BBC News inaccurately rewords the Archbishop of Canterbury

On May 10th the BBC News Twitter account informed its 19.5 million followers that ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury says there could be a “moment of opportunity” for Middle East peace efforts’.

The link in that Tweet led to a filmed report titled “Time for Middle East peace efforts, says Justin Welby” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page and is presented with the following synopsis:

“The Archbishop of Canterbury says there could be “moment of opportunity” for Middle East peace efforts.

Justin Welby, who’s on a tour of the Holy Land, was speaking after meeting Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Yolande Knell met the archbishop in Jerusalem.”

So did the archbishop actually say that ‘there could be a “moment of opportunity” for Middle East peace efforts’ as both the Tweet and the synopsis claim?

Welby’s actual words are as follows:

“Something that was discussed in both meetings was whether we…whether there is – for all kinds of reasons – a moment of opportunity. And one of the things I was particularly emphasising was the need – particularly of the poor and the weaker in the area; the minority communities – for peace. That this…although some people can endure these situations for years, for others it becomes unendurable and I’m thinking perhaps of some of the Christian communities around.”

As we see, the BBC paraphrased the contemplation “whether there is […] a moment of opportunity” as meaning that the archbishop had determined that “there could be “moment of opportunity” for Middle East peace efforts”.  While remarkable, the promotion of that misrepresentation is completely in step with Yolande Knell’s previous efforts to make Welby’s trip conform to her own agenda.

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BBC’s Yolande Knell reports on Archbishop of Canterbury’s ME visit

May 8th saw the appearance of an article by Yolande Knell titled “Archbishop of Canterbury to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders” on the BBC News website’s Middle East and UK pages.

Much of Knell’s report is devoted to coverage of Justin Welby’s itinerary, which included a very short visit to Christian institutions the Gaza Strip. Knell tells readers that:

“The archbishop has been careful to hear voices from both sides in the decades-old Israel-Palestinian conflict.

In a previously unannounced move, he visited Gaza – which has seen repeated conflicts between Palestinian militants and Israel in the past decade.

He also met Israelis living under threat of rocket fire from Palestinian militants in a kibbutz near the border.”

Residents of the Israeli communities located near the border with the Gaza Strip are not just “under threat” from the terrorists that Knell coyly describes as “militants”: attacks do frequently happen. However, seeing as the BBC has refrained from informing its English-speaking audiences of any of the eight incidents of missile attacks that have taken place since the beginning of this year and throughout the whole of 2016 only reported one attack, readers would be unlikely to be able to fill in the blanks for themselves.

The archbishop also visited Christian institutions in Nazareth including a school and four churches. Regardless of how the people he met there choose to self-identify, Yolande Knell collectively describes them as follows: [emphasis added]

“The archbishop has visited Palestinian Christian communities in Nazareth and in Bethlehem, where he prayed and ate falafel with Christian mayor, Vera Baboun.”

Referring to a story she has often promoted in the past, Knell also tells readers that:

“He [Welby] was due to meet Christian families in the Cremisan Valley, whose land is affected by the construction of Israel’s West Bank barrier.”

One item on the archbishop’s itinerary which Knell left out of her coverage was a visit to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to pay tribute to UK student Hannah Bladon who was murdered last month in a terror attack in the city.

One of the stranger features of this report is Knell’s opening of her article with the promotion of some unfounded linkage.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury is to meet Palestinian and Israeli political leaders as part of a 12-day tour of the Holy Land.

His visit comes two weeks before US President Donald Trump is due to arrive in Jerusalem to try to revive the moribund peace process.

However, the Most Reverend Justin Welby indicated there should not be too much significance read into the timing.”

Welby’s latest trip to the region was announced back in March while Trump’s upcoming visit was announced on May 4th and there is no indication of any link between the two visits. Although Knell tells BBC audiences that the purpose of the US president’s 26 hour visit is “to try to revive the moribund peace process”, the official announcement lays out additional (and no less newsworthy) aims.

“President Trump has also accepted the invitation of President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Israel, where he will further strengthen the United States-Israel partnership.  The leaders will discuss a range of regional issues, including the need to counter the threats posed by Iran and its proxies, and by ISIS and other terrorist groups.  They will also discuss ways to advance a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

President Trump has also accepted the invitation of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to meet with him to discuss ways to advance peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as efforts to unlock the potential of the Palestinian economy.”

