and BBC reports on internal issues within Palestinian society are few and far between.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News website coverage of Gaza Strip missile fire in 2018

In the early hours of December 29th a projectile was launched from the Gaza Strip.

“An IDF spokesperson said that a rocket fired from the Strip landed in open terrain in southern Israel before dawn on Saturday, causing no injury or damage to property.

The army said that rocket alert sirens did not sound in the region as the projectile was tracked to land in open area.

In retaliation, IDF attacked a Hamas position in southern Gaza. There were no reports of any casualties as a result of the strike.”

BBC audiences did not see any reporting on that incident which was the twenty-second separate bout of rocket and/or mortar fire from the Gaza Strip in 2018.

The number of attacks launched from the Gaza Strip in 2018 was the highest for four years with over a thousand projectiles fired into Israeli territory. Visitors to the BBC News English language website saw mentions or coverage of just 45% of the incidents and those getting their news from the BBC’s Arabic language website saw even less. 

Nevertheless, that marks an improvement in comparison to 2017 when BBC News website audiences saw coverage of a mere 14% of missile attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip and Sinai sectors. In 2016 just one attack (6.7% of the total) was covered by the BBC News website and in late 2014 and throughout 2015 the majority of attacks launched from the Gaza Strip were not reported in English.

It is of course extremely difficult to imagine that if terrorists had fired over a thousand rockets and mortars on twenty-two separate occasions in twelve months at British citizens, the BBC would have failed to report 55%  of those incidents. Despite the improvement we see the continuation of an editorial policy which results in audiences and BBC journalists alike being unable fully understand events and their context when Israel is obliged to respond to rising terrorism.   

Related Articles:

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Serial BBC failure to report rocket attacks comes home to roost

BBC News website coverage of Gaza terrorists’ mortar attacks

BBC News website ignores most of renewed Gaza rocket fire

How did BBC News report the latest Gaza missile attacks?

Fifth Gaza rocket attack this month not newsworthy for the BBC

Gaza missile attacks get 44 words on the BBC News website

Inaccuracy, reverse chronology and lack of context in BBC reporting on Gaza missile attacks

Rocket attack on Be’er Sheva home ignored by BBC

BBC News again yawns at missile attacks on southern Israel

Sloppy BBC News report omits rocket hits on Israeli homes

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks 

 

 

 

No surprises in BBC Radio 4’s leading stories of 2019 forecast

On December 28th BBC Radio 4 aired a programme that was titled “Correspondents Look Ahead” and sub-headed “BBC correspondents forecast the leading news stories for the year ahead”.

“How do you look ahead in a world which constantly takes us by surprise, sometimes shocks us and often makes us ask ‘what happens next?’

Who would have predicted that President Trump would, to use his words, fall in love with the North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, whose country he had threatened to totally destroy? Who could have imagined that a prominent Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, would be murdered and dismembered in a Saudi Consulate? And, on a happier note, we’re relieved that, as the year ends a climate change conference in Poland did manage to save the Paris pact, and maybe our world.

The BBC’s chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet talks to correspondents from around the globe about what might happen in the world in 2019.

Guests:

Katya Adler, Europe editor
Yolande Knell, Middle East correspondent
James Robbins, Diplomatic correspondent
Steve Rosenberg, Moscow correspondent
Jon Sopel, North America editor”

The programme’s first thirteen minutes focused mostly on the United States and Russia. The guests were then asked to name a person who may be in the news in 2019 and Yolande Knell (from 14:24) chose Jared Kushner as someone who according to her will be “caught up still in several of the really big news stories that we’re going to carry on talking about”. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Knell: “…and then most importantly, this historic task that was given to Mr Kushner – an Orthodox Jew, somebody who’s been a family friend of the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu – nothing less than crafting a peace plan to relaunch negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

After a discussion about Saudi Arabia that included a description of an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “Middle East peace”, presenter Lyse Doucet (from 20:53) returned to that topic.

Doucet: “This so-called deal of the century; President Trump’s lawyer Jason Greenblatt is in charge of this new Israeli-Palestinian deal. We expected it to be announced in 2018. Will they announce it in 2019?”