Moreover, the day before this article was published, the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday’ aired an item about Welby’s trip (from 01:00 here) that was mostly devoted to an interview with the archbishop by Yolande Knell. The last question she asked (at 05:45) was:

Knell: “You’ve come at a very sensitive time as attempts to get peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians restarted. Was that your intention?”

Welby: “I would not presume that. I come to pray, to share, to listen, to encourage. It would be very presumptuous to go further.”

Despite that very clear answer, Knell nevertheless decided to include a totally superfluous mention of the US president’s upcoming visit and “the moribund peace process” in her BBC News website article. 

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BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

When some mostly Fatah-linked Palestinians serving sentences in Israeli prisons began a hunger strike on April 17th, the BBC produced three reports on that story on consecutive days. As was noted here at the time:

“…in all three of the reports, readers find (not for the first time) amplification of the PLO’s narrative concerning Palestinian prisoners – as promoted, for example, in a PLO ‘media brief’ from June 2015. [emphasis added]

Report 1: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 2: “Palestinians say the detainees are political prisoners, while Israel describes them as “terrorists”” (photo caption)

                  “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 3: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis.”

The idea that people who have been convicted of perpetrating acts of terrorism are ‘political prisoners’ is rejected in Europe and we certainly do not see the BBC promoting the notion that people imprisoned in the UK for terror related offences may be defined in such terms.”

On May 2nd the BBC went one step further. Apparently not content with the above uncritical and unqualified amplification of the partisan narrative of the PLO, Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell dispensed with the nicety “Palestinians regard”, electing to describe convicted terrorists as “political prisoners” in her (and hence the BBC’s) own words.

Knell’s audio report was broadcast to Radio 4 audiences in the programme ‘The World Tonight’ (from 39:09 here) and an almost identical version of the report was broadcast to BBC World Service audiences in the programme ‘Newshour’ (from 38:11 here).

After listeners heard the sound of chanting, Knell began her report as follows: [emphasis added]

Knell: “Chants of support for Palestinian political prisoners in Israel jails who’ve been refusing food for two weeks in a protest about conditions. As President Abbas prepares to meet President Trump, tensions are rising back home, leading to renewed clashes with Israeli soldiers. In Ramallah I meet Fadwa Barghouti. Her husband Marwan – a popular figure in the president’s Fatah faction – is serving five life sentences for murder in Israel and is leading the hunger strike. She says Palestinians care deeply for the prisoners.”

With Fadwa Barghouti speaking in Arabic in the background, Knell then told listeners:

Knell:”The whole Palestinian people’s been subjected to imprisonment, she tells me. Every Palestinian home knows what it means to have a prisoner, knows suffering and injured pride.”

Of course very many Israeli homes know suffering too: the suffering of having had a loved one murdered by Palestinian terrorists in attacks such as those directed by Fadwa Barghouti’s husband. In her typical style Yolande Knell, however, erased that terrorism and its victims from her pathos-rich yet obviously biased portrayal of terrorists on hunger strike (albeit in waning numbers – which Knell neglected to mention) as “political prisoners”. She continued:

Knell: “Earlier there was another rally in Gaza where Palestinians burnt posters of their president. Here the anger is driven by the damaging internal split between Fatah and its Islamist rival Hamas – which controls Gaza – as well as the moribund peace process.”

Knell provided no evidence to back her bizarre claim that the demonstrations in Gaza on May 2nd were motivated by “the moribund peace process”. She went on:

Knell: “At Birzeit University politics professor George Giacaman now sees Mr Abbas in a tricky position in Washington. He thinks he’ll come under pressure to return to peace talks with Israel without a deal to stop Jewish settlement growth on land the Palestinians want for their future state. That would be very hard to sell to the public.”

Making no effort to inform BBC audiences that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – do not place any limitations of construction in Israeli communities in Area C but do state that the final status of that area is to be determined in negotiations and its portrayal as “Palestinian land” therefore amplifies a partisan position, Knell allowed her interviewee to promote the myth of “new settlements”: a notion she and her editors know perfectly well is false. [emphasis added]

Giacaman: “The Palestinian side has insisted throughout the past years that before negotiation starts, there has to be a hold to the settlement process. You have to keep in mind that this occupation of Palestinian land spearheaded by the establishment of new settlements in the West Bank undermines any political process, including of course the two-state solution.”

Listeners then heard a recording from the press conference at the meeting between the Israeli prime minister and the US president earlier in the year.

Trump: “As far as settlements, I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out but I would like to see a deal be made. I think a deal will be made.”

Knell next recycled the ‘policy shift’ theme the BBC has been pushing since mid-February even though it was quickly refuted by US officials.

Knell: “President Trump speaking to Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February. Israel had announced plans for several thousand new settler homes during his first month in office with relatively little criticism. And the new US leader appeared ready to break with long-established American foreign policy backing the creation of a Palestinian state as the only way to end the Middle East conflict.”

Trump: “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two but, honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians…if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like best.”

Knell: “Palestinians don’t expect the meeting between Mr Abbas and Mr Trump to be so friendly. But the Palestinian president has tried to strengthen his hand by meeting the leaders of Washington’s close Arab allies Egypt and Jordan on his way to the White House. So could the US be about to broker another round of peace talks?”

Giacaman: “I doubt if anything would come of it. I don’t think President Abbas has anything new to offer and I doubt Mr Trump is in a position to give the Israeli-Palestinian issue all his concentrations. The exposure to American public opinion and to the American leadership; this will help a lot because they are the only people in the world who can influence the Palestinians, Israelis to go to peace.”

Knell closed her report:

Knell: “Recently Palestinians have seen their cause overshadowed by other regional concerns. Their leaders now hope that the unpredictable approach of Mr Trump could work in their favour. Their official line is that he offers a rare chance for peace.”

Knell’s portrayal of the chances of renewal of negotiations of course airbrushed very pertinent context such as the increasingly acrimonious rift between the PA and Hamas and the related fact that the long since unelected Mahmoud Abbas cannot even set foot in the Gaza Strip, let alone claim to represent all the Palestinians.  

However, Knell’s aim in this report was obviously not to provide domestic and foreign BBC audiences with a realistic, accurate and impartial report on the story but to promote PLO talking points – primarily the false claim that imprisoned terrorists are “political prisoners”.

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BBC News promotes PLO narrative in copious coverage of prisoners’ strike

Since the commencement on April 17th of a hunger strike by some of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons led by Marwan Barghouti, the BBC News website’s Middle East page has published no fewer than three reports on the subject.

April 17th: “Palestinians in Israeli jails hold mass hunger strike” 

April 18th: “Israel rules out talks with Palestinian hunger striking inmates

April 19th: “Palestinian anger at Israeli refusal to talk to hunger striking inmates

However, in that remarkable display of conscription to the cause of publicising that story, the BBC has refrained from providing its audiences with background information crucial to their understanding of the topic.

In all three of those articles readers are told that the strike:

“…is being led by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader jailed by Israel for life for five murders.”

They are not, however, informed of the full background of Barghouti’s role in instigating the second Intifada or his involvement in additional acts of terror. Predictably, his victims do not even get a mention from the BBC.

BBC audiences are also told in all three reports that:

“Barghouti has been touted as a possible future successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.”

They have not, however, been informed of the political background to the strike which is rooted in internal Fatah power struggles.

Readers of those three reports are told that the hunger strikers are protesting “detention conditions” and “conditions in Israeli jails”. They are not told what those conditions are or what the strikers are demanding.

“Among the demands from Barghouti and the prisoners are the resumption of a second monthly visit by family members (a benefit that was cancelled by the International Committee of the Red Cross due to budget cuts), the prevention of family meetings being cancelled for security reasons, and the restoration of academic studies and matriculation exams to prisoners. Other demands include more television channels being available in cells and cell phones in security wings.”

Significantly, in all three of the reports, readers find (not for the first time) amplification of the PLO’s narrative concerning Palestinian prisoners – as promoted, for example, in a PLO ‘media brief’ from June 2015. [emphasis added]

Report 1: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 2: “Palestinians say the detainees are political prisoners, while Israel describes them as “terrorists”” (photo caption)

                  “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 3: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis.”

The idea that people who have been convicted of perpetrating acts of terrorism are ‘political prisoners’ is rejected in Europe and we certainly do not see the BBC promoting the notion that people imprisoned in the UK for terror related offences may be defined in such terms.