Sopel: “I think they’ve got to announce something otherwise it will look like this has been a lot of huffing and puffing with nothing to show for it. But I mean I think that the difficulties – and particularly the lack of trust that there is on the Palestinian side, that the US are not honest brokers following the move of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – is profound and therefore I think the scope…everybody knows what the issues are around a Middle East peace. Donald Trump has said vague things like, you know, I don’t care whether it’s a one-state or a two-state solution as long as all sides are happy with it I’ll go with anything. Then he’s kind of talked more about it; well let’s go for a two-state solution. I think the issues have been pretty well ventilated about the kind of sticking points there are. Does Donald Trump have the power to unpick this in a way previous people haven’t? I think it’s a huge question and I, you know, I don’t…nothing I’ve seen so far leads me to think oh yeah well they’ve got this in the bag. But there again Donald Trump is surprising. You know a year ago we didn’t imagine that there would be talks taking place in Singapore with Kim Jong-un.”

Doucet: “Yolande? Will it be announced in 2019?”

Knell: “I’m going to say so. I think there has to be some kind of peace plan after it’s been talked up so much. The latest we’re hearing is it will be in the coming months. It might not be quite on a scale that lines up to the idea of it being a deal of the century but already people here argue that the key steps have been taken by the US that makes some of its intentions clear. There was the US embassy move to Jerusalem, there was aid cut to Palestinian refugees – to UNRWA the agency that deals with them. There have been those warming ties between Israel and the Arab Gulf countries and there’s been lots and lots of diplomatic and financial pressure on the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.”

Interestingly, none of the BBC’s crystal ball gazing correspondents brought up the highly relevant topic of Hamas’ opposition to a negotiated peace deal with Israel or the question of whether or not the Palestinian Authority will survive the coming year in its present format.

While we have no indication as to when this programme was recorded, we can conclude that it was before December 24rd because Lyse Doucet’s next question was:

Doucet: “What if there’s Israeli elections? That will be the priority.”

Of course elections had been announced four days before this broadcast went on air but apparently nobody thought it necessary to edit the programme accordingly.

Knell: “Indeed I mean that is the big complicating factor I think when it comes to the timings because certainly I think Mr Netanyahu is seen as the partner – the Israeli partner – for any kind of a peace deal and he has to have Israeli elections this year. There’s another complicating factor as well where he is facing the possibility of charges in three public corruption cases so something else to look out for in the months to come is a decision by the Attorney General whether he should take the police recommendations to charge Mr Netanyahu and yes, I think this is something that’s all being carefully calibrated behind the scenes in terms of the timing of any announcement.”

With elections set for April 9th it is of course very unlikely that anything will happen on the diplomatic front until at least May, making Knell’s prediction that details of a peace plan will be announced “in the coming months” highly questionable.

Listeners then heard brief references to Yemen and Iran – though solely in relation to what Doucet termed the “landmark nuclear deal” as well as a one-word mention of Syria before attentions turned to Brexit.

Later on in the programme (from 28:09) Doucet asked her guests to name “unsung heroes” – people “who are having an impact in whatever world they inhabit” and Yolande Knell again brought the topic of conversation back to Israel.

Knell: “In terms of new names I mean I’m going to say the Attorney General here in Israel. Avichai Mandelblit. I mean he’s very well-known here but I really think he’s going to be internationally sort of known in the months ahead because he has to make this big decision about whether to charge the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in these public corruption cases. And there’s real drama here because Mr Mandelblit was Mr Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary. When he was appointed originally he was accused of being too close to the prime minister and now he could become the man who takes down the prime minister after a decade in power. And if Mr Netanyahu can stay in office until the middle of next year he would actually be the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history, taking over from the founding father David Ben Gurion so there’s a real legacy issue here. Ahm…the BBC did get to ask Mr Netanyahu about all of this at an end of year journalists’ event and we just got his usual mantra which is nothing will come out of this because there’s nothing in it and I think this is going to be a fascinating year for Israeli politics. I mean certainly that is something that his party supporters believe that this has been some kind of witch hunt and just to go back to Mr Mandelblit, I mean this man many journalists remarked how he’s gone from having red hair to turning grey in the few years he’s been in his job, having to make lots of tough decisions. He already, I think, lost his invitations to go to the prime minister’s luxury private residence in the north of Israel because he charged his wife Sarah in a case about misusing state funds for catering when she has a cook paid for by the state. So I’m foreseeing lots more political drama here in the months ahead.”

Notably the BBC’s Middle East correspondent had no predictions to make concerning the complex situation in Syria, the demonstrations in Iran, the embattled Kurds or Lebanon – which has not had a functioning government for over six months.

All those stories and more lost out to the colour of the Israeli Attorney General’s hair and Mrs Netanyahu’s take-aways.

Our prediction is that the BBC’s disproportionate focus on Israel – often at the expense of audience understanding of the wider Middle East – will continue in 2019.   

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