There is of course nothing novel about BBC compliance with the PLO’s ‘advice’ to the media. However, the repeated promotion of the narrative according to which convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’ in this over-generously covered story obviously calls BBC impartiality into question.   

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BBC News ignores the story of the new Fatah vice-chair

As readers may recall, in October 2016 the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell produced an article on the topic of succession within the Palestinian Authority which was notable for its lack of information concerning internal Fatah rivalries.knell-abbas-art-main

“Knell’s staid portrayal of the issue of who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas in his role as president of the Palestinian Authority (as well as chair of the PLO and head of the Fatah party) is most notable for what is absent from her framing of the story. Given that BBC audiences suffer from a chronic lack of information concerning internal Palestinian affairs, it is of course highly unlikely that they would be able to read between Knell’s lines and fill in the blanks for themselves.”

Since the appearance of that article, the BBC has failed to produce any follow-up English language reporting on subsequent related events – including violent clashes between supporters of Abbas and Dahlan, Abbas’ unanimous re-election as head of the Fatah party or the seventh Fatah party congress.

In her October report Knell named several potential successors to Abbas.

“For Palestinians, the most popular of the [Fatah Central] committee’s 20 members is Marwan Barghouti, who led Fatah’s Tanzim militant group during the last uprising against the occupation, or intifada.

Although he is in jail in Israel, serving five life terms for involvement in murdering Israelis, he remains influential and has led efforts to end divisions with Hamas.”

She also mentioned “[t]hree other potentially important players”: Mohammed Dahlan, Jibril Rajoub and Majed Faraj.

The fact that the BBC chose not to cover the seventh Fatah party congress in December means that audiences remain unaware of the fact that Barghouti received the most votes in the election to the Central Council of the faction which dominates the Palestinian Authority as well as the PLO (the body supposed to conduct negotiations with Israel) and that the second most popular candidate was Jibril Rajoub.

In mid-February the Fatah central committee elected a new vice-chairman and secretary-general to one-year terms.

“Former Nablus governor Mahmoud al-Aloul was appointed as the first ever vice president of the ruling Palestinian Fatah movement Wednesday night, marking him as a possible candidate to succeed Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian Authority president.

Aloul, 67, appointed by the Fatah Central Committee, is a close confidant of the 82-year-old Abbas. He is considered popular within the party, and was a long-time leader of Fatah’s armed wing before following the group’s leadership from Tunis to the West Bank in 1995 in the wake of the Oslo Accords. […]

Another possible successor to Abbas to emerge Wednesday night was the head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, who was appointed secretary general of the 18-member Fatah Central Committee. […]

Previously, the secretary general and vice president of the Fatah central committee was one position, but it was decided to split it into two. Palestinian commentators assessed that Rajoub may have cut a deal with Aloul to split the position.

The appointments are due to be reviewed in a year.”

Analysts viewed the appointments as a blow to the possibility of Marwan Barghouti succeeding Mahmoud Abbas:

“Though Barghouti won the most votes during the Seventh Fatah Congress in December, the decision not to appoint him to any role Wednesday night is seen as an attempt to distance him from holding any office that would put him in line to succeed Abbas.

Some in Barghouti’s circle expressed concern in recent days that the Fatah central committee would deny him an appointment, according to anonymous statements given to Arab media.

Currently, Barghouti’s future in Fatah is unclear. According to his close associates, Barghouti agreed to participate in the Seventh Fatah Congress only after Abbas promised him the deputy position.”

The Jerusalem Post adds:

“Other important portfolios were also distributed to various committee members with the noticeable exception of Marwan Barghouti. Many in the party had expected the longtime Fatah leader to receive some form of recognition, and possibly the vice chairmanship.”

Although the appointment of Mahmoud al-Aloul does not qualify him as Abbas’ successor, it does introduce a new name to the list of possibilities.

“Grant Rumley, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the [Jerusalem] Post that while Aloul’s election may not be a game changer in terms of succession, it does introduce a new contender.

“By virtue of his new position as No. 2 in Fatah, Aloul cannot be ignored or discounted in the race to replace Abbas,” Rumley said.

After Aloul completes his one-year term as vice chairman, the central committee will either extend Aloul’s term or vote for a new vice chairman.”

However, with the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s chronic under-reporting of Palestinian affairs continuing, audiences remain in the dark with regard to these developments and their possible implications. The fact that Fatah dominates the PLO and the foreign donor funded Palestinian Authority means that its internal politics clearly have significant effect on what the BBC terms “the Middle East peace process”. BBC audiences, however, continue to be deprived of the information which would enhance their understanding of that particular “international issue.  

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BBC News again ignores a missile attack on Israel

Late on the evening of February 8th the Israeli resort of Eilat was attacked with missiles fired from the Sinai Peninsula.No news

“The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted three rockets headed for the southern city of Eilat late Wednesday night, while a fourth fell in an open area, the army said. […]

There were no injuries or damage reported from the rocket salvo. However, city officials said that five people were treated for anxiety attacks related to the incident. One of them was taken to the hospital, the Magen David Adom ambulance service told Israel Radio.

The rockets were fired from the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, according to the Israel Defense Forces.”

The attack was later claimed by the ISIS affiliated ‘Sinai Province’ group. 

At least one of the BBC’s regional staff was aware of the attack.

shuval-tweets-eilat-attack

Nevertheless, the BBC apparently did not find missile attacks perpetrated by a designated terrorist organisation located in a neighbouring country newsworthy.

me-hp-9-2-17a

BBC News website Middle East page on the morning of February 9 2017

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BBC WS listeners hear anti-terrorist fence falsehood and more

In addition to the reporting on last week’s conference in Paris seen on the BBC News website (discussed here), the corporation of course also covered the same topic on BBC World Service radio.

An edition of the programme ‘Newshour’ broadcast on January 14th – the day before the conference took place – included an item (from 08:10 here) introduced as follows by presenter Anu Anand:newshour-14-1

“Now, on Sunday in Paris seventy nations will meet to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though neither of the two main stakeholders will be represented. It’s seen as a final chance to save the so-called two-state solution with Jerusalem…ah…shared as the capital between them. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been asking Israelis and Palestinians whether they think the idea can still work.”

Knell opened with yet another typically edited presentation of the history of Jerusalem in which the 19 years of Jordanian occupation of parts of the city were erased from audience view.

Knell: “At the edge of Jerusalem’s Old City, Palestinians and Israelis pass each other on the streets. Some are out shopping, others heading to pray. So could this become a shared capital for both peoples living peacefully side by side in two nations? That’s how many see the two-state solution to the conflict. But today Israel considers East Jerusalem, which it captured in the 1967 war, part of its united capital and Palestinian analyst Nour Arafa [phonetic] doesn’t think it will give it up.”

With no challenge whatsoever from Knell, her interviewee was then allowed to misrepresent restrictions on entry to Israel from PA controlled areas, to promote the lie that the anti-terrorist fence was built for reasons other than the prevention of terrorism and to tout the falsehood of “lack of geographical continuity”.  

Arafa: “The idea itself is not accepted by Israel and they have been trying to isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories through closure policies, by construction of the wall which started in 2002 and by the illegal settlement expansion. So the idea itself of a future Palestinian state is realistically not possible on the ground because of the lack of geographical continuity.”

Next, Knell moved on to the town of Efrat in Gush Etzion – predictably refraining from informing her listeners that the area was the site of land purchases and settlement by Jews long before the Jordanian invasion of 1948 but making sure to insert the BBC’s standard ‘international law’ mantra.

“Here in Efrat in the West Bank, new shops and apartments are being built. Settlements like this one are seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees. Over 600 thousand Jewish settlers live in areas that the Palestinians want for their state.”

Having briefly interviewed the mayor of Efrat, Knell continued; promoting a particular interpretation of recent events in international fora while clearly signposting to listeners which party is supposedly blocking the “push for peace”.

“But there are new international efforts to push for peace. Last month the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a halt in settlement building. Now there’s the Paris conference. Palestinians welcome these moves and Israel rejects them, saying only direct talks can bring peace.”

Knell’s next interviewee was Israeli MK Erel Margalit, although listeners were not told to which party he belongs. She then went on to raise the BBC’s current ‘hot topic’:

“But could Israel’s strongest ally, the US, be about to change the debate? I’ve come to a plot of open land and pine trees in Jerusalem. It’s long been reserved for a US embassy and now Donald Trump is talking about moving his ambassador here from Tel Aviv, where all foreign embassies are at the moment. Palestinian minister Mohammed Shtayyeh says this would kill hopes for creating a Palestinian state.”

That “plot of open land” which Knell visited is located in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Talpiot (established in 1922) which lies on the Israeli side of the 1949 Armistice Agreement lines. Knell could therefore have posed Mohammed Shtayyeh with a question that the BBC has to date repeatedly refrained from asking: why should the Palestinians object to the relocation of the US embassy to an area of Jerusalem to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim? Knell did not however enhance audience understanding of the issue by asking that question. Instead, Shtayyeh was allowed to present his rhetoric unchallenged.

Shtayyeh: “For us we consider Jerusalem as a future capital of the State of Palestine, so having the president moving the embassy there, then it is an American recognition that Jerusalem is part of the State of Israel. That’s why we consider this American move as an end to the peace process; an end to two states and really, putting the whole region into chaos.”

After listeners heard a recording of sirens, Knell continued:

“Sirens a week ago. Just down the road from the proposed US embassy site a Palestinian man killed four Israeli soldiers in a lorry-ramming attack.”

The terrorist who committed that attack was in fact a resident of the nearby Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber and the lorry he used to carry out the attack (which he owned) bore Israeli licence plates. Knell’s description of the terrorist as “a Palestinian man” is therefore misleading to audiences. She closed the item with the following words:

“Recently there’s been an upsurge in violence here and it’s added to fears on both sides in this conflict that chances for a peace deal are fading and of what could result.”

Yolande Knell’s talking points obviously did not include terrorism by Palestinian factions opposed to negotiations with Israel or a reminder to audiences of the fact that the peace process which began in the 1990s was curtailed by the PA initiated terror war known as the second Intifada.

This report joins the many previous ones in which the BBC promotes an account of the “fading” peace process that focuses on ‘settlements’ while excluding many no less relevant factors from its politicised framing. 

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Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of the Paris conference

The BBC News website’s coverage of the pretentiously titled “Conference pour la Paix au Proche-Orient” which was held in Paris on January 15th included two items produced before the event took place and one report published after it concluded.

1) “Can Paris summit save fading two-state solution?” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website, January 14th 2017.

2) “Why aren’t the Israelis and Palestinians talking?” – BBC News website and BBC television news, January 14th 2017.

3) “Israel-Palestinian conflict: Summit warns against unilateral actions” – BBC News website, January 15th 2017.

Several noteworthy themes were apparent in those reports.paris-conf-report-2-filmed

a) In the synopsis to the second (filmed) report, audiences were told that:

“The two sides have not spoken directly since the last round of peace talks broke down in 2014.”

The report itself stated:

“The last round [of talks] collapsed in April 2014 and they haven’t met since then”.

In the third report, audiences were told that:

“The last round of direct peace talks collapsed amid acrimony in April 2014.”

BBC audiences have seen that mantra of equivalence promoted on numerous occasions in the past and the BBC’s framing of the story at the time did not provide audiences with the full range of information and background necessary for full understanding of the reasons for the breakdown of that round of talks. Thus we see that almost three years on, the BBC continues to promote a version of events which conceals from audience view the fact that the Palestinian Authority made three important choices between March 17th and April 23rd 2014 (not to accept the American framework, to join international agencies in breach of existing commitments and to opt for reconciliation with Hamas) which had a crucial effect on the fate of those negotiations.

b) The reports continued the long-standing practice of careless wording which leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing towns and villages, most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.

The first report states:

“The conference follows last month’s UN Security Council resolution which called on Israel to stop settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

In the second report, viewers were told that before talks can resume:

“Palestinians first want Israel to stop settlement-building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem”.

And that the chances of renewed talks are “slim” because:

“Israeli settlement activity shows no sign of slowing”.

In report three, readers found the following:

“The meeting also comes at a time of tension between Israel and the international community after the UN passed a resolution last month denouncing Israel’s settlement activity on occupied land. […]

Palestinians fiercely object to Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory it wants for a future state.”

Obviously the use of such inaccurate language does not enhance audience understanding of the subject and none of the reports mentioned the 2009 freeze of construction in communities in Judea & Samaria and the fact that the Palestinians refused to negotiate during most of that ten-month freeze. Likewise, all three reports refrained from informing audiences of the fact that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – place no limitations whatsoever on construction in Area C or Jerusalem. 

c) As ever, audiences were provided with a partial portrayal of ‘international law’ in all these reports. None of the reports provided any relevant historical background on the subject of the 1948 Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem or the 1967 Jordanian attack which subsequently left Israel in control of those areas.

The first report stated:

“Over 600,000 Israelis live in these areas which were captured in the 1967 Middle East war. They are seen as illegal under international law, but Israel disagrees.”

In report two viewers were told that:

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

The third report informed readers that:

“The settlements, home to about 600,000 Israelis, are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

d) Contrasting with the promotion of the well-worn BBC theme of ‘settlements as an obstacle to peace’, the presentation of issues on the other side of the divide was minimal and qualified, using the ‘Israel says’ formula. In the first report readers found the following:

“They [Israeli officials] argue that the very Palestinian leaders with whom they are supposed to be seeking peace have incited an upsurge in attacks, mostly stabbings, since October 2015.”

That, however, was ‘balanced’ with a statement straight out of the PLO’s media guidance:

“Palestinian leaders blame the violence on a younger generation’s anger at the failure of talks to end Israel’s occupation and deliver on promises of an independent state.”

In report two, viewers were told that:

“Israel does not want pre-conditions [to talks]. It says Palestinian violence and incitement is the big problem”.

Only in report three did BBC audiences find a brief reference to the very relevant issue of the PA’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state.

“Israel says Palestinian incitement and violence, and a refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state, are key obstacles to peace.”

e) All three reports included portrayals of Jerusalem which failed to mention that it is one of the issues to be resolved in final status negotiations under the terms of the Oslo Accords.paris-conf-1-knell

In the first report, Yolande Knell told readers that:

“For many, the holy city of Jerusalem is meant to be a shared capital for Israel and the Palestinians – two peoples in two nations, living peacefully, side-by-side.

At least that is the dream of the so-called “two-state solution” to end a decades-old conflict.”

In the second report viewers were told that:

“They also disagree over Jerusalem. Israel says the city is its capital, but Palestinians want their own capital in the east”.

In report three readers found the following:

“The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive and complex issues of the entire conflict. The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state but Israel proclaim the entire city as its capital.”

f) The first and third reports included generous amplification of Palestinian statements concerning the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem – once again without any clarification as to why there should be objection to the transfer of a foreign embassy to a location to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim.paris-conf-3 

Report one told readers that:

“The timing of the talks in Paris – just days before Donald Trump moves into the White House – appear very deliberate.

He has not yet spelt out his vision for the Middle East but has shown strong backing for the Israeli far-right.

He has nominated a lawyer, David Friedman, who is an outspoken critic of the two-state solution and supporter of settlements, to be his ambassador to Israel.

Mr Trump has also promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Like other countries, the US currently keeps its embassy in Tel Aviv, as it does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

“This is very dangerous what President-elect Trump wants to do,” Palestinian official, Mohammed Shtayyeh tells me. “It is American recognition that Jerusalem is part of the State of Israel.”

“We would consider this American move as an end to the peace process, an end to the two states and really putting the whole region into chaos.””

In report three readers were told:

“But they [the conference delegates] shied away from criticising President-elect Donald Trump’s suggested US embassy move to Jerusalem. […]

The conference comes at a time of rising tension in the region, and there are fears President-elect Trump’s plans to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could stoke it further.

There was deep alarm among participants at the conference that if President Trump does break with decades of US policy and move the embassy to Jerusalem, then conditions will be set for another upsurge in violence in the region, says the BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris. […]

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told France 3 TV on Sunday he thought Mr Trump would not be able to make the move, but if he did, it would have “extremely serious consequences”.

On Saturday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned such a move could “bury the hopes for a two-state solution”.”paris-conf-filmed-dt

The third report closes telling viewers that:

“The Palestinians want international involvement, but Israel says a settlement cannot be imposed. And Israel has the backing of Donald Trump”.

Once again the BBC failed to provide its audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the background to this story – and not least the decidedly relevant fact that various Palestinian factions, including Hamas, completely reject the concept of the two-state solution – while promoting some of its regular framing of the topic.  

Related Articles:

Background to the BBC’s inaccurate framing of the end of Middle East talks

Revisiting the BBC’s framing of the 2013/14 Israel-PLO negotiations

BBC News produces eight versions of report on three-hour Paris meeting

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Paris conference falsehood

BBC’s Bowen employs apartheid analogy in report on Paris conference

 

 

 

 

 

Selective BBC News reporting on terror arrests

On December 23rd the BBC News website published an article titled “Germany arrests two on terror charges” in which readers were informed that:terror-germany-23-12

“Two men have been arrested in Germany on suspicion of planning an attack on a shopping centre in Oberhausen near the Dutch border, police say. […]

It is not yet known how advanced the preparations for the attack were, or if others were involved, the statement said.”

(The two men were subsequently released)

An additional article – headlined “Melbourne Christmas Day ‘terror attack’ foiled, say Australia police” – also appeared on the BBC News website on the same day.

“Australian police have foiled a major terror attack in Melbourne on Christmas Day, officials say. […]terror-aus-23-12

The plot involved the use of explosives and other weapons, police say.

The alleged targets included high-profile locations around Melbourne, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Federation Square and the main train station.

Six men and a woman were detained in Friday’s raid on suspicion of “preparing or planning a terrorist attack”, police say.

The woman and two men were later released.”

The arrest of a terror cell in an additional location had been announced the day before those two articles appeared.

“Israeli security agents busted a 20-member Hamas cell that was plotting suicide bombings and shootings against Israeli citizens in major Israeli cities, including Jerusalem and Haifa, the Shin Bet disclosed on Thursday. […]

The suspects told investigators that between May and August 2016 they set up a lab in Nablus and produced nearly 15 pounds of TATP explosives intended for suicide bombings in Jerusalem, Haifa and bus stations across the country.

They also obtained M-16 rifles for attacks on Israeli civilians, and enlisted four suicide bombers. The terror cell was supported by a broad network of supporters who assisted in acquiring and storing weapons, transferring funds and hiding wanted persons.”

That story, however, was not deemed newsworthy by the BBC.

Related Articles:

BBC mum on arrests of two Hamas terror cells

BBC News silent on arrest of Israeli MK

In February of this year the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ presented listeners with a highly partial account of the temporary suspension of the anti-Zionist Balad party’s three MKs from Knesset activity after their participation in an event glorifying Palestinian terrorists.

A similarly whitewashed portrayal of that story appeared in a July 2016 report concerning what the BBC described as “controversial” legislation by the Israeli parliament allowing for the impeachment of MKs on the grounds of incitement to violence or racism or support for armed conflict against Israel. In that report BBC audiences were repeatedly told that Israeli democracy is being “undermined” by such legislation.

Given that ‘concern’ for Israeli democracy and keen interest in the workings of the Knesset, one might have thought that the recent story of the arrest of a member of Israel’s parliament would also have caught the BBC’s attention.No news

“Arab lawmaker MK Basel Ghattas was arrested Thursday night on suspicion of smuggling cell phones, SIM cards, and coded messages to convicted terrorists serving time in Israel’s prisons.

The arrest came immediately after a second round of police questioning under caution in as many days, and just hours after Ghattas, of the Arab Joint List in the Knesset, waived his parliamentary immunity. […]

According to Hebrew media reports, Ghattas allegedly passed as many as 15 cellphones and several SIM cards to inmates serving sentences for national security offenses in Ketziot prison south of Beersheba.

Ghattas was also suspected of handing “intelligence information” to one of two prisoners in encoded notes, a Channel 2 report said. The notes contained information from other security prisoners, the report claimed, as well as mentions of former Balad MK Azmi Bishara, who fled Israel in 2007 to escape a police and Shin Bet investigation into allegations he was paid by Hezbollah to help locate targets for rocket attacks within Israel.

One of the prisoners that Ghattas is alleged to have met with during a Sunday visit to Ketziot is Walid Daka, who was sentenced to 37 years for the 1984 abduction and murder of 19-year-old IDF soldier Moshe Tamam.

The phones, discovered concealed behind plastic molding surrounding a window in the visitors room, were allegedly intended to be collected by prisoners who belong to the Islamic Jihad terror group.”

Had a British, German or French member of parliament been arrested on suspicion of offences involving convicted terrorists (and subsequently placed under house arrest), one can be pretty sure that the BBC would have found the story newsworthy.

Related Articles:

The BBC, the elderly mothers of convicted terrorists and Twitter

Terrorism, double standards and the BBC

How many inaccuracies can the BBC cram into a 23 word sentence